In Crete, young cooks and winemakers are fascinated by the island’s ancient flavors. Writer Gisela Williams searches out the best, starting with an Ottoman Era-inspired brunch.
Two years ago, when a Hollywood celebrity wanted to take his family and friends to Greece, his team contacted Beyond Spaces, the country’s top villa rental company. Maria Nikolakaki, its founder, organized a ridiculously over-the-top trip in the Cyclades, featuring an elaborate treasure hunt based on the epic tale of Odysseus. The group sailed on private yachts; they found themselves in the midst of adventures with sirens and ancient kings (role-playing actors). Meals, like a goat barbecue on an uninhabited island, were reenactments from the Odyssey.
Inspired by that assignment, and requests that followed, Nikolakaki recently launched a new travel company, Kudos Life Experiences. When I asked her to send me on a culinary adventure—minus the private yacht—she suggested Crete, one of Greece’s southernmost islands, and its biggest. Crete is the birthplace of Greek cuisine, known for everything from outstanding olive oil and lamb to tomatoes and sheep-milk cheese. The island is also home to standout artists, like ceramist Manousos Chalkiadakis, whose work is on display at his beautifully renovated 18th-century stone house near the White Mountains. “You can very easily spend a month on Crete and never get bored,” Nikolakaki promised.