Piraeus, Athens, Greece

Greek Dishes – Simply Irresistible

One of the most memorable culinary experiences I had was during my time spent in Greece. The contemporary Greek dishes make wide use of vegetables, olive oil, grains, fish, and wine. You will also find several meats, including lamb, poultry, veal, beef, rabbit and pork.

The Greeks use the best of what’s in season and add a little magic in the form of clever flavorings. Greece’s culinary tradition dates back hundreds of years and has evolved over time to absorb many diverse influences. There are also other classic dishes such as moussaka, börek and tzaziki which have Arabic, Persian and Turkish roots.

Greek dishes are simple, colorful and incredibly nutritious and have a reputation for being heart healthy. Another not so healthy dish is the infamous moussaka. It is a dish made of layers of lamb and eggplant, smothered in béchamel sauce and cheese. This latter dish is extraordinary, but certainly not one you would indulge in on a daily basis, due to its richness.

The flavors that I experienced during my short but memorable stay, were unprecedented. The one that stands out the most for me is when I visited Athens. Although Athens is not the most reputable for being the cleanest place to visit, its ancient architecture is incredible. Fortunately for me, there was a 5 star Hilton located in Athens, which allowed me to ‘sleep and dine in luxury’.

Hilton Athens

My Arrival to Athens

On my first night there, I was quite exhausted from the day’s travel.  The concierge recommended the restaurant on the Hilton rooftop, namely, The Galaxy Restaurant & Bar. Unbeknownst to me, this restaurant had received the ranking of The World’s 10 Best By Premier Travel Magazine.

Upon my arrival at the restaurant, I was greeted by a very professional maître d’hôtel, who welcomed me and made me feel special. The restaurant boasted an enchanting space with sophisticated décor and a galaxy ceiling.

He sat me by the edge of the restaurant and I was greeted by the most spectacular, jaw-dropping view of the Ancient Acropolis. It was fully illuminated and surrounded by a reflective full moon, complete with a canopy of stars. It was like being in a dream and I had to pinch myself to prove that I was actually there. Why is it that I had never heard of this place until now?

The Presentation

The menu was handed to me and much to my surprise, the variety was of Mediterranean cuisine but with a modern twist. The Maître D’hôtel took my order of Caesar salad and mushroom risotto and when it arrived, I was so impressed with the presentation. The meal was paired with a beautiful full-bodied red wine to further enhance the experience.

The Caesar salad presentation was very unique. Imagine a romaine heart cut in half, lightly brushed with olive oil on the barbecue and open faced on your plate. Beside it was a soft boiled egg (already shelled), two sprigs of anchovies, a crostini of Parmesan cheese and a homemade crouton. To complement the entire plate, it was carefully topped with a house dressing which was to die for.

To this day, I continue to make this version for my dinner guests and never fail to impress. The presentation of the risotto was equally as nice and hands down, the most spectacular I’ve ever tried!

Crete, Greece

The next leg of my journey took me to the island of Crete where I sampled the local cuisine. It’s amazing how the Greeks have perfected the recipes over the years. From the taramosalata  (lemon juice, olive oil, onions, bread and fish eggs) to spanakopita (a wonderful light flaky phyllo pastry with a filling of spinach and feta).  And we can’t forget the succulent saganaki (a delicious salty pan seared Greek cheese).

These mouth-watering savory meals never disappointed and I looked forward to each and every one of them. Of course, I had to try the famous Greek dessert baklava (a combination of nuts, sugar and honey wrapped in a light phyllo) which made each meal complete.

Since returning from Greece, I’ve attempted to duplicate those culinary sensations, but to no avail. There’s something to be said about culture and recipes that have been passed down through generations. The Greeks have this perfected and I long for the day when I can return to experience these Greek dishes again.

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