The first day of Lent in the Greek Orthodox liturgical calendar is known as Green Monday—and this year the public holiday falls on 11 March. It follows the last day of carnival, a period of Dionysian celebration featuring playfully costumed celebrants in elaborate parades. During Lent, observers express penitence through symbolic abstinence (usually from meat, cheese, and dairy products) while also welcoming in the spring season. Green Monday inaugurates the forty-day period of Lent as Cypriots head to parks, fields, and beaches to enjoy outdoor games and activities and light picnic meals following the Lenten diet. At Annabelle, we invite you to a special Green Monday Lunch at Mediterraneo (12:30-15:30). Our seaside taverna offers the perfect setting to enjoy al fresco dining and the lively spirit of the day. The lunch features a traditional, sharing-style meze menu including calamari, octopus, raw vegetables, and dips (€20 per person); the regular à la carte menu is also available. Live guitar and vocal music set the festive mood. Like participants throughout Cyprus, we’ll include a traditional kite-running competition in our celebration: it’s a great way to harness the energy of the balmy spring breezes blowing off the sea. So now that you know what Green Monday is, why not join in the celebration? Contact Guest Services for reservations.
Herbs are well known for their capacity to add flavouring to foods, yet they can deliver health benefits as well. One way to enjoy these benefits is through an herbal infusion. A common infusion is a tea of herbal leaves steeped in hot water: Cypriot mountain tea, traditionally used by shepherds, helps with digestion and boosts the immune system—thereby protecting the body against the common cold. Other infusions may include the roots, shoots, oils, and flowers of herbs and tend to require longer steeping periods. Each herb offers a unique combination of healing properties. Chamomile is well known for its calming qualities; an infusion before bedtime will ensure a peaceful rest, while it also will strengthen the immune system and reduce cramps. Spearmint, by contrast, is highly stimulating: take an infusion to stave off a sore throat, eye inflammation, or bloating. A wild rose infusion combines buds and petals and is known to relieve headaches and reduce cholesterol. A sage infusion can help improve your concentration, while an infusion of marjoram can help lower your blood pressure. Lemon verbena not only helps you lose weight, but it also has a great, citrusy taste. Indeed, a side benefit of herbal infusions is their intense herbal flavours. At Annabelle, our Byz Bar and adjoining Lobby Bar offer a selection of eleven herbal infusions. So, take a seat, select the right infusion for you, and sip yourself toward increased wellbeing.
Mavro is the most commonly cultivated red grape variety in Cyprus, accounting for more than 40% of grape production, yet you are unlikely to see the variety used to organise the contents of a wine list or store. How could this be? It turns out that its ubiquity in the vineyard is due in part to its many uses—it is one of very few grapes that can be eaten, made into wine, and distilled. Mavro grapes are often served fresh at the Cypriot dinner table—but look around that table, and you will find other adaptations of the grape. Juice from the grapes is used to make palouzes (grape jellies) and soutzoukos (candle-shaped sweets). A young wine made at home with the grapes is an essential ingredient in Cypriot sausages and cured meats. The vine yields a high quantity of large, dense clusters of thick-skinned grapes with a very dark colour (‘mavro’ mean black in Greek). Mavro grapes are used with white xynisteri grapes in the production of Commandaria, the legendary dessert wine unique to Cyprus; after they are over-ripened on the vine, picked, and dried in the sun, the grapes are pressed, fermented, and aged before bottling. The residue from pressing the grapes, known as the pomace, forms the basis for another Cypriot speciality—zivania, a potent distillation enjoyed with meze throughout the island. Recently, producers of premium wines have cultivated the variety at a high altitude with excellent results. These grapes are blended with other varieties to create worthy reds and rosés. Check out the many uses of the mavro grape at Mediterraneo, Annabelle’s seaside taverna.
The common ingredients of bread are well-known—flour, salt, water, yeast—and their use in different proportions and with varying techniques and additions yields a marvelous variety of breads. Yet it is often an unexpected ingredient or two that give a bread its distinctive aroma and taste, according to Doros Nearchou, baker at Annabelle. Consider the hotel’s Country Bread, which is seasoned with cumin, caraway, and mastiha—the bittersweet liqueur made from the resin of the leafy evergreen mastic tree common to the Mediterranean region. Who would have thought a liqueur would be present in this rustic bread? Yet mastiha is also included in Annabelle’s Village Bread, which is further flavoured by the addition of ground mahlep. Mahlep is made from the stones of ‘Prunus mahaleb’, a species of cherry tree; the stones are cracked to remove the seed kernels which, when ground, taste of bitter almonds and cherries. The Coriander and Sun-Dried Tomato Bread uses two elements of the coriander—the leaves, which have a sharp, bitter taste, and the seeds, which are ground into a lemony powder. Annabelle’s Hiromeri Bread (hiromeri is a Cypriot cured meat like prosciutto) is seasoned with pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, and basil. The Whole Grain Bread gets its dark colour from extra barley flour; sometimes, this bread is sweetened with molasses. Annabelle’s bakery regularly prepares 80 distinctive baked good recipes. Sample a fresh piece of bread and try to guess the secret ingredients that gives it that special scent and flavour.
In the Middle Ages, Pafos was a much quieter place than it is now—so much so that a Christian named Neofytos could live in peace and solitude in a hermitage just nine kilometres northwest of what is now the town centre. You can visit the Agios Neofytos Monastery to see his original settlement along with the complex that bears his name. The oldest part of the monastery is the Enkleistra, the set of three connected cells he dug into the limestone cliffside in the 12th century. Neofytos carved domed spaces as well as their furnishings—you can see benches, bookshelves, a desk, and his sarcophagus. The walls and ceilings display scenes from the final days of Christ, such as the Last Supper and the Ascension, that represent some of the finest examples of wall painting from the Byzantine era. Neofytos was a prolific author of theological texts; the surviving Greek manuscripts are housed in the library at the monastery. Though Neofytos spent his first eleven years here in seclusion, he was encouraged to take on students and established a cloister at the site. Over the centuries, the complex has seen a series of constructions and renovations. The main church includes notable post-Byzantine icons from the 16th century. Next to it is a museum displaying manuscripts, icons, ecclesiastical garments, and other artefacts. An active monastery, the complex includes a peaceful garden on a wooded perch overlooking the Pafos coast. It remains a suitable place for contemplation.
It is a staple of the local wine list—Commandaria, an appellation unique to Cyprus. But what exactly is it? The legendary dessert wine has been produced for centuries in the foothills of the Troodos mountains. Here vineyards are planted with two indigenous grape varieties—the white xynisteri and the red mavro. The altitude (500 to 900 metres), climate (hot, dry, and sunny), and soil (limestone and volcanic sand with high levels of calcium carbonate) yield the distinctive flavour and aroma associated with Commandaria. During the September harvest season, growers allow the grapes to over-ripen on the vine to increase their sugar content. After they have been picked, the grapes are dried in full sunlight for five to 20 days. Then the grapes are pressed, and their juice is left to ferment for two or three months before being stored in immense oaken casks for a minimum of two years. The wine is often fortified before bottling. Usually served cold, the wine has a cloudy honey colour (it darkens with age), a complex nose (think caramel, raisins, and coffee), and a sweet taste (with hints of dried dates and figs). It can stand alone as an after-dinner drink or be complemented with dried fruits or blue cheeses. The wine’s name derives from the Middle Ages, when the Order of the Knights of St. John centred their “Grand Commanderie” in the nearby castle in Kolossi—though the wine was undoubtedly made in like manner long before then. Many consider Commandaria the oldest named wine in the world.