Thursday, August 28, 2014

Y is for: Yiamas! {My Big Fat Greek Vacation}

Yiamas.

It was the first word I learned when I got to Greece, and it was really the only one I needed.

"Cheers."

...The perfect way to describe my magical vacation to the Greek Islands this summer.

When my friend Sam messaged me a few months ago, casually asking if I was interested in going to Greece, I didn't need much convincing. (Like, zero).

I booked my flight two days later. I was in desperate need of an adventure, and I consistently list Santorini as one of my top 5 places I've ever visited.

The plan for this trip was to stay on a smaller, lesser known island called Paros. I loved the idea of a more remote, "locals" destination. I was in.


Alexandros Apartments
Naoussa, Paros, Greece

Our "home base" on Paros was Alexandros Apartments, which were perched atop a hill overlooking the sparkling Aegean Sea and the charming town of Naoussa. Our host, Litsa was so warm and welcoming, and in my mind what every Greek mother should be. (She also makes a mean Frappe!) It was a quick 5-10 minute walk into town each night, and a perfect spot to watch the sunrise.

#encoregreececlub

Our group consisted of 13 people. I realize that may sound like an unmanageable size, especially when you only know half of them. But for reasons I can't explain, it just... worked. Sometimes we did things as a big group. Sometimes, we didn't. And it wasn't a big deal either way.

(We also created our own hashtag for use on Instagram for the duration of our trip. #encoregreececlub likely started to annoy our friends back home by the end of the 8 days, but we didn't care and excitedly shared our adventures on social media).


We quickly adjusted to "Greek Life"... which basically consists of eating a late dinner (never earlier than 10, but sometimes as late as 11:30), heading to the bars around midnight or 1am, hitting the club around 3am, and stumbling home at some point after that (watching the sunrise is optional but encouraged at least once or twice).

We would often sleep in until at least noon, grab some yogurt or falafel and head to the beach. Then back to the apartments, take a nap around 7pm, get up around 9.

Rinse and repeat.

Kolymbithres Beach
Beaches: 
Our first group excursion was to Kolymbithres Beach. It's accessible from Naousa by car or scooter, but we opted to take a short ferry ride across the little bay. Kolymbithres is filled with unique rock formations, which we climbed over until we found a perfect spot for swimming and playing paddle board. Eventually we migrated to a little beachy area, which had chairs and occasionally a waitress who would bring beers to us from the nearby restaurant. (By the way... if you walk up the hill to Taverna Kolymbithres, it's a beautiful little spot to grab a bite if you are visiting the beach).

Santa Maria Beach

The next day, the boys rented scooters and four wheelers and we set off to explore the island with the wind in our face and only a beach day on our agenda. Santa Maria Beach Club fit the bill perfectly. Massages, beach chairs, crystal clear water, volleyball courts, & of course a beach bar (Don't miss the mojitos!) It was so much fun that we did it again a couple days later at Punda Beach Club. (Punda was bigger, and had two pools, but I think we actually had more fun at Santa Maria).


A sunset scooter ride back to Naoussa was the perfect end to our day. And honestly, I think we enjoyed cruising on the bikes just as much as hanging at the beach. It's truly the best way to explore the islands!

Michael Zeppos Boat Tour

Michael Zeppos Boat Tours:

When I visited Santorini 12 years ago, I vividly remember an all-day boat tour and how much fun we had. So being the planner that I am, I had done a little research beforehand and discovered Michael Zeppos Boat Tours. On Trip Advisor, it's ranked as basically the best activity on the island, so I proposed the idea to the group over email about a week or so before our trip. Everyone was on board (pun intended) so I booked it.

On the eve of our boat trip, I admittedly grew slightly nervous. When I delivered the news that we had to be at the port by 10:30 the next morning (see "Greek Life" schedule above), I got some death stares. When I then explained that the port we needed to go to was about 20-30 minutes away by taxi, more disapproving looks. (Oh yeah, and by the way, everyone owes me 85 euros).


But any hesitations were soon erased once we boarded Michael Zeppos. It is a beautifully restored boat, and our Captain Dimitris was friendly and knowledgeable. He took us to a cool little "pirate cave,"where we went snorkeling, a secluded beach on Antiparos where we practiced hand stands and acro-yoga, and found the perfect spot for our adventure-seeking cliff jumpers.

The boat has been in his family for three generations, and you can really see the love and care that has gone into preserving it. Because it's basically a private charter, it's a little more expensive than the other tour companies, but I can tell you it is absolutely worth it. Especially when you cruise past the cheaper, group charter boat absolutely packed to the gills with guests. We had plenty of room to spread out aboard Michael Zeppos, and it was complete with shade, comfy sun beds, a large table that easily seated our group of 11, and possibly my favorite meal in Greece.


Dimitris and his first mate Elena prepared a feast. He brought several fresh vegetables from his garden, which we munched on throughout the day, along with wine, beer and local cheeses (and you know how I feel about cheese). They prepared lunch on board while we were swimming, and it was nothing short of fantastic. A light and fresh potato salad dressed only with olive oil, fresh herbs and sea salt. Crusty bread topped with roasted tomatoes, creamy cheese, capers and olive oil. Taramasalata, which is a mousse-like Greek meze made from fish roe and mashed potato (don't knock it 'til you try it). Fresh sardines, and a seafood orzo made with cuttlefish and tomatoes. We. Were. Stuffed.


And if you still need convincing that this was the best excursion ever, here's our day summed up in about 15 seconds.


Or if poetry is more your thing, a perfect haiku written by Lnzz Liebson.

Fifty shades of blue
Like Greek Gods on the high seas
Pigs under each arm


Food: 

While we're on the subject of food (and this being a food blog after all), my favorite things to eat on this vacation were probably the most simple. Grilled octopus (always freshly caught), gyros (with french fries!), Greek salad (topped with a huge block of feta), falafel, moussaka, taramasalata... and perhaps the most simple and most favorite... Greek yogurt with fruit and honey, prepared each morning by a lady in a nearby cafe.

And by the way... the Mediterranean diet is no joke. I didn't gain *any* weight on my 8-day vacation, which is a huge win. (Especially considering the amount of alcohol I consumed).

Antiparos
Antiparos:

For our final night on Paros, we actually ventured to nearby island Antiparos on a midnight ferry to meet up with a DJ we met earlier in the day at Punda. DJ Julio promised a memorable night and he definitely delivered. Antiparos was so charming and lively, it almost made me wish we had stayed there for a couple nights. After winding our way through the cobblestone streets lined with boutiques, we made our way to a plaza of sorts, surrounded by a dozen or so bars which all faced the open air square. For after hours, we headed to The Mill, a club inside of... you guessed it, an old mill.


As we boarded the ferry and watched the sunrise, we prepared to say goodbye to our little slice of paradise. A few of us continued onto Mykonos for a couple of days before returning home (perhaps a blog for another time), but Paros will always have our hearts.

Yiamas!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

U is for: #UpForWhatever


If there was a hashtag to describe my last couple of weeks, I think #UpForWhatever would pretty much sum it up perfectly.

Impromptu trip to NYC for food, fun, laughs and day drinking?

Count me in.

Fly across the Atlantic Ocean to meet up with friends in the Greek Islands?

Up for whatever!

Back to work after this whirlwind 12 days??

Ehhhhh.... not so much, but I suppose I need to fund these summer adventures somehow. :)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

X is for: Xavier Steak Grilled Cheese Sliders

There are only so many foods that start with "X" you can feature before you start running out of ideas (or options).

I've made Xacuti, I've eaten it at a restaurant. I've baked with xantham gum. I've used Xeri Mizithra cheese in a recipe, as well as XO sauce.

But my very first "X" post... was something so simple, yet so perfect for an alphabet-themed food blog.

Xavier Steak.

It's a real thing. And I don't know why.

Steak, topped with asparagus and swiss cheese.

Thank you, Xavier.

Whoever you are.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

W is for: Watermelon "Keg"

This might be my new favorite party trick.

(Probably one you should try out this weekend).

Take a watermelon (or a pumpkin if it's fall), hollow it out, add a spigot.

VOILA! You've got a creative drink dispenser!

How cool is that?!

(Way cool).

To get the step-by-step (plus a yummy recipe for watermelon punch), click here to head over to Tablespoon!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

V is for: Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding

When it comes to breakfast, I’m generally an egg person, with an emphasis on savory over sweet. To me, there’s nothing better than cutting into a perfectly cooked sunny side up egg, and letting the yolk serve as a delicious sauce for the rest of your breakfast plate.

That said, it’s good to change it up every now and again, especially when you need a quick breakfast before flying out the door on your way to work.

That’s why I’ve been enjoying this chia seed “pudding” recently. You can make it the night before, and you can even make a double or triple batch to have breakfast ready to go for the next couple days.

It also uses chia seeds, which are considered a superfood. They are a great source of protein, fiber, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and much, much more. They also have this cool property in which they absorb liquid and serve as a thickening agent, which makes them great for turning almond milk into pudding. (Or as a binder for meatloaf!)

T is for: Tablespoon Treats {floral ice cubes & boozy lemon bars}

So... story of my life, I'm super duper behind on blog stuff. (Shocking, I know)

Not just coming up with NEW creations for the blog, but simply posting stuff I'd done before my life got crazy last month.

I was literally home 6 days in June.

SIX DAYS, PEOPLE!

That's ridiculous.

It makes me tired just thinking about it.

But.... any-WHO.

I made a couple of cool things for Tablespoon before I left, including the floral ice cubes and Boozy Strawberry Lemonade Bars (topped with spiked gelatin of course). Both perfect for summer BBQs and get togethers (like... say, July 4th?) Enjoy!


Thursday, June 12, 2014

T is for: Tortilla Espanola {recipe remake}

I have two stories to share with you today.

One involves my Spanish host mom, and the other involves a frittata pan. (Trust me, it will all make sense in a minute).

When I lived in Barcelona back in 2002, I fell in love with tapas. I was enamored with the idea of standing around a bar with friends, eating small bites and drinking wine.

One of my favorites was "tortilla espanola." This is not a Mexican tortilla that you eat with tacos. In Spain, tortilla is an egg dish. It's more of a Spanish omelette that is often served room temperature as a snack (or tapa).

My host mom, Dolores Berga, often made variations of this for dinner, and just like her potaje, I took careful notes so that I could recreate it back in the states.

I loved it so much, that when I spied a special frittata pan at Williams Sonoma several years ago, I purchased it specifically for making tortilla. (Also, I'm addicted to kitchen gadgets, but that's another story). However, the pan is so versatile, I used it for making other things, including eggs almost every day. I was unaware that you're NOT supposed to use non-stick spray on these non-stick pans. And yet I did. Every. Single. Day. Apparently it makes them lose the non-stick qualities after time (I feel silly for not knowing this). So, after six years, I finally came to this realization when my eggs began sticking regardless of the amount of oil or spray I used. It was a sad day.

Needless to say, I decided to purchase a brand new set of frittata pans. And it only seemed fitting that I break them in with Dolores' tortilla espanola recipe.
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