Gastronomy in Western Greece offers delicious flavors and unique experiences for visitors who happen to be food and wine enthusiasts. The following is just a brief guide to the high quality ingredients and traditional flavors of the region.
Achaia is known for culinary skill, with the famed local produce adding distinctive flavor to the cuisine. Select vintages and wine routes also take the visitor on a delightful journey into the viticulture of the region. Of course, the final secret ingredient in wining and dining anywhere in Western Greece is the warmth and hospitality that comes with each serving, a sprinkling of authenticity to embellish every meal.
A Divine Way to Flavor Your Holiday
Excellent quality is a hallmark of all the local produce and the staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil, is the key ingredient, the foundation of all things savory. The area also has a formidable reputation for its variety of dairy products, with the protected designation of origin (PDO) Feta cheese of Kalavrita being the pride of Achaia. Pasta lovers, too, will enjoy the traditional trahana and hilopites. In the mountainous areas you will find the purest local meat, without additives or taste enhancers of any kind. Rooster spaghetti, kid goat stew, and the beans of Helmos – in the mountainous area of Akrata – are all essential taste experiences. So, too, are the exquisite fried trout of Planitero and the anchovies marinated in olive oil served in the traditional fishing village of Alykes. Finally, another forte of the area is the cultivation of raisins. The PDO Vostizza black Corinthian raisin is an exclusive product of Aigialeia. Abundant in quantity, it finds its way into several classic recipes, such as stuffed tomatoes and peppers or cod, to add that little extra zing to the dish.
Tasting the Nectar of Achaia
The god Dionysus would have been in his element in Achaia! The renowned white wine Roditis is recognized as a PDO of Patra. The sweet tasting Mavrodaphne Patron has also been classed as a Controlled Designation of Origin (AOC), as has the popular white Moscato. Many quality wines, recognized as Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) are produced on the lush slopes of Aigialeia, the `Tuscany of Greece’ as it is affectionately known.
For a complete wine experience, visit some of the top wineries that operate in the area. First stop should be the modern facilities of Achaia Clauss, with the Mavrodaphne it produces being the undoubted star. Taste explorers will become acquainted with organic wines in the winery Sant’or Wines. In addition, Roditis, Malagouzia, Black Kalavrytino, and Agiorgitiko are on the lavish wine menu of Tetramythos.
Your dalliance with Achaia wine is consummated in events organized by local enthusiasts and specially dedicated to these venerated vintages. The most representative are the OINOXENEIA held every August, and the wine tasting festival Kername Ellada.
FILE – A customer watches olive oil pouring out of a processing machine at a family-owned plant in Velanidi village, 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Athens, Greece, on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Spurred by fertile land and a rich aquatic ecosphere, the inhabitants of Aitoloakarnania developed their own agrarian, pastoral and fishing practices which over time have manifested themselves in local products of international acclaim and unique gastronomical value. Fish, mussels, clams, oysters, and other types of seafood and mollusks from Messolonghi and Trichonida, choice meat and cheese from Amfilochia, together with the local olive oil elevate the area’s cuisine to an exceptional level.
Salt and Freshwater Treasures
The traditional fish taverns of Aitoloakarnania are replenished daily with a fresh catch: tasty bream, bass and minnow from the Ionian coast, mouthwatering carp – both the tseroukla and dromitsa type – and sand smelt from Lake Trichonida, bream and eels from the lagoon of Messolonghi, as well as plump prawns, gabares, of the Amvrakikos Gulf served in a variety of delicious ways.
Our Very Own Caviar
The precious fish roe of Messolonghi undoubtedly offers an unprecedented taste experience. An internationally acclaimed PDO delicacy, it is the only caviar produced in Greece. It is made from the eggs of the mullet fished from the lake, together with the famed salt of the area from the salt flats of Aspri and Tourlida.
The Precious Fruit of the Earth
With 5.5 million olive trees and an especially auspicious climate, Aitoloakarnania is famous for the extra virgin olive oil as well as the tasty olives of the Kalamon variety it produces. Combining them with Gruyere or Feta Amphilochias and the fragrant oregano of the area, you have the famous Greek meze at its very best! The choice meat of the area is also renowned, especially lamb and kid goat prepared in many flavorful recipes.
Wine Makes Glad the Heart of Man…
The wine routes that cross Aitoloakarnania will eventually take you to Malagouzia, whose local variety of white grape, according to many a wine connoisseur, brought about the Greek wine renaissance. If you are lovers of oenotourism, prepare to taste a multitude of local vintages such as Assyrtiko and Mavrodaphne as well as those on any international list like Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Syrah.
The Festivals of Tradition and Taste
In order for you to enjoy the traditional tastes of Aitoloakarnania, the Exhibition of Local Products is held every August in Messolonghi, while for those who prefer fish, there is the Fish Festival in Aitoliko. In October, do not miss the unique celebration of a nut and a potent local tipple. Be warned! The Chestnut and Tsipouro Festival in Ano Hora may have you a little unsteady on your feet! Finally, the yearly Sand Smelt Festival in Kainourgio is the celebratory tribute to the only fish that jumped from the sea, adapted to the fresh waters of Trichonida and, as a result, became destined for frying pans throughout the region!
Precious gifts of the fertile land of Ilia offer the visitor a special food tasting experience. This is produce destined for the best eateries in the world and you have the chance to savor it at its source. Visitors will also be able to experience some of the traditional practices which help to bring these special flavors to the dining table. All this, combined with the warm hospitality of the locals, will create unforgettable of your visit.
Let Gastronomy Be Your Guide
The land of Western Greece is famous for its products which are in great demand all over the country, not to mention the world! The excellent quality PDO olive oil of Ancient Olympia is the undoubted king of taste and a basic pillar of the Mediterranean diet. It comes from the Nemoutiana, the local variety of olives, which you will adore even if you try them straight from the branch.
Is there anything better under the midday summer sun than a juicy slice of watermelon from Gastouni? Close your eyes and bite into a red strawberry from Amaliada or Manolada – a taste of paradise! And there’s more wonderful fruit preserves for those with a sweet tooth. Try trahana and hilopites, types of pasta, made with artistry and pure ingredients. Among the many herbs in the area, oregano, mint and sage run riot across the hillsides. The delicious honey offers a sweet treat for your taste buds.
Fish are also in abundance – bass, bream, mullet, and eels. You can try your luck at catching them yourself in the lagoon of Kotyhi or simply sit down at a local tavern and wait for them to come to you. Trout from the artificial lake of the Pinios are especially recommended.
Gastronomy is so inextricably linked with custom and the uncluttered way of living here that your journey will surely bring you a taste of tradition through all the time-honored dishes, like hondromenoudelo (a type of pasta) tabakali (a dish with beans as a main ingredient), kagiana with tsigaridia (salt pork with eggs and tomatoes), pumpkin pies and, for dessert, stroto, the local version of baklava from Lampia.
Special wine experiences are available at the wineries open to visitors who will enjoy Protected Geographical Indication wines such as Ilia, Letrini, and Pisatis.
Roll Up Your Sleeves!
Visitors who would like to experience Greece’s agrarian past can participate in the olive harvest and in the oil presses of Ilia. Gather grapes and join in the fun at the grape mill, where the wines are produced. Try your hand at making hilopites from scratch or salt olives and pork. As you harvest, you will sow the seeds of memories among the hardy crops in the countryside around you.
Joy turns into unbridled celebration in the Tastes and Culture Festival or the Gastronomy Festival of Pyrgos. The local wineries also throw their doors open for major events. So keep an eye out for them.