What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Tinos”?
Surely the island, the sea, maybe oblations or Virgin Mary of Tinos? How about dove cotes, food, surf?
If Tinos is famous about something, well that has to be the Virgin Mary of Tinos. Mainly a religious destination, probably due to the fact that Greeks would consider Tinos when in need of an oblation. But that was 10 years ago.
This past decade, the island has shown a whole new side. A side seemingly kept private, for many years.
You see Tinos is quite athletic. A couple of years ago, we found ourselves north, somewhere towards Panormos cove and we realized that this is the ideal spot for surfers and water sport aficionados. The sea combined with the high waves make it the ideal spot. Don’t even get us started on what it feels like to enjoy your cocktail at the beach, after a day of swimming and surfing.
This year, Tinos decided to give us, one more surprise or should we say to open her kitchen and welcome us in.
Tinos is a foodie. Or rather a chef foodie. Yeah, true! She can cook and set a proper table for guests and loved ones. Like a good mother and housewife, her doors are always open for friends and strangers alike and treats everyone, like family.
A few weeks ago, we got a pretty good taste of the Tinos hospitality, or filoxenia as Greeks would say, and kitchen. An experience that reminded us, once again, that Tinos is a multidimensional island.
We arrived on the island Monday, morning and as soon as we stepped our foot there, we got carried away by the mouthwatering smells. Tinos had decided to show us that side of her, as well and she was showing off tastes and aromas through the Gastronomy Festival TINOS FOOD PATHS.
The sun was high, a sweet summer breeze was caressing our skin and we had just arrived from our boat trip. It was time for the first meal of the day or better said “Tinos Brunch”.
The mainland is the center of the island and an important point in Tinos Food Paths. Our first stop was at Ionnis Kritikos shop, a name connected to meat in Tinos, since it holds a century old family tradition.
In Amfitritis shore, in Vinci, we sat for the Tinos brunch and tried traditional sausages, a garlic sausage and ofcourse loutza (pork fillet marinated in wine and a mixture of herbs, fennel seeds, cinnamon and savory) and tsipouro where the stars of the table.
Next stop, the old fish market. The festivals meeting point, or rather should we say starting point. Set up beautifully, the old fish market welcomes guest with discussions about the island, the local products, meetings with famous chefs and cooks and of course local delicacies.
There, in the middle of a happy family moment, we got acquainted with the festival volunteers and then we tasted, along with Stelios Parliaros, cheesecake with spoon sweet (traditional Greek dessert) dried figs and walnuts. The… gastronomy torch was passed to Iias Mamalakis who served us, in his usual fun demeanor, a mouthwatering lamb frikasee (dish of stewed meat pieces) with artichokes.
The smells where all around us and you could almost hear the sounds of indulgence through the fish market. Experienced bartenders took over the stage and introduced us to Aegean Cocktails & Spirits Workshop by Difford’s guide. Scrumptious cocktails with a Greek twist of local veggies, fruits and herbs.
Monk Epifanios from Mount Athos along with Nana Gampoura cooked a soup with pumpkin and waterless legumes from Tinos.
The next day found us in Hora (mainland) again, exploring the small pathways, heading towards Tinos Cultural foundation, to enjoy the “As a dove” exhibition, dedicated to the symbol of Tinos and this years Tinos Food Paths, the dove.
How could we experience Tinos and a gastronomy festival, without touring the vineyards and enjoying the local wine? So, we headed off to Mesi and Vaptistis Winery. The family the owns the winery uses exclusively Greek grape varieties and especially the ones that are adaptable to Tinos climate. Our wine tour ended with a meal set right inside a restored pigeon house. An unforgetable experience combined with amazing tastes.
Italians say that after food comes not dessert, but chees. So, after lunch we headed off to unravel the mysteries of local cheeses. As you would imagine, there is a wide variety of local cheeses, to choose from.
First, we headed off to Aggelas Rouggeri cheese dairy, where we learned everything there is to know about local cheese producers and how to make, two unique types of cheese, Kariki (a cheese that matures for 6 months and has a similar taste to Roquefort and Marathouni which tastes much like Kalathaki (local cheeses of Limnos and Andros, that have a similar texture to feta). Then we headed off to San Lorentzo so we could have a closer look at one of the most interesting processes of cheese making. Petroma is a traditional hard cheese that is kneaded with herbs and salt and then molded into small cheese balls.
The next day found us heading to one of the most beautiful villages of Tinos, Pyrgos. There, in the middle of the quiet central square that fills with people dancing, we had our morning coffee. After taking a quiet stroll in the picturesque alleys of the village, we visited the home the renowned Greek Sculptor Giannouli Halepa.
Then, the road lead us to the greenest village of the island, Kardhianí. Flowing streams, lush trees and us enjoying our coffee and local sweets in a balcony overlooking the sea. How could not fall in love?
Mission Tarambados Dove codes
Last but by far the best, was a visit to Tarambados village. There in a hidden treasure game, we put the straw hats, handed to us by the Tinos Food Tours team and with our map wondered amongst dove codes and fields.
We smelled, tasted, heard, saw, touched everything around us, talked to the locals, fed the pigeons and cooked tradition TSIMPITA (meaning bites), the sweet local cheese pies, and we couldn’t help but notice the locals strong bond with doves. This unique experience made us realize that this year’s Tinos Food Paths main theme, couldn’t be anything other than squab.
Feasts are all about gathering around the table, eating, laughing, drinking and sharing emotions and smiles. And that’s exactly what we did. As the sun was setting we raised our glasses to celebrate this unique hospitality, this once in a life time experience in Tinos.
Around a scrumptious buffet of local tastes we came friends with the volunteers and we all realized what an important part of our life, food is and how it brings us all closer. Maybe that’s why our Greek grandmothers always told us “Eat your food” and the neighbor yelled “come in and grab a bite.” Tinos just like all of Greece show affection with food, with friends gathering a table and sharing everything the land has so open handedly offered.
Tinos Food Paths
So, the locals, realizing themselves how important food is to their life and culture, decided through this unique food festival to open their doors and set the table so we can discover the well-kept secret of Tinos. Local products, local recipes and of course the most precious of them all, the people.
Next time when someone asks what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear Tinos don’t be so quick to answer. First take a trip to Tinos and succumb to the tasty experience of Tinos Food Paths, the warm hospitality of the locals and the volunteers, who actually took a leave from work, so they could be part of this unique experience.
After that we are sure that the answer will come down to two words. Awesome food! At least that’s what we said as we were leaving Tinos behind us…