Road Test, S.A.L.T. Experiences: In Paros, we Embrace Authentic Farm-to-Table Cuisine
Debuting on Silver Moon (and expanding to Silver Dawn in Spring 2022), Silversea’s S.A.L.T., which stands for Sea and Land Taste, is an innovative new program celebrating the culinary arts of our destinations. There are four pillars to S.A.L.T. At S.A.L.T. Kitchen, a restaurant dedicated to showcasing food and wine from the region in which the ship is traveling, the regional menu offers daily-changing options based on the port of the day. In S.A.L.T. Lab, guests enjoy the challenge of cooking regional dishes. S.A.L.T. Bar celebrates cocktails made with local ingredients. All aim to bring the experience of life onshore onto Silver Moon.
The S.A.L.T. Experiences program moves in the opposite direction. This exclusive-to-Silversea series of shore excursions, hand-curated by local experts in the worlds of cuisine and wine, offer personal connections to the places we visit. In this series of stories, we share our experiences as we travel through the Mediterranean. We hope you’ll join us.
I confess to being fascinated by S.A.L.T – Silversea’s Sea and Land Taste program. The culinary arts program made its first appearance on Silver Moon in June 2021, and will also be part of Silver Dawn when she launches this Fall. S.A.L.T. offers four pillars of culinary subjects: S.A.L.T. Kitchen, an onboard restaurant with an ever-changing menu that reflects where we’re cruising; S.A.L.T. Lab, where you can get hands-on instruction in recipes of the ports we’re visiting, S.A.L.T. Bar, with its emphasis on craft cocktails; and S.A.L.T. Experiences, whose ports of call reflect stories of the places we go to.
On my cruise on Silver Moon in Greece, all aspects were everything a culinary traveler could hope for. But guess what? You don’t have to be a rabid foodie to love S.A.L.T. You just have to bring an appetite for food, wine and culinary adventures on board and ashore.
Today we are in… Paros.
A haven of white-washed houses and striking blue doors—echoing the colors of the Greek flag—we are here to experience what Farm-to-Table means on Paros. We’ll explore the work of two couples in pursuit of their dreams: One chose to build Thalassamou, a restaurant on the sea; the other created Kamarantho Farm, a highly productive organic farm. Both couples, one a native of Paros and the other transplanted from Athens, share a deep commitment to this island. The farm supplies its produce to the restaurant.
Why did S.A.L.T. Experiences choose Thalassamou and Kamarantho Farm in Paros?
“On a tip from a friend who lives on the island,” Adam Sachs, director of S.A.L.T. tells us, “we visited Thalassamou at the southern end of Paros and I immediately knew we’d found our guides to understanding the character and cuisine of the island. At Thalassamou, Anna Kouda and her husband, the chef Marios Salmatanis, the setting is simple perfection: the white Cycladic wood oven standing directly opposite the blue Aegean. The food that they make is the best on the island, a delicious distillation of the tastes of the Cyclades. To round out the experience, Anna suggested we go to visit the Kamarantho Farm, to see what is grown on the island and to meet a couple doing things in a very natural, respectful, biodynamic way.”
Leaving Silver Moon at Parikia, Paros’ capital, we travel first to the tiny village of Kamari, home to Kamarantho Farm. The first thing that strikes us is how arid this island is. We wonder how the olive trees, which are everywhere, even exist, never mind thrive.
A visit to Kamarantho Farm is an integral part of our touring today because it provides much of the produce for Thalassamou and provides a logical tie-in to the restaurant experience. “Katerina and Stavros share our same dream, which is always simplicity and quality is the real food,” Anna Kouda tell us. “The farm provides most of our fresh vegetables every day. Marios loves using local ingredients in his dishes. He insists in a seasonal menu always.”
The farm’s owners got to know and love Paros in the 1990s. Then living in Athens, Stavros Tsavalos, an engineer, and Katerina Papadimitrou, a Greek language scholar, bought 5.6 acres (2.3 hectares) of land in Kamari Village in 2008. Their goal was to create a farm that would be a model for agricultural cultivation for Paros and the islands of the Aegean and also serve a living example of sustainability practices that would benefit the isle. It would be polyculture — quite unlike monoculture farms that specialize in just growing corn, grapes, or soy, for instance. They also wanted to take advantage of the natural potential for native plants on the property.
Stavros and Katerina started with two old almond trees and a quarter-acre vineyard.
Today, Michalis, our guide, shows us the bio-dynamic farm that’s now planted with olive, pomegranate, almonds, carob, and acacia trees. We eat figs straight from the fig trees. The air is perfumed with Cretan oregano, sage, marjoram and summer savory, a Grecian mint. There are even a few chickens. In addition to laying eggs, they help control insects, weeds and fertilizer from their mobile chicken coop.
In a greenhouse, Kamarantho experiments with mango and banana trees and all manner of plants, which, because of global warming, stand a chance in this climate. It is here in the greenhouse that we are treated to an unusual and delicious breakfast. There are olives in homemade olive oil, sweets made from figs, a divine fig marmalade, cherry tomatoes topping fresh tomato paste, bread baked at a traditional Paros bakery and cheese from Paros’s cooperative.
We leave carrying gifts of an organic herb mix created for barbecue, oregano and containers of Kamarantho’s cold-pressed olive oil.
Our S.A.L.T. Adventure Continues…
Next, we head to the tiny seaside village of Aliki. At the far end of the beach, we come to Thalassamou, which in English means “my sea”. The setting itself is mesmerizing. The whitewashed restaurant sits back from the beach with broad terraces that hold tables and also cozy couches, accented by vibrant-colored, traditional-to-Paros pillows that come from Anna’s grandmother. Just across is the white sand beach, where tables are also set between the Tamarisk trees and the azure sea. It’s the kind of place meant for lingering, for savoring a great meal, for just relaxing. We of course have come here for an extraordinary meal — and a bit of learning how to cook, Paros style.
Thalassamou is the creation of Chef Marios and Anna. Both are natives of Paros who moved to Athens to begin their careers before meeting back on the island. The couple’s “meet cute” occurred right here, when Anna was walking her six month old Shih Tsu and Marios was walking his six month old Setter. So the dogs met first – right in front of the place where they would build Thalassamou.
Chef Marios comes from an Athenian family who have run one of the leading restaurants in Greece since 1920. He is also a graduate of the Ecole de Gastronomie Ritz Escoffier de Paris. Here at Thalassamou, Salmatanis built his own wood-fired bread oven and shows off the sourdough as it’s baking. The sourdough’s starter is so precious – going back five generations – that the family travels with it on vacations to be able to add flour and water that literally feeds the yeast.
We gather around a table on the restaurant’s sun-splashed terrace to learn how the chef makes spanikopita (spinach pie), a Grecian classic. He invites fellow Silversea guests to get a hands-on experience by helping out, and my partner, Andrew Phillips, who’s an amateur baker, enthusiastically volunteers.
The group then adjourns to those glorious tables by the sea to sample a Grecian feast, complete with a light, local white wine. (Insider Tip: Bring your swimsuit along to Thalassamou. The tour allows plenty of free time so you can take a swim in the Aegean. Just remember to grab a beach towel at the gangway when you’re leaving Silver Moon.)
As the meal ends, we retreat to the comfort of Silver Moon. We’ve enjoyed two extraordinary food experiences as authentic as what awaits us at S.A.L.T. Kitchen tonight… another menu devoted to the cuisine unique to this perfect little island of Paros in the Aegean Sea.