About a month ago I found a super sweet deal to Crete. Two hundred euros, flight and apartment included (pardon my Dutch, we do love to brag about our bargains), for a whole week! I’d never been to Greece before but I really needed a break and I love Greek food, so I figured it was about time to get my ass over there.
They said any coffee that spills symbolizes future wealth and good fortune
As I started researching Crete and the area where we booked I became slightly alarmed. We were right by Hersonissos, a popular destination for Dutch folk and Dutch ‘reality’ show Oh Oh Cherso wherein Dutch people go to Crete to eat Dutch food and hang out with other Dutch people. Crap. I decided not to tell Mr. Porker (we generally go on vacation to ‘experience new things’ while trying not to be the tourists we inevitably are) and hope for the best. And the best it was!
Basically, if you’re not really into ruins and archaeological museums (seen a few too many in my day, sorry), or into doing the stuff you would at home with the same people you encounter at home, but somewhere sunny, there isn’t all that much to do in Crete but enjoy the food and the scenery. Works for me.
We drove a few different places, and the drives were great, but the places were either filled with tourist claptrap or dead in the water (this may have been related to the time of year, again: works for me). The food however, was everything and more.
For our last meal at The Alchemist poppy made us dolmades from courgette flowers, such a treat
The Alchemist, Koutouloufari
We ended up becoming regulars at a place called The Alchemist in Koutouloufari, close to where we stayed. Kostas runs the bar, his brother Michael serves the tables and their mom Poppy makes the most delicious food ever. For their shrimp saganaki (shrimp in a tomato, bell pepper and feta sauce) they use local fresh shrimps, not frozen ones.The flavor on those little shrimps was insane, I’ve never had shrimps pack that much punch. Their dolmades offer delicious tiny explosions of flavor and their grilled octopus ain’t nothing to fuck with. Just revisiting the experience in my mind is traumatic, because I know I won’t be eating like this for a while.
Sex on a plate
Cretes have a tradition of hospitality (a nice departure from our tradition of blackface) so every time we visited we were greeted with a little extra plate of something or an extra shot (or two) of raki. They got us hooked on their Tyrokafteri (feta and chili dip) and what I think must be their dream cake (orange cake). Oomph.
Best sardines ever
Bring out your inner Bacchus at Zachos
Another spot we couldn’t get enough of was Zachos. It’s located in Old Hersonissos on a square that has been polished up to give tourists an ‘authentic’ Cretan experience. Zachos had only opened the week before, but Mr. Porker was particularly enamored by his brand of humor so we gave it a go. No regrets, cause we basically had the best fried anchovies and grilled sardines we had ever had in life. We came back for seconds and had the most amazing courgettes ever.
Courgettes on crack
I honestly don’t know how they do it, but courgettes there just taste better. They taste like courgettes on speed. Flowers on crack. Those courgettes are so awesome they deserved their own paragraph. I might even erect a monument in their memory in my backyard.
Maybe the best thing I’ve eaten in life
The sad thing about Old Hersonissos doing up their square is that the rest of the town is largely forgotten. Not that there is a lot to it. But there’s one restaurant, tucked away behind the square, that deserves honorable mention. If you go anywhere, go here. For one thing, the family who run it barely speak English (or Dutch, or French, or German, or Russian, as the rest of the locals are liable to do). So if you’re looking for that traditional hand and foot work travel experience, you’re in the right place. At Taverna Ta Petrina they cook all their food in a wood-burning oven. Despite not being able to speak much English (mom sticks to “Very nice” and “It’s the best” where as her daughter can explain to you that when you come back you will be married and have maybe one or two children, yes?) they were lovely and the food was insane.
We had one too many starters, and then ordered the pork belly (a picture of which is what lured us into the restaurant in the first place) and the moussaka. The moussaka was good, but the pork belly was insane. It melted on your tongue and the flavor was (yes I’m about to go there) orgasmic. It tasted very gamy, better than any pork (or meat really) that I’ve ever had before. It was a bit more pricey but I would give my life for that pork. No joke.
Fried anchovies, nough said
A request to the Dutch, from Crete
Finally I’d like to recommend a spot we discovered in Tzermiado (nice drive from Koutouloufari, again: fuck all to do but eat) where the only place showing signs of life was Taverna Cafe Kronio. The man who runs the place is grumpy in an endearing way. His complaints ran from there being too many customers, to the food being too much work and me ordering tea with my mezedes (“Wine is better”). He was honestly surprised a Dutch lady had heard of mezedes: “The French know, the Dutch never do.” They served us an amazing 18 different mezedes for only €9.40 a head (again, the Dutch do like a bargain).
Grumpy as he was, he ended up taking a shine to us and treating us to some free fresh oranges, a whole lot of raki and finally some mountain tea. When we left he asked me if I could please pass on a request to my fellow Dutch tourists: “Please leave your hotels and stop ordering tostis”.
So there you go, fuck your tosti, get down with the Creteness.