“How come we have never heard, let alone tasted, any of these unbelievably delicious cheeses?” exclaimed one of the most informed foodies who took part in our Kea Artisanal classes this season. Our guests were fascinated and genuinely surprised by the samples from our diverse Greek cheese board.
We went to great lengths all through the spring procuring a strong variety and finally managed to get about sixteen different artisanal cheeses, mostly from various islands of the Aegean. As we displayed them on our antique wooden board, even we were amazed at the diversity of textures, tastes and fragrances! Although we have done cheese tastings in the past, this year we managed to order directly from individual producers on neighboring islands, in addition to the small distributors who continue to supply us with their best and rarest cheeses –like the famous gylomeni manoura of Sifnos– a striking goat cheese that ages in wine sediment.
Despite dismal predictions for tourism given the state of the Greek economy, and the unpredictability of the resulting strikes and disruptions, we had another series of great spring and early summer programs on Kea! Fortunately our ferries –that leave from the port of Lavrio– were excluded from most of the strikes that crippled the port of Piraeus. So our guests arrived on time at the port directly from the airport, after a picturesque 35-minute taxi ride, avoiding the traffic and all the other delays that perpetually plague downtown Athens. Anticipating a couple of unavoidable disruptions, we managed to find solutions well ahead of time, thanks also to the invaluable help and cooperation of our travel agent friends and hotel owners. Unpleasant surprises were avoided; the only uncontrollable inflation we saw was on our phone bills…
Our programs started early in May, and for the first time we welcomed people from Australia. If the volcano in Iceland had not messed up some of our guests’ plans, we would have had more people from down-under… Fortunately, a young couple from the Netherlands joined us at the last minute, the chemistry worked perfectly, and we all had a wonderful time during the first spring session!
At the end of May, after an ebb in the Volcano disruptions, we had a large group from the U.S. and Canada, our very first guest from Denmark, and two more Australians, who joined us for a couple of days. It looks like this year the gates to both Australia as well as northern Europe have opened to us… Interesting people with different backgrounds and personalities shared our kitchen and table, enriching the overall experience, and expanding our group of friends to the farthest corners of the world!
Towards the end of June we had a very different group, combining the applied and the culinary arts: Ceramists from the U.S. joined our dearest friend Vicki Snyder in her workshop on the island, in a trip Vicki organized with the famous Berkley artist Christa Assad. This was another first, as we never had such an expanded group of ceramists sharing our food and Kea culture before! We cooked with them, their partners, their friends, plus a few part-timers. They all shared in the culinary experience, and took part in our guided excursions around the island. We had a great time with them, and they raved about their pottery and food experience, so it looks like we will have more artists and crafts-people in the coming year…
After the ceramists, we had cyclists! This group, put together by Cycle Greece, consisted of three generations of a California family –the grandmother, parents, and two kids! They courageously toured our mountainous island with their bikes on the Tour de Kea, and pedaled to our home after the grueling Pyrenees-like stages. We cooked with our fresh garden produce, and of course relaxed, enjoying our long Mediterranean lunch al fresco. They then loaded their bikes onto the van following them, as it had gotten too hot to pedal home, and seemed a bit difficult to ride a bike in the blazing sun after a few glasses of wine… the doping authorities would not have approved cycling under the influence!
Early in July we created a special three-day program for a lady who sailed almost around the world, from Florida to the Mediterranean, in a yacht. She was joined in Kea by her son who flew in from Maryland. At the table we were joined by some of our old American, and some new Danish friends who own houses in Hora (Ioulis), the island’s main town. Once more we realized what a small world we live in! As it so often happens we discovered that we share common friends with the people that join our classes.
Encouraged by the enthusiasm expressed by our new friends, we promise to continue the search for more artisanal cheeses, olive oils, preserves, and other unique Greek products! Our table will get even richer this fall with the last tomatoes, and also the peppers and eggplants from our garden. Part of the joy we take in Kea Artisanal is the constant evolution of our program, thanks to the diverse interests of our stream of guests. We learn with each group that comes through our tiny island, expanding its boundaries for those of us who have been here for so many years.
We can’t wait to see what next year will bring!