Sa­vor­ing The Many Tastes of Athens

Cul­ture and cui­sine come alive in Athens

LuxeGetaways - - Contents - By Michelle M. Win­ner

You will need a guide to show you the culi­nary del­i­ca­cies, and explain how they are made. Nikos Theodoris and Anna Ma­nias own Greek­ – an award-win­ning tour ser­vice of­fer­ing an Athens walk­ing tour de­signed for food and cul­ture lovers, which is both en­ter­tain­ing and steeped in his­tory. Sto­ries are wo­ven from con­quests, philoso­phers, art and ide­olo­gies, which are then wrapped around tast­ing the food while vis­it­ing bak­ery shops, tav­er­nas, char­cu­ter­ies, cof­fee roast­ers, and feta pie shops. You will visit the fa­mous es­tab­lish­ments, as well as the lit­tle hole-in-the-wall places dur­ing this well-paced, four-hour walk through cen­tral Athens.

Greeks love their aper­i­tifs, es­pe­cially tsipouro which is al­ways ac­com­pa­nied by a nib­ble of mezedes or snacks. For a most ap­pro­pri­ate place to stay (and to sip your tsipouro with a stun­ning view of the Acrop­o­lis), it has to be Ho­tel Grande Bre­tagne. She is a ma­jes­tic ho­tel in the cen­ter of Athens with an old-world charm and im­pec­ca­ble ser­vice rem­i­nis­cent of Paris. Af­ter check­ing in, head up to the Roof Gar­den Bar for out-of-this-world views of Acrop­o­lis. Be sure to ask for the bar su­per­vi­sor, Spiros Mantzafos, who can fur­ther your culi­nary ed­u­ca­tion by telling you all about tsipouro – in­clud­ing what it rep­re­sents to the Greeks, and even how it is made.

While Ge­orge II was the King of Greece, the King Ge­orge Ho­tel opened its doors in 1936. This beau­ti­ful bou­tique ho­tel is the sis­ter ho­tel of Ho­tel Grande Bre­tagne next door. And while this is not an­cient his­tory, Tu­dor Hall Restau­rant shares a highly awarded wine cel­lar with the Grande Bre­tagne, and can come up with some his­toric vin­tages for you. Re­serve a ta­ble in the el­e­gant din­ing room, or step out to the less for­mal open pa­tio to “have din­ner with the Acrop­o­lis” while din­ing on lo­cal del­i­ca­cies. Head som­me­lier Evan­ge­los Psofidis will be happy to sug­gest an ex­cel­lent Greek wine while shar­ing the his­tory of the vine­yard's re­gion. His pair­ings are per­fec­tion with Chef de Cui­sine Alexan­dros Koski­nas’ cre­ations at Tu­dor Hall and Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Sotiris Evan­gelou’s Grande Bre­tagne cui­sine. Two other fas­ci­nat­ing pieces of the culi­nary cul­ture in Athens are Bot­targa and Pavlo­vas. Bot­targa is Ital­ian for the Greek word Av­go­taraho, which is a paste of Grey Mul­let roe and salt that is pre­served in a pure beeswax coat­ing. Es­tab­lished in 1856, Trikali­nos Bot­targa is con­sid­ered to be the very best. Still op­er­ated by the same fam­ily in Athens, it can be found in high-end restau­rants all over the world. I sug­gest you try it warm on toast rounds with a glass of cham­pagne. It is served in Tu­dor Hall Restau­rant, as well as Miche­lin-starred chef Lef­teris Lazarou’s fab­u­lous sea­side restau­rant Varoulko in Pireaus.

The ori­gin of the Pavlova is a dis­puted one – thanks to the Aus­tralians and New Zealan­ders verses the Eng­lish and Amer­i­cans, and even the Ger­mans vy­ing for au­thor­ship of the first recipe. But none claim it as their own with more vit­riol than the Ki­wis and Aussies. As the story goes, it was named af­ter the Rus­sian bal­le­rina Anna Pavlova who toured Aus­tralia in 1926. In Aus­tralia and New Zealand, it is even el­e­vated to na­tional sta­tus and served for spe­cial hol­i­days.

A great ex­am­ple is Effie Gialousi, a well-ad­mired Athens chef who has opened her shop, Pavlova (Empe­dok­leous 33, Athina 116 35). She is fa­mous for bring­ing these puffy, light “cakes” of sugar and egg white filled with whipped cream fla­vored with lemon, choco­late or topped with straw­ber­ries, into the realm of the gourmet. Light as a cloud, they are divine. Pop into her shop to taste for your­self.

As you gain a deeper ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Athens, you soon learn that there is never a short­age of food and cul­ture!

Pho­tog­ra­phy: Tu­dor Hall

Pho­tog­ra­phy: Tu­dor Hall The story of a cul­ture and coun­try is told in part by the food. In Athens, the trav­eler wish­ing to learn its his­tory has only to visit the mar­ket stalls, the street ven­dor's cart, and the ven­er­ated shops and restau­rants to...

Greek­ greek­ Ho­tel Grande Bre­tagne Vasileos Ge­or­giou A 1, Athina 105 64 grande­bre­ King Ge­orge Ho­tel Vasileos Ge­or­giou A 3, Athina 105 64 kingge­orgea­ Pho­tog­ra­phy: GB Roof Gar­den

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