Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Meze, in the Eastern Mediterranean is a selection of appetizers or small dishes often served with beverage, like anise-flavored liqueurs such as arak, ouzo, raki or different wines, similar to the tapas of Spain or finger food.

In Turkey meze are served along with rakı (anise-flavored apéritif) in establishments called meyhane. Turkish meze often consist of beyaz peynir (literally "white cheese"), kavun (sliced ripe melon), acılı ezme (hot pepper paste often with walnuts), haydari (thick strained yoghurt like the Levantine labne), patlıcan salatası (cold aubergine salad), kalamar (calamari or squid), enginar (artichokes), cacık (yoghurt with cucumber and garlic), pilaki (various foods cooked in a special sauce), dolma or sarma (rice-stuffed vine leaves or other stuffed vegetables, such as bell peppers), and köfte (meatballs).

In Greece and Cyprus, mezé, mezés, or mezédhes (plural) are small dishes, hot or cold, spicy or savory, often salty (and/or a small portion of a main dish). Often seafood dishes are served as meze, such as "little fish" or grilled octopus, small salads, sliced hard-boiled eggs, grilled slices of bread or garlic-bread, kalamata olives, fava beans, fried vegetables, melitzanosalata (eggplant salad), taramosalata (salted and cured carp or cod roe mixed with bread crumbs, lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil), fried or grilled cheeses called saganaki, and various fresh Greek sheep, goat or cow cheeses (such as feta, kasseri, kefalotyri, graviera, anthotyros, manouri, metsovone and mizithra). Other small dishes are fried sausages, usually pork and often flavored with orange peel, bekrí-mezé (the "drunkard's mezé", a diced pork stew), and meatballs like keftédes and soutzoukákia smyrnéika. Meze is served in restaurants called mezedopoleíon, served to complement beverage, and in similar establishments known as tsipourádiko or ouzerí (a type of café that serves beverage, like ouzo or tsipouro). A tavérna (tavern) or estiatório (restaurant) also offer a mezé as an orektikó (appetiser). Many restaurants offer their house poikilía ("variety"), a platter with a smorgasbord of various mezedhes that can be served immediately to customers looking for a quick and/or light meal. Hosts commonly serve mezédhes to their guests at informal or impromptu get-togethers, as they are easy to prepare on short notice. Krasomezédhes (literally "wine-meze") is a meze that goes well with wine; ouzomezédhes are meze that goes with ouzo.

In Lebanon and Cyprus, meze is often a meal in its own right. There are vegetarian, meat or fish mezes. Groups of dishes arrive at the table about 4 or 5 at a time (usually between five and ten different groups). There is a set pattern to the dishes, typically olives, tahini, salad and yoghurt will be followed by dishes with vegetables and eggs, then small meat or fish dishes alongside special accompaniments, and finally more substantial dishes such as whole fish or meat stews and grills. Different establishments will offer different dishes, their own specialities, but the pattern remains the same. Naturally the dishes served will reflect the seasons, for example in late autumn, snails will be prominent. As so much food is offered, it is not expected that every dish be finished, but rather shared at will and served at ease. Eating a Cypriot meze is a social event.

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