EXPERIENCING ANTHENS – Food & Wine Excursion

by artfuldiner on February 10, 2022

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Special Events, Wining and Dining

Athens - Black Duck GardenOur second Athenian adventure, the day following our visit to the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum, was a Private Flavourful Tour, a walking food and wine excursion hosted by Epiculiar Tours. And it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip, as it totally ignored the usual culinary suspects; instead, leading us to lesser-known, 100% locally-owned stores and restaurants far removed from the usual tourist trail.

The man and woman who guided us were both locals and were particularly pleasant and knowledgeable…

Fillo - AthensOur first stop, just past 10:30 a.m., was Fillo – Food and Coffee, just around the corner from our hotel. This small shop in the heart of Athens is famous for offering patrons traditional savory pies (both usual and unusual) from small villages all over Greece (zucchini pie, cheese pie, spinach pie, organic greens pie with herbs, organic mushroom pie with feta cheese, etc.).

Our guides ordered a variety of slices for us to sample… And all were very good, but the Ham & Cheese Pie from the city of Loannina and the Spinach Pie from Larissa were especially delicious. The fillings were more than generous & superbly seasoned and the crusts marvelously flaky. Athenians really know how to start their day off right!

Black Duck Garden, AthensWe could, of course, have enjoyed coffee here as well… But that was reserved for our next stop, the Black Duck Garden, a bistrot located within the confines of the Athens City Museum. Normally, the garden would have been closed in November, but because the weather in Athens had been much warmer than usual, it had remained open. And it was a relaxing venue to just sit and talk and get to know our hosts, and they us. For instance… since they had introduced themselves to us in the lobby of the hotel using only their first names, we had no idea that they also happened to be married – to each other!

The Black Duck has an interesting menu and an even more interesting list of libations, with such intriguing cocktails as Duckarita (Silver & Reposado Olmeca Tequila Blend, orange liqueur & lemon) and Lady Duck (White Porto Wine, elderflower liqueur, almond syrup, lemon & lime). Something to keep in mind should you be visiting Athens… But we came for the coffee…

Athens - Coffee at Black Duck GardenAnd Greek coffee is quite different from the American version, as it is boiled rather than brewed in a special pot called a briki. In addition, it is made with Arabica coffee beans, which are ground to a very fine powder, so it has more concentrated antioxidants per ounce than a cup of regular coffee. It also has more health benefits. Drinking more Greek coffee can supposedly protect your arteries, lower your risk of diabetes, and boost your overall health. So much for the medicinal aspects.

But Greek coffee is, in reality, Turkish coffee (however, tensions with Turkey in the 1960s led to the political euphemism “Greek coffee,” which became even more popular after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974). And an old proverb describes Turkish coffee as “Black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love.” I couldn’t agree more. Turkish/Greek coffee is incredibly bold & rich, and infinitely more powerful than espresso. So, if you’re an espresso lover – as I am – trust me, one taste and you’ll be hooked. Think of it as espresso on steroids.

Athens - Outdoor CafeFrom here on, my recollections get a bit fuzzy, as we became engrossed in conversation with our hosts and made a number of stops along the way, including doing a bit of shopping (a shoulder bag for me). We walked by a barrel of live snails at an open-air market – which was of great interest to my traveling companion, a dedicated fan of escargots – and then settled in at a charming outdoor café for a brief libation and snack. I tried to keep track of precisely where we were in reference to our hotel, but eventually gave up the struggle. I believe this photo was taken in the Plaka section of the city, home to many romantic restaurants and cafés.

Athens - Charcuterie, Food & Wine TourOur final stop, a no-frills combo of market, deli, and café, was definitely a haven for locals. There were a couple of unadorned tables in the front near the entrance and a few more in the rear. Nothing fancy at all. The four of us were seated between shelves awash with liquor bottles and a huge deli case filled with an incredible assortment of meats and cheeses. And, as you will notice from the size of the charcuterie board, this place certainly wasn’t at all stingy about sharing the wealth. But it wasn’t just the quantity… One taste and you knew immediately the comestibles here were top of the line.

But this place was known for more than just the food. It also dabbled in homemade wines that were served in small pitchers rather bottles; and both the red and white we sampled were quite good. We were also served a potent liqueur that reminded me of the Greek version of grappa… In other words, a few sips were more than enough.

Athens - Ellen & Guide, Food & Wine TourBut it is amazing to me how just the sharing of vino can help to cement a friendship between people who began the day as total strangers. And this is also one of the distinct advantages of a personal tour – rather than just being herded together in a group – as you get to know your guides on a more intimate basis. Indeed, by the time the afternoon came to an end, we felt as though we had spent the day with old friends. (Pictured: My traveling companion on the right and our guide on the left, toasting to a wonderful day together.)

 Καλλή Όρεξη!

Be Safe & Stay Well


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