Thursday, 22 August 2013

Any Bream Will Do

OK, so it's high season, too damn hot for gardening and we decided it was time we had another outing. So last Sunday, August 18th, we set out early, ooh, I'd say about 11.30am (!!) to go and see a couple of nice places and take lunch out somewhere. As it happens (plug, plug...) I was due to start another new excursion on Tuesday (which we in fact did) which consists simply of Butterfly Valley followed by Seven Springs, following a circuitous (oooh, big words eh?) and picturesque route from and back to Kiotari, picking up guests through Pefkos & Lindos along the way. We arrive back where we started early in the afternoon, a veritable delight and a doddle.

Yes, well, I've been going to Butterfly Valley every Friday during the season since summer 2011 (prior to proceeding over to Halki), so there wasn't much need to check that out particularly, but I have to admit to not been overly familiar with Epta Piges, or Seven Springs, so - in the interests of research and a selfless desire to help my future excursion guests - we decided to include the popular beauty spot in our route for the day. Well, we've only lived on the island for eight years this very week, so give us a break. Lots to see, lots to do, you know the drill. 

Another place I felt the need to see for myself was the Italian Aqueduct and man-made circular pool at the top of the village of Eleoussa (check out this post). I'd read before about the species of fish called the Gizani, which is extremely rare, yet lives in this very pool up in the hinterland of the island. Take a look at this page for more information. This fish is one of the most endangered species in Europe and yet, here we are with a thriving colony right under our noses and nothing is said about it. Maybe that's the way the conservationists want it, I don't know. But I wanted to see a Gizani or two for myself before it was no longer possible.

Slap bang in the middle of the village of Eleoussa, these fascinating Italian buildings, which had been intended as a sanatorium, now stand crumbling in the hot sunshine.

Rather sadly, this pool and aqueduct, again built by the Italians, was deserted when we got there. We were both quite sad to think that so many people pass very nearby in their hired vehicles and don't even know that this is here.

The fish [Gizani] are clearly visible when you stare into the inviting water. Not supposed to take a dip though. The cafe (below) was all closed up and looking forlorn here too.

The pool is a mere 100 metres walk up the road from the square with all the old Italian Buildings


Arriving later at Epta Piges we decided to take the car up the winding crumbling concrete lane which leads several hundred metres up into the pine forest to the parking area. Once you get into the pine grove where the restaurant and souvenir shop are located it really is an impressive place, especially if you walk down through the terraces of tables and chairs, cross the wooden bridge over the vigorously-flowing stream (yes, even in August) and head up the valley to the left toward the springs themselves. I was quite mesmerised by the trees along the dusty path...

I was expecting a couple of Hobbits to pop out from behind a tree here at any time.

The entrance to the 186m long tunnel leading to the lake on the other side of the hill. You walk it in almost total darkness and up to your ankles in water.

Not a bad place to take a light lunch, eh?


So, after I'd done a pretty thorough reccy, while the beloved sipped at her frappé at a table on the restaurant's terrace, we were ready to press on and find somewhere to eat lunch. 

It had been quite some time since we'd gone down to Stegna too, the cozy little seaside resort over the mountain and down a couple of miles of James Bond-ish road from Arhangelos. We'd gone down there back last winter, when the regular road had been closed and the detour route had tended to put one in mind of the London-Sydney Marathon Rally. Do they still run that event? There you are, you see. the wonders of good old "Daily Mail hated" Google. Next year, 2014, I just found out they're going to run it the other way round. When we'd driven down to Stegna last November, I remember thinking there should have been a couple of extra jerry cans of fuel on the back and a roo-bar on the front of the car to make it feel at home. At least now the regular road is back in commission, affording spectacular views as your ears pop on the way down to the seafront itself.

When the road empties out on the seafront at Stegna, it immediately turns 90º to the right and you see right above the beach and merely feet from the turquoise ocean, Taverna Kozas. I'd always thought that it would be a good place to eat lunch and, her beside me having agreed, we found a spot in full sun, just past the tiny harbour, to park the car and strolled a few minutes back to the taverna itself. Yup, when we returned to the car a couple of hours later it was going to be a bit hot. No, a lot hot. Thank heavens for air-con.

http://stegnakozas.gr/ There are a lot of nice photos on their website, some showing the winter seas, since the taverna is open in wintertime too.

My wife decided to order a Haloumi and Parmesaon salad, plus we ordered some houmus too. They brought us some delicious village bread, sprinkled with olive oil and herbs, which we soon set about reducing in size while waiting for the rest of the food to arrive. I wanted some fish and, ever aware that to order fresh fish means looking at that part of the menu where it says €55(!!!) and haggling while they weighed whichever fish you selected from the cold cabinet, decided to ask if they had Tsipoura, which (of course you knew) is Sea Bream. If you see this fish on a menu it's usually priced realistically at somewhere between €10 and €13. So I asked the rather burly-looking bloke who'd come to take our order if Sea Bream was on.

You know that scene in Fawlty Towers, when Basil reveals just how ignorant he was of wines whilst serving a guest who evidently knew his stuff? It's the one where Basil says, "Most people wouldn't know the difference between a Bordeaux and a Claret," only to be corrected by his guest, who tells him that a Bordeaux is a Claret. Plus he doesn't understand what it means for a wine to be "corked", replying to the man at the table, "What do you mean "corked'? I just uncorked it didn't I?!" Basically you're given that really cringeworthy feeling of someone out of his depth. Of course in Basil Fawlty's case, it's the proprietor not the customer, in mine it was the other way around.  

No sooner had I asked if they had Tsipoura, than my host stared at me like I was in dire need of a towel for the region just aft of my audio organs and replied:

"Tsipoura is not a local fish. That's why it's usually cheap. It's out of the freezer. Here we only serve freshly caught fish in season." Whereupon he gestured theatrically with his left arm back into the bowels of the establishment, where I could see the dreaded cold cabinet awaiting my pleasure. He continued, rather patronisingly I thought, "if you'd like to follow me..." and off he went, safe in the knowledge that he had me hooked and that I would be close behind. Arriving at the glass-fronted cabinet, he proffered a few different fish of varying sizes and we eventually agreed on one which would suit me, since my wife wasn't going for the fish. He of course assured me that this one was freshly caught in local waters and slapped it on to the stainless steel dish of his scales to see what the damage to my wallet would be. After a bit of haggling we arrived at €12, which I have to say I was pretty pleased with. 

"Fried of done over the charcoal, sir?" he asked. At least here he seemed to approve of my choice to have it char-grilled. It's the only way in my book.

Having returned to the table and put my wife's mind at rest with the fact that we wouldn't be selling the car to pay for my extravagance, I poured us both some chilled Retsina and we took to admiring the location, which is truly gorgeous. it's the archetypal taverna location for me. Just feet from the crystal clear waters and affording splendid views of the Aegean Sea...


The fresh basil's a nice touch, but I wish I'd removed that plastic cup for extinguishing cigarettes before I snapped this one!

What's the fish then? See below (a nice touch of suspense there, eh?)
 After a respectable period of time, while my fish was gently cooking and absorbing that exquisite aroma you only get from charcoal, it arrived. Now, I have to say that all the food was very tasty. No complaints there. The salad was huge and consisted of some very fresh lettuce leaves, fried Haloumi and sliced Parmesan, plus a few other veggie ingredients which on the whole pleased my better half greatly. Poured over that; sorry, let me re-phrase, drizzled over that (hey guys, do I know my culinary expressions or what? I don't watch Master Chef and learn nothing you know) was some very flavourful Balsamic glaze. The houmus was TDF and so was the bread. I didn't know what would come with the fish, but decided that I'd act like I knew what was going on when it arrived, whatever!

When our burly host brought it to the table it sat alone on an oval dish. Very a la carte I suppose. No chips, no rice, no sliced tomato or cucumber. But then, I suppose in some of these slightly more select fish restaurants that's how they do things. I didn't really mind, since the salad, houmus and bread had already put my stomach well on the way to capacity anyway. Our host proceeded to de-head the fish and gut it of its main skeleton for me, before placing the dish between my hands and declaring that "You eat this fish with your fingers, sir. You don't use cutlery." before once again walking off. Now I don't know about you, but at this juncture I had no idea whether he was just having a laugh to see if I'd fall for it. So, deftly re-positioning my body so that the staff wouldn't see very well, I set about my grilled fish with my fork. It was delicious and completely lived up to my expectations. As usual my beloved wanted to sample some of it and happily she agreed that the flesh was very succulent and cooked to perfection. As you'll have noted from the photo above, I did actually have a go with the fingers just a little.

When a little later the burly one returned to ask if I'd enjoyed it, I took the opportunity to ask him what it was called. He replied that it was called "Sargos". I was to consider myself enlightened. Mind you, I'm still quite sure that Sea Bream [Tsipoura] is a locally caught fish, but maybe just not in season. I wasn't about to argue the toss with this guy though, having already lost quite a few points.

Having asked for the bill we were rather thrilled to receive one of the biggest freebies we'd had in a long while...

That's a melon sorbet on the left, with a dollop of vanilla ice cream over a hot chocolate mousse on the right. yea, that's what I thought. I cleaned both bowls.

So, there you have my report on the taverna called Kozas. As I sat down to write this post I decided to do a little Googling about the fish called Sargos. Guess what, it's common name is Sheepshead...

...but it's a member of the Bream family.

5 comments:

  1. What a lovely long read for this grey damp morning!Very interested to learn that the fish, which I assumed were giant goldfish when we discovered this pool last visit, are something more interesting. Or maybe it's the smaller ones that are the rare fish!
    Vicki

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    Replies
    1. Yea the goldfish are Goldfish, members of the carp family. It's the little ones that are the rare ones.

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  2. Great post John!
    We have a very good friend (Valadis) who now has a roadside 'stall' selling local produce - honey, herbs, spices etc. on the road from Salakos to Embonas. His stall is on the right hand side about 1 km from Salakos village. Valadis hails from Damilia.
    If you go by that way please say hi from us.
    He told us about an area called 'Butterfly River' just near Salakos. When we were last there we had a walk around it.
    Though virtually deserted, its a very beautiful area. Have you seen it?
    Thanks
    Steve
    (Hull)

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  3. Oh, we stopped there (top of the hill with amazing views?) in May and bought some of his local 'prodycts' Steve. Had spent a night in Salakos and intend to go again, so peaceful.Reasonably priced honey and olives and absolutely delicious.

    Vicki

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  4. Hi Vicki
    Yes thats the one. The views are great - I think it is looking over the hills and fields towards the coast at Kamiros Skala.
    As you say the produce is lovely.
    When in the area we also like to stop off for a short visit to the Byzantine Church at Agios Nikolaos Foundoukli.
    This year we had some lunch in the village square at Salakos - the food was great and it was so peaceful.
    Regarding Salakos I believe that a lot of the bottled water on the island comes from the natural springs at Salakos.
    Valadis use to work in Socratous gardens in Rhodes Old Town.
    Thanks for the reply.
    Kind regards
    Steve
    (Hull)

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