We are just into our first course at Gastrodromio– basically, bean soup and some anchovies. It’s fantastic. Between bites, someone says “Why is this guy not in a big city? This restaurant would be huge in a big city.”

Elegant, laid-back Gastrodromio

This is what I like about Litohoro- laid-back self-confidence. If you’re looking for huge, Mount Olympus is right outside the restaurant’s door- three blocks up on your left- you can’t miss it. Our chef- Andreas Gavris- is interested in great, not huge. He’s also interested in authenticity, and terroir. He makes elegant meal – three savory courses, dessert. They’re beautiful but not fussy, inventive but not gimmicky. We taste the Greek pantry afresh. The menu describes the courses in detail.
The are all made of conspicuously, almost aggressively modest ingredients. That in itself is supremely elegant- in the midst of an economic crisis, and a refugee crisis, showing reverence for basic things shows taste, grace, and gratitude. The very simplicity of the ingredients lets us be aware of the luxury of not going hungry. But there is nothing modest about this meal (incidentally, Gastrodromio is a Louis Vuitton city guide selection).

Reinventing the authentic

Our table is plentiful, festive, playful. The first course- the humblest of soups, and the humblest of fish, re-imagined. Greek-style white bean soup veloute, and marinated fresh anchovies (boquerones), a dab of melizanosalata (a Greek babaganoush) on the side. The bean soup has a meaningful context: this is the classic meal that sustains climbers at the mountain lodges as they make their way up Mt. Olympus.

The elements are perfect together- hot/cold, creamy/crisp, bland/piquant. Pulses here are classically paired with smoked or pickled fish and pickled vegetables as a condiment. Not usually fresh anchovy though. At a couple euros a kilo, these are cheaper than good white beans. The house cured ones here are like velvet, but with some bite- silky, yet with plenty of verve.

Our second course is a cabbage roll with mushrooms rather than meat, and cracked wheat rather than the traditional rice. Saffron in the avgolemono sauce is an upscale touch, but it’s local- from a couple of counties over. I’m writing fast, but we’re eating slow, vintners stopping by, some of us table hopping for a chat about the wines, all local, all delicious.

Humble, and noble

We are enjoying this chic French pace when the main course finally comes. It sounds like the humblest of dishes- Gida (mature goat- like mutton, but from a goat). over trahana (a sort of rustic pasta of grain and fermented milk). But the seventy or so of us- three glasses of wine into a convivial afternoon- fall silent at least for a moment. The only thing you can hear is the scrape of a fork against a plate. Maybe an occasional sigh. This is the richest, most tender, toothsome and satisfying dish- subtle, delicate, earthy, sophisticated. The dish is napped with melted butter, seasoned with smoked paprika, underscoring the richness, giving the gaminess finesse.The thing about goat- if you haven’t eaten it you might not know- it’s got to graze. It eats wild things, so it tastes of these wild things. It climbs rocks and builds muscles, and texture. The goat commands respect, and makes you grateful you’re a carnivore.
The trahana has a bite that yields- creamy and gentle with some personality and like you always hope a risotto will be but almost never is. This is the most delicious meat course I can ever remember having.

And it carries the theme- a fresh view of the very simplest things. A semolina pudding rests on a toast of tsoureki (like challah). The jammy fruits in syrup that are in every Greek pantry add a sweet garnish. Edible blossoms from mountain meadows provide sustainable fantasy.

Pieria- region of Mt. Olympus and Dion- is just south of Thessaloniki. It’s easy to reach by bus or train, and close enough to drive to for dinner. Katerini is the capital, and Litohoro is the marvelous village at the mountain’s base.

This site is very useful for planning a visit: http://visitpieria.gr/english.html

Travel Bloggers Greece and I were guests of the Chamber of Pieria. My enthusiasm is my own- it is a region rich in every delight of Greece.