With two or three jars of Mainalo vanilla fir honey directly from the source, you can make sweets all year. This local treasure is one of the two PDO honeys in Greece; it’s super rare, produced in small quantities and isn’t available every year. It’s pearl-white in color, and you’ll find it in several grocery stores in Stemnitsa and Dimitsana, including the grocery store En Stemnitsa (Agia Paraskevi, Stemnitsa, Tel. (+30)697.731.3181).
Still in Stemnitsa, at The First Peloponnesian Senate Square, is the traditional café I Gerousia ( Tel. (+30)27950.812.53), as picturesque and charming as the town itself. Wooden floors, wooden tables and a wood stove in the center give it a warm, welcoming feeling, particularly in winter. Take a seat for some Greek coffee and traditional sweets such as galaktoboureko (a semolina custard pastry treat), baklava, diples (sweet dough fritters) and orange pie; there’s also tsipouro, which they produce themselves and serve along with light snacks. If you want to play cards, there are decks available.
What does it take to please people who’ve endured two and half hours in the car from Athens? A warm welcome, cordial hospitality and good food without too much fuss is always a good start. The Angelakopoulos family of the Zerzova taverna (Tel. (+30) 693.284.7358) in the village of Panagia near Dimitsana offers much more. With a farm-to-table philosophy that means much of what they cook is produced by them, this is the place to sample wonderful village food. Mutton in oil paste, savory pies made with seasonal greens, and noodles with burnt mizithra cheese are among the things you really ought to order. An added bonus, which you do not often find at a taverna, is their carefully curated wine cellar, with a few select labels. They also have galaktoboureko, which is usually served hot. The taverna will soon relocate to the neighboring village of Markou.
In the village of Psari, the agro-tourism enterprise Arkadiani (Tel. (+30) 27910.271.61) prepares traditional products, including pasta, jams, liqueurs and pastries. Their products are also available in certain shops in Athens, but it’s worth stopping by here to see their product showroom and the small Cooking Museum they have built, with its outstanding collection of old recipe books and kitchen implements. Arkadiani also serves as a restaurant, dishing up homemade food created out of the ingredients from their vegetable garden.
An extended version of this article was previously published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.