Eating and drinking in Greece is wonderful, to be sure, but it is not without its pitfalls. The following warnings and recommendations should help you survive the Mediterranean in high style and comfort.
1). Ouch, Ouzo (and Retsina). Greek drink, whether it is local wines or Metaxa (a cunning blend of brandy and locally produced, sun-dried grapes), is world famous for its dicey (if not dubious) nature. Retsina, a ubiquitous regional wine tinged with pine resin, is often poured without request (or consent) at the average Greek taverna. It’s sweet, easy to consume, and possessed of the makings of hangovers of nightmarish proportions. Beware. One alternative to Retsina is the anise-flavored liquor Ouzo. While not for everyone (if you don’t like liquorish-flavored beverages, steer clear), this drink, which turns milky white when mixed with water, is an excellent compliment to typical Greek salads and seafood.
2). Souvlaki, Greek soul food. Though nearly subsumed in populated areas by the influx of American fast food chains and local imitations, this traditional concoction of lamb and other meats grilled and roasted on skewers has made a decided comeback. If you find yourself in Athens or any of the bigger cities, take care to avoid MacDonald’s and avail yourself of a delicious local fast food option wrapped in pita and swathed in regional sauces and fried potatoes.
3). Sinful standards. Most self-respecting Greek tavernas offer each of the four following menu items: fried calamari (often locally harvested), grilled octopus, horiatiki salad (feta, olives, lettuce, onion, tomato, and a light dressing), and lamb fricassee. All come highly recommended.