Cretan cheeses, herbs and grapes, key parts of the Cretan diet
The Cheeses, the herbs, the grapes…

Lets start on the Cretan diet, not with olive oil – about which we’ve already written a blog (part I!). But with milk, sheep and goats milk, because it’s the basis of the wonderful yoghurt and Graviera. Its the king of Cretan cheeses.

Feta and Graviera - part of the Cretan diet
Cretan Cheeses

Strained Greek yoghurt

Outside of Greece you’ll find “Greek yoghurt” – this is normally the strained cows milk yoghurt.  Its beautifully smooth and creamy, so at Panokosmos we use it to top waffles, as the creamy layers in Yasmin’s fruit trifle. 

Yasmin's trifle at Panokosmos made with home made granola and Greek yoghurt
Yasmin’s Trifle: layers of home made granola, fresh fruit and creamy Greek yoghurt

Its normally 10% fat, but we find the 2% is still just beautiful and cuts down on the calories!

Not part of the Cretan diet exactly but Panokosmos waffles with fresh fruit
Creamy strained Greek yoghurt on waffles, with fresh fruit and Creme de Mure berry sauce

Mountain yoghurt

However the real Cretan yoghurt is that made in the mountains.  Its got a much more tangy nature, is thicker and full of goodness!   You can sometimes find it in terracotta pots, with a top sheet held on with an elastic band. Increasingly though now they sell them in plastic pots.  It is 8% fat, but this is more easily digested. It is not as high in saturated fats, and it is higher in vitamins and minerals than other yoghurts.

One of Mastorakis contributions to the Cretan diet: sheeps milk yoghurt
Cretan mountain yoghurt in the original terracotta pots

Around us are several villages with local dairies which make yoghurt from sheep’s milk – thats a key element in the Cretan diet. 

Kostas milking his sheep
Milking the sheep is a laborious, back breaking job, which needs to be done every day
Sheep passing in Stylos in the Apokoronas
What counts as crowds in the villages of the Apokoronas!

The closest to Panokosmos, in the next village Ramni, is Matsomakis.  We like his yoghurt because it is mild, creamy and stays firm even after you’ve started using it and the skin is cut.  Its not widely available but you can buy it in the local Kalyves shops, and a few outlets in Chania. 

Matosmakis yoghurt on Panokosmos home made muesli - luxury Cretan diet!
Matosmakis yoghurt on muesli

Mastorakis is more widely available, they make it in Fres, another village in the foothills of the White Mountains.  This has a very firm texture and a sharper, more acidic taste.  We prefer Kostakis yoghurt, which also comes from Fres. You can buy it in one of their two stalls in the Agora – the covered market in the centre.

The Agora covered market in Chania
The Agora – covered market – in the centre of Chania
Shops in the Agora
Inside the Agora

Graviera, the king of Cretan cheeses

Similarly they all make Graviera too, often with a blend of sheep and goats milk.  The locals prize Gravieras which have been matured for 6-12 months, tho we find them rather too dry and crumbly.  Our pick is the young “freska” cheese which has beautiful soft pliant texture and a wonderful sharp and moreish taste.  Kostakis make a thyme graviera and Mastorakis a low fat goats milk cheese als.

Cheese stall in a Chania street market
Cheese stall in the Chania street market

Apart from the dairies, you can also buy a great yoghurt from the butcher in Armenoi, in the centre of the village by the plain tree and opposite the truly authentic kafenion, but he wont tell us which dairy supplies him!

The Butcher at Armenoi - great place to buy yoghurt and Graviera
The “White Boots” butcher of Armenoi!

Myzithra and Anthotiro

Also from sheeps milk comes Myzithra, a soft cheese with flavours varying from creamy mild to sharply tangy, and textures from crumbly to creamy smooth.  Then there is Anthotiro, a soft runny cheese, which the dairies dry with salt to make a solid white cheese which process brings out a  lovely herby flavour.  Not to forget feta, of course!

Greek salad with feta - a key part of the Cretan Diet
Greek salad with feta – a staple at any Greek dinner and part of the Cretan diet

Cretan Impressions at Panokosmos

Cretan Impressions is the breakfast we serve at Panokosmos, which showcases all these, together with a variety of rusks, of olives and of honey – about which more in another post!  And of course, in the Cretan dietm no meal would be complete without a little raki, served at -20 deg both to cleanse the palate, and to prove that its 40% and hasn’t been diluted!

Cretan Impressions at Pnaokosmos - a short cut to experience the Cretan Diet
Cretan Impressions at Panokosmos

And if you want to short cut the Cretan diet, sample Cretan Impressions and experience all these good things, come to stay at Panokosmos!

Panokosmos - the luxury of a first class hotel, the privacy of a private villa, the atmosphere of staying with friends
Can’t you imagine yourself here, relaxing after a Cretan breakfast!

Lots more to see and do…

In any case for your holiday in Crete you might like to look at our blogs which show things to do in Crete, whether it be walking a gorge, hiking in the foothills of the White Mountains, or taking a drive to see the sitesChania is a great town to visit, particularly to go to the street markets, and of course you’ll want to get the benefits of the Cretan diet – be it the yoghurt and cheese, or the olive oil.