On the trail: 15 of the best European food adventures

LOCAL INGREDIENTS 1. Explore the legendary olive groves of the Peloponnese There’s a reason why philhellenes love the Peloponnese with a passion. This three-pronged peninsula at the tip of the mainland is the Greece that time forgot: miles of white-sand beaches minus the crowds, mountain villages at the end […]

LOCAL INGREDIENTS


1. Explore the legendary olive groves of the Peloponnese

There’s a reason why philhellenes love the Peloponnese with a passion. This three-pronged peninsula at the tip of the mainland is the Greece that time forgot: miles of white-sand beaches minus the crowds, mountain villages at the end of dusty roads, immaculately preserved ancient ruins and excellent, locally run hotels and restaurants catering largely for domestic travellers. And then there’s the olives. The Peloponnese is the home of kalamata, Greece’s famed fleshy purple-black, almond-shaped olive. The city that bears its name is a great starting point for foodie tours, not least for its open-air market (Wednesdays and Saturdays), where olives in almost every form, from oil to soap, brined to marinated, are sold alongside sfela (local feta), raw honey, just-picked figs, fresh fish, sesame-jewelled ‘pastelli’ biscuits, and herbs and teas from the Taygetos mountains, which slope away towards the wild Mani region to the south.

Olive trees carpet the Taygetos right down into the Mani, and groves also patchwork the Messenian plain to the north west. Many belong to family farms that offer tours and tastings. Try Ben Olive Mill for its koroneiki, a fruity local variety that’s used to make the lion’s share of Greek olive oil.

A couple of hours south, Eumelia, an agritourism at the heart of an organic regenerative olive farm, offers tastings, the chance to join in with the harvest (November-December), lessons in making olive oil soap and farm-to-table cooking classes.

An hour south, Kinsterna is a boutique hotel set in a restored Byzantine mansion with an infinity pool overlooking the olive groves and the Mani’s purple-hued mountains. Get smothered in local honey and olive oil in the spa, then sit back in the excellent terrace restaurant to sample olives and wine from Kinsterna’s estate (the malvasia is a highlight).

Finally, make for the Peloponnese’s southernmost point, where you’ll find Citta Dei Nicliani, a food-focused boutique hotel set in a hamlet of 18th-century stone houses complete with Ottoman-era towers. During October-December harvest season, the hotel organises visits to local olive groves, for tours, tastings and dinners.

Getting started: Seasonal flights serve Kalamata, otherwise Athens is within reach. Why not break the journey in the gorgeous, waterfront town of Nafplio — all neoclassical villas, tavernas and orange tree-lined cobbled streets, overlooked by a Venetian fortress. Book early, as it’s an Athenian bolthole.

Don’t miss: Head to Kinsterna Hotel in autumn to see the olive and grape harvests and try tsipouro — a fiery Greek version of grappa, made in an ancient, steam-powered pot still. Sarah Barrell

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