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Goldring Travel’s 2022 Culinary & Cultural Cruise on the Windstar Star Legend – October 2, 2022 – Part VI (Windstar Private Cooking Demonstration and a Change in Course)

Our Culinary & Cultural Cruise on Windstar’s Star Legend continues, but with a change. Due to unforeseen construction issues, the Corinth Canal was closed early so our transiting the canal was cancelled and that required a significant change to our itinerary. But, at least for me, it was actually a big improvement!

When traveling flexibility and understanding are keys to not only being happy, but embracing unexpected opportunities.  Here, the last two days of the first leg of our cruise were supposed to be a day at sea and a port call at Delphi, followed by an early evening transit of the canal and a late night arrival in Athens before departing the next day.  Instead, the Star Legend visited Monemvasia, Greece, and Nafplion, Greece before a more “normal” early morning arrival in Athens, Greece.

Windstar Executive Chef Joseph Kalynuik

While our day at sea became Monemvasia, the show had to go on…and Executive Chef Joseph and I had coordinated a Private Interactive Cooking Demonstration for the sea day that was based upon the items we purchased during our Private Shopping with the Windstar Executive Chef and it went off as scheduled later in the afternoon (so as not to interfere with people exploring the port or the ship’s lunch operations).

It started out with the first “interaction”: Everyone enjoying a bowl of Turkish Manti (filled pasta) in the requisite spicy tomato sauce and yogurt with lots of oregano, garlic and chili. Having spent many days in Turkey I can attest that Chef nailed it!

As we dined and drank some Turkish wine that I had purchased onshore, Chef prepared a Court Bouillon which was later used to cook Calamari stuffed with Prawns, Scallops and Crab. But before that could be accomplished a Scallop Mousse needed to be prepared. It was quite a complex yet delicate show!

I think almost everyone agreed this is not something that you would make at home, but it didn’t even get to the issue of technique. Why? Because the count of bowls holding ingredients for our cooking demo was 44! 

Chef Joseph carefully stuffed whole calamari with a bit of mouse, then crab meat, then more mouse, then a prawn, then more mouse; finally securing this delicious package with a toothpick before gently lowering them into the court bouillon.

Not being done, Chef Joseph brought out the two aged Porterhouse Steaks he purchased during our shopping event, had the sous chef season it and then gave the instruction for it to be taken away to be cooked, “RARE!”

It all came together beautifully.  What a locally based culinary experience put on by Windstar…and a lot of fun.

But before the cooking demonstration, having heard Monemvasia was beautiful, it was time to explore!  The focus is a castle at the entrance into the natural harbor that runs from the shoreline up a high peak surrounded by, of course, stone walls. But for me it was the charm of the village that embraced me.

While climbing to the top of the fortress is apparently a thing (climbing to the top of whatever seems to be a thing), it was not a thing for me.  Rather I enjoyed the one-mile walk from the tender landing over the causeway to the wall’s entry (you can take a taxi) and the wandering through the maze of streets and stairways.

As it was still morning and, well, Greece pretty much doesn’t open until noon at the earliest, it was a fairly quiet wander (no crowds).  But as the crowds built, I tucked into a quiet bar for a beer…but others must have seen me and my quiet spot quickly wasn’t so quiet. As I was leaving I looked that old bartender and he said, “Not so quiet.” To which I replied, “You should have locked the door!”  We both laughed. 

Eventually, I came across a small, old, taverna and looked in.  An old woman was just setting up the outdoor tables, and I asked when she opened. She said ten minutes, but more importantly, said she has had the taverna for 50 years and she had the best food.  Well…

I sat at an old wooden table with a peek-a-boo view of the sea in front of me, stone walls and a church to one side and some cats sleeping on a third.  She then set down a menu with a wooden cover, noting the little girl on it was her, as well as a small basket with some bread and an old cloudy wine glass. Atmosphere.

I ordered some zucchini fritters, tzatziki, and those amazing phyllo filled with warm feta and drizzled with honey.

Though my goal was to sample, not eat it all, when I was finished I got a friendly Greek grandmother scolding: “What? You don’t like my cooking?”  She was wonderful, but she also didn’t know what else I had planned for the day!

The next day was Nafplion, which I have visited a number of times. As it was Sunday, things were even slower than usual.  So I took a wander back behind the waterfront to a small coffee shop next to a park I like for a coffee and a pastry.  Yum!

Wanting to do nothing more than people watch, I wandered to the main square, and found a place with a comfortable chair in the shade with a good view.  I ordered a small bottle of ouzo and a shisha (hookah) and spent a couple of hours doing, well, nothing.  It was wonderful.

But you know me. I had to get something to eat.  When I asked the server, he smiled and pointed over his shoulder saying, “Just behind me!”  And there I went to a small restaurant on a narrow alley and there was another classic Greek dish I hadn’t had this journey: Stifado.  It is a stew made with rabbit and pearl onions, though lamb or beef can be substituted.  Cooking rabbit is not easy as it is so lean it can dry out quickly. However, this was perfect! 

Even my dining companion thought so!

That evening was a full moon,

so I felt it was the perfect time for a quiet dinner at Candles, where I ordered – as a do – a Tomahawk Steak. 

We arrived in Athens the next morning and with most people disembarking (56 were continuing on the next leg) or going on tour the ship was quiet.  I simply spent my day doing some work, taking a nap and, well, catching up on my blog.

Mykonos was next (yes, I was there just last week) and, to be honest, having been there so many times in the past year, I wasn’t going to get off the ship.  But I met a woman that works with Xanterra (Windstar’s owner) so off we went to do a little exploring. As we entered the maze of shops, she exclaimed, “I’m not doing any shopping.” Whew…or so I thought.  Literally three minutes later she was purchasing a dress. She called it “buying” not “shopping”.

I did pop into a wine shop to purchase some Malagousia wine; something one of my clients really wanted to have on this trip. And then made a visit to the famous Mykonos windmills.

Eventually we stumbled upon a rather rundown garden restaurant that looked cool and relaxing…and it was open (as it was only noon).  It was wonderful place. But, alas, I had recall of “When Harry Met Sally”. “I don’t eat gluten. I don’t like to eat much meat. I’m allergic to whatever” Ugh. Well, that wasn’t going to stop me! 

And, truth be told, the food was so good, she broke and ate everything!  It was a lot of fun, if I’m honest. A bottle of Malagousia wine (I wont’ have more than a glass…sure!). Octopus in balsamic vinegar (I worry about fish in a place like this…right!). Tzatziki with bread to dip. (OK, I’ll have some.)

The setting, wine and food were wonderful, but the highlight was the woman that ran the restaurant. She looked so stern and as if she could not be bothered. But she was charming, guided me in what to order and frankly just made everything better. So why leave? Let’s get more!

A sort of Greek bruschetta with a stinky, but delicious, Mykonos cheese; zucchini fritters and more of that delicious phyllo with warm feta and honey.

Heraklion, Crete was next up and, to be honest, in the past it was one of my least favorite ports. I recalled it being basically one street of shops that could be anywhere, so why bother. Well, after I introduced my Xanterra person to Mykonos, she told me she found two interesting places in Heraklion: The Venetian Fort and the Archeological Museum.

Both were actually very impressive and, to be sure, they did not exist (at least in the form they do today) the last time I was here.  Ya never know.

As we walked to the museum I restaurant caught my eye, as they do. But this one was special: Meat Lounge!  After our museum visit it was time to check it out.

I ordered enough vegetarian items to keep her happy: Eggplant salad (amazing), Grilled Vegetables and perfectly seasoned and cooked Mushrooms.

I went to order the Pork Shank for two, but the charming server cautioned me that it was really for three or four people. At only 23 Euros I didn’t care, I was getting it. And OMG was it amazing!

A good dent was made in it (not the huge mound of fries, though) and, without question, I was not eating dinner! 

And then the complimentary dessert came:  A giant Mille-feuille!

We were supposed to overnight in Rhodes, Greece, but that was changed to a late night departure after the Deck Barbecue and then a Day at Sea.  Having been to Rhodes three times in just the past year, I treated the day as a work day other than taking a break to go to my favorite little restaurant, Castello House, located fairly far up the hill. 

As I walked up the old wooden staircase, I was kinda greeted (more like acknowledged) by the same woman and the same man (always in a black t-shirt with sunglasses atop his black hair) and sat down. Ordering was simple:  Greek Platter for one and a Mythos beer.  (I did ask about mussel, as they do a great job with them, but alas they are out of season.)

Full and happy it was time to head back to the ship, work on organizing the famous Goldring Travel Wine & Tasting Event for the next day and take a nap before the Deck Barbeque (that was unfortunately brought inside due to windy conditions again). 

But the roasted pig brought back memories of the Meat Lounge and the paella was delicious.

Next up:  Goldring Travel Wine & Tasting Event and a whole lot more!

Interested in a Luxury Journey by Cruise, Expedition, or Land?

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Email: eric@goldringtravel.com 

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