G. Palisidis - Sampling the local flavors
By George Palisidis | Gastronomy Expert
Thessaloniki is famous for being a destination in Greece for its cuisine. Here, food is made with heart to give joy and pleasure. Natural ingredients, delicious flavors, recipes and little secrets of taste bring people together around the big table of friends.
Colors, flavors, landscapes, sounds, history, culture; These ingredients, all mixed up, compose the gastronomical identity of Thessaloniki. Ingredients that satisfy even the most demanding visitor, revealing gastronomic experiences and delicious pleasures that are hidden in every corner of Greece’s second largest city. Grocery stores, delicatessens, farmer’s markets, restaurants, and street food places introduce visitors to the Great Food Capital of Greece.
Thessaloniki is proud of its certified by the European Union products. Feta, manouri, batzos and kaseri (cheese) are only some of its Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) products. The area is also famous for the Macedonian tsipouro and the Macedonian ouzo together with the local wines produced in Epanomi, Thessaloniki and Nea Mesimvria. These products are granted with the specification of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).
Other products of significant production, tradition and nutritional value that we find in the area are vine leaves, vine shoots, kritamo, pickled cabbage, pickled eggplant, rice, milk, strained yogurt, sheep and goat meat, goat cheese, jams, kefalotyri, aromatic herbs, the famous Thessaloniki’s bagel, trigona from Panorama, tsoureki (Brioche) and syrupy sweets.
A culinary tour of the nearby villages
Mornings in the villages around Thessaloniki start with a traditional breakfast; bougatsa (phyllo pastry with a semolina-cream filling dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon, cheese or spinach), traditional cheese pie or perek pie (pontian pie served in Lagada, Agios Antonios and Kalamoto) and traditional yogurt made in Dorkada are some of the many options for a typical Thessalonian breakfast. An equally delicious choice is a freshly baked bread with Sochos cheese, local olives, tomato and two eggs fried with butter on the stove.
Next stop is the local farms and wineries. In the cheese factories you will taste the most delicious strained yogurt with the velvety texture, as the pastures of Thessaloniki are rich in flora and water. At the local wineries you will have the chance to learn about the local varieties and the history of wine in the area.
The mussel farms of Chalastra, the pastures of the buffaloes at Axios river, the marinas with the fishing boats at Michaniona, Angelochori and Volvi, the forest of Chortiatis full of mushrooms, wild asparagus and herbs, the vineyards of Epanomi and the meadows in Lagadas and Vasilika,are only a few examples of unique places of alternative tourism that the city and its surroundings has to offer.
A culinary tour of the city
The city tour starts from the bougatsatzidika – the places where freshly baked bougatsa is served- and the local bakeries. Crispy buttery sheet filled with semolina cream cheese, accompanied by a chocolate milk from local farms is the ultimate tasting experience for every visitor. After a rich breakfast and a coffee frappe or freddo espresso (cold), it is time for a walk around the local food markets.
A noisy, colorful and unique gastronomical experience: This is what Modiano Market, Vlali market (Kapani), Vatikioti Market (Athonos Square), Louloudadika, Bezesteni, the Malakopi Gallery and the Bit Bazaar is all about. Here, the atmosphere is like an open-air bazaar, with narrow alleyways that are surrounded with shops on all sides.
Stalls full of fish and seafood, refrigerators with local meat that are slowly simmered, cold cuts that appear in the shop windows, cheese heads cut into triangles ready to be fried, salted fish and seafood in aromatic herbal oil and peppers, baskets full of seasonal fruits and vegetables, dried herbs and green olives, colors and smells will whet your appetite and at noon you will be definitely ready to go for a tavern to taste the fine local delicacies.
If you choose an ouzo or tsipouro restaurant, then do not forget to try the unique mussel pilaf, the fried mussels with mustard, the shrimp with tomato and feta sauce, the cod tails in the pan, the grilled sardines, the freshly baked tsipoura , the cabbage sarmades with ground beef and velvety egg-lemon sauce, the dolmades with vine leaves, the tirokafteri (spicy cheese sauce), the Mount Athos eggplant salad, the giant beans with oregano from Arethusa, the saganaki batzos or kefalotyri with fruit jam and the fragrant fried meatballs with sauce.
Be sure to try also soutzoukaki made with Lagada recipe, pork gyros with Peristera’s herbs, chicken gyros marinated with strained yogurt and grilled pork skewer with Mavrouda oregano.
Don’t let the countless dining and entertainment options worry you! Take a break, walk at the promenade of Thessaloniki, choose a place to enjoy the afternoon coffee accompanied by Thessaloniki’s bun stuffed with chestnuts and chocolate coating or a delicious trigono panoramatos with rich velvety cream and prepare yourself for an evening full of greek delicacies.
The restaurants offer fine dishes with modern techniques utilizing local ingredients. Try appetizers with raw fish and seafood marinated with seasonal fruits, grilled fish fillets with garnishes of wild herbs and young vegetables of the region, beef from Central Macedonia simmered with vegetable creams and handmade pasta. Do not forget to combine your dinner with local wines from indigenous varieties such as Xinomavro (red) and Malagouzia (white). In the many cocktail bars of the city you will find signature cocktails made with local tsipouro, juices and spirits of fruits and herbs of the area.
Gastronomy Events Calendar
- September: Spinach Festival in Agia Paraskevi (Vasilika), Harvest of the Municipal Vineyard of the Municipality of Thessaloniki
- October: Honey Festival at Pedio tou Areos Park
- November: Tsipouro distillation in cauldrons, Italian Street Food, Festival at the American School of Agriculture, Mushroom Festival in Livadi
- December: Christmas Festival, Christmas vorOina, Map of Flavours
- June: Feast of the Holy Apostles in Sohos Lagadas, Zucchini Festival in Vasilika, Food for Good at Aretsou beach
- July: Sardine Festival in Nea Michaniona and Nea Krini
- August: Pic Nic Urban festival, Watermelon Festival in the village of Kastana (Chalkidona)
- Clean Monday: bean soup and pickles at Chortiatis shelter