How to "eat" right in Halkidiki, Greece
by Elizabeth Willoughby
Now that you'r eating right, are you sure that you're eating right?
"Eating is all about memories," says Greek chef George Palisidis. George is a man whose passion for food is electric and contagious. On and on he talks about pairing and enjoying and what makes a good meal; looking at wine and cuisine the way George does is like experiencing a meal for first time.
So here I am at a roof top restaurant on the coast of the Sithonia Peninsula (the middle one of the three fingers) in Halkidiki, northern Greece. Overlooking the Aegean Sea under a setting sun, I'm ready for a meal that George has planned and for my hands-on lesson on how to "eat" right.
Here, according to chef Palisidis, is how it is done: Raise your plate to your chin, close your eyes and swirl the dish while breathing in deeply through your nose. Pause and savour whatever memories waft your way. Then chew, chat, relish and remember and wash it all down with a local varietal. Science agrees with George, by the way. Smell connects to the part of our brain associated with memory and emotion. From an aroma, the brain can reconstruct a memory that includes sounds and visuals.
Halkidiki has even more to teach us about how to eat Greek. Besides a ready supply of fresh fruits of the sea, northern Greece is also known for its honey, olives and oil, herbs, mountain game and wine. Expect servings to be small, beautiful and numerous. Double digit numerous. You'll start with a tsipouro, an anise-flavoured spirit. Then several dishes will be placed on the table, usually for all to share, and new dishes will continue coming from the kitchen.
Think fish egg tarama, shrimp and orzo; ink squid risotto with shrimp and krokos kosani saffron sauce; sea bass and eggplant salad; and lamb fillet cooked with rosemary and marjoram. Arrive hungry and pace yourself though, because just when you think the meal is over, the main course will be announced. And don't forget the desserts, such as Greek yoghurt with wildflower honey, panacotta and halva.
If you're planning a road trip of Halkidiki, you're likely flying into SKG airport, a mere 14 kilometres (9 miles) from Thessaloniki. Take advantage of that. Before moving on to the three fingers — Kassandra Peninsula, Sithonia Peninsula and Mount Athos Peninsula — allow yourself a couple of days to visit this small city. With a history of over 2,300 years, Thessaloniki has much to see.
Check in at boutique hotel Excelsior near the boardwalk, and then take a stroll around Thessaloniki's downtown streets, where the Modiano meat and vegetable market, Aristotle Square, White Tower and Archaeological Museum are all within close proximity. The Museum of Byzantine Culture has a notable collection of Byzantine art, and the old walls provide the best views of the city.
Ask Excelsior's reception to reserve a mid-day table for you at Myrsini (Tsopela 2) for some creative Cretan cuisine. Said to be the healthiest diet in the world, Myrsini's salad of artichokes, fruit, nuts, spinach, cheese and seasonal vegetables, and a honey, orange and balsamic vinaigrette makes a great starter, but don't forget Chef George's advice. Raise your plate, close your eyes, swirl, breathe and remember. Whatever memories come to mind while you linger over the aromas, you'll also be making some new ones — of Halkidiki and its delicious, healthy Greek cuisine.
Images ©Elizabeth Willoughby 2013
This article was originally published at ©WorldGuide.eu 2016
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