Athens for Culinary Lovers
Athens for Culinary Lovers
More specifically, along with Cyprus, Croatia, Spain, Italy, Morocco, and Portugal, in 2013 the Mediterranean diet was inducted on UNESCO's official Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
In Athens, tremendous gastronomic selections are offered in abundance by modern and traditional restaurants that comprise a spectrum of tastes from the entire planet. It's well known that Greeks eat well, and not only Mediterranean cuisine famous for its benefits to long life and health. They also enjoy an extensive number of restaurants that represent different cultures that cater to all palates. Turkish, Asian, French, Italian, Armenian, German, and many others are scattered all around Athens from north to south.
Eating is one of the preferred pastimes of Athenians, and the city extends an ever-increasing assortment of establishments. Casual dining is still the rule in a city filled with different versions of tavernas serving up national and regional specialties, such as Cretan cuisine. Archetypal dishes are consumed in tavernas or mezedopolia, while the latest trend is for funky new establishments that combine the taverna atmosphere with 21st Century design. When they crave mama's cooking, Athenians head for an "inomagirio" for oven-cooked specialties know as "magirefta". These eateries serve inexpensive but hearty feasts that guests ordinarily choose from a kitchen-window display. They are the best introduction to real Greek food and its potential.
Moreover, boasting one of the longest coastlines in the world, Greece abundantly provides for those of us who are especially fond of seafood - prepared in dozens of different ways. These "fruits of the sea" are almost always accompanied by the classic carafe of ouzo or tsipouro.
Although it is a given that the well-known souvlaki is much loved by and far, Athenians are now taking a new look at their own identity, their resources, and their culinary traditions and heritage. This is where the culture of street food made its appearance in recent years. Now, annual festivals and other culinary competitions have made a name for themselves and invite all of us to experience a "Taste of Athens".
Even as flavors change with the seasons, Greek cuisines' strongest elements have always been olive oil and fresh fruits & vegetables. Thus providing several excellent options for vegetarians and vegans in Athens. Also, the best way to introduce oneself to the fascinating variety of local Greek delicacies is via the small delis found in the city center. They regularly provide vast amounts of topical goodies and organic food offered by farming associations and home industries (as do the weekly local open-air markets all over the Attica region).
Naturally, enthusiasts of haute cuisine can easily treat themselves to the ultimate fine dining in Athens. There is an increasing tendency to push the boundaries of traditional cooking to new levels using popular ingredients, such as vegetables and fish, and to experiment with classic Mediterranean dishes. Furthermore, Athens currently hosts 4 famously renowned "Michelin-starred" restaurants. These gourmet establishments are "Spondi" with 2 Michelin stars by Chef: Angelos Lantos; "Hytra" with 1 Michelin star by Chef: Tassos Mantis; "Botrini's" with 1 Michelin Star by Chef: Hector Botrini; and "Varoulko" with 1 Michelin Star by Chef: Lefteris Lazarou. By the sea or by the sky, and all are highly worth the visit.
Athenian foodies almost always make a point of rounding out their culinary experience with something sweet usually accompanied by coffee. Although international desserts are quite common in most restaurants, there is a wider choice of Greek delicacies with long histories to indulge in. The most popular "Galaktoboureko" is a delicious type of cream pie with syrup, best served warm. "Rizogalo" is a rice pudding with cinnamon sprinkled on top, and "Ipovrihio" is a spoonful of soft white "Mastiha" dipped in cold water (a summer favorite). Fruit-lovers must try the traditional "Glyko tou koutaliou" (def. "spoon sweets"). Sample rose, grape, fig, cherry, or quince with either yogurt or ice-cream for the full effect!
Follow the vine...
Greece is one of the worlds' oldest wine-producing provinces with the earliest evidence dating back to 6,500 years ago! Notably, with rapidly growing tourism during the 1960s, "retsina", a white wine with resin aroma, became almost synonymous with Greece. But there is much more to tempt the palate of a vino-admirer. Production is now a fast-growing business in the country utilizing native grape species. Many rare regional varieties are also well worth tasting. For many years now, top international classes have been cultivated with great care by domestic yielders, making Hellenic wine quite news-worthy. Consequently, famous sommeliers, wine writers, and traders have put Greece on the global "Wine Map".
• It is customary when eating in tavernas, mezedopolia, or inomagiria to buy dishes (mezedes) for everyone to share, rather than 1 dish per person - many times requiring to use your hands to tear up meat and/or bread for dipping.
• An 18% gratuity is included on some bills, but it is expected to leave something extra to round off the amount.
• It is customary for people to arrive 15-30 minutes late for a dinner party.
• When invited to visit someone's home, it is advisable to bring the host a gift such as a bottle of wine, confectionery, or flowers.
• As a dinner guest, you will probably be asked if you want a second helping. Despite popular belief, it's fine to just say "no thanks" - no one will be offended.