Friday, February 24, 2017

Nectar and Ambrosia

We had high hopes for Santorini, since so many people described it as an absolute dream destination, but adjusting to the island, even in the spring when it wasn't as busy, was tough after our wonderful time in Naxos. It was much more crowded, there were so many more people, and we could feel the frenzy in the air that just wasn't there in Naxos. Add in a motion sickness-inducing taxi ride from the ferry, sudden cold and windy weather, and parades of ants everywhere, including right outside our cave studio, and we weren't the happiest people on the island.

We tried to make the best of it, and spent our first afternoon exploring the village of Oia in Santorini. Our hotel was in Oia, and it was supposed to be the most picturesque part of the island. It was definitely nice wandering the narrow streets, and the landscape of Santorini, especially the caldera, was breathtaking, even under the thick clouds. We had wanted to watch the sunset but considering the clouds and then the rain that started to fall, we just gave up for the day and decided to grab dinner. We picked Nectar and Ambrosia, a place we had on our list (I don't remember where we heard about it - maybe Chowhound?), which has apparently closed sometime between our 2011 visit and now. We didn't make advanced reservations, but since we were eating relatively early on Greek time and most of the tourists were trying to catch whatever sunset there was going to be, it was pretty empty.

We started off with some wine, choosing a local white wine made from grapes grown in the Cyclades. The winery was called Atlantis, and we got a blend of Assyrtiko, Athiri, and Aidani. Assyrtiko is a grape that is indigenous to Santorini, Athiri is indigenous to Rhodes, and Aidani is another grape indigenous to Santorini. The wine itself was similar to the retsinas we had in Athens as Athiri grapes are used a lot in those, but aside from that we don't remember a lot about it.

We started off with the Santorini Island Fava, which was a fava puree with caramelized onions, local capers, and pita triangles. When we had done our research in advance, one of the things everyone said you had to try in Santorini, as far as spreads, was the fava, as it was a local specialty. For our first dinner in Santorini, we knew we had to try it, and we were not disappointed. Fava spread is thicker than hummus but it has such a deep and unique flavor. It was a great start to our meal.

For a starter, we also ordered the Santorini Salad. If it's not already obvious, our plan was pretty much to order anything that sounded local, whether it was a specific dish unique to Santorini or, more likely, ingredients that were locally grown. This salad had small island tomatoes, cucumber, olives, capers and caper leaves, and green peppers on a bed of green leaves with Santorini Chloro soft cheese, balsamic vinegar, and Greek olive oil. (Thank goodness for photos of the menu when you don't have notes.) Everything was extremely fresh, and similar to when we were at Lefteris on Naxos, you could just taste the difference when the ingredients were local. We don't remember a lot about the cheese, but we do remember that everything in this salad felt and tasted so clean and fresh. You can really tell when food didn't have to travel far before being prepared.

For the main course, A got Nectar's Oven Lamb, which was lamb stuffed with manouri cheese and Florina peppers with herbed potato puree and rosemary sauce on the side. The sauce was very rich as it was made from stock (most likely lamb), and it paired very nicely with the roasted lamb. The lamb itself was cooked very well and was very tender. A doesn't remember much about the cheese, but he does remember that the potato puree in the rich sauce was quite delicious and the perfect complement to the lamb.

M's choice for her main course was the Santorini Moussaka, described as "white Santorini aubergine/eggplant layered with country lamb, beef, and pork, topped with a yogurt creme and red paprika accent." Moussaka is basically comfort food, and this was a very good version of it, even if it was a little bit fancier than your normal moussaka. It was rich and heavy, but that was to be expected.

The meal ended with a digestif that neither of us really remembers. This seemed like a fairly common practice in the Greek Islands though, as we got the same treatment (digestif) while in Naxos as well. All in all, we had a nice dinner at Nectar and Ambrosia. We had a little bit of sticker shock though, having just come from much more affordable Naxos. Here our entrees were around €18-19 with our appetizers coming in around €8-9 (and this was the pricing 5-6 years ago), while in Naxos our dishes were more around this appetizer price. The cost of being in a tourist haven, and also at what seemed like one of the nicer restaurants in the area! We did enjoy our dinner though, and strolled around Oia some more afterwards, as much as we could take since it had gotten pretty cold. After that, it was back to the hotel for a stressful night with the ants that we had realized were also all over our room, so invasive that we considered changing hotels if we couldn't get another room that was ant-free. At least we had a nice, filling dinner before having to deal with that.

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