Monday, April 28, 2014

An Authority of Greek Wines - Nico Manessis

We've found a true expert in the world of Greek Wine - and his name is Nico Manessis. He's the published authority on Greek wines, having published several books on the subject - and continuing to produce wine reviews, regional Greek wine education and news, and also making unique Greek travel videos along the Greek wine routes.

If you want to know what a true wine expert thinks of a particular Greek wine, breeze through his posts for real reviews and opinion on most Greek wines. For example, this excerpt from his review on Naoussa Diamantakos (read the whole thing here):

...Dark ruby. Slowly opens up to earth, sous bois. It then blossoms to strawberry scents. Cocoa. Depth. Tannins reminiscent of Renato Ratti's Nebbiolos, with increased volume, firework aromatics and an intense palate. "Sweet" strawberry and graphite on the bitter-almond, edgy, rich in glycerol finish. A highly strung thoroughbred. At this juncture, three hours of decanting, and all parts meet in harmony. Serve at cellar temperature. Best 2012-2018.

And with the review, you can find expert writing and opinion on the region, and in many cases - a video or photograph of the winery or area. If you're not a wine expert, or an expert on all things Greek - you will be after perusing his very informative and helpful site.

His book is several years old now, but we're pretty sure the content still holds true, and Mr. Manessis has made it very clear he's not slowing down on touring Greece and testing the wines to produce well-written and informative reviews on all things "Greek Wine".

If you haven't been able to get to Greece yet for a tour of your own, and you're a wine lover - you must check out Nico's site, where you can read up on the Greek wine regions, and view videos of exclusive wineries and wine tastings.

Learn more at Greek Wine World

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vegetarians Unite - GREEK STYLE!

Authentic Greek cuisine is rich with vegetarian options. I mean, Greek cooking is based on fresh seasonal vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, herbs, spices, and olive oil - perfect for vegetarians (and often for vegans as well). However, unless you speak or read Greek, it can be challenging to seek out the authentic spots and interpret their menus.

Image from

Here are some of the most popular Greek vegetarian dishes:
  • Greek salad (cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese and oregano)
  • Spanokopita (flaky spinach and cheese pastry)
  • Saganaki (a plate of melted cheese)
  • Pasta Napolatina (pasta with tomato sauce)
  • Cheese pastries
  • Dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with dill-flavored rice)
  • Olives, cheese and tzatziki (tangy yogurt…from where we got Ziziki‘s name from) plates

It is much more difficult to find completely vegan dishes (a diet eliminating all meat, dairy and animal products) as many of the meatless options contain cheese. However, hummus (chickpea spread) on pita bread is a naturally vegetarian AND vegan snack. Yigandes Plaki (gigante beans & tomato casserole) is a very popular dish during lent-Greek Orthodox observe several major and minor fasting periods throughout the year, including the Easter Lenten season. Meat (and products derived from meat), fish with backbones, dairy products, olive oil, and wine are not eaten.

You can’t forget about dessert, now! Baklava is a perennial favorite, a classic Greek pastry made with flaky phyllo dough that is layered with a cinnamon-spiced nut filling, and sweetened with honey or syrup. It’s sweet and very decadent AND vegetarian!

People in Greece, who eat a traditional Greek diet, have been known to live on average quite a bit longer than inhabitants of other countries. Greek food is tasty and good for your health and you won’t find a better combination than that. ZIZIKI’S RESTAURANT has a very healthy Greek cuisine, including many vegetarian dishes.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Olive, You Man! (All About Olives)

Recently we read a twitter exchange between some folks theorizing on how black olives become black when they start out green. One participant hypothesized that the olive was bruised. Seriously? Today we give you a bit of a olive education. After all, we can't have you Greek cuisine loving people out hypothesizing silly things with your Twitter friends.

First though, we have to tell you that the word olive refers to both the tree and the fruit of the tree. Much like the word pecan here in Texas. Olive trees are native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean and are of major agricultural importance in the region as the source of olive oil. Today olive trees are grown in temperate places all over the world, even California. In fact, the United States ranks as the twelfth biggest olive cultivator.

If you read any kind of western literature like Homer's Odyssey, or the bible, you'll find that olives are the most frequently mentioned trees and fruit. And you likely know that the phrase 'extend an olive branch' derives from the historic belief that olive leaves and branches symbolize abundance, glory and peace. In ancient times olive branches were given as offerings to Gods and powerful people. They even found olive branches in Tutankhamen's tomb.

Olives grow very slowly, which we think explains why we have so many colors of olives. You see, whether the olive is green, blonde or black, they are all grown from the same tree. They are just in different stages of ripeness. We suspect someone was a little impatient for a taste of olives and picked the fruit a little early. When that impatient picker discovered the tart and powerful flavor of the green olive they decided there was no need to wait for all the olives to ripen to black. Some could definitely be enjoyed sooner. Here at Zizikis we will be eternally grateful to that impatient olive farmer. We just can't imagine a world in which green olives didn't exist!

Olives should never be eaten directly from the tree due to their natural bitter flavor. Before eating, olives are fermented or cured to make them more palatable. Green olives are allowed to ferment before being packed in a brine solution. Black olives are not fermented, which is why they taste milder than green olives.

Generally, an olive's flavor depends on what type of curing or fermenting they under go. They can also be flavored by soaking in marinade or pitted and stuffed. Popular flavorings include herbs, spices, chili, lemon zest, lemon juice, wine, vinegar, and juniper berries; popular stuffings include feta cheese, blue cheese, pimento, garlic cloves, almonds, and anchovies. You can eat olives a million different ways...and here at Zizikis we do! Come on over the next time you get that salty olive craving. We know how to satisfy it! Opa!