Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Selene Restaurant

On a Modern Greek Island, a Restaurant Brings the Past to Life

The New York Times included Selene in its list of the 10 most spectacular restaurants in the world, it was no small accomplishment if you consider that our country has practically no grand gourmet restaurant tradition. Selene also hosts a  charming private museum that demonstrates the Santorini of the past, a time when the island relied not on tourism but rather on its meager, but important, agricultural production. 

 Excellent tomato paste was produced in nine factories up until the mid '70s. The local variety of non-irrigated small tomatoes, which recently started to be cultivated again, produces a dense paste that bears no relation to the tomato paste of the Peloponnese or the north of Greece, the basic regions where peltes (tomato paste) is now manufactured. Delicious fava that the inhabitants of Santorini cultivated and peeled in hand-operated stone mills, along with exported wine and the income sailors brought to their families, was the core of the island's economic life up until the mid-'70s. Now I heard that property in Santorini is sold at prices that rival those of Madison Avenue in New York City! 

Still recovering from the unfortunate death of his beloved partner and wife Evelyn, Giorgos Hatziyannakis, the owner of Selene, has managed to re-invent his successful restaurant, and with his dedicated team he is once again offering one-day cooking classes. His daughter, who studies in Athens, is not interested in continuing her father's dream, but Hatziyannakis is not ready to stop trying to preserve the old island ways. And if I can judge by the family of three Americans who insisted on a private lesson at any cost (which I witnessed on the day I visited Selene), I am sure this trademark Cycladic restaurant, and the traditions it carries, has a long life ahead of it.

 Aegean Flavours Ltd. works several times in Santorini with Selene restaurant (http://www.aegeanflavours.com/language_english/program_santorini.html)

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