It started on an island where first-generation Greek-American Nikolas Trastelis watched an elder artisan churn out fresh dollops of creamy yogurt from a shoebox-size shop in Mykonos, Greece. After a long run in finance, Trastelis’s seven-year visit turned into a culinary odyssey inspired by the surge of Greek youth returning to the countryside and reinventing past agrarian lifestyles while Greece’s economy declined. Visits with hundreds of small food clubs throughout Greece inspired Trastelis to bring home the honesty of their small production and rediscover his family’s appetizing heritage.
The Trastelis yogurt legacy began in Manhattan where Nik’s great-grandfather owned a small dairy shop. By combining diverse styles he observed throughout Greece with his family’s own recipes, Trastelis created Kalypso Greek Yogurt, an environmentally conscious artisan yogurt that satisfies both tradition and our appetites. “Food is in my blood. It’s what my family knows and does. It’s in my DNA,” says Trastelis as he carries on the tradition as fourth-generation yogurt maker in his family.
After continuously battling to reach the perfect equilibrium between pH balances, incubation time, probiotic cultures and fermentation, Trastelis discovered the formula for the luscious, tart yogurt of his childhood. Once the hormone-free, antibiotic-free milk from the Hudson Valley is pasteurized, blended with active probiotic cultures and fermented, Trastelis strains 97 percent of the whey by hand using cheesecloth to obtain its unique creaminess.
“Our process is never going to change. We’re never going to switch to big machinery and away from tradition,” Trastelis clarifies as he continues to sell out at farmers markets throughout Long Island.
Every weekend his posse of devout Kalypsophiles gather for terra-cotta pots nestling flavors of fig, vanilla, honey and more at farmers markets. The GMO-free, preservative-free, and artificial-sweetener-free fruit blanketed by tangy white cream is inspired by Greek spoon treats, bite-size preserved fruit offered as a symbol of hospitality. As Kalypso expands, Trastelis plans to introduce traditional Mediterranean flavors like lemon fennel.
Trastelis maintains traditional Greek packaging of terra-cotta. The iconic pots are ecofriendly and can be repurposed.
Leftover whey is sold to bakeries in NYC to make sour dough and pretzels. Trastelis is formulating a recipe for probiotic lemonade and mezithra, a ricotta-like cheese made from the healthy yogurt by-product.
While Kalypso continues to grow and transitions to a certified organic farm in Pennsylvania, Trastelis remains the humble traveler he began as in Greece. “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. I’m simply trying to do it better and am following my passion and hope that this is conveyed in the final product. It’s a labor of love,” he explains bashfully. Yet despite its rustic demeanor, Kalypso Greek Yogurt is much more than a pot. It’s an innovative capsule of Greek culinary identity. The yogurt’s pristine-white simplicity transports us to the refreshing Mediterranean shores of Mykonos, spotted with concrete white structures of the same refreshing hue. What started with an island has taken over our own and will continue to nourish many more to come.
For a list of shops and markets please visit kalypsogreekyogurt.com