The island of Crete has a unique culture, history, and people as the home of the first European advanced civilization, with the Minoans flourishing here between 3000 and 1100 BC. Cretan cuisine, the basis of the Mediterranean diet, is uniquely its own, with its strength in the freshness and quality of the ingredients – the original, quintessential farm-to-table fare. Nutritious and richly flavored, it uses lots of wild herbs and greens, along with plenty of the island’s liquid gold, olive oil. From peppers to pomegranates, the produce is all about fresh, crisp and flavorful.
Meals are typically served family-style, with dishes on the menu including items like fried snails garnished with French fries or boumbouristoi, and rusks, a traditional dried bread that’s moistened with a little water and topped with grated tomato, cheese, olive oil, and oregano. Cretan meats often include pork or rabbit cooked in a pot with red wine. Cretans don’t eat as much seafood as they do meat due to overfishing that’s pushed the prices up – when you find it on the menu, it’s usually cooked lightly in olive oil and well worth the splurge.
Save room for dessert like kalitsounia, a sweet cheese pastry that’s a specialty here, fried or baked using mizithra cheese, sugar and cinnamon.
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Naxos Cheese and Potatoes
Naxos is especially famous for its cheese, graviera in particular. A Greek myth tells that the god Apollo left his son Aristaios, a skilled cheesemaker, on the island to teach Naxians the art of cheesemaking. The second most popular cheese in Greece after feta, graviera is primarily made from cow’s milk, with up to 20% sheep and goat’s milk. It requires at least three months of aging and is so famous here that it’s been given a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) since 1996. You’ll find it cubed on salads, grated over pasta, fried or sliced.
Potatoes from Naxos sometimes referred to as Naxian potatoes, are famous for their rich flavor. The microclimate and soil results in a clean, sweet taste that make them renowned throughout Greece. You can find them on the island stuffed, boiled, barbecued or even in a souffle. Naxos even hosts a festival for its potato annually in early August.
Enjoy a wonderful wine and cheesemaking experience in Naxos on our Wine, Cheese, Oil and Islands 10 Day Journey >