Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Tale of the 20 Barbouni

Kyle and I took a long break from blogging...partly because it was too depressing to look at photos of the beautiful Mediterranean when outside our window was the typical Northwest rain and clouds of winter. Partly because we got some exciting news in September...we are expecting our first child this coming June! The combination of exciting news, the holidays, and my lack of appetite (which has FINALLY started to come back, thank goodness--it's hard to blog about food when you aren't hungry!); all of these factors made for an easy excuse to get away from blogging.

So we pick up from where we last left you...onto our favorite stop of the whole trip, Santorini, Greece.

Santorini is everything you imagine and more based off of the classic picturesque photos you might see in Greek restaurants. When we sailed into port, the sun was beginning to rise on this magical island, a good omen for the day ahead.

The whole group booked an excursion together that took us through the old town of Oia, off to a local winery, then dropped us off at Fira on the opposite end of the island. For anyone interested in doing our cruise in the future, I don't think this expensive excursion is worth it. You can easily get onto the island via a gondola, walking up a steep path or a donkey (!). Save your money for some barbouni...story to follow.

The excursion started at 7AM and went until 11AM...just in time for lunch! I'm so glad Kyle took a photo of the restaurant our group found, because finding it again would be a true treasure hunt.
We wanted local Greek seafood and a good view-- this was the perfect find. My mother in law asked that we all wear white to match the white buildings, hence the matching outfits.

We ordered a couple bottles of wine from the winery we visited earlier, including a bottle of retsina, a must-drink while in Greece.
Retsina is a wine special to Greece. Supposedly before impermeable glass bottles, oxygen would get into the wine and it would spoil within a year. To combat spoilage, the Greeks would seal the bottles with pine resin. The resin added a unique piney flavor to the wine. Even with today's glass bottles, the practice has continued in this region. Sort of like a gin wine with the pine taste.
Whetting our appetites. We let my dad do the ordering since he spent several months in Greece back in his 20s. He ordered all the classics, like mousaka, mezes, Greek salad, grilled octopus, and a local fish he loves...barbouni, a red mullet type of fish. We asked for enough barbouni so about 5 of us could sample it, about 5 fish total. Unfortunately, it looks like although this is a touristy town, English is definitely their second language.

We started with some amazing mezes that we slathered onto fresh Greek bread.
My favorite was the smooth, creamy, delicious fava bean puree. We tried to recreate it in Seattle, but the fava beans here make a chunkier puree that is not nearly as creamy as this creation.

Next, it was a classic Greek salad. The feta in Greece is absolutely the best, making it impossible to go back to those crappy plastic tubs of pre-crumbled rubber feta back in the States.

The best moussaka I've ever had. It came bubbling hot in this dish, looking like our own little pot of scrumptious gold. Hey, didn't we order barbouni?

The grilled octopus was not quite as good as the grilled octopus we enjoyed in Montenegro, but still very delicious. We ordered two of the moussaka, dips, salads, and octopus for our table. We wanted to have enough for everyone so ordered two. After finishing our shares of the octopus, we were wondering if they forgot about our barbouni. We decided they must be fishing for it.
And just when we were starting to feel nice and full and were about to tell the waiters to hold the barbouni order, they arrived. It took three waiters to carry out five plates that each contained four barbouni...yes, do the math, that's 20 little fishies ready for us to devour.

The fish were crispy on the outside and moist and flakey on the inside. They had a perfect salty crust. If this had come earlier in the meal, I would have wiped out a whole plate on my own. But at this point, it was a chore to make it through one, let alone the THREE each person was tasked with eating!

Kyle filmed this to capture the moment.

We did our best to get through the lot, but a couple extras had to be packed up for some stray cats we saw along the way home. This tale of Twenty Barbouni is now becoming a legend in our household.
The next day, we docked in Mykonos, and poor Kyle and Joyce were still immersed in the barbouni experience if you know what I mean. It was the gift that just kept on giving.
Happy Eating,


  1. This was my favorite place too but Nick liked Athens better though. We want to go back sometime and spend more time there and stay in one of the cave hotels. I picked up cards from the places with the best pools! :) I'm ready to go back now!

  2. Kyle and I want to go back, too! We were checking out those awesome cave hotels and saw one we loved:). Maybe we can plan a group trip togehter! -Emi