A huge helping of Cretan hospitality

Thanks to lovely friends in New York, we were offered the chance to see an olive oil company in operation via a personal tour of the Renieris Estate, about 20 miles west of Chania. 

Nikos Renieris picked us up this morning and drove us to the family’s factory, which was quite impressive. The business produces EVOO from their groves of trees — some 6,000 trees — as well as the groves of many small local producers, and sells only through export, currently to 30 countries around the world. It is a major enterprise, and it is expanding into different grades of olive oil. To prepare for this, they are busy building an addition to their factory, which will be ready for this year’s harvest, starting in November.

It is truly a family business, with Nikos and his two brothers taking on major roles in sales and marketing. Their father still heads the company, and can often be found tinkering in the workshop. He had the big dreams, and now they are coming true.

It’s not the harvest season for olive pressing, so that is something we will have to see next time. We didn’t get the complete tour of the factory where the oil is bottled and shipped, though we did see oil being labeled and packed. We also met the two watch dogs, who seem ready and able to lick any trespassers to death. They spend their day in the shade of a 1,000 year-old olive tree, which was moved here to save it from road construction.

Speaking of old olive trees, it was a given that we would visit an even older tree, now considered a “natural monument.” This 3,000 year-old still produces olives, and even has its own olive museum next door.

We thought we were done, but no, things were just beginning. Nikos took us out to his favorite place for espresso, and we had a break from all that hard work we had just done. Then we were taken to the Renieris home and introduced to Mama Renieris, who couldn’t have been more charming.

Nikos lives at home, but it seems that all the boys and Papa come there for lunch around 2:00 each day. Who wouldn’t, given the spread that Mama produces? (Take it away, Don.)

Don’s Food Corner

What can I say? We were treated to what seemed to be a pretty full repertory of Cretan dishes — cheeses and yogurt drizzled with honey, a spectacular rice dish featuring mushrooms, potatoes deep-fried in olive oil, Greek salad liberally dressed with more olive oil, an array of grilled meats (pork, beef and chicken) and two different types of whole fish.

The meat and fish was also to be eaten doused with olive oil and a hearty squeeze of lemon. There was enough food laid out on the table and put on our plates to last us about a week. And we ate every bit of it. (We couldn’t be rude, could we?)

They claimed that they didn’t eat like this at every meal, but ate big at lunch and had some small snack at about 9 p.m. I suspect, however, that we were treated to a spread reserved for guests. It was all exuberantly presented to us for our enjoyment, approval and consumption. The family joined in on the feast. Perhaps the leftovers, which were not as plentiful as I expected when I first saw the amount of food on the table, go to the family’s five dogs. It must be the case, because those dogs seemed very happy and loving. It was a great experience.

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