April 14, 2007

Greece, day 8: Three-part mission in Athens

We're into our final full day in Athens. And while the travel will center around seeing the birthplace of democracy, my mind is also occupied with a three additional food-related objectives: getting more loukoumades, seeing a genuine Athenian street market, and trying the much-hyped, supposedly uber-hip Mamacas taverna in Gazi.

Part One took us to Krinos in central Athens, thanks to a nicely written tip from this European travel blog. Looking like a Greek version of Cafe du Monde, Krinos is a large, self-service cafe where local workers stop for their afternoon snack and a caffeine hit. Scores of pastries and pies, both sweet and savory, filled the display cases. The famed loukoumades are made in a plain back room, where the deep fryer is located. At first, we were worried because a depressing looking batch of pre-made loukoumades were sitting under a heat lamp. PRE-MADE? That goes against everything that is good and righteous about this delectable treat!

Luckily, after a brief conversation with one of the employees and a request for freshly fried loukoumades, our hopes were restored. It seemed like folks often ask for a fresh batch, because the batter and fryer were ready to go. Fresh loukoumades coming up in 2 minutes!
This loukoumades-maker employed a completely different technique, dipping his hand into the vat of batter and, in one expert sweeping motion, dropping the dough into the fryer after making a hole in the center with his thumb.
After frying, a second person douses the loukoumades with sweet honey syrup with a single pass of a huge dowel. Impressive.
A little light on the cinnamon, these loukoumades were fantastic nonetheless. Of a totally different style, the Krinos version is much less dense than the version from Loukoumadopolis, without the interesting elasticity in the dough. Instead, the exteriers were much crispier, and the interiors a warm, pillowy and creamy. We engaged in a light debate about which type was better... but either way, you can't really go wrong.

Part 2: We next found ourselves at the Central Market in Omonia Square, where we gawked at the array of butchers and their fresh variety of cuts. The absolute lack of subtlety in the meat displays was so refreshingly real and tangible... nothing like the disassociating sterility of styrofoam and plastic wrap of the typical American supermarket. Here, you knew exactly what you were getting.
To remind us that we also eat fruits and vegetables after the extensive displays of carnage, we enjoyed the fantastic looking produce surrounding us.

Part 3 took us to Mamacas in the trendy, developing Gazi area of Athens. It was a nice night, so we dined outside under the lights, soaking up the pre-club scene. The great thing about Mamacas is that despite its South Beach chic environs, the staff was friendly and the food was actually very good. Our meal spanned a range of different simple, delicious mezze spreads, an outstanding roasted lamb (among the best of the trip), and a fantasticly crisp, almost tropical 2005 Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia, Thessaloniki.
What an awesome evening. My favorite part about today was the way we covered both the quintessentially tourist activities while also getting a bit of a glimpse into perhaps a bit of the lifestyle of the modern young Athenian crowd. I can't believe it's almost over!

1 comment:

  1. Hello!
    Very good posting.
    Thank you - Have a good day!!!