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Tis Pandoras is one of four fish tavernas in Ammodi Bay, Oia (pictured above).

All morning we swam in deep waters. Ammoudi doesn’t have a regular beach with sand.  There are cliffs of rock from which you can either jump into the water, or walk down carefully on steep slippery stepping stones.  The sea here is very cool. The only things in sight are sky, rock, mountains, and the sun. We worked up quite an appetite.

It’s a short walk from the swimming cove to the tavernas. The other 3 restaurants offer more standard Greek seafood fare. Sunset Taverna is known for its lobster spaghetti which I will be sure to try in my next visit to Santorini. Tis Pandoras, however, has an overall more inspired menu. I have access to traditional tavernas all year around, and I was curious to try traditional recipes with a twist. Having said that, we ended up trying relatively familiar Greek recipes.

No owner would need to create much atmosphere as the tables are seated right next to the sea. Divine! But you could still notice personal touches in everything- the wild descriptions of food on the menu,  the cooky candle holders on the table, and quirky works of art inside the kitchen.

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We started with one of my favorite appetizers, deep fried miniature shrimp (Garidakia). They were topped with chopped parsley and lemon juice. The shrimp tasted fresh and scrumptious. It was maybe a tad too greasy for my taste, but Niko (my regular dining partner/boyfriend) loved them a little oily. The batter was pretty thick and crunchy, which was a nice balance texture-wise with the shrimp.

To the side, you can see the my bitten bread spread with the smooth salty olive tapenade which was served to us at the beginning of the meal.

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The second meze (appetizer) was my favorite: Octopus in vinegar. After we finished it, we ordered a second. It was incredibly tender, yet not overcooked. This is important! It should be neither tough, nor mush- just like cooked veggies. I asked the chef how he accomplished this perfect balance, and he said that when you stew the octopus in vinegar and water, add an onion to the pot. Once the onion is fork tender, you should remove the octopus. I tried this trick and it worked! He seasoned the octopus with another dash of vinegar (probably red wine although I use Sherry vinegar which is awesome), dried oregano, fresh parsley, and capers. I loved biting into a caper and slice of octopus in one bite. It had a spicy edge to the flavor since capers are so much more pungent in Santorini (for more about Santorini ingredients, see older posts).

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Our last shared plate was this restaurant’s most notable dish (though I still preferred the octopus)- Stuffed Calamari. This was the biggest Calamari I have ever seen! Seriously. This Calamari was on steroids or something. It is stuffed with feta cheese, green pepper, and onions, then drizzled with an oregano seasoned vinaigrette. We both really enjoyed the filling, and there is so much of it that we spread half of it on the rest of our bread. My only criticism is that the cheese overpowers the flavor of the seafood a little too much, and it needed a bit more green pepper in the stuffing.

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As usual, Niko didn’t want dessert, but I always do. Before I ordered, the chef sent out a complimentary orange cake, fresh out of the oven and very warm. This would also be a wonderful winter dessert, but still enjoyable sitting under the sun. Its orange flavor is intensely vibrant, and the shreds of coconut in the batter is scrumptuous. It is drizzled oh-so-lightly with chocolate syrup. I found this a sophisticated move, as most Greek restaurants drench everything in sauces and syrups.

Instead of working off the meal with the 200 steps back up to Oia (hey, we swam all morning, right?) we ordered a cab back up to our hotel. 🙂

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This was our night view from Koukoumavlos , which is recognized as one of the best restaurants in all of Greece. The chef Niko Pouliasis is recognized for an inventive and experimental play with food.  Among his signature dishes are Tiramisu with Smoked Eggplant and Kataifi wrapped Cheese with Rose and Watermelon Syrup and Cucumber Jelly.

It may have been a mistake to order the same thing, but my boyfriend and I had the same choice for both the appetizer and main meal, and we did not want to share! It would have been nice to try the salmon dish however, which sounded equally interesting.

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We started with Grilled Foie Gras with Grape Syrup, Raisin paste, and Ouzo jelly. I appreciated the very generous portion of foie gras. I always enjoy a jelly texture with the silky foie gras, and the grape/raisin flavors added another layer of lusciousness to the foie gras. I drank sauternees which of course perfectly accompanied the sweetly rich plate.

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For our main meal we had steak and mashed potatoes, parmesan ice cream, topped with a sesame crisp. Our steaks were cooked perfectly, but I was disappointed in the cut of steak. For such a venerated restaurant, I could see and taste that the quality of the meat was not up to par.  For the prices, they could have imported any cut from any part of the world, trust me. It did taste good, but this was a noticable disparity for the caliber of this restaurant.

The mashed potatoes were creamy and lush. The drizzle of truffle oil infused an addictive earthy flavor. I personally enjoyed the parmesan ice cream. It basically tasted like cold parmesan, and the texture of the ice cream went perfectly well with the sesame crisps that accompanied the dish. I did not like the ice cream as much when I ate it with the steak. My dining companion however, would have nothing to do with the ice cream, and I was pleased to eat his portion!

Instead of getting dessert (and if you’ve read my other posts, you know this is a rarity for me!), that night I wanted to keep ordering glasses of the cabernet savignon french wine (yes i drank imported wine in santorini…shoot me!) And Niko was on a roll with his belgian beer. That is how we ended the meal, savoring our drinks and enjoying the view of Fira.

The service was flawless. They made us feel very special and gave us the best table we had been promised when making our reservation. Each server explained the dishes well and answered any questions we had with enthusiasm and care.

Overall I would recommend Koukoumavlos for the atmosphere and adventure for the palate. There were more adventerous dishes on the menu that I didn’t try but would like to at another time. I was just so in the mood for steak!

I can’t say that the meal measured up to my grand expectations, but we thoroughly enjoyed the meal and experience, and I would certainly go back.

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Even though this wasn’t one of my favorite overall dining experiences in Santorini, I ate one of the best plates of the trip here!

Niko and I made reservations earlier that same day to get a table right on the edge. The view of Oia is spectacular: A cluster of lights on the uneven cliff and blue and white church tops.

Like Ambrosia and Nectar, this place had character. A bird cage hung near the entrance.  Old photos and weathered paintings adorned the walls. We sat under the lovely draped linen roof pictured above. The dark sky peeked dramatically through its stark white color.

The service is a little strange.  The servers were kind and want to help, but some didn’t know Greek OR English very well which was frustrating at times. We couldnt get clear answers to our questions about the menu.

Niko started with a steak carpaccio that was phenomenal. Simple and perfectly seasoned. Nothing outstanding, but enjoyable.

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I started with an appetizer that was highly recommended by the server: creamy white cheese (anthotiro) balls wrapped in crushed almonds in a honey sauce. Cheese, honey and nuts is usually a perfect combo, but the taste was dry and boring actually. The almonds overwhelmed the mild cheese and the small portion of honey did not add enough sweet balance to the dish. The cheese also didn’t seem fresh. (sorry for the dark picture, our area wasnt well lit).

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I got a bottle of the award winning white Sigalas wine. It was satisfyingly crisp with notes of honey and went nicely with my main dish which was…

…what can I say? An explosion of flavor! Pork Tenderloin crusted in freshly ground black peppercorns, with baked peaches. A bite of the tender pork, spicy pepper, and sweet peach is at once a complex taste and reminiscent of comfort food. I’ve had many foods with a combination of spicy and sweet, but this dish quite simply felt like sparks in my mouth. It is one of the handful of dishes from Santorini that I am still thinking about!

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(The dish in the foreground is Niko’s steak and in the background is my pork).

For the first time in my life, I was too stuffed for dessert. However, the choices looked interesting and delicious, such as custard pie with rose syrup.

Niko had a standard steak with grilled vegetables and mashed potatoes. They were like his appetizer- well executed, flavorful, just nothing to write home about. 🙂

I liked the atmosphere and would probably come back to the restaurant just for the pork and to try the desserts, but I will also make it myself with this recipe I worked up…:)

PEPPER CRUSTED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH BAKED PEACHES

1 pork tenderloin (not loin)
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
salt to taste
lots of cracked black pepper
2 tbl butter

Sprinkle pork evenly with salt, and then rub the pork with the black pepper so that it is thickly encrusted.

Preheat oven to 375 (180C)

Brown the pork on all 4 sides in a hot pan with olive oil.

Then put the pork in the oven to bake- please do not over cook! Remember that it continues to cook even when you let it rest on the table after removing it from the oven. I take mine out when it has an internal temp of 170.

In the hot pan, add the vinegar, garlic, and chicken stock- and reduce until it is as thick as youd like, and for the flavor to intensify. At the very end, whisk in two tbs. of butter.

For the PEACHES:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup peach brandy or peach nectar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 6 to 8 small ripe, firm peaches

Preparation:

In a 4- to 6-quart saucepan, combine the water, orange juice, brandy or nectar, sugar, honey, and vanilla. Bring to a full boil. Add peaches and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes, until peaches are tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove peaches to a bowl to cool completely. Boil the syrup for about 10 minutes, or until reduced by about half. Cool syrup. Peal the peaches.

Mix a little of the peach syrup with the pork-pan stock- this will meld all the nice flavors together.

Slice pork and serve peaches alongside.

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Ambrosia and Nectar was the first restaurant we visited in Santorini, and it was a satisfying initiation into the local food.

Above is a picture of Vinsanto wine served to us at the end of the meal. (Vinsanto is a locally made sweet liquor wine, with grapes sun dried and aged for 3-5 years). Actually only I ordered it because my dining partner doesn’t drink wine, but they seemed to take pity on him and brought him a glass as well! It was my first taste of Vinsanto on the trip. Each sip brought another layer of deep flavor-almost dark flavors of chocolate, honey and butter…

The atmosphere of the restaurant is cozy with eclectic pieces of photography and paintings embellishing the walls. Greenery and flowers are planted randomly around the seating area, lending to its casual yet endearing character.

For appetizers we ordered fava and a santorini salad.

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The fava was garnished with pita bread, caramelized onions, and balsamic syrup. It was incredible! Fava is usually served with raw onion, but I prefer it with the sweet onion. The sweet-tart balsamic reduction adds another bright layer of flavor to the fava. The punchy bitter bite of the capers balanced out the sweetness. I could have continued eating this for my main dish as well and been very pleased! (You can find a recipe for my version of this dish below).

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The Santorini Salad was fine. It was a treat to taste the local cholro goat cheese, which is much milder, creamier, and less salty than the sharper goat cheese I’m used to in the island of Karpathos. The cucumbers and cherry tomatoes were refreshing and perfectly seasoned. The dressing was a simple light vinaigrette.

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Niko had the steak fillet (pictured above) and was disappointed. The meat was not very tender and not exceptionally flavorful. The potato puree though was very tasty- dense, but not too rich, with herby undertones. The roasted veggies were simply grilled with olive oil and very flavorful.

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I chose pumpkin ravioli for my main, with a light scallion cream sauce. I made sure to ask for it with very little sauce, since Greeks usually drench everything. I hate that! I was very pleased with this dish. The ravioli had just the right firmness and the scallion flavor was a delightful match to the sweet pumpkin filling. The chef also doesn’t over-do it with the heavy cream. The seasonings for the pumpkin filling (cinnamon and nutmeg) were pleasantly subtle.

Niko and I shared a dessert of thin chocolate circles layered with white chocolate mousse and strawberries. Even though it was heavy with cream and chocolates, it tasted light and airy. The strawberries were ripely red and sweet. (I didn’t add my picture because its incredibly out of focus! Niko wouldnt stop digging his fork into it long enough for me to take a still photo!)

Here is a fava recipe I made based on the one I tasted at Ambrosia & Nectar:

FAVA WITH CARAMALIZED ONIONS, BALSAMIC SYRUP, and PITA

serves 2

Ingredients:

FAVA: rinse 1 lb. of fava beans in a strainer with cool water to clean. Pour them into a saucepan with 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Strain out the froth that floats to the top. Reduce to a simmer on low-medium heat. Sprinkle sea or regular salt. Continue to stir occasionally so the fava doesn’t stick to the bottom. Cook until it absorbs the water and becomes creamy. This may take up to 45 minutes.

ONIONS: sautee onions in a few tbs. hot oil or butter and keep stirring on medium low heat for about 25 minutes or until they are caramalized and taste sweet.

BALSAMIC SYRUP: in a medium saucepan boil 1/2 balsamic vinegar until it is thick and sweet- just keep tasting until its to desired thickness and sweetness-then take off heat. the smell and smoke will be really strong at first, but dont be put off, it will pass.

PITA: toast a round pita and cut into fours.

ASSEMBLY:

-pour the mound of fava puree in a circle on a big round plate.

-place the pita slices standing up symmetrically on the fava

-add small mounds of caramalized onions on the outside of the fava decoratively

-drizzle everything with balsamic syrup

-top with a few caper leaves or capers

(if im not describing this clearly, see picture above!)

Enjoy!

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I’m back from Santorini, freshly inspired by the local ingredients and creative cuisine! Everything they say about the flavorful tomatoes, white eggplant, capers, chloro goat cheese, and fava is true! This island formed by intense volcanic eruptions developed unique conditions for soil and the production of ingredients.

The cherry tomatoes are probably the most popular local food product. The anhydrous soil adds sweetness to their flavor. There is so much moisture in the air that the plants do not need to be watered! The aroma and flavor is genuinely more intense than even the great tomatoes here at the local fruit markets.

Their white eggplant is much less bitter than regular eggplant. It also has less seeds and absorbs less oil when fried. The color is refreshingly bright in Greek eggplant salad puree! (melitzanosalata)

The Chloro cheese is a mild fresh goat cheese with a creamier texture than other homemade island goat cheeses. The production is said to be small, but I saw it offered at most restaurants I visited. I enjoyed its less sharp taste and balanced saltiness.

Capers are MUCH more pungent in taste then what I’m used to. I saw it in salads, as a garnish for fava, and used to flavor sauces.

I have to say, the fava (yellow split peas) was my favorite delicacy. I was surprised to notice a difference in taste, of which I was initially suspicious. It is creamier, sweeter, and more concentrated in flavor.

I am not a geologist, and don’t have a strong grasp of the ecosystem which determines these enriched ingredients. But in a very basic nutshell, the volcanic ash makes the soil porous. This, combined with the drought, humidity in the soil, and sea air infuse depth Santorini’s ingredients. So many times disappointing vegetables and seasonings often taste diluted. Not in Santorini!

One of the guidebooks given out to all tourists in Santorini offered up some recipes from the top chefs of the island. I’m choosing one of Dimitri Lazarou’s: White aubergine with spices in sesame crust. Lazarou is the chef at Saltsa, a highly acclaimed restaurant known for using local ingredients creatively. Unfortunately it was one of the few on my list that I didn’t get to try. Next time I will go definitely! This recipe looks great. If you don’t have access to white eggplant, try it with the regular purple variety.

Just remember: Because white eggplant is much sweeter and less bitter than regular eggplant, it might be a good idea to let salted eggplant slices sit in a colander overnight. The liquid which drains from the eggplant by the morning reduces its bitterness.

DIMITRI LAZAROU’S WHITE EGGPLANT WITH SPICES IN SESAME CRUST

-2 medium santorini eggplants or

-1/2 kilo/1/4 lb. all purpose flour

-4 tbs salt

-2 tbs pepper

– 2tbs sweet paprika

-2 tbs curry

-5 tbs white sesame

-5 tbs black sesame

-4 egg whites

-200ml heavy cream

Peel and cut the aubergines in 2cm thick sticks. Beat the egg whites with the cream and submerge the aubergine sticks in the egg mixture.

Mix flour with salt, pepper, paprika, curry and sesames. Let excess moisture from the cream mixture drip off, and mix the aubergines with the flour mixture. Fry them in very hot oil until golden.

Place them on kitchen paper to absorb the oil and serve.

Accompany it with yogurt dip (mix yogurt, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, freshly chopped mint).

In a few days I will post reviews of the restaurants Tis Pandoras, Koukoumavlos, Skala, Ambrosia & Nectar, Red Bicycle and Roca. I will add recipes based on amazing meals I tried at these great places!

Also coming up…food of Karpathos island. I will be there for the next few weeks enjoying my grandmother’s cooking, peeling fresh almonds with my aunt, and baking fig tarts…

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