The Mediterranean diet is supposed to be one of the healthiest in the world. Funny then how I somehow managed to come back from Greece feeling anything but healthy. I suppose that whole “moderation is key” thing kind of slipped my mind.
Now it wasn’t just the food itself, but maybe the circumstances– none of which I can really complain about. Between a food tour, glorious Greek buffet spreads at the conference and being treated like kings and queens by Visit Meteora, I was usually faced with more food than I knew what to do with.
Wait, that’s a lie. I knew exactly what to do.
Basically giving Greek hospitality to a literal glutton for punishment, and you’ve got the guide for “How to Gain Weight in Greece.”
ALL THE CHEESE
Ah, feta cheese. I didn’t really have any specific feelings towards this cheese until I had it in Greece. And I had it a lot. There was the creamy and warm baked feta cheese, feta cheese on top of Greek salads and feta cheese stuffed inside crispy flaky pastries. All of it was crumbly aged-cheese perfection.
There was one other cheese that happened to steal the show though– saganaki. Salty and a bit firm, saganaki is pan fried until bubbling and crispy on the outside. It was served to us at almost every dinner in Meteora and I just could never say no.
I mean, could you?
Much different than any other yogurt I’ve tasted before, Greek yogurt is especially thick. I tried the one below during a Big Olive food tour around Athens and it remains as my favorite. The top layer was firm, so much so you really had to use your spoon to break through it. Slathered with Greek honey and walnuts to cut the tang, it was the breakfast yogurt of dreams.
I am still regretting not going back there one more time before leaving Athens.
Dolma and cured meats
Although all the meats and cheeses we tried at Fanis’ Fromagerie & Charcuterie with Big Olive were divine, the dolma (stuffed grape leaves) really caught my attention. The use of grape leaves to wrap dishes dates back to Alexander the Great and there’s a reason why they are still used today. The ones I had were filled with rice and herbs and then dipped in tzatziki. It’s the perfect snack.
Middle Eastern flat-bread
At Feyrouz Lahmajoun, Big Olive treated us to tea and a type of flat-bread I had never come across before. These warm, doughy, meat-filled pieces of happiness were the perfect lunchtime bite. The one shown below was the vegetarian version made with spinach and Middle Eastern spices. It was also particularly spicy, which I didn’t expect!
Yia-yia’s stifado and moussaka
Right before catching the train to Meteora,I grabbed a bite with Lucy and Christina. Our hostel pointed us in the direction of To Kati Allo, a Rick Steve’s recommended joint. There was no menu and the sweet Greek yia-yia (grandma) barely spoke any English. Regardless, she pointed out everything she had on offer for the day the best she could. We chose a few and sat down.
The beef stifado was the perfect comfort food, but not something I’d expect from Greek cuisine. The rich stew covered tender pieces of beef and slow cooked onions. We smeared crusty pieces of bread through the sauce until the plate was clean.
A Greek food favorite from the Ottoman Empire, moussaka is like a Greek-style lasagna made from layers of eggplant, cheese, ground beef and a top coating of crispy bechamel. Yum.
Very much like the stifado, the food we were treated to in Meteora consisted of slow cooked meats in rich sauces. In fact, some of my favorite foods were found at those restaurants where plate after plate of family-style courses were brought out to our table. There were so many dishes, I couldn’t even keep track!
And what do I have to show for it? Nothing. Sometimes, you just don’t feel like being that blogger surrounded by hungry-male counterparts.
Basically the budget saver in all of Greece, I had one of these almost every time I wasn’t being presented with amazing Greek sit down meals. For only €1.50 (€2-2.50 on Santorini), the gyro (pronounced yee-ro) is a combination of shaved meat from the spit, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, tzatziki sauce and french fries all stuffed into a thick pita.
Some I had were amazing, and some were so-so, but they were all so cheap I could rarely say no. Also, lamb + french fries = a perfect guilty pleasure. Basically, you could say I had a love-hate and tumultuous relationship with the gyro. Saying “αντίο” was such bittersweet sorrow.
And it’s probably these bad boys (not to forget the cheese) who are totally at fault for the title of this post.