29 May, 2009

Oriental Sweets from Xanthi

Visited the Athenian branch of Sarayli Saray near Omonia Square. I have seen quite a lot of publicity of it on free papers and got curious.



From the publicity I had an impression that there was seating space, but actually there wasn't. It is quite small, but there is are quite many things inside. The shop is from the town of Xanthi in northern Greece (the shops in Xanthi are evidently called "Fresh Co") and this shop, opened in October 2009, is their first Athenian venture.

I had an idea of buying Kazan Dipi, but it did not look as good as the one I bought a week ago from another shop, so changed idea and bought some baklavas.



The girl of the shop was enthusiastic and happy to explain which is what. They have many exotic sweets that I have never seen (although I admit not to have so much experience with balkavas).

I sampled 4 pieces of siropiasta (syrup soaked sweets) and there are two of them.

This is baklava with pistachio nuts of Aegina. 2.50 euros.




It did not have as much pistachio as I would have liked and the texture was rather soggy (lacked in crispiness), but had a nice flavour, probably because of the good ingredients.


Again another of baklava type sweets made with Aeginian pistachio. 2 euros.



This one was eaten by the wife of my bro-in-law and she said it was nice.

On the other hand, another one I ate wasn't very nice, being too dry and lacking in nuts content.

All in all, it is probably above average, but I have known better ones. However, the variety of sweets here is huge and the price seems reasonable. I don't mind coming back when I happen to be near.

Sarayli Saray
Aiolou 105 & Panepistimiou (near Omonia Square), Athens
Πανεπιστημίου και Αιόλου 105, Αθήνα
http://www.sarayli.gr/

27 May, 2009

HostelBookers Offer in Greece

Hostel booking website HostelBookers has an anniversary bargain sale in June: they will sell beds only for 0.50 cents per night in summer destinations including Santorini and Corfu. They sent me a press communique, which I publish below without change. For detail, click the banner and go to HostelBookers' website. There is also a competition with several prizes to give away.

Last year, I used HostelBookers when I stayed in Evora, Portugal and it worked fine.

Good Luck!

(Note: I cannot personally assume any responsibility for the content of the communque below.)

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Beds for 5cents - HostelBookers Birthday Giveaway


In celebration of its fifth birthday, HostelBookers is running an exciting deal – book a beach hostel for just 5 cents a night!

This discounted hostel holiday will be offered at five popular European destinations for travel between 6 and 10 July 2009, with the beds becoming available next week from 1 to 5 June.

50 beds will go on sale at the 5cents rate every day during this week at 2pm GMT, with a total of 250 beds at beach hostels in the Mediterranean on offer overall. There are no hidden costs or strings attached – travellers really will pay just 5 cents a night for their bed.

From the bustling city beaches of Barcelona and Valencia to the glitzy resort of Alghero, the discos of Corfu and laid-back Santorini, there’s a diverse range of great beach holidays available for this tiny price.

The five hostels participating in the birthday offer are Centric Point in Barcelona, Purple Nest in Valencia, Sunrock Backpackers Hostel in Corfu, Hostel D'Alguer in Alghero and Santorini Hostel in Santorini.



David Smith, Chief Operating Officer of HostelBookers, said, “We’ve had a phenomenal five years at HostelBookers, and experienced unprecedented growth. This is the first time we have run a promotion on this scale but our anniversary felt like the perfect time – it’s a way to say thank you to all our customers, and give a little something back, after all their help over the years.”

HostelBookers is also running a competition as part of the birthday celebrations – they’ll be giving away 20 ‘presents’ to customers, including £500 in cash, an ASUS 701SD Travel Laptop and a Canon Ixus 85 Digital Camera.

For further information please log on to HostelBookers.com

Frappe with Dodourma @ Syntagma, Athens

Visited Hatzis, or Chatzis (Χατζής), near Syntagma Square for the first time.

Hatzis is a pastry maker based in Thessaloniki and the Syntagma branch is their first venture in Athens. Although founded in 1908, it is a new comer to the Athenians. They specialise in all sorts of Oriental sweets that I am rather more familiar as Turkish sweets.

Hatzis

The tables on the ground floor are lined in front of the pastry showcase and cashier counter; they are ideal for people and sweets watching, but I opted the more quiet first floor seating area.


Hatzis

Although this particular branch cannot be more than a few year old, the decor is rather dated, together with the uniform of the waiters. It is very Greek bourgeois style, and not hip and young Athenian style; accordingly the clientele.




On reflexion, I should have tried their Oriental sweets, but the I was rather for a coffee. At least I ordered something with a twist: Frappé with Dodourma (i.e. Turkish-style ice cream). It costs 4.70 euros.



Flappe

I tried to find the ice cream in vain. I searched also the froth, but it wasn't there.


When I was struggling to figure out, the waitress turned up apologising that it, in fact, did not contain ice cream and placed the correct one in front of me.



Flappe with Ice Cream
This did contain ice cream, but without spoon, it was still difficult to handle. I could not eat ice cream as there wasn't spoon and I could not drink coffee as the ice cream clogged the straw. It seemed totally ill-conceived to me. In Japan, we have a similar stuff called 'coffee float', which is a glass of iced coffee with one or two scoops of vanilla ice cream, and it always comes with a long spoon.

Defeated and disappointed by this frappé, I gave up the plan to take away some sweets. I will do it, when I will be fully recovered from the damage.



Hatzis
Mitropoleos 5, Syntagma, Athens
Tel. 210-3222647

26 May, 2009

Kastella, Piraeus

Some photos from Kastella Hill in Piraeus.

Kastella hill commands the view toward Mikrolimano.


It is difficult to park in this area. This is pedestrian sidewalk near the restaurant Tony Bonnaro.

There was no way I could keep to the sidewalk.

Humorous sign board of a pastry shop.

Their speciality is the tongue of mother-in-law.

Toward a stadium in Faliro.

25 May, 2009

Kazan Dipi

I bought a packet of Kazan Dipi (Κάζαν Ντιπί) from a shop near Syntagma Square, Athens.



They look like tiramisu, but they are not. The brown part that looks like cacao powder is caramel.

Kazan Dipi is Turkish sweet made from buffalo milk (now, more often from cow milk) and chicken breast, with some extra sugar to caramelise.

If you buy it from ordinary Greek sweet shops, it is often like pannacotta with caramel sauce, but it isn't the authentic version and tastes not as good as the real maccoy. It takes quite a long time and a lot of work to process chicken breast and it is not cheap sweet. These ones I bought cost €5.80, but it was worth the price.

Kazan Dipi
The texture of the pudding is heavenly. It is similar to pannacotta to a certain extent, but it is firmer and stickier. I enjoyed it to the full.

24 May, 2009

Diogenis @ Plaka, Athens

Last Sunday, Hubby and I enjoyed cold drinks at Diogenis Café & Restaurants in Plaka. It might be difficult to see in this photo, but the space under the poplar trees are the cafeteria and restaurant.



The monument that you see on the right side of the photo is the Choregic Monument of Lysicrates. Behind is the Athenian Acropolis, of course.

Plaka area is generally closed to car trafic, but this place is particularly quiet as it is not even facing to pedestrian passage (you can pass here if you want to, but probably you won't).

I had a bottle of sparkling water (€3) and Hubby had a flappé (€3.50). Not cheap, but we are paying for the location and not really for the liquid we consume.



Very tranquil and pleasant place to spend the lazy time like Athenians.

Diogenis
Plateia Lyskratous 1, Plaka, Athens

Διογένης
Πλατεία Λυσικράτους 1, Πλάκα
Τηλ. 210-3224845

First Chinese Quest in Athens

This content has been moved to the following address:

http://www.mesogeia.net/athens/estiatoria/shanghainight_en.html

23 May, 2009

Cretan Products Fare @ Faliro

Last week, I with Hubby and Mom-in-Law went to the Cretan Products Fare entitled "Cretan Panorama" in Tae Kwon Do Studium in Faliro. It was held from 14 to 17 May 2009 and was open to public.



This is the Tae Kwon Do Studium which I suppose was constructed for the 2004 Athens Olympic. We later realised this is the back door and the main entrance was on the other side.





Inside. This is only the central part of the exposition space and there were also stalls all around on the upper floor. It was a pretty large expo by any standard, but there were not so many visitors when we went. although it was Saturday.

There were stalls of tourism, publications (books), and foods. This is one of the producers of frozen pies.

I tried a kaltsouni. It was a cheese cake made with sweetened mitzithra cheese and sweet bread like casing. Full of milky cheese and very good.

This is one of the cheese producers counter. Although there were many cheese for tasting, the representants were totally disinterested to talk to casual visitors like us; I guess they were looking for sellers and not consumers. Because of their disinterest, we could try as much as we liked. It was positive.

Strange red green tomatoes. I sampled one of these on another seller's counter. It had a strong taste of tomato vine, yes, that green, resin like taste. Very tasty, but the colour wasn't exactly appetising. (sorry!)

There were many paximadia sellers. Paximadia are hard, chanky rasks. The Cretans make dakos salad with them.

In the end, there was cooking demonstration. I guess there were also other shows like dancing, but when we were there, there was only one chef making marathopites.

I sample a piece. Marathopita is wilted maratho (fennel) in very thin pita like pie. It did not brow my mind, but not bad if eaten hot.

Watermelon carving of Crete island and a dolphin.

When I saw this, I thought "the Chinese make better ones". ha ha ha

21 May, 2009

Caramel Frocaccino @ Flocafe

Greek cafeteria chains are creating lots of own brand coffee drinks for differentiation. Well, it is not only "Greek" as also Starbucks and the like do the same, but here, because of the weather, there are more cold varieties.

The other day, I tried one of them at Flocafe (large Greek cafeteria chain that you can find everywhere in Athens and probably elsewhere as well) of Marina Zeas, Piraeus.


This is Flocaccino Caramel (270ml). To the right is ordinary nes frappé with milk.



Flocaccino is Flocafe's own bland of iced coffee made with Jacobs coffee and there are 3 varieties: classic, caramel, and chocolate. There is large size for all of them, which is 400 ml.

Flocaccino caramel is iced coffee with caramel syrup with whipped 'cream'.



Now the taste. To be honest, it was too sweet for me. BUT, I do know that the Greeks like their coffee sweet (quite many throw 3 to 7 spoonfuls of sugar into their coffees) and I was not surprised by it. Although I was not surprised by this either, but the vegetable cream, instead of dairy cream, was disappointing as usual.

I will try various cold coffees this summer. More reports coming up!


(Oh, I want to note also that the lady's toilets of this Flocafe do have lock!)

20 May, 2009

Gelateria Mattonella @ Monastiraki

This Sunday, went back to Gelateria Mattonella in Monastiraki Square.

I first tried this ice cream shop a few months ago (I had mango sorbet) and was pleasantly impressed. (You don't have to wonder why I had not gone back before; it is because I just don't eat so much ice cream).

Generally Greeks prefer creamy ice cream, but I am definitely for Italian gelato type ice cream and Mattonella is spot-on for me. This time I tried torrone flavour.



Torrone is Italian nougat with almond and/or other nuts. Abruzzo is particularly famous for this sweet.



The gelato contained crashed nougat and almond flavour. I thought it was a touch too sweet, but probably many find it better this way. One scoop costs 1.80 euro. I recommend you to get it in corn with 0.20 euro supplement (althernative is paper cup).

I definitely prefer Mattonella to Pagotomania. It is in Monastiraki Square, but on the other side of Ermou street.

14 May, 2009

Some Photos from Piraeus Port Area

A few days ago I needed to go to Empoliki Bank and the nearest branch I could find was near the Port. It was a pain, as I walked all along not knowing exactly where it was, but there were a couple of gains.

First, I found another East Asian grocery shop.



Here probably I can find belacan (salted and fermented shrimp paste used for Malay cuisine) that I could not find in the other shop.

And very close to it, I found also Chinese-Philippini restaurant with Karaoke! Well, karaoke part does not interest me, but Philippini food is totally new to me. Need to pay it a visit, if I manage to convince Hubby.


I saw also a strange view as well.

Lots of empty medicine boxes.



They were Xanax and Remeron, both are depression drugs.



A sinister sight, isn't it?

13 May, 2009

Gazi Cat

Lady cat I met in Gazi.



Although she wasn't very clean (I am afraid she likes to stay under cars, as many cats do), but she bears something noble about her.



Her highness gave me a friendly smile, while we were departing.

12 May, 2009

Fig and Almond Sweets

Mom-in-law (MIL) made a fabulous dessert and gave some to us.



These are very small fig fruits stuffed with raw almond and cooked in sugar. MIL told me that she used to made these sweets when she was younger but recentlty she has not seen these figs for for years until that day.



She said these were bitter figs. I don't know if the bitter figs are different from sweet ones, or they were bitter because not yet mature.

They don't have much taste in themselves: sweet (because of sugar, but much less sweet than glyko tou koutaliou) and slightly bitter. The best thing about them is the aroma. I don't know how to describe it. It reminds me of pickled cherry leaves that Japaense people make, but it also has raw almond smell and it creates a really nice mixture.

You won't believe me until you taste it. Well, at least I wouldn't.

09 May, 2009

New Entry: Gazohori in Gazi

Although my first impression of Gkazi wasn't good, we decided to return there nevertheless.

After an excursion in Plato's Academy, we were really hungry. As I don't like the newish places with fresh paint, we entered this unpretentious mezedopoleio, Gkazohori.

http://www.mesogeia.net/athens/estiatoria/gkazoxori_en.html


Mezedakia

Food actually was quite good, although tended to be slightly too salty to my taste. Read above page to find out what we ate. This one definitely is recommended.

New Entry: Platon's Academy

I uploaded a page on the Academy of Plato in Athenian suburb.

http://www.mesogeia.net/athens/places/platonacademy/platonacademy_en.html





Despite the notoriety of Plato and the Academy, this archaeological site is relatively unknown, and it is understandable to a certain degree. It is not in the central Athens and the remains are not spectacular in any sense. Besides, the site is badly neglected, although it is organised as an archaeological park.

We desisted to go close to one of the best preserved parts (or probably the best preserved part), because there were foreign workers drinking heavily (as you see in the photo above). One of them posed for me, but the others did not look happy that I was taking photographs (some might be illegal workers; who knows?).



Partly because we visited on a Sunday, Platon Street toward the park was quiet. We found this restaurant "Platonikos Erotas - Πλατωνικός Έρωτας (Platonic Love)", but it was closed down (there was a "for lease" sign in front).



Greeks sometimes paint their houses in nice colours.



This building isn't well taken care of, but it is nevertheless a nice presence in a generally grey Athenian suburb.

08 May, 2009

Fresh Phyllo Pastry

For the first time I bought fresh phyllo pastry from pastry making shop in Piraeus.

You can tell them how many sheets you want, but I bought one ready-made packet which contains 6 sheets; I guess this is the standard number of phyllo sheets you need to make a pita.

He weighed the packed, as they sell by weight. It came to 1 euro for me, but the women who bought before me paid a bit more for the same size packet.

Phyllo Packet
They were like sheets of paper.




They were extremely thin, thinner than the ones I have already seen.

I collected some usable things from the fridge and made a pita.



They came really beautiful: crispy and fragrant to the degree that I have never seen before. I did not know the fyllo pastry can be so good. I will definitely make it again!

New Garlic

As well as new onions, Greeks have new garlics.

Onions and garlics are usually left to dry for some time to be more preservable. These fresh ones are not or are dried only little. They have less intense flavour than the dried ones, but sweeter and more flagrant. They live less long on the shelf, so I need to consume quickly.

In the area I live, I get 3 or 4 garlics for 1 euro. Sometimes they have leaves as well (or, the leaves can be sold separately as green).


Fresh garlic
It was the first time I buy the fresh garlic and I was pretty excited to open it up.



Here you are, the cloves!

As it is still fresh, it does not have the 'skin' that we remove before cooking. When I removed the outer layer and roots that still bear some mud, all the rest is edible.


I cooked it in Thai-style stir-fry and find it delicate and delicious. Today I will make tzatziki so that I can taste it raw. Cannot wait.

06 May, 2009

Politico (Syntagma, Athens)

This content was moved to the following address.

http://www.mesogeia.net/athens/estiatoria/politico_en.html

Politi.co Anatolian Cuisine
Mitropoleos 3, Syntagma
Athens, Greece
Tel. 210-32.32.251

Tsoureki French Toast

As the tsoureki I bought for Easter left in the fridge only half-eaten, I made French-toast with tsoureki. French toast made with brioche is excellent, so tsoureki should work well, I thought.




It, indeed, was very good. The texture is lovelier than normal French toast. By inference, if I make bread and butter pudding from tsoureki, it should be good, too.

A good idea to use up left-over tsoureki!

04 May, 2009

Update: Tzistarakis Mosque

As I took some photographs of the interior of Tzistarakis Mosque (now a part of the Greek Folk Art Museum) in Monastiraki Square, I enriched the page dedicated to it.

http://www.mesogeia.net/athens/places/turkishathens/tsistarakimosque_en.html

Tzistarakis Mosque

The decoration of the mosque seemed quite ideosyncratic to me. The scarse remains of frescoe reminded me of that of the churches and palaces of the Western Europe. I would love to hear opnions from historians of the Islamic architecture.
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