By Briana Seftel
The Greek island of Crete has long been praised for its healthful Mediterranean diet. In Crete, being a “locavore” is not just a trend, it’s a way of life. Staples in Cretan cuisine – olive oil, honey, fresh herbs – are harvested straight from the land.
In addition to the ever present olive oil (referred to as liquid gold), here are seven must try foods on vacation in Crete.
No Cretan meal is complete without cheese, whether it’s mizithra (a fresh whey cheese) or graviera (a classic hard cheese). Most of the Cheese produced in Crete comes from sheep and goat milk because cows don't do well on Crete's rocky terrain.
Dakos is a common appetizer in Crete consisting of a slice of soaked dried bread or barley rusk (paximadi) topped with tomatoes, crumbled feta or mizithra cheese and oregano. Consider it a Greek version of Italy’s bruschetta!
Greeks love their baked goods, especially kaltsounia! Most commonly eaten at Easter, kaltsounia are golden brown fried cheese pies in the shape of a small pocket. The handled pastries are sprinkled with sesame seeds or cinnamon, making them a delicous combination of savory and sweet!
Vegetarians looking for vacation ideas should consider Crete. You will want to try this delectable and light dish of fried squash blossoms stuffed with rice or cheese and herbs. Served with a dollop of yogurt on the side, they make a perfect appetizer or main dish!
Forget lobster or shrimp - snails have been consumed all over Crete since Minoan times and considered a delicacy. The locally harvested snails are fried in olive oil and doused with wine in a dish called coclious me hondro.
Dating back to 12th-century Crete, apaki is a traditional way of preserving meat by salting, curing and smoking. Today, the cooking method is most commonly used with pork from the village of Anogia.
Cap off a meal with Crete’s version of donuts! These delicious balls of fried dough are served with ice cream, nuts, and honey. Similar versions can be found in Turkey and Cyprus.
As an island in the middle of the Aegean Sea, Crete is blessed with an abundance of fresh seafood. You'll find everything from sardines to lobster at fish markets on the island. In restaurants, the seafood is usually cooked lightly in olive oil, letting the fresh flavor of the sea shine through.
And to drink…
Cretans consider this clear liquor one of their greatest secrets for longevity and health. Produced from the grape residue left over from the winemaking process, raki is very similar to Italian grappa but with a smoother flavor. It’s also called tsikoudia in some parts of Crete.
Crete is one of Greece's largest producers of wine and the oldest wine-producing area in continuous use on the European continent. Visit vineyards in Chania and Heraklion and see why wine is such an integral part of the Cretan diet!