Why You Should Discover Greece’s Gourmet Island
When Anthony Bourdain came to Greece to film an episode of his CNN show Parts Unknown, his original plan was to travel to several islands within the Cyclades. But when he got to Naxos, he canceled his other plans and devoted the episode to this island alone. Once you have a few meals here, it’s easy to understand why. The ingredients are exceptional, the result of longstanding agricultural traditions, artisan production of cheese, olive oil and other products and the custom of passing recipes down through generations. The culture of the island is intact, unchanged by a growing number of visitors: the locals entice those visitors with typical dishes rather than slanting those dishes to outsiders’ tastes. It’s hard to find more delicious offerings anywhere else in the country.
This summer, a new restaurant opened to showcase creations utilizing the island’s seafood. Maria Polikreti and Ioannis Margaritis already have the island’s best hotel, Naxian Collection, which has such a strong gastronomic basis that even its plentiful breakfast buffet goes way past the typical with creative dishes and flaky pies that would appear on lunch menus in other restaurants. (The hotel also offers cooking classes instructed by Maria’s mother Juliana.) In their new beachfront hotel, Naxian on the Beach—the island is also known for its powdery, sandy beaches–the restaurant Tortuga presents typical dishes mixed in with a few forays into other cultures. Among the standouts on their menu: seabass carpaccio, a trilogy of ceviches, octopus croquettes, mussels with peppers and herbs, linguine with sea urchin, clams and mussels. Long after you’re no longer hungry, you cannot stop eating.
Contrasted with the beaches, the island is also quite mountainous and tucked away in those steep hills are villa tavernas of extraordinary quality. Platia in the village of Galini is surrounded by orchards of fruit trees and olive trees as well as fields yielding the vegetables present in many of their dishes. Zucchini stuffed with tomatoes and cheese, onions stuffed with beef, rooster in tomato sauce are just a few of the dishes not to miss. No wonder Bourdain couldn’t bear to leave.
How to Get There: A tremendous addition to the airline scene was the introduction this spring of Emirates Airlines’ nonstop from Newark to Athens; apart from its superior service, the airline plans to fly it year round, not just in season as the others do. It makes getting to Athens much easier and much more pleasant. From there, SeaJets has high speed ferries that leave from Athens’ port Piraeus and are in Naxos three and a half hours later.
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