Around Greece with a Fork

‘Greece is made out of a boat, a vineyard and an olive tree.‘  - Odysseas Elytis, Nobel prize winner Greek poet.

  Greece is now firmly on our radar as a foodie destination. This year, travellers can explore the new artisan food hotspots created by the recent wave of agro start ups. Leading olive oil brand, Gaea, is helping to revive the fortunes of local delicacies, and bringing them to the international market.
So hit the food trails with Gaea’s guide - from north to south.

*Florina: the gateway to Greece. Flanked by wild chestnut trees, this Macedonian border town is synonymous with red peppers – and strawberries. Locals escape to stunning Prespes lakes in summertime staying in traditional slate and stone guesthouses of waterfall town Edessa. Come winter, the ski slopes of Pisoderi are not far away.

Taste: Gaea’s Flame Roasted Red Peppers seasoned in wine vinegar and sea salt. Layer into casseroles or stuff sandwiches and cheese
Nearest airport: Florina, via Athens International

*Further south is the town of Carnival town of Kozani. Did you now that Greece is 80% mountainous? Kozani’s slopes produce the world’s best Crocus saffron offering unlimited health benefits. The most expensive ingredient, it takes 150,000 flowers to produce just one kilo.

Taste: Gaea/Krocus Kozanis ‘Herbal Teas with Red Saffron’.
Nearest airport: Kozani, via Athens International

*Agrinion : is olive and tobacco country  - and home of Gaea’s state of the art factory. The lush harvests of organic, carbon neutral olives, sauces and tapenades are creatively packaged for hungry Greeks. No wonder it’s their number one oil brand.

Nearest airport: Direct charters to Preveza, or via Athens International

*Just across the water is Corfu – the Ionian beauty carpeted in two million olive trees framed by gin clear seas. The Venetian influence lingers beyond city plans; its kitchen and customs have clung to close Italian neighbour. Sofrito, a meaty stew with beef and shallots or pasttsada are just two immortalised in Gerald Durrell’s epic books on Corfu.

Taste: Gaea Corfu Sauce – Tomato, Wine and Spices. Ideal for pasta or hearty chicken meals.
Nearest airport: Direct charters to Corfu operate from May to October

*Yachties take winter shelter in the perfect inland marina of Messolonghi. The Gulf of Corinth’s pristine biosphere is where Greek caviar, ‘Avgotaracho’ delicacy is harvested. Flathead mullet from lagoons are dried in the sun and sealed in melted beeswax. Eat with fresh figs or melba toast. Step ashore to ‘the holy city’ and bathe in ancient spas where Lord Byron spent his last days fighting the Greek war of independence.

*Evia island is like Crete without the crowds. Littered with traditional villages, farms and beaches, no wonder Athenians keep it to themselves, it’s just an hour north of the city. Kimi’s nutrient rich figs were a staple food in 9th century BC, when exporting them was forbidden.

Taste: Gaea ID Fig Bars.
Getting there: Athens International airport.

*Those Cycladic island gems like Mykonos and Paros are etched in every nisophile’s memory.  Santorini, voted the world’s most romantic boast the jaw dropping cliffscapes and traditional whitewashed villages. Its pretty hinterland reveals equally inviting charms; a thriving viticulture (don’t miss the wine tours) and volcanic soil champions like baby tomatoes, capers which local chefs make magic with.

Taste: Gaea’s Santorini sauce – Cherry Tomato & Wild Oregano; ideal with pasta or rice.
Getting there: Thira airport by charter May to October, or via Athens

*Arcadia : is not just a mythical landscape. Swing south into the Peloponnese and find yourself in a big fat Greek orchard, with undulating hills one side, the sea on the other. Pootle around mountain villages and root out all manner of local goodies, like barrel aged organic vinegar, fermented for six years in wooden barrels to produce an intoxicating larder staple.

Taste: Gaea Organic Barrel Aged Vinegar, ‘Moschofilero’.
Getting There: Athens International, two hour drive

*Kalamata : is almost a byword for juicy black olives. Located in the deep south of the rugged ‘paw’ shaped Peloponnese, it’s top of the leader board in the history stakes. However, Trojan wars and feuding tribes sent its cuisine into a bit of a nose dive, until recently. Known as ‘the garden of Greece’ this region is agog with the tastiest ingredients like eggplants (tsakoniki), artichokes, lemons, oranges, grapes  - and plump olives of course. Don’t miss the summertime festivals!

Taste: Gaea Kalamata Olives; whole, pitted or halves. Lakonia Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Getting there: Tourists now no longer need endure the gruelling drive from Athens, thanks to new direct charter flights to Kalamata.

 *Crete – ‘the big one’ or simply ‘down’ as the Greeks call it, is a food league of its own. Basking in a semi tropical climate in the Libyan sea, the ancient Minoans parked themselves here and gave birth to a worldwide trade in liquid gold. There’s not one Cretan who doesn’t have a stake in an olive grove, or a grandma without an earth moving recipe up her sleeve. Hit the agro trail and meet young chefs showcasing Crete’s local bounty, from rare mountain herbs to honeys, cheese and slow reared pork. Food festivals rage all summer and autumn, like Zaros’ in October.

Taste: Gaea Balsamic Vinegar with Thyme Honey + Oxymelo; Sitia Extra Virgin Oil and Kritsa Extra Virgin Olive Oil, from the Kritsa Agricultural Cooperative in Lathisi.
Where can I buy Gaea Products? Athens International Airport Duty Free has large food outlets, making it easy to collect your food gifts. Olives and oils are attractively packaged in sturdy cartons for safe transport. If you’re travelling with easyJet airline, eat healthy onboard: Gaea’s Snack Pack Olives are 100% carbon neutral, preservative free and low calorie.

Are they sold in the UK? Yes! Olives, oil and tapenades are sold in Waitrose, Ocado and Tesco.–ends- Request free Gaea product samples, recipes, images, or tasting sessions from June Field Three Sixty Degrees PR E: jfield@threesixtydegrees.net T: +44 (0) 208 940 9527  M: 0775 108 2168

www.threesixtydegrees.net -- June Field Director