Saturday, August 24, 2013

Gluten Free in Greece Part 3: Santorini

When you look at pictures of Greece, I’m willing to bet that 90% of those pictures were taken in Santorini.  The views from this volcanic island are exquisite, dramatic and simply breathtaking.

Oia, Santorini
Built on a volcano that erupted over 3,600 years ago, the island of Santorini is rumored by some to be the lost Atlantis.  The eruption changed the landscape of the Caldera and left the island of Santorini with a dramatically high elevation on one side and a sea-level elevation on the other. Oia, one of the most recognizable cities in Greece, is perfectly balanced at the top of the island at 984 feet above sea level (nearly equivalent to a 100 story building). The other half of the island slants down to the sea and is actually on a beach.  Santorini’s beaches offer a variety of colors as the dried lava varies from black to red to white.

We stayed in Perissa and ventured into Fira and Oia during our 2 day-stay.  We enjoyed walking around the markets in Fira, but after about 2 hours we felt we had seen it all. From Fira we took a bus into Oia, which was an experience in itself.  The windy roads as you climb the volcano were definitely not for the faint of heart, or the claustrophobic.

The views from Oia were absolutely spellbinding and something my mind would never have been able to conjure by itself.  The white architecture built into the side of the volcano contrasts vividly to the deep azure blue of the Sea.  It’s absolutely breathtaking.  We spent the rest of the day wandering around Oia as we were determined to stay for the famous sunset.  One travel tip I’d recommend though is to bring a jacket.  The island cools off quite a bit once the sun sets and we found ourselves huddled together to try to keep warm at one point (keep in mind, we travelled in June).

Alright alright, you clicked on this blog to get a feel for the gluten free Santorini cuisine, so here we go:

The group at Noma
 Noma Kuzina Mediterra: Our hotel was situated on a quaint little street facing the black beach and offered restaurants, shops and more right outside our door.   We  originally sat down at restaurant that seemed much more like a tourist restaurant than an authentic Greek restaurant and after viewing their picture-only menu decided to continue our search.  Down just a few feet was Noma, our hidden gem.  The restaurant was an indoor/outdoor type set up with a bit of a swanky feel to it but offered simple foods at simple prices.  As soon as we sat down we were greeted with a shot of a local spirit, which tasted of honey and organically sparked a conversation with the restaurant owner. Coincidentally, the owner had lived in the USA for a few years growing up and to my delight was also was very educated on Celiac Disease.  He even discussed his idea of creating and distributing a gluten free pizza crust to the restaurants he oversaw in the city (yes please!).  After a long discussion on how successful I think it would be, it was time to order.  I ordered a decadent potato casserole that was out of this world.  I wish I could recreate it somehow because the
Amazing potato casserole at Noma
flavors were simple yet divine.  It was oozing with cheese, bacon, chives and some type of tangy mix of spices, garlic and sour cream that threw it over the top.  The dish probably could have served 2, but I ate the whole thing accompanied by a refreshing Caprese salad.  I dreamt of this casserole the rest of our time in Santorini and highly recommend the restaurant for that reason only.  Before heading that way, you may want to send the restaurant a facebook message and see if they have started offering gluten free pizza crust!

Another view at Pelekanos
Oia is known to have some of the best sunsets in the world.  We had arrived in the city around noon and after exploring, shopping and picture taking, it was time to wait out the remaining  afternoon.  We ate light snacks, drank wine and just relaxed at quite a few restaurants within the town, but since everything was so simple I didn’t write down the restaurant names (oops!).   As with most small restaurants, I stuck to the Greek Salad just to be safe.

Shrimp at Pelekanos
 Pelekano’s: The time had finally come for the sun to set and cast it’s painting across the Aegean Sea.  We luckily got to the restaurant just in time to get a table at the corner of the glass-encased dining room that extended even further above the city of Oia than expected.  The restaurant played a dramatic opera concerto while the sun made it’s descent and then quickly changed to upbeat music once the event had passed.  The view from the dining room was absolutely stunning but the food for gluten free travelers was a bit bland. I ate shrimp, dusted with pink peppercorns accompanied with some garlic butter along with a side of roasted potatoes (a girl’s got to have some type of carb after a long day of walking!).  Because Oia is more of a tourist stop, the restaurants we found weren’t anything out of the ordinary.  I’d recommend getting a cocktail and light dinner while watching the sun set from the balcony but recommend dining elsewhere if a hearty gluten-free meal is what you’re looking for. 
Sunset at Pelekanos

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