I continue to be in the “breaking wave” mood, in spite of the fact that the first autumn rain drops pelted the dry soil since yesterday.
Three and a alf years ago I wrote about Nikos Varverakis’ tavern in New Epidavros.
Today I return to find the same values and, fresh seafood, fresh as ever, and cooked with respect to Nature.
It is only natural to visit Nea Epidavros (a small village 20 km northeast of Palea Epidavros) and Nikos Varverakis’ tavern after a visit to the Theater and the Asclepeion in Palea Epidavros.
The first thing I asked for was the octopus. I remembered that last time I had tasted it simmered in wine and it was delicious.
I was not disappointed. First of all, the octopus was small, which means fished locally. Second, the head was “dirty”, which means untouched, with all the delights of the sea left intact.
This is the reason why seafood is better consumed fresh. Can you imagine eating a frozen octopus with a “dirty” head? I cannot.
However, it is not enough to have a really fresh small octopus. Cooking it is a real challenge, as it can be so easily destroyed.
Nikos is a master in simmering the octopus in wine until it reaches perfection. The sauce was so good, that whatever was left I ate with the fish!
The greens that accompanied the fish were vlita, boiled to perfection, served with real olive oil.
One of the most abused greens, vlita, when fresh and young is so tender that it is usually overboiled and destroyed, losing its colour to a murky muddy green-grey.
Not in Nikos’ tavern. Silky leafs, melting in your mouth, with tasty olive oil that dressed them adequately to the extent that no lemon was needed.
Now to the fish. Nikos recommended – and of course I accepted – fried cod.
Cod fished in the local waters is a small fish, nothing compared to the 5-10 kg fish of the Atlantic.
It is tasty, has very few bones, but it has to be super fresh, otherwise it is no good.
Not to mention the frying. The oil has to be “fresh” because the flavor of the flesh is very subtle. A reused oil can spoil a perfectly good fish.
Not in Nikos’ tavern.
The cod was fried to perfection, and it was so fresh that I could literally see the gelatin flowing out of the fish.
Needless to say, I will – one day – return.
“Except for the times of suffering, as of fear, I would think that the worst moments are those of pleasure because the hope for them and the memory of them, which occupy the rest of our lives, are better and much more pleasant than the pleasures themselves.”
Memorable sayings of Filippo Ottonieri, Giacomo Leopardi