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Let a Greek volcano do the cooking at Sirocco

Does continual beauty cause you to yawn? Is dining within sight and sound of warm shockingly blue water directly on a white sand beach passé on your "bucket list?" If so Paleochori beach's Cafe Restaurant Sirocco on the Greek Cyclades island of Milos may not be suitable. Unless, that is, having dinner cooked by a volcano is intriguing.

Stella Tseroni, owner and manager Cafe Restaurant Sirocco, Milos Island, Greece
Stella Tseroni, owner and manager Cafe Restaurant Sirocco, Milos Island, Greece
Marc d'Entremont
Milos towns: Kilma (waterfront), Plaka/Trypiti (hilltop)
Marc d'Entremont

Stella Tseroni, owner and manager of Cafe Restaurant Sirocco, founded by her father in 1998, buries the hand thrown covered ceramic casserole dish of lamb, vegetables and herbs in the sand-wedged metal chamber at night and lets it slow cook for at least six hours. Can you smell the infusion of herbs and spices yet? The chamber is lodged several feet deep into the sand where the temperature exceeds 212°F – nature's original slow cooker.

The geodynamic convergence of the African and Aegean plates is responsible for both the iconic Greek islands and Sirocco's volcanic cooking. The collision and subduction of the African plate created Milos into an important island for mining such minerals as baryte, silver and perlite since antiquity. Studies show the presence of a high-temperature hydrothermal system reaching temperatures up to 600°F below the island, responsible for an abundance of active fumaroles – volcanic steam vents (think of Yellowstone National Park in the USA). Fortunately for Milos the last eruption occurred over 92,000 years ago – unlike Santorini's cataclysmic explosion within the last 6,000 years.

But dining at Cafe Restaurant Sirocco does not require a post-graduate degree, just a love of food, sand, sea and, especially, seafood. Whereas the lamb may be delectable, Sirocco is known for its fish and seafood. Whether cooked by a volcano, steamed or grilled, freshness and variety are the hallmarks of the menu.

Presentations are simple allowing the natural flavors to prevail, whether it's the oddly English translated "littered fish" – Φρεσκια σκορττινα με ντοματα (skorpina, known as rockfish in the Atlantic, with fresh tomatoes) or the delicate Φαγκρια – fagria (gilthead sea bream), a diner can be assured these fish were swimming in the Aegean a short time before landing in the kitchen. Classics such as fried anchovies and grilled squid, seasoned with olive oil, vinegar and bay leaves, are ubiquitous table mates at any Greek seafood meal. For dessert a colorful shredded carrot spoon sweet on thick Greek yogurt is most appropriate.

Milos is renowned for its fish, seafood, extraordinary geologic formations and iconic hillside towns. Cafe Restaurant Sirocco, like many establishments in Greek tourist centers, is a year round business open every day April through October and weekends – Saturday and Sunday – November through March. This is but the first in a series of articles on this beautiful island. Volcano cooking is only the beginning.

Disclosure: the author was a guest of the Municipality of Milos, Hotel Ippocambos and Cafe Restaurant Sirocco