This past Saturday, we had a family adventure planned... a trip 30 minutes north to a little Greek town called Tarpon Springs, Florida. Tarpon Springs has the highest population of Greeks of any city in the United States, and between their traditional restaurants, annual Epiphany celebration, local shops, and remnants of the old sponging industry, this little town is a must-see.
When we arrived to the docks, we were greeted by this little sponge diver, and a sign that Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs had already been there. Be sure to check out his experience here harvesting sponges from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.We walked through an old museum that told about the sponging industry, and how the Greek population came to Tarpon Springs. Then we headed down to the docks!
The St. Nicholas III, a typical sponge boat at the docks that can be rented for day tours and simulations of what it would be like to go "sponging" on the Gulf of Mexico. We were a little more interested in the food, which brought us to the famous Hellas Bakery.
While it looks a little like a nightclub on the outside, this bakery and restaurant actually make some of the best Greek pastries and treats you may ever have in your life.
Since we arrived mid-morning, we grabbed a quick bite of one of my favorite Greek dishes, Tiropita, a feta cheese pie made with layers of buttered phyllo dough. Here is my brother-in-law and sister-in-law with their tiropita and Greek coffee.
Since I am not much of a morning person, I also grabbed a Greek coffee. It was the smallest cup (especially for $2.25), but it was like a triple espresso from Starbucks. It certainly got me through the rest of my day!
As we walked a little off the beaten path, we found a grocery store where my sister-in-law and I bought Orzo to make some traditional Greek dishes at home. We also saw this nightclub, Zorbas, which instantly reminded me of the restaurant, "Dancing Zorbas", in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
The city makes a lot of its money from tourists and their demand for sponges. Sponges are sold at every shop, and in a million different sizes and shapes, and prices! Most were too expensive, and none of us bought any while we were there, but I did take some pictures of some beautiful ones.
To wrap up our half day excursion, we ate lunch at the famous Mykonos restaurant. Most of us ordered the Gyro, but we also tried the Horiatiki salad, and traditional lemon soup.
We were all so obsessed with the Horiatiki salad (it is basically what we know as a Greek Salad, but without the lettuce and potato salad), that I stopped on my way home at the local produce market to get all the ingredients. We also purchased Andrico's Greek dressing from the restaurant to use on the salad. Here's my recipe:
Red ripe tomatoes
Pepperoncini (I left this out of mine, since I don't really like them)
Fresh Feta Cheese
1 Tbsp Andrico's Greek Dressing
Pita Bread (optional)
Chop up all the veggies and olives into bite sized pieces and combine in a bowl. Drizzle on the Greek dressing, and then toss the veggies in it until all are well covered. In a separate bowl, place a large hunk of feta on the bottom, and add the veggies and olives on top. Serve with pita bread to sop up the remaining dressing at the bottom of the bowl when you finish the salad.
After lunch, we stopped back by the Hellas Bakery to get a few confections to go. I bought some tiropita, baklava, and almond cookies. They only lasted a day in my house!
So that was our little excursion to Tarpon Springs. Stay tuned, as I now have a serious craving for more Greek food, and will share my own recipe for tiropita, as well as a few new things to try. If you are ever in the area, be sure to check out this little gem and all it has to offer!