This year, I decided to go back to my father’s mother land, Crete. I felt I owed it to myself. And so, I went. From my first day on the island I got surrounded by smells I was accustomed to when on summer holidays. Wild oregano, wild thyme spreading their aroma as the wind swept away cliffs, hills, gorges and I happened to pass by, like the wind. Being in Crete, the first thing you notice is how mountainous the island is, and how many wonderful opportunities there are to look out on the horizon and see the sea…..
Walking or driving through from village to village, you cannot escape from the aromas of Crete’s wild flora: dittany, sage, thyme, oregano, wild mint, ironwort (Sideritis syriaca), marjoram are just a few of the scents the air carries.
My travel took me to Chania and its rich history. I wondered through the Old town and the Port on a hot day with a mission: to find Stachi (Wheat), a bio, vegan, vegetarian, slow food restaurant. When I got there, the place looked quiet, two tourists were enjoying the silence and their ouzo drinks. I was welcomed by Stelios, the owner and I ordered, what else, mountain tea. At Stachi, your order comes with a treat. I got served a good piece of a vegan egg-less, butter-less cake that had come right from the oven! The carob sugar, the cloves, the cinnamon blew me away!
We started chatting with Stelios, only to find out that we have something in common: love for Switzerland, and some special people who come from there. The conversation was so relaxed, that I asked him if I could “interview” him! It was so exciting to find someone with so much love and knowledge for nature, life and of course, organic food.
Stelios has been gathering knowledge on Cretan herbs, hiking the mountains and getting in touch with nature that still gives him a sense of wellbeing for the past 3 decades. His impeccable knowledge on traditional Cretan dishes comes from various sources and goes back 30 years or more. This is so obvious from the way he cooks and speaks. Stelios and Stachi emanate L O V E. He then went on to say, that everything he uses in his kitchen is hand-picked by him, prepared by him and also cooked by him. Somewhere in the discussion food and the concept of love got fused and became one. His philosophy is that nothing is what it seems for example, a simple herb filled pie is nothing if the creator is not in touch with his emotions, if he cannot draw from his life experience in order to create a tasty, loving dish capable to transmit that feeling of love to those who will taste it.
My last question was what does the word happiness mean to Stelios. His answer simple, yet so complicated. “Happiness is when you can take the good things and the bad things in life as they are, as both create happiness”.
My companion got invited to the kitchen to see what Stelios had cooked for the day, and the photos prove it!
As the first encounter with Stelios wasn’t enough, I decided to dine a few hours later on at Stachi! There’s nothing fancy about Stachi, yet the people who come to eat, the simple but so well put together dishes create the best atmosphere for a restaurant. Stelios is eager to please even the most demanding wish; his gift: he has the ability to guess what you would like to have and brings always little tasters to the table.
My dinner that day was: a ‘simple’ vegetable soup, vegan mousaka taster-I would have ordered more if I could eat more!- a mpoureki (typical local dish of the area), staffed vine leaves (Dolmadakia) and a green herb pie (Chortopita). All a m a z i n g!!! I could feel in every bite I took Stelio’s love for what he does, how he does it and whom he does it for. Simply delicious!
For dessert, as I have mentioned to other posts that I have quit sugar, he had the right thing for me: mock milk pie (Galaktompoureko) drizzled with Cretan thyme honey and a taster of his mock must (Moustalevria) pudding. I was in heaven, wanted to stay longer in Chania and try more dishes from Stachi!
I am so grateful to Stelios for his generosity, his open heart, the wonderful healthy dishes he prepares and his ability to have reminded me part of my roots so clearly that I felt a deep pride and gratitude.
Stachi is a place I will be revisiting. For the excellent hosting, the wonderful dishes and that Cretan air that carries so many scents awaking the senses.
I’d like to close by quoting Stelio’s philosophy about his wonderful restaurant:
Our philosophy about life and a healthier way of life was the cause of to set up this small, fmaily-run restaurant.
At Stachi restaurant, the visitor will have the opportunity to taste the delicious traditional Cretan dishes and the special Mezes, which we daily prepare for you with love and care, always using organic extra virgin olive oil.
Our plates are based on fresh organic products, originating mainly from Crete, and our farm.
The restaurant is set in an ideal location, whith a view to the sea and a green environment.”
A little about Cretan herbs: http://www.sfakia-crete.com/sfakia-crete/herbs-plants-flora-crete.html