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 Mediterranean Cruise 2008 - 10/01 - Athens

Cruise Pictures

10/01 - Athens
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After losing time getting lost at the Acropolis, I decided to branch out and do some less touristy stuff in Athens while my sister went to explore the Acropolis on her own. My number one goal was to find Ktistakis a shop that specializes in Loukomades (Lokomathes?, a fried dough with walnuts and honey) and has a history dating back to 1912. All I knew was that it was near Omonia Square on Socratos street so I took the Metro there and started walking.

I walked a few blocks and didn't really see anything that would be a small bakery or shop so I walked around the block looking. Instead I happened upon a street vendor selling koulouri, a circular bread covered with sesame seeds. These are similar to pretzels but without the chewy shiny exterior. Mine was crusty on the outside but kind of dry on the inside. The taste of sesame was very pronounced and I think it would go very well with a drizzle of honey or even some mustard but the people I saw buying them didn't seem to require any such thing. I'm not a big sesame fan so next time I would probably pass on these but if you like sesame they would probably be pretty good.

As I munched on my koulouri, I returned to Socratos street and walked further down only to discover myself at the Athens Central Market, one of my key destinations. I happened upon a small corner shop and decided to moisten my parched mouth after the koulouri. I ordered a Frappe which is a whipped coffee drink. I didn't see exactly how they made it but I believe they mixed milk and espresso with a high speed shake machine to produce a nice airy, frothy head. Even after I finished drinking it there was a good inch of foam left in the cup. I would have liked to finish it but I had to continue exploring the market.

First I walked through the meat section where butchers displayed the finest cuts whether they be steaks or chickens or primal cuts or organs. Whole skinned animals dangled in clean glass and stainless steel display carts. All around me men were hacking away with long cleavers to chop up steaks according to their customers' orders. It seemed that just about everything was for sale whether it be heads or intestines or stomachs or brains or knuckles.

Peering between two carts I saw a small passage way leading to the sea food section so I darted through the narrow opening into a completely different world where stacks of styrofoam containers and piles of ice showcased the day's freshest sea fare. I saw fish, octopus, squid and even a basket of live snails that were crawling upon the very sign that pronounced the price of their lives.

I moved on to the rest of the market that was filled with small shops and vendors with various fruits, vegetables and other supplies. I saw a haloumi and sausage store and several egg shops that had stacks of eggs of various sizes and colors priced anywhere from 6 to 15 cents per egg. The produce also looked amazing, whether it be peaches or plums or apples or tomatoes. Several items were cut open so you could see their quality inside and out. The tomoatoes were so red, you knew they were vine ripened. I wanted to just buy one and eat it straight but I did not. I was lured by some delicious looking black (purple) figs which were so ripe they were bursting at a mere 2 euros per kilo.

One stand I saw had several piles of plants of herbs and by luck I happened to notice one bag labeled Tau-Sigma-Alpha-Iota, which spells TSAI. I thought it might be tea but wasn't sure until a tour guide later confirmed it, pronouncing it like chai.

The last stand I stopped by had a case full of small gelatin cubes marked 3.1 euros per kilo. It made me think of Turkish Delight but being in Greece I wasn't sure. The owner did not speak English so I pointed at a pink tray and a white tray and held up one euro after which he proceeded to pick up pieces and fill a small bag. The pink one turned out to have a very strong rose flavor, confirming that it was Turkish Delight. I liked it and so did my dad but my sister did not like the strong rose flavor. The white ones were coconut flavor but alas, I left the bag somewhere and never got to try it.

Having completed the market, I resumed my search for the loukomades. I returned to Socratos street and walked up and down again, even turning down some of the small alleys and shopping strips. With time running a little short, I stopped at a cafe and asked. I had to say the word a few times before the woman understood and told me to go up Socratos street. So I went and explored Socratos again, pushing farther north a couple blocks as well but still had no luck.

Next I stopped at a woman's fruit cart next to Omonia square. She was busy counting money from another customer and initially seemed a little annoyed that I didn't speak Greek. She didn't look up from her money and had a bit of a frown until she realized what I was asking for at which point she looked up with a smile and a glint in her eye. She pointed ambiguously down Socratos street north of the square so I returned to search again but to no avail.

Finally, I asked a security guard who said there was a bakery in the square that sold them. This didn't seem to match what anyone else had said but I followed his directions and ended up at a chain bakery. I asked a woman there if they had loukomades and she said yes so I ordered two. She gave me were two sugar coated doughnuts that had no walnuts or nuts of any kind. Perhaps these were some simplified version of loukomades or perhaps they were something completely different. Either way, they were not what I had hoped for and since it was time to return to my hotel, I reluctantly declared my quest a failure.

After checking out of the hotel my sister and I stopped at Starbucks. I ordered a Greek coffee and the barista told me that Starbucks' Greek coffee is no good because they use they wrong equipment and that I should go elsewhere. Since we really just wanted internet access I ordered a double iced espresso instead where I wrote the first three days of posts.

We returned to the hotel and with all of our baggage the hotel recommended that we take a taxi instead of the metro since it would only cost about 12 euros. We agreed and paid 15 after tip and arrived at our cruise ship with plenty of time to spare. In fact, it turns out there was a problem with the fuel ship which arrived three hours late so our departure was pushed from 6pm to 9pm.

For dinner we met up with our parents for the 2-for-1 early bird special at Tex Mex at Paniolo Salsa on the ship (more on how dinner works on the ship on a less eventful day). Take a look at the pictures for names, descriptions and thoughts on the dishes we ordered.

Afterwards we relaxed and got settled into our rooms, watched a movie and then slept early to prepare for our first day on the cruise.

10/01 pictures are here.
Posted 10/08/2008 02:27 PM in Food, Greece, Pictures, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel | Total Comments: (1)
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Submitted by CvWXAFTw on 10/11/2012 11:58 PM

Finally, a taste of street food. Based on my remedial Greek, I believe this is a called a koulouri. It is a ring of bread coated in sesame seeds and baked giving it a nice sesame flavor. It tastes primarily of sesame with a very mild (bland) bread flavor. It definitely needs a drink along side it. I think it might be nice with a drizzle of honey but I saw several people pick these up and continue on their way without anything else.

Looking for something to drink to go along with the koulouri, I picked up a frappe, which is a whipped coffee drink.   A really tasty looking spit of pork gyros dripping with juices.   That's when I found myself in the Athens Central Market. I knew it was close, but not that close! This is the meat area.

They had whole animals up for sale. On the right side here you can see rabbits complete with bushy tails. If you look carefully you can see a tag with a picture of a rabbit on it and you can also see a plastic toy rabbit hanging on the hook of one of them.   I'm not sure what these were, if you know Greek take a look at the tag and let me know. Otherwise I assume it's goat or lamb.   Mmmm... offal. Here you can see intestines, liver, tongues, heart and kidneys.   Here are some pigs feet and tripe/stomach.

Nestled in the center of the meat market is the seafood area where I saw tons of fish including octopus, squid and snails.   Outside the meat area is another street full of other shops, including this haloumi store

Tons and tons of olives of course!   And amazing looking fruit!

I saw a few shops that just sell eggs (no, they do not need to be refrigerated)   This label says TSAI, which is Greek for tea.   Loukomi, which is the Greek version of Turkish Delight. It's kind of a flavored jelly-like dessert coated in powdered sugar. The pink one is traditional rose flavored (and it was very rosy indeed) and the white were coconut.

I spent a good hour searching for Ktistakis, a shop dating back from 1912 that specializes in loukomades, a sweet treat with walnuts and honey but despite knowing what street it was on and getting hints from two shop owners, I could not find it and ended up at this bakery where they gave me this sugar sprinkled donut thing when I asked if they had loukomades. Maybe I've been pronouncing it wrong...   Some coconut sticks that my sister picked up. Rolled in more coconut, they were pretty tasty and not overly sweet.   My parents getting ready to board our ship.

My sister on the balcony of our cruise ship in the port of Pireaus   Our stateroom.   With the family for our first dinner on the ship at Paniolo Salsa for Tex Mex   The chips tasted like Tostitos as did the tomato salsa, but the mango salsa was quite tasty as was the crab dip.

Ensalada Tostada - Tortilla, Romaine, Iceberg, Roasted Corn, Avocado, Marinated Tomatoes, Black Beans, Cheddar, Eggs and grilled Fajita Beef. The meat and baked tortilla were tasty but the extremely simple olive oil and vinegar dressing didn't support the salad and it ended up a little bland. I think a tangy pico de gallo salsa with a touch of sour cream would have been nice.   Warm Citrus-chili Crusted Tuna with Creamy Gazpacho - The chili crust was too salty but otherwise the tuna was pretty nice. I didn't taste the gazpacho but my sister liked it.   Nachos Grande with Tortilla Chips, Refried Beans, Shredded Beef, Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Chile con Queso, Cilantro and Jalapenos. This looked simple but the surprise was that the beans and beef were at the bottom. The cheese could have been a little sharper, but otherwise the nachos were good once I discovered the meat..   Il Popo, Grilled Chicken, Grilled Skirt Steak, Peppers, Onions, Tomatoes, Pineapple, Jalapeno, Mexican Rice, Refried Beans, Guacamole, Pico de Gallo and Sour Cream for two. The beef was tender and highly spiced making it absolutely delicious. The chicken, vegetables and rice were all good as well. The only thing we thought was mising was tortillas to wrap it up together.

Warm Lobster Tacos with Pico de Gallo and Jicama Salad. The taco shells weren't that crispy but the creamy lobster filling was subtley flavored with decently sized chunks of lobster.   Casuela de Pina con Mango Coupe - Pineapple and Mango Compote, Cornbread Crumble, Vanilla Ice Cream. This was basically a sunday with a nice cruble on top and two caramel sugar sticks. The Pineapple and Mango Compote was sweet and fruity and went perfecly with the ice cream, except I think it should have been on top instead of the bottom.   Caramelized Margarita Tartlet - Confit of Citrus Zest, Vanilla Honey, Roasted Pineapples. The best part was the piece of brittle on top. The custard did not have enough citrus zest or juice and was a a little too stiff (a common occurence on the boat, I assume they use extra gelatin to make custards and creams more stable on the ship) The crust was decent, though it could have been a little flakier and sweeter. Overall it was only so-so.   Torta de Chocolate Mexicana - Rich Cinnamon chocolate Cake, Caramel Glaze. The caramel glaze has that same jelly-ish consistency and didn't taste that good, although my sister liked it. The chocolate cake was fairly chocolatey but nothing special. I'm not a die hard chocolate fan so it would be a pass for me.


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