Chef Olivia Hayo of Beautiful Food Inside + Out re-creates her culinary memories of the Mediterranean using inspiration, and local, seasonal ingredients, from her home in San Diego's Little Italy.
We left behind the cliff-side views of Greece’s western coast for the softly slopping shore views of the hilltop town of Exo Gonia.
Our mission? A lazy lunch of local fare at Metaxi Mas far from the crowds and tourist cafes.
We parked just off the main road and walked down a quiet village street to a light-dappled patio filled with locals and well-informed travelers perched between clay potted bougainvillea and cacti.
We were waved to shady table and welcomed with briny olives, creamy cheese and shots of raki, an anise-scented apéritif. Hushed happy tones of nearby conversations and the ting of silverware served as the soundtrack. The menu was short, the mark of a proper local spot, so we quickly settled on a few dishes to share.
Local brined cheese was wrapped in phyllo dough and fried to a golden brown before being drenched in sticky honey and topped with nutty sesame seeds.
On a recent trip to the farmers’ market in Little Italy, I picked up some orange blossom honey that inspired me to recreate this dish, with a nod to San Diego’s local citrus.
The floral notes of the honey play off the earthy herbs of the feta cheese filling, and baking instead of frying creates a great crunch and requires less oil.
When I find myself longing for a casual, leisurely meal like the ones I enjoyed in Exo Gonia, I make a batch of these sweet-salty pastries to serve alongside local olives, a simple salad, and delicate glasses of raki.