Posted by Kanga.
We took a food tour through Context Tours called “Beyond Feta.” Our guide was Nikitas, a Greek who is an architect by profession, but does these tours because he loves the city, food and history. Normally, the tours are done for up to 6 people, but we had Nik all to ourselves and it was a splendid day.
We followed him through several bakeries, getting sesame seed covered pretzels and dense brown breads. We stopped in at a shop that carries a variety of local wares – marmelades, wines, soaps, liquors, cheese, etc. We tasted a liquor made from Mastik, which is the sap from a bush that grows only on one Greek island. No one has succeeded in growing it anywhere else. It tasted like you would imagine alcohol from bush sap would taste, a little “pine-like.”
We also went to this spice and herbs shop. We learned that brewed oregano is good for digestive tract trouble (but tastes very nasty). Genuine tea is not very popular in Greece, but there are many herbal teas that are used and enjoyed.
On to the cheese shop where we got some smoked cheese and yogurt. We also walked through the meat market (again). The stalls are prized and passed down in families for generations.
Sausage and preserved meats are a relatively new addition to Greek cuisine. Many other things are “relatively” new also – tomatoes & potatoes (as New World discoveries), citrus fruits (new with the Crusades), preserved meats (new with the Turkish occupation). With an ancient civilization comes a long view definition of the word “new.”
My camera’s battery was out of action, so DaddyBird was in charge of taking pictures. We stopped at a basement “wine and food” restaurant which is owned and run by a lovely old man who inherited it from his father and grandfather. He makes his own wine. It is retsina wine which means that it has resin added solely because of the taste it provides.
This was supposed to be a “tasting” not a lunch, but we ate our fill. Greek salad, chickpea soup, bean soup, and fava bean paste. Very delicious. DaddyBird liked the fava beans so well, I suspect he will research how to make it in future.
We ended our tour with sweets. These aren’t called donuts, but they are the best I have ever had. They are not as sweet as American donuts even though they are served drizzled with honey. They are best eaten immediately and are crunchy on the outside. Very good. The other pastry is filo pastry with a creamy filling. Very good.
Our tour may have been over, but our day was not. We decided to walk down to the Temple of Zeus.
This church was built by the “smoke tax collector.” There was a period when if you had a cooking fire in your home, you were taxed for it. (One way to determine “wealth.”) The tax collector may have had something weighing on his conscience, so he funded this church. Later, it was slated to be destroyed, but those who wanted to protect it got the attention of the king and it was saved.
We did finally arrive at the Temple of Zeus, but like all tourist sites, it closed at 3 pm. So, we had to be content with looking in through the fence.
Nearby is Hadrian’s Arch.
It was a very busy, educational, and enjoyable day.
Tomorrow, we are on the road to Delphi!