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The Cyclades Travel Guide

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The Cyclades Restaurants

Eating is a lively social activity in the Cyclades, and the friendliness of most taverna owners compensates for the lack of formal service. Unless you order intermittently, the food comes all at once. Restaurant schedules on the Cyclades vary; some places close for lunch, most close for siesta, and all are open late. Reservations are not required unless otherwise noted, and casual dress is the rule.

But luxury restaurants are a different kettle of fish in some respects.

Greek food used to have a bad international reputation, and you can certainly find bad food in Greece. This is often a result of restaurants trying to adapt to the tastes and wallets of the throngs of tourists. Greece produces top-quality tomatoes, lamb chops, melons, olive oil, and farmer's cheese. When Greeks go out to eat, they expect good, simple food culled from these elements, as should you. Do likewise, and you will dine with much pleasure.

Dishes are often wonderfully redolent of garlic and olive oil; as a simple, plain alternative, order grilled seafood or meat—grilled octopus with ouzo is a treat. A typical island lunch is fresh fried calamari with a salad of tomatoes, peppers, onions, feta, and olives. Lamb on a skewer and keftedes (spicy meatballs) are also favorites. Of course, nouvelle Greek has made great strides since it was first introduced in the early 2000s at the luxury hotels of the Cyclades. At the finer hotels, and at certain outstanding restaurants, you can taste the collision of centuries-old traditional dishes with newer-than-now-nouvelle spices and preparations. There are just so many times one can eat lamb-on-a-skewer, so go ahead and splurge at top restaurants—if you have a chubby wallet, that is.

Greek wines have tripled in quality in the last decade. The volcanic soil of Santorini is hospitable to the grape, and Greeks love the Santorini wines. Santorini and Paros now proudly produce officially recognized "origin" wines, which are sought throughout Greece. Barrel or farmer's wine is common, and except in late summer when it starts to taste a bit off, it's often good.

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