When you taste the food in Cyprus, you’re part of the delicious sweep of history that counts Greek, Turkish, Levantine and other savory influences in its varied gastronomy. Its most distinctive feature is the meze, a collection of as many as 30 small plates of artfully prepared food, from koupepia (stuffed grape leaves) to sheftalia (herbed minced pork) to loukanika (Cyprus smoked sausages) and much more. In some restaurants and tavernas, you can choose to order seafood meze or meat meze and can opt to start your meal with a selection of mezes followed by the main course of meat or fish.
True Mediterranean Cuisine
The local cuisine in Cyprus is based on classic elements of the Mediterranean diet, which includes fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and often seafood. Vegetarian meze abounds: from elies tsakistes, or cracked green olives with coriander seeds, lemon, and crushed garlic, to kolokotes, small pastries stuffed with red pumpkin, raisins and cracked wheat pilaf and myriad plates of simply cooked fresh vegetables like moungra (pickled cauliflower), pickled beets and roast potatoes. Seafood includes fangri, or sea bream, red mullet, octapodi krasato (octopus in red wine) and more.
Heartier appetites will be satiated by the likes of fresh moussakas, stifado (a rich beef and onion stew), pastourma (hot pepper sausage with fenugreek) and ofto kleftiko, a Cypriot specialty foil-wrapped lamb baked with Mediterranean herbs in a sealed oven.
Halloumi is the signature cheese and everyday delicacy of Cyprus. This is a firm cheese made from the milk of thyme-fed sheep, often served grilled (the cheese doesn’t melt). Gaining in popularity abroad, it’s regularly served in Cypriot restaurants. Delicious on its own, it’s often paired with the likes of grilled vegetables or fresh-cut watermelon slices.
Cyprus is famous for its grapes, and the best local desserts are fruit or almonds in grape juice serve with Cypriot-style coffee. But it’s hard to resist a plate of baklava or piping hot loukoumades – mini-doughnuts in honey syrup.
The predominant type of eatery is the small, inexpensive bar; the most popular serving local cuisine. Whether in larger towns or small villages, Greek-style tavernas guarantee an evening with a great Cypriot atmosphere, often featuring folk performances and music. Pride in local cuisine runs strong here, meaning that even at popular resorts you’ll have the opportunity to sample the authentic cuisine.
There is also a wide variety of cafes and snack bars serving Cypriot specialties such as souvlaki and doner kebabs, as well as popular fare from sandwiches to pizza. Dinner, the most celebrated meal of the day, is usually eaten after 8 pm. In addition to the traditional tavernas, one can also find all types of international cuisine here.
The Wines of Cyprus
Yiamas means “cheers” here, and since the island has a very big wine producing region, there is much to sample. Oenophiles will note that the world’s oldest named wine, Commandaria, the sweet red dessert wine, originated in Cyprus. The area of Krasochoria or “wine villages,” is found on the south side of the Troodos mountain range. Lemesos, the island’s second largest city, is the center of the wine industry. Traditions are kept alive in the small villages around Lemesos where winemaking is still the main occupation. The area produces dry red wines (Omodos, Arsos, Vasa, and Koilani), and there are approximately 40 varieties of locally produced wine, sherry, and brandy. Two vodkas are also produced here: Zivania (a little goes a long way!) and the more famous Ouzo.
Nightlife and Entertainment
For many, dining out in Cyprus is an eventful experience that can encompass many hours savoring fine food and drink, but there are additional nightlife options for those with the energy after a meal. Many hotels have Cypriot musicians who entertain diners nightly or stage folk evenings with traditional music and dancing where guests can join in on a local Greek dance. It’s easier than you might think! Resorts with clubs, bars, and pubs are the most popular places to enjoy a lively night out, but more local options abound. Most hotels also sell tickets to concerts, dance shows, and other cultural performances. Larger towns have theaters offering both classical performances and modern plays, often in beautifully historic settings.
The mission of the FCAO is to preserve and promote the Hellenic Cypriot culture, heritage, principles and ideals in the United States of America through the coordination and promotion of cultural, charitable, educational, fraternal and professional activities.
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