cutting edge food in Greece.
Hello all chowhounders!
My Greek wife and I went to Greece last year and had a good time, but every restaurant seemed to have the same things.Of course the kabobs,souvlaki, and gyros,doner kabobs, were great street food, but it's usually the same Greek salad, moussaka, stuffed pepers, etc., at most restaurants we ate at. Even our Greek relatives that took us out to their favorite restaurants,it was basically the same menu choices, seved luke warm in a pool of olive oil.
We will go back in the future, to see here relatives, and I would appreciate it if some one could recommend a restaurant that takes the classics and reinvents them, or pushes the edge at least some what. In the Athens area; Monistraki, Glyfada, or any other part of of the city. I apologize for my poor Greek spelling, I'm still trying to learn all my wife's relatives names!
It's a shame that the national past time of Greece is the best kept international secret. Knowing which tavernas to go to and how to get there are the only way to elevate your travels to Greece to the point you get weepy when talking about the place.
I saw on another poster's site he had chosen Mamacas. this was great the first couple of years it opened, but we went there with cousins a few weeks ago, and it was terrible, later we found out that, everyone already knew this. No respectable Athenian would EVER go to a restaurant without a recommendation.
Unfortunately, this means there are only a few places to go in the touristy areas. Most Greeks have either been to the States, or have a relative that has, and they know that the Greek food there is poor compared to the standards here, so it doesn't take much to please the tourists. So in Thissio, there is a place called Kouzina Kouzina. I still dream about the lamb shank. Also in Psiri there is a place that specializes in Brizolas (grilled lamb or pork). You do not order anything, you just sit at the table and they bring you a salad, a cheese dish and however many kilos of brizola your table needs. Famous people go to this place and it is often so packed, that by 10:30 they are literally seating people at tables in the street. The name of this place is Telis.
For a transcendental seafood experience, you must go to Kollias in Pereias. This is unimpeachably the best seafood in Greece, albeit deservedly pricey. The son and daughter of the owner of Kollias opened a place just across the road, called Para Pente. It is sort of like greek dimsum, in that you don't order, they just bring platters out with five things on them, they keep bringing these platters of five until the table is full and says stop.
In our neighborhood there is a place called Gigikas and Mermikas, on Plateia Papadiamantis. This is one of our favorite restaurants, it is in an old grocery store and offers really great ambiance. They serve traditional food with a bit of a twist and extremely affordable prices. Like roasted Chicken in a kadaifi bowl with Mastiks crema. The other night we ordered a leek pie that was outstanding, and we always order our favorite dish; small calves livers wrapped in lamb stomach lining and grilled, it is a perfect food, and I'm not even a huge liver fan.
It goes without saying, when you go to these places, you never order single place settings. That not how the locals do it. You order a salad or two, a vegetable or two, and a meat dish or fish dish. The vegatables are sublime here, and no matter what, you should always order the horta (mountain horta or Vlita are the sweetest).
Hope this helps, I could go on writing about places but I have things to do.
two of my faves are oikea, and papadakis, both in kolonaki, athens. oikea has just been re-done and seems to have a bit of an attitude problem right now, but their food is great, and their tyropitas come with a thick crisp layer of sesame seeds.
papadakis is elegant and modern and sleekly deliicous wihtout being ungreek. the food is modern but very traditional, specializes in fish and seafood, and if there is the cod with braised vegetables, or the fish stew eaten over crumbled rusks, or the chickpeas cooked for a zillion hours, don't miss them. the owner, from the island of paros, is truly talented and serves homemade liqueurs after the meal. really wonderful, though a bit pricey. don't miss if you have the opportunity to eat there.
The real issue is that your relatives don't want to 'offend' you, therefore they take you to a bland mainstream no frills restaurants. You see, most restaurants in Greece either serve things that would never appear in any menu in the US (see E. Kolliopoulos' post above: would you ever consider eating calf liver wrapped in lamb stomach lining?), or serve foods in a way that may seem appalling here in the US. For example, I, as born and bred Greek, would never even consider buying fish without seeing its eye. Furthermore, if I would serve fish for dinner, I would clearly want to serve it the right way, whole, head and bones included. [I would gladly through in a lesson of cleaning and eating it, even spend the time to do it for each diner individually, but serving fish fillet is a culinary insult to/for a Greek].
Now, this picture may be disgusting to you or to most Americans, as to my dismay and embarrassment I found out the hard way... but it is commonplace to Greeks who expect fish served <i>thus</i>. Frankly, as far as I have seen, even highly sophisticated and well traveled Americans and Greek Americans, are completely un-prepared to face - not to mention, taste - the "true" foods of Greece.
I will never forget the drive and walk to get to a particular 'kokoretsi' restaurant in Kalambaka which made only kokoretsi and was almost daily presold, to eat our PREPAID/PRE-bought spit-kokoretsi with my American colleague, only to see the disgust in her face after I told her what it was she had just tasted and praised the taste of so much. The remainder of her plate went to stray dogs. I was crushed... (not to mention, out of serious cash, at the time, 20+ years ago).
Un-phased from the previous experience, another day we went with more American colleagues to one of Athens' top fish restaurants by the sea. As is the custom, I went to the kitchen and chose the fish - a great looking fresh rockfish, and then the waiter brought out the large plate with fried seafood appetizers, squid - calamari - , of course, prominent among them. The table was immediately enveloped by a deadly silence. I was freaking out by then... What on earth had happened to make a bunch of lively academics shut up so fast? I soon found out that none had ever tried squid, neither thought it was eatable, because squid was used for bait where they were from. That was only New Jersey, mind you, albeit a few years (early 1980's) before Cheesecake Factory memorialized calamari in its menu in the 1990's.
Ask me if I dare suggest a 'true' greek restaurant to another American... All my friends know by now to stick to 'easy' and recognizable foods when they invite us, and furthermore, they know not to invite us 'out' but only to their houses, where its quite safe that we won't come upon a listing of 'fresh lamb brains, lightly battered and quick fried, served with...' -- you get the picture, the kind of restaurant my Greek friends (and I) would choose to spend time and money at.
As if the above experiences weren't enough, a few years back - in the 21st century this time - we had a Pot Luck dinner at the department and encouraged by the multicultural culinary inroads that have occurred the recent years, I pursued to MAKE 300 - that is: Three Hundred - stuffed grape leaves (ok, dolmadakia, in Greek) as my contribution. Cost? Several chiropractor visits to get my back in place after all this back breaking work. Results? I ended up taking over 250 back home, after almost 'forcing' a few dozen on the only colleague who tried them and politely expressed approval. Nobody else even bothered to try them, being... 'afraid'.... Just as well, since it was the only thing I could eat at that dinner. EVERYthing else had sugar! Sugar on pork, sugar on beef, sugar on beans, sugar on rice, sugar on sugar... I realized then that sugar is still the main ingredient in the American kitchen (the 1950's are alive and well, I Love Lucy!) Come to think about it, maybe my dolmadakia would have gone had I added sugar.... Neahhhhh, I would never do that :-!
cook for me, take me to your fave places, roast a whole lamb and let me jump up full of emotion and dance or cry or laugh! the only thing i won't eat is brains, i'm so sorry. and am allergic to seafood but get great huge joy at watching other people enjoy it!
i have tzadziki running through my veins.
Being in greece, eating and living with greeks: a wonderful antidote to american rat-race. now, how do we get visitors from those far away shores to lighten up and dip rough rustic bread in puddle of olive oil on the plate and deal with fish who have faces? i don't mean to sound too strident but i've seen such a regime work miracles in stressed out people, including myself.
(to be honest, its the same everywhere. many people abroad want to be faced with familiarity and are afraid to confront something strange, think of the brits demanding full british breakfasts or roast sunday dinners on sweltering mediterranean isles)... anyhow, the greeks are so hospitable, wanting their guests to be happy and comfy, its easy to see how one could end up getting shlepped to tourist traps......in the hopes of making a guest happy......
Here Here Marlena! I second your thoughts. I love the cuisine of Greece, eyeballs, livers, fish heads and all, and I find the best way to learn about Greek history is through understanding the regional food of Greece. (Diana Kochilas' "Glorious Foods of Greece" is bed side reading for me.)
The only thing I have had an unpleasant experience with is Padza (sp) at the central market at 2 am. I actually ordered the livers soup, and it was very good, my Greek husband ordered the Padza, and he has been complaining about it ever since. It was the first time I have ever seen my adventurous partner eat something and dislike it with a passion. But we are cyclists from Oklahoma, and the soup tasted exactly like the frightfully intense smell in the country on those days they lay the fertilizer.
There is simply nothing that can be done for people who want to travel, but do not want to be immersed in a culture, it's why the cruise ship industry flourishes I suppose.
Before we moved to Greece, we came here every year to visit family. Every morning I would get up with my Mother in law and she would teach me all her dishes, from goat stewed with greens and dill in avgo-lemono (my favorite) to lamb sto fourno, to spanakorizo and gigades. Every year I would come home and cook a big feast with all the contraband I brought back, and my friends lauded me as the best cook they knew, and still I can't quite achieve the "softness" in my mother in law's latho-dishes.
So please Mimika, do not stigmatize all the Americans into one group, I am convinced my friends will be coming to visit the food that I write to them about, and not my husband and I. In fact I have often thought (being a marketing driven America...ugh) of starting a cuisine tour of Greece. I think the tourist, be they Americans, Germans or English, miss so much when they come to this wonderful country and don't partake in it's most precious resource: Food as Love.
Oh and a suggestion. One thing that I believe helps an unsuspecting tourist open their mind, heart and eventually, palate to fish with heads, kokoretsi and all things wonderful, is the enthusiasm of the hosts as well as their being able to explain why the fish eye is important, what the historical context of the dish is, etc. I have had our Greek friends and Family over for dinner, and they seem uninterested for instance if a hortopita I am serving is from Roumeli, or if the onion dish is strictly dodecanese fare. My husband explained this to me,and now I don't bore my Greek guests with this information, unless it is solicited. Where as Americans are really hungry for this kind information, we all come from a melting pot, and say what you might about racism in America, we do seem to absorb cultural diversity better than many places on earth, as we have been doing it longer. The addition of the Vietnamese into Oklahoma was the greatest gift imaginable, and I would pay 100 dollars for a $3.50 bowl of Pho today!
Loving Greece, fish heads, entrails, cretan snails and all,
Italian restaurants have been serving calamari for years, way before there was ever a Cheesecake Factory. They sell dolmadakia at our local Whole Foods. And I don't know about the rest of my compatriots, but we often buy and eat fish with the heads on. I'm more adventuresome about food than some people, but I find it hard to believe that calamari (or anything for that matter!) could silence a table of academics at least the ones in my department.
We have a large Greek Orthodox church close by that holds an annual festival. It's so over-subscribed that you have to park miles away and take a shuttle bus in. People from every background come for the food. They LOVE the food!
Judith, I agree with you. I think perhaps you meant to respond to Mimika who had some bad experiences with American friends who were a bit naive about cuisine. As for academics, I will say that when my step son used to bring his other "academic" friends with him to dinner at our house, many were freaked out over my food. He has one friend who eats nothing but pizza, and another friend who is a vegetarian, but confusingly really doesn't eat vegetables! I attribute this to being so "Academic" that these peeps just don't get out much. But I believe these are rare exceptions truly.
To be fair to Mimika, there are many Americans who I think would be a tad horrified by some of the foods of Greece (I just watch my husband eat a lamb head, I turned to look at him and he was sucking on the jaw bone, which was almost to the tee the size of our pet dog Pippinas' lower jaw bone, AND it had teeth! ) But I know that Greek people would be equally horrified by the Jello mold salads that some of my relatives made for holiday dinners as well, especially those involving marshmellows and Cool Whip Non-Dairy whipped topping with canned mandarine oranges. EEK GAD!
You're right . . . the way this new board is arranged confuses me thoroughly.
I have to admit that an entire lamb's head might not appeal to the tourists. But at least here in the SF Bay Area, we have such an array of different kinds of cuisine, not to mention different kinds of fusion, that a lot of people are fairly sophisticated.
Although I've suffered through my share of Thanksgiving dinners where the sweet potato dish has marshmallows on it. Jello and marshmallows are two things I absolutely can't imagine eating. Marshmallows in particular hardly seem like food to me!
Hello E. Kolliopoulos! - I think you would like the following two books: The Food of Greece (Hardcover, 1979) Author: Vilma Liacouras Chantiles, and: Modern Greek: 170 Contemporary Recipes from the Mediterranean Author: Andy Harris (Paperback, Illustrated, 2002). The first one is my Kitchen Bible, (if not my one and only bible, but lets not take things too far and offend people beyond the table...). Totally un-surpassed.
The second one is 'outstanding' in every respect. The recipes are eclectic (that's positive) and easy to follow. I even sent it to my 104 year old godmother/great aunt in Greece, who is the daily cook for our entire family, (a gourmet cook, retired wife of an ambassador who for years oversaw embassy dinners) and she wholeheartedly approved the book. I also bought it massively from Amazon and sent it lieu of a Christmas card to my greek friends. (postage per book was way over book's price, book is heavy).
Vilma Liacouras Chantiles' book was her master thesis project. It was out of print for at least a decade in the 1980's and then published in paperback in 1992 but its again out of print. Your best bet to find it would be half.com.
I like your idea for a food trip. It will be quite expensive though. We had worked on putting together a gourmet trip in the 1980's. It included restaurants (and visits, of course) in Istanbul, Ismir and Ayvalik, along with a good number in Greece (Athens, Kriti, Myconos, Allonisos, Thessaloniki, Yannina, Kavala - for the 'foodie' part, and the addition of Delphi, Olympia, Mycenae, etc. for the sight seeing part). The trip ended up being too expensive for the adventurous kind of traveler such a trip would attract. But by all means, try it! I would be very interested.
PS - Pho is *purrrrfect* after a long day at work. I too am thankful for the Vietnamese here!
re: Andy Harris
Sorry to butt in here, but are you THE Andy Harris!?! I just want you to know that I enslave whole dinner parties at a time when I cook your kolokithokeftedes, which is great because they end up doing the dishes. I am now living in Greece, which has made me a sort of "kolokithotopologist" (okay I made that up) and I can easily say that my..err well ehem huhu YOUR recipe is the best to date.
I am also indebted to you as you wrote in your cookbook that Vlita is Amaranth. Every year I would come home to OKC-OK-Land depressed knowing I wouldn't be able to eat decent greens for another year. We have a fabulous Vietnamese community and I was able to find Amaranth or Rau Den as they call it every Summer.
When we moved here, I had to give away all my cookbooks, and could only keep the essentials; 2 Wolforts, 2 Kochilas, YOU and an old "Food in history" book by Tannehill. You are that esteemed in my smaller yet better greek food producing Kouzina.
Thank You Andy Harris,
I cannot tell you how pleased I was to receive your reply. I will begin my search today for "The Food of Greece". I have "Modern Greek" by Andy Harris, I will look up the book you suggest as well. His recipe for Kolokithokeftedes is wonderful. As far as having a cook book as primary or sole bible, no controversy here. I hope most religions teach giving love as a primary tenet, and what else is cooking but showing love and gratitude.
I have had 12 dinner parties in a little over four months, as our Greek friends and relatives have been so helpful and accommodating to us during our cocoon to butterfly like transition from Okies to Hellenes (My husband left Athens at 17 for college and he is 50 today, so in many respects, he is as much a Xeno as I am.)and cooking for them is my best way to show our gratitude.
Do you have a good source for Raki in Athens, if you do I would be most appreciative. And again, thank you so much for the book suggestions.
I never bought raki in athens, but I bought a really really bad homemade one (read this as: very good raki. Totally undrinkable high octane power alcohol) from Anogia in Kriti. In any case, I found out that the best local products are the ones from the various local Synetaerismoi. In the case of raki that should be the Synetairismos Paragogwv Kritis. I don't know where you would find synetairistika products anymore, but it used to be near Omonia. There is an excellent Loukoumades place called 'Ktistakis' on Sokratous street in Omonoia. -- The place used to be on Agiou Konstantinou, a block east of the National Theater, but they moved almost 10 years ago. They are known since Eleftherios Venizelos times, Ktistakis was frequented by Venizelos, the Kretan politician and prime minister early in the 20th century. I would go there, first, for the awesome loukoumades (extremely unique: hard on the outside, full of syrop in the inside, with sesame on top) and then to ask them where I could find Omospondia Kritis products, including raki. They may carry them, but if not, its safe to assume they would know where to find them.
Enjoy the loukoumades! I wish I were there...
More on the 'cutting edge' food in Athens: Check Athinorama every week. It lists almost every restaurant and has a short paragraph about it, along with full reviews of selected ones. Online at http://www.athinorama.gr/restaurants/
thank you so much for the tip on the loudoumades; how exciting that Venizelos used to go to the cafe!
i've had some dissappointing loukoumades over the years, and haven't had trandcendental ones for decades; i think its because i haven't 1. been in greece with anyone as devoted as i am to finding excellence in loukoumades (and also someone who literally has the stomach for it) and 2. gotten a good tip (which means not having to do all the hunting-chomping personally!).
i've got to make a plan to visit athens again asap now that i am armed with such precious info.
Dear Mrs. Mimika,
It was amazing to read how well you know the history of the small loukoumades shop at Agiou Constantinou 7, founded in January of 1952. The original shop was founded in 1912 in the Cretan town of Chania by the owner's (of today) grandfather, who had learned the secret recipe in Alexandria in the Greek pastry shop "Goniakon". Many stories could be told here about all those personalities who passed from those two pastry shops in Chania and Athens, from great Greek actors (many from the National Theatre), journalists, publishers, musicians and politicians. Put under each of these terms the most famous ones you know and you have the names! But the most important part of that history that started in 1912 and continues until today is the simple people who used and still frequent this historical "loukoumatzidiko", which since 1997 is located at Socratous Street, run by the 3rd generation. (photo: 2nd and 4th generation together at the loukoumatzidiko of Socratous Street)
Thank you for the street name, as I spent a good hour or so walking around Omonia looking for Ktistakis. I will go tomorrow. My friend Kostis told me the most wonderful story that ties in with your comment about the simple folk. His Father used to take the best behaved child of the week into town with him on Friday, and the hi-light of the day would be to go to Ktistakis, to get a box of Loukomades, but the very best was that being the child there, he could have them warm, fresh from the oven. He said it is one of his best childhood memories to date.
I think the original questions was where to find cutting edge food. Last year we ate at a restaurant called Daphne- a charming place on the edge of Plaka that had traditional food with a modern twist. A really nice place with excellent atmosphere and food.
I make dolmathes, gigantes,tsatsiki etc for my non greek friends and they love it. Such a shame to make 300 dolamthes and have them go uneaten. They don;t know what they were missing!! PS not a book about food but about the experiences of an American in Greece- Dinner with Persepone- a wonderful book.
You enslave me! Thank you so much for this information. I have already checked out the Athinorama site, and forwarded it to my Husband. I am currently in classes now learning Greek, though it is going slow. I can talk to people about food, give a general run down of what I did on any particular day, talk about weather, where I am from, ask the same basic questions from others and that is it, so this will make good Greek reading/translations for me.
Funny that I should open up my email today to find this response as my husband and I went to probably the best Kritan Taverna in Athens last night (according to my cousin) It was marvelous, we had the snails (not in bulgar though) eggs fried in this special butter called staka, goat with rice, some fresh herbs on a plate I have never seen or tasted, they just drizzled olive oil and a little lemoni over the top, it was divine, black-eyed peas, horta, anthotyro pies, horta pies, pasta boiled in the juices of the goat,loukaniko made with vinegar, and stafilia spoon sweets.
The owner is a well known lira player, he started playing at our table, then two young men from the island of Kassos came in and the owner took a various assundry of instruments off the wall and they played everything (lauoto, mandola, bazooki, even wooden recorders). Another man came in and they all started singing improvisational, and very funny songs. I also got the greatest compliment I think in my 40 bla bla years of living. The owner Vourias that's his nickname, it's actually Bobis, said to me that the eyes say what the mouth cannot speak. He told my husband that my eyes told him I was a very good and true human being.
Hearing you are a good human being from a person who; grows his own everything, paints, woodworks, cooks, plays music, well lets just say he is a Kritan renaissance man, somehow holds a lot of credence. I walked out of the place, full of smooth raki (no hang over this morning!) excellent food, and somehow feeling as if I had a halo over my head. Which is difficult for an American these days.
There are things in Greece that can drive any reasonable minded human being crazy, like all the official stamps one must have to do anything, the general chaos, the cars parked on the sidewalks, pushing little old ladies and mothers with strollers onto the treacherous Athenian streets where people more than often drive on the wrong side of the road and at murderous speeds, and even the smoking. But every so often, you have an experience like this, like the one my husband and my cousins and another friend had, and it just washes these things away.
I always tell people here that I like it better, because it's the big things that bother me in the States, like our foreign policy, all the murders and the violence, the waste etc..., here it's just a bunch of small stuff, and once a month we get to have these incredible experiences, that is a happy ending to all of it.
Like when we first moved here, and we were so incredibly stressed out and overwhelmed by all we had to accomplish. Our friends took us to Sounio and we swam under the temple to poseiden. The water was as clear and effervescent as San Pelligrino, I looked up at the temple, the sun shining on it, so that it literally was glistening. I remember thinking how it looked like some ancient Greek temp..."Shit, that is an ancient Greek temple, I am living in the land of metaphores" thought I.
If that wasn't enough, we then went to a taverna in Lavrio, a nearby fishing village, and sat two steps from the sea. They brought out, slowly, the most incredible food, like sea urchin in olive oil, when you eat it, it transports you back to the sea, swimming under the Temple to Poseiden, Crab with a cognac infuse fish broth and at the end, they brought out a fish the size of a domesticated house pet (yes with eyes and head and fins and tails)the flesh was moist and tender, and we drizzles, well I mopped up latholemono me rigani. Ahhhh. I am pretty sure I was weeping on our way back home, thinking to my self incredulously and in Greek "Then diakopes, einnai zoi mou!" or "Not vacations it my life!"
I will try your recommendation of Kristakis. i should be in the area on Wednesday, and I will get the Loukamades. the owner of the Creten taverna suggested another place in Pagrati that ai will check out as well.
Oh, and for Marlene, and the guy who started this topic in the first place, the next time you come here, the Taverna we went to last night is called "Taverna O Vourgias; mousikomayeiremata" It is near the Plateia Fatsea in Vironas. This was the third time I have eaten there, and each time it has been fabulous.
Mimika, please any more recommendations you think of from time to time, please clue me in, you are a dream.
Devotedly, I am
Elizabeth Kolliopoulos, eh errrr here I guess I am KolliopouLOU.
Hi Elizabeth ...-ou. Yes, -ou should be it. I have never been and never will be -os. That was my father. I was born and will die -ou. Funny thing is, my greek last name to begin with, is not common in the US. Add the ending -ou instead of the common -os, and I am the only listing with this name in the entire White pages in all 50 states... BTW, how come you have your husband's last name? Greek Family Law (revision 1981) does not provide for last name change after marriage.
Anyway, the loukoumades place is kTistakis - as in ktistis - builder.
Since you are going to Omonia: Have you ever had 'anthogalo'? Its a sweet-cream dessert. Sort of like sweet sour cream. The sour cream consistency, but sweet. I know there used to be a big 'Galaktopoleio' - sweets and milk products - on Omonia between Athinas and Panagi Tsaldari. It may not be there anylonger. But it may still be... After all, it was an institution! Years ago the students of the National Theater school used to frequent it after their classes and rehearsals, in the wee hours of the night. A cream or a yogurt were cheap enough to fit the budget of starving budding actors and good enough to feed the spirit - if not the body... See if its there and let us know. Try the
sweet-cream (anthogalo) for us, too.
Brave of you to live in greece these days...
We were married ten years ago here. I am sure our certificate names me as OU, but I never knew of this nuiance, and my husband, short on explanations never told me any different, I am the talkative one in the family, obviously. So when we got to the states I changed my name to Kolliopoulos, and didn't understand the ou thing until years after we were married. So it is difficult, as my Drivers license, passport say los, and yet I am a lou now (A FI MI, odygos diplome ect).
So today I did not get to Ommonia, there was a strike, and I was stuck in Plaka, having tea with a friend who lives in Akropolis neighborhood. We went to Messogaia, a place you must visit next time you are here. It is a shop that sells wonderful greek food products, all from locally and privately owned and operated farms and dairies. They have a really great filo for pitas, that tastes just like homemade (I haven't braved rolling my own with a broomstick yet) and wonderful wines and spoonsweets and homemade pasta's. They have olive oil tastings and feta tastings. They are wonderful.
So I was telling my friend I know of a great place for loukamades, i began saying it was a Cretan place, and she interrupted me and said, "No you don't know the place for loukamades, there is only one place: Ktistis." I laughed and said, yes on Sophocleus! She was incredibly impressed, as she keeps saying I am adapting better to Greek life than my Greek husband!
And again, I bow to you Miss Mimika! I have been on a great search to find Anthogalo for months now since I tasted it at my cousins in September when they brought it back from Crete. People say i will have to go to Kriti to get such a treasure, or know a producer.
Perhaps I will go tomorrow to get the loukamades and the anthogalo, hopefully if it still exists! You are a goddess!
And as for BRAVE? Are you kidding? Whose brave? I think there has been two murders in the 6 months I have lived in Athens! I got held up at gun point, had my house robbed twice, car stereo stolen and god knows what else I have blocked out from my experiences living in the "Heartland". It's much safer here, perhaps you mean I have patience!!!!
You all keep enlightening me. I was born in Greece and raised in the US. And even though I was raised in the greek culture and speak greek fluently, I have been back to Greece to visit only a few times. I am in the dark about so many things. The name thing, for sure. I was raised as Sidiropoulous. It wasn't until my trip to Greece in '01 that I was in the airport in Athens checking into my flight to Thessaloniki that I said "Sidiropoulos" I was corrected by the young lady behind the counter in a very snippy manner "Sidiropoulou". I then noticed my greek passport is also "Sidiropoulou". And now that I need to renew my passport here in the US (it's a greek passport) I am not allowed to have my married name but it must remain my maiden name.
You all speak of so many foods that I grew up with. yummy. Now that my father has passed away, my mother doesn't have as much reason to cook many of the classics since my siblings and I are "pickier" eaters. But loukoumades... They are heaven and very difficult to find in the US. Thank you to you all for sharing your knowledge and passion for greek food.
You MUST come to Greece! And for the love of Panagia! Change your name to Kaimakis! Or at least Yaourti (Greek yogurt is as good as gelato!).
I have told my husband I would rather be a "lena" than a "lou" as "lena" expresses a more independent spirited woman! If only I could change my AFM (greek SSN) number now.
Oooooo! Someone ate 'AnthoTYRO' from Kriti! For that, you WILL HAVE to go to Kriti. Anthotyro is the Cretan version of the Central American 'queso blanco', which has now become part of our daily staple, or at least, regular item in every grocery store here (D.C. to Baltimore). Soft manouri is the closest you would get to Anthotyro in Athens. Of course, you could get it by the tins - and I mean, bucket tins, in the Chania enclosed municipal market -- a MUST visit, if you haven't yet, when in Kriti. Anthogalo is a bit different, its in the 'crema' category as opposed to the cheese category.
Are you 'up' on the Greek wines? Has any red surpassed the Naousa Reserve? And how are the different years, if you know? Tried Malvasia or Verdea? Especially Verdea, the favorite of Dionysios Solomos (the national poet, who wrote the verses of the greek national anthem). Verdea, of course, as Solomos, comes from Zakynthos (Zante - sounds: Tsante). If you haven't tried Verdea yet, look for it. Has to be active looking, because its not easy to find. The only house bottling it is Cava Comuto and has very limited and selected distribution.
Does your friend live in Anafiotika? You wrote she lives in the Acropolis neighborhood and my friend has always lasted after Anafiotika. Hard to get to, and only by foot, but the place has an immense charm. If your friend doesn't live there and somehow you haven't been there, make the effort. You will be amply rewarded. Not on the slopes of the Acropolis, but right on its foothill. -- And report back! Especially if you spot some outstanding food along the way!
-- Don't overlook the hand made ice cream served on cone in ice cream carts you can ONLY find in Plaka anymore. Comes in three flavors, vanilla, chocolate and pink - whatever flavor that may be, its good - and you can't choose what you get, but its all reeeeally really good. Its the Greek counterpart to the ice cream you find from cart vendors in Ismir and Istambul. Not now though, not yet. Only in the summer and fall.
Ah yes, my mistake, it was AnthoTYRO that we had. I suppose I will have to give up on my search for that, and hopefully get to Crete soon.
As for wines dear Mimika, I am a cheap date. I love the Greek wines, but I am in no way an expert. I have always liked "moderately priced but palatable wine" as my drink of choice which has been a great improvement from my youth when I drank "cheap but palatable wines". The 2 wines I am most enthused about here is Kyr. Giannis Paranga and a wine by Xtima Mercouri. Both are lusciuos reds, at about 10 euro's a pop. The Kyr Giannis is super clean and bright and light (don't know if these are exceptable wine adjectives, just my impression) and the Xtima Mercouri is complex, and vibrant with a very clean finish.. As I recall the Mercouri vines came from Italy 200 years ago, and the Kyr Giannis is Boutari, which surprised me as I am not just a huge Boutari fan. Other than that I have an excellent source for a really good homemade village wine, that I swear I pay three euros per kilo! Also I have had good experiences with the Costas Lazaridis wines.
I think when this country is introduced to MARKETING CONCEPTS, the world will be amazed by what it can produce in the way of Wines, Cheeses, liquers (aaahhh the walnut liquer from zagoria and the cherry liquer that every one of my aunts make is heaven!!!) and who knows what else I haven't been introduced to yet in this heavenly place.
For the life of me I do not know why Trahanas isn't a family staple world wide. My husband and I eat it at least once a week, sometimes twice.
I am really hoping they will have the ice cream carts out by May June, as my Mother is an ice cream fanatic and that is when goneis mou come for a visit.
I have been to Anafiotika, but that is not where my friend lives. She is in the neighborhood Akropolis on the Irodeion side of the Akropolis on Odos Propoleon a few blocks down from the pezodromos. They have an incredible place; old huge, high ceilings and every room except kitchen and bath has beautiful ceiling to floor window postcard views of the Parthenon. Ugh I am jealous. I have a feeling those homes in Anafiotika are passed down from gen to gen, it would be a challenge to get such sublime digs.
Please Mimika, keep me posted on all things wonderful as they come to your lovely mind, as you are my secret link to teh locally known jewels of Greece!
Oh and PS. What do you know in the way of Kefalonia and Kyrkyra? We are planning a trip to islands with my parents, we don't like crowds, we don't like tourism, (we think this rules out Zakinthos)we need good true Greek Tavernas and quietude. We are considering Ionian side, as we may be a few days in Zagarohoria just before, it would be on the way. If you have any tips, or musts about the islands, please clue me in.
It's becoming increasingly harder for travelers to find good, traditional food here in Crete, to be sure. But if travelers are bold enough, they can take a walk or drive just outside of many designated tourist resorts -- "the compound" and enjoy incredible food. This way, visitors are directly supporting local taverna owners...and hopefully encouraging them to carry on their business.
The problem is that Crete has been promoted as a mass tourism destination for over two decades. The concept of mass tourism is to just sell flights and rooms. Northern European charter tour operators are not focusing on promoting culture and local cuisine. Their focus is on revenues, that local communities rarely benefit from. This beach and beer package chips away at Crete's culture and cuisine. It could be Miami for all we know. But there is hope if residents and travelers work together on preservation.
I wrote several articles for Slow Food about this, one is below.
Meze at Zambia's Kafenio, Pano Elounda, Crete
Here in Elounda, Crete, a gorgeous little fishing village hosting thousands of tourists each year, it seems the small taverna owners are at the mercy of the palates of their foreign visitors.
Many tourists come here only for sun, beer and cheap, familiar looking food (fried potatoes and grilled meats – no vegetables), preferably for $10 or less. They're not on a mission to discover the wonders of the healthy Cretan diet. So you won't encounter much of the finest food Crete has to offer at a tourist spot unless you ask for it, which is perfectly acceptable and always a welcome change for the chef.
Many residents I know have a great respect for fine food. You can witness it in the way that they produce and consume it -- carefully and slowly. There are still many people here who take the time to make their own yogurt, cheese, wine, vinegar and olive oil, not to mention tending to small orchards, vegetable gardens and fishing or snorkeling for octopus and mussels.
Worlds apart, in the hills above the bustling port is the original village of Pano Elounda. The best time to visit is on the eve of a full moon, when the bright moonlight casts abstract shadows along the narrow, stone paths. Silhouettes of cats patrolling the territory flash into view. The bay below glows like liquid silver along the shoreline, reflecting streams of light like precious gems.
There are no tavernas and very few tourists in Pano Elounda -- just a kafeneo (café) for the villagers run by Zambia, a lovely women and a great chef. Zambia is a quiet, angelic woman in her mid-70's, although I never would have guessed, judging from her physical strength and the amount of food she manages to pump out of her tiny kitchen. She's one of those subtle, hardworking Cretan women who never cease to amaze me.
One evening, we went to Zambia's place at dusk, bringing our own meze -- 2 kilos of very fresh mussels plucked from the sea just a few hours earlier. My partner, Panos, went snorkeling for the mussels himself. Mussels feed on rocks in deep waters and must be individually removed with a knife and placed in a waist pouch, which becomes quite heavy after collecting a kilo or two – an ancient form of diving weights.
These mussels are not like the average black-shelled variety served in Parisian bistros. Their shells resemble the skin of a lizard -- prehistoric-looking. Their texture is a cross between mussels and clams. Zambia steamed the mussels briefly and served them with lemon juice – delicious. Most dishes here are made with very little seasoning. The art of letting the food speak for itself.
We huddled around a little outdoor table as the party grew to eight people. Locals dropped by to chat and share some of their homemade specialties. Zambia kept bringing more and more food from her tiny kitchen and the table quickly became piled high with little plates of this and that. There are no separate plates for diners here – no room for them anyway! You just reach over and take a sample with your fork (or fingers if you’re eating fish). This method of family-style dining wouldn't go over too well in the States – but what's the difference between that and everyone's hands in the chip bowl?
Our feast began with roasted and marinated red peppers and beets, fava beans (yellow split peas) steamed and coarsely ground with a splash of olive oil, vinegar and onion, and a few plates of tiny black and green olives that were unusually sweet. There's always a tomato-something salad served -- this one was the fancy kind with boiled and quartered eggs, onions, cucumbers, green pepper and new potatoes. A person of great authority at the table is entitled to dress the salad with olive oil, vinegar (locally produced, of course) and salt. There's an art to this process and we all stopped to observe.
I had the prime spot next to a 5-foot tall basil bush that Zambia’s nephew, Kostas, maniacally rattled to release its heavenly scent. Basil is not used in cooking too much here, and this variety was more robust than the small plants used for cooking. It’s a religious or romantic symbol that can grow several feet high if tended to carefully. I wanted to clip a bit to put into the tomato salad because I love the combination – but I think I would have been escorted out of Elounda for such vandalism.
My thoughts of exile diminished by the appearance of a gigantic plate of steamed snails, collected from the hills by Zambia's neighbor. There's a knack to prying the little delicacies from their protective tunnels, and my attempts to do so always become the topic of conversation among the experts at the table. Snails can be prepared in many different ways and they are definitely an acquired taste and texture. This version was simply steamed.
Another villager came by with "new" almonds, a favorite snack and good for the digestion to an extent. We cracked the furry green shells open with a rock. All was washed down with either raki (dangerous fire water made from grape must, like grappa) or retsina with a splash of soda water to soften the bite. The younger generation drinks retsina with cola, another acquired taste I’d prefer not to acquire, and would not have been appreciated in Pano Elounda. It's hard to count your drinks, as the moment your glass is half-full, someone at the table fills it. It's a good thing we were eating all along, which is customary.
Just when I thought we had no room left for another tier of food, a shepherd brought a giant block of homemade kefalotiri cheese – a little like Romano. We sampled the cheese with paximadi (rusk) bread made from coarse-ground barley -- excellent. Paximadi is a rustic brown bread that is baked twice for a long shelf life. At service, it is moistened with a little water and/or olive oil and topped with fresh-grated tomatoes, oregano and salt – the Greek version of Italian bruschetta.
Variations of dried bread or crackers have been made throughout the Mediterranean basin for centuries, to take on journeys along the Silk Route or campaigns in faraway lands. It’s a great comeback for an ancient staple.
Five hours and many retsinas later, when I thought for certain it was time to go, Zambia brought out the last tier -- mounds of sliced honeydew and watermelon. I don't plan to conduct any scientific studies on the matter, but I've never tasted melon so sweet. The sun is so intense here that everything develops the maximum flavor and color – sugar in fruits like cherries, figs and oranges seems double in intensity and tomatoes have a deep, rich color and flavor. The contrast between what taverna owners must serve to tourists and what they serve to their friends and family is quite drastic. Wow, I wonder what Zambia makes for special occasions.
Copyright Nikki Rose
I have found anthotiro in the big supermarkets like Slavenitis & AB-Vasilopoulos.
You can find 2 types: the unsalted (light) version and the regular one.
I have a (Cretan) friend whose brother has recently open a shop with cretan goods (cheese and stuff) If you are really in to it, I can find the address and telephone.
Also a very nice resaurant is Eleas Gi ( http://www.eleasgi.gr/ ) in Politia. It's not on the cheap side, but not very expensive. They have a full menu (depending on the season) consisting of 20-25 plates (mezedes). This cost about 50 euro per person (last time I went), and you can re-order as many plates as you like.
It's good to go whith at least one more couple as the food is abandunt.
I'm sorry that I don't have the time to read through all of the -clearly very interesting- conversation below, but I just had to drop a quick line concerning "cutting edge" food in Athens as you put it.
As far as I'm concerned, the absolute best, most creative -while at the same time being loyal to the roots of Greek cuisine- restaurant I have come across is "Aneton", in Maroussi, to the north of the center (Stratigou Lekka 19). They combine traditional Greek recipes and ingredients in an amazing, creative, post-modern way, with the end result being some of the most interesting flavours I've ever tasted. Definitely worth a try if you are ever around...
Are there any cutting edge restaurants for lunch near where cruise ships arrive in Navplion, Katakolon or Corfu? Eating all meals on the ship is not my idea of international exploration, and we eat Greek all the time here in Minneapolis. We'll have a group of four who can't walk far (1 on a walker, 1 in wheelchair but can climb stairs, 2 who can push and walk), and would hate for taxi to exceed cost of our lunch.