Tinos, Greece

Pyrgos

Tinos isn’t one of those Greek islands that you hear a lot about. It doesn’t have exciting nightlife, like neighboring Mykonos, and while the weather is warm, the winds can be a bit fierce. But the upside is that it’s ruggedly beautiful and if you go during off-season, you’ll have a lot of the island to yourself and you can drive several kilometers and not come across anyone else. You’ll have the road to yourself.

Not being juilletistes or aoûtiens (people who take their vacations in July, or August…or in some cases, both) we took our vacation in September, when most people return to France for the rentrée. To me, it’s the ideal time to head out of town and traveling is much easier, and not just in France, but across Europe.

wild Greek herbs

Friends with a house on Tinos invited us to visit, and we stayed with them for a few days, then stayed on after they went home, taking advantage of the calm island, one that’s easy to get around; you won’t find traffic jams, and most villages in Tinos can be driven to in 30 to 45 minutes, tops.

Tinos is known for being a deeply religious place and it’s said there are around 700 churches; which is quite a few, considering the population of the island is in the vicinity of ten thousand people. A number of visitors come to make the pilgrimage to Our Lady of Tinos, and crawl on their hands and knees up a sloped, carpeted pathway, that goes from the sea to the church, hoping for a miracle.

Tinos restaurants

My miracle was that I made it through a few weeks shuffling between three languages, without making any major gaffes. The signage on the island is excellent, and it was hard not to remark, that so are the restrooms. All of us – a mix of French, Italian, Swiss, and the lone American (me) – couldn’t help but notice on how clean shopkeepers and restaurants kept their marble WCs. I didn’t take any pictures but imagine of an all-marble hospital, and you’ll get some idea of how clean they were.

Some signs (and business cards), however, were only in Greek, which is natural being in Greece. And when they were in the English alphabet most of us are used to, they didn’t always correspond, so I provided business cards just above for four of the places I mention in this post, in case you decide to visit. If you want to live like a local, you’ll have to learn some Greek, which my friend who we were visiting did: In less than two years, he learned to read, write and speak Greek fluently. But when he left, we were on our own, which wasn’t a problem.

(For reference on the business cards, the top left is for the taverna in Isternia, the top right in the cafe in Kardiani. Bottom left is a good Greek food store near the port, and on the bottom right is Tarsana, an excellent restaurant on the far end of the main port, all of which I’ll mention later.)

But no matter. Tinos is small and if you ask someone for directions or have a question, they will happily point you in the right direction. The locals were very nice and we got by with our mixture of French, English, with a few words of Greek we picked up, tossed in to the mix.

Louza

We were surrounded by natural beauty; gnarled olive trees, cured pork loin (called louza) dangling outside small kitchens, and whitewashed churches in blaring contrast blue skies so bright, it was hard to look at them. Small villages were immaculately clean, and many of the homes and town were constructed using of thick white marble, making them a wonder to walk through. And we didn’t have a single bad meal during our stay. Restaurants use very fresh ingredients and the cooks and servers were proud of what they set in front of us.

Sardines on Tinos

To visit Tinos, you’ll want to rent a car. We had a mini 4×4 because the road to our place was treacherous…to say the least. My Parisian driver, Romain, was unfazed, although I had to close my eyes a number of times when he took a sharp hairpin turn where if my door had swung open, I would have taken a drop-off down a cliff. And then you wouldn’t have me to kick around anymore.

Jason Rent-a-Car put us in one of those Suzuki 4x4s, which I think have gotten better since they were introduced in America. Somehow, we survived. And we were happy to arrive the first day after having to get up at 2:45am to be at Orly Airport by 4am, for our 6am flight. I didn’t think it’d be a problem at that early hour to breeze into the airport and step on a plane traveling within Europe just an hour before, but my neighbor warned that he missed his early am flight one day because security doesn’t open until 4:30am and you need to get there early to be at the front of the line when they open. He was farther back and didn’t make it. So we set the alarm and got a good night’s sleep…about 3 hours worth.

Tinos white wine

By the time we arrived on the island that evening, it was nearly 8pm. Fortunately the boat from Rafina (near Athens) is efficient and we used our few hours at the port to lunch at La Serena, the only restaurant that didn’t have someone out front urging passers-by to stop in. (I figure if a restaurant has to do that, they’re not that good.) We both had grilled sardines, our first of many Greek salads, and a bottle of retsina.

You either like, or dislike, the resiny Greek wine. I went to college in a town with a decent-sized Greek community in New York, so I got used to it and like it. But it can be a tough sell. Fortunately on Tinos, they make excellent non-resinated white wine and when we arrived, one of our Parisian pals tried to pour me a glass of red (a majority of the people in Paris who drink wine favor red, and white is a tough sell), but I was a bad guest and asked for the white. Fortunately I did, though, and the one above was excellent, although when I went to the store to buy a few more bottles, my Greek failed me and the others I picked up, that had similar labels, had a strong, oxidized flavor, rather than the clean, mineral flavor of the first.

Tinos has spectacular views, no matter where you are. The steep hills that lead to the sea are either clustered with marble villages, or deserted, save for a few mountain goats wandering around and decorative pigeon houses, which the island is also famous for. (Some say they were raised for dining, although we didn’t see pigeon on any menus.)

And while some beaches are right off the main road, others are more secluded and have rock stairs to make the trek (slightly) easier. I always thought drones were silly, but when you’re parked on a sunny beach in the middle of nowhere, after a hike down a rocky ridge, the idea of the delivery of an ice-cold gin & tonic, or a frosty Greek coffee Frappé being delivered to you, would have been something that I would not have minded.

View from Tinos church

In addition to the occasionally fierce winds, the other thing the island lacks is medical care, which I found out when I injured my neck. Rumor had it that there is some sort of medical facility, but friends told me that you had to plan your injury (or giving birth) on the day that particular doctor is there. Otherwise, it’s a helicopter trip off the island, to Athens.

Fortunately my neighbor back in Paris is a doctor and came to my rescue, although the visits to the local pharmacist were a bit of comedy. When the pharmacist took my temperature, he pulled a glass thermometer from the cluster of pens in a cup holder by the register, gave it a shake, and took my temperature with it. Afterward, he slipped the thermometer back in with the pens, ready for the next person.

So it’s easy to understand why praying is sometimes a good idea, and you’ll be happy find beautiful churches everywhere, sometimes right on the beach. Which, if you think about it, is a good way to get people to go to church.

Tinos church

The island is also dotted with the mountain goats, who became our constant companions on the island. They roam everywhere – including up steep cliffs, over rocky ranges and craggy hilltops, and even across roads, which prompted a few sudden slamming-on-of-the-brakes by Romain.

In the few instances, just before my life flashed before my eyes, I paused to wonder if a helicopter could come and get us from the unforgiving drop-off down a cliff that I was sure we were going to take. Or maybe some of the goat were trained to rescue people. But mostly they were interesting in eating whatever they could find, and going about their foraging…

Greek mountain goats

Another thing to do before I die, if I decide I ever want to remodel another kitchen, I’m going to skip the search for another French farmhouse sink and go for the Greek (marble) version.

Greek marble sink

With all the debate in France over wearing burkinis on the beach, one thing that didn’t get mentioned during the controversy was how economical they are. I can’t take a lot of sun, like I used to. So I’ve taken to wearing a rash-guard, which I first bought when I was thinking about moving from San Francisco to sunny Hawaii to take up surfing. When I realized that surfing was 85-90% paddling, I decided to move to Paris instead.

David swimwear

But since there are no “Two for $7.99” deals on sunscreen in Europe, at €14 a bottle, it’s cheaper to wear more clothes at the beach than slather on the sunscreen. Now I just need to find matching leggings that offer a little more coverage…

The island is small so even if you look at the map and think, “Wow, we’re going to cross the entire island this morning?” it’s possible to get to most places in less than an hour.

mortar and pestle

We took a drive out to Panormos bay, which was lovely, stopping in Pyrgos, known for it’s marble. I saw there giant mortars for around €150, which would cost at least that to get home, so I passed.

Tinos Greece

As we wandered through Pyrgos, I had jotted down that our friends said was especially worthwhile for the galaktoboureko offered up at one of the cafes in the town square. A writer elsewhere said the look of the cream filling in this dessert doesn’t do justice to its flavor and I’d have to agree.

What looks like a slab of something best left behind in the dessert window, was pretty terrific. The cream was light and perfect, with filo topping giving it a nice crunch. It was rich and filling, which was easier to eat with the help of two extra-strong coffee frappés. Fortunately the Greeks are not reluctant to add ice to drinks and from the looks he got, Romain was the only Frenchman they’d ever met that went out of his way to ask for extra. I think they are probably still talking about him.

Nescafe Frappe and Galataburiko

When I’d bought butter at the local food shop, the owner said “Just to let you know – this is for breakfast,” presumably because the Greeks mostly use olive oil in their cooking. But butter gets put to good use in pastries like this, so let’s not write off Greek butter so quickly, folks.

And speaking of dairy, there are Greek cheeses beyond feta and at the grocery store in the main town of Tinos, perhaps the only one on the island, they have a wide selection of Greek cheeses, although most looked remarkably similar. (And for the life of me, I couldn’t read the signs.) The best of them was the one on the left, which reminded me of pecorino and was mist likely made of sheeps’ milk. The one on the top, I thought would be creamy in the middle, like camembert, but had a feta-like texture, and was great crumbled in a frittata I made with bitter greens I picked up at the market they call ‘chicory,’ that were similar to dandelions.

Tinos Greece-5

We also had more than our share of breadsticks. While there are bread bakeries everywhere in Tinos, it’s hard to compete with the breads in France, so we went with the nutty sticks at the bakeries. Some even had cornmeal, which you can see peeking out of the bag, although the photos in this post were taken with my iPhone so some of them may be a little fuzzy. The breaksticks made an excellent snack along with wine, cheese, and olives, before dinner, and Romain bought six bags to bring home, which may make him the only Frenchman that brings bread back to France. (Although I did have to explain to him at the start of the trip what a bread “stick” was.)

Greek breadsticks

Right away we learned that the best way to order at a restaurant or taverna is to glance at the menu, then wait for the waiter or owner to come and tell you what they have that day.

greek dips

You’ll usually find they have some sort of dip or spread as a starter, whether it is tzatziki, taramasalata, smoked eggplant, like the one we had below at the Porto Raphael restaurant, loaded with capers (which you’ll find growing all over Tinos). There might be whipped feta, shown just above, enlivened with hot red pepper and drizzled with olive oil, or saganaki, the fried cheese that I can never get enough of.

Tinos Greek island-4The other good thing about the server or owner telling you what’s on the menu is that you don’t have to figure out what they are. Most menus were written in English, but they didn’t always correspond to reality. For those who say, “Avoid restaurants that have menus in English when you’re traveling,” surely haven’t been to Greece, or other places where the alphabet is completely different.

Rouget on Tinos

Still, it’s best to just let them guide you to what’s good that day. We never ate badly and I don’t think we had a meal that cost more than €20-25 per person, except the time a certain “someone” insisted on ordering rouget, above, that clocked in at €24, although they were exceedingly fresh (we saw the fisherman hand them to the cook!) and they were certainly worth it.

(Like Italy, restaurants in Greece note which fish and foods are frozen and which are fresh, so you know what you are ordering and paying for. They tried to launch something like that in France, but it sputtered out.)

Greek restaurant check

Even in Greece, we had a few of those only-happens-to-David moments, which usually are confined to Paris: Whatever place I am planning to go, I’ll arrive to find inexplicably closed.

Our friends warned us that places in Tinos close on Wednesday, but when we met up with my friend Renato from Baked in New York, who was partying, um… I mean, relaxing on Mykonos, for lunch (and not on a Wednesday), we arrived in the pretty village of Smadakito only to find the outdoor restaurant under the trees, Katoi, closed.

Tinos

We’d gone a few nights before and I talked to the woman who was the cook, telling her that I was coming back for lunch. But between her English and my Greek, something got lost in the translation and I learned they were only open for dinner.

Nevertheless, I went back with Romain another time and had a great meal there. (Sorry Renato, Sven, and Casey!) Favorites were the skordalia (garlic spread) and cooked eggplant salad. Giant dried beans came bathed in warm tomato sauce, and roasted goat – which I’m pretty sure was local – not sure how you say “roadkill” in Greek, but we did hear gunshots going off late afternoons on the island, so am sure it was “sourced” that way. The waiter told us to try the baked “saganaki” which had eggplant and tiny meatballs melted in with the cheese, which turned out to be the hit of the meal, as was the moussaka, which wasn’t the big, messy square you see in bad Greek restaurants, but a perfect dish of caramelized eggplant, and ground spiced meat simmered over what tasted like cornmeal, lurking underneath.

Tinos Greek island

With Renato & Co., we ended up in a sweet café in Kardiani, for lunch, which offers up an amazing orange cake that was so good, Romain and I ended up going back a few more times to have it.

Tinos Greece-3

I’m not sure of the name of the place (it’s the top right business card, up above), but a lot of the other diners were ordering the yellow puree, which we were told were fava beans, but were actually yellow split peas. It was good, as was the rest of the food, but the star of the restaurant – and perhaps the island, at least in terms of dessert – was that nearly caramelized orange cake.

Greek orange cake

The texture of the cake, a bomb of orange and caramel flavors, made me think it had semolina in it, but Renato did a bit of research and sent me a link to a Portokalopita recipe, which uses filo dough. The version here had locally made orange and lemon marmalade mixed in, which I could tell because they sold jars of the marmalade at the cafe and the cake had little flecks of candied peel. But it had such a spectacular texture and flavor, that I decided that maybe someone needs to give filo another look. Or give it a try in a cake, when he gets a moment.

Another favorite taverna was in Isternia, just above the main road. If you go, take a walk through the village before or after. I know you’re likely not on a WC tour, but there are magnificent marble public facilities in the middle of town whose countertops were nearly six-inch (15cm) thick slabs of solid marble. The open air common area felt like an ancient Greek spa, which at one point, it may have been.

Zucchini fritters

This restaurant became our cantine, as they’d say in French, as it was where we ate frequently. Ta Isternia taverna (top left business card) featured the crisp zucchini fritters, just above, and the wild fennel fritters, just below.

Wild fennel fritteres

We also loved the long-cooked pork with feta and tomatoes cooked in parchment, and the oversized omelet with Tinos sausage. You don’t have to worry about asking for a doggy-bag to take home in Tinos; they’re used to it, likely due to the frugality of island people not wanting to waste food.

Our parisienne friend’s heart almost exploded with joy when carrot-beet salad turned out to be basically the salade de carottes rapées adored by the French, although I was more taken with the salad of tomatoes, feta, olives, and cubes of rustic bread tossed in olive oil.

Fried Tinos cheese

Probably the best restaurant on the island was Tarsana. The taramasalata (fish roe spread) was the best I’ve ever had, and although Romain had gotten tired of me always ordering baked fromage, I loved their version made with grilled local Tinos cheese accompanied by spicy tomato jam.

Souvlaki at Tarsana

We split a huge platter of grilled sardines, but when I saw souvlaki on the menu, I wanted to try that too. (Consequently, about half of that went home with us in a doggy-bag, too.) The local Greek wine, we had no trouble finishing.

Greek wine

The Greeks eat a lot of bread, and in fact, there is a “bread charge” on menus of €1 per person, which is sort of a service charge. So don’t be alarmed if you go to Greece and see an extra few euros on the tab. Most of the breads are simple, and have a cake-like crumb, rather than being crusty, most likely due to the humidity of the island and because they are meant to sop up juices and dips, rather than eaten on its own.

Bread in Tinos

Miraculously, the bread sticks stayed crisp, as did the Greek nougat we tried. Around the main streets in town, there are places near the church that sell religious items and I suspect the nougats sold at the nearby candy shops may be made by a religious order, although that’s just a hunch.

Greek nougat

When we opened one of the crisp paper-wrapped packages, above, inside each was a flattened glob of honey nougat with pistachios or almonds, sandwiched between two rounds of rice paper. When I went to pastry school, we made nougat, but it was quite the task, especially cooking the nougat in the bowl of a giant mixer with heat underneath it, as it whipped, to get it to just the right temperature. A home cook would go mental trying it, and so would a recipe writer, trying to explain it all. So it’s one of those things that’s better bought. And at €1,40 a pop, like these were, I was sold.

Capers in Greece

Capers are also popular in Tinos and are everywhere. I thought the capers in Pantelleria were the best I’d had, but since I’m not necessarily a fan of the concept of “the best______,” since everything, everywhere, and everyone, are different, I will say that these were so good that three jars of them came home in my luggage. And with a measly 10 kilo luggage allowance, it says something that I gave up almost 10% of my luggage allowance to capers.

Tinos Greek island-6

One thing that I couldn’t pack was this chocolate cake, although from the feel of things the last few days when trying to slip on my now sausage-like-feeling rash guard, I found another way to carry it home. I wasn’t all that much looking forward to eating chocolate cake in Greece when it was first presented to me, because it’s not really something they are known for. But I was happy to be proven wrong when I took my first forkful of this one, from this bakery…

Greek bakery in Tinos

It was light and moist, yet rich with deep chocolate flavor and a seductive chocolate icing that stays soft in the heat, so it glides right down, making you want to scrape off the icing before demolishing the rest of the cake.

Tinos Greek island-3

I went back a few times, and not just because the staff was especially adorable, but I was also enamored of the cake. The baker wasn’t there when I went back the last time, shortly before we left, but the clerk said I could come back the following day and talk to the baker about it.

However since it was our last day on Tinos, I had to make a choice between spending the day on the beach with a picnic, swimming in the clear blue sea, dunking ourselves, in the clear blue waters of the Aegean (which I could finally do, once my neck issue cleared up), or getting more intel about the cake. So I left my quest for the cake there and decided to save it for next time.


A Few Tinos Tips

Tinos is a beautiful, and rugged island. Most of the road are paved and in good condition but if you do any off-the-path exploring, prepare yourselves with comfortable walking shoes and sun protection, including a hat. I discovered wrap-around sunglasses, which made me look – and feel – like I was channeling Ari Onassis.

I noted that the island can get windy. We had several days of zero wind, and a few days where the winds were brisk, although it remained warm. So best to check the weather in advance and prepare yourself for what’s ahead. (If you normally wear a hat in the sun, bring an extra; those tend to get blown off easily!)

A few articles I read mentioned the main town in Tinos, by the port, is quite busy in the summer. But in September it was calm and easy-going. We only went to Tarsana restaurant in the main town, which is at the far end of the port, and if you are going to eat by the port, that’s where it should be.

Beaches are everywhere. It does get rather windy so you won’t find people using beach umbrellas. Items like sunscreen are stiffly priced on the island so if you can, bring your own.

Many restaurants in Tinos close during off-season, which starts in early October and lasts through May.

If you plan to see or do anything in Tinos, if staying long than a few days, you’ll want to rent a car. I linked to the company we used in the post and the process was pretty easy, and casual; they left the car by the boat dock with the keys in the ignition and told us when we were ready to drop it off, to leave it there, with the keys in it. If going for a few days, you could likely get by with taxis for shorter distances. There are buses around the island, but the schedules are likely not as frequent as they are in more populated places.

If you plan to visit the churches, men should wear pants that cover their ankles; no shorts or “Capri-style” pants. Women should not wear sleeveless dresses or shirts, or short skirts.

The island is pretty laid-back and people were quite friendly. Most signs (including road signs) and menus are in English, and sometimes in French. It’s hard to get lost on Tinos as there are only a handful of roads.

Most services on the island – gas, pharmacy, grocery and food stores – are in the main town of Tinos. There is a lovely little farmers’ market on the far west side by the port where you can get fresh fruits and vegetables. Don’t expect a large selection but it’s nice to find local produce. There are excellent food shops and bakeries in the main town where you can get local honey, preserves, cheeses, breads, and, yup – chocolate cake. You’ll have trouble finding provisions in smaller towns and villages, so stock up when you can.

To get to Tinos, if coming from Athens, there is a local bus from the airport (it’s just across from the Sofitel, outside, that leaves about every hour) to the port of Rafina. From there, you can take a ferry (~4hrs) or SeaJet (~2-2 1/2hrs) to Tinos. (Alternately, a taxi from the airport to the port of Rafina costs about €35 one way.) The ferry and SeaJet schedules are here. We didn’t buy tickets in advance, but purchased them at one of the agencies on the dock. During high-season, it’s probably a good idea to get tickets beforehand. Some people fly to Mykonos then take the boat to Tinos, which is a 20 to 30 minute trip.

[Special thanks to my friend with the house on Tinos, who helped us get from point A to point B, and also pointed us in the direction of some of the restaurants mentioned.]

 


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64 comments

  • September 16, 2016 11:20am

    What a great travelogue–you really take us along!
    The food looks so delicious AND so healthy. I’m thinking, “let’s eat Greek.”
    I went to Crete and Santorini in early spring–it’s so nice to be off season. We had the place to ourselves. Never travel in the high season if you can help it!
    Amen to rash guards. Now you just need jammers, which I see Decathlon stocks.
    If you want to keep your little Greek theme going, read “My Family and Other Animals,” by Gerald Durrell. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, a memoir of living on postwar Corfu. Live in Tinos sounds similar.

  • September 16, 2016 4:10pm

    What a great post. I felt like I was there with you.

  • Carol
    September 16, 2016 4:46pm

    Loved this. Thank you!

  • molly
    September 16, 2016 5:23pm

    Really a fascinating read, thank you. Great pics also.

  • soozzie
    September 16, 2016 5:24pm

    David, I know that there have been moments of challenges and disappointment, but it must have occurred to you that, all in all, you are living the dream. Thanks for bringing us along….

  • Jake Sterling
    September 16, 2016 5:24pm

    I’d go, just for the fish! I like retsina, but only after I have drunk half of the first glass. I don’t know why it is, but the flavor grows on you. (I know, I know: so do warts.)

  • Danita
    September 16, 2016 5:29pm

    Thank you for this wonderful informative post. Sorry to hear about your neck injury but it appears you had a wonderful vacation nonetheless.

  • robert
    September 16, 2016 5:48pm

    I am really glad you have friends in Tinos, Greece, and you had a good time. We live in Crete, and I must say we enjoy your blogs on food etc.
    Our second love is Paris, so we are happy to read your comments regarding food, and whatever you get-up to. many thanks .

  • Irini
    September 16, 2016 5:50pm

    That was an amazing presentation of your trip, all the details and the photos! I enjoyed it very much, as I had the posts on Instagram. It’s very interesting to see what a visitor sees of a place so common to us (we live on Naxos nearby) and you certainly discovered my favourite restaurant on Tinos – Tarsanas. Your humoristic approach made me smile or laugh quite a few times, and you’re not being unfair at all at some points. Maybe with a little bit of exaggeration but that’s the fun part of it. Thank you!

    • Jeannine
      September 16, 2016 7:29pm

      Irini, you must know the fish restaurant in Naxos Xora with sundried fish! I do not recall the name but dine there with Kathy K of the special, wonderful Folk Art Museum.
      You wisely commented on the outstanding Tinos article by our favorite SF-Paris-everywhere chef!

    • Yohana
      September 16, 2016 9:10pm

      Visit Naxos! We loved it.
      Great post as always David.

      • Irini
        September 16, 2016 10:43pm

        Thank you both!

    • Hillary
      September 17, 2016 2:54am

      Oh, Naxos is my favorite place on earth! I hope to get back there one day.

  • September 16, 2016 6:10pm

    Oh, such a great post! I reckon, next year, that bakery’s chocolate cake will be totally and constantly sold out!
    Also, how lucky that you got to go on vacation off season. September is THE best time to visit the Greek islands!

  • Marilyn
    September 16, 2016 6:31pm

    I really enjoyed this post. I like to see all the different foods, everyplace has something new and interesting. Good job with the photography.

  • Shell
    September 16, 2016 6:38pm

    What a wonderful account. Oh, man, those beautiful fried fish!

    The first time I tasted Retsina was around the holidays, so its always been my ‘Christmas tree wine.’ :-)

  • September 16, 2016 6:38pm

    Beautiful post David. Thank you for the peasure!

  • Lydia
    September 16, 2016 6:47pm

    Great David! So lucky! I cannot find your preferred resto Tarsana anywhere on the map. What is the address?

    • September 16, 2016 6:51pm
      David Lebovitz

      It’s on the business card in the pic at the top of the post (the 3rd image) – it’s the business card on the bottom right. I scratched the name in pen on it, not realizing I was going to use it in a post. If you’re there, you can show someone the picture or just ask, and they’ll point you toward it.

  • September 16, 2016 6:49pm

    David, I just adore you. I have not been out of the US except for Hawaii a few times. You bring the world to me in such a fantastic way. Seeing these places through your eyes is a special treat for me. Know that you have a very positive affect on me, this girl in Northern Cali.

    • Tammy Lai
      September 17, 2016 12:23am

      Thank you for the wonderful post, as always. I really want to go to Tinos now! FYI, fava isn’t made from split peas; fava is the name of the particular legume, which of course is not the same as the bean. Fava only grows in the Greek islands. When cooked long enough, a chicken-like flavor can develop, even if no chicken broth is used. So delicious!

  • Phyllis Merrill
    September 16, 2016 6:53pm

    What a wonderful post! I feel as if I was with you on this trip to a part of Greece I have never been. Thank you for this post and, especially thank you for your Paris blogs. Phyllis

  • Jeannine
    September 16, 2016 7:25pm

    Might you have been served a salad of caper leaves? Picked as the berry but far tastier I think. Only tomatoes, red onions, feta and no cucumbers – special. I buy them a village woman at the entrance to Akrotiri in Santorini. I have purchased some commercial bottles but they are small leaves and very overpriced. It is not a mainland product but do ask for caper leaves.

    • September 16, 2016 7:30pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, I love picked caper leaves and chopped them up on Greek salads I made when we ate at home. I picked some leaves while I was in Tinos, hoping to pickle them when I got home. But I wasn’t 100% sure that they were the right leaves and some said it was better to use the ones in the spring, which are more tender.

  • September 16, 2016 7:29pm

    David,

    you should go (or go back because I think you have been there) to Kilikio, two doors down from me. It is not a Cycladic island, but Kritonos imports to France all the best island products, an amazing choice of what you can find in Greece.

    And the goats on the road remind me of Corsica.

    A bientôt,

    Paule

  • September 16, 2016 7:46pm

    Your posts are always wonderful for this Los Angeles reader and Tinos was beyond magical. Photos made me hungry. Wine made me thirsty. And my heart opened up to this fascinating place. But — Romain must do the driving! Thank you for every post you write!

  • FE
    September 16, 2016 7:47pm

    I believe I’ve read that “fava” is the name of a split pea hummus. I wonder about the etymology of that.

    • Lisa
      September 30, 2016 11:18am

      “fava” is how they call in greece the yellow split peas. It is what is written on the package when you buy them. Also when you order “fava” in a greek restaurant you actually have yellow split peas that are boiled till completely softened and then pulsed with the water in which they where boiled, to a mushy consistency. Most cooks add during boiling a peeled onion for additional flavour. It is usually served with capers or caramelized onions on top ;)

  • anna
    September 16, 2016 7:58pm

    Thank you for giving me a delightful 5 minutes trip to Tinos.
    Anna

  • September 16, 2016 8:44pm

    I am saving this for my next trip to Greece after visiting my parents village in the north, I am putting Tinos on my list. This time I plan to stay longer on an island. The food all over Greece was wonderful,end of summer tomatoes, better than my home grown, figs (mouth watering just writing the word),honey, cheese were ethereal. Love your writing and photos. My daughter unknowing I am a big fan of yours bought me your book for my birthday. She said it looked like something I would like! Indeed!
    Another LA reader

  • September 16, 2016 8:51pm

    Excellent post, thoroughly enjoyed all the pics. Must smoke some eggplant before it goes out of season.

  • elena
    September 16, 2016 8:55pm

    I will go there next year.
    Thank you very much!

  • Josephine
    September 16, 2016 9:05pm

    Good article. We spent some time in turkey this summer and the food in the photos looked just like what we had! Love those small fish!

    Keep writing about more food!
    Thanks!

  • Sandra
    September 16, 2016 9:19pm

    Wonderful post. I do so enjoy your writing. Do you think the orange cake is similar to the Santiago cake, Greek yogurt, semolina and oranges, I’m going to try adding marmalade next time. Merci for this post

  • Shirley Koachway
    September 16, 2016 9:29pm

    Thanks so much David! My daughter, Ella and friend Patty and I spent several wks in the islands, heaven! I think we would all enjoy traveling together!!

  • Kristine Angelo
    September 16, 2016 9:37pm

    David, thank you for a terrific posting and wonderful pictures. I was having a very difficult morning and after reading about your adventures in Tinos, I am feeling much better. You definitely have a talent for writing and photography as well as cooking. Keep it up…I always look forward to your postings <3

  • Amy
    September 16, 2016 9:48pm

    Great post! I have such fond memories of my travels to the Greek islands.

    Your mention of nougat has me laughing. My 13 year old daughter and my mom took a trip to Provence this past June. I asked my daughter to bring me back some nougat, which I assumed she’d get prepackaged in a shop. Instead, she bought it at one of the markets without paying attention to the price per kilo. She came home with two large slabs and paid 70 euros, the most expensive purchase of the trip. It has led to many laughs with a “live and learn” lesson for my daughter. Needless to say, we savored each bite. :-)

  • Irini
    September 16, 2016 10:37pm

    Oh I forgot about the portokalopita. The recipe is very similar to mine but it’s missing the eggs!

  • Dee Ann
    September 16, 2016 10:37pm

    Excellent post…so enjoyed the visit via you to Greece. We so often take for granted travel blogs/food blogs so just want to let you know we appreciate and love your writings…Thanks so much!

  • Kathy Urbano
    September 16, 2016 10:37pm

    Very Nice commentary on your trip. The food and Tinos look incredible! The pics are great and where can I get a big jar of those capers!! Thanks for such an informative article.

  • Susan Hill
    September 16, 2016 10:49pm

    Love this post. I’ve been to Crete and Lesbos for a couple of weeks each and loved the food and the atmosphere. This island sounds wonderful. Thank you.

  • Laura
    September 16, 2016 11:02pm

    What a wonderful read. Almost as good as being there and I am dreaming of the wonderful food and the goats. Thanks for sharing!

    • Carolyn Z
      September 18, 2016 1:33am

      Goats! I love watching them. I enjoy eating them in a nice curry. Ever see them at the county fair? So cute!

  • Lynn D.
    September 16, 2016 11:02pm

    It sounds like a wonderful vacation, but I do wish you’d photographed the marble WCs and posted them on urinal.net!

  • johanna
    September 17, 2016 12:16am

    dear david: thank you for this truly wonderful post. my fiancé and i want our honey moon to be a food tour of the mediterranean isles; this was a GREAT help.
    i just wanted to point you to the great traditional way to make nougat, as you mentioned in your post. except i’m going to say, rather than being ”mental”, as you said, IT’S SUPER EASY instead!! no candy thermometer, no temp monitoring, nothing!! and believe me, if i can do it, anyone can. anyway it just takes a little time and elbow grease stirring, and use a mild, flavor-filled honey rather than a heavier sweeter one. it came out great, really lovely. –johanna in NoCA.
    here is the post:

    https://food52.com/recipes/25223-torrone-sardo-sardinian-nougat

    • September 17, 2016 10:24am
      David Lebovitz

      That’s an interesting recipe, although 45 minutes + 30 minutes of constant stirring (!) – thanks for passing it along…

  • Sandra Alexander
    September 17, 2016 12:48am

    Lovely post, thank you! Took me right back to a marvellous holiday we had on Kythera some years ago.

  • Marianne McGriff-Zionsville, IN
    September 17, 2016 1:28am

    David, What a wonderful post…I have Greek roots and it’s on my ‘bucket list!’ My grandfather came to this country through Ellis Island from Greece in 1914. He didn’t speak a word of English. I’ve always admired his courage. Thank you for sharing your time there! Marianne McGriff PS While in Paris in August, I sent people on our tour to Jacques Genin…I love it! Thank you for recommending!

  • September 17, 2016 5:45am

    Having lived in Astoria for a while I really miss the wonderful savory foods of Greece. A must visit especially after this delectable post. I forget the Greek word for thank you…
    Salavating here at 5 am

  • Sabine
    September 17, 2016 2:35pm

    david, thank you so much for your tinos impressions. i could even smell the sea, the food and feel the wind of the greek islands while reading it.

    it feels like ages that i went there almost once every year in my 20ies. now i’m a mom of two little boys and our circles concerning holiday trips are a little bit narrow these days.

    but after reading your post i swear to myself: the first trip – when the kids are a little bit older – will be a trip to one of the smaller greek islands again!

    once you get infected with this “islands virus” you want to experience this unique holiday atmoshere again and again…

  • Dimitra
    September 17, 2016 10:56pm

    David, amazing post, as always!…
    I live in Chania, Creta Island and we make portokalopita a lot.
    A very good recipe, from a famous greek pastry chef, is this one

    It has marmalade in it as well and it’s really an amazing recipe.
    Unfortunately, I didn’t find it translated and I’m not sure that any digital translator would do it correctly, so, if interested, ask any greek friend of yours to help you or e-mail me for any questions. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Anna
    September 17, 2016 11:51pm

    €14 for a bottle of sunscreen? Only in France! It doesn’t cost more than a regular face cream/body balm here in Poland (which is between 10-30PLN – €2.5-7 – for good quality stuff made by Polish brands ). Of course you can find expensive spf as well. I don’t know about other countries but I recall Germany and Czech Republic having these CVS/Rite Aid kind of drugstores (DM and Rossmann? Something like that) where they for sure have deals like 2 for $7.99. Next time visit Germany before going on vacation! ;)
    Somehow, I’d never heard of skordalia before, now I’m in the middle of making it.

  • Amy in Hunting Valley, OH
    September 18, 2016 12:45am

    In my next life I want to come back as you. Thanks for a beautiful look at a lovely place that I’d otherwise never get to see.

  • Xandrios
    September 18, 2016 3:03pm

    Wonderful representation of the island life! I was at Skyros a few weeks ago which is very similar in many aspects.

    The hard cheese is most probably a local Graviera – every island/region has their own. The ones from Crete and Naxos are very famous, but local ones may be just as good (or perhaps even better!). Graviera is prepared with cow and sheeps milk, and aged.

    The orange cake may have been a form of Ravani which is a common Greek/Turkish orange cake with Syrup.

    Lastly, the dandelion-like greens most probably actually were dandelion (called Radikia in Greek), or very similar. The catch-all name is ‘Horta’ in Greek, generally meaning boiled/steamed greens with salt, olive oil and lemon juice. Depending on the region and season different greens are used. Dandelion, chicory and stingy nettles are very common.

  • Maria Pappas
    September 18, 2016 5:25pm

    David , please next time you visit Greece, try some other wines.. Most Greeks do not drink retsina anymore.

    • September 19, 2016 3:18pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, we did drink local wines with every meal that were not retsina. One favorite was the bottle shown in the post, but most tavernas served wine from Tinos and that’s what we mostly drank.

  • September 19, 2016 4:45pm

    You’re the best blogger and recipe writer. Reading this when its cold and pouring rain in seattle is a great moment in armchair travel. I’ll cook something Greek this week.

  • September 20, 2016 8:35am

    David,
    it’s seems you had a lovely time. I am really happy you got to enjoy one of the ‘lesser known’ islands. Tinos for Greeks still holds strongly on the religious element and it is only recently the island gets a bit more attention as we are all a bit tired of the busy Mykonos and Santorini in the middle of August. Not sure if you got a chance to come by Athens but I would love to read your thoughts and pictures on the capital. xx

  • Priti Kohli
    September 20, 2016 5:24pm

    That was a simply amazing travelogue, David! So much detail, beautiful pictures and descriptions – made me want to plan a trip right away!
    Hope your neck injury is healing well.
    Thank you for taking us along with you on your travels!

  • Anita
    September 20, 2016 9:22pm

    You and your blog are utterly wunderbar!

  • September 22, 2016 10:54pm

    David-
    As always, your posts are a pleasure to read and the travel ones like this one and the Sicily one make me want to pack up and head there right now!
    Now about that cake. My mom, who is Lebanese, makes a chocolate cake that looks and sounds amazingly like this cake you mention above. She makes it all the time since I was a child. Her recipe? it was given to her a long time ago by a Greek friend. So who knows, it could be what you are looking for. I typed the recipe down a while back because I love to make it as well. If you are interested I’d be happy to share it with you. Give it a shot and see if it take you back to Tinos!

  • September 28, 2016 12:13am

    Thanks for this article David. I live in Athens & visited Tinos several times…
    I totally agree with you about the portokalopita & fillo argument. Yours (the one pictured) is a traditional semolina recipe drenched in syrup. Greek pastry chef Stelios Parliaros boils two whole oranges & then purées them adding them to the recipe. (maybe that’s the orange peel you saw in the cake itself)
    Vagelis Driskas, also a popular Greek chef uses almond meal as well. Hope I’ve been helpful. Would definitely love to see you whip up your version of it soon.

  • Katerina
    September 28, 2016 8:21pm

    Thank you for this post. Beautiful pictures!
    It’s the first time I’ve read your blog. I’m from Tinos and grew up there….sitting in an office in Pennsylvania reading this made me homesick and very hungry! Glad you enjoyed our beautiful island!

  • October 1, 2016 4:13pm

    Efharisto! Thank you! You definitely captured the nuance of the day to day of embracing life on a Greek Island. The last Greek island I visited was Skopelos (it hadn’t changed since I was there years prior, still simply charming).