Food and Wine in Cyprus
Dining out in Cyprus can be a real culinary adventure. If you're familiar with Greek cooking, that's a good introduction, but prepare yourself for some deliciously exotic twists.
Many of these are evident in the meze, an assemblage of as many as 30 small dishes of food that comprise a single meal – be sure to enjoy it all "siga siga", or slowly. There are restaurants and tavernas – many of the latter feature live Cypriot music. Some tavernas specialise in meat-based meze.
You may be served 'lountza' (smoked pork), 'keftedes' (meat balls), 'sheftalia' (grilled pork filets), and 'loukanika' (sausages soaked in red wine then smoked). That's in addition to souvlakia and 'ofto kleftico', meat baked in a sealed clay oven, as well as grilled chicken.
Enjoy the many mouth-watering flavours
Classic Greek specialities such as taramosalata, savory moussaka, skordalia and Greek salad may also be served. Vegetable accompaniments include olives, pickled cauliflower, and spring zucchini tossed in olive oil and egg batter.
Seafood meze is on the lighter side, naturally. Expect 'octapodi krasato', octopus in red wine, 'barbouni' (red mullet), 'marida' (a sardine type fish) and 'kalamari', rings of squid battered and deep-fried, accompanied by chunks of fresh lemon.
Whichever 'meze' you choose, the flavours of local ingredients and herbs and spices will always come through. And of course you must try halloumi, a delicious cheese made from sheep's milk and flavoured with thyme. It's a Cyprus speciality, usually grilled.
Many distinctive wines are produced in Cyprus, such as sweet Commandaria, the oldest name wine in the world. Sample them all in restaurants as well as the local wineries in such villages as Foini, Omodos and Panagia.
Some of the oldest, most renowned wines in the World
Cyprus wines are among the world's oldest, their production dating to 2000 BC. Mosaics at the House of Dionysus in Pafos attest to the colourful history of the Cyprus vine. A panel in the West Gallery relates the mythological origins.
Dionysus, the pleasure-loving god who taught Icarius how to plant vines in exchange for the hospitality he had shown him, is seated on a chair holding grapes. An inscription that reads "the first wine drinkers" in Greek accompanies a mosaic depiction of two shepherds quite drunk on Icarius' wine.
Many renowned wines of the world are made from vines brought to Europe from Cyprus after the Crusades - champagne, for example, may have originated from a choice cutting taken from Mount Olympos, in Cyprus.
Legendary foods and wines on the year-round Island
Today no Cypriot wine enjoys greater renown than Commandaria, a sweet, robust dessert wine that is said to be the oldest named wine in the world. Called 'Nama' in antiquity, it so reminded Marc Antony of Cleopatra's kisses that he gave the whole island to his legendary lover because of it.
Nama was renamed after Richard the Lionheart sold Cyprus to the Knights Templar (the Grand Commandarie itself was the estate of the Knights Hospitallers at Kolossi). The over-sized Commandaria grapes are grown on the high southern slopes of the Troodos Mountains (particularly in the villages of Zoopiyi, Kalokhorio and Agios Konstantinos), picked late in the season and sun-dried to enhance the sugar content.