Travel review: Gourmet Greece is on the menu
As the Greeks like to say about their cuisine, it’s not all about moussaka, kebabs and Greek salad. If they aren’t drinking and dancing with you, they want to introduce you to some first class cuisine.
Now some of their top chefs are taking that culinary message across the world with Aldemar Resorts Greek Gourmet Touring, simply known as Sympossio, the ancient Greek philosophy of togetherness.
The initiative started 10 years ago. The managing director of Aldemar group gained the support of the tourism ministry, the Greek National Tourism Organisation and many regions including Crete and the Peloponnese, Western Greece, the Hoteliers Chamber of Greece and the organisation Enterprise Greece and Aegean Airlines.
The top end Aldemar resorts are on Crete and mainland Greece on the west Peloponnese near historic Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games. Sympossio began in 2009, when it set about promoting all that’s good in Greek gastronomy, led by head chefs Ionnanis Rodokanakis and George Chatzopoulos.
In 2018 alone they toured 37 cities in 15 countries of western and eastern Europe.
Both chefs were in residence when we stayed at the Olympian Village and where Ionnanis gave my wife, who works in the food industry, a personal masterclass, the kind of interactive cooking offered with the actual Sympossio tour.
It is quite an experience, everyone getting stuck in from head chef to hotel receptionists.
Away from Greece and on tour, Sympossio is like a travelling interactive gourmet roadshow, designed to introduce participants to Greek flavours ingredients and culture.
Participants actually get to cook with the chef, so it is all so very egalitarian, the main ingredient is that there were no hierarchical roles.
All parties involved wear exactly the same aprons and cook as one team. They cooked as a team and ate as a team, together – the Sympossio philosophy if you like.
Last year the the theme was “Travel in the Peloponnese”, a still largely undiscovered and beautiful part of mainland Greece and home of Ancient Olympia.
This summer, London was the destination at the first National Geographic Traveller Food Festival at Islington’s Business Design Centre on July 20 and 21.
It attracted 6,000 visitors in total over the two weekend days. At least 90 per cent of show visitors had at some point visited and taken a holiday in Crete while the opposite is true about Western Greece, a beautiful part of the world still waiting to be discovered by many.
The tour’s Facebook page describes the philosophy as: “The Greece we love is an endless book of many chapters filled with pages of colours, aromas, flavours, history, art, culture and unrivalled beauty ... and most importantly, with hospitality at its very core. Sympossio is an original gastronomic journey through which all that is authentic about Greece, is unveiled. Join the journey.”
The theme this year was wine and olives, plentiful in Greece and with various menus on offer.
One masterclass featured Cretan cuisine consisting of courgette flower stuffed with rice and cream cheese, followed by a Cretan burger made of fried ground wheat, ‘apaki’ pork, Cretan cheese, raisins served on pita bread, rounded off by a dessert of ‘Tiganites’ pancakes and caramalised apricots.
The western Greece masterclass showcases marinated courgette ribbon salad with a citrus sauce, smoked eel and grated ‘botargo’ fish roe, followed by aromatic chicken meatballs in a classic tomato sauce on a bed of vegetables and feta cheese foam, finishing with Greek yoghurt, topped with grape spoon sweet and caramalised walnuts.
If you’ve more than had your fill of food at this point, the home of the ancient Olympic Games is just down the road from the the Olympian Village at Olympia.
Car hire is a simple and inexpensve affair from tour operator Fleetway Travel, who also provide full holiday packages.
Here the ruins of the ancient city of Olympia, the ancient temples of Zeus and Apollo are among the treasures to be found.
The 3,000-year-old city is preserved on an open site and with two museums. It really is a must see for visitors to the West Pelopponese with cheap entry prices. You can spend the whole day there and still feel the need to come back for more.
Further afield is historic Sparta, Patras and Kalamata all a full day trip. But if touring is not your thing. The resort has it all.
But as far as the food is concerned, the show goes on as Sympossio gears up to provide master classes during 2020 throughout Europe and the UK.
A real treat on the menu for all concerned, or try it out at one of the resorts.
For travel packages to Aldemar Resorts with an interactive cooking session contact www.aldemar-resorts.gr.
For packages to Western Greece that include, flights, car hire and accommodation visit www.fleetwaytravel.com or call 020 3820 2178.
For menus visit www.sympossio.gr.
For information western Greece visit www.western-greece.com.