Matala October 6, 2015

This morning was our first yoga class. We met at 7am and practiced outside, by the pool. We started with the story of Apollo and Daphne. I always think of Bernini’s statue of them at the Borghese in Rome. Anyway, our tree poses were inspired. Then we were off in our kayaks to practice our ‘dumps and rescues.’ I’m in a double with Joan, and she did great for her first time.

That out of the way, (we all passed) we kayaked about a half hour to Red Beach. It’s the local nude beach and we were the morning’s entertainment. The surf was pretty high and the first kayak in rolled over. I was sure we might follow, but our guides brought us in like the guys on airport runways…”arm gestures sending us a bit to the left, back off during the wave, come in straight ahead”.  It was smooth and successful.
A few minutes later, our guides brought over a bucket of wet, gray clay. We covered ourselves and set out in the sun to dry. We washed off in the ocean, smooth and exfoliated, and paddled in the other direction for a late lunch. That launch was rougher and we took on a ton of water. Now we know how to pump out the kayak while at sea. By the time we set out to return to Matala, the  waves were pretty intense and we did some rocking and rolling. After another successful landing, we had a quick rest then left for a sunset hike. Our guide Eric was waiting up at the top with a spread of drinks and snacks. He played guitar for us as we watched the sun set into the ocean and Elana (another one of our 3 guides, and I practiced a few poses. Pretty wonderful day.
We walked over to dinner at a sweet restaurant where the head chef is a classic Greek yia yia (grandmother), short, squat, dressed in black and a killer cook. The whole family works there and she came out to share a raki with us before we left.

Heraklion to Matala Oct 5, 2015

Still in Heraklion, we had dinner last night at the rooftop restaurant at our hotel. Though it would have been fun to eat in the center of town this was just upstairs and the food was excellent.  We ended up walking more city streets, found what looked like more great places to eat. One narrow walkway was lined with tables and huge planters filled with herbs for the chef. Waiters walked out with towers of rosemary infused meat. Enjoyed the scene, glad we had a lighter dinner…

This morning, we were happy to see the same driver who picked us up at the airport and he delivered us back there. We met up with two of our guides from The Northwest Passage, my sons, friends and yogis, and headed out for Knossos. The ancient city is considered to be the oldest in Europe. It was crowded but still amazing to see the site of most of the relics we just saw in the museum. It really helped to have some knowledge of the stories, myths and history.
A few hours later, we were checking into our hotel in Matala, a town on the Southern coast. Joni Mitchell lived in the caves here 1968/69 and immortalized Matala in the song Carey, on the Blue Album. Then the place was a haven for hippies. There are still miniature flower-covered VW vans in store windows and traces of macrame. It’s still much the same, minus the hippies living in the caves.  Now the beaches are crowed with German tourists. The water is gorgeous, the shore is lined with bars and restaurants and the cliffs with their caves are lighted at night..
We drove up to a mountain top for drinks and a view of the spectactular sunset. Dinner was the first of the evenings to come. (Remember, I did this same trip a year ago.) Long tables, beer and wine, plates of meze, good conversation and more food. The local drink is raki. It is served at the end of every dinner .Every family or restaurant makes their own, and our job as guests is to reassure our hosts that theirs is the best.

Heraklion Oct 4, 2015

We arrived in Heraklion late last night and checked into the Latos Boutique Hotel. Perfect place for us, there was a plate of fresh sweets and small carafe of raki waiting in the room. We took the obligatory walk around town to reset our internal clocks. It was Saturday night and the area around our hotel was still, the ancient harbor, walls, and the sea on one side and quiet residential streets on the other.

We walked in the direction of the main square, I remembered the general layout of the town from last year. Then around one corner and instant party. The streets, bars and restaurants were filled, Greek music blasting everywhere. We walked up and down streets, people watching, sort of sorry we had eaten on the plane. Still, the walk worked and we managed to sleep in this morning.
This morning we made to to breakfast just in time. I had my first cup of Cretan tea, an earthy, decaf blend of local herbs. Hotel breakfasts in Crete remind me of breakfasts in Israel. The fancier the hotel, the more elaborate the buffet. But they are all good, filled with local cheeses, full-fat yogurt, local honey, fresh veggies and here, homemade preserves, dakos and fresh squeezed orange juice. Happy, we headed out to the Archeological Museum.
I love this place, the lighting, the architecture, and of course, the art and artifacts. Joan and I spent a few hours trying to wrap our heads around the Minoan culture and appreciating the curators’ decisions on displaying some artifacts in restored form and some left as they were found.
I spent a good part of a day here last year and was so happy to be back. I have a bit more vested interest this time as I’ll be pulling themes from Greek mythology and Cretan WW ll history, for our yoga sessions. Turns out the two share a common theme of heroism. But more on that later…
Just as we were leaving the museum, my son, Adam, texted that he was a few minutes away. He showed up in time to join us in the museum garden for freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. Turns out he landed earlier and walked to town from the airport!

Far Breton

Far Breton

David Lebowitz’s recipe inspired by Patisserie Made Simple by Edd Kimber

Although I’ve seen versions of Far breton made with raisins, I urge you to resist the urge to substitute another dried fruit. Prunes really make this dish. To pit prunes, use a paring knife to make a slit in each prune and slide out the pit. For those who really don’t want to use prunes, I’ve seen French recipes that use raisins, so those are entirely permissible. If you are avoiding alcohol, you could poach some prunes in tea and use those, drained.

The batter is similar to crêpe batter, and like crêpe batter, it should rest for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator before using it. You can make it the day before you plan to use it. If you prefer a less-sweet dessert, you can reduce to sugar to 6 tablespoons (75g).

Some recipes advise lining the baking dish with parchment paper, which I found wasn’t critical. And in fact, it got soggy during cooking (and tore easily) – so decided to stick with regular butter and flour, and didn’t have much of a problem getting pieces out of the baking dish.

10 ounces (285g, about 2 cups) pitted prunes
1/3 cup (80ml) Armagnac (or Cognac, brandy, or dark rum)
2 cups (500ml) whole milk
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/4 cup (60g) melted butter, salted or unsalted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup (90g) flour
Additional softened butter and flour for preparing the baking dish

1. In a small saucepan, warm the prunes with the liquor over moderate heat, stirring them a few times while cooking, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Cover, and remove from heat and let cool. (The prunes can be done a day or two before using.)

2. To make the custard, put the milk, eggs, yolks, sugar, melted butter, vanilla, salt, and flour in a blender. Blend until smooth. Refrigerate the custard for at least four hours, or overnight.

3. To bake the Far breton, preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC).

4. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a baking dish roughly 10-inches (25-30cm) in length. (Or use a round cake pan of similar diameter, but not a springform pan, which would leak.) Dust with flour and tap out the excess. Strew the prunes in the bottom of the baking dish.

5. Stir the chilled custard a few times, then pour it over the prunes and bake until the top is gently browned, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely, then slice into bars.

Storage: Far breton can be made up to three days before serving, and refrigerated. Let come to room temperature before serving.