The heaviness of Santorini was lifted as soon as we reached the port. Our ferry was bound for Ios, Sikinos, Folengandros and Milos. We were planning to head to Milos and thought a couple day's stop in Folengandros would be a nice transition. We heard that it has majestic cliffs and a charming small-village culture. It would be a welcome change to the angst of Santorini.  

Judah Climbs to the Church, Folengandros, Greece

Folengandros has a population of about 650 during the summer and 350 the rest of the year. It is quite mountainous and the towering cliffs serve as a deterrent to most beach-seeking tourists. In fact, for many years the island was known as the Alcatraz of Greece, as exiles were sent here. Nowadays it seems to be home to a slow-moving group of Greeks who seek the simple life are unrepentant about it. And they've got a ton of Churches in which to repent.

Sheep Herding, Folengandros, Greece

We drove around the island yesterday and saw an abundance of grazing goat and sheep. Having just completed Omnivore's Dilemma I've been wrestling with how we can find a balance in our lives by seeking a more sustainable food supply. Seeing these animals that will ultimately become my "Matsada", a local dish I am excited to try this evening, I can't help think that there was a time where it was easier to find that balance. And, in some places, it is still the only option. On this island of 350 full-time residents, these pastoral animals are their primary source of meat.

Meatballs and Fried Potatoes, Irene's, Folengandros, Greece

But, I'd like to get back to food.  The lunch we just ate brought my attention full-circle. Not necessarily for the quality of the food or the uniqueness of the preparations, but rather because of the simplicity and honesty of it. The setting was a courtyard outside a makeshift kitchen, which clearly occupied the ground floor of the owner's home. Irene, in fact, was the owner, as the name of her restaurant attests. Her husband joins her in the kitchen, where they sincerely seem to take pride in feeding others.

J&J at Irene's, Folengandros, Greece

We lunched on Greek Salad, meatballs and fried potatoes, zucchini cakes, and a toasted garlic bread. Everything was tasty, fresh and made with care. Any restaurant would be proud to offer such quality. Judah even left behind his phobias to try the meatballs and proclaimed them "yummy". But what stole the show was the [free] cake that arrived at the end of the meal. It was a moist yellow cake with lemon and honey. Utter perfection. We all gobbled it up with abandon and applauded our hosts when they returned.

Lemon Honey Cake, Irene's, Folengandros, Greece

This meal marked a clear departure from the past four days and a return to some of the themes we started with in Greece. For one, we didn't receive a single free treat in Santorini. Not that we expect it or require it, but it was certainly part of the charm of our first week in Greece. Moreover, it represents the local's true desire to welcome their guests. And we do feel welcome. When I offered "bravo" (the Greeks have borrowed the word from the Italians) they were effusive with their thanks. For us, it is a great way to start the final week of our trip.