Category Archives: Coffee

Eating Athens

In Athens our only organized activity  was a 3.5 hours food tour we booked through Airbnb Experiences. (Remember I did another one of these in Galway earlier this year?) if you’re traveling I recommend taking a look at Airbnb’s site and checking out what might be available at your destination. These excursions, classes and activities seem to be much smaller scale tours than some of the more commercial ones. For instance, our tour was 6 + our guide, Marina, and her assistant, Maria, which made navigating Athens’ busy streets easier than it might have been with a larger, more cumbersome group.

We met at Monastiraki station near the Plaka and once introductions were made, we went directly to a spot, Creme Royale, for traditional pies, with both savory and sweet on our menu. If you immediately think round pies, you’re wrong, because these were rectangular for the most part and served in a slice rather than a wedge. As Marina gave the staff notice that we had arrived, we remained outside a large window captivated by the grace and skill in which the baker manipulated the dough, stretching it to a remarkable thinness which required a rolling pin, but also a couple of vigorous tosses in the air akin to the actions of a pizza maker. When the dough was to his satisfaction in terms of both thinness and layers, he cut it into a wide swathe, topped it with filling, folded it unto itself and sealed it closed.

We were able to taste five – one of savory cheese, a spanikopita style with spinach and feta, a pork and beef, and one that was filled with a sweetened custard, my favorite. Additionally, we were provided with a different styled which was round and filled with meat and a sauce which was reminiscent of American bar-b-q. Remains were packaged to either be divided amongst the tour goers or given to the homeless along our way, the unanimously agreed upon perfect solution.

Next up was a walk through the old fish and meat market. This was absolutely remarkable. The fish was so marvelously fresh that even on a very hot day (90+ F), there was minimal fish smell. The vendors were friendly and humorously aggressive about selling their products and the stalls were clean and surprisingly lacking in cats because cats are everywhere. How they keep them out of the open air, but covered, market is a mystery. After touring the central area of the market, we did a broader loop and covered the part of the old market where the meat vendors ply their wares. In this area of the market vendors were provided with butcher blocks on which to chop and the cleavers were put to good use as customers requested particular cuts of beef, lamb, chicken and pork. Also available were some more exotic meats such as rabbit and water buffalo. Again, there was surprisingly little aroma, which was a bit of a relief to me.

Naturally, our next stop was for cheese, cold cuts and yogurt at a small place called Zarkadian. Beyond the deli display cases there was seating and we were made quite comfortable with water, red and white wine, ouzo and a Greek style of grappa. Anise is not my thing and I was a little afraid of the grappa, so I stuck with wine as I enjoyed the bountiful Greek salad, array of cheeses and sliced meats including both water buffalo and camel. Yes, camel and no, I’m not sure if it was one or two hump camel. It was dried, and the texture was between a prosciutto and a jerky with a flavor I can only describe as different. The fruit topped yogurt was the perfect aperitif after indulging in a taste of almost everything so generously presented.

Feeling temporarily satiated from our consumption, we made our way to Mokka for coffee. Here I had my first Greek style coffee. Served in a long handled copper pot which is poured tableside into your cup, my coffee was bracing, yet smooth. It turns out the Greeks have their own obsession with coffee and there were many varieties from which to choose. With caffeine now coursing through our veins, we leisurely walked to our lunch destination Tis Theatrou to steki for “tapas style food.” Or maybe better read as “an incredible spread of numerous small dishes made with a variety of ingredients.”

We arrived and were seated at a large table outdoors with a view of a crumbling, yet still distinguished building. As Marina explained, countless buildings were torn down as Athens expanded and lifestyles changed in modern times. It wasn’t until the latter half of the last century when buildings were retained rather than destroyed for the sake of new construction. Now it seems the buildings are left to deteriorate or, on rare occasion, be rehabilitated. Our luncheon was extravagant in variety but simple in flavors – olive oil, oregano and basil played starring roles, as did tomatoes, beans, eggplant and yogurt. It was divine.

The remains of our feast.

There was still one final stop, Serbetia tou Psyrri, for desserts. In my world, there’s always a little room left for something sweet and we were at the right spot. This family operated bakery had a display of fantastic looking cakes and baked goods and we were lucky enough to taste 3, along with a sampling of ice cream. I was pretty much in a food coma at that point, but the delicacy of the pastry and the limited amount of sweetener, be it sugar or honey, helped me to thoroughly enjoy each bite.

I can’t recommend Marina’s Taste of Athens tour enough. It was an excellent value at approximately $65 per person and it is a great way to discover the cuisine of Greece with a guide who is knowledgeable, personable and enthusiastically proud of her home.

Also – I took most of my photos with my Nikon and they won’t be available until I’m home. I imagine I’ll do a number of posts that are just photo-centric at that point, so come back to DelSo again if you’re interested!

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Filed under Coffee, drinking, Eating, Events, favorites, Food, Greece, ideas, Local, Recommendations, travel, vacation

Good night from Naxos

The remains of the temple of Apollo

The trip early in the morning to this island wasn’t easy. We woke up very early, quietly gathered our things and then walked to the train station. We were so efficient that we arrived earlier than anticipated and got on a train that was even before I had hoped, which gave us plenty of time to find and catch our fast ferry to Naxos.

The ferry ride was rough. There were moments when the waves came up the sides of the boat in a demonstration of why the windows did not open at all. I had opted for the fast ferry, thinking that quicker was better when it came to body discomfort, but I’m no longer quite as certain about that as I might have been previously. Luckily, I had taken one of those motion sickness pills the MD gave me and I made it through relatively unscathed. Not everyone on board seemed to have the same prescription of anti nausea medicine as I did, though, and there was some suffering to be seen, unfortunately. The sea sickness bags were readily available, distributed with kindness and disposed of without judgment.

The wind when we landed was fierce. There were moments when I did not think I could possibly beat the wind in the fight for access to the hill just outside of town where I had booked our accommodations. Somehow, with the ocean spray christening us in welcome, we made it to our studio to find that, again, we had selected another great location. Our home for the next few days was perfectly situated and comfortable – and complete with a rooftop deck.

While my son slept off his ride here, I wandered through the old city and its labyrinth of narrow, pedestrian-only streets. There was no getting lost because I had no specific destination in mind and the sounds of the sea kept me oriented.

After a couple of hours, and one of the best salads I’ve ever had, I went back to collect Griffin. Together we returned to the port area before, seeking shade, we headed back into the maze of ancient streets dotted with cafes and shops. We stopped for coffee and played some backgammon, in no rush to do anything with the only goal for the day being to catch the sunset from the roof. Goal met, it was time for dinner. I think I’m going to like it here.

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Filed under beauty, Coffee, Europe, Greece, Observations, Summer, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Time is short

I’ve been so busy doing things and going places that I haven’t had a moment to chronicle any of it. It’s kind of getting me frustrated, but that’s how I typically react to not having what I want – in this case more time. I’ve made some notes and I swear I’m going to carve out some time over Thanksgiving break (See what I did there? Carve??) to share things that I’ve seen (an 80s band, some television and a couple of movies), a couple of books that I’ve recently read, some delicious things I’ve enjoyed eating and drinking, a week focused on health maintenance, and a couple of Albany experiences that I was lucky enough to take in. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Albany, art, birthdays, Books, breakfast, Coffee, concerts, Cooking, Dinner, Eating, Events, family, favorites, Food, house, Local, medical, Movies, Music, Observations, Recommendations, Restaurants, road trips

A Sunday kind of love

51db022f-5aa6-411a-99e4-2d4422b43c29-10106-000006b3f20da653_tmpIt’s 7:55 in the morning. Sunday. Since getting out of bed, I’ve taken Jeter out, sorted laundry and started a load in the wash, made cupcakes (from a box), waffles (from scratch) and changed the sheets. Is this normal? I mean, on my day “off?”

As the cupcakes cool and the laundry spins, I read the paper(s) and have a second cup of coffee. This is my time to breathe.

The rest of my day involves more laundry, frosting those cupcakes, some house cleaning, organizing myself (and everyone who depends upon me) for a quick trip to the city, driving three 12 year-olds to a climbing gym for a little belated birthday celebration and a longish run. And, as I look out the window and see the cloudless blue sky, all I can do is wish that there were more hours in the day to live.

Happy. Sunday.

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Filed under Boys, breakfast, Coffee, DelSo, family, house, musings, Random, sunday

The (not so) Great Pumpkin

image: janoskis.com/

Now that it is October, I’m ready to address the apparent plot for pumpkin flavor to dominate American palates from August through December.  I mean, seriously, to how many products will fake pumpkin flavor be added?  Click here to see a fairly comprehensive list of products available currently.  Prepare to be impressed – or repulsed.

How do you feel about this?  Are you a pumpkin aficionado?  Is your autumnal existence incomplete without the infusion of the great orange gourd?  Or maybe, like me, you enjoy a taste of something seasonal but don’t really understand the need for “whipped peanut and pumpkin pie spice flavored spread” or “pumpkin spice fettucine?”  How did this happen?

According to an article I read, it seems we have Starbucks to thank for the current obsession with pumpkin everything.  Their pumpkin spiced latte hit the market about 10 years ago and there’s been no stopping the demand for more room in the garden for pumpkins.  Prior to 15 years ago the state of Virginia had no pumpkin farms.  Today, more than 4,000 acres are devoted to pumpkin patches.  Geez, that’s a lot of ground for poor Linus Van Pelt to cover!

image: pbs.org

For the record, I enjoy an occasional pumpkin spiced latte on a crisp fall day.  I love to add a half a cup or so of canned pumpkin, along with nutmeg and cinnamon, to my waffle batter this time of year.  Pumpkin pie?  Yes, please!  I am absolutely down with that.  Recently, though, when a guest at the Wine Bar (who was visiting from Hong Kong) questioned me about the pumpkin flavored beer we were offering on draft, I really didn’t know what to say.  “Um, uh, during ‘autumn’ we Americans like to flavor as many edibles as possible with the flavor of pumpkin?”  Yeah, that.  Sigh.  Good grief.

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Filed under beer, Coffee, Food, Observations

Done with Mother’s Day

Yet another benefit of drinking - flower boxes!

Yet another benefit of drinking – flower boxes!

Screw Hallmark – as far as I’m concerned, May 5th was my ideal Mother’s Day. No matter what happens next Sunday, I will cherish the day I had, from the scandalously late start to the fortified-with-an-afternoon-nap late ending – perfect! Let me be a little more specific…

Saturday night, I shot a SEEN gallery down at Prime 677.  The occasion was a fundraiser for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America and it was a lovely event.  The food was spectacular and the folks at Empire Wines rallied the troops to put on an extraordinary wine tasting.  It’s been noted by some astute Times Union readers that whenever an event involves wine, I’m usually there.  Guilty as charged.

I got home from the party working at about 10:30 only to find my little guy desperately upset that he had been denied a ‘s’more from the neighbor’s party, a situation I was able to correct with a soothing shower and some ice cream.  Tucking him in at such a late hour gave me the first gift of Sunday – he slept until 10:00, which gave me an incredibly quiet morning.  Soft music, strong coffee and the paper comprise my personal morning bliss trifecta.  So far, so good.

After the boys departed at noon for their Dad’s, I got busy in the front yard with mulch and some annuals.  The sun was glorious, birds were chirping and the simple joy of getting a little dirty made my heart sing.  I had a mid afternoon visit from the person I most love spending time with and the day moved along at a pace that was completely enjoyable.  I accomplished some other chores, including eating a fantastic lunch salad, and punctuated the afternoon with an indulgent nap on clean sheets. But, wait – there’s more.

Caesar salad with shaved Romano and grilled asparagus

Caesar salad with shaved Romano and grilled asparagus

As the day cooled down a bit, I tied on my running shoes and hit the streets for a 5-mile lap through the neighborhood.  I had intended to go a bit further, but contented myself with not pushing myself too hard and tried to just enjoy myself.  Done.  A shower, a quick visit with the neighbors for a glass of wine and then home again for finale of the only reality show I would ever want to be on, The Amazing Race, and I was in bed by 10:15, thoroughly relaxed and satisfied with my day.

There weren’t any tulips or handmade crafts, but nonetheless it was a lovely day with a wonderful mix of boys, friends, productivity, relaxation and good food and wine.  Mother’s Day 2013 is a done deal, as far as I am concerned.  Any additional gifts are truly unnecessary, although I do have a fondness for the imperfectly made card along with a hankering for a French lilac bush.  Just saying.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Boys, Coffee, DelSo, Eating, Events, family, favorites, Flowers, friends, Gardens, ideas, Local, love, running, SEEN, Spring, sunday, Wine

12 Days of Christmas ~ Dining DelSo

DSC_0020On the fourth day of Christmas I checked out a spot in the neighborhood where I find it easy to enjoy visions of sugarplums any time of the year – Emack & Bolio.  Yes, that’s right, it’s not just ice cream here, friends.  There’s a full assortment of luscious candies and chocolates,  smoothies and espresso and coffee drinks.  But, it’s not just about good stuff to eat – there’s live music, comfortable seating both indoors and out, and a captivating selection of toys and fun gift items.  Hello, stocking stuffers, anyone?  If you’re looking for a last minute gift certificate, or a destination to enjoy an indulgent treat during a hectic holiday week, this is your happy place.

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Coffee, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Eating, Recommendations