Syrianos is a third-generation cheesemaker, and his passion for the local “kopanisti” is contagious. After we taste a variety of cheeses and drink a bit of his homemade wine, Syrianos and his daughter, who is in culinary school, get cooking. They’re teaching us to make pastitsio — Greek lasagna with layers of ziti noodles, meat sauce, béchamel and Mykonos cheeses. While that’s cooking, Syrianos shows us how to whip up tsimpita, little cheese pies sprinkled with cinnamon, honey and sesame seeds.
He says his grandmother taught him to cook; he was making yogurt and baking bread when he was just a boy. More than that, though, she taught him to get his work done — milk the cows, tend the sheep — before he could head to the beach. “I use what she taught me every day,” he says. He loves farming as much as he enjoys making cheese; he calls his sheep “my girls.”
After cooking, eating and drinking wine all afternoon, our group parts like old friends.
This is our last excursion on a whirlwind, 10-day cruise through the Greek islands and Cyprus aboard the Silver Moon, Silversea’s new ship tailored to foodies. We go to sleep each night and wake up the next morning ready to eat our way through the next island — a gourmand’s dream.
Silversea, a luxury cruise line that specializes in small ships with spacious accommodations, has created a culinary program called S.A.L.T. — Sea and Land Taste — to emphasize the role of food in the culture of each destination — the brainchild of food writer Adam Sachs, who serves as the program’s director. On board, that means serving a different menu each night in S.A.L.T. Kitchen, one of the ship’s nine restaurants; mixing up cocktails from local ingredients in S.A.L.T. Bar; and offering cooking classes in the S.A.L.T. Lab.
We’re lucky to experience a cooking class in the lab with Yasmin Khan, whose new cookbook, “Ripe Figs,” features recipes and stories from Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. “Fresh figs transport you to the Mediterranean,” she says. Khan is a storyteller, and food is an introduction to the people and places she visits. In the Eastern Mediterranean, she often meets with migrants at refugee camps and women’s shelters. Their stories are woven into her food and travel writing.
Khan teaches us how to make a proper mezze plate — a collection of small, savory side dishes from the Eastern Mediterranean. “Typically, you’d want at least four dishes to make up a mezze, but you can mix and match,” she says. Her cookbook offers suggestions such as Spicy Red Pepper and Walnut Smash, Garlicky Eggplant Salad, Tzatziki (yogurt with cucumber and mint) and Halloumi Saganaki (fried cheese). The secret to great cooking? “Surround yourself with beautiful ingredients,” she says.
My friend Alicia Reitman and I had begun our voyage in Athens, following strict COVID protocols. While Greece does not require a vaccine card (only a negative test 72 hours before arrival), Silversea passengers must be fully vaccinated two weeks prior to boarding, and the ship tests each traveler before they step on board. The ship was built for 600 passengers, but it’s only two-thirds full. There are hand-sanitizer stations at the boarding dock, handwashing stations at the entrance to restaurants and masks must be worn indoors. Tours are conducted via cellphone, using a smart guide system.
Syros: Our first stop is Syros, with its white-sand beaches and medieval villages. Bougainvillea spills over the walls and terraces as we wind our way through the stone streets of the capital city, Ermoupolis. On our walking tour, we stop in at the Church of the Assumption to see El Greco’s Byzantine painting, “Dormition of Virgin Mary,” which dates to the 1560s. Father Kostas greets us and warmly welcomes us into this magnificent Orthodox church, filled with baroque architectural elements, stained glass and gilded details. The shopping is great here, too.
We head back a little early because this is a formal dining night on the ship. For women, that means cocktail or long dresses. For men, a dark coat and tie. As long as we’re dressed to the nines, we splurge and dine on salinkári (snails) and lobster at La Dame, one of two restaurants that aren’t included in the cruise rate. We end the meal with personalized souffles.
Paros: Paros must be paradise. With Mykonos to the north and Santorini to the south, it’s a relatively undiscovered postcard-perfect setting. Picture turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea, a harbor filled with colorful fishing boats and white-washed houses with blue doors and magenta blossoms. On our S.A.L.T. excursion, we spend the morning at Kamarantho, a verdant organic farm, and snack on olives, fresh figs and raki. Then it’s off to the beach for lunch. Thalassamou Restaurant and Oyster Bar is a lovely taverna with an outdoor oven and seaside tables under the tamarisk trees. Our hosts Marios and Anna Salmaltanis make sure we don’t go hungry, with calamari, fava beans and spanikopita, but we still fight over the last bites of tomatoes and cheese with our freshly baked bread. Lingering over a glass of wine at the table, then wading out into the crystal clear water, it’s our most memorable meal of the trip. After the bus ride back to the dock, we’re not ready to go back to the ship, so we hire a taxi and ask the driver to deliver us to his favorite beach. Faragas Beach, with its brilliant blue, calm waters and craggy rocks did not disappoint.
Patmos: St. John is said to have written the Book of Revelations in a hillside cave here in Patmos, and the island does have a kind of reverent beauty. High above the port sits the village of Chora. Its narrow, white alleyways open up to intimate taverna patios and quiet shops. These are some of the most scenic spots we’ll encounter in Greece — red-roofed churches, bountiful bougainvillea, white-washed walls. The path ultimately leads to the Monastery of St. John the Theologian. Dating to the 11th century, it looks more like a fortress than a monastery.
Back on board, we try out the menu in S.A.L.T. Kitchen. I can’t decide which is my favorite: the briam (roasted zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes and onions, layered and baked and served with feta mousse) or the astakomakaronada (lobster and pasta with fresh tomato, fennel and thyme). Let’s call it a draw.
Rhodes: We’ll dive into history in Rhodes. First, we’ll climb up to the Acropolis of Lindos. Its well-preserved columns have a backdrop of cobalt blue sea. The ruins of the temple to Athena stand in the distance. Athena is revered all over Greece. Not only was she born out of King Zeus’ head, she also gave the Greeks the olive tree. A walk around Old Town and a tour of the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes impresses. It’s fun to think of knights riding these streets.
Tonight we try the S.A.L.T. Bar, which we decide could be our new hangout. Carlos, the mixologist, experiments with local flavors, including cardamon, rose water and thyme. And, of course, the theater is important. He has elevated shaking a drink to an Olympic sport.aside">
Day at sea: The two days at sea offer time to explore all the options on board: Cooking classes, casino games, Zagara Beauty Spa services, a gym workout, lounging and dining by the pool, taking in a show at the Venetian Lounge, relaxing in the Dolce Vita piano bar and, finally, dancing in the Panorama Lounge.
Cyprus: We didn’t know much about Cyprus, other than it is divided into two parts with a U.N. buffer zone in between. We visited the Greek side, and were blown away by the friendly and helpful people of Limassol. Shopkeeper Christina Papavassiliou runs a dress boutique / copperware store called the Copper Store; her elderly father is the last coppersmith in Limassol, she says. His vessels are beautiful works of art. She makes us a cup of Cypriot coffee and tells us what to order at a nearby taverna. We end up buying dresses and copperware.
Crete: We dock in Heraklion, a large port guarded by a fortress. Our excursion takes us out of the bustling city and up to the mountain vineyard, Lyrarakis, for a wine tasting. Melissaki is my personal favorite varietal. (“Melissa” is honeybee in Greek.) Our guide points out all the capers, thyme and St. John’s wort growing wild along the highway.
For authentic Cretan cuisine, there’s no better restaurant than the elegant Peskesi. The produce and meat come straight from the owners’ farm. A standout dish is kreokakavos, Minoan roast pork served on hanging skewers.
Mykonos: We don’t want to miss a minute in Mykonos, so we’re the first ones off the ship. We find a lovely seaside spot for coffee that overlooks the famous windmills. We order yogurt for breakfast and it tastes like heaven, gilded with honey and fruit. Checking out the island boutiques, we follow a beautiful ibis wandering through the town. A walk over to the windmills offers a bit of a show as an influencer is having her photo shot with the train of her red evening gown blowing in the wind. Beautiful young tourists stand in long lines waiting for the buses headed to the beach. We decide to take a taxi, but there are none to be found. Finally, we see a scraggly Jeff Bridges-as-the-Dude look-alike sitting in a three-wheeler with a vinyl cover over it, like a little surrey. We negotiate a ride, and it turns out to be a great way to get around, see the island and arrive at the beach. Our driver squeezes through all sorts of jams, albeit heavy on the horn.
Rates for a Mediterranean cruise on the Silver Moon start at $5,400 for a seven-day cruise, airfare included, and go as high as $20,000 for the Owner's Suite. (The starting rate for a 90-day cruise from Athens to Stockholm is $90,000.) The cruise line also recently returned to Antarctica travel.
We pack it all in — a walking tour of the white-washed corridors of the town and its upscale shops, breakfast on the bay, a swim at the beach, the trip to the cheesemaker’s farm — and we head back to the Silver Moon, wondering what’s for dinner in S.A.L.T. Kitchen.
Source : https://www.houstonchronicle.com/lifestyle/thepage/article/Island-hopping-on-a-foodie-cruise-through-Greece-16543785.php15227