Cooking and Traditions of Crete Culinary Vacation in Greece
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Cooking and Traditions of Crete - NEW
Lasithi Plateau

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From its gorgeous beaches and breathtaking mountains to its bustling cities and fairytale-like villages, Crete is a magical place. The natural beauty of the Greek island is only rivaled by that of its history, as the island is the birthplace of the Minoans, and even today vestiges of the island's past populate Crete. Pair the island's beauty with the gastronomy of the island — which has been named some of the healthiest in the world, as the diet is rich in fruits and vegetables — and Crete has the makings of a foodie heaven.

In this heaven on earth, escape to Lasithi Plateau, one of the largest plateaux in all of Greece and located in a rural part of the island. Don't be surprised to hear the sound of goat bells, while enjoying the stunning views of cloudy mountain peaks and fertile fields populated with orchards and old wind mills.

Your accommodations for the week are the stone-built Argoulias apartments, situated in one of the area's oldest neighborhoods in the mountainous village of Jermiadon. Many of the eleven apartments offer views of the plateau and mountain range. (Certain weeks will take place on the coast in Hersonissos, and for groups of four or more people you will stay at a lovely private villa in Lasithi).

Hosts of your Crete cooking vacationAbout your hosts and cooking classes: Your hosts for the week are the lovely husband and wife team of Yiannis and Eleni, who started offering cooking tours in 2012. Yiannis has a background in geography, and in addition to running the apartments, he represents local cultural organizations. While it is Eleni who leads the cookery courses, he appreciates the traditional cuisine and loves spending time in the kitchen too.

With her deep knowledge of island culinary traditions, Eleni will be your teacher in the kitchen of your accommodations, introducing you to the food of the island and how their gastronomy is a way of life — and a healthy one at that! The diet of Crete dates back, as so much of the island does, to the time of the Minoans; in fact its thought that the ancient Minoans consumed much of the same food that Cretans do today.

The hands-on courses take place either in a well-equipped kitchen or on the veranda in the outdoor barbecue area, where you may enjoy your meal as well, weather permitting. Only local products are used, including virgin olive oil, pure honey, herbs, cheese, and meat. Dishes are simply prepared — often roasted, boiled, or stewed — and always determined by the season.

With more than 2 decades of studying and cooking, in addition to growing up on a family farm and working in the family's tavern, Eleni has an extensive knowledge of local food. That's reflected in her success: she's been awarded a variety of golden and silver medals by Crete's Chef Club, participated in several cook books, and hosted several TV programs. She's also a dedicated teacher and loves sharing her knowledge with her guests.

Cooking and Traditions of Crete - NEW Itinerary

Day 1

  • Transfer from Heraklion airport on Crete to your rustic and charming apartment accommodations on Lasithi Plateau.
  • Some time to relax before meeting your hosts, Eleni and Yiannis, for your welcome dinner with local wine.
  • Overnight.

Day 2

  • Breakfast with “Amalthea’s Goods.” (Amalthea was a she-goat — or a nymph, according to some — who was Zeus’s foster mother when he was hidden in a cave. When Zeus grew up, he crafted his thunder-shield from her hide and the horn of plenty from her crown). Breakfast throughout your time on Crete will feature local goods.
  • In the morning, start your first hands-on cooking lesson, which will be an introduction to Greek flavors. Some dishes you may prepare include moussaka, tzatziki, Greek salad, and zucchini fritters.
  • Lunch to follow based on your efforts. Weather permitting, enjoy it out on the veranda. A bottle of local wine is included.
  • Afterwards, enjoy some time to relax before departing on a walk through the nature of the plateau, as well as some nearby villages.
  • Dinner tonight will be in the village of Krassi, where the biggest platen tree is located, where — as the mythology goes — the god of Zeus mated with Europa. Krassi is also where Nikos Kazantazaki — a famous Greek writer — used to relax, write, and meet friends.
  • Overnight.

Day 3

  • Traditional breakfast.
  • Return to the kitchen for your next hands-on cooking class focusing on Cretan specialties. Your menu may include giant beans with herbs and vegetables; snails with vinegar and rosemary; tomato feta and oregano fritters; and briam with cheese.
  • Lunch to follow based on your efforts with a bottle of local wine.
  • In the afternoon, visit the cave where it’s said the god of Zeus was born.
  • Next it’s on to a local creamery to learn about and taste Cretan cheese and butter. While here learn how to prepare olive oil and herb soap, which you can take home as gifts!
  • Dinner back at your accommodations.
  • Overnight.

Day 4

  • Traditional breakfast.
  • In the morning, visit Knossos Palace, an ancient archaeological site that’s considered Europe’s oldest city; it was once the capital of Minoan Crete.
  • Continue to a local award-winning winery for a food and wine tasting lunch that includes six dishes with wine.
  • In the afternoon, stop for a visit at the Natural History Museum of Crete, which is focused on the study of the flora and fauna of the beautiful island.
  • Walk over to Heraklion, the largest city on the island. During this brief visit to the bustling modern metropolis with plenty of shopping, stop for a Greek coffee and “bougatsa” (pastry) tasting. Dinner tonight is included.
  • Overnight.

Day 5

  • Following breakfast, head to the beach for some time relaxing in the sun and swimming in the crystal clear sea.
  • Enjoy a fresh juice, or frappe, tasting while at the beach.
  • Take part in your next cooking class, this time in a fisherman’s village. The course will focus on fresh fish and seafood. Lunch to follow based on your efforts with one bottle of local wine.
  • In the afternoon, it’s time to learn about Greek raki, which resembles Italy’s grappa. It’s made with grapes and is a byproduct of the wine-making process, resulting in a strong alcoholic drink. Tour three different places, enjoy some tastings of raki along with salty mezedes (or small plates) for dinner.
  • Overnight.

Day 6

  • Traditional breakfast.
  • In the morning, have some time on your own to relax, explore, and enjoy your last morning on the Greek island.
  • Lunch on your own.
  • Return to the kitchen one last time for your final cooking class with Eleni, and to receive your cooking certificate. A farewell dinner to follow with a bottle of local wine.
  • Overnight.

Day 7

  • Breakfast followed by check out and group departure transfer to Heraklion airport.