October was a really exciting month. We came to Athens during the second fortnight as we were leaving for Cyprus on the 23rd to attend a family wedding. A couple of days later we found out about an event organized by Atenistas, on October 20, which was called Open Walk. This event was about walking in the city centre and discoverying gastronomic delights.
There was no way I would miss such an event. The weather was splendid and on Sunday morning we set off to discover some known and other unknown shops, spots and flavours of Athens.
We were given a map showing the route and a badge and started out tour. However, we made a wrong decision and instead of going by bus we drove in our car and couldn’t find any parking place near the starting point so we finally parked somewhere near shop Number 14 and missed a few spots at the beginning and end of the route.
The weather was wonderful on that Sunday morning and lots of people participated, going up and down holding the maps in their hands.
We started our tour by visiting a Grocery promoting the Mediterranean Diet. Needless to say that I spent about an hour in there, as this was a foodie paradise in the centre of Athens. One of the biggest traditional grocery shops (180 sq. metres) with over 2000 selected, gourmet products, most of them organic produced by 225 Greek agricultural co-ops, women associations or family businesses, you cannot find in any other Greek supermarket.
I introduced myself to Mrs. Marianna Komitopoulou, the Marketing Manager, who was courteous enough to show me around and explained everyting I needed to know about their products. She explained to me that the products are made with traditional family recipes, using the most pure ingredients, whose products are organic and without any preservatives.
Whether you are Greek or a tourist, I strongly recommend this wonderful shop, where you can find EVERYTHINHG a foodie dreams of, either to take as a gift to friends or to cook with as you will not find these products in any other Greek supermarket chain, except maybe just a few products.
I bought some products for my personal use, as you probably know by now that I am preparing my second cookbook, which is relevant to the Mediterranean Diet, but also many traditional sweets such as Yianniotikos baklavas (from Ioannina who are renowned for their baklavas) and amygdalota (citrus marzipan cookies) which I took as gifts to Cyprus.
When leaving, Mrs. Komitopoulou offered me a bagful of wonderful products to try and which you will soon be seeing in my recipes.
I have already cooked a pasta dish using Striftaria (similar to casarecce) made with spirulina and sea fennel, which will be my next blog post.
I found all kinds of amazing Greek products, which didn’t even know of their existence. I managed to capture with my lens only a few products as the shop was packed with people and it was quite difficult as they kept popping infront of my camera.
Endless brands of prime quality extra virgin olive oil, from all over Greece, which is surely the best in the whole world as well as prime quality vinegars, pasta with many types of flour and flavours, canned products from Satorini, such as their famous tomatoes, capers, legumes etc, dried figs and other products made with figs, halvas, pastelli (sesame-honey candy), carob products, grape molasses, blossom water etc.
All kinds of selected Greek cheeses and gourmet charcuterie, such as buffalo kavourmas, beef pastrami, sausages, salami etc.
Fish products, like smoked trout, marinated anchovies or mackerel, trout and other selected fish products such as “avgotaracho” which is mullet bottarga.
A selection of Greek alcoholic drinks such as wines, ouzo, tsipouro, brandy, various liqueurs such as tentura, made with cinnamon, masticha, made with mastic resin, rakomelo, an aperitif, which is made either with raki or tsipouro and honey, combined with spices and herbs.
Jarred grape leaves, a selection of all types of olives, best quality of sea salt (roughly one third of the world’s salt supply comes from the sea salt produced in Greece and France), jams, fruit preserves, mastiha products, almond cookies, all Greek spices, such as Krokos Kozanis (Greek saffron), nuts and what can I say about Greek honey, which is the best in the whole world.
I will definitely be visiting this shop again whenever coming back to Athens, to buy and try new products. I am really glad I visited this shop first and spent most of my time there because the staff were really professional, ready to answer all your questions, with excellent service and politeness.
The grocery shop is situated at the corner of 1 Sophocleous Street and Aristidou Street No. 11. Telephone: +30 210 3234612 and e-mail: [email protected] Their website www.atenco.gr is now being upgraded and will be operating in a few days.
Next stop was at 87 Aeolou Street. There was a huge queue at Krinos (Nr. 13) who served loukoumades (deep fried yeasted dough served with honey).
It was worth waiting as their loukoumades were delicious. They served them with top quality honey on top.
The next stop was at Zafolias Cheese at Sophocleous Street. Nr. 7. Here you will find a variety of Greek traditional cheeses.
Next stop at Nr. 16. A shoping selling honey. I must confess that the owner was a little bit stingy and cranky. He offered us a pinch of honey on a toothpick and when I asked a question he answered in a rather irritated manner that he had already answered the question.
Next stop at Nr. 17 at a small grocery shop with products from the island of Limnos.
Mocca, coffee shop at 44 Athinas street was too crowded so I just manged to take two shots and left.
Another interesting shop was Nr. 9 selling all kinds of olives and pickled vegetables. The shop is called “Ariana” and you will find it at 3 Theatrou Street.
Further down the road you will find a taverna called “Klimataria” (which means bower because of the vines twined together).
Next stop (Nr. 10), was at Theatrou square Nr. 2. A very old taverna which outside doesn’t look very appealing but once you enter inside you will find a lovely garden shaded by bowers and decorated with wine barrels.
The food smelled fantastic and we were offered a “mezedaki”, an appetizer with bread, tzatziki and sausage, which was delicious.
Nr. 8 at Socratous Street Nr. 3 was totally inhospitable. A table outside had two empty plates and inside there was no one to greet us. We took a picture of this beautiful vintage cashier register and left.
What a beautiful sight was the next shop called Miran, selling charcuterie at 41 Evripidou Street.
Apart from all kinds of charcuterie, this shop specializes in “pastourmas” (basturma). Although I love the sight of all these goodies, I must say that I tried “pastourmas” which is too piquant and spicy for my taste.
Another favourite shop I visit whenever I am in Athens and I visit the centre, is Elixirion (elixir), who sell all kinds of herbs and spices. You can find this shop at 41 Evripidou Street.
This was also very crowded but I patiently waited in the queue. I bought some spices and herbs I needed and got to taste “threpsini” for the first time. Although I knew about this grape cream, I had never eaten it before and it was really delicious.
Although, there were many more places to visit, the remaining family were waiting back home for lunch. Hopefully, next year we will be able to visit it again.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,