Koralia’s parents invited us all over for lunch today. They live in a small village called Perama, about a 15 minute drive inland from Bali. The drive over was along a back road, thin and winding, that passed through a couple small villages and some herds of animals, but for the most part the landscape was about the same as it is on the main highway.
When we arrived, we were shocked at the spread on the table awaiting us. And even more shocked to find out there was more food that wouldn’t fit on the table! After quick introductions to Koralia’s parents, sister and uncle, we were ushered to the table and told to start eating.
There was a salad made of lettuce and cucumber in a red wine vinaigrette. You actually don’t see much lettuce in Greece. Traditional Greek salads consist of tomato, cucumber, bell pepper (capsicum) and onion topped with a block of feta cheese, oregano, olive oil and olives. Of course, a traditional salad was on the table. There were also dolmades, which are a traditional appetizer of stuffed grape leaves. Usually the leaves are stuffed with seasoned rice. They were quite yummy.
They also served escargot. Christi had never had escargot before, and it was painfully obvious to everyone at the table. Everyone else expertly picked up the shells and quickly popped the meat out with their fork. Christi struggled with getting the meat out of the shell, usually grinding it to pieces in the shell instead of popping it out of the shell. After many unsuccessful attempts, Maria felt so sorry for her that Maria started shelling the escargot for Christi so she could eat some. It was in a rich tomato and zucchini sauce and was absolutely delicious.
A highlight of the meal is a traditional dish called moussaka. The bottom half is layers of meat and zucchini, the top half mashed potatoes. Christi has eaten lots of moussaka and likes it in general, and has to say that the moussaka served is the best she’s ever had.
There was also boiled goat, baked goat with potatoes, and rice made with juices from the baked goat. The baked goat and potatoes were good, and the boiled goat was phenomenal. It was so tender it was falling off the bone and you only needed a fork to cut it. The rice was a bit gamey.
Lunch was served with homemade red wine, made from grapes grown and processed right in their back yard. Traditional Greek wine is called retsina, and it goes back 2,000 years. It has a distinctive pine taste to it. In the ancient times, before glass bottles, the Greeks put pine resin on the containers to keep the air out so the wine wouldn’t spoil. Some pine taste would seep in. Today, a little pine resin is added to keep the traditional taste of the retsina. Since we liked the wine, Koralia’s dad, Dimitris, gave us a big jug of it that is probably a gallon and a half!
Koralia’s mother, Argiri, scooped out enormous portions of food to everyone. Christi literally had three plates in front of her because Argiri scooped her out so much food! So, needless to say, once the meal was done, we were stuffed and couldn’t eat another bite. Then they pulled out the desserts. There was a fresh fruit platter. There was also a traditional dessert called galaktoboureko, which is a creamy filling inside phyllo dough (pictured below). There was another traditional dessert called katiafi, which looks like shredded wheat but is actually a bread product, that was topped with ice cream. Of course, we managed to find room for dessert.
After lunch, we went out to their yard to see their garden and wine processing area. There is a fairly good sized vineyard area, and tucked discreetly behind it is a large rectangular tank where they crush the grapes and process the grapes into wine.
In addition to the grapes, they had a small olive grove, and they make their own olives on site (no, you can’t just pick olives off the tree and serve. They have to be cured before they can be eaten). They also grow an assortment of vegetables. Almost everything on the table today was grown in their own garden. The few things that they don’t grow themselves all came from local farms.
From there, we went for a walk around the area to help digest lunch. Beyond their house it is mostly uncultivated land. We were surprised by the number of herbs and teas that just grow wild, such as chamomile and oregano. It is peaceful and beautiful there.
Korealia and her whole family are awesome chefs. They are also amazingly kind and generous people. We had a wonderful time getting to know them. Costas is a lucky man (and fortunately, he knows it!)
After the walk, we headed back to the hotel and spent a quiet evening with John, Maria, Costas and Koralia.