NEW YORK – An exclusive press event showcasing authentic Greek Feta was held on March 11 at Kyma Flatiron in Manhattan. Recognized as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product, Feta, Greece’s national product, reflects the country’s dietary tradition and cuisine directly related to Greek history and customs. The European Union supports the Feta: Taste of Europe Authentic Greek Cheese campaign that promotes the high quality agricultural product so indelibly intertwined with Greece and its culture and traditions.
The event highlighted all aspects of Feta PDO, including what makes it PDO, the many nutritional benefits, its history and how it compares to other cheeses. The slogan for the event was “Feta PDO. Let’s get real!”
Guests had the opportunity to taste feta in a variety of foods and classic Greek dishes as well as some unexpected new ways to enjoy Greece’s national cheese. From the Greek favorites like horiatiki salad and spanakopitakia, to spicy feta crostinis, Greek salad bites, and lamb sliders with feta, guests enjoyed the delicious Greek flavor feta brings to any dish.
The combination of watermelon and feta, well-known in Greece, was a hit with the guests who savored the refreshing salad with delightful contrast of sweet watermelon and briny feta. Many noted the wonderful creamy texture the feta added to the dishes including an orzotto, orzo pasta cooked in the style of risotto with tomato sauce, flavored with fresh basil, and topped with crumbled feta. Slices of feta cheese on their own were also available for the guests to taste and enjoy the true flavor of this unique, Greek product.
Among those present, George Georgiades, head chef and owner of EONS Greek Food for Life, a fast/casual chain of Greek restaurants, presented his personal experiences using feta in his work in restaurant kitchens across the city, including Avra and Periyali.
He spoke with The National Herald at the event, noting that his roots are in Athens and Crete, but his parents came to the U.S. when they were very young. When asked what his favorite dishes are that feature feta, Georgiades told TNH that he loves Greek salad and the watermelon-feta salad, among other classic Greek dishes.
About his upcoming projects, he said another EONS is opening soon, and he hopes the chain becomes the “Chipotle of Greek fast/casual dining.”
Artemis Kohas, founder of the Kohas Agency, gave the welcoming remarks at the event, thanking all those for attending, and introduced Dr. Spyridon Mamalis, professor and president of GEOTEE (Geotechnical Chamber of Greece), who presented the history of feta, its origins, how it is made, its nutritional value, and what makes it so unique.
Dr. Mamalis noted that feta is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey among other ancient texts and its distinct characteristics rooted in the unique climate and fauna of Greece. There are over 6,000 species of plants that sheep and goats graze on, and of the 6,000 species, 15% are unique to Greece.
Feta has been produced in a traditional way in Greece since the 8th century BC, exclusively from sheep’s milk or blend of sheep’s and goat’s milk. According to ancient Greek mythology, the Cyclops Polyphemus, son of Poseidon god of the sea, was the first cheese manufacturer in the world, and that cheese was feta. While carrying the milk he had collected from his sheep in his cave every day, he noticed that after a few days’ time the milk would thicken taking a solid, tasty, and edible form, and from that point on, feta became inextricably linked with Greek food and culture.
The production of Feta follows the strict European specifications under which a product can be certified as PDO which identifies a product originating in a specific place, region or, a country, whose quality or characteristics are essentially or exclusively due to a particular geographical environment with its inherent natural and human factors, and the production steps of which all take place in the defined geographical area. Dr. Mamalis also noted that feta is rich in calcium, phosphorus, proteins, Vitamin A and B complex, making it a healthy option and an essential part of the Greek diet.
In his presentation, Georgiades noted the impressive versatility of feta as an ingredient in several dishes and as an accompaniment for any meal as an appetizer, side dish, or even dessert. He shared fond memories of meals prepared by his yiayia including yiouvetsi with feta. Georgiades also mentioned that when he started out as a chef, people actually asked where is the lettuce in the horiatiki salad, and he had to explain that the true Greek salad, the horiatiki, has no lettuce. Georgiades pointed out the dishes reflecting his Cretan heritage, like dakos salad, and also the sweet cheese pies, kalitsounia, for dessert, drizzled with honey.
Guests then continued enjoying the delicious foods and wines and went home with a gift bag and a sample of feta.
Among those present were the Director of the Office of Economic and Commercial Affairs at the Consulate General of Greece in New York Georgios Michailidis, Economic & Commercial Affairs Attaché Vasilios Liveris, Ioannis Stergiou- Sales & Marketing Director at Novacert, and Konstantinos Lagos of ELGO, and many food journalists and influencers.
More information about Feta PDO is available online: fetapdo.eu.