Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Paradise Lost

I meant to write this final entry before now, but I've been busy looking for an apartment and catching up with old friends and generally feeling discombobulated since I've returned to the US, so it's just now that I'm finally getting around to it.

I meant to include pictures from my last few weeks on the island, but it seems that I didn't take nearly as many as I thought I had. Unfortunately, I seem to be missing every photo from the wedding in Rethymno, and I had a lot of them (videos, too). My sister mentioned something about copying my photos from my laptop onto a memory stick, so maybe she's got them (I really hope so).

The cats seem to have settled in pretty well to their new (temporary) surroundings in my parent's basement. They love the great, wooded, terraced back yard, and Rikki has been busy tormenting the various rodent residents (moles and chipmunks) that scurry around in the ivy. Hoping to be in my own place soon, and to find employment of some sort shortly thereafter. My parents have been wonderful and generous, and it's been really nice to be able to catch up with everyone face-to-face.

Things here are almost exactly as I remember them, and it doesn't feel strange at all to be back. In fact, it feels disturbingly normal. And it bothers me.

I don't want normal...I want Crete.

I hope to keep in touch with many people I met over there, to work hard to improve upon (or at least maintain) the little bit of Greek I learned, and to keep close in my memory all the things that made Crete so special for me.

And hopefully one day, in the not too distant future, I can take that trip back over the rainbow.

Addendum: Today is April 5, 2011 and I am back in beautiful Crete! I don't think I'll be posting much, if any, in this blog during this stay. I think it was appropriate for my first trip over, since it was one of discovery, but I feel that Facebook photos and status updates will suffice to keep in touch with friends and family.

It's great to be back!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Last Day

I wish I had time to post some pictures from the last few weeks, to catch up with what's been happening during my sister's visit, but unfortunately today will have to be dedicated to packing up, cleaning house and all the little details involved in preparing to return to the US tomorrow morning on the 7am flight from Chania. Lots to do.

Once I'm back in the States I'll update the blog to cover recent stuff.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dourakis Winery

This weekend was "Open House" at many of the wineries on Crete. Debra Papanioff of the CIC tipped me off to this via a page suggestion for Dourakis Winery on Facebook, and I thank her for doing so because Luella, Koula and I had another excuse to get together and drink nice wine.

We were impressed not only with the wines (we tasted about 9 of them), but with the knowledge and enthusiasm of Adonis and Evie, the son and daughter of the founder of the winery.

I didn't take detailed notes on each of the wines, but they were all of high quality and I chose to buy two bottles of their organic Vilana (one for my sister's visit, one to take back to the US) and one of their Carignan (also for consumption while my sister is here, hopefully with a nice hunk of red meat, because the tannins are formidable at this point).

The grounds were beautiful, the cellar enchanting and I even came across some very well-fed looking cats in a room containing some production equipment, while I was searching for the restroom.

Finally, I had one of those "small world" experiences (which can be pretty common here in Crete) when a friendly older gentleman chatted us up and offered us a business card for the Kassimatis family shops in Chania. I've been dealing with his son Michalis since I arrived last summer, purchasing some skin care products that I like from him whenever I need them. I've always enjoyed dealing with Michalis because of his outgoing, friendly nature, and I see now that it runs in the family.

Around the winery.

The gentleman to my left is Kurios Kassimatis, and the couple in the bottom right photo are Evie and Adonis.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My 42nd Birthday

Spent in the company of my two lovely friends, Koula and Luella. Luella's birthday was on the 12th, so we combined celebrations and made a day traipsing around the Akrotiri peninsula. We started at the Agia Triada monastery, which structurally reminded me very much of the Arkadi monastery, I guess because they were both built during the Venetian occupation (I think...my readers know I'm not exactly a history buff so please forgive any inaccuracies). I wanted to buy some of their wine, which comes highly recommended by Koula, but it would require leaving it in the hot car for the remainder of our day, and I didn't want to risk spoiling it. I hope to go back before I leave to buy some so that I can serve it at our next AOC gathering.

After we left the monastery, we headed to the beach at Stavros, which is where "Zorba the Greek" was filmed. The day was overcast with cloud cover and dust from Africa, and although it was still hot and humid, none of us felt like swimming so we just had a small lunch at one of the outdoor tables and watched a large group of tourists try to catch some rays and a swim before their tour bus loaded them up and carried them off. After Stavros we took a short detour to a couple of other beaches on the peninsula, just to have a look, and then went to Koukouvayou for coffee and dessert. This cafe claims one of the best views of Chania town from above, but the strange dark tint to the day wasn't optimal for taking in this fantastic view.

After Koukouvayou we went back to Luella's place where she poured us some nice red wine from Miden Agan, and cut up an incredibly flavorful melon to serve alongside sliced cucumbers and cheese. We sat on her balcony with a nice view of the water and chatted while we killed time until our dinner reservation at 8pm. The picture here is of the sun, which looked somewhat post-apocalyptic in the gray sky. Normally a sky like this would make me feel depressed and want to stay inside, but fortunately I was in good company.

We had dinner at Kariatis, a chic yet comfortable Italian restaurant located on one of the back streets of the old harbor. It was great to get a break from the usual taverna food, sharing a large crepe dish for a starter and then each ordering our own pasta dish. The wine, Semeli Mantinia Nasiakos, was a delightful moschofilero with a subtle but definite grapefruit aroma and flavor. This is another I'd like to seek out and bring back to the US with me! One of my favorite parts to the meal was the surprise birthday raspberry cheesecake that Koula ordered and had delivered to the restaurant for after our meal. It was one of the best I've tasted, and my mouth is watering right now thinking about it. I was so full that I insisted Luella and Koula split the leftover cake and take it home, but at this moment I'm wishing I hadn't!

The three of us at dinner, looking quite fabulous if I do say so. Thanks ladies, for a perfect day. I'm so happy to have spent my 42nd with you both!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Botanical Park of Crete

A big thanks to Margaret Doyle of the CIC for putting this fabulous day together, and for inviting me along. Koula (my cooking instructor) accompanied me, and I was really happy that she was able to show me many various types of edible horta as we walked through the park (see picture of various "weeds"). To think, in the US we use pesticides on this sort of stuff, whereas here we boil or steam it and serve with lemon, oil, salt and pepper for a nutrient packed meal!

In addition to the park, which contains a plethora of plants, flowers, trees and herbs from all over the world (and some critters,too!), there is a very nice restaurant on site which serves fresh, organic, locally grown food and wine. I learned during the wine tasting that they make a white Romeiko, which was heretofore unknown to me. It was quite nice, as was their fresh rose Romeiko (which is blended with grenache) and their oak-aged romeiko, which had a nice port-like quality. The Romeiko grape is used widely in the production of bulk wine on Crete, and is often of very poor quality. This was a refreshing exception.

For lunch we had salad, bread, tzaziki, boureki and a blend of vegetables from the garden called sympetherio (literally translated as "relationship by marriage"). Prior to our walk through the park, the chef demonstrated how to make each dish, and we were permitted to taste some of the individual ingredients that go into each dish, including mint leaves and myzithra cheese.

The price for the entire day was ridiculously low at 10 euros. This event surely was worth at least twice that, and I definitely plan to bring my sister with me for our own visit when she comes.

I've linked to their website, and highly recommend a visit to anyone coming to Crete.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cooking with Koula Part IV

Today's main dish was a fish called rofus, which at first glance looked like swordfish to me, but which is quite different in texture and flavor. It cooked in the oven with a sauce that had been prepared on the stove, and was accompanied by artichokes in a creamy lemon dill sauce, and a potato parsley puree. Recipes below.

In addition to the great food and conversation, Koula had her cousin make me two CD's of Greek and Cretan music, which she gave to me as an early birthday gift. The music is wonderful, and we listened to it while we cooked and ate our meal. I was very touched by this, as the CD's are very well made and it's the only Cretan music I have, even after all this time here! She also gave me a DVD on Crete, which I plan to show back in the US at my first AOC gathering (Greek wine theme) and a really nice little guide to Chania. Oh...and a bunch of sage so I can have it for cooking or with my mountian tea. Thank you, Koula...you're the best!!!


6 filets of fresh fish (rofus)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch chopped parsley
sliced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
4 green onions, chopped
3 onions, chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup tomato sauce
thyme, salt & pepper

Saute onions, garlic and parsley in oil for 5 minutes, add salt, pepper, thyme, white wine.Add tomato sauce and cook for about 15 minutes.

Salt and pepper the fish, then pour sauce over the top and cook in the oven for about 30-40 minutes at 180c.


6 fresh artichokes, peeled/cleaned and sliced (keep in water w/ lemon juice to keep from turning brown)
3 green onions
1 bunch of dill
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of three lemons
salt, pepper
1 tbsp flour
2 cups water

Saute onions and dill in olive oil for 5 mintues
Add artichokes, lemon, water, salt and pepper, and the flour mixed with a small amount of water
Cook on med-high for about 30 minutes


Puree potatoes, blend parsley, garlic and lemon juice in blender, add to potato puree along with some salt and a little olive oil, if desired.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sunset on Kissamos

Taken from the path leading to the acropolis at Polyrinia.