28 November, 2013

Salonica Bougatsa in Psyrri

If you have ever been to Psyrri, you must have noticed that there is one pie shop in the central Piazza (which is called Plateia Iroon, Square of Heroes). I have seen it so many times, but never taken interest in it, because, when I go to Psyrri, I am either looking for a restaurant or a cafeteria, and never a pie shop.

What made me change the idea was a photo of the interior that I saw on Foursquare (which is, by the way, a terrific website/mobile software if you like to get information about restaurants and cafeterias; information there is not always credible, but it is definitely a happy hunting-ground).

It has a very strange shape and looks like a mixture of a medieval castle and an underground meeting hall of Mithraic cult.

I bought a portion of cheese bougatsa (savory) for 1.80 Euro. It is sold by a kilo, so the price is not fixed.

At the beginning, I found it too salty, but then got used to it. The fyllo was pretty good, although it wasn't so fresh when I bought it.

Apart from bougatsa (sweet cream or savory cheese), they sell also a variety of pies. When I saw, they had a spinach pie, koulou dough cheese pie, and small cheese pies (tyropitakia).

The staff was friendly and it is open 24 hours.

It is a nice spot for a snack when you are in the area.

Thessaloniki stou Psyrri - Η Θεσσαλονίκη στου Ψυρρή
Plateia Iroon 1, Psyrri, 10554 Athens
Πλατεία Ηρώων 1, Ψυρρή, 10554 Αθήνα

23 November, 2013

Taf coffee @ Omonia-Exarchia

Visited yesterday Taf coffee in Omonia area. It is really a small outlet in comparison to the fame it has.

Taf is reputed to serve the best coffee in town and a cup of cappuccino costs only 2.20 Euro (and a bit more for special varieties). You might say that what is the best depends on everyone's taste and I do agree with you, but in this case there is some foundation to the claim; that Taf is not just a cafeteria, but also a coffee producer and whole-seller. If you are interested, go and dig in their website for more info.

You might have seen the logo elsewhere in Athens. It is because their coffees are being sold at other cafeterias.

We had cappuccino and it was indeed good.

Another of the coffee lovers' cult-centers is Tailor Made in Platia Agias Irinis, but it is often so full that you cannot find anywhere to sit down (it is because Tailor Made attracts even those who not interested in coffee). Taf instead is much more low-key and better for those who want to enjoy one's coffee more quietly. Note, however, that the indoor space is very limited.

Taf Coffee
Emmanouil Benaki 7-9, Omonia, Athens
Εμμανουήλ Μπενάκη 7-9, Αθήνα
Tel. 210 3800014
Closed on Sundays and Saturdays until afternoon. 

22 November, 2013

Trapezaria At Last

I have been wanted to visit this place for a while and finally here we are, to celebrate my birthday. Actually some days later than that, but it was the reason anyway.

This means that I expected that it should be somehow above our usual budget. Guess how much we spent for 2 starters, 2 main courses, 1 dessert, and 2 glasses of wine? You will see the answer at the end of this post (no no, do not scroll down just yet!).

I booked a table for a Sunday afternoon. During the time that we were (about 2 hours from 14:00), only 3 or 4 tables were occupied. So, if you think that Trapezaria is always full and don't like over-crowded restaurants, Sunday afternoon is a good time to visit. I believe that they do not serve Sunday dinner, but their website says that it has started lunch service for weekdays.

I am not sure the name of the location. Is it Makrigianni or Fix? It is somewhere between Acropolis metro station (or Acropolis Museum, if you want) and Fix metro station and the closest archaeological monument is Temple of Olympian Zeus. Do you get me? Ha ha ha. (But I have read somewhere that they are relocating sometime soon; please check the location before you go).

From outside, it looks like a cafeteria or something. At 2 in the afternoon, we were the first to arrive.

The menu is not long, not short. Considering that it is really a small restaurant, however, I see that it needs quite an effort to have that range of things (you can read the menu - not always up-to-date - on their website, if you like).

The bread, dip and olives were obligatory order (1.80 Euro p.p.). All very good, but half the bread went wasted because of the quantity of the food we ordered later). The glass wine starts from 4 Euro.

1st starter was tyropita in kataifi pastry. The cheese wasn't yellow one, but ksynomizithra and it was mixed with siglino and dried fig. Pleasant. In quantity wise, it is way to much for a starter for one person. Best to be shared.

The filling. I might try this at home.

The starter that I wanted was off-the-menu, so this was my 2nd choice. Fried cod youvarlakia (more simply, fried cod & rice balls), served with black mayo and tomato based sauce, and salad (lettuce, green apple, pomegranate etc).

Tasty they were, it was more about the presentation than substance. The red sauce was incredibly good, though.

If you know how much we usually eat, you can imagine how full we were at this stage.

This is GH's main dish, Beef/veal tri-tip and spring rolls of moussakas.

The meat was rich in flavour, but was a bit tough. Spring rolls were also nice, but I am not sure about the combination with beef (i.e. I don't think they enhanced each other's strength).

My main dish was pasta. Black conchillia pasta cooked in scampi sauce with monk fish. You see only pasta in the photo, but actually there was quite a lot of fish morsels. And another think you don't seen in the photo is cheese; it contained a lot of yellow cheese which made this dish quite filling.

GH and I thought this was the best dish of the day. My month waters just by looking at the photo and remember the flavour.

We were dead full, but did manage to finish all the plates. AND I could not not ordering dessert, just because it was a birthday meal.

This is cold soufflé of citrus, served with Bergamot spoon-sweet and mandarin sorbet.

Good. But if I could have shared it in 4 persons, it would have been even better.

Next to our table there was a group of 4 and each one ordered 1 starter, 1 main and 1 dessert and finished most of the dishes, drinking much more wine than we did. I wish I had a better appetite as them.

So the answer to the question: how much did we spend? 58.60 Euro is the answer.

Actually it was less than I expected and can tell you it is quite a good value for money both for the quality and quantity.

This restaurant was as good as I expected. Hope to return soon.

Theodorou Negri 1, Makrygianni, Athens
Θεοδώρου Νέγρη 1, Μακρυγιάννη, Αθήνα
Tel. 2109213500

12 November, 2013

Open Day Sunday in Athens

Greece, which is in recession for years, has been of course under a pressure to liberalize the market, but it has been and is still hesitant to liberalize shop opening hours and opening days. Finally, however, it has started to change it. The shops in Athens and Piraeus could open on the Sunday 3rd November, if they wanted to, to coincide with the mid-season sale.

It was a very warm & nice day, so we decided to take a look at the situation in central Athens. We parked our car somewhere near Zappeio and walked toward Syntagma Square. Here are some snaps from our 90-min stroll.

In Philellinon Street, we saw this new shop in preparation. It looked like a large gourmet food shop.

There are some small grocery stores in Voulis and Nikis streets, but this one seemed larger than these. It is a welcome addition, as far as it does not put "tourist" price.

The center of Athens was full of people. We had difficulty even just to walk.

People here.

People there.

People everywhere.

Of course not everybody was shopping, but there was a good number of locals with shopping bag. I saw later on TV news that only some tens of percents of the shops actually opened on that Sunday, but as far as the central Athens - Ermou Street and around - most of the shops were open, even some small and old shops around Athinas Street. I hope that every workers get repaid for their extra efforts.

We walked from Syntagma to Kapnikarea Church and then walked back along Kolokotroni Street where many new eateries an bars have opened.

Like this one. Booze Cooperativa.

And another one of which name I am not sure (it was written, but the letters so small and complicated that I could not read).

And a souvlaki shop. Several years ago, there was only a few choices if we wanted souvlaki in central Athens, but now choices are plenty. I take this as a sign of decreasing rent in the area.

I stopped here because it was selling souvlaki with revythokeftes (Greek falafel). GH looked at me in a strange manner and bought a pork souvlaki for himself.

The revythokeftes wasn't fried on order, but tasted quite good. I put yogurt sauce in, but could have chosen talamosalata or/and hummus. It was nice to see souvlaki with a bit of fantasy. I liked the fact that the potatoes were not frozen. I made GH try mine. He said it was nice but his pork souvlaki was nicer.

One souvlaki wrap costs 2 Euro here.

Tachyfagion Ellinikon - Ελληνικόν Ταχυφαγείον
Kolokotroni 39, Central Athens
Κολοκοτρώνη 39 , Σύνταγμα, Αθήνα
Tel. 210-3312138

Hot Hot Burger. The absolute winners of Athens in economic crisis are the shops that sell cheap fast food (souvlaki, pies, sandwiches, etc). Until recently burger bar was unthinkable in such a central area, but now here you are!

Montalbano. I am not sure that this is. Surely it sells coffees and drinks, but not sure if they have food.

One thing attracted my attention was "dolci siciliani" written on the board. I need to go back and check what it is about.

Here is Barley Cargo. This is a new place by a normal standard, but is one of the oldest of the new shops that appeared like mushrooms in the area. It sells a wide variety of beers and some food to go with. I have never tried it, but have heard that it was good and affordable.

Another new bar, Bank Job.

And more bars.

Then we walked toward Kolonaki, along Voukourestiou Street. There we met "C".

We got close to see what it was and found out it was a campaign against Hepatitis C.

In Kolonaki, even a supermarket was open.

At this point, a cousin called us to meet up for a coffee in Nea Smyrni and we left the center. In Nea Smyrni we saw some shops were open till 8 in the evening.

In Greece there is quite a lot of people who do not agree to Sunday openings, because it infringes the workers' right. On the other hand, there are so many people who work on Sundays, like people work in tourism sector, hospitality sector, service sector (including those who work in public transportation), pastry shops and corner shops. How about those people's right? Surely there should be a way to compromise between worker's right and freedom to work. It might difficult to find it in the crisis Greece, but this is another, if related, issue.

09 November, 2013

Pernirli Shop Stamatis @ Exarchia-Omonia

I am on annual leave these days, because I have to use up my entitled day-offs until the end of year due to the rules of the company I work for. GH does not intend to do so, as he does not have to. So I went to the National Archaeological Museum on my own. There was quite a lot of foreign visitors and later I figured out that many should have come to Athens to participate at the Athens Classic Marathon to be held this Sunday.

I spent about 4 hours there and came out hungry. I intended to go to have a coffee and sandwich at Taf (cafeteria) in Emm. Benaki street, but on my way there I came across this Peinirli shop called Stamatis. It was written that the dough is prepared there and baked there.

It does not have tables, but it has some stools.

There are about 10 types of ready peinirli and when you buy they put it in the oven to reheat it. It is the same system also at Ionia, famous peinirli bakery in Panormo, but at Stamatis the oven isn't that traditional one that Ionia has.

I chose a peinirli with Gouda cheese and soutzouki (sort of salami/sausage). It was supposed to be 2.60 Euro, but I was charged 2.90 Euro. When I paid, I thought that it was my mistake, but later found out that the girl who served me was new and did not know prices very well. Never mind for 30 cents, but maybe you'd better be careful.

The peinirli was fantastic. The dough was very soft and fragrant. Although one piece was enough to fill my stomach, I was craving for another just to try a different flavor. So I bought 2 more for home (that was when I saw the girl did not know the price and was being instructed by her senior).

I like lot better soft dough of Stamatis than the hard one of Themis of Drosia.

The prices are between 1.90 and 2.90 Euro, and mainly either 2.30 or 2.60.

Now that so many souvlaki places, pie shops and bakeries are opening, why not peinirli shops?

The shop is open only office hours (Mon.-Fri. 8:00-18:00 and Sat. 8:00-15:00, Sun. Closed), but if you happen to be in the area and need a snack, please do try.

Akademias 77 and Emmanouil Benaki 19 (at the corner)
106 78, Athens, Exarchia-Omonoia area
Tel. 210 3300 055.

Ακαδημίας 77, Εμμ. Μπενάκη 19
Τ.Κ. 10678, Εξάρχεια, Αθηνα

Later I walked toward Kolonaki to meet GH and stumbled upon a taverna of which name I have heard so many times, but never seen. It is called Kapetan Michalis.

It is really a small place and occupy all the width of a pedestrian walk (illegally maybe?) Very interesting, but it is very difficult for me to be here at meal time. A shame.

03 November, 2013

Where We Ate in Plastira Lake Area

Before I forget, I make some notes on where and what I ate during the trip to Plastira Lake.

We left 27th October Sunday and returned 29th Tuesday.

We stayed at a village called Belokomitis and the first dinner was eaten there, too.

It was a place called Panorama and a typical grill-taverna-bar. The choice of food was rather narrow. As mageirefta (slow cooked food), they had only boiled goat. All the other main dishes were grill. The owner told us that they had fasolada (bean soup), but was sold out already. Maybe you have wider choice if you go there for lunch.

So we ordered grilled bread (1 Euro for 2), tomato and cucumber salad (3.50 Euro), beef/veal biftekia with fries (7 Euro), grilled trout with fries (8 Euro), and a bottle of beer (2.50 Euro). I forget to mention that there is trout farm(s?) in Belokomitis and the fish was fresh.

The trout was excellent. The colour of meat was white, rather than normal pink-ish. It did not smell at all like freshwater fish.

The other dishes were also tasty, but I think the portion of biftekia was small for 7 Euro. They could have offered a plate of fruits or something, but no. In any case, we were not really hungry from the start (because we lunched late in Karditsa) and the quantity wasn't our issue at that time.

The total bill was 22 Euro. We left happily, as the food was good.

Grill-Bar Panorama/ Ψησταριά-Μπαρ Πανόραμα
Belokomitis, Plastira Lake
Μπελοκομίτης, Λίμνη Πλαστήρα
(It does not have street number, but being on the main road, so it is unlikely for you to miss it).
Tel. 24410 93103

When we travel, we usually have real meal only once a day. On the day 2, we had a late lunch at a village called Mesenilokas, after a visit to Koloni Monastery.

The more obvious choices in the region were Plaz Lamberou and Tsardaki, but as we are adventurous, we headed for Mesenikolas expecting to be able to find one taverna or two.

On arriving, we headed for the central square of the village, but there wasn't even a kafenio which was open and there wasn't much people around in general. It is a shame because it is a great square. Fortunately, though, I found a taverna-pension which had a bit of people.

It was called Klimataria (the pension is called Messenikolas). There was not table outside, so we ate indoor. We were served by the owner who seemed to have had drunk a lot. He told us that, before our arrival, there was a lot of people there to celebrate 28th October ("Ohi Day"). That made sense.

Again, there were only 3 or 4 choices of cooked food and the other main dishes are from the grill. We ordered, then, cabbage & carrot salad (3 Euro), local feta cheese (3 Euro), pasta souffle (6 Euro), and tomato stewed veal (moshari kokkinisto, 8 Euro), and grilled bread. GH tried to order beer, but the owner suggested us to try wine, because Mesenikolas is in a wine making region (3 Euro for 500ml).

The food was of good standared, but there was a tendency to be salty. The local feta in particular was VERY salty. Anyway, I particularly like the pasta souffle (which happened not to be salty) in the photo above.

At the end, the owner offered as a dessert (kormos with kidoni). Everything was tasty and we were stuffed to the limit. And the bill was only 23 Euro.

Mesenikolas, Karditsa
Μεσενικόλας, Καρδίτσα
tel. 24410 95419

We ate so much there and needed coffee to digest. So we headed back to Plaz Lamberou.

This grill-taverna-cafeteria does not show from the main road and you have to go into a side road following signs of "Plaz Lamberou".

It is a huge place and, when we arrived, the outside tables were almost full.

I did not see the menu, but most of the people were eating various grilled meat and pies.

We were here just for a coffee. It was a very nice and warm day, so we had frappe.

A frappe cost 2.50 Euro. If you think that a freddo cappuccino costs 3 Euro in expensive hotels in the region, it is rather expensive.

Anyway, it is a nice place to stop for food or coffee on a warm day.

Plaz Lamberou - Πλαζ Λαμπερού
Plaz Lamberou (Lambero), Plastira Lake
Λαμπερό, Πλησίον Λίμνης Πλαστήρα
Tel. 2441094114

We skipped the dinner, so it is already the third day.

After breakfast at our pension and various photo stops along the road, we had a coffee at Naiades Hotel in Neochori.

The landlady of our pension told us that in the region there is no such thing as cafeteria that we see in Athens, so if we want it, we should rather go to resort hotels that have cafeteria facility.

In Rome as the Romans do. So we tried it.

The cafeteria has a nice view to the lake.

A cappuccino cost 3 Euro, either ice or hot. The waiter offered us cookies filled with white chocolate cream as accompaniment. The hotel was beautiful and is worth the visit. It also has a restaurant and a man who was staying at our pension told us that the food was good.

Naiades Hotel
Neochori, Plastira Lake
Tel. +30 24410 93333

But we had a destination for lunch. It was a restaurant called Keramario, nor far from Mouzaki.

This place is part of a large estate and also a beautiful view to the mountains. The landlady told us that it is so famous that it becomes a bit chaotic on holidays.

So we chose a weekday (it was a day after Ohi Day) and found the place empty, except for 2 other tables.

The problem of visiting on off-days is that they do not have many choice. There was only one mageirefto (stewed dishes) and there is no pita at all. So we ordered horta (boiled greens), local cheese called Tsalafouti, grilled country sausages and grilled pork chop, and grilled bread.

All the dishes were good, but I would not say that it was the best food that I can think of. At the end of meal, the waitress (who I believe was of the owner-family and an American) offered us loukoumades with honey. I found them too oily.

The bill was 26.50 Euro, if I remember well, including 0.5 l. of red wine. What made the bill a tiny bit higher was tsalafouti which cost 4.60 Euro. Everything else was normal price.

What makes the experience at Keramario unique is the animals in the garden. There are chickens, peacocks and deers.

GH and I shot quite a lot of photos of deers and enjoyed it. They are beautiful animals.

This estate has also a pension, if you are interested. It is not close to the Plastira lake, but for mountain hike, it should be fine.

Drakotrypa, Mouzaki Karditsa
Δρακότρυπα Καρδίτσας
Tel. 24450 61470

That was all the places we ate in the Plastira Lake area.

But before I close, I make a note about the pension (Ksenonas) we stayed.

It is called Irida and situated in the village of Belokomitis.
Here is the website.
Tel. 24410 93140
Mob. 697 2503895

We stayed for 40 Euros a night including breakfast. The room was great with a fireplace and view to the mountains. The room was cleaned after the 1st day. The breakfast was simple & basic (coffee, bread, homemade jams, butter, and rice pudding only for the first morning), but for the price we paid we won't complain (in any case, we do not eat cheese or egg for breakfast even at home).