Greeks love hearty soups that are meals in themselves. Mezedes are comprised of such items as melitzanosalata (mashed eggplant with oil, lemon and garlic), taramosalata (Greek caviar spread), dolmadakia (meat or rice rolled in grapevine leaves ), kalamarakia (deep fried), tyropitakia (cheese wrapped in strudel leaves), kolokithakia (deep fried zucchini) usually served with tsatsiki (cucumber, yogurt and garlic spread), keftedes (meatballs), stuffed peppers and tomatoes, pickled octopus, fried eggplant slices, skordalia and more. The main course is a casserole or grilled meat or fish.

There are also many delectable meat stews to choose from, as well as plain grilled cuts of meat and of course the well-known charcoal grilled lamb or pork called souvlaki. Fish and shellfish are excellent when caught, cooked and eaten the same day. Salad is usually ordered with the main course and can be prepared with fresh vegetables or cooked dandelions (greens are boiled in water, drained and served with oil and lemon). Horiatiki, the usual Greek salad, consists of tomato slices, onions, cucumber slices, olives and feta cheese dressed with oil and vinegar.

All seasonal vegetables, such as artichokes, beans, peas, carrots, and zucchini are often cooked and served together in the casserole dishes rather than separately. Greece produces a variety of cheeses, including some very interesting regional specialties. But the most commonly offered in restaurants are feta (white semisoft and salted), kasseri (yellow semi-soft), graviera (hard) and manouri (unsalted, creamy and fattening).   Desserts are a delectable treat, including baklava (consisting of strudel leaves and walnuts), kataifi (which consists of nuts wrapped in shredded wheat with a honey syrup), yogurt with honey and halva. In the summer, however, sweets give way to fresh fruit such as large peaches, melon, watermelon, grapes and pears. 

Greek coffee is a variation of the coffee offered in many south-eastern Mediterranean countries. The traditional Greek coffee is best prepared in a bakirenio pot when heated slowly. The meraklidiko way wants the pot to be placed in the sand and be heated indirectly rather than be put directly on fire.The important words to know when ordering are pikro (bitter), metrio (semi-sweet), and gliko (sweet). Coffee is usually served with a glass of water.

Lunch is served between noon and 3 p.m.; dinner after 8 p.m. There is a wide variety of eating establishments in Greece, usually characterized by certain well-defined features:

• Estiatorion (restaurant): A conventional eating establishment offering international cuisine and some Greek specialties. They tend to be in the upper price range.

• Taverna: An offshoot of the traditional countryside eating place. The owner and family members can often be seen preparing meals and serving food. A taverna places a great deal of emphasis on the mezedes and traditional cooking. The upper price range tavernas can be very sophisticated establishments in food, service and decor even though they rarely are as expensive as the deluxe restaurants.

• Psistaria: A barbecue-style eating place with a large spit conspicuously in the entrance. Here one can inspect the roast pork, lamb and chicken. Your selection is priced according to the weight. Salad, french fries and cheese compliment such a meal.

• Psarotaverna (fish taverna): They specialize in fish and seafood and are almost always found by the seaside or harborside. In a psarotaverna, one will find fresh fare of the day, usually the owners' morning catch. 

• Pricing and tipping in Greece: The bill always includes an obligatory 15% service charge. It is customary to leave an extra 5-10% for the assistant waiters who do odd jobs around the table.

Greek Wine

Greece may well possess first place in the hierarchy of countries known for their tradition in viticulture. Not only is this due to Greeks producing wine since the Neolithic Age - 4000 B.C. - but also to the fact that wine has long been adored, praised and chanted in the name of god Dionyssos. Festivals honoring Dionyssos were numerous in ancient times. They were held mostly during winter months and were celebrated with dramatic performances, festal processions and of course consumption of wine. As time went by and the tradition of the winemaking was handed down from father to son, the wine improved both in quantity and quality. The resinating of wines, an inheritance from antiquity, necessary then for the storage and transportation of wines in clay amphoras, is vanishing now.

Nowadays, Greek wine production, abiding by tradition but invigorated by modem technology, offers a wide variety of fine wines. Depending on where you are in Greece, there are excellent table (white, red and rose) wines to enjoy offered by different wineries. Together with the table wines do not miss, however, to taste wines with an appellation of origin, that is wines designated according to the region of where they are produced - as Greek wine law requires. 

Taste dry red wines from western Macedonia and Crete or dry white wines from Chalkidiki, Cephallonia, Santorini, Patras, Lemnos, Crete and Attica. The sweet white wine from Samos, locally called Moschato, and the Mavrodafni from Patras and Cephallonia are excellent dessert wines, considered of the best in the world. Ouzo, the traditional aperitif of Greece, has a strong anise flavor. Being quite strong, it should be served with water or on ice. Retsina which is prepared in exactly the same manner as dry white wine but with the addition of a few pieces of pine resin to musts, either before or during fermentation!

Virgil said: Vine varieties traced in ancient texts were so numerous and of such different features , that it might be easier to count specks of sand on a beach!

Wine Festivals

Every summer, the GNTO organizes Wine Festivals where a carefree atmosphere prevails, reminiscent of ancient Dionysian revelries. Such events take place in Rethymnon where the wine festival is held in July and Patras with a wine festival held from mid-August to mid-September.