Crete is a small island, and Hania is not the biggest town on it, but it is lucky to have one of the four Mediterranean Agronomic Institutes (MAIs) based in Europe: apart from MAI Chania (MAICh), there is also MAI Bari (Italy), MAI Montpellier (France) and MAI Zaragosa (Spain). The MAIs are semi-private agronomic research institutes directed by a French organisation, CIHEAM (International Centre for Advanced Agronomic Studies in the Mediterranean).
On the occasion of yesterday's visit to MAICh by the Secretary General of CIHEAM, a special lunch was put on for the scientific staff at the institute, who are organised in five departments: Business Economics and Management, Food Quality Management, Environmental Management, Horticultural Genetics and Biotechnology, and Sustainable Agriculture.
The institute accomodates B. Sc. graduates from all over the Mediterranean and Europe, who come here on student visas and complete their M. Sc. degrees. This year my students come from Algeria, Armenia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Poland, Tunisia, Romania and Greece (the latter only constitute 10% of the students as a whole).
As students live on campus in dormitories, they are provided food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There's also a snack and coffee bar working most hours of the day, and there are supermarkets and canteens close by to cater for students' food needs when the restaurant isn't working.
We are lucky to have a very creative chef working at the centre. John Apostolakis always cook purely Mediterranean food, which basically means that the taste spectrum is within the Mediterranean taste regime because he uses fresh Mediterranean ingredients, even though the meals may not always resemble typical Greek or Cretan cuisine (which in any case they do most of the time). He has written a book about his cooking style including 99 recipes, which will soon be translated into English (by yours truly, of course).
John Apostolakis' Mediterranean culinary creations: his sous-chef is pictured here. For an idea of what we were served, enlarge the photograph below and read the notes.
This excellent dry red (Kotsifali variety) comes from Iraklio, the largest prefecture in Crete.
On this formal occasion (there was even a photographer), we were treated to some of his best and most creative cooking. The lunch was based on a wide selection of hot and cold salads, with two spicy meat dishes, all served with a deep crimson Cretan wine, and followed by a light dessert.
It was a little difficult to get back to office work after this kind of feast as you can imagine...
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