Christina Xenos

When it comes to food and travel, Christina Xenos could wax poetic for hours. She knows firsthand that sharing a meal is one of the best ways to experience the nuances of faraway lands. And if you’re lucky enough to be her guest, you’ll witness the meticulous craft of her hospitality. As a Greek-American, she takes the custom of philoxenia (which translates to “love of the stranger”) quite literally. Her hospitality game has put her in the pages of Food & Wine, and in the kitchen with master chef and “First Lady of Greek Cuisine,” Argiro Barbarigou, as part of the prestigious Les Dames d’Escoffier International.

Traveling with her is no mere vacation in Greece— it’s one where you visit Crete and Milos, where Christina’s grandmother and grandfather lived before immigrating to the States in the 1900s, and where you experience regional specialities that she’s discovered on her annual pilgrimages around the country she calls her “happy place.” Our seven-day discovery of Crete with Christina takes us deeper into what it means to be Greek, eating and drinking and celebrating to our heart’s content.

Why We Love Christina Xenos

Christina is a food scholar and journalist too; she’s traveled all over small villages and islands to collect history and recipes that have appeared in her cookbooks and dinner tables across the world.

“I’d love to travel way, way back in time, and visit Bronze Age Greece and stroll around a Minoan palace.”

“It doesn’t get much easier than cutting up some tomatoes, cucumber, a bell pepper, throwing in some olives and laying a big slab of briny feta on top of it all.”

6 Questions with Christina Xenos

  1. What is your most treasured possession?

    I live pretty light and try not to collect things. When I travel rather than trinkets, I mainly bring home loads of dried herbs, teas, honey, jams, and other ingredients to help me recapture what I was eating on my trip. But I have amassed quite a cookbook collection — especially Greek cookbooks — that continue to inspire me. That, and my mother just found a blanket that my grandmother wove before she left her village in Crete. She actually cultivated the silk she used in it from her own silkworms that she tended to. It’s amazing to me that I have it more than 100 years later.

  2. This isn’t your first trip here. What’s one of your favorite memories of Greece?

    If I had to pick one specific memory, it was when I was in my 20s and visiting Milos for the first time. I was staying with family friends and we were walking back from lunch at a local restaurant. All of a sudden this guy rolls up in a pick up truck and my friends say, “Get in! That’s your cousin!” I spent the rest of the day driving around the island with him, meeting all my cousins and hearing family stories and generally filling in the gaps from when my grandfather and great grandfather left the island in the 1920s.

  3. Will MO/AD travelers get a taste, or a glimpse, into your family history on this trip?

    Absolutely! I’m lucky to have family roots all over the island. On this trip we’ll visit Chania and Rethymno where my grandmother and grandfather respectively immigrated from in the early 1900s. Crete was barely even a part of Greece then; it only united with Greece in 1921. I enjoy visiting their villages whenever I’m back, and trying to visualize them living there.

  4. Greek coffee. Tell us about how it’s different (and better).

    Greek coffee culture is the perfect illustration on how Greece sits in the middle of east and west. Our traditional Greek coffee — the grounds we slowly heat over embers that are sometimes spiced with cardamom — brings you to the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. And then you have all of your espresso beverages that are more in step with the Western Europe. But in the summer iced coffee is pervasive. Whether it is the whipped Nescafe Frappes (that’s right, we invented it and Dalgona coffee has nothing on us), or Freddo Cappuccinos, Greeks live by their coffees. The only question is: How many can you drink in a day?

  5. Who is someone you’d love to cook with, past or present?

    My grandmother Chrysanthe passed away when I was really young, and even though I have some wonderful memories of cooking with her, I’d love to cook with her again. I’ve been fortunate enough to talk through some of her recipes — like her Melamakrona Christmas cookies and Manti dumplings — with my aunt and every time I cook them I remember her.

  6. If Greece was a dish, a feeling, a fruit, it would be…

    Spanakopita, freedom and possibility, pomegranate

Crete with Christina Xenos

One Departure Only | May 13 - 19, 2023

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