If you couldn’t tell by my previous posts, I am a hardcore foodie.
So, of course one of my favorite days in Athens had to be our food tour and cooking lesson day!
Led by our knowledgeable and passionate guide from the Museum of Greek Gastronomy, we started our tour at the famous Greek coffee shop, Mokka. The smell of fresh, fragrant, almost perfume-y coffee fills the shop *swoon*. There we saw traditional Greek coffee prepared from start (roasting beans) to finish (sipping our very own coffees).
However, Greek coffee is made in a very different manner than the American coffee that I am used to drinking twice or even three times a day. Fresh grounds and water are added to a small metal cup which is placed into a sand pit to evenly heat the coffee. The sand is heated by burners underneath. Once the coffee is done, it is poured into a small cup, grounds and all.
BUT WAIT! Don’t drink your coffee yet or you’ll get a mouthful of sludge. The key to enjoying Greek coffee is waiting just long enough for the grounds to settle at the bottom. The taste is mild yet complex, and fills your mouth with a warmth that was surprisingly welcome on a hot morning.
Next stop on our tour was a cheese shop, where we learned of the high standards Greeks hold their feta to and also saw (but did not taste) a cannabis (!) infused cheese wheel sitting in a display case. But don’t worry, we tried plenty of cheese and HOLY ZEUS was it good.
We then made our way to the historic meat and fish market in the old center of Athens. Let me tell you, this place was not for the faint of heart. I’m talking entire skinned goats hanging upside down, rabbits feet, giant brains, and endless glassy fish eyes staring up at you as you perused the market.
However, it was interesting to hear about how in the past 50 years, red meat consumption in Greece has skyrocketed. In a country that birthed the famed Mediterranean diet which is known for it’s health benefits that are majorly attributed to infrequent servings of meat, the disease and obesity rates have increased exponentially. What used to be a luxury has now become widely available and affordable, so the modern Greek diet has begun to diverge from the historic Mediterranean diet.
After we reemerged from the meat market as changed people, we stopped by the produce market, an olive shop, a deli, and a bakery to grab ingredients for dinner and some snacks to enjoy before we rolled up our sleeves to cook. Olives, cheese, meat, and bread will never not be a classic combination. We had a little picnic outside of a church with our Greek “antipasto” (I can’t help it, I’m Italian) where the adventurous (myself included) tried beef tongue for the first time. Not bad!
Next door to the church was the Museum of Greek Gastronomy. We walked up to an outdoor kitchen on a terrace (!!) where a professional chef was waiting to guide us through multiple traditional recipes. I must say, chopping up tons of vegetables is not so bad paired with a panoramic view of Athens.
For our dinner feast we prepared peppers and tomatoes stuffed with meat and rice, potato wedges, feta pies, zucchini salad, and a semolina pudding called halva for dessert. Our creations went perfectly with good wine, good bread, good conversation, and the pride knowing that we cooked a bomb meal.
Can you say perfect day?