Don’t bother going to Santorini—a Greek island in the Aegean Sea—if you are only interested in burgers and fries, because there is not a single fast-food restaurant on that entire island! The locals here love their food and to prove it: They invited a slew of food writers out to visit just so we could experience and appreciate all of the local products and recipes that they have to offer. “I am tired of just seeing hotel websites come up when people Google ‘Santorini,’” says Kikos Papadopoulos, a Greek professor with a Ph.D. in tourism. “I want visitors to know about our amazing food, as well.

This understandable burning desire to share all things Santorini with the world prompted Kikos—and Evangelia Mendrinou, owner of the Aressana Hotel—to organize a 3-day Greek festival, entitled “The Cities of the Sea, All Together on the Same Keel,” allowing them to showcase everything from retail products to local chefs. They even included a special culinary demo of ancient dishes that were prepared by local women who still knew how to make them. But like a tree that falls in the forest that no one can hear, events don’t “happen” if there aren’t any people to talk about it online, in blogs or in hard copy, so they asked us to come along and check it all out—they wanted us to feel their passion for food, see their cuisine and experience the local products.

Night #1: Food that was NEW (modern interpretations)

Night #2: Food that was OLD (ancient recipes)

Day #3: Food that was BORROWED (dishes inspired by other countries that utilized local ingredients) And the entire island is white and blue, so there you have your blue part!

The first two nights of the festival took place at the Santoswines, a winery with a perfect view located in the middle of a Santorini vineyard. On the first night, all the local “modern” chefs came out to show us how they interpreted Santorini ingredients with dishes like “white Santorini eggplant soufflé in a dark chocolate sauce with a yogurt jelly perfumed with ginger and cumin.” Wow! How about that for a new twist on classic ingredients that have been on the island forever? There were lots of other modern dishes, but this was the only one that I was able to photograph before it got dark. In a few days, I will talk more about ancient recipes that the local women of the town made for us, and the borrowed recipes, as demo’d by an amazing restaurant called Selene. I will also post pictures of the beautiful blue and white buildings, talk about some of their local retail products like Santo tomato purée (which is super sweet because they deprive their tomatoes of water and surround them with vines to keep the moisture in) which are processed in a way that is QUITE different from our tomato products in California (something I know a little bit about). And my previous colorful allusions are appropriate because Evangelia and her daughter, Stella, also are wedding planners! So if you want to get married in Santorini, you can contact them and they will make it happen! This trip was only 2.5 days, but the amount of information that was shared was worthy of 100 days. Stay tuned for more over the next week!

About Rachel Zemser