Did you know, that Crete is world-famous for its Diet? I am a food explorer, and not really following any particular diet, but traveling through this region has helped me to understand what it means to be surrounded by premium products. Traveling the island earlier this summer, I came to embrace the unique culinary traditions which are the basis of the so-called Mediterranean diet.
On Crete the food is rustic and rich, combining seasonal ingredients and balanced flavors. The gastronomy reflects the bounty of Crete, which is a sun-blessed fertile land. Some of the organic products found on Greece’s biggest island include a wide variety of citrus fruits, tomatoes, mainly goat and sheep cheeses, amazing olive oil, snails, fish, and wholemeal bread are part of what makes this cuisine exceptional. (You’ll very rarely find cows in Crete or even Greece for that matter, they can’t handle the rocky terrain).
Another facet of Cretan cuisine of vital importance is the over 500 types of greens and herbs used in creating raw salads or cooked in small and large pies in various ways. Talking to and observing different Taverna owners on Crete made me understand, that the preparation of food is a key to the wholesomeness of Cretan foods and that chefs and owners care about every single ingredient. Another basic difference between the Cretan diet and diets of other Mediterranean areas is the huge consumption of fruits on the island, which is something I was not aware of.
The best way to get in contact with Cretan food is to experience a guided tour
I suggest you book a 4-hour tour with Crete Urban Adventures tours and stroll/taste your way through the city of Heraklion. On this foodie adventure, you’ll get introduced to some historical sites, churches, and spots where the locals meet. A particular point of interest you may come across when walking the famous Venetian Walls is the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, the author of Passion of the Christ and Zorba the Greek, who was the most influential writer of Crete. The tour costs just €93 euro, which is a bargain considering all the experiences.
The food tour includes the visit of traditional small food stores where you have the chance to taste some really delicious olive oil or other classical products as goat cheese and dakos paired with greek wines. You also get to try local coffee and one of the must-try sweets called bougatsa! Bougatsa is a traditional Greek dessert made with the creamy custard or goat cheese wrapped in golden brown crispy phyllo, sprinkled with melted butter and garnished with icing sugar and cinnamon.
Plan a Dinner in Heraklion Overlooking the Harbor and Koules Fortress
Stop by at Restaurant Trata (Eikostis Pemptis Avgoustou 10, Heraklion) – it’s a big secret that should be in guidebooks. This fish taverna offers a superb view overlooking the harbor and delicious local food at a very reasonable price. Order local specialties served meze-style like fried graviera cheese called saganaki, eggplant salad or a grilled octopus. Try snails here too, since they’re locally sourced from the hills outside the city. Fried in virgin Cretan olive oil, they’re delicious partly because of the thick taste of hand-picked rosemary. A pure delight! Cretan snails have a special taste since they live attached to the world’s most cherished olive trees!
Visit Agia Pelagia for a tranquil and romantic weekend!
This seaside fishing village built in the center of a picturesque amphitheatric bay offers crystal waters and a great choice of restaurants, Cafés, and specialty shops. Here are some spots I discovered and can absolutely recommend:
- Tavern O Nikolas
(Address: Agia Pelagia 715 00, Phone +30 281 081 2090)
Local food, a very authentic style where locals go, fresh fish/catch of the day, very good price. The staff is friendly.
- Almyra Seaside Food & Cocktails
A perfect spot to have an aperitif, cocktail or dinner overlooking the postcard Agia Pelagia Bay. Chic & surely a trendy spot, the dishes are prepared to perfection with fresh and seasonal ingredients. The card is mixed with traditional Cretan and international cuisine.
- Restaurant Alati
An authentic restaurant at the beach to try different local meze and seafood. I had the Crème trilogy with the classical split peas with onion, tzatziki with cucumber and smoked eggplant salad. As a main a fried octopus that was crunchy and super fresh.
- Café & Restaurant The home
The kind of place that makes you feel in a good vibes only environment. I love the positive quote and fancy decor everywhere. Very nice for lunch to try some local dishes as eggplant salad and a homemade juice.
Taverna Giasemí in Fodele may be your perfect traditional experience on Crete!
Talk to Eleni, the owner and let her advise you on the extensive Cretan/Greek menu. For me, some tasty dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), lamb chops (they are super tender) and different meat dishes like slow-cooked pork or a creamy liver prepared with special herbs will convince you. The desserts here are seasonal and made by Eleni every day. I had a delicious Orange cream Tarte and a super soft and humid chocolate cake. Fruits will never miss after a meal and are a gift from the house in every restaurant. Be sure and ask Eleni about the El Greco Museum on the outskirts of the village, where the legendary painter was born.
At Fodele Beach there’s a hidden secret, slow-cooked lamb and an amazing view.
The food experience at Taverna Opou Vastaxi is one of the most authentic on my whole Crete trip. Early in the morning the owner Stella and his husband prepare the fire where the pork and lamb slow cooks on the grill for at least 3 hours. Stella explains, that all animals are from local farms. The BBQ menu is available only on Sunday. Get some delicious sides as typical greek salad or dolmades. I appreciated the simplicity and authenticity and a very familiar ambiance.
To close your Cretan culinary experience with style – Visit the Taverna Mitato in Amoudara on the outskirts of Heraklion
At Anna’s Taverna, you must try the Cretan bulbs, no matter what. But her menu is packed with authentic local dishes, salads, immaculate meats, and cheeses to die for. The aforementioned bulbs usually come fresh as a salad, dressed with oil and vinegar or lemon, pickled, or stewed with olive oil, vinegar, and flour.
The menu at Taverna Mitato offers a variety of grilled or stewed meat and fish. If you like to have a chat in German with Anna, she will be happy. She used to live in Germany. The interior of the restaurants is super vintage and reminds me of the living room of my aunt back in the 80s.
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