Monday, October 31, 2011

DINING AT DROSIA

Dear Friends,

Since I have been here on Crete, I have come to recognize the difference between simply eating a good meal and having a genuine dining experience.  Fortunately, there is no shortage of little cafes or tavernas on Crete where one can enjoy a very nice meal.  But, to have an authentic Cretan dining experience, sometimes one must look away from his comfortable surroundings and be willing to venture out and away from where he has been accustomed to eating.  I am fortunate enough to have good friends on Crete who have a vast knowledge of places where one is able to enjoy the full scope of a traditional Cretan dining experience.  One such place is the Tzagkaris Taverna to be found in the small mountain village of Drosia.  Drosia is located about 17.47 miles (28.11 kilometers) south and west from the front of the La Stella Apartments in Amoudara (based on GoogleEarth), and takes a good 45 minutes to travel there by auto over narrow mountain roads that twist and turn more than a cobra trying to dodge a mongoose!  But, those winding mountain roads also provide some spectacular views of fertile olive groves, valleys and beautiful vistas looking out over Heraklion and Amoudara.

The Tzagkaris Taverna is not new, but it did move from an older location in Drosia to its new site which can be found just down the block and on the same street.  The new building is spacious and accented with lots of stone and wooden beams which help give it a warm, relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.  There are numerous tables and chairs out on the veranda for outdoor dining, or you can eat inside the completely enclosed dining room if desired.  To the right of the outdoor dining area there is a small, glass-enclosed room which houses a large bed of coals.  Over these coals are constantly rotating spits on which lamb, goat, pig, rabbit and chicken are roasted.  Above the rotating spits hang sheep entrails that are smoked and roasted.  The owner, Michalis Petousis, used to do all the roasting of the meat himself; however, he now entrusts that all important task to his wife.  Michalis spends much of his time now going from table to table, visiting briefly with the patrons and insuring that all has been cooked to perfection and served promptly.  His white hair and mustache and his broad smile convey a genuine warmth that says in ANY language, “Welcome.  I am truly glad you are here!”  As often as she can, his wife will slip out of the “roasting room” for a few minutes and also visit with customers.  She not only shares her smile, but also freely gives hugs and kisses to her customers just like they are family.

The dining experience at the Tzagkaris Taverna is not like eating at a typical tourist taverna.  Fortunately, Bryan, my good friend from Scotland, speaks Greek well enough to order for us all.  But, he doesn’t place an order  for  each  individual, rather  he  orders platters of  food which are brought out and  placed on the table.  Each person then simply dishes food from the several platters onto his own plate.  On the numerous occasions that I have traveled to the Tzagkaris Taverna with my friends, we have eaten such dishes as pork roasted on a spit (ofto gourounopono), lamb roasted on a spit (ofto arni), smoked pork (apaki), sheep intestines (kokopetsi), tzatziki sauce, oven roasted potatoes (potato alfono), wild greens salad (agriosalata), traditional Cretan salad (salata Kriti), zucchini flower or courgette flower (kolokianthi), sheep’s liver (sikoti), squid (calimaris), beans (fava), stuffed vine leaves (dolmathakia), sour cream cheese (amthogalo), freshly baked bread, and, of course, village wine.  For dessert we have enjoyed crepes stuffed with cheese (sfakiani pita), ice cream and yogurt drenched with caramel, fresh grapes, apples, watermelon and cantelope pieces.  I have enjoyed sampling all of these dishes and more!!!  I must confess that I never once hesitated to try any of the dishes cooked at the Tzagkaris Taverna – it didn’t matter if it was a dish that was completely alien to me or if it was a dish that I was uncertain that it might not appeal to me - I tried it and I enjoyed it all!!!  And…upon my return to the USA, the first time that I stepped on the scales, I discovered that I had gained almost 8 pounds!  Now, I have to shed those unwanted pounds so that I can put them back on when I return to Crete again next year!

I have to say at this point that while the food served at the Tzagkaris Taverna is some of the best that I have eaten on Crete, what makes it an outstanding dining experience are those friends who have been gathered around the table with me.  Dining with close friends makes  a good  meal great, and a great meal outstanding!  At various times, I have had the distinct pleasure to sit and dine with friends from Germany, Northern Ireland, Greece, Holland, England, Scotland, and the USA.

  *NOTE:  There is a possibility that I might have misspelled some of the Greek terms used to describe the Greek dishes above.  But….just blame it on the raki!

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob Armistead

NOTE: “Click” on any photo below to view a larger image.



ABOVE PHOTO: The open veranda
outside the Tzagkaris Taverna in the
mountain village of  Drosia.
ABOVE PHOTO: Sign outside the
Tzagkaris Taverna in the small
mountain village of Drosia.



ABOVE PHOTO:  Mutton and pork
are roasted above the glowing embers
at the Tzagkaris Taverna in the little
mountain village of Drosia.
ABOVE PHOTO: The owner's wife
carefully tends to pork and mutton
 roasting over the hot coals at the
 Tzagkaris Taverna. Notice the sheep
entrails hanging at the top of the photo
as they are smoked and roasted.








ABOVE PHOTO:  Michalis Petousis,
 owner of the Tzagkaris Taverna in
Drosia, tends to the every needs of
 his customers. (July 31, 2011)
ABOVE PHOTO:  The  inside  dining
room at the Tzagkaris Taverna in
Drosia.







ABOVE PHOTO:  Rainer gives his
lovely wife, Petra, a kiss as Bryan and
Peter look on approvingly.
(July 31, 2011)
ABOVE PHOTO:  Clockwise left:
  Coby, Theo, Rainer, Petra, Bryan and
 Peter at the Tzagkaris Taverna in
 Drosia. (July 31, 2011)







ABOVE PHOTO:  A table full of happy
customers at the Tzagkaris  Taverna in
Drosia. (July 31,2011)
ABOVE  PHOTO:  Michalis Petousis
eagerly shares his warm and genuine
 smile with his patrons at the
 Tzagkaris Taverna in Drosia.














ABOVE PHOTO:  Rainer and Petra
share a tender moment at the
Tzagkaris Tavrna in Drosia.
(July 31, 2011)
ABOVE PHOTO: Paul and Karen
also share a tender moment at the
Tzagkaris Taverna in Drosia.
(July 31, 2011)









ABOVE  PHOTO:  Theo (standing)
and Coby (seated) smile like two
teenage lovers at the Tzagkaris
 Taverna in Drosia. (July 31,2011)
ABOVE PHOTO:  Coby (seated) and
Theo (standing) share a loving moment
with each other at the Tzagkaris
Taverna  in Drosia. (July 31, 2011)










ABOVE  PHOTO:  Left to right:
Coby, Karen and Bobby share a laugh
at the Tzagkaris Taverna in Drosia.
(July 31, 2011)
ABOVE PHOTO:  My friends from
Holland, Greece, Germany, Northern
Ireland, England, Scotland and the
USA gather at the Tzagkaris Taverna
 in Drosia on September 25, 2011.









ABOVE PHOTO:  Friends from
Greece, Holland, Northern Ireland,
Germany, England, Scotland and the
USA gather at the Tzagkaris Taverna
in Drosia on Septmber 25, 2011.

ABOVE PHOTO:  Friends from
Greece, Holland, Northern Ireland,
Germany, England, Scotland and the
USA gather at the Tzagkaris Taverna
in  Drosia on September 25, 2011.







1 comment:

Ingo H. Dietrich said...

Thanks for making it possible to find the taverna (via google images) and for even providing a phone number in one of the photos!