Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Koutroulis (Ο Κουτρούλης)

On the Ides of March, we went out for a taverna meal at Omalos, the first time we went out for the year. It had been just after Christmas when we last went out for a meal as a family, again in the vicinity of Omalos. Taverna options are more limited in winter. It's so much easier to stay at home and cook, rather than brave the cold. It may have been a bad day for Caesar, but it turned out very well for us.

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The mountains are still snow-capped, but the spring flowers are blooming; crocus flowers.

The air in the Omalos valley was very crisp and the snow still very visible, but there were definite signs of spring coming. Had I not been through a bout of pneumonia, I would have liked to take a wander around the valley, because it seemed eerily quiet when we were there; very few people seemed to be up in the valley on that day. The eateries of the area - all known by the name of their respective owners - are usually very busy on a Sunday afternoon, but not today. The days of a full house and the Greek tendency to over-order may become a thing of the past now that the economic crisis is being boomed down on us during every news report on every channel. It could be that we have been brainwashed into believing that things are not going well and we should be more careful with our spending. Then again, some people might be feeling the pinch for real. If it weren't for a large party of guests who had come on the occassion of some mutual celebration, the place would have been pretty much empty, as most of the other tavernas in the area, judging from the number of cars in the parking lots.

We chose to sit at Koutroulis taverna, a favorite haunt of the hunting fraternity in Hania. The tavernas in the Omalos valley were all established to serve the purposes of tourism, the oldest one in the area being formally built in 1954. Omalos was never a traditional settlement; hunters and nature lovers shared its few facilities which all serve up very traditional fare with meat being in the spotlight, as well as wild greens and local delicacies, the kind of food traditionally eaten in villages and cooked these days by grandmamas. Don't come to Omalos and ask for fish or seafood; such an uninformed request is about as culturally inappropriate as expecting silver service and crystal glasses in a place like this. The emphasis is on the freshness of ingredients, traditional cooking techniques and well cooked food.

To get an idea of the place, think of animal hides, pre-industrial ploughing implements, a warm fireplace, old-fashioned shepherds' knapsacks and loom-woven rugs. Items fitting this description were displayed around the cosy dining room, lending a general remoteness to the ambience, strengthened by the view of the cloudy mountains from the windows.

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The fur is from a hare, the head is from a zourida (the local variety of ferret).
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The display may be an eyesore, but the owners are probably very proud of their kerata.

We chose tsigariasto goat, locally made spicy sausages, pork steak (not pictured), staka dip and boiled mustard greens, washed down with locally made wine (and a locally produced lemonade for the children). Main meals are usually pretty hefty, which is why we ordered only three, to share among the four of us.

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Dessert is always on the house: fried kalitsounia smothered in honey.

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Στην υγειά σας, everyone!

koutroulis omalos

Koutroulis taverna; Omalos valley. Total cost of meal: 35 euro.

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