Coming to Cyprus you will realize that the favorite pass-time of the Cypriots is EATING! This is the time when the family and friends get together and eat, drink and discuss leisurely. The Cypriot cuisine has influences from many countries: mainly Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria and Italy resulting in deliciously unique combinations. The best way to get to know Cypriot cuisine is to head to local tavern and order 'Mezedes'. But beware! Before ordering, make sure you have worked up an appetite and have plenty of time at your disposal. Over the next hour or two you will be served small dishes of anything you can imagine. Dips, fresh vegetables, cheeses, fish, seafood, meats, casserole dishes, sausages, olives, etc.
DIPS: Tahini - a dip made of sesame seed paste; Talatouri - another dip made of yoghurt, cucumber, mint and garlic; Taramossalata - dip made of cod's roe; Hoummous - dip made of peas and chicken.
Octapodi krasato - octopus marinated in red wine;
Mousakas - pie made from layers of minced beef, spices, vegetables topped with bechamel and cheese;
Koupepia (Dolmades) - stuffed vine leaves;
Kleftiko - lamb wrapped in a foil with herbs and slowly baked in a sealed clay oven;
Stifado - rich stew of beef or rabbit cooked with a plenty of onions, vinegar and wine; Pourgouri - cracked wheat steamed together with fried onions to make a light pilaf served with plain yoghurt;
Kalamari - rings or squid, battered and deep fried;
Loukanika - special sausages with spices;
Keftedes - meat chops with spices;
Pasticho - something like macaroni pudding with minced meat;
Sheftalia - special meat chop with spices;
Afelia - pork made with red wine and coriander; S
ouvlaki - pork kebab;
Gemisto - vegetables stuffed with meat and rice.
DELICACIES: You will find different types of olives. Special tip: try the...
'elies tsakistes' these are olives marinated in coriander, lemon, garlic and oil.
As for cheeses do not miss the 'haloumi' cheese. It is firm rubbery cheese which tastes deliciously, either grilled with lemon or raw and also accompanied with slices of watermelon. Various Sausages are another local delicacy. One should taste 'Pastourma' which is a spicy sausage full of hot peppers and spices.
DESERTS & FRUITS: Cypriots have a love for honey soaked pastries. Go for 'Galatopoureko', a delicious desert made of pastry soaked in syrup with a cream filling in the middle. The best thing to do is to walk into a bakery/patisserie and try to choose from the many varieties of sweets. Cyprus is also well known for the delicious fruit that are produced.
Cyprus wines: Wine traditions here in Cyprus go back to the dawn of civilization, about 4,000 years back. The main wine growing area lies to the southern slopes of the Troodos mountains, high up where the sun shines clear and hot. You will find the classic grapes in Cyprus: Mavro, Xinisteri, Opthalmo and Muscat which produce rich, vigorous and strong wines. You will also find European newcomer grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache and Palomino, which produce a more delicate, fruity and mellow wine.
Commandaria - is acknowledged to be the oldest wine in the world and probably the first ever to be given an 'Appellation of Origin'. The sweet desert wine it is made by the same method as the one used thousands of years ago. This wine, which has been called 'the Wine of Kings and King of Wines' is a must to try.
Zivania - this is drink for the brave! This white spirit could have an alcohol percentage from 40% to 99%… It is usually drunk with Mezedes, in relaxed manner sipping, talking and eating.
Ouzo - another perfect accompaniment for Mezedes. Ouzo is a aromatic, white spirit made of aniseed. Try it neat with water or in a cocktail. Try 'Ouzo Special' for a special kick!
Cyprus coffee - you will notice old men sitting outside local coffee shops 'kafeneio' drinking coffee and playing backgammon 'tavli'. This would be ideal place to taste the Cyprus coffee. It is made individually in a small long handled pots called 'mbriki'. Fresh coffee beans are finely ground and 1 heaped teaspoon and sugar (if requested) is added to each demitasse of cold water. It is quite strong with a creamy froth 'kaimaki'.