Saturday, May 9, 2015

Greek Restaraunts and Waiters


Greek food is amazing. Everyone knows feta and olives but there’s much more to the cuisine. We’ve had roasted anchovies, crispy croquettes, lemony fish soup, and cucumber salads. Dining in Greece is also great because of the waiters. Everywhere we’ve been, except for one amazing bakery run by a grumpy baker, we’ve been treated as honored guests to be fattened and entertained.  
Crispy croquettes
It’s good to travel with Raquel because she eats half of my plate while I eat hers. The best meal we’ve had thus far was veal slow cooked with fresh green beans in tomato sauce and a massive hunk of mousaka. Raquel said the veal was so tender it fell apart when you looked at it, the green beans popped when sprinkled with feta, but we agreed the best was the mousaka. Potatoes and eggplant were roast to perfection then layered with spicy minced meat, house made tomato sauce, and topped with a layer of creamy béchamel sauce and (surprise) a sprinkling of feta. It was then put in the oven just until the top turned all brown and crispy. I know the ingredients and how it was prepared because when our waiter saw that we’d licked our plates clean he thanked us profusely, and when I told him it was even better than my dad’s mousaka, he proceeded to tell us, in perhaps too much detail, all of his secrets for the next fifteen minutes.

Fried fresh anchovies (better than the sardines)
There must be a fraternity the waiters join, and if you speak Greek to them they’re forced to lavish you in kindness. At a seafood restaurant on the island of Kea a waiter saw us looking at the menu and practically dragged us to the back of the place to look at the fresh fish.

Looks delicious! But we just ate.

He didn’t care. He knew we’d be back, we’d seen the fish after all.

We returned the same night and were greeted by the same man. He helped us pick out a scorpion fish (I like to eat strange things, and scorpion fish look strange) and two delicious red fish whose name I have forgotten. The scorpion fish has a texture something like crab and a rich almost meaty taste. Raquel could not stop eating its cheeks. The other fish was light, flaky and crispy with salt and I cannot remember because I thanked one of the waiters in Greek, and he practically fell over in delight. Soon as we finished our fish we were presented Mastiha. I tried to ask the waiter exactly what it was to which he simply asked, “You know Mastih? It is made of Mastih!” It is so delicious that Raquel actually drinks it, perhaps too quickly for when the waiter saw our empty glasses he snapped his fingers and they were refilled. Raquel slid her second shot of this wonderful drink to me (she’s still a lightweight, no matter how good the booze) and I proceeded to become pleasantly inebriated. On our way out we thanked our hosts, efharisto, to which they added, efharisto poly, or thank you very much. A meal and a language lesson. Marvelous.
Amazing rabbit and onions. Notice the
falling-off-the-bone quality

But our best host was a man in Hermopolis. He was thin and goateed and did everything with a flourish, whether it was pouring wine or clearing plates. He recommended the rabbit, and we thankfully listened to his suggestion. It came with caramelized pearl onions and pile of fried potatoes. We rounded out the meal with a bowl of fat fresh beans topped in feta and white wine. The rabbit was savory and decadent and was accented by the sweetness from the caramelized onions which popped in your mouth, braising the rabbit in their juices with each bite. Between morsels of rabbit we scooped up the beans and feta with our fried potatoes and watched our waiter. The only time he wasn’t singing was when he was acting like a monster to make little children laugh, doing pratfalls when he banged his head against the signboard, or clearing a table, an activity he liked to do without a tray, much to the chagrin of the other waitress, who would follow him to be sure he didn’t drop anything. He repaid her assistance by placing a potted plant on her tray anytime she got too close. Maybe it was just the wine, but we found it all hilarious.

And what’s better than a fine meal served with a personal touch? A week of them.

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