Great Escapes: Enjoy Great Greek Wine and Food

Since my return from my Greek wine trip, I just can't seem to get enough Greek food or wine. I have been experimenting with all sorts of grilled vegetables and fish as well as numerous salads. What I particularly love about Greek food is its focus on seasonal fresh ingredients, simply prepared, that marry perfectly with their food friendly Greek wines.

As well as cooking up some tasty dishes at home you can also try some of the many Greek restaurants and cafes around the country. Two particularly excellent establishments are Molyvos in New York City and Zaytinya in DC.

Two of my travel companions in Greece were Justin Ross, Restaurant Manager of Zaytinya restaurant in Washington DC and Kamal Kouiri, Wine Director of New York City restaurant Molyvos. Having enjoyed an embarrassing array of fabulous dishes and wines during our trip I was anxious to find out what these 'experts' are favoring back home over the summer. Here's a look at their favorite Greek wine and food pairings this summer.

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Zaytinya in Washington DC is the Mediterranean restaurant of acclaimed chef Jose Andreas. The restaurant specializes in Greek, Turkish and Lebanese cuisine and has a fantastic wine list that showcases the diversity of wines from these three countries. Two of Justin's favorite Greek pairings for the summer are:

Htipiti (tee-pea-tea) - Marinated fresh roasted red peppers, red onion, feta and thyme. Garnished with olive oil and a sprig of thyme at the restaurant this is served with 'made to order' piping hot pita bread. Justin really enoys this dish with a crisp white wine especially their 2007 Manousakis Nostos Roussane from the island of Crete. The wine has a light herbaceous quality that brings out the thyme while a kiss of oak accentuates the creamy texture of the feta and the smoke from the roasted peppers. The combination of the wine's acid with the flavors prolongs both the vinous and victual sensations on the palate.

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Octopus Santorini - Baby octopus braised in red wine vinegar and then grilled. Served with marinated onions and capers over a bed of yellow split pea puree. Justin's favorite pairing with this dish is the Alpha Estate Xinomavro 2005 from the Amydeon region in Macedonia. Black cherries and hints of blackcurrant, white pepper and smoke notes cut through the yellow split pea puree, and accentuate beautifully the salinity and grill flavors of the octopus.

As I write, I am mentally on my way to the fishmonger to buy some fresh octopus to try replicate this dish. I have a bag of the yellow split peas, which I actually brought back from Santorini. Another Greek wine and food fest ahead.

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Back in NYC at Molyvos, fresh ingredients are the key for Chef Jim Bostacos, and set the scene for simple, but captivating dishes. Two of Kamal's summer favorites are

Domatosalata - Heirloom Tomato and Roasted Pepper Salad with Whipped Mizithra Cheese and Toasted Garlic Chips. Kamal pairs this dish with a 2008 Agiorgitiko Rose 14-18 by Gaia winery in the Peloponnese. The wine is fantastically refreshing. It has vibrant cherry flavors, along with savory, earthy and black pepper notes that perfectly compliment the dish.

Htenia kai Solomos Marinato - Citrus Marinated Sea Scallops and Ouzo Cured Scottish Salmon. Kamal recommends a Santorini wine with this dish - 2008 Aidani by Argyros Estate. Refreshingly bright and crisp, lots of Santorini minerality, as well as a kick of sea salt on the finish. The predominant citrus fruit flavors marry beautifully with the fresh seafood.

Wine stores that carry a good and up to date stock of Greek wines include:

Astor Wines (Manhattan, NY)
Gotham Wines (Manhattan, NY)
K&L Wines (Redwood City and San Francisco, CA)
Winerz.com (Orange, CA)
Winechateau.com (NJ)
Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PA)
Grand Wine & Liquors (Queens, NY)
International Wine Shop (Westport, CT)

More Greek Wine:
Beyond Retsina: Greek Wines Come of Age
Escape to Greece: Great Wines from The Peloponnese
Escape to Greece: Truly Unique Wines from Santorini

(Top image: Flickr member sictransitgloria licensed for use under Creative Commons. Food images by Justin Ross. Second octopus image courtesy of Michael Madrigale - thanks; Bottle shot courtesy of producer.)

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Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. In 2012 she was honored as a Dame Chevalier de L'Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne.