Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Skiing in Greece and Mountain Taverna Cuisine: Oinomagiereio To Spitiko, Kalavytra, GR

This day made the baby book:
First time ever skiing in Greece

On the way down from the slopes of Mt. Kalavytra, boasting skiing with a view of the sea, we stopped in the village of Kalavytra, known as the birthplace for Greek Independence, for our 4 O'clock mesi meri / main meal of the day / linner. I must mention this town's history in case you don't happen to click of the wikipedia linky. At the end of WW II The Germans rounded up all males 12 years and older from the village and gunned all 696 of them down, execution style. Only 13 survived. The women were put in a church to be burned, but an Austrian soldier felt so badly about this act that he set them free. He was later killed. To say the least, this little village is intense. God help me, I somehow have to now transition this powerful and tragic peace of history into what I had for lunch. 

I would like to add that my cousin, Nikos, who brought us to this taverna, is a foodie, but at this point every Greek in Greece is a foodie. Nikos is, however, a 9 out of 10 on the food obsession scale and is in contention with Aunt Mary for Top Chef accolades. Nikos is in the know, and this taverna is completely unassuming with its name simply meaning "Homemade Food and Wine,"not to mention homemade banner and sign. 

Oinomagerio to Spitiko = Homemade Food and Wine
I believe the words your inner elementary school teacher is saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover." 
We walked in to the warm, stone walled taverna still thawing from the -5 degree C mountain top conditions. The decor was classic Greek-Village-Mountain-Taverna style. Interior decorators, please reference your manual because there is such a style. If you didn't learn about it during your interior design degree program, search for this style online. I spotted Stefano's ski instructor in the corner eating with friends and gave Nikos the further nod for local approval. 
There are no menus; the waiter just explains what the specials of the day are and you choose from there. We happened to order almost all of them for the five of us hungry mountain beasts. 
The house red - no, not cranberry juice - which my cousin Demitri described as "Cabernet Taverne" was aka pretty bad red wine. I still drank a few glasses to warm up. It started tasting better after the second glass with the food: slightly acidic and dry. Where is the two buck chuck when you need it?
And here is my bread shot. It was a rather dense, fresh loaf. 
We started with feta al fourno, or feta in the oven, which is basically feta baked with tomato, pepper, olives and oregano then topped with olive oil out of the oven. Feta lovers unite! You can't go wrong with this. 
Pantzaria, or beets were incredible despite looking like a reject from the science lab in my photo below. The beets and greens were laced with buttery garlic and plenty of olive oil. I was happy this meze arrived next to me and didn't move there after. 
Fassoulada, or beans braised with onions, carrots, tomatoes and olive oil were one of my favorites and the first time I've ever had white beans in Greece. Usually it's gigantes, lentils or fresh green beans. For how simple this looks, it was exploading with umami. The broth's umami factor was even more enchanting for bread dunking. 
Lahano dolmathes me avgolemono, cabbage wrapped dolmathes with egg-lemon sauce. Everyone's version is different, and of course, I am partial to my Aunt Mary's version, but these win the award for the largest. They were also quite tender and the smooth avgolemono sauce was properly tangy and thick. 
A round of mountain style horta, or wild greens for good measure. 
Yiovarlaklia Avgolemeno, or meatballs in an egg-lemon soup were delicate, warming and zippy with  lemon tang. My cousin Elizabeth's eyes lit up when she heard the waiter mention this dish. The meatballs were light and almost fluffy with bits of rice and herbs. 
My eyes lit up when I heard katsiki, or goat. Besides,  I needed a new bestie after devouring my sea bestie.  The goat was perfectly roasted, tender and robust in flavor - the kind of flavor I like: gamey. When I got home I told Uncle Agamemnon and his 80+ year old compatriot that I had goat for lunch. They basically told me they were both too cool to eat goat. Maybe it's a generational thing? 
The other, other, other white meat. Take a close look at my knobby friend. 
Two plates of tzoutzoukakia were ordered. This is a meatball dish, hailing from Asia Minor and more laborous than your typical kefthedes dish to make. The balls are first fried, then baked in a supple tomato sauce. The flavors are rich and intense. The meatballs kind of melt in your mouth - so delicately made and so tender. 
The entire meal for five (not to mention my little cousin Stefano's Greek style schnitzel which I didn't photograph) was around 80 Euros. We did considerable damage, although we couldn't come close to finishing the taverne cabernet. The two hour drive, back seat of course, down the mountain and back to Athens with a belly full of rustic mountain taverna delicacies made for the perfect siestas.
Oinomagiereio To Spitiko
Kalavytra, Greece


Peter M said...

Ahhh, I'm living "la vida Greeka" vicariously through you!

I would nibble on all the dishes but the katsiki is the showstopper.

Gastronomer said...

This worlds better than the slop served on our slopes!

yutjangsah said...

That was a smooth transition from the horrors of war to tavern lunch! Except for the tears in my eyes that blurred the baked feta etc. Thanks for making me cry. Also, I had NO idea there was skiiing in Greece. You know why right? It wasn't in Summer Lovers!

Banana Wonder said...

Peter, Thanks! Katsiki is the bomb!

Gastronomer, For sure - Mammoth's got nothing on Kalavytra.

Sook, Haha, I'm glad you can now see the slopes!