Extra virgin olive oil – refined with a subtle aroma
• Mytilene olives – small, fleshy and very flavorful
• Finest quality ouzo. Produced on the island in large and small distilleries.
• Dairy products from the milk of a particular breed of local goats that are raised in the traditional manner.
• Sharp-tasting ladotyri, a cheese unique to Mytilene, now standardized with a paraffin coating. If you’re lucky you may still come across the authentic version packed in oil made by small producers or private households.
• Peppery graviera (semi-hard) cheese.
• Fresh cheese strained in a goatskin bag (touloumotyri).
• Unique fresh soft or aged hard mysithra cheese.
• Spicy kasseri (semi-hard) cheese, one of the best of its type in Greece.
• Aromatic trachanas (wheat meal boiled in milk and sun-dried) in granules or small pressed shapes.
• Traditional yogurt set in an earthenware crock (gragouda).
• Pastourmas (highly seasoned cured beef) from the sole producer in the city.
• Sausages made by butchers in the city or villages.
• Salted preserves
For many years the island has had factories that use salt exclusively to process and pack fish products (sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and tuna). Salt-curing gives fish extra flavor, aroma and crispness. Fish in this form must be desalted and cleaned and then are served with oil and vinegar.
The island also produces its own marmalades, spoon-sweets, noodle products, and sauces in small factories and rural women’s collectives, honey, baklavas, macaroons, plantzeta (walnuts in syrup wrapped in filo pastry), Agiassos festival halva, and fresh “grocery” (ground sesame) halva.
Be sure to try:
• Green fava (split-pea purée) with local olive oil; dried koukia (fava beans) cooked in oil and oregano; giouzlemedes (small fried cheese pies with home-made pastry).
• Kalloni sardines – the famous papalina, which are cured for just a few hours in newspaper and coarse salt. Also called Mediterranean sushi, it’s a big hit with visitors.
• Savory pies filled with greens or cheese and the omelet made with squash.
• Festival kiskeki – a dish served on saints’ days and at weddings, consisting of beef and wheat boiled together for many hours in a large cauldron.
• Lamb stuffed with liver, raisins and pine nuts; lamb yiaourtlou (in yogurt and garlic sauce); beef with quince; meat in celery sauce; meat with cauliflower or frikasé (with chopped greens, scallions and egg-lemon sauce); octopus grilled or braised in wine; and scallops with rice pilaf or spinach.
• Stewed eggplant imam-baildi (“the imam fainted”); zucchini blossoms stuffed with rice or cheese; fish baked with garlic and tomatoes; keftedakia (little meatballs) seasoned with ouzo and cumin.
• Hen stuffed with rice and chicken liver; charcoal grilled chops seasoned with bitter orange instead of the usual lemon juice; meat patties grilled in bitter orange leaves.
• Wild mountain dandelion greens (ask for the cooking liquid served as a beverage); boiled Savoy-type cabbage; stuffed grape-leaves in oil or egg-lemon sauce; sougania (onions stuffed with chopped meat and rice).
• Superb spoon-sweets (preserved fruit); rice pudding; baklavas; plantzeta (walnuts in syrup wrapped in filo pastry); loukoumades (deep-fried dough balls) with myzithra cheese; pancakes; macaroons; quince paste; and halva made with myzithra.
• Rusks from Agiassos, Anemotia, Filia and Asomatos.