One of the best things about travelling and experiencing the world is trying the foods and flavours that other countries are known for. One such cuisine that has made headlines for decades is the Mediterranean diet. Interest in this ‘diet’ began in the 1960s when observations revealed that heart disease caused fewer deaths in Mediterranean countries than compared to the US and northern Europe. Generally speaking, the Mediterranean diet is a way of eating based on the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. While there is no one definition of the diet, it is typically high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds and olive oil. Other important elements of the diet include sharing meals with family and friends while enjoying a glass of wine and being physically active.
It comes with little surprise that this diet is fully adopted by those who live in the small bathing resort and port town of Itea, Greece. Located between mountain and sea, the local landscape is perfect for harvesting fresh fruit and vegetables and the ocean is filled with plenty of fresh seafood.
You can forget the calories (they don’t count when you’re on holidays, right?!) while you’re here and make sure to try these local delicacies!
Being a port village, it comes with little surprise that fresh fish and seafood are common on all plates and menus in Itea. In the local taverns, you can enjoy fresh fish and a variety of flavours, with idyllic views of the Corinthian Gulf and the Peloponnese.
A local favourite is Seafood Ouzo; a hybrid dish that borrows from Italian risotto and Greek Kritharaki. Using various types of seafood, this dish is essentially a variation of the classic northern Greek dish mussel pilaf.
A dish for adventurous eaters, splenandero is a popular sausage made from spleen and mutton and broiled over a charcoal fire. While this may not sound too obscure, the production of the sausage takes place after the meat has first been soaked in sheep and goat’s blood.
Authentic to Central Greece (the Roumeli region) is the kontosouvli; BBQ spit-roasted meat. Unlike other parts of Greece, Iteans use lamb for their kontosouvli, not pork. Here, the lamb kontosouvli is stuffed with walnuts, pine nuts, feta and trahana.
This dish is popular during Greek Orthodox Easter but is also eaten year-round. In Itea, they make this rotisserie dish with lamb intestines, heart liver and the meat of other organs, wrapped in caul fat and by yards of cleaned intestines.
While ‘Greek Yoghurt’ has become a staple in Western superfood diets in recent years, this strained variety of yoghurt is not a traditional yoghurt in Greece. While the majority of yoghurts sold in supermarkets are strained, it’s not considered a superfood, but rather a creamy alternative to the traditional kind. Traditionally, Greeks would mostly eat yoghurt made from leftover sheep’s milk after making cheese. This non-strained sheep’s milk yoghurt was (and still is) stored in ceramic containers and is an important element in the traditional Greek diet.
Driving into Itea from the mountainous surrounds, you’ll notice that the hills are covered with olive trees. Itea has been nicknamed the ‘sea of olives’ and their production is now an important part of the local economy – in fact, the Amfissa olive trees are protected by UNESCO!
The use of nuts permeates Greek cuisine. While they are used mostly in sweets (sweet almonds and revani of Galaxidi are unforgettable), nuts are also found in many savoury dishes, from sauces to stuffed rice dishes and pies.
Considered to be the best honey in the world, Moka Honey is produced by a local family. Under the shadow of Mount Parnassus, the family produce honey from thyme and fir, which is considered the most qualitative flora for honey production. Visitors to Itea can visit the honey farm and the shop can deliver products to hotels in Itea.
Raki is an alcoholic beverage that contains about 40-65% alcohol by volume. It’s made by distilling pomace (the remains of grapes pressed in winemaking) for about six weeks. The drink is similar to orujo in Spain, grappa in Italy and marc in France.
Interested in learning more about how to experience Itea like a local? Check out our blog post here!