Tours in Greece

 

The GREEK MENU

Moussaka is probably the best- known Greek dish. Aubergines, minced meat cooked in herbs and spices covered in béchamel. Best served with a crisp salad and crusty bread – not to be missed!
Cheese (tiri):< Most Greek cheeses are made from sheep’s milk or goat’s milk. Among them are Agrafa (a sheep’s milk cheese reminiscent of Gruyere), manure, (a highly spiced sheep’s or goat’s milk cheese), misythra (a milk curd cheese) and anari (a goat’s milk cheese).
Yogurt yaourti, made from sheep's or goat’s milk is also commonly found. Miscellaneous : Bread– psomi, butter– voutiro, salt – alati pepper – piperi sugar – Zachary milk – gala…
Soups (soupes): Greek soups are usually very substantial , and are often made with eggs and lemon juice. Fasolada is a popular thick bean soup. Others include pepper soup, with the addition of vegetables and meat and bouillon. Kakavia is a fish soup, made of various kinds of fish and seafood with onions, garlic and olive oil. There are also other excellent fish soups
psarosoupes).

For the fish lovers, there are plenty of taverns along the eastern or western coast of Attica. Modern Athenians love fish, just like ancient Athenians did. Which ever direction you choose getting out of the city you will eventually reach the sea. There is a ritual Greeks follow whenever they go to a fish tavern. The most knowledgeable person at the table, goes to the restaurant kitchen to choose the fish. The restaurant owner, or the head-waiter, opens one fridge drawer after another, digs into crushed ice, takes out smaller or larger fish and shows them to the costumer." The best fish is the freshest one" every fisherman will tell you, and by "fresh fish" they mean that which has been out of the water for no more than a day or two. Maybe this, more than anything else, makes for the incredible taste of even the most humble, inexpensive fish of the Aegean. The chosen fish is weighed in front of the customer before it is scaled and gutted. The cooking is simple: the fish is grilled over the charcoal fire, fried in olive oil or made into Kakavia, the simple fish soup of the islands.

Fish psari and seafood is also abundant on the menus: Kalamaria (squid), octopus, prawns, cattle fish, mussel, lobster. The commonest species of fish served include: sea bream (sinagrida, tsipoura, lithrini, plaice glossa cod bakaliaros, red mullet barbouni and tuna (tonos).

Some choose to go to a hasapotaverna (a butcher's tavern) to eat charcoal grilled meat, mainly tiny succulent lamb or kid.  In a hasapotaverna the meat is sold to the customers by weight, and while it is being grilled, the hungry Athenians devour all sorts of meze and salads in those vast restaurants that are usually packed during the weekends. 

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Meat (kreas): The favorite kind of meat is lamb (arne ) usually roasted or grilled Souvlakia and doner kebab (meat grilled on the spit) are also popular. Kokkoretsi(lamb entrails roasted on the spit) are a popular dish in country areas and tavernas Pork and beef is also served.

TIME TO EAT

Enjoying meals together is an important part of Greek life. They would do so every day if it were possible, but every day commitments, particularly in the big cities, mean that there obviously has to be a compromise. On special occasions, however, there is no getting away from it : in the whole  family, if not the entire village, sits down  around the table. This is true of private celebrations, such as weddings, baptisms or funerals and is likewise the case on "official" religious holidays. The communal meal takes on special meaning, however, when it has been preceded by a long period of fasting and privation, as in the run-up to Easter. Not only is the occasion of having a meal together cause for celebration, but also the very fact of being able to eat normally again is reason to celebrate in itself. The tables groan under the weight of food and the talking and eating go on for hours.

The reason I have included this page is because the most important part of the day is to find the right tavern for a leisurely lunch in Athens or in the country. With all there is to do in Athens it is inevitable that sooner or later you'll have a huge appetite. It's easy to eat a poor meal in Athens - certain places in the Plaka spring to mind - but it is just as easy to make every meal a memorable one. Some places are low on sophistication, but great on atmosphere, price and hearty traditional food. There are hundreds of reliable medium - priced places too, and an ever increasing number of new restaurants with chefs attempting to blend traditional Greek cooking with the latest world trends.

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MORE THAN JUST TAVERNS

Hardly any other country has developed as many different types of Restaurants as Greece. Some serve nothing but fish dishes, others only  have meat on the menu. Some specialize in one single dish. The same applies to drinks.

There are as many choices of cuisine as there are restaurants, and finding one that suits your palate will be a pleasant experience. From the cosy Greek "tavern" to the numerous ethnic restaurants you can be sure that every last taste bud will be smiling. And, of course, we'll show you where to get a generous taste of the best Greek wines! Many historic sources such as old texts and depictions on ancient ceramics seem to prove it: Wine has been a basic ingredient of the Athenian way of life for a very long time. The region of Attica is actually one of the oldest wine-growing regions of the world. Vintners have been providing the Athenians for thousands of years with their elixir.

While visiting Greece, you should definitely take advantage of tasting the Mediterranean cuisine! The Mediterranean diet is highly recommended worldwide not only for its amazing tastes but also for its health benefits! It is a fact, that this dietary model will prevent you from several chronic diseases and also increase your average age of living! All you have to do is to discover these magical tastes. Try the extra-virgin olive oil, the olives, the green vegetables -raw in a salad or stuffed as a main dish- the fresh fish and seafood, the lamb, the wine, the different cheeses, especially the feta cheese, the home made bread, the honey and all the local desserts that vary from place to place.

You should certainly have lunch or dinner in a typical tavern serving traditional Greek fare. All around Attica, you will find eateries called "ouzeri". They serve a variety of appetizers called "mezedes". Different small dishes with delicious treats of the Greek cuisine. Try them all and be sure to accompany them with a small bottle of the liquor ouzo. Fresh fish and seafood can be found in one of the numerous fish restaurants in Piraeus popular choice is also the seafood restaurants located in the picturesque fishing harbor of Mikrolimano and the coastal suburbs of Attica, such as Faliro Kavouri, Vouliagmeni, and Sounio.

A variety of tempting gourmet restaurants or ethnic restaurants featuring cuisine's from all continents is also available, for more sophisticated outings. The most popular dining destination for visitors is Plaka, featuring many taverns and restaurants. Elegant restaurants can be found in Kolonaki or Psirri region in the center of Athens, as well as in the suburbs of Kifissia, Glyfada and Vouliagmeni.  People not worrying about a high cholesterol level should head to a hasapotaverna <(a butcher's tavern) The best-known areas where the meat-lovers gather each Sunday are Fili, on the foothills of mount Parnis or Vlachika in Vari on the sea side road that leads to Varkiza where you will find dozens of taverns -one after the other! - specialized in tasty meat dishes. Try out the lamb and the yogurt made of sheep milk.

When to eat !

Greeks tend to eat late, and they seldom eat light. Restaurants are usually open from about noon onwards for lunch and from seven o'clock for supper, but that is usually to catch the tourist trade -owners know the Athenians will not be out in force for some time. Many of the day's specials are prepared in the morning or at lunchtime and a dish such as moussaka may be served lukewarm rather than piping hot - but that is the Greek way. Typical for this hedonistic city are late dinners at 9 p.m. and nightclubs that fill around midnight. Several factors make dining and partying so pleasurable in Athens. First of all, is the extremely contagious joy of Athenians themselves as they savor their food, dance on any occasion, sing or chat endlessly. Secondly, the perfect scenery. It could be a traditional tavern located in a vine-covered backyard in Plaka, a seaside fish restaurant in a small picturesque harbor, or a restaurant on a hilltop, offering a panoramic view of the "never sleeping" city of Athens. The possibilities are endless. Finally, the pleasant weather allows for dining and partying outdoors, most of the year. What better way to end the day than dining under the stars either beneath the Acropolis or on the Attica seashore? We said it before and we will say it again: The possibilities in Athens are endless and will certainly satisfy all your wishes! All that is left for you to do is to "steal" a few days and come for a visit!

ANCIENT TASTES Even without tomatoes, potatoes, corn, peppers, lemons mandarins and oranges the Ancient Greeks had a very rich kitchen. Today in Crete they keep up with the Minoan traditions such as snails and wild goat in honey. Tradition says that the Greeks are more fish such as mackerel, sardine, whitebait and eel than meat. Athenians rich and poor, had a weakness for shellfish. In great demand was fish paste from Ellisponto and Efxino Ponto and lake Kopais. The people got used to eating sardines from Faliro and barley bread so every time prices increased the poor got worried. Vegetables, pulses and cereal were widely eaten by fans of Pythagoras and Platon amongst others, who were non flesh eaters.

Appearing on the table were cucumber, artichokes, courgettes, broad beans, onions, cabbage mushrooms beetroot, leeks, carrot, celery, beans, lentils, nettles and wheat and barley bread. An every day diet included different kinds of meat such as hare, wild pig, rabbit venison, wild goat, birds and even domestic animals. They were baked, roasted, cooked on the spit and boiled with a variety of spices. Small birds were stuffed with spices as is still done to this day in Mani. Cheese and milk was always on the table but in cities it was a rarity. Wine was a necessity as was honey as sugar was then unknown.
Tradition says lamb on the spit began in ancient Greece where it was cooked at big celebrations. The word '' ovelias'' comes from the ancient word '' ovelos'' meaning spit.

Ancient Greek religious festivals, in honor of Hermes, sacrificed a ram. Homer describes in the Iliad in detail how Achilles with the help of a friend skewered the animal. Another tradition is that of festive bread. For each celebration a bread is  baked using special ingredients and way of baking.

The diet of the Mycenaean's (1600-1075 BC)

The exhibition about  of the Mycenaeans includes organic remains, which were found at the excavations, cooking pots and vessels as well as tools which were used in their dietary habits. The organic remains are animal bones, sea-shells, cereals, figs, almonds and crystals of wine. Analysis for the exhibition of " Minoans and Mycenaeans flavors of their time" has traced in vases and mainly in cooking pots olive oil, wine meat , lentils, honey and other materials.

The diet at Mycenae was the so-called today" Mediterranean Diet" with a great consumption of cereals and pulses. Oil and wine were widely used and known because supply with calories and energy the hard working people of the time. These products are exhibited in antiquities to the Levant inside stirrup jars. A lot of vegetables and fruit are consumed fresh or dry. The animals give their wool, milk and dairy products, while they are alive and their meat, when they are slaughtered. They were sheep. goats, wild hunt and poultry. The meat is eaten scarcely, only during rituals or festivals. Fish and marine foods are widely eaten. The cooking pots which were burned found from the use, were placed directly on the fire, or on bases, or they are tripod vessels. They are found everywhere, in the houses, the sanctuaries, the workshops, even in the chamber tombs.

The food is served in open vessels and the liquids, wine and other, in kylikes, cups of different shapes which copy metallic vessels. Many herbs are mentioned in Linear B tablets that used to give flavor to the food. Among the ones that have been interpreted are crocus, celery, cardamom, mint and fennel.

Enjoying meals together is an important part of Greek life. They would do so every day if it were possible, but every day commitments, particularly in the big cities, mean that there obviously has to be a compromise. On special occasions, however, there is no getting away from it : in the whole  family, if not the entire village, sits down  around the table. This is true of private celebrations, such as weddings, baptisms or funerals and is likewise the case on "official" religious holidays. The communal meal takes on special meaning, however, when it has been preceded by a long period of fasting and privation, as in the run-up to Easter. Not only is the occasion of having a meal together cause for celebration, but also the very fact of being able to eat normally again is reason to celebrate in itself. The tables groan under the weight of food and the talking and eating go on for hours.

Coffee  (Hellinikos kafes) comes in different strengths and degrees of sweetness. Nescafe (Frappe) with ice. Tea (tsai) of different kinds. Mountain tea (tsai tu vunou) an infusion herb found on mountainsides.

Greek coffee is not filtered so it is best ground to a fine powdery consistency so the particles settle at the bottom of the cup. It is made in a special attractive, long-handled small container with a narrow top, called briki in Greek.

COFFEE AND CONVERSATION. Since the real business of eating does not begin for the Greeks until midday ( about 3:00pm), it is only coffee that gets city dweller in particular through the first hours of the day. Vale briki, which means something like “get the coffee pot boiling” is one of the most important phrases to be heard during the course of a Greek day. Not only does it signal coffee-time, but can also be an outright invitation for a cozy chat over coffee .

Anyone who does not participate or observe the rules will find it difficult to make friends in the community. The hostess serves the coffee on a tray with some sweet confectionery and a glass of chilled water. There are rules governing coffee-drinking too: Unlike  espresso, mocha coffee is not downed in one go, but sipped deliberately slowly in order to leave the gritty sediment at the bottom of the cup.

There are numerous ways of preparing it and sometimes it does not turn out successfully. There are basically three different ways of preparing mocha coffee: sketos (bitter), metrios (medium-sweet), and glikos (sweet). To make one cup of mocha coffee, you need one teaspoonful of very finely ground coffee beans. Add sugar to taste, then a cup of water, and slowly bring it all to a boil in a special little longhandled pot.

Drinks (pota): The commonest drink is wine (krasi, inos), either white (aspro krasi) or red (kokkino  krasi). The usual table wines are resinated to improve their keeping qualities (retsina, krasi retsinato) and have a characteristic sharp taste, which needs some getting used to. The Greek liking for resinated wines dates back to ancient times, as is shown by the remains of resin found in the earliest amphora's. The resin is added to the wine during fermentation and gives it a very characteristic taste, which may not appeal to everyone at first. But resinated wines once the taste has been acquired are very palatable and stimulating to the appetite. There are also plenty of unresinated wines. Both dry and sweet wines are produced.

RETSINA. The Greeks and at first the Romans too, stored wine in earthenware vessels, as they did almost all foodstuffs. However the material was porous so when amphorae were intended to hold liquids they were sealed with pitch or the resin of the Aleppo pine Pinus halepensis.  It was probably by this roundabout route that residue from this resin first found its way into the wine, and the first resinated wine into the cup. This accident , if it was an accident, not only meant the wine would keep longer, but also gave it that unmistakable spicy taste, which has acquired greater importance as the number of enthusiasts has increased. So, for example, Pliny the Elder recommends in his Historic Naturalism that for preference the resin of pines mountainous regions should be mixed with the fermenting must, because it had a more pleasant taste.

When the Roman wine producers changed over to lighter, more easily transportable wooden barrels, which no longer needed to be sealed, resinating wine went out of fashion at least in the western part of the Roman Empire. By contrast, in the area of Byzantine influence the preference for resinated wines remained  undiminished.

Until about 1960, retsina was drunk only in Greece. It was not exported until modern tourism developed, when tourists wanted to enjoy the drink they had gotten to know on vacation ,at home as well, and almost overnight it was vying with ouzo for its position as the Greek national drink. The European Union eventually assigned “traditional description” category, meaning that commercial production of retsina is only permitted in Greece. Best retsina, which is nowadays stored in barrels of cypress wood, is mostly made from Attic Savvatiano, or more rarely from Rhoditis and occasionally from Assyrtiko grapes. The production method for retsina is as simple as possible: small pieces of the resin of Aleppo pine (Greek: retsini) are added to the must of the otherwise traditionally made wine up to a maximum if 2 pounds per 25 gallons (1 kilo per hectoliter), and left in the wine during the fermentation process until it is drawn from the barrel. This produces a drink that certainly goes well with dishes containing a lot of olive oil, small fried sardines, or food that is strongly garlic flavored, but which can still split wine lovers into two camps.  Beer (bira): The brewing of beer in Greece dates from the region of King Othon I a native of Bavaria. Thanks to the good water of Greece, the beers are excellent.
Spirits (pnevmatodi pota): The commonest type of spirit is ouzo. Ouzo is based on pure alcohol from various sources. It could, for instance, be a distillation of molasses produced during sugar manufacture. The alcohol is diluted with water, then the herbs are added. As well as the obligatory anise, these can also include fennel seeds, star aniseed, coriander, cardamom and others. This mixture is left to stand, so the herbs can release their flavors into the mixture of water and alcohol. Raki is similar but stronger. Greek brandy (konyak) has a fruitier aroma than the French variety but less character.

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