Instead of visiting the famous Greek islands that everyone’s already talking about, follow the road less travelled and take a trip back in time to the Peloponnese peninsula. Here you are bound to find many small towns full of history, culture and fascinating people to meet. One such fine example is the quaint little town of Tolos dotted with old-school family-run tavernas that line the sandy shore hugged by the warm waters of the Argolic Gulf. Many of the town’s buildings are still intact from the 1960s – reminiscing the era of the first tourist arrivals in the area and the sun-drenched summers of the Mediterranean.
Recounting the memories of our first visit to this delightful town, full of character, two years later we again find ourselves in Tolo, – this time however to attend the 4th stop of the Peloponnese Food Stories Festival which promises to be an annual event dedicated to the celebration of food, wine, heritage and people.
As our favorite saying goes, the best way to truly discover a destination is through the stomach.
Everything tastes better local
The downtown of Tolo is compact and easy to stroll, when you reach the end of the main road you will be met by the small harbor, a mooring point for the local fishermen’s boats and sailing yachts.
Tolo is the kind of place where you are encouraged to stop watching the clock and simply succumb to the rhythm that is guided by the lingering meals accompanied by the faint lapping of the waves, the refreshing swims and romantic evenings lit by the moon rising over the bay.
Once you are done relaxing and recharging, don’t forget to stop by a few vineyards and local producers, because truly everything tastes better local.
And why should we embrace eating locally? That’s because the locally-grown food tastes better, and is usually picked within 24 hours before being placed on the shelves. Farmers can grow what the season will support, thus you will be eating in season which is proven excellent for our health. By buying locally produced products you are also supporting the local community which helps to sustain local producers and create local jobs.
Try the Star Dishes
On the shores of the Argolic Gulf apart from the divine fresh seafood one can enjoy a plethora of flavors which are a gift of mother earth. While attending the vibrant gastronomic event we had the pleasure of sampling an abundance of local flavors such as extra virgin olive oil, cheeses, wines, spoon sweets, honey and fresh fruit juices, just to name a few.
Let us introduce you to some of the characteristic products the region is renowned for and are a reflection of the land.
Trahanas – Anastasios Mallios
This humble pebble-shaped grain product has a long standing history across the Eastern Mediterranean. It is mixed with milk, buttermilk or yogurt to form a thick mass. It’s usually in season at the end of the summer and the dairy-based trahanas is made either sweet or sour. The sweet version is prepared using milk, usually goat’s milk and the sour one is mixed with yogurt or buttermilk.
Anastasios Mallios, a local traditional pasta maker, let us in on several of his secrets on what it takes to make the perfect trahanas. According to Mallios it takes strength to form the mixture therefore the first part which involves heavy and continuous mixing with a large wooden spoon, should be left to the man and then the woman will add the final touches before serving the final masterpiece. What a fine example of teamwork that is.
Trahanas is considered one of the oldest comfort foods and in Greece alone it comes in many shapes and varieties.
Gogges – seashell pasta
This simple hearty dish is the local egg-free pasta that originated in Greece and is particularly famed in the Argolis (Argolida) and Laconia regions of the Peloponnese. It is associated with the Arvanite population, who were a semi-nomadic Greek tribe living in the Arvaron region (modern-day region of Albania). The pasta itself is made of three simple ingredients, flour, water and salt. It is then rolled into thin strips which are then cut up into smaller pieces and with the use of the fingers are then made into a seashell shape. Simple in flavor, they are best served hot, topped with a soft myzithra cheese, olive oil or butter and seasoned with black pepper.
Traditionally this dish is served during the Tirini (cheese week) throughout the Carnival season (Apokries).
Artichokes of Iria
This great vegetable which is rich in fiber and loaded with nutrients has found home on the lush fields of Iria village (approximately 30 minute drive from Tolo). Every May the village of Iria hosts the Artichoke Festival in honor of its star vegetable, where visitors may sample an array of artichoke dishes prepared by the locals. The feast is accompanied by live music and dancing. It is a wonderful opportunity to connect with the local community.
Where to Enjoy a hearty meal in Tolo
Anna Pliatsika is an ebullient host, she and her family run the Ormos tavern set on the shores of Tolo with the perfect table set up, where guests can enjoy a delightful meal while their toes are literally touching the sand.
The menu is inspired by the richness of the sea and the changing of the seasons, thus seasonal produce is welcomed and celebrated in their dishes.
Octopus stiffado is a must on the menu at Ormos, a family recipe that Anna is extremely proud of and rightly so. The rich tomato sauce and the tenderness of the octopus make every bite even more memorable. Another dish worth the praise is the cuttlefish served with leeks cooked in a white wine sauce.
The cod croquettes are battered in crumbs of bread rusks, to give it an authentic hard shell served with a refreshing tartar sauce made of capers and pickles mixed with mayonnaise.
No Greek menu is complete without a pie, here in Argolida one can taste a special version of cheese pie (tiropita) known as tiropitari which is either fried on a pan or on a slab of stone. Anna’s recipe is simply devine and the soft filling which is a mix of feta cheese with cream cheese is complemented by the sweet flavor of homemade tomato jam.
Don’t forget to leave room for dessert, try the all-time classic portokalopita (orange pie) and karidopita (walnut cake) combined with the ideal drink to toast the wonderful meal with – an aromatic homemade geranium liquor.
This cozy family taverna enjoys a beautiful garden setting serving as a perfect backdrop for alfresco dining and this is what summer is about – the joy of enjoying a meal outside with family and friends.
The menu is influenced by Greek and Italian flavors, serving dishes using fresh local produce. Here you will find a great choice of fresh Greek pies, refreshing salads, locally sourced meats, pizza and pasta. The beautiful venue is ideal for hosting baptisms and weddings.
In the mood for seafood with fabulous sea views? Look no further than Romvi, named after the uninhabited island in the Argolic gulf just across from Tolo beach, this old-school tavern enjoys a prime location right on the beach.
A perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner accompanied by chilled wine or a glass of ouzo. Good times never go out of season.
Wines of the Peloponnese – A wide spectrum of flavors and aromas
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the same stands true for taste. The Peloponnese peninsula is home to some of the finest wines of Greece and oenophiles will be spoilt for choice of exceptional wineries which dot this historical land. The Koroniotis estate winery was established in 1999 in Panorama of Argos, northeast Peloponnese – in an area that enjoys a unique microclimate that refreshes the vines.
The wines are produced from ancient Greek wine varieties Assyrtiko and Malvasia Aromatica which grow in harmony on the terroir of the Argolis Prefecture. Kyriakos Koroniotis, a chemical engineer by profession, spent years working in various laboratories in the Netherlands, enhancing his experience in various segments of the food industry as well as soil and plant analysis. He returned to his homeland to pursue his passion of winemaking and it is his precision craftsmanship that turns the wine into pure art.
The 1300 B.C. The Mycenaean WA-NA-X (wanax is an ancient Greek word for king) is a wonderful PGI (Protected Geographical Indication Peloponnese) white wine produced from the Assyrtiko grape variety. Assyrtiko is commonly connected to the unique terroir of Santorini where the notes of vibrant acidity are the result of the volcanic soil. Yet right here in Argos, the vines have also found their home producing a fine wine with elegant minerality.
The Malvasia with its refreshing acidity and fragrant aftertaste, evokes intense aromas of white flowers, peach and pear, with hints of kiwi. It is made of Malvasia Aromatica grape variety.
Koroniotis Fine Wines produces seven wine labels, two of which are the premium red wines, Argus Syrah and Merlot.
The estate winery is open to visitors daily from 08:30 am until 3:30 pm. Guided tours of the winery are available and usually last for about one and a half hours. A typical presentation and tasting includes 5-6 wines paired with small seasonal dishes. (Tel: +30 2751102416, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Visitors may also enhance their wine tasting experience with a seasonal four-course menu.
Where to Stay in Tolo
Tolo offers a great choice of accommodation options. During our visit we stayed at the Tolo hotel which belongs to the Skalidis family hotel chain. The hotel enjoys a prime location on the waterfront and is conveniently located to all the town’s main attractions.
*Passion for Greece was a guest on this Press Trip organized by Mythical Peloponnese in collaboration with Tourism Association of Tolo and Tourism Media and Events. All opinions expressed are always my own.