Thursday, September 13, 2012
The past five times we’ve gone to Paros we’ve rented motor bikes to get around the Island. Two for the family, with Sophie driving one with Emma on the back, and me riding with Domenico. It’s a pretty cheap and easy way to get around, I admit. But not the most comfortable.
I’ve long since given up driving my own motorino in Rome, but will still hop on the back of Domenico’s if we’re not going that far. I mean really, it was ok when I was twenty something but these days it’s just not my preferred means of transportation.
So this year I made an executive decision and rented a jeep for our stay on the Island. After much grumbling about how ‘lame’ it was to travel around in a car with your family, everyone finally settled down. Not only did they realize it was more comfortable, but it also meant maybe we could drive farther - and faster - and so visit a lot of smaller villages we’d never been to.
One of our best discoveries was the little village of Alyki, on the south west coast of Paros. The small fishing village has a lot going for it. A sandy beach and a shady boardwalk that runs along the waterfront. Much smaller than Naoussa, there were only a few restaurants (all of which had hand painted signs of food by the way).
The other thing Alyki had going for it? Fish and octopus flapping in the wind. One of the specialties of Paros is mackerel and octopus that has been ‘cured’ for a few days in the hot sun and strong winds of the island. While we’d had octopus all over the place, this was the first time we’d seen mackerel, and so we chose the restaurant with the most fishes on it’s line.
Mouragio means small port, and this restaurant forms two side of what has got to be the smallest port I’ve ever seen. About six small motorboats were tied up alongside the tables that perched along the dock.
As I mentioned earlier, even though Paros is an island we never end up eating as much fish as we think we will. It’s weirdly hard to find, and always expensive. We usually end up eating grilled meat, and loads of vegetables.
Which made us so happy to stumble upon fish-filled Alyki and the restaurant Mouragio, where we pretty much proceeded to order almost everything from the menu.
The rocks around the other side of the restaurant, in the water, were encrusted with spiny sea urchins, so that is what we ordered to start. The ‘sea urchin salad’ ended up being a small dish of raw sea urchin meat, soaking in a pool of olive oil. I’d never had it served with way and it it now the only way I want to eat them. The juices from the sea urchin infuse the oil, and vice versa. After we finished every last morsel, we all fought over the oily drippings, soaking up every last drop with the sesame seed bread.
Grilled octopus next, charred just perfectly. The fact that it was air dried meant that it was chewier than the octopus that we get in Italy, but also more intense and salty tasting. Perfect when paired with wild greens and crisp tomato and cucumber salad.
The fried white bate was so fresh it tasted like it had just hopped from the sea to our plate. Which I guess it kind of had. Ditto for the grilled sardines.
The best dish of all though was the dried grilled mackerel, guona. I love mackerel almost any which way. Canned is fine, fresh and grilled even better. But this fish, which had been dried first, was unlike any thing I’d ever had. The flesh was very firm, almost like kippered herrings. Incredibly moist and intensely fishy - in a good way.
After all that fishiness we were happy when the plate of cold carpusi arrived. I love that every meal we had in Paros ended with a platter of fork-studded melon.
A walk around town and we hopped back in our jeep. Which, by the way, everyone thanked me for arranging.
They should learn to just trust me, right?
Posted by Elizabeth Minchilli at 7:00 AM