I hadn’t been to Mykonos in years but as soon as our ship docked and I saw the whitewashed buildings of this picturesque island many happy memories came flooding back to me. The narrow winding alleys with small shops, the fisherman along the waterfront and the infamous windmills that have been photographed who knows how many times. This time, however, I’d be focusing on the food with the help of my Mykonos guide and friend, Eleni Melirrytou. A native of Athens, Eleni always loved cooking having learned many of her skills from her aunt in a small village of Greece. Now she encourages others to learn and understand more about Greek cuisine by sharing her knowledge. She was here in Mykonos, where she has a home as well, and offered to show me some of her special places on the island.
After a short sea bus ride to Mykonos town, Eleni’s son, Orestis was waiting for us by the small farmer’s market. He was visiting from the U.S. where he is an Assistant Sommelier at the popular Greek restaurant, Milos, in Miami. Needless to say, he and I had plenty to talk about. After buying some tomatoes and figs with Eleni for a dish we’d be preparing later on, Orestis brought me to a nearby wine shop where he picked out one of his favorite Greek whites, the Domaine Biblia Chora white a blend of Assyrtiko and Sauvignon Blanc.
We walked through the quaint alleyways and into a 500 year old bakery that still uses some of the original equipment that has lasted through the 10 generations that have owned this place. We were here to buy some rusks, a twice baked bread made from barley & wheat. Rusks became important and popular due to their long shelf life and Eleni now wanted to show me some modern recipes using these hard biscuits. Before heading out though, I was given some savory feta and spinach pastries and some newly baked bread that we watched them bake.
We now hopped into a van that Eleni had hired for the day and Orestis thankfully, did the curvy, snaking, winding drive up to a stunning off the beaten path spot overlooking a beautiful bay that was far away from tourists. We climbed down some stony terrain to an old Fisherman’s hut by the water where Eleni set up the outdoor table with our rusks, tomatoes, figs, cheeses, olive oils and wine. She sprinkled water on the rusks to moisten them up and then spread a very stinky soft goat cheese on them, ( she said it would be very tasty/) Then chopped tomatoes and herbs on a few and figs on the others. A sprinkling of fresh olive oil finished them off. We sat down by the water with an ice cold glass of the the wine chatting, munching and drinking and it was paradise.
After this fun demonstration and ideal break , we headed to the busy beach town of Ornos and restaurant Kuzina, where the owner and chef, Aris Tsanaklides was waiting to greet us. Having a restaurant in Athens that he closes for the summer, he opened this branch next to the popular Ammos Beach hotel. It’s elegant waterfront setting is perfect for the Mediterranean Asian cuisine he prepares using traditional, local ingredients with a unique modern twist. He made me a spicy squid with ginger and chili and a pasta dish with fresh tomatoes and herbs. He sat down with me to talk about his cooking inspirations and I was so pleased that he was open to let us film him too.
It was already a full and tasty day but Eleni had wanted us to watch some fresh fish being prepared in an outdoor oven at a taverna back in Mykonos town. Unfortunately the owner had other ideas and was not actually ready or willing to start up his oven for a few more hours. He seemed to be in the midst of some heated discussions with some of his staff and so, with a boat to catch, we decided we’d leave the distressed man alone. Some drama is always interesting.
Never mind, it was a marvelous day in Mykonos.
All the best,