We sat at a bleached blond wooden table inside the restaurant as a slight breeze drifted inward, aided by the stiff, artificial coolness from the air conditioning blowing overhead. We were six women, the last vestiges of the Alonissos, Greece edition; we were women with words, women who write, Women Reading Aloud, circa spring 2013. It was to be our last meal together as a family of writers, and we had gathered on the island of Skiathos, having just arrived at the port via ferry from the island of Alonissos. For more than a week, we had spoken of our last meal, and now the time had come. We knew where our weary feet would carry us. Our destination was clear. We sought out, and found, Ergon Greek Deli and Cuisine.
The name says “deli” and the menu refers to the cuisine as mezes. In the end, it was oh so much more. Our mouths watered at the prospect of dishes which we couldn’t pronounce in the Greek tongue, but oh so fortunate for us to have had each dish translated in writing in English to appease the eyes and tempt the palates of our group of hungry Americans.
We began with drinks. While some of us whet our whistles with a strawberry, iced raki, fresh lemon juice and crushed ice infusion known as Frau Lara, still others chose to indulge in an iced raki drink of another sort, Cucumberaki, with fresh cucumber and lemon juice. Still, a few choose not to imbibe alcohol at all but, instead, opted for strawberry enhanced soda water or cool and refreshing sparkling water.
Ergon’s menu was a titillating blend of plates that would satisfy the vegetarian and carnivore in each of us. From Cod Roe Spread to Fried Eggs with Staka Butter from Chania, Barely Rusk with Fresh White Cheese, Tomato, Basil and Caper to Baked Canneloni with Mince Meat, Homemade Orange Sausage and Feta Cheese, it was a cornucopia of elections from which everyone could choose. And choose we did.
We moved far beyond ourselves, outside the realm of normal, rational eating. Simply put, our eyes were bigger than our collective stomachs. However, Ergon is partly to blame for this culinary predicament as our imaginings of the meze plates, described to us as ‘small,’ were anything but. And the elusive ‘they’ say that Americans are keen on serving oversized portions…
Several of the dishes were duplicates of others. As a group, you see, we had a penchant for the same flavors, an it showed. Forks reached out across the table as we shared in each other’s plates. It was a communal meal, the kind shared among friends, among family.
We were a family of diners that early evening …
… as we dined on Black Pasta with squid ink, tuna from Alonissos and capers. The capers left a delicious vinegary tartness on the palate. The tuna, Alonissos’ finest, was fresh, moist, delightful. The pasta, darkened with the hues of squid ink, was al dente, supple, true bites of near perfection.
… as we dined on a seemingly simple Green Salad with rocket, spinach, tomato, roasted red pepper, honey, raisin, and grape syrup. The fresh, ripe, juicy tomatoes which we had come to love in an instant on Alonissos once again graced our waiting mouths. Spinach, more than nutrients, flavorfully so, was served alongside raisins that tasted of currants. Our tongues had been blessed.
… as we dined on Pies filled with “touloumisio” – soft cheese from Kozani, peppers and fresh oregano. “Be careful when you cut into it; it may squirt,” the waiter warned at my first tasting. Juices, oh so heavenly juices, did indeed squirt. They were divine little pies fit for the queens that we were on that lovely evening.
… as we dined on a most aesthetically pleasing Couscous Salad filled with black eyed beans, pomegranate vinegar and fresh herbs. A beauty to gaze upon; a treasure to devour. Pomegranate vinegar, you say? Oh yes.
… as we dined on Stuffed Vine Leaves with rice and goat yogurt with mint. Mini bites of delight, grains of rice cooked just right, smothered lovingly in leaves.
… as we dined on Monastic Wholegrain Pasta with mushrooms, spinach, caper leaves and roasted tomatoes that made the mouth sing with joy. Caper leaves … have you tried them? You should. It was a mélange of flavors, separate yet equal, coexisting in harmony with one purpose in its brief moment in time: to please. And it did.
… as we dined on Yellow Pumpkin Risotto with peas, smoked pancetta and “arseniko” hard cheese from Naxos. Velvety smooth, luxurious, a dish that stays on the mind long after it has left the palate. The standout dish of the evening? Perhaps … in this writer’s mind. Yet the ease with which the risotto slid a familiar path of pleasure down the throat or the creamy richness that played across the tongue with ease does no forsake the goodness of its predecessors.
The ladies of Women Reading Aloud departed Ergon—our rolling valises, backpacks and duffle bags in tow—satiated, dare I say, pleasantly stuffed. However, prior to our departure, our parting gift, compliments of Ergon, was a tiny bite of clumped sugar stuck to a wooden two-tine fork, resting in a water bath. It tasted of a tree; like the tree that sits outside your bedroom window and shades you from the heat of the midday sun. Yes, that kind of tree. Oddly, it was of a tree.
A custom of Greece, perhaps. The entire story never fully unfurled and rolled itself out before me (and if it did, I was absent from class on that pivotal day). It was an interesting flavor, yet not one that I would make a part of my daily repertoire. As one of the ladies quizzically and comically asked after tasting it, “And why would we want this?” Why indeed. It was but a miniscule misstep in an otherwise fabulous meal.
A round of applause for Ergon … for their cuisine, which was larger than life; for the gracious hostesses and hosts who were ever so kind to store our barrage of luggage while we dined and allowed it to take up that little space in the alley for an hour afterwards; for our waitress who provided us with excellent service and patiently provided separate checks among six women who eagerly ate their way across her Grecian landscape.
Ergon Greek Deli and Cuisine, A Papadiamanti Str., GR 37002 / +30 2427 021441
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