Still drooling thinking at my last week experience: Athens Food Tour, my first culinary experience of this kind. In my second day in Athens, with Athens Walking Tour and an amazing guide, Artemis. She totally made us fall for the Greek habits. I was even starting to wander if the Greek habit of eating at midnight and then go staring to bed it is not a very good idea actually.
It all started in a beautiful morning, at the end of September, when we all gathered at 9:15 at the Panepistimio metro station, in front of Zara store, near Starbucks.
Of course I skipped breakfast. Instead, I had a double cappuccino from a random vendor in Omonia square and it was very good. A perfect morning, as you can see.
Since the very beginning, we met our guide, Artemis and we received a map of Athens and a list with all the places we will visit, the goodies we will have and their story and ingredients.
First stop: Kolouri, the late Greek Breakfast
Kolouri is the Greek pretzel, only that is round and covered in sesame seeds. It is very tasty and nourishing, thanks to the sesame seeds.
The typical Greek breakfast is made of strong coffee and cigarette, some milk for the kids. So, at about 10 they get hungry and then it is time for kolouri, the late breakfast. Kids take one at school, in their way, too. I may add that the alternative for the late breakfast are the delicious pies, we got later at Creme Royale.
Greek meals: lunch around 5 pm! And then the dinner? After 10 pm, in the summer days even at midnight. Greeks usually go to sleep immediately after the dinner.
The youngsters go to disco, clubs, bars, return home at 2,3 am, eat and then go to sleep, of course. It is the Greek way. As Artemis said: ”hey I do not pretend that our lifestyle is the healthiest, but it is the way we leave. We are lucky with the olive oil.”
Loukoumades at Ayaiov, a family business from 1926
Loukoumades are some round shaped doughnut, soaked in honey, walnuts and cinnamon. They are absolutely delicious. A little crunchy and not extremely sweet, just perfect. I also loved the cosines of Ayaiov little shop and I bet that those bougatsa they also had are amazing, too.
Varvakios Agora – Central Market
Our next stop: walked over to the central meat, fish, fruit and vegetable market. All the products are very fresh, thanks to a Greek law that is respected as favors anyone involved: all the products must be sold until 18:00 o’clock. To ensure this, all the vendors have contract with one or more restaurants.
Hence, at 17:50 all the merchandise that was left is sold, half price, to the restaurants. They cannot pick: just take all that is left.
This law is good for everybody: vendors have their merchandise sold, restaurants have fresh products half price and citizens have only fresh produce.
In the morning the markets are not very crowded, as the vendors start to cut down prices around noon, so the locals go at around 12. It is an ideal time: do you remember that they take lunch at around 5 pm?
The atmosphere in the market is very colorful: everybody try to lure you to purchase their products showing it, loudly welcoming you and smiling. Greeks are very good merchants.
Zouridakis Cretan Store – the Greek products marathon
Crete is the largest island of Greece and has an unique climate and an enormous amount of endemic plants and fruits. We went to Zouridakis Cretan Store, a family business at the third generation, that produce the merchandise in Crete and sells it in Athens.
Here we tasted a lot of incredible tasty natural products. Bread with olive oil, olives, olives spread, cakes, goat cheese, other types of cheese and a lot of spoon sweets. Crete is famous for thyme honey, we also tried.
My favorite were, besides cheese and olives the carob sweets and the revelation was the olives and honey jam. I couldn’t imagine that it can be so tasty. And the Katsuni – Crete delicious biscuits, not crispy, but soft with cheese inside.
Greek liquors: delicious
At the end we tried two Greek liquors and while for some they were pretty strong, I must admit that for a Romanian it was more like a syrup. Nevertheless, it is very tasty and obviously with alcohol in it. I loved it, for dessert. As for the Greek drinks, I love Mastic, Tsipuro and Ouzo more, let’s say, stronger ones we are used to.
One year old Lou, our younger group member tasted the whole things (except the alcohol) and enjoyed it too. The fresh cheese with honey was his favorite.
Creme Royale – Bougatserie
Love Creme Royale stop: we had here some of the famous Greek pies: Spanakopita, with feta cheese and spinach and Bougatsa with cheese – there are many types of Bougatsa, but hey, will not disclose more, don’t want to spoil the surprise. It is totally water mouthing. Could eat only those two for a day. Or two.
Karamanlidika tavern – wine time
At Karamanlidika we had home wine, very good quality and very cold, perfect for the hot day, water and a homemade dish, of peas and potatoes. And they also have a very good free WiFi, which was very much welcomed by me and Laura. It seemed we were the only ones in the group so desperate to be online, I wander why?
Fruits stop – vitamins intake
Here we tasted some dry fruits and then grapes, the ones used to do the rising. They were delicious and I must mention we had them after Artemis washed them all.
Pastourma – beef meat at Miran store
We visited a charcuterie store and we had slices of pastourma and rusk bread. It is delicious and we loved to hear about the process of making this tasty treat.
Now it is modern, but back in time, the Greeks kept the meat between their but and the saddle while riding a horse till the pastourma was ready. I never cease to be astonished about the ingeniously of our ancestors.
Fotsis herbal store
Spices, teas, exotic oils, different essential oils, natural soaps, pumice, it is an absolute heaven for all those who favor natural products. We smelled some jars with different combination of herbs and fruits, I bet the tea are delicious.
Here we have learned and tasted mastic: the tears, the mastic tree resin that is only produces in Chios Greek island. While the trees were planted in different areas of the globe, it was pointless, as they didn’t made the tears, the gum. Even if the trees grew and the places had similar climate as Chios. Mastic is really good for different health conditions and generally to increase immunity. In Greece there is also a very delicious liqueur, Mastic.
Gyros in Iroon square
Our last stop was in a traditional tavern in Iroon square, where Artemis said good bye to us, before she ordered gyros for everybody depending on the preferences. We also had water from the house and a very good free WiFi. The beers we took extra were very cheap, 3,5 euro for a big bottle of Fix, a blonde Greek beer we chose.
Gyros: is a pita filled with pork (or chicken or completely vegetarian) with fries, tomatoes, salad, onions and of course tzatziki. In Greece I always take the pork gyros (and also in Romania, we have traditional Greek food tavernas, but somehow, the best ones are in Greece).
About the Culinary Tours in Athens
We had a Food Tour with Athens Walking Tours and they have many Culinary Tours to chose from. Tours like: Athens Wine Tasting Tour, Athens Cooking Lesson and Dinner, Sweet bites and Sights. Plus many other Athens tours, here more info about the tours and booking – English website.
The Food Tour was part of my freelance Info Trip in Athens, as I only chose those experiences and stays that are in my dream travel list and may say enjoyed the tour even more than expected reading the tons of positive reviews about it.
Upon reservation, you will receive all the details about the place to meet, hour, what to have with you (water, comfortable shoes…) and others.
Our tour was 3 hours and a half and in English, but there are also tours available in other languages, for private tours they also offer. Now it is a new challenge, to search for food tours in the cities or countries I visit, as it is a great way to get to know a country: you cannot understand it unless you try the food. Challenge accepted.
So, next on my list in each destination: culinary tours and cooking lessons tours. I also love the Wine Tours, but it is an old love story. Enough reasons to stay longer in Athens?
- Mirela is a communication specialist and the author of Trolleypacker and Extravita.ro travel and lifestyle blogs. Trolleypacker features destinations, solo travels, travel tips, food, adventures, fashion and luxury experiences from around the world.