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Travel

Chef Maria Loi Shares Hidden Gem, the Island of Naxos, with Forbes

December 23, 2020

NEW YORK – Celebrity chef Maria Loi was featured in Forbes magazine ahead of the release of her upcoming television series Secrets of the Mediterranean with Maria Loi for WGBH-PBS. Loi shares her thoughts in the revered business magazine about one of the stunning locations she visits in the series, the “hidden gem,” Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades Islands.

Loi, originally from Nafpaktos, is well-known as an ambassador of Greek cuisine, as the owner of Loi Estiatorio, and as a cookbook author, the official cookbook of the 2004 Olympics in Athens among her 30 other cookbooks, Forbes noted, adding that “Chef Loi has cooked for former President Obama and Vice President Biden in the White House in 2012 and has delivered thousands of meals to hospitals around NYC since the start of the pandemic.”

Working with Harvard scientists, Loi promotes the Greek diet and its tenets for healthy living. Her new PBS series scheduled to be released in the spring of 2021 was filmed in Greece before the pandemic lockdowns and brings the viewer along for the journey.

Of Naxos, Loi told Forbes, “I told a couple I know to go there and they absolutely fell in love with it. By their second visit they were already looking into buying property!”

Forbes also offered “a list of just a few of the reasons why Chef Loi says Naxos should be your new favorite Greek destination, too,” noting that “it’s a miniature Crete,” and “Naxos’ capital of the same name feels like a smaller-scale Heraklion.”

The Naxian town of Apeiranthos, “is thought to have had Cretan roots due to the dialect spoken there,” Forbes reported.

Loi told Forbes, “It looks exactly like a town you’d find in Crete. It’s as if you lifted a town from there up and just placed it on another island.”

Another reason to visit Naxos is the hospitality. Loi told Forbes, “The hospitality of the island of Naxos is unbelievable, everyone always has a huge smile on their face all the time. Every few minutes someone was saying ‘Come on inside, have some of this, have some of that,’ it was incredible!”

The island’s governor, Ioannis Margaritis, “is willing to drop whatever he’s doing to gladly talk to you about Naxos and its history, and will definitely become your new best friend,” Forbes reported.

The food and fresh produce is another reason to visit, as Loi told Forbes, “I thought the tomatoes on Santorini were good, but these are amazing. You can get yourself a slice of tomato with some olive oil and a slice of bread, and that’s it. That’s all you need.”

“The island is home to lots of livestock like cows, goats, and sheep, which are used in a lot of dishes,” Forbes reported, adding that Naxos, “being an island, especially a Greek island, the seafood is divine, and features pretty much everywhere from main courses to salads.”

Chef Loi told Forbes that she is “a big fan of Koukoulomaeria, a simple, hearty soup made with corn, wheat, white beans and, her favorite thing in the world, lots of olive oil.”

Alos mentioned in the report is the Naxian potato. “The potatoes from Naxos are said to be the best throughout Greece for their quality and taste, which is due to the soil and climatic conditions of the island,” Forbes reported, adding that “Naxos was officially designated as the center for the cultivation and production of the Greek seed potatoes in the 1950s.”

Cheese-making in Naxos was also highlighted in Forbes which noted that “while there are plenty of varieties, two of the most famous are Graviera Naxou and Arseniko.”

“Graviera Naxou has been granted Protected Designation of Origin status since 1996; it is made up of no less than 80% cow’s milk, no more than 20% sheep and goat’s milk, and aged for at least three months, but the longer it ages, the more intense and delicious it becomes,” Forbes reported, adding that “it's a hard yet smooth dark yellow cheese, with a great mature nutty flavor and a sweet butter aftertaste.”

“Arseniko has an intense flavor, hard texture and is made from sheep and goat’s milk with the addition of whey,” Forbes reported, noting that “this cheese is amazing for grating and for the table, and is formed in a specially designed basket mold which gives it a distinctive shape. Early on in the aging process the flavor is mild and sweet, but as it continues to age it develops a spicy, aromatic flavor.”

Artisanal cheesemakers are at work throughout Naxos, but “one of the best (and Chef Loi’s favorite) is Pittaras Creamery, a family owned farm that has been making its cheese the same way since the 1970s,” Forbes reported.

The beaches of Naxos were also noted for their beauty and “incredibly clear and clean” water, Forbes reported.

Loi told Forbes, “Naxos has been ruled by many empires; the ancient Greeks, the Ottomans, and so on, but no matter who ruled over them, the people of Naxos never changed. They always kept the same amazing culture, after all this time.”

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