File all this under Things I Wish I’d Eaten More Of.
1. Fresh mizithra
We drove to the next little town to visit the place that makes the killer sheep’s-milk yogurt, with its nice crusty top.
I’ve read rapturous descriptions of fresh ricotta, but I didn’t really believe it until they fed us the mizithra, scooped fresh out of the vat and still warm.
Mizithra is, in this form, basically ricotta. It’s also made from the whey from a sturdier cheese (in this case, feta), so it’s soft and jiggly, not too intense.
Having it warm is like eating little dairy clouds–but not so ethereal. More primal. I think people might love it so much because it reminds them of nursing?
Same bat place, same bat channel. Same ‘Oh, now I understand!’ moment.
Ladotiri is literally ‘oil cheese.’ It’s a specialty of Lesvos, cured in olive oil. It’s normally kind of rubbery and salty and doesn’t seem particularly interesting.
This stuff, though, fresh–ah-ha. It was nutty, like gruyere. A tiny bit grainy, mostly smooth.
OK, actually, this was more of a visual thing than a taste thing. They make a lot of ouzo–most of the ouzo–on Lesvos. It’s great. I don’t drink all that much these days, but I always wish I’d drunk more ouzo so I could look at the bottles.
Ouzo Mini, which may be the best ouzo of Lesvos, is also conveniently the cutest. It has a hip new label:
And Ouzo Matis, another brand with babes on the label…well, they cut right to the chase. We’re not sure if this is new, or we only just noticed, but here’s Peter noticing:
What’s he noticing? Va-va-voom!
OK, so the photo is not the greatest. But yes, peer dreamily through your ouzo bottle, and you’ll see a girl in a red bikini (or blue, should you choose) on the inside.
3. Obscenely ripe fruit
Waiting for the early train in Soufli, we breakfasted on figs from in front of the stationmaster’s house. You know how everyone leers about figs? How they’re vaguely dirty-looking?
These weren’t even purple on the outside, and they were the dirtiest figs I’ve ever eaten.
Then, in Turkey, a nice old man gave me a tomato. It was hot from the sun. He smiled and kept walking. I cupped that tomato in my hand the whole rest of our walk–it felt like one of my own organs.
We ate it the next morning for breakfast, gulped over the sink.
Maybe the best tomato of my life? Almost all goo, perfect acid-sweet balance. No need for salt at all.
Days later, Peter said, “Agh! Why didn’t we save the seeds?!”
4. Hot sausage
No innuendo intended.
We were in Komotini, our first real stop after Eressos. Whole new part of Greece. The town is 50 percent Turkish, complete with a mosque and an Ottoman-era cemetery.
The streets were empty, which was partly due to Ramadan, and partly due to it being 108 degrees. One restaurant in the market was open, and fed us this:
We marveled at the sensation of hot chili in our throats. The Greeks aren’t so into spicy-hot, and we hadn’t tasted it for weeks. The sausage was spiced like basturma, which is to say, intensely, with coriander and pepper and more. It was a mix of beef and lamb. It was superb.
5. Turkish ice cream
I love Mado ice cream. To Turks, it’s probably only as exciting as Haagen-Dazs, but to me, it’s the most fantastic ice-cream brand, the height of luxury. It’s all goat’s-milk, and the fruit flavors (which I think are fruit-only, no dairy, but who knows?) are so intense, it feels like the fruit is communicating directly with your brain, bypassing your tongue entirely.
In Edirne, we sat at the Mado cafe and had ridiculous Mado treats. Just for Peter, it seems, they have the ‘Red Fruits Passion’ (or some such) sundae on the menu. Sour cherry, raspberry and strawberry, plus raspberry goo, and some clotted cream for good measure.
I had a nice orange-creamsicle-ish thing with pistachios, but whatever. Need more red fruits, please.
6. Hazelnut meringue
Sorry, no photo. I bought it on the Istanbul ferry, along with my tulip-glass of tea.
I know from flying Turkish Airlines, which is neck-and-neck with Emirates for the best-food-in-coach prize, that Turkey produces like most of the world’s hazelnuts. They call it a miracle nut, and serve it instead of peanuts.
So I grabbed a hazelnut meringue cookie, and it must have been 99% hazelnuts, because it was more like an energy bar than a meringue or any cookie, really. So intense.
But then again, everything tastes more intense when you’re traveling. But then again again, America is the Land of Bland. These tastes will tide me over till my next adventure.