My week at Kea Artisanal was quickly nearing the end but not before learning how to make and roll phyllo dough. Stamatia, one of Aglaia’s wonderful assistants, is an expert on phyllo dough and patiently helped us each roll out the dough we had prepared. She made it look so easy! I think with many years of daily practice we might “get it” and perhaps be able to make the beautiful paper thin sheets as she did, but in reality, I doubt it! The ones she made were perfectly round, paper thin and made a slightly oily, but crisp crust for the greens pie we made to fill the dough. She was even able to roll three layers at a time by generously oiling each one then stacking and rolling them! That is true talent!
Instead of spinach, as typically seen, the Spanakopita pie we made was filled with various greens that were available and freshly picked. I love that anything you happen to have on hand, Swiss chard, beet greens, dandelion greens or even arugula will make a suitable filling. We also made a cheese and herb pie with an egg custard filling that resembled a flat quiche and some beautiful single serving marinated octopus pies that would be part of our dinner that evening.
While the pies were baking, Costas prepared the fish that we had picked right off of the boat at the port that morning. He wrapped each fish in a fresh fig leaf that had been oiled and placed the entire package on the charcoal grill, cooking it to perfection. The fig leaf provides a crispy, sweet and salty second skin.
After our long, luxurious lunch, we were treated to a tasting of various spoon sweets. We enjoyed the interesting flavors of tomato, walnut, orange, cherry, apple and homemade lemon marmalade served with ice cream and yogurts. Each one was better than the previous one. I especially loved the lemon and the apple sweets.
The afternoon was spent back at the hotel napping by the pool and relaxing before our sunset dinner and drinks at the beach. The sun sets at around 9pm so we were picked up at 7:30 and rode along the winding dirt roads along the narrow cliffs to the beach where we would dine. It was a bit harrowing as the roads are wide enough for only one vehicle and there is nowhere to pull over if you come across another car heading in your direction. One of you must go in reverse back the way you came to allow the other car to pass! There are also no guard rails to be seen and in some spots the road appears to be crumbling down the sides of the cliff. One wrong tire move and I could see the car tumbling off. But for the stunning beauty of the view, it might be worth it! I don’t think I could ever tire of such gorgeous vistas.
Watching the sunset, sitting on the beach, eating the octopus pies, salads, breads and drinking wine was the perfect ending to the week. I could think of nothing I would have preferred doing for my last night on Kea.
The next day, we had a cheese making class in the morning. Myzithra, a Greek ricotta like cheese, is made from goat or sheep’s milk or a combination of the two and fresh cream. It’s simple to make at home and it’s soft, creamy texture goes well with honey, fresh fruits or even sliced tomatoes. We were given a selection of honeys to taste. Some of the varieties sampled included a carob honey which has a slightly nutty, but distinctively chocolate flavor; a chestnut honey, dark, thick and nutty; and my personal favorite, a heather honey. It had a rich floral scent and a strong intense flavor, a rung up from thyme honey which is more commonly found, but also flavorful.
Our farewell lunch was held next door to Aglaia and Costas’ home at Ela’s, Aglaia’s other amazing assistant, and her husband Stathi’s home. Ela served her pickled vegetables, a savory orzo pasta with tomatoes, homemade bread and several salads along with the meal’s highlight, a tender, free-range lamb that Stathi had roasted in a wood fired oven. For dessert, Ela had made a dense, sweet cake filled with walnuts and served it with ice cream. Her adorable children overcame their shyness by the time the ice cream came and joined us.
Soon our taxi’s arrived to take us our hotel to pick up our bags so we could catch the ferry back to the mainland. They say “parting is such sweet sorrow” and I truly felt that way leaving Aglaia’s and Costa’s home. They welcomed us into their lives for the week, and into their home, cooking and sharing meals with them, laughing and telling many stories. It was the best experience I have ever had and I am forever grateful! I can only look forward to the day when I will be able to return.