I’m excited and quite proud! Andrew Zimmern featured Kalymnos (and Athens, to be fair) on Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods last night. It was a great episode, one of the best I’ve seen in a long time (not that I am partial or anything). I’m actually shocked that, of all the islands, Kalymnos was chosen to be highlighted. The episode painted a beautiful picture of Greece on the whole but even more so of our lovely island of Kalymnos: quaint; breathtakingly beautiful; extremely hospitable; friendly, generous people in a place where traditions and customs are a coveted way of life.
In Kalymnos, Zimmern tried such things as fouskes (sea squirts) that are used in the traditional Spinialo, Kakavia (the fish stew made by sailors/fishermen on the sea), octopus ink sacs dredged in flour and fried (something new even to me who thought she knew all there was to know about the food of Kalymnos!), Kopanisti (creamy goat cheese aged in goat’s skin) and of course the traditional Mouri (the baked stuffed-lamb that graces every Kalymnian table on Easter and special occasions such as baptisms or weddings). He seemed to enjoy himself immensely and was at once taken by the beauty, simplicity of life and hospitality of the people of Kalymnos.
Last time I visited Kalymnos was 2006, much too long ago, and I hope to visit again very soon. Kalymnos is a relatively small island but by no means any less alluring or entertaining than any of its larger counterparts. The Greek Ministry of Tourism uses the slogan “The Real Island Experience” to describe Kalymnos; you can read all about the island here. Once famous for its courageous spongedivers and their bounty of sponges, the island is now famous for its rugged cliffs and the climbing experiences they offer. Each year climbing festivals are held and rock climbers the world over make their way to our humble island. Scuba diving is also a must: caverns, caves, shipwrecks and an immensely diverse array of sea life are some of what you can see with 35 meters of visibility under the sea. There are ancient ruins and fortresses to explore and smaller islands (Telendos and Pserimos among them) with picturesque homes and pristine beaches just a short boat ride away.
From Vathy (the island’s greenest and most fertile valley known for its aromatic citrus fruit), to the picturesque bay of Vlychadia and up to the island’s northernmost village Emporio, Kalymnos’ many small towns are well worth a visit. Each boasts crystal-clear waters to swim in and ideal spots to sample the local cuisine. Don’t fret, distances are quite short and if you can’t rent a car (which I do strongly suggest though), taxis are of no shortage.
So, where should you eat? Some of the most loved tavernas among tourists and locals alike are Xefteris in Pothia, Harry’s Paradise in Emporio, Galini in Vathy and Marinos in Panormos. Galaktoboureko (the famous Greek phyllo and custard dessert) is a must try at Zaharoplasteion O Mihalaras along the port in the island’s capital Pothia. It is arguably the best Galaktoboureko in all of Greece. Make sure you also try local specialties such as the island’s thyme-scented honey, local octopus (preferably grilled so you get all its natural flavor), Spinialo (sea squirts in brine), Phylla (meat-stuffed grape leaves), baked chickpeas with caramelized onions and Mouri to name a few.
Places to stay:
Hotel Oasis in Massouri, Kalymnos–I actually got to stay here in 2006 and I would stay here again in a heartbeat. It isn’t a waterfront property per se … the beach is actually across the street! The staff and owners are friendly and accommodating and the breakfast on the peaceful verandah was a relaxing and perfect start to each day.
The Plaza Hotel also in Massouri looks exquisite and its views of Telendos Island across the way are second to none.
Hotel Elies in Panormos is also an ideal choice.
I’ve also heard good things of Hotel Kantouni Beach. This beachfront property caters to many needs with its studio and one-bedroom apartments and well-kept facilities.
But for even more options visit the Kalymnos site to see a full list of accommodations from hotels, to apartments, to homes available for your stay.
To read more, see video clips or view photos on Andrew Zimmern’s food experiences in Greece click here. Here’s Zimmern’s Top 5 moments from his Greece episode … three, count them, THREE of which were from his stay on Kalymnos! Bizarre Foods in Kalymnos
And to honor all the absolutely delicious octopus you are sure to enjoy when you visit Kalymnos, I’ve prepared some Octopus and Squid with Capers and Grape Tomatoes. Please try this when you get the chance … my husband was enamored with the flavor profile of this dish and I promise you it is not a bit difficult to make.
Octopus and Squid with Capers and Grape Tomatoes
1 octopus, 1 1/2 lbs.
2 lbs. squid, cleaned and cut into rings
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch of dried rosemary
Pinch of dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
(the capers are already quite salty so be conservative with the salt)
1 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons capers
1 lb. grape tomatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
Place the octopus, 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper in a large pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot and cook the octopus for about 15 minutes. Stir in the squid and the white wine. Simmer for 25 minutes longer. Add the capers, parsley and grape tomatoes and cook for 15 to 20 minutes longer until the octopus and squid are tender and much of the liquid has evaporated. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, adjust seasonings and serve.