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Bourdain in Greece

Watching last night's episode, I was really surprised to hear that AB was ambivalent about traveling to Greece. However, it seems overall he enjoyed it. And overall, I thought it was a good show.

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  1. I thought it was 'felcherific' ;-D. Another moment of 'did he just say what I think he said?'.

    Yeah, weird he wasn't too excited about it in the beginning. But Greek food tends to be underrated, because most people only know moussaka (a dish he slammed for no good reason -- if it's made well), souvlaki, tzatziki and gyros. Granted, they're not masters of complex spices, but if you have fresh & high quality ingredients (be it lamb, seafood, or produce), they can speak for themselves. Simple, but delicious.

    1. As a Greek American, I was really looking forward to this episode and was a bit bummed that he was ho-hum about eating Greek food. I mean, who do you think most restauranteurs are in this country? Greeks! We know SOMETHING about food.

      15 Replies
      1. re: foodiechica

        I whole-heartedly agree. He also was a bit condescending about the culture, (e.g. repeatedly calling the folk dancing "frolicking"). He seems to have more respect for other cultures, especially Asian. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if I heard that the Greek people were upset about his attitude, as well as the show's portrayal of the Greek people. It was ok, just not very positive. He brought the show down with his elitist attitude. I do like him, but feel this one definitely could have been better. Now that I think about it, he was more complimentary of the Lebanese culture when he was in Beruit, and he was taken out of there in a military evacuation!

        He did say that he was pleasantly surprised with the food in Greece, but it was too little too late.

        1. re: madgreek

          You have stated my thoughts perfectly. I am Greek and was very upset after watching this episode. I've been a fan of Bourdain... but I felt insulted by his portrayal of Greece and it's people.

          He began the episode making a comment about Dress Barn throwing up and something about how america has nothing on greeks as far as weight is concerned. His snarky attitude about the music and dancing was aggrivating to watch. It's a shame he had a difficult time sitting back and just enjoying the celebration of good food and good friends.

          I was also dissapointed to see they spent so much time on Crete and on the topic of hunting. It would have been nice if they at least touched on the food of the mainland.

          The highlight of the episode... seeing the man making bougatsa from scratch. Stretching filo by hand is a dying art form. Simply amazing!


          1. re: Gelato_in_Roma

            Exactly. Crete? Not that there is anything wrong with Crete - but it has its own very distinct culture.

            1. re: foodiechica

              Personally, I liked the fact that he spent some time in Crete. Then again, my yia-yia was Creteco, so it's always nice to see her homeland. In fact, All of my grandparents were from the islands, so I'm always interested to see the food culture. My family looks at the mainlanders as high-falutin-lol!

              1. re: madgreek

                It's not that he shouldn't have gone to Crete ... it's just that there is SO MUCH MORE to Greece! He should have gone to other islands in addition to Crete! My family is from Naxos, Lesvos, and Athens - I mean, why not Athens? Whatever ... I'm just still a bit peeved ...!

                1. re: foodiechica

                  lol-Who cares about the mainland? There's nothing interesting in Athens as far a food is concerned (I'm being sarcastic, of course). I completely understand, and agree. There IS so much more to Greece.

                  1. re: foodiechica

                    If i'm not mistaken, if you looked at the actual title of the episode it was "Greek Isles". Which is why no time was spend on the mainland. hopefully a mainland episode will come in time.

                    1. re: kmills9408

                      I understand your point. I wasn't saying they should've added some of the mainland to this episode. I was simply making a statement that they should have done a "Greece" episode instead of just the isles.

                      I'm from Thessaloniki and never see or read much about the northern region. That's all.

                      1. re: Gelato_in_Roma

                        I agree with you, there should be a "Greece" episode. I am wondering if the isles were chosen as a compromise because of Bourdain's general aversion to the Greek culture? Maybe the positive experience of the "Isles" episode will lead to one focused on the mainland. We can hope...

              2. re: Gelato_in_Roma

                PS: I like your handle! I lived in Rome ... and was obsessed with the gelato from Old Bridge gelateria near the Vatican. OH MY GOD was it good.

                1. re: foodiechica

                  Oh! I would love to live in Rome. I thought the gelato was some of the best in all of Europe. I know I must have gained a few pounds on the that trip even with all the walking.
                  Thank you!

                2. re: Gelato_in_Roma

                  I must address the hypersensitive nature of the above remarks. AB stated at the beginning of the episode that he had a bias to overcome since he worked for some pretty nasty Greek restauranteurs early on in his career. I think it was commendable for him to take the trip, against his wishes, and put that negative history behind him. Also, the episode was entitled "Greek Islands" to differentiate it from the mainland culture.

                  I'm of Norwegian ancestry and it wouldn't hurt my feelings in the least if Mr. Bourdain were to rail about having to eat lutefisk (and many other Scandinavian dishes), or talk about our perceived cold and diffident nature. Remember, this is the man who called Emeril Lagasse a “furry little Ewok” and Sandra Lee “Betty Crocker after a weekend of huffing crack”. In relation to his trademark snarkiness, I think he treated his Greek hosts with kid gloves.

                  C’mon folks, lighten up.

                  1. re: Roo

                    I second that emotion. I am also of Norwegian heritage and would be very intrested as to what AB would say about our take on fish and cheese.

                    1. re: Roo

                      I had taped the episode and watched it last night. I was aware beforehand about his conduct in this episode.
                      To me, what I think was the point is that he went there, was gonna hate the people, the place, the food, the drink, the everything. In the end, he came away with an entirely new perspective on Greece.
                      Now, I'm not sure they did the best job of pulling that off but that's what I got out of it.

                      As for referring to calling the dancing "Frolicking." So??


                3. re: foodiechica

                  I really enjoy Anthony's program and books but was disappointed with his episode in Greece. Those of us who are familar with this cuisine know that there are range of flavors, sauces made with wine, others like avgolemono but the beauty that I enjoy are the simple and subtle flavors, such as fava with capers and lemon juice, Hortopita, octopus in wine sauce or fish steamed between two layers of grape leaves. Anyhow, we all have are prejudices, I hope he spends more time there!

                4. I am seriously planning a trip to Greece for fall if all goes well. I did fell this episode was lacking.
                  The 15 minutes spent roasting the lamb with the Greek dancers was interesting, but I felt the episode could have shown more landscape and food of such a neat place.
                  I feel like a follow up is needed. Greece is a WHOLE country for heavens sake!
                  And, as a tourist, I would have liked some foodie info on Athens. But, I guess I could find it somewhere else..and will.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: stellamystar

                    Any "foodie" information you get about Athens (or anywhere else in Greece) will be outdated by the time you get there. Go. Enjoy. The Plaka is a good place to wander around looking for small restaurants with a lot of Greeks in them. Eat one course at several. For sea food, go to Piraeus and do the same thing. GREAT sea food! And the most wonderful thing about small family ownded Greek restuarants when you don't speak the language is that they take you into the kitchen, show you everything they have prepared and let you point at what you want. You end up wishing you had six arms for pointing! It is truly Foodie Heaven.

                    Stay away from larger restaurants, especially in hotels. You can get anything they have without leaving this country. With one exception. If the Dionysus restaurant (there are a bunch of them in Athens) located very near the Acropolis is still there, go there in the evening for ouzo and mezes and sit on the patio. You'll have a fantastic view of the lights from the Son et Lumier show dancing across the Acropolis, and in my opinion, that's a much better show than going to the show and listening to the narration. Like MANY things in Greece, there's a lot of misinformation.

                    When I lived in Greece, I got into a discussion with a Greek friend about the plethora of misinformation. He said there was very little. I had him take out a 100 drachma note... It had a picture of that incredibly famous bronze statue of Neptune, that's in the National Gallery (I think. One of those museums.) and under it the Greek government had printed "ZEUS! He just laughed and said I win.

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      I agree with most of what you say. However, there is an exception to the rule to stay away from hotel restaurants. Last time we were in Athens we had dinner in the retaurant at the top of the Grande Bretagne Hotel. Fabulous views of the Acropolis and one of the best meals I have ever had. Also, I love love love Dionysus near the Acropolis. Have spent many hours sitting outside there noshing on various Greek mezes and desserts. A great spot!

                      1. re: emilief

                        I think we should both add a warning about Athens, and for me, the Dionysus in particular. If there is a soccer game on TV, you may not be able to find a taxi. And if you do, it may only be because the driver has a 5" TV mounted in the dashboard of his car, so riding in his cab is risky at best. One time we ended up walking from the Dionysus all the way back to Ledra Mariott. I finally took off my heels and walked barefoot. Hey, if Socrates could do it, why couldn't I?

                        And you're right. Anyone who wants to say they've actually been to Athens, HAS to have at least one meal at the Grande Bretagne.

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          Thanks for the tips. I do appreciate it. We are looking forward to planning this trip.

                    2. I watch the show because I like food and I love to travel, but I pretty much find him to be condescending and elitist wherever he goes! Yeah, I did think he seemed like a jerk even for him on this episode ...I did find it humorous that he drank raki until he made himself sick, though.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: jcoz23

                        I have no idea why people think he has a condescending and elitist attitude. He's repeatedly shown that he loves peasant food. He can enjoy a good hot dog. That he doesn't get all excited by a Zagat rating. He'd rather sit down at a family dinner and eat mommas cooking than visit the hottest restaurant in town simply so he can say he's been there.
                        He stands in awe of artisan bakers and butchers and people who spend their lives turning out unbelievable food for very little money and even less thanks.
                        He stands back and lets the food, craftsman or culture take centre stage instead of constantly talking, doing "Look at me" things and at times he even makes himself look bad.
                        He's also got to entertain as well. If not, they don't need a host, they can have captions on the bottom telling you where they were and what was going on. So a joke here and a snide remark there are to be expected. He also seems to do his homework on the history of the country. Which adds to the whole episode.

                        This was not his strongest work and his predisposition for Greeks did show through and I thought took away from the show but it is what it is. But I think the show was about overcoming that bias.
                        And I'm sorry if he likes Malaysian culture better than Greek culture.


                        1. re: Davwud

                          Just saw the rerun of that show and I agree. Lets not forget this man is on Television to Entertain! Not create policy, or destroy anyone's heritage. It's one mans' views on that particular country and cuisine. Lighten up and take it in the vein it was given. Tongue in cheek.............

                          1. re: Davwud

                            Every other host of any food/travel show can pull it off without seeming like they are making fun of the locals and that their opinion is the ONLY one the matters. I realize that's his thing and I still watch the show, but if someone asks me, "do you think he's a jerk?" (which is what previous posters seemed to be asking) the answer would be "yes!"... It doesn't keep me up at night or anything... :)

                        2. Poor poor poor Anthony Bourdain! He needs to shoot his booking agent. Crete and Zakinthos? I kept looking at the water and wondering why it was so murky. He's in the Adriatic! The mud puddle of the Medditerannean! Poor darling. I just hope he doesn't have the mistaken idea that he's seen -- or eaten! -- any of the great things that are Greece! Raki? No ouzo? Tripe? At least he got to eat octopodi and sea urchin, even if the urchin were tiny little things. On their way to Zakinthos, they should have sailed starboard and sailed through the Gulf of Corinth. This program was like thinking you've seen NYC after a tour of a men's room in Central Park.

                          1. I love Greek food...always have. I was disappointed as well with Tony's attitude..but, hey. That's him.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: melly

                              It's not my intent to be argumentative, but I don't think his attitude was the problem. I think the parts of Greece he was "escorted" to is the problem. The ONLY "Greek" food he got was freshly slaughtered animals cooked by a bunch of men dosing on raki and shooting guns in the air. I lived in Greece for almost a year and NEVER had that kind of experience! Thank God.

                            2. We were disappointed with this ep. too. I've never even HEARD of Raki. And though I know it was "Greek Isles," hello he only went like 2 places. I thought his condescension was higher than usual as well, but I think it's because he's just TIRED. Tired of doing this, now that he's had a kid he just wants to stay home, which is completely understandable, but if you've LOST YOUR PASSION for travel, discovery, and wanting to learn about people, their land and their food, then quit doing the show. Or only go to Asian countries, where he seems to think everything about being there is like being in heaven.

                              16 Replies
                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                Raki is the Turkish version of ouzo. But what they were drinking and calling "raki" was just plain old white lightnin' rot gut. As Bourdain called it, "paint thinner." Good, commercially produced raki is quite nice.

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  Hmm. I don't know -- I've had both ouzo and raki, in Greece and Turkey respectively, and found raki to be much, much stronger than ouzo... I was actually surprised to see him drink raki all the time when I thought it was a Turkish drink. That stuff will knock you out of your socks. Makes me happy to be a woman and not have to partake in these macho stunts where you can't possibly refuse another shot --

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    well, I've lived in both Greece and Turkey, drank both drinks in both countries, and this was the FIRST time I've ever seen anyone "knock it back" neat! Both raki and ouzo are normally mixed with water and ice. And if he'd gone to Hiraklion and anyplace else besides Zakinthos, he would probably have gotten to go to a small local restaurant and had mezes and ouzo and had a really good time. It was just a really bizarre show.

                                    Have you ever seen people drink ouzo or raki neat?

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      I've seen people drink ouzo neat (that includes me), it's always offered to you after dinner as a free shot on the house.

                                      Perhaps all that neat raki drinking explains the abundance of guitar playing and dancing/frolicking. That was indeed bizarre.

                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        My goodness! Haven't you seen 'Zorba the Greek?" '-)

                                        Bouzouki playing and dancing are very very Greek. But they didn't break any dishes like they probably would have in a taverna. And drinking raki! I just had the feeling that Bourdain had been kidnapped and taken off to the mountins in Crete by a bunch of bandits, then by pirates to a shipwreck in Zakynthos. I could be way off, but my feeling was that he wasn't too thrilled about the whole thing, yet my impression has always been that he's in charge of his own itinerary. With a thousand Greek Islands, and the most gorgeous of them in the Aegean, who picks Zakynthos in the muddy old Adriatic? At the very least, he could have gone to Rhodes.

                                        Does he have a blog? Has anyone asked him what was going on?

                                      2. re: Caroline1

                                        I always saw water added to ouzo and never saw raki at all in Greece.

                                        I also completely agree -- Why on earth did he go to such dreary places? During the whole show I kept exclaiming to my SO (who hasn't been there.) "Really,Greece is beautiful. Honestly!"

                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                          My husband is from Greece and we both drink ouzo neat. Water ruins it!!! ( although it is lovely to see it turn miky).

                                          1. re: emilief

                                            Well, I know a lot of Greeks who like some ouzo in the afternoon, and they tend to dilute it with water... makes sense when you're starting 'festivities' that early.

                                          2. re: Caroline1

                                            I just want to clarify for anyone reading this thread that the Turkish raki is similar to Greek ouzo in that is in an anise flavored drink, but Cretan raki or tsikoudia (known as tsipouro in the rest of Greece) is a popular drink made from grape pomace and is rarely flavored with anise. People usually drink it neat and chilled. There is a version called 'rakomelo' in which the raki is boiled with honey (and sometimes spices like cinnamon) and consumed warm in winter months. Both are very popular throughout Greece and raki/tsikoudia/tsipouro definitely has a place in any production showcasing Greek cuisine/culture. I've always thought it was a shame that it is so little known outside of Greece while inside Greece it is more popular than ouzo.

                                      3. re: rockandroller1

                                        The first time I was in Greece, my roommate and I (20-somethings at the time) were constantly being offered free shots of raki. After tasting it, we could see why they were giving it away rather than selling it ;-)

                                        1. re: rockandroller1

                                          Although the Greeks that poured me Rakl almost always referred to it as the "Turkish" version of ouzo, the always did so with a wink. Raki IMO is just the higher powered country version of ouzo. I thought the stuff was great, if a little deadly. Also i think the advisory about AB that they show at the start and resumptions of the show should be altered to something like; this show contains snarky and sarcastic references and observations and is not suitable for viewers of a sensitive nature who are likely to be offended." that way there wouldn't be so many responses from people who kinda seem to miss the point of the show, which is AB's idiosyncratic observations about places, people and food which some of us enjoy without reservation.

                                          1. re: chazzerking

                                            I agree 100%. The opening of the show says "I eat. I write. I travel. And I'm hungry for more." I never expect to tune in to NR to see AB tour us around any country or city's highlights, not even the top 10 off the beaten track sites. I tune in to see AB experience a new place, get drunk and pass out :-)

                                            1. re: jennywinker

                                              But ask yourself, "What, precisely, does he "bring to the table?"".

                                              1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis

                                                After I got over his misogynistic/ macho tendencies in "Kitchen Confidentail," I think his cynicism and snarkiness - and love of travel and local food - is a good match for my own. Oh, and the love of a good drink.

                                                1. re: jennywinker

                                                  My apologies for bringing up this old thread, but I did a Google search on "AB and Greece episode" and it came up. I recently watched this episode as I am a new subscriber to the Travel Channel in Montreal.

                                                  I myself am of Greek decent, I speak the language and was raised by parents that kept the traditions and culture of the old country, I have visited Greece many times in my life.

                                                  I was not even remotely offended by anthing that AB said, I actually thought it was funny and had a good chuckle as there is some truth to it. All the dancing ('frolicking') was a hoot and what is really funny was that they were just playing it up for the cameras. Sure, dancing is part of the culture but there is not that much sponatenous dancing in the middle of every meal and definitely not in the middle of a beach. lol

                                                  He was far from condescending about the Greek culture, please. He would have to say much more offensive things than the way Greeks dress to get me going. Loosen up, he was just being his edgy self, it's the reason I believe most watch him. His delivery is amazing and he's always respecful of where he is.

                                                  I agreed with davwud's comments, he was bang on.

                                        2. What was the pastry that they ate for breakfast called?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: tiletrunell

                                            Bougatsa, most Greek pastry stores make it. If done well it's amazing. Where do you live?