Thursday, October 25, 2012


Wow. What an incredible meal at Pumpkin. Our monthly Sunday Supper Club ventured out this past week to sample their $40 five course prix -fixe menu, and we were solidly impressed. It's a small room and seating for large groups can be tough. Our group of 10 ended up split at two different tables which wasn't ideal, but by the time the desserts came around it had cleared out enough so that we were able to move back and forth between the tables. The staff had no problem letting us sit for an extended period sipping the last of our wine and catching up with friends.  Such a warm and cozy interior, great for a chilly October night with hearty fall food.

The menu kicked off with a bowl of sweet potato soup for everyone. Poured tableside over a little cube of apple & a pool of honey and enriched with miso for a beautifully rich broth. Just thick enough to be substantial but not grainy in the least. The soup had such a depth of multiple flavors that changed and evolved with each spoonful.

Next up was a choice of two appetizers - escargot or coddled egg. The escargot was served out of its shell, with a few pumpkin gnocchi, crisp chanterelle mushrooms, sweet pecans and micro greens. There was an ethereal mushroom flavored foam dolloped over the top that intensified the earthy flavors of the chanterelles and escargot. Not chewy in the least, and probably the best escargot I've ever had.  Better even than Bistrot LaMinette. 

escargot w/ gnocchi and chanterelles
The coddled egg was a bit of a mystery on the menu - none of us knew exactly what was coming out of the kitchen on this one. Essentially it's an egg that is cooked in its shell in warm water for an extended period of time. Similar to a poached egg, but much closer to raw and a more delicate flavor. They serve it on top of a panisse (a fried chickpea pancake) with some crunchy bits of chorizo in between and an intensely green sauce made from scallions. With the side of a fork you cut through the coddled egg and the yolk spills out it's luscious treasure, coating the panisse & chorizo with a golden layer of eggy richness. A quick swipe of the scallion sauce for a counteractive tang and you can taste, smell, and see the chef working his magic on your senses. The plate is beautifully presented, with more of the micro greens topping the egg & panisse, looking like a plate of art.

coddled egg over panisse
The only dish I wasn't crazy about was the "salad" of roasted parsnip, celery root, grapefruit and pistachio.  I'm not a huge fan of grapefruit to begin with and the flavor became a little overwhelming with the other subtle ingredients. Others at the table really liked it though, so I can't completely write it off. Just not my thing.
roasted parsnip salad
 Onto the heart of the batting order - entrées. Side note here - have you ever thought about that word "entrée".  In French it means "entrance" and is supposed to be an entry to the meal, served before the main course.  Not an appetizer but somewhere in the middle.  What ever happened to this course?  Why do we call our main course the entrée now?  Most people in this country don't even like the French, so why do we keep using that word?  I digress.

We had the choice of either the albacore tuna or Duroc pork loin for our main course. You can guess which one I picked. Luckily the wifey got the tuna so I was able to try both. A nice light sear on the fish and perfectly seasoned it was at once flakey and buttery. A wonderful dark ruby red in the center. Confit potatoes, slices of fennel on the side and an great buerre noisette sauce drizzled over the fish. In case you're wondering, buerre noisette is a fancy French term for browned butter.  

albacore tuna with confit potatoes & fennel
The pork dish was near on perfect. Slices of the incredibly succulent Duroc loin and a chunk of fatty, sweet, meltingly tender pork belly on the side. The loin was cooked perfectly - just barely pink in the middle so it doesn't dry out and a nice crust of seasoning on the outer edges. Slice off a piece of the pork belly to go with it and it's piggy heaven on a fork.  Oh, and let's not forget the quince sauce, savoy cabbage and cipollini onions on the side. If you could serve autumn on a plate, it would look like this.

duroc pork loin and belly
Dessert was an option of either a chocolate cake with blackberry sorbet or a terrine of butterscotch pudding with rum raisins and ginger snap.  The cake was decadently indulgent, the sorbet melting ever so slightly and mixing with a scoop of crème fraiche that added a fantastic lightness to the dense and luxuriant cake. The pudding was a bowl of magic sprinkled with pixie dust. I wanted it to go on and on. Towards the bottom I started taking those tiny little spoonful's to help make it last just a little longer. Hints of caramel, molasses, rum and ginger floating across your tongue like a ghost. Did I just taste that? I thought this was right up there with the budino at Barbuzzo. Apparently Food Baby is a pudding kind of guy. 

chocolate cake w/ blackberry sorbet

butterscotch pudding
I think what I was most impressed with at Pumpkin was the artistry of the plates and attention to detail of every ingredient. Each dish was more beautiful than the last. They are truly appealing to all your senses, the goal of any fine dining experience. Service was attentive but never intrusive -they left you to appreciate the food on your own terms. And that food was some of the best we've had on our Sunday Supper Club run. For $40 this is an incredible deal. You're not going to leave having to loosen a button, but you will certainly leave with a contented smile on your face. 

Food Baby Rating:  Triplets!! 

1713 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19146
Tues-Sunday 5:30 - 10pm
BYO, Cash Only

Friday, October 19, 2012

Burger Challenge Round 11 - Standard Tap

The veteran.  The trusted friend. The old standard.  I've been getting burgers at Standard Tap since 2003, back when it was one of only a handful of decent bars in Northern Liberties. Before the Piazza. Before the angled parking on 2nd street. Before Fishtown was a thing. Standard Tap has been doing awesome burgers since before they were a thing. They just about created the market for the gastropub in Philadelphia, serving really good local beers on tap and a menu of substantially excellent food.

With the distraction of new Stephen Starr restaurants opening on Frankford Ave and the merry-go-round of places opening and closing in Bart Blatstein's Piazza at Schmidt's,it's almost easy to overlook the Tap. The little bastion of hipster heaven anchoring the corner of 2nd and Poplar is just pretentious enough to know they do the gastropub concept better than just about anyone, but accessible enough so that no matter how tight your jeans are you never feel out of place.  By this point most of the hipsters have moved north of Girard or south of Passyunk anyway.

But enough social commentary. Let's talk burgers. You can get either the Standard or the Double Standard. Kind of a misnomer, the Double is not two patties but rather a double thick single. Melted jack cheese, lettuce, sautéed onions and mushrooms are the  defacto toppings. A soft and slightly sweet brioche bun keeps it all together and a side of their insanely good shoestring fries fills out the plate.

The beef is delicious. Not quite in the caliber of a Kennett or Royal Tavern patty, but for not having artisanal ground beef trucked in from Manhattan or any marrow mixed in, it's a remarkably good piece of meat. Definitely seems leaner than some of the other contenders we've had. They are relying more on the flavor of the meat than on fat to boost the taste. This helps to keep the burger from becoming a sloppy mess and the bun from disintegrating into the interior of a bread bowl. The roll held up nicely and didn't distract from the experience, which is more than can be said for other challengers. The brioche is just a bit sweet with a lovely golden sheen, the ideal conveyance for said burger.

The toppings is where the Standard burger fell off a bit. The cheese was good but fairly forgettable with no distinct flavors cutting through. The sautéed onions & mushrooms were cooked perfect. You can tell they've been doing this a while. But the pieces of limp iceberg lettuce only served to flatten out the flavor. Why not go for some Boston bibb,or some crisp romaine? I know it's October and it's not exactly in season, but there must be some good lettuce out there. If there isn't, just leave it off.  And the limp lettuce acted like a skating rink for the mites on ice. The mushrooms & onions slipping and sliding all over the place. It make eating the burger an exercise in hand-eye coordination. And I don't want to think about exercise while eating a Double Standard.

Don't get me wrong -this is still a great burger. It is consistently good and always scratches that ground beef itch. You will leave feeling contented and that all is right with the world. And at only $12 for the Standard ($13.75 for the Double) you can afford to have a few extra beers. My father-in-law comes all the way from Newtown just for this burger. Ask him where he wants to go for his birthday, anywhere in the city - Standard Tap for a burger. Where do we take friends from out of the city? Standard Tap for local beers and a burger. I think that says something. These guys have been doing it right for a dozen years now, and they've learned some things along the way. The Standard Burger is that old friend. Always there for you to fall back on - and you never appreciate just how much he means to you. I'm happy to call that burger my friend, and I'm looking forward to many more good times together. <3 you...

Food BabyRating:  Twins!

Standard Tap
901 N. 2nd Street  (Corner of 2nd & Poplar)
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 238-0630

Thursday, October 11, 2012


If the Greek islands were all about seafood, then Turkey is certainly centered squarely on the kebab.  Not the kebab that we generally think about in the west (the shish kind).  The specialty here is donner kebap (not a misspelling).  This involves compiling thin cuts of seasoned lamb or chicken to form a meat tower sometimes three feet tall. The whole thing is put on a huge skewer and then spun vertically next to a red hot heating element that slowly cooks the outer edges to a beautiful crunch. They use a ridiculously long carving knife to slowly saw off just that crispy outer ring, right into a waiting piece of warm flat bread, like a new mother lovingly cradling her infant. This version will make you just as happy with less cleanup.  (It's a food baby! Get it? Anyway, you add some veggie toppings and spicy sauce and you have possibly the best street food ever invented. We literally ate one every day in Turkey. My world has been changed and I'm now seeking out a relatively decent version in Philly.  Holler back if you have any suggestions.

Breakfast in Turkey can be as light as a cup of tea and a baklava pastry or as heavy as Turkish coffee and a dish of menemen - a wonderful hangover killing mix of scrambled eggs, tomatoes, onions, peppers & paprika.  Not in the mood for eggs? Try a gozleme instead - layers of hick filo dough stuffed with feta cheese and spinach (or other ingredients) then cooked on a flat top grill till the dough just starts to brown and the cheese starts melting. Think of it as a Turkish quesadilla, except much better and minus the guacamole.

breakfast baklava with crushed pistachios


Tea & coffee are rituals here. Coffee is prepared the old school way in a single serving pot with the ground up powder added to cold water and brought to a boil. No straining for the Turks. They pour the entire thing, grounds and all, into your cup and you let it settle at the bottom before drinking. The amount of sludge you're willing to down at the end is a measure of your manhood.  I am the equivalent of a 12 year old girl apparently.  Tea is a whole other matter. The Turks drink tea like it's going out of style, like 15 to 20 small cups a day (so says or cooking class instructor ).  They use a special tea pot that works like a double boiler.  The intense tea concentrate sits in the top to stay warm.  When you want some tea you pour a shot worth into your glass and then fill with hot water. The result is a beautifully rich cup of tea that is not bitter or puckering at all. It is so flavorful that you want to just keep drinking more.

Turkish tea

Turkish coffee w/ some Turkish delight

tea delivery! 
One of the most fun sandwiches I've ever gotten has to be the Balik Ekmek (grilled fish sandwich) from the boats floating in the Bosporus just next to the Galata bridge. Apparently dating back a few decades when fishermen used to sell them right off their boats, the tradition has lived on and been standardized a bit.  The boats bob up and down in the wake of the ferries, with the huge flat tops grilling up dozens of fish filets at a time. The cooks assemble the sandwiches (fish, lettuce, onions) and toss them to a guy on the dock who sells them for 5 lira ($2.75) a piece. There are tons of little barrel shaped tables with bottles of lemon juice & salt for your seasoning. It is a tasty sandwich, although a bit boney.  Apparently for 5 lira they don't bother so much with the quality control. The experience alone was so much fun though - a must-do when in Istanbul.

the scene by the Galata bridge and the balik ekmek boats

cooking up the balik ekmek

i am a happy man
Probably our best meal (for the money) in Turkey was on the Asian side at Ciya Kebap. This is in the Kadikoy neighborhood - a nice alternative to the stream of people on Istiklal street.  Taxis are very cheap here so paying for the 25 minute ride over didn't cost us more than $15. The neighborhood is not touristy at all. Mostly locals out for a fun night and enjoying an outdoor café, a beer and some hookah. There are three different Ciya Kebap restaurants but they are all located on the same corner. We of course picked the only one that doesn't sell alcohol. Doh! No worries, the food more than made up for it.  A huge piece of flatbread with some spicy garlic & white bean dip. Perfect kebabs all around. Afterwards we made our way down the street and scored a table at a busy bar for some Efes beers and a great hookah of apple flavored tobacco. I could have sat there all night. Live music pouring out onto the street, lovely smells of the sweet hookah smoke drifting in the air, a cold beer that the servers would not let go empty.

biggest. flatbread. ever. 
garlic and bean dip

kebap with flat bread

spicy kebap 

Nevizade street is the place to go to party in Istanbul. It is absurdly crowded (like the city itself). The street itself isn't even paved - there's just dirt & gravel with plywood running down the middle. Not sure if this is due to construction, or they just never bothered with the concrete. The entire stretch of 3 blocks is lined with restaurants and bars that fill the narrow street with outdoor tables. Servers constantly call you into their place as you stroll down the block taking it all in. It reminded me so much of Brick Lane in East London, just replace the curry with kebabs. There is live music everywhere.  Acoustic guitars and fiddles make up the majority of instruments, and they all seem to be playing local folk songs that everyone knows the words to. Bars don't close till 4am, so the party goes late here. If you can handle the smoking (everyone loves to smoke here) it's a great scene. Making friends is easy and the beers are cheap.
Nevizade street
On your stumble back from Nevizade street you are bound to run into the guys with muscles. Not the kind you see on Jersey Shore, but guys selling muscles, on the street, raw, without refrigeration. They don't do much business early on, but after a few drinks people work up enough courage stupidity to start downing them. The muscles are huge and served with just a slice of lemon to squeeze over them. I am an adventurous eater, but I'm not a masochist. This is food poisoning just waiting to happen. Also of note are the random men carrying around trays of almonds for sale. The almonds, in a strange sense of irony, are covered in ice. So in Turkey you ice down the almonds but leave the sketchy shellfish at room temperature.  Right.
sketchy muscles on the street
Our best meal of the trip (regardless of money) was at Topaz in Istanbul.  It is not cheap. But the food, service, and view of the Bosporus is nothing short of incredible.  Situated on a cliff overlooking the river and a beautiful mosque below it, one entire wall of the restaurant is open air - letting you take in the stunning view of the bridge to Asia and it's light dance all night. The menu is a mix of traditional Turkish dishes executed with western influence (and vice-versa). We learned from our waiter that the olive oil they serve with bread is produced in Turkey. We subsequently learned that most of the olive imported into the US is actually from Turkey. If it says "bottled in Italy", check the back of the label. More than likely it's made from olive oil produced in Turkey, then simply bottled and relabeled in Italy. Fun fact for the day!

view from our table at Topaz
Another trip to a foreign country and another cooking class! We've turned this into sort of a tradition after Thailand. Such a great way to get a sense of the culture and tradition of a place. Being able to replicate the tastes of somewhere you've been at home instantly brings you back. Unlike Thailand, this was not a very formal class. There were only four of us, and instead of individual stations we all took turns helping to make a few larger dishes for everyone to share. On the menu were "spring rolls" which was filo dough rolled around a local cheese similar to feta mixed with parsley & seasonings; bulgur salad with peppers, scallions & cucumbers; eggplant puree with sautéed chicken; and lastly a strange jello like desert made with rose water. The jello was a bit weird, but everything else came out great. Our instructors were helpful and friendly, even if they didn't have written recipes to give us.

making the spring rolls

mixing up the bulgur salad

fruits of our labor...

Another highlight of Istanbul is shopping the markets. The Turks love to haggle and they've apparently never heard of the supermarket concept.  The Egyptian market is a busy, noisy display of hundreds of different herbs, teas, spices, pastes and boxes of Turkish delight. It's a bit touristy inside and the prices aren't great. On the plus side they will vacuum pack anything you buy so you don't get a suitcase full of harissa. On the outside of the market you can walk amongst the cheaper priced stalls that the locals actually buy from. There are tea guys, spice guys, dessert guys, nut guys, and cheese guys. Piles of a local string cheese (free samples!) that is super cheap and makes a great snack while walking around. Pistachios that are roasted red, salted and better than anything you get in a bag at Superfresh. The Turks are apparently known for the pistachios and it's big business for them.  Bonus - more free samples! We skipped breakfast one morning and just grazed on all the samples that the vendors are offering, plus we were there early enough to avoid the massive crowds later in the day.

dried mushrooms

americans buying spices

piles of string cheese

our spice guy. home of the world's spiciest harissa. 
I wasn't surprised by how good the food was in Turkey. I had been looking forward to it for weeks after splendid reviews from friends and family that had visited. Turkey certainly lived up to my expectations and then some. I'd go back just for a donner kebap. Or some of that olive oil. Or one of those fish sandwiches. Or an Efes beer. Or a cup of that Turkish tea. I would go back to explore more of the country. See where that olive oil is made, where they grow those oh so yummy pistachios. I would go back to experience the hookah cafes in Bodrum and the thriving night life in Istanbul. I would go back for more. Much more.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Shake Shack

Late night burger run to try out the newly opened Shake Shack at 20th and Sansom. Dressed to the 9's after coming from a Philly fashion week event that featured $5 Heinekens and chicken wings. Seriously, who serves chicken wings at a fashion event? I saw a girl trying to eat them with a fork. I'm not kidding. Regardless, we got some funny looks ordering our burgers while doing our best Zoolander impression. 

blue steel
Luckily for us Shake Shack stays open till 11 every night, and the serve beer! The burgers are in the PYT/In-N-Out/Five Guys category of fast-food-like style. Check the grand comparison by the guys at A Hamburger Today here.  

Nicely grilled soft potato roll, lettuce, tomato, cheese and their Shake Sauce - which is their signature addition. The sauce is supposedly secret, but it's mayo based and described as "sweet, sour, hot." They mix in some ketchup, mustard, spices and chopped pickles, then blend it smooth. It's a great tasting sauce that adds some piquant bite to the meaty, savory burger. 

shake shack burgers and crinkle cut fries

The meat is a good mix of house ground beef cooked to order. They use a special technique of forming the patties into a hockey puck shape, then flattening it out on the grill with the back of a spatula. The burger is left to develop a nice brown crust before flipping and finishing the cooking. When it all comes together it is a tasty burger. Like the ones down at Big Kahuna that Jules' wife won't let him eat because she's a vegetarian, which pretty much makes him a vegetarian. The toppings were all very fresh and crisp. Nice melty yellow american cheese. Soft roll and tasty burger. Not bad for $4.55. Even better with a Yards on draught. 

I'd happily swing by for lunch or late night again, but you will not catch me standing in an hour long wait just for a burger here. There are so many great places to get a burger in our city (see The Great Burger Challenge posts) that I can't for the life of me figure why people would wait for any length of time just for Shake Shack. 

Food Baby rating: Only child

Shake Shack
2000 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 
Open daily 11am - 11pm

Monday, October 1, 2012


I know, I'm like the worst blogger ever.  No posts in over a month! I hope you haven't forgotten about me. Where have I been you ask?!?  Sailing through the Cyclades islands of Greece on a catamaran of course, silly.  Oh, and then there was also the trip to Istanbul tacked on because, might as well right?  It was an epic vacation to say the least. Stunningly beautiful islands, good friends and tons of great food. 

coming into the port at Paros
our ferry from Athens to Paros

We flew to Athens and caught a ferry to the island of Paros where we picked up our boat and met our captain, Dmitrios. Now, when I say ferry I don't mean a little dingy like the Riverlink that goes to the Aquarium in Camden. I'm talking about a ship that can take several hundred passengers, a couple dozen cars and even a few tractor trailers.  This thing was no joke. Several cafes, a restaurant, three or four lounges, a big open air section on the back to watch the sunrise over athens and drink your coffee. Such a lovely way to travel.  

mmmm...street food...
We picked up a few snacks from a cart while waiting to board the ferry. A super sweet ring of soft, chewy dough completely covered with cinnamon & sugar. Kind of a Greek donut thing. The other was a similar ring of dough, not as chewy though, and this one covered in sesame seeds. Really nice and a very cheap breakfast. We are off to a good start.

breakfast on the ferry

There were nine of us in total on the sailboat - four couples each with their own cabin and Dmitrios in a smaller cabin at the bow. We were told by the rental company to buy provisions at the local supermarket to last us the week. Our plan was to cook breakfast & lunch on the boat each day and  dinner each night on the islands. Getting 8 people to agree on a grocery shopping list is not easy. I think we pulled it off pretty well though, considering none of the labels are in English, one person doesn't eat vegetables, another doesn't eat olives (that could be an issue in Greece), and we had only two small fridges to store everything.  Three lessons learned when shopping in a Greek market - 1.) prepackaged hummus doesn't exist (shocker, right?); 2.) feta cheese comes in 2lb tubs and is ridiculously cheap and amazingly good; 3.) wine in plastic bottles is even cheaper than the feta and surprisingly not awful. 

the boat...we are ballers...

dinner on the boat...

Cooking on the boat is a bit of an adventure given that it's never really stable. Having a pot of boiling water on the stove in 3 foot swells keeps you on your toes. Although it was pretty fun using straight sea water to boil pasta in. The noodles take on an amazing flavor from the sea salt. Add in some olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and cracked pepper and you could serve it as-is.  Dmitrios took over the stove one morning and made a big omelet with chopped bacon and red onion.  He cut it into slices and stuffed it inside pitas with a good schmear of tzatziki. Wash it down with some Greek coffee (Nescafe instant crystals and boiling water) and you've expelled any ouzo hangover demons. 

Dmitrios' omelet

Speaking of tzatziki, you also buy this by the tub at the grocery store. However in Greece they only serve this with meat. Usually lamb or chicken souvlaki. It's more of a condiment to them. We put it out as an appetizer with pita and olives one night and Dmitrios gave us a funny look. Heathens.  

Our first dinner was one of our best. Exploring the main town on Antiparos, we stumbled into the most adorable looking restaurant. Perfect white washed walls, bouganvilla vines and bright pink flowers trailing lazily overhead, smells of fresh fish and souvlaki grilling in the kitchen. We ordered about half the menu. The Greeks call this meze style eating. Lots of little dishes that everyone nibbles at and just continue to magically appear on the table. Right up my alley.

dinner in Paros

the streets of paros

Octopus is on every menu and we ordered it every day. It is almost always served grilled, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, salt & pepper. It's generally a little tougher than we are used to. The flavor is certainly more intense but you have to get over the extra chewing. Totally worth it though. The freshness factor can't be overstated. On one occasion in  Sifnos we saw a little old man pulling an octopus out of the ocean, beating it on the sand of the beach to tenderize, give it a quick rinse, then chop it up and throw it on an open charcoal grill. It's the kind of thing you see pictures of in Food & Wine magazine.

octopus hung out to dry in the sun

grilled octopus at a waterside cafe

Have you ever had ouzo? No, it's not Sambuca. And it shouldn't taste like firewater.  It should be relatively smooth going down, with a distinct anise flavor.  But not like you're drinking black liquorice.  It should be much more subtle. It turns a cloudy, milky white color when you add ice cubes and a dash of water. It is a most uniquely Greek liquor and I have a new favorite happy hour cocktail. Now I just have to find it here. Mythos is the most popular beer here and basically the Budweiser of Greece. It's a very light pilsner that is good on a hot day, but not for much else. Much better though are the "Donkey beers" - Red Donkey, Yellow Donkey and Crazy Donkey. They're brewed on the island of Santorini and available at a lot of decent bars throughout the Cyclades. Leaning much more towards the ale family, they are nuanced and interesting with complex flavors in each bottle. Everything that Mythos is not. Worth the extra few Euros.

cold ouzo, hot sun, salt water...
The Dakos salad. The salad that makes all other salads feel inferior and like less of a man. Yes, I'm assigning gender to salads. Start with grilled brown bread as the base.  Add in a generous mix of the brightest red tomatoes you've ever seen, whole kalamata olives, chopped cucumbers, capers the size of small grapes, sliced red onion, maybe some green peppers if they happen to be lying around.  Drizzle all this with olive oil & lemon juice, healthy dash of salt and pepper and then serve a massive slice of the crazy good feta on top. You could eat this as a meal all on it's own and finish with a smile on your face and a full belly. This is one of the few officially sanctioned FoodBaby salads out there. Get on it. 

dakos salad...
Fried anchovies (smelts) are also on just about every menu here, and they were standard at most of our dinners. Tender and salty, just barely battered and fried to a crunchy golden. They're like little fishy french fries. Taking their place as the Yang to the Yin of the anchovies, grilled sardines are also ever-present  on taverna tables. Larger than the anchovies, but still a small fish, they are gutted and de-headed so as to be slightly less upsetting for the squeamish types. They are marinated in olive oil and oregano, grilled up over charcoal and served with lemon wedges. Luscious, rich meat and salty tangy skin cooked just crisp. Delicious.

fried anchovies

grilled sardines

Wine is served by the kilo here and is very cheap and very good. Fun fact for the day (thanks Josh!) 1 kilo of wine = 1 liter. It's true! Ah, that fabulous metric system! Most of the wine produced in Greece is made locally (like in that town or specific restaurant) and consumed on the spot. I suppose that's why we don't see much exported to the US. A shame really for all us schmoes over here missing out on such a wonderful product.
Grilled sea bream is the standard barer for fish here. It's local, it's fresh out of the water, and very tasty. Similar flavor to a black bass with a flaky white flesh that is remarkable tender and almost never dry. I loved being able to point out the fish we wanted from the day's catch and watch it being cooked over the  open grill. The smells wafting past the table as we nibble on olives and smelts and saganaki. 

grilled sea bream, head to tail

the high tech grill...

filleted and ready to go...
Tomato fritters are a specialty in Santorini and it was the only island where we saw them on the menu. Basically a ball of tomato, zucchini, onion, flour and herbs, they are quickly fried and served as an appetizer. You could taste the fresh veggies through the golden brown crunch of the batter. Really good. 

tomato fritters
Eggplant is another big ingredient here. It's usually roasted somehow, with layers of melting cheese, filo dough, ground lamb, tomatoes and/or other ingredients making for richly flavored lasagna like constructions. Moussaka is on nearly every menu and consists of that same eggplant and ground lamb combo, but topped with a bechemel sauce spiced with cinnamon, allspice, onion & garlic.

eggplant with lamb and "local cheese"

eggplant, tomato & "local cheese"

Yes there is saganaki, thank Zeus. I was afraid it was just a lame invention for Americans eating at Greek restaurants. They don't really do the "Opa!" thing and light it on fire, but they certainly do like their fried cheese. Usually served on it's own with just a lemon wedge it is simplicity perfected.  Crisp outer edges, warm and melty inside. It makes you do that little happy dance in your chair. At a restaurant in the tiny meandering streets of Ios, we had a version that was wrapped in filo dough, baked in the oven and then drizzled with honey and sesame seeds. It wasn't chilly out, but you could have cut glass with my nipples. I was very excited.


feta wrapped in filo, covered in honey and sesame
Dessert = watermelon. You never see baklava or even a dessert menu. The restaurant just brings out chopped up watermelon that is a beautiful deep ruby color and perfectly sweet. Light and refreshing after grazing on grilled fish, lamb and eggplant all night. 

The food in Greece is deceptively simple. Most dishes consist of only a couple ingredients and a few minutes worth of preparation. But the Greeks have been cooking these same dishes for millenia. They know how to get the best out of what the earth and sea will give them. Like the islands themselves, it is a rugged cuisine that is stunning beautiful. 
lunch in Santorini

dinner on the beach in Sifnos (Dmitrios on the left)