Ithaka

Greek food is something I really enjoy but never tend to seek out and I believe most people would agree. But after visiting Ithaka, I think that Greek has definitely become a cuisine I’m more likely to search for.

A few weeks ago I was on my way for Italian and somehow ended up at Ithaka, a charming Greek restaurant on the Upper East Side. Never having been to a traditional Greek restaurant, I was very excited to try something other than Greek Salad and Spanakopita. As much as I love the two, this was my opportunity to try something different.

We were happily greeted by a nice Greek waiter as soon as we were seated. We started the night with a bottle of traditional Greek wine called Retzina. The wine had a very interesting herbal flavor reminiscent of Rosemary which was quite refreshing. According to Wikipedia Retzina is a Greek resinated white (or rose wine, that has been made for over 2000 years. Its unique flavor is said to have originated from the practice of sealing wine vessels, particularly amphorae, with Aleppo Pine resin in ancient times. Before the invention of impermeable glass bottles, oxygen caused many wines to spoil within the year. Pine resin helped keep air out, while at the same time infusing the wine with resin aroma.

Shortly after, we were presented with the actual fish of the day, and what nice fish they were. We were then read the specials, which all sounded delicious. We decided to begin our meal with a few appetizers and then go from there. Our hungry managed to order the Ithaka Salad, Tirokafteri, and the Spanakotiropita. I know, I know, I was supposed to try new things. But it sounded too good to pass up and thankfully it was! The Spanakopita had the perfect blend of spinach, feta, and buttery, flaky philo dough. My mouth is watering as I write this. Though the Tirokafteri, or spicy feta dip, was just as delectible. Even the Ithaka salad was a highlight, with it’s fresh lettuce and perfectly ripe avocado slices.

Ithaka’s Salad, arugula, watercress, endives, avocado and Kalamata olives with Ithaka dressing
Tirokafteri, spicy spread with feta cheese, olive oil & red, green peppers

Spanakotiropita, homemade spinach pie with feta cheese and dill

Even with our mouths half full we decided to order a round of main courses that included the Lamb Special and the Kotopoulo Souvlaki (Chicken Kebab). Though it was difficult to get through all of the appetizers, we did it with pleasure. Though I must admit, we ate very little of our entrees, despite how tantalizing they were. When the entrees arrived they both had savory aromas that I was able to taste even before my first bite. The Lamb Special, though still not entirely sure how it was cooked, was extremely tender and falling off its bone. The accompanying sauteed veggies were a perfect pairing leaving me completely satisfied after only a few bites. The Chicken Souvlaki was just as tender and was plated with a variety of well done vegetables.

Kotopoulo Souvlaki, marinated chicken with tomatoes, green peppers, and onions

Lamb Special, lamb sauteed with onions, celery, and carrots

Unfortunately we were completely stuffed and were unable to order dessert, as usual. But I’ll be sure to return to try some of their milk pudding and glazed donuts. I highly recommend Ithaka for any occassion and especially groups since the serve very generous portions. And be sure to try the Retsina, and order the large bottle!
308 East 68th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues

Ahh, The Mediterranean

I’ve partaken in eating a significant amount of Mediterannean cuisine in the last month and I thought I’d share its intoxicating effects with you. This week I will expose some of my favorite Mediterranean foods and where they can be found so you can get a taste of the good life.

The highlights of the week are Spanikopita, Acili Ezme, Procuitto di San Daniele, and the wonderfully well known Feta Cheese. Spanakopita is a Greek pastry with a filling of spinach, feta cheese, onions, egg, and seasoning. The filling is wrapped in layers of phyllo pastry with butter and/or olive oil. Acili Ezme is chopped fresh spicy green peppers, vine ripened tomatoes, and onions with parsley. Procuitto di San Daniele is a dry-cured spiced Italian ham that is usually sliced thin and served raw. It is a traditional Italian antipasto, and my favorite! Lastly, Feta Cheese is a brined curd cheese traditionally made in Greece with goat’s and sheep milk. Feta can vary in flavor from salty to tangy and is now made in other regions.

This week’s posts will guide you to some of my favorite NYC spots where you can find the freshest Mediterranean ingredients around. Stay tuned for reviews and recipes including:

Limon
Ithaka

Greek Salad with Lemon Herb Chicken
Cavatappo