Food al fresco

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When you hail from a country where summers rarely reach dizzying heights of temperature (more often a breezy mix of sun and cloud and the occasional shower) eating in the open air is a fairly rare experience, especially when it comes to evening meals. As the sun goes down the dew falls, making it chilly to sit outside, and more often than not the pesky midges appear to make the occasion a misery rather than a pleasure. So one of the real joys of trips abroad is being able to enjoy evening meals in open air restaurants, dressed in short sleeved tops or dresses, without even having to think of taking a cardigan. As for an umbrella, forget it. During summer in the islands of the Aegean the sun reigns.

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Pefkos restaurant where diners can watch food being cooked on an outside grill and pizza oven.

In Pefkos we were spoilt for choice when it came to restaurants, so we chose those not showing football (the Euros were on so football tension was in the air and many bars and restaurants had large screens on which games could be watched), those offering food that appealed, especially dishes with a Greek flavour (prices in most restaurants were fairly similar with a few exceptions), and those with atmosphere by the cart load. Later we added another criteria: warm, friendly staff.

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Julia Gabrielle from Romania and Dimitris from Albania served us and chatted to us in Taso’s restaurant – The Olive Groves.

So here are some of the surroundings where we whiled away our evenings and stored up memories as the sun set, darkness fell, candles were lit, and paving stones radiated heat stored during the day. Music, often plucked on a mandolin for that extra Greek touch, played in the background, never so obtrusive that you couldn’t conduct a conversation, but sufficient to add to that all-important atmosphere.

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Spitaki restaurant which we returned to time and again for its food, atmosphere and lovely staff.

Some diners turned up in shorts and T-shirts, but most grabbed the opportunity for casual dressing-up in dresses, maxi dresses, or trousers and eye-catching tops. Some even hirpled along the uneven roads in strappy, four-inch heel sandals, though the sane opted for footwear more suited to outdoor dining in a village resort.

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The recently opened, spectacular Kouros restaurant which made diners feel they were enjoying a meal amidst romantic Greek ruins.

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The green lit trees and foliage provided a touch of the exotic.

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Trees with entwined branches stood like fluted Greek columns above the restaurant.

Pushchairs with toddlers were numerous as were under school-age children (this was June, before schools broke up for the summer). Greeks retain a sense of family as well as a sense of history. So as soon as diners with children appeared there was a rush to bring a highchair (usually a smart, bright multi-coloured one) and the menu for children who were made as welcome as the adults. The history bit is evident in many of the older properties that are not sold but passed down to the next generation.

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The Olive Groves restaurant which seemed a favourite with families with young children.

One of the restaurants we visited numerous times was set in the garden of a traditional house. The small house had been transformed into the kitchen of the restaurant.

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Spitaki restaurant with its cerise tablecloths and pink bougainvillea.

The restaurant owners could only rent the space as the house owners wanted to keep the property in the family. A far cry from how homes are acquired and disposed of in much of the UK. Probably, too, the reason for many derelict properties in Rhodes as the next generation might want to renovate or build anew on the site incorporating something of the original house into the new. So, a sense of family, a sense of history, a sense also of belonging to a particular place where faces are well-known and families go back generations, rooted in the rocky land.

The same applies to land. The wife of one restaurant owner told us she stayed in a modern house which incorporated her old family home and that would be passed on to her daughters. Her father had given her three small pieces of land with olive trees, about a hundred in all.

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Meltemi restaurant, a restaurant with a clean, modern feel whilst still drawing on tradition.

When the restaurant closes in October the olives will be picked, a time-consuming and difficult task, she told us. Then they have to be cured and fermented, before being covered in brine ready for eating or storing. The green olives we enjoyed bowls full of in the restaurant were from her family olive trees that would be passed on to her family. As all the olives we tasted were slightly different, individual flavours with added secret ingredients instead of often bland mass produced, no doubt this is a common practice.

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At Spitaki restaurant  coffee is served in style with a dash of tradition. For goodness sake don’t call it Turkish, both tradition and coffee are Greek we were repeatedly told. Not surprising since Rhodes once was part of Turkey.

Amazing how much you can learn about a country from its food and its restaurants.

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When I think of Pefkos this is the image that will forever spring to mind – Spitaki restaurant under its canopy of bougainvillea where I enjoyed so many great lamb dishes and chats with the owner’s wife about food, cooking, family and life.

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About jingsandthings

I am me. What do I like? Colour Shapes Textures Paintings, photographs, sculptures, woven tapestries, wonderful materials. The love of materials probably comes from my father who was a textile buyer, and I grew up hearing the names of mills and manufacturers which sounded magical and enticing. Glass in all its soft and vibrant colours and flowing shapes, even sixties glass which makes its own proud statement. A book I can immerse myself in. Meals with family or friends with lots of chat and laughter (and probably a bottle or two of wine). The occasional trip abroad to experience the sights, sounds, food, conversation, quality of light and warmth of other countries. To revel in differences and be amazed by similarities. I like to create and to experience, to try and to achieve. And then there are words – read, heard, written at my keyboard, or scrawled on sticky notes, or along the edges of dog-eared supermarket receipts excavated from the unexplored nooks of my handbag. What do I dislike? Cold Snow Bad design Fast food Condescension
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4 Responses to Food al fresco

  1. sarah2163 says:

    One a traditionally ‘dreich’ Scottish day like today – reading this has made me pine for holidays in the warmth of the Greek sunshine and culture.

    • Absolutely – the reason why I’ve been looking at the photos taken in June in Rhodes. I did manage to sit outside for a while yesterday and read – getting away from the chaos that’s descended on the house at present with sons’ projects.

  2. walter- says:

    Wonderful post. Come back next summer to enjoy the Aegean Sea?

  3. I’d love to return and see other islands. We’ll see…maybe we’ll find a deal too good to pass by.

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