Opa! A Sweet Petimezi Syrup Recipe from Greece, Plus an Athens Taverna You Must Visit!
If you're a Grecophile, visiting Bronze Age Greece's ruins is probably on your bucket list if you haven't already checked it off, specifically the island of Crete's ancient Palace of Knossos, with its dolphin frescoes and proto-theater. Touring Crete's mountainous landscape and gorgeous beaches is one way to get a sense of Minoan civilization—but you can have an actual taste of it by trying petimezi, a non-fermented grape molasses used as a topping for everything from seafood to salad, or as substitute for honey. Sweetening food with the syrup was standard practice in Ancient Greece—evidence exists that even the Minoans used it.
Greek-born chef Michael Tzezailidis is bringing "Hellenic" food back at his new New York City restaurant Death Ave with modern spins on old-world dishes, like crostini troufes ($9) and fig ice cream ($8), and traditional Greek preparation techniques, such as brewing coffee with a Hóvoli (hot sand) system and squashing grapes in house for the petimezi.
To tide you over until your Grecian adventure, we asked Chef Tzezailidis to share his petimezi recipe, below, which you can make at home with just one ingredient—and a little patience. And if your trip takes you closer to Athens than to Crete, Tzezailidis has two must-dos to squeeze into your itinerary:
• Tsi Tsi taverna, in Glyfáda, Greece (near Athens). "Their souvlaki is excellent!"
• Lalária Beach, on Skiáthos, Greece. "It is only reachable by boat, but it’s completely worth it! The beach is entirely made up of round white rocks that go from small-sized at the beach to large in the deep water. The clarity is incredible, and the colors are fairytale."
Death Ave Petimezi Recipe
10 pounds of ripe grapes
1 Tbsp wood ash (optional)
Approx 1 1/2 cups petimezi
1. Thoroughly crush grapes by hand in a large bowl one bundle at a time.
2. Pour crushed grapes over a strainer to separate juice from pulp and stems. Repeat until you have all the grape juice.
3. Optional (but traditional) clarification step: Place 1 Tbsp of wood ash into a tied cloth and put it in a pot with the grape juice.
4. Bring the grape juice to a boil, and then set it to simmer for 1 hour, taking care to skim all foam. At the 1-hour mark, you can start checking the consistency of the syrup with a spoon. Boil it down until it has the consistency of maple syrup. If you added wood ash, you may remove it at this point and discard it.
5. Continued optional clarification step: Allow the syrup to sit in the pot overnight without being moved around. The wood ash helps the liquid rise and the sediment fall.
6. Pour the petimezi into another bowl. (If you took the optional steps, you would at this point disregard the sediment on the bottom of the pot by slowly pouring until you see sediment. Whether or not you added wood ash and allowed it time to settle, which is a quality-grade issue, does not really matter; the end product will be delicious. Although, the extra steps do tone down the bitterness.)
How to Use Petimezi
As a salad dressing: Mix it with red wine vinegar, and then later mix it with olive oil.
With dairy products: Pour it over ice cream, yogurt, or artisan cheese.
In tea: Use it instead of honey.
On meats: Pour it over spice-rubbed pork or chicken.
On seafood: Drizzle on grilled spicy shrimp, or as a salmon glaze.
For breakfast: Use it on toast, pancakes, or french toast.
With desserts: Eat it with bread pudding, rice pudding, or anything that needs a sweetener.
What It Feels Like to Do a Polar Bear Plunge—And Where to Find One Near You!
On New York City's Coney Island—once home to infamous freak shows—the bizarre tradition of sprinting directly into the icy-cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean, then submerging yourself, baptism-style, goes way back. All the way back, in fact, to 1903, the year that the Coney Island Polar Bear Club was founded by a kooky bodybuilder with more machismo than you'll see on all the episodes of The Sopranos combined. He was convinced a wintery ocean dip could increase stamina, virility, and immunity. (Hey, if a sissy juice cleanse is supposed to do that, who are we to argue with this guy?) Watching and participating in Coney Island's annual New Year's Day Swim has become so popular that adventurers undeterred by freezing their tuchuses off travel from all over the world to participate. This year's roster included plungers from Australia, Canada, Germany, and England. There's even a beer named after the swim: "The Plunge," dreamed up by the Coney Island Brewing Company (naturally). Brave Aussie Michele Hayes, 50, a college anatomy and physiology teacher, came all the way from Torquay, Victoria, to do the Coney Island plunge, her first cold-water dip, which was her idea of a tourist activity while visiting her brother in New York. Here's what it feels like: "When we are all grouped together on the sand, in front of the start ribbon, before they let us go, the feeling was one of solidarity of mad people, we were clapping and laughing so much. We had to be vocal and move, as it was freezing. The wind-chill factor took the temperature lower than what it actually was. "Once we had the call to 'Go!' it was amazing to run in with everyone. The water felt like it had slapped me, and slapped me hard, but I was so excited I just laughed and laughed and squealed and kept running. The water was choppy, due to the strong winds. One wave came up to my chest that took my breath away. But the exhilaration made me keep running out past the pack, and I saw someone duck-dive beside me. Only one other person was out as far as I was, so I duck-dived a couple of times. I felt free and exuberant and alive. But the warnings and my knowledge of hypothermia made me turn and run back to shore. My brother and niece found me and wrapped me in a towel. I did not feel cold at all, but my skin was red, as if I had been slapped. I changed quickly and congratulated everyone I passed, as it was a shared experience, one that we had been in together." Convinced? Find out more about participating in the Coney Island Polar Bear Club's New Year's Day Swim at polarbearclub.org. It's free; the suggested charitable donation benefits Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses, held in the woodlands of Maine's Sebago Lake area. Wanna try a plunge near you? It's not too late! Here's a list of free charity-driven dips: Throughout the United States The Special Olympics hosts cold-water plunges for charity all over the country, from California to Michigan to Virginia. Check out the calendar at specialolympics.org. East Coast U.S. Camp Sunshine, the same charity that benefits from Coney Island's swim, offers East Coast dips throughout the winter, including Maine, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts: Pick your plunge at campsunshine.org. Canada The Courage Polar Bear Dip for World Vision in Oakville, Ontario, raises money to provide clean water to countries that need it—the 2015 January 1 plunge benefitted Gashora and Rugarama, Rwanda. Toronto's Polar Bear Dip supports Habitat for Humanity. Texas The Annual Barton Springs Polar Bear Splash in Austin, Texas, raises cash for the local Save Our Springs Alliance every January 1. Washington Seattle's New Year's Day Polar Bear Plunge benefits Seattle Parks and Recreation's Learn to Swim Scholarship Fund for underprivileged youth.
Awesome & Affordable Hotel Spas
We serenity-seekers are all too familiar with this scenario: You book a dreamy getaway to escape the grind and reclaim your sanity for a few days. The hotel you scored a great deal on is spectactular. Your room is airy and luxurious. But when you unfold that slick brochure listing the property's spa services, you see the exorbitant prices—$185 for a 60-minute chakra-balancing ritual? really?!—and your heart drops a little. Springing for any of the treatments would blow the money you'd set aside for important extras, like beachside piña colada floaters. "Spa services and treatments at some hotels are more expensive because the hotel or resort's operating expenses and overhead can be more expensive than a smaller day spa or chain—and that overhead is reflected on the spa menu," says Mia Kyricos, chief brand officer at Spafinder Wellness, Inc. Still, Budget Travelers deserve every perk that tranquil vacations offer (including luxe spa treatments!), so we collected the best under-the-radar spa-insider tips to help you bliss out without going broke. First, a little expert intel on how to save at any hotel spa. Click through after Secret #5, and we'll reveal six unique hotel spas that offer posh treatments at sensible prices. Spa savings secret #1: Casino spas are surprisingly cheap. "As a rule of thumb, many casino resorts and hotels have very attractive spa pricing," Kyricos says. Look for à la carte "express" treatments, like a simple manicure or basic facial, to snap up a service for a fraction of the price of the usual longer, more elaborate menu item. Spa savings secret #2: Show up far earlier than your appointment time to create your own personal spa day. One thing that hotel spas have going for them that your neighborhood beauty parlor doesn't? Sprawling, up-to-date spa facilities that you can use gratis. "A spa treatment at a hotel often includes use of pools, saunas, steam rooms, relaxation lounges, etc., extending a one-hour massage to a full 'spa day' experience," Kyricos says. "These extras may not be available at a day spa." Peel yourself off your beach chair early (more difficult than it sounds!), and take advantage of every spa station: They advertise that invigorating cold marble plunge pool for a reason. Spa savings secret #3: Always ask about discounts and special packages, especially during non-peak hours or seasons. Even at swanky spas, there are bargains to be had. According to Spafinder Wellness 365's most recent State of Spa Travel Report, the "deal culture" in spa marketing is here to stay, even though the economy has improved—32 percent of travel agents reported that spas were more aggressive with special pricing and packages last year over the year before. Fifty-three percent said deals were equally strong. Ask your hotel directly about specials, but you can also position yourself for a flood of hotel spa discounts and credits by browsing sites like Groupon.com, LivingSocial.com, Travelzoo.com, GiltCity.com, and Spafinder.com, Kyricos says. We searched Groupon and found a hefty $120 discount at New York City's Eventi Hotel on two treatments, including the Jet Lag Recovery Body Scrub. Spa savings secret #4: When in doubt, choose the massage. "A massage is generally the best value, and few things beat the benefits of a truly therapeutic massage," Kyricos says. One exception: If there's an identically priced facial that lasts just as long and involves a smorgasbord of expensive serums, fruit extracts, and masques, you'll get your money's worth and then some. Spa savings secret #5: Absurdly high prices? Bring the spa to you instead. Say what? Yep! In today's app-happy culture, if you can't afford the spa on property, you can summon an outside technician to come to your hotel room—and you don't have to make movie-star money to swing it. The PRIV app dispatches beauty and wellness pros in New York, L.A., and London who can give you a 30-minute chair massage ($45), gussy you up with a braided 'do ($30), and more—tax and tip included. Hair- and makeup-centric Glamsquad, based in New York, L.A., and Miami, lets you choose a specific hairstyle post-blowout, like "chic, beachy waves" or "sleek, straight, and shiny" for $50. A special manicure category will launch later this year, nailphiles. Now, where should we relax first? These hotel spas have been noted by insiders for their reasonable rates and excellent value: 1. The Roosevelt Spa at Gideon Putnam Resort: Saratoga Springs, New York Therapeutic individual mineral baths that start at only $30 per 40-minute soak are what Michael Tompkins, chairman of the International Spa Association and CEO of Hilton Head Health weight-loss resort, likes best about the Gideon Putnam Resort's certified-green spa's menu. Rich history accompanies the bucolic small-town setting: People have long traveled to "take the cure" in Saratoga's legendary waters, and former president Franklin D. Roosevelt himself commissioned the current iteration of the spa, which opened in 1935. After you thoroughly prune in the bath, tack on a Signature Roosevelt Massage, starting at $55. Hot tip: Treatment rates are discounted Monday through Thursday (services from $20, rooms from $112 per night, gideonputnam.com). 2. The Spa at Trump Hotel: Las Vegas, Nevada Who'd have thought The Donald would go el cheapo? Technically, the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas isn't a casino hotel, but its prices are just as appealing, Kyricos says. (Perhaps the hotel's proximity to the slots encourages spa deals to filter in by osmosis.) Through January 31, 2015, the spa's Trumptations 25-minute express treatments, such as the Desert Hydrating Facial and Express Manicure & Pedicure, are $50 with this printable coupon (services from $40, rooms from $115 per night, trumphotelcollection.com). 3. The Hills Health Ranch: British Columbia, Canada Voted the best budget-conscious wellness experience by Spafinder in 2014, The Hills Health Ranch lets you build your own all-inclusive spa package from a menu of affordably priced services, most of which incorporate local rosehip oil that's cold-pressed right on property. Staff picks include the 50-minute full-body Rosehip Seed Scrub ($89) and the Hydro Foot Spa—15 minutes of delightful water-pummelling followed by a 24-minute foot and lower leg massage ($59) (services from $17, rooms from about $110 per night, spabc.com). 4. Cannery Pier Hotel Spa: Astoria, Oregon Every full-body wrap and facial at the Cannery Pier Hotel's spa is less than $100—even the Marine Minerals Wrap, which swaddles your body in kaolin clay, marine fango, and organic kelp. A regular 60-minute massage? A reasonable $70. If there were ever a time to be "that person" who spends an entire day in the spa, this is it: A three-and-a-half-hour itinerary of sauna time, a body wrap, a soak, an hour-long massage, and a custom facial—plus spa snack!—is $245, which might as well be free in hotel spa world. Tompkins likes this property, a former fishermen-owned cannery with stunning Columbia River views, for the town's stellar fishing and charming shops (services from $2, rooms from $179 per night, cannerypierhotel.com). 5. Zentropia at Grand Palladium Vallarta: Riviera Nayarit, Mexico Spanish hotel chain Palladium Hotels & Resorts recently launched its Zentropia Palladium Spa & Wellness brand, made up of five different spas at its properties in Mexico, Ibiza, and Jamaica. The most affordable spa of them all is at the Riviera Nayarit location, part of the all-inclusive Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa, where you can spring for fun, somewhat frivolous services in a zen tropical environment for pennies—and isn't that what an affordable beach vacation is all about? Have a salon technician give you a single braid for $2, try out a set of false strip eyelashes for $10, or surprise your partner with a 50-minute couples' massage—accompanied by two free mimosas—for $150, less than half of what you'd pay at a luxury resort in Punta de Mita (services from $2, all-inclusive accommodations from $147 per person per night, zentropia-spa.com). 6. Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa: New Mexico Quirky and local, the treatments at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa are inspired by the property's 147-year-old history as a health resort; its mineral waters considered by early Native Americans to be sacred. Nowadays, 11 pools of varying temperatures contain four different types of purportedly healing mineral water: lithia to alleviate depression, iron to boost immunity, soda to aid digestion, and arsenic to heal skin conditions (access from $18). The 25-minute Signature Milagro Relaxation Wrap is only 12 bucks, but this isn't just any spa wrap—it's an ancient ritual: You're wrapped in a light cotton blanket, then a heavy wool blanket to encourage the release of toxins, all while soothing music plays. Not feeling particularly earthy? The Native American Blue Corn & Prickly Pear Salt Scrub is $50 as a 25-minute add-on; spring for 50 minutes for $85, and a scalp massage and herbal oil hair therapy treatment is included (services from $12, rooms from $139 per night, camping and RV rates from $20, ojospa.com).
America's Favorite Diners
We'll wholeheartedly admit it: We can't resist diner food. Whether we're talking disco fries to break up a marathon road trip, the mishmash of beef piled onto a Garbage Plate in a fun college town, or a perfectly browned pancake at a highway pit stop you remember from your childhood, diners—not to put too fine a point on it—are always there for travelers. Now, courtesy of our data-chomping whiz-kid friends at Foursquare, we not only know the 10 states that love diners most, but we also know the top-rated diners in each of those states, according to the app's data, including what to order. With ample serving sizes like these, your eyes will almost always be bigger than your stomach. That's part of what makes the quintessential American diner so great. And at $8.50, we'll take two orders of those mac and cheese fritters in South Dakota, please. West Virginia Betty's Restaurant112 E. German St., Shepherdstown, WV 25443 Patrons say: "An old-fashioned diner with a great Southern breakfast menu. Warning: the portions are NOT small!!" —John You should try: The Rumsey Burger, a double-decker cheeseburger made with local beef and heaped with lettuce, tomato, and Thousand Island dressing. Named after James Rumsey, arguable inventor of the steamboat, which debuted on the Potomac River in Shepherdstown, the giant burger has been called a high-quality version of a Big Mac ($8). Wyoming Luxury Diner1401 W. Lincolnway, Cheyenne, WY 82001 Patrons say: "Small and cozy joint. From the way it looked on the outside I wouldn't have stopped, but read good reviews. Breakfast was awesome." —Stacey You should try: The Biker Burger, topped with Swiss and American cheese, mushrooms, bacon, grilled onions, and red or green chili ($10.45) Idaho West Side Drive-In1939 W. State St. (at N. 21st St.), Boise, ID 83702 Patrons say: "Eat whatever is on special. This is best drive-thru food in Boise." —Casey You should try: The Lemon Zip Float, made with lemon custard ice cream, lemonade, a lemon wedge, and ginger ale ($3.49) South Dakota Phillips Avenue Diner121 S. Phillips Ave. (at 10th St.), Sioux Falls, SD 57104 Patrons say: "Awesome little diner in downtown Sioux Falls. I had a country fried steak, and it was the best!" —Laura You should try: The Salty Dog Crazy Shake, made with caramel, sea salt, and beer nuts ($6), to wash down the Mac & Cheese Fritters, "our house mac & cheese rolled into crunchy nuggets of joy, served with honey mustard sauce for dipping" ($8.50) Mississippi Darwell's Cafe127 E. First St., Long Beach, MS 39560 Patrons say: "OMG! The best meal I've had on the coast! Filet mignon tips with lump crab over French bread and shrimp étouffée! You won't be disappointed!!!" —Billye You should try: The crawfish étouffée, with seasoned shrimp on top (from $12) Maine Becky's Diner390 Commercial St., Portland, ME 04101 Patrons say: "Cab driver from last night recommended this place—best diner in town, he says. He doesn't lie. You'll find proof in the homemade corned beef hash!" —Aaron You should try: The classic blueberry pancakes (from $2.75) Kentucky Ramsey's Diner3090 Helmsdale Place, Lexington, KY 40509 Patrons say: "A true local favorite! People come here for the great food, like the awesome Reuben sandwich, but they keep coming back for the delicious Missy's Pies! With 4 locations, there's always one close by!" —Cypress You should try: The Hot Brown open-face sandwich, with turkey and ham ($10) Arkansas Purple Cow11602 Chenal Pkwy. (Autumn Rd.), Little Rock, AR 72211 Patrons say: "Great burgers and shakes!! '50s style" —Donny You should try: The Famous Purple Vanilla shake, made with local Yarnell's Ice Cream ($4.40) Montana Paul's Pancake Parlor2305 Brooks, Missoula, MT 59801 Patrons say: "Been coming to this place for as long as I can remember. One of the best breakfast spots in Missoula." —Amy You should try: The sourdough pancakes, made for the past 95 years from Paul's great-grandmother's starter ($7) Kansas Old Mill Tasty Shop604 E. Douglas Ave. (at St. Francis Ave.), Wichita, KS 67202 Patrons say: "Milkshakes made by hand, and so good you'll want to slap yourself. Best part, you get the shake in a glass AND the mixer cup." —Brandi You should try: The Carrot Cake Shake, the diner's popular carrot cake blended right into a milkshake—people ask for it by name even when it's not listed as a special (from $5)
Best Restaurants for Budget Travelers in VENICE
Osteria da Alberto Calle Larga Giacinto Gallina (just before the bridge) +39/041-523-8153 Alberto is simply an unassuming, relaxed restaurant located between Campo San Giovanni e Paolo and my favorite church in Venice, the Santa Maria dei Miracoli. It's not new, and you're not going to find any modern twists on classics. Instead—especially if you go at lunch—you're likely to find regulars (tourists and well as locals) tucking into heaping plates of the daily pasta. La Palanca Fondamenta al Ponte Piccolo 448 +39/041-528-7719 The island of the Giudecca, though easy to get to, remains firmly off the beaten tourist track. One of the best ways to enjoy it is to stop by La Palanca for lunch. Make sure you reserve though, since it's always full of locals. Perched at the edge of the Fondamenta al Ponte Piccolo, the views out over towards the Zattere are like sitting within a Canaletto. Recent daily specials included linguine with local carciofi violetti and big, firm chunks of coda di rospo (monkfish). Perfectly cooked pasta, with massive amounts of both fish and artichokes. And their special: linguine al nero di seppie, They don't do dinner, but you can stop by for great cichetti and a glass of wine. Trattoria la Rampa Via Garibaldi (right in front of the market boat) +39/365-649-0277 The Holy Grail in Venice—at least for foodies—is finding that little hidden away place where locals go. In a city like Venice—which makes its living from the hoards of tourists who come here each year - these simple places are a dying breed. But Trattoria alla Rampa is the exception. The small restaurant, with a hand painted sign outside, is located in an area of Venice where few tourists venture. Just north of the Biennale gardens, the small streets leading off of the wide Via Garibaldi are hung with laundry belonging to the mostly working class families that live here. La Rampa opens its doors at 5 a.m. Yes. You read that right. They open that early because that is when the men who live in this neighborhood - police men, firemen, garbage men and other workers - head off for the day. They stop by La Rampa for a quick breakfast and the place remains open for the rest of the day until just after lunch. Portego Castello San Lio 6014 +39/041-52-29-038 This little baccaro is a good stop for both cichetti (of which they have a lot of) or else a real sit down meal. Like a real baccaro the place opens in the morning, at 10:30. If you just need your first ombra of the day, that's fine. But if you're feeling in need of a snack, the selection is terrific. Go up to the counter, and choose yourself. The top shelf is taken over mostly with thick crostini topped with things like bacala, sardines, anchovies, tuna and salami. If you want to be truly Venetian, stop by at the end of the day, before dinner, for a glass of wine and a few cichetti. It's all cheap and cheerful, paper plates and plastic glasses. Marisa Fondamento Cannaregio, Cannaregio 652B +39/041-720-211 Be prepared to sit back and enjoy whatever comes to the table at this very rustic trattoria, in Cannareggio, not far from the train station. . It will either be "meat night" or "fish night," but that's about all you'll be told in advance. At lunch time this place fills up with workers: gondoliers, construction workers, etc. Big portions of hearty and filling home style cooking. At night things are a bit more sedate, with multi course meals being enjoyed by tourists as well as locals. Ready to bring home a taste of Venice? Try this slightly adventurous but super-easy recipe: Spaghetti con Nero di Seppia One of the iconic dishes of Venice, the easiest way to make it is to buy squid ink packaged and ready to go. For 4 to 5 servings: About 1 pound of squid cut into small pieces 1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 4 garlic cloves sliced 1 pepperoncino crushed 1/3 cup dry white wine 4 tomatoes without the skin and seeds puree (pomodori pelati) 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley 1 pound spaghetti Heat olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet until hot but not smoking. Saute garlic and pepperoncino, stirring, until fragrant (gold) about 30 seconds. I discard the garlic pieces or I leave in a couple of pieces. Add squid pieces and saute, stirring one minute. Add the wine and let simmer for two minutes (stirring). Cover and let simmer until squid is tender, then remove pan from heat. In a small bowl, empty packaged squid ink. Add two tablespoons water and stir the mixture. Add this mixture to the pan while stirring (let the pan cool before adding the mixture because it may solidify). Add the pureed tomatoes, cover, and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes. Add the parsley a few minutes before the end of cooking. When the pasta is cooked and drained keep 1/3 cup of water just in case the squid sauce is dry. Add the pasta to the pan and stir, adding a bit of the pasta water as well. Serve immediately with crusty bread and a fresh green salad.