Long before the words “all” and “inclusive” were hyphenated, I journeyed from Toronto to an almost undiscovered little town called Rethymnon on the island of Crete. I was dreaming that someday the island might be my home.
I was madly, deeply in love with Greek food and my favorite Greek dish was moussaka. Restaurants encircled the harbour and my plan was that on my 14-day, 13-night, breakfast not included visit, I would also encircle that harbour and eat moussaka on seven different occasions at seven different restaurants.
Outside of each and every restaurant there was a glass case to show off the catch of the day, an aproned shill to tell you his catch was the freshest and finest, and a lectern on which sat an oversized menu. I dipsy-doodled my way around the hustlers to the restaurant that was missing their shill, picked up the menu and was stunned. There was no moussaka. No moussaka on a menu in Greece? Every Greek restaurant outside of Greece has moussaka.
I went on to the next restaurant and this time gave the shill the satisfaction that I’d bitten on his lure.
“How’s your moussaka?”, I asked.
“Not so good”, he surprisingly replied. “We don’t eat moussaka here in Rethymnon. You’re best to go to the mainland. In fact, my cousin lives in Toronto and he says they have the world’s best moussaka.”
It was the last time I went to Greece. I was thinking maybe my future was more in Mexico. I checked out a little town called San Miguel de Allende. It seemed that it had everything a man could want. Except moussaka.
Then, one day, Sylvia Stamatakis sailed into town (from Crete, of all places). And, not long after, she launched Greece On Wheels. And Greece On Wheels had moussaka. And I had my cake and could eat it too.
These days there is probably at least one place in Rethymnon that has moussaka. These days in San Miguel de Allende, there are two. Both are very good. Both are quite different. And both deliver right to your door.
The contender to Greece On Wheels is called The Feast Co. It’s run by a woman called Cristina Wilson and her boyfriend/chef Toby Nieto. I know nothing about this couple other than can they ever cook comfort food. Including a moussaka.
A traditional Greek moussaka is mostly eggplant, lamb and bechamel sauce and, if you’re wondering how one of the five classic French sauces found its way to the top of a legendary Greek dish, let me share with you that moussaka didn’t exist until the 1920s when it was originated by Greek chef Nikolaos Tselementes who just happened to have been trained in France.
The Feast’s moussaka is a very traditional moussaka that I’m sure Chef Tselementes would have two thumbs up for. The base is a layer of very thinly sliced eggplant that has obviously been salted to remove any bitterness. The taste of lamb is almost all in the fat and Cristy and Toby obviously recognize its importance; her tender lamb shimmers with it but not so much that it’s greasy. Don Day’s Wife called The Feast’s top layer, “as perfect a bechamel as there can be.”
Greece On Wheels’ moussaka is a slight departure from the classic. The crust is more potato than eggplant. The meat in the middle layer is beef, I’m guessing for budget reasons. The bechamel resembles a polenta, perhaps to please those that choose a gluten-free diet. One of the advantages of Greece On Wheels moussaka is, at the same time as you order it, you can order spanakopita, tzatziki, keftedes, or about 20 other Greek dishes, search out Nana Mouskouri on YouTube, and make a total Greek night of it (except for the smashing of the plates in the fireplace which Don Day’s Wife forbids).
I’d call Cristina Wilson and Toby Nieto’s version a delicate moussaka. I’d call Sylvia Stamatakis’s a hearty moussaka. I’d call either of them to order that favorite Greek dish of mine for dinner.
You’ll find The Feast Co.’s menu on their Facebook site. To order call 415 126 1921, email firstname.lastname@example.org or message them through Facebook. And please allow 24 hours notice.