A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

Food, glorious, food….I’m always in search of local food and if you don’t know a city, one of the best ways to find the places to go is to join a food tour.

So when Jo from Frugal First Class Travel asked if I’d like to join her and Vanessa from Turnipseed Travel on a Culinary Backstreets food tour in Athens , I jumped at the opportunity.

 

A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

As we sat down to breakfast, I knew we were in for a treat. How could we not be when the first dish we tasted was this delicious Greek yoghurt with honey and fresh walnuts!

A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

I could have eaten this yoghurt all day but it was not the only dish our guide, Despina chose. Galaktoboureko, is a tasty slice similar to a custard slice. Encased in filo pastry, the slice can also be made with vanilla and orange.

A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

This was followed by a delicious pudding which baffled us when we first tasted it. Moustalevira is a traditional dish that is made from the must left over after the grapes have been pressed. It was more like a jelly …an addictive jelly topped with walnuts!

A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens       A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

 

Despina explained that this old fashioned dairy bar is one of the last of its type in the heart of Athens. Now being worked by the fourth generation, it has been here since 1931.

A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens        A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

 

This became a recurring theme on our walk. Most of the places we visited had been in business for a long time. Family traditions were important in Athens and most business we saw were now being run either by the sons, grandsons or great grandsons of the founder. They have stood the test of time, watched newer places come and go and now serve the younger generations of their original customers.

As with the dairy bar, our next stop Krinos had a similar history. Krinos is one of the oldest loukoumades shops in Athens. The owner’s grandfather opened a shop in Crete in 1912. When he died the sons moved to Athens and now the business is run by one of the grandsons.

 

Loukoumades at Krinos

Loukoumades are delicious deep fried small balls of dough….a greek doughnut! We tried two different ways of cooking them In Athens…one in a honey syrup and this one in a sugar syrup. Cooking in sugar syrup is the Cretan way of making them. They are light and delicious… and moreish! The serve is quite large so you only need to order one plate. Make sure they are freshly cooked for you.

A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

 

Feta Cheese

Everyone knows feta cheese but did you know that only the Greeks are officially allowed to use the name as it is DOC (Denomination of Controlled Origin) protected in the European Union.

At our next stop, another business that had been in the family since 1916, it was explained that feta is made either from pure sheep’s milk or a mix of up to 30% goats milk. If it is made within these boundaries it can be marketed as feta.
The northern mountainous regions are famous for their feta. The cheese matures in brine for at least 2 months before being sold. It is then sent to the city in beech barrels that can only be used four times. A barrel holds 65kgs of cheese which sells for 8.50E per kilo. This shop sells a barrel a day which is a lot of greek salads!

You can also buy butter here made from half goats milk and half sheep’s milk. I’m told this butter is great for desserts!

A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

 

Athens Central Market

We had now wandered into the streets surrounding the Athens Central Market which you can read about here.

A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

The fish and meat markets in the historic covered market are definitely worth seeing but if the blood, gore and guts of the meat market is not for you, head to the fish market, grab a stool at the small bar in the far corner and order a glass of tsiperou (an aperitif from northern Greece) and a plate of mezes.  Jo and Vanessa have stories about our time in the market which you can read on Frugal First Class Travel and Turnipseed Travel

A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

 

Greek Coffee

Coffee stop…..and a coffee cooked in sand!
I’m not a coffee drinker but those who were, said it was similar to turkish coffee. We watched how it’s made, fascinated by the process but I don’t think it’s something you can do at home.

A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

 

Pastourma

From here we walked past the vegetable market to a local pastourma shop. Pastourma is air dried meat similar to the pastirma from Turkey.  Just near the markets are two shops run by feuding Armenians. Both sell pastourma, cheeses and different mezzes. Originally they both had small shops but one shop then expanded and of course the other had to follow. Don’t you love the local gossip!!

A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

 

I have tried pastirma in Turkey but never camel pastourma. It was actually not bad…..very similar to the beef and not as strong as the lamb. We tried it with a couple of different Greek cheeses including metsovone, a delicious smokey cheese that is only made in one area of Greece.

A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

 

Greek Slouvaki

A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens
What is a Greek food tour without a slouvaki stop. I was waiting to see where Despina would take us. Had we not been following her, we would have walked right by the Kostas’s  Slouvaki Shop. It’s quite well known and the queues certainly indicated it was popular.  We were fortunate that Despina had rung ahead as our slouvakis arrived two minutes after we did. I can’t believe I found room to eat it but we all wolfed them down….delicious!

 

Seafood Lunch

I thought the slouvaki was lunch but no!
A few turns to the left , a few to the right and we were walking down a little arcade. After seven stops, Despina announced that it’s lunch time…a late lunch! We arrived well after the lunch time crowds have left but that was ok, the food was great.

Zucchini fritters and a traditional split pea dip preceded the cafes signature dish…..a plate of small tiny whole fish accompanied by a tasty plate of wild greens. We ate it alll!

A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

Gelato in Athens…Yes!

No food tour is complete without dessert but we weren’t expecting gelato. After all we had eaten it was the perfect finish to our culinary tour. The owners had gone to Italy to learn the secrets of making gelato and had returned only recently to open this shop. Being a citrus girl, it was my gelato of choice whilst others favoured pistachio and chocolate. So good were they that we managed to return a few days later and try some of the other flavours! A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

Unlike the other shops we had been to on the tour, this shop had only been open a short while but I wonder whether in its future it too will have a history to tell and be run by family descendants.

 

Greek cuisine is actually quite simple. It’s all about the best ingredients, the seasonal produce and family recipes. With Culinary Backstreets you will be introduced to this, the history and the anecdotes and taste some culinary delights that you might not have otherwise found.

 

 

I love a great food tour! Whilst we were given a media discount on the Culinary Backstreets Tour of Athens, it was not a factor in whether I enjoyed it or not.

 

Other tours you may enjoy:
A Foodies Tour in Istanbul
Walking New York’s Lower East Side
Made in Bensonhurst

 

 

 

 

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34 Responses to A Culinary Backstreets Food Tour in Athens

  1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 12, 2015 at 3:18 am #

    This sounds absolutely wonderful! I did a food tour in Marrakech earlier this year and my husband and I were just talking about how much we’d love to do one in Greece because we love Greek food so much. This all sounds wonderful – the custard slice, yoghurt with honey and walnuts and slouvaki stand out particularly! Was it nicely portioned out in terms of sizes?

    • Jenny Freedman February 13, 2015 at 9:42 pm #

      It’s definitely a great way to find the special places to go in a city. We loved this tour so I can highly recommend it. The serves were generous but huge. For example, four of us shared the Greek yoghurt,the slice and the must pudding.

  2. Rahman @ Destination Iran February 14, 2015 at 12:32 am #

    Those foodstuff are too alluring to close my eyes and surf away! I particularly like the first dish: Yogurt, walnut and honey. Could there be anything better for breakfast?

    • Jenny Freedman February 14, 2015 at 9:27 pm #

      I loved the yoghurt too Rahman…yes, a prefect breakfast! If I remember correctly Iran has some fabulous yoghurt too!

  3. SJ February 14, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

    A food tour is totally the best way to see the HEART of the place you are in, and hey if something sweet is on the menu that is a bonus! .

    • Jenny Freedman February 15, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

      I do love my food tours SJ and a tour that starts with sweet treats is even better isn’t it! You would have loved this tour!

  4. Muza-chan February 14, 2015 at 11:21 pm #

    Delicious….

    • Jenny Freedman February 15, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

      It definitely was Lili!

  5. [email protected] February 15, 2015 at 6:09 am #

    Hi Jenny, thanks for taking me along on your delicious food tour. There’s nothing like discovering very local places. I love Greek food and nice to see familiar and learn about unfamiliar ones here. Greek yoghurt with honey and walnuts made me missed my daily breakfast during my wedding&honeymoon in Greece. I’m a seafood love and wished I could try your seafood lunch; I’m intrigued with the fish with wild greens. And ahh the Greek coffee. I read it actually originated in Turkey. I actually do it at home with that copper coffee vessel I bought in Istanbul and is pretty easy. I adore your food shots.

    • Jenny Freedman February 15, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

      Everytime I have yoghurt for breakfast I crave the Greek Yoghurt…it’s just not the same here!. The coffee is the same as baklava…a constant tussle over whether it’s Turkish or Greek! All hou have to do Marisol, is add a bit of sand to the hot plate and you’ll have a coffee similar to this one!!

  6. budget jan February 15, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    I loved Souvlakis in Athens when we were there in our early 20’s. They were so much juicier (and tastier) than the ones I’d eaten and adored near Prahan Markets in Melbourne. I remember the juices running out of the paper wrap onto my toes. It didn’t deter me. Is that a potato chip I see in the souvlaki, if so it reminds me that they did the same thing in Turkey with their kebabs. It was so funny that you thought the souvlaki was lunch. I’ve just finished re-reading Vroom by the Sea, where an Aussie guy rides a Vespa around Sicily. He had dinner one night in an Agriturismo. He stuffed himself on the mixed plate he was given and was walking out when they ushered him back to his seat for his first course (pasta) and then his second course (a huge meat stew). He left before breakfast the next day. 🙂

    • Jenny Freedman February 15, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

      I was probably the same age as you Jan when I first had a slouvaki in Athens. It was a long time between slouvaki! Yes, it seems to be quite common to include chips doesn’t it. I read Vroom by the Sea too before I went to Sicily! A fun read…I know the feeling he had!! Have you read Midnight in Sicily yet?

      • jan February 17, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

        No I’ve not but I am looking for some to read. Do you recommend it?

  7. Grace | The Beauty of Everywhere February 16, 2015 at 6:15 am #

    Ah everything looks so delicious! I can’t get over how thick that Greek yoghurt is. And topped with walnuts and honey? Delicious. I would love to go on a culinary tour, I’m going to have to look into it!

    • Jenny Freedman February 16, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

      Everything was delicious Grace. We actually cut the yoghurt with a knife.. it was that thick! The honey was stunning too and the walnuts fresh so all in all it was an amazing taste! I can certainly recommend this tour Grace. Food tours are a great way to learn about the culture and taste some delicious cuisine that you might not have tasted otherwise. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Jackie Smith February 17, 2015 at 8:02 am #

    We love the mom-and-pop places in Greece; big cities and small. In the villages, the loukoumades are often served for dessert ‘on the house’ the thank you plate of goodies, served with a liquor or small glass of wine. In the village bakeries they also often add a couple of cookies to your order as a way of thanks. Oh yes, the thick Greek yogurt — especially with thyme flavored honey is one of our favorites! Nice tour you took us on~

    • Jenny Freedman February 19, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

      Thanks Jackie…it is a great tour! Yu’ve reminded me how we used to received loukoumades as a dessert. I was pleasantly surprised the first time as the plate was huge. The old places are the best. I’m sure you have some fabulous places near your new Greek home.

  9. Corinne February 17, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

    Jenny, All your photos are mouth-wateringly great! I want to go back to Athens and try it all! I did not know the “feta” fact. Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!

    • Jenny Freedman February 19, 2015 at 10:30 pm #

      Pleasure Corinne! It’s amazing what you learn on these tours which is why I love doing them!

  10. [email protected] February 18, 2015 at 4:15 pm #

    Reading this has certainly left me hungry. Everything looks so delicious, how on earth did you manage to fit everything into your stomach?

    • Jenny Freedman February 19, 2015 at 10:33 pm #

      I’m not sure how we ate it all Rachael but we didn’t leave much! no one was going to miss out! We shared serves which were well spaced and we walked between the stops so we were always ready for the next delicious dish!

  11. Margherita February 21, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

    oh my! I shouldn’t have read this at lunchtime… what a wonderful tour! Definitely one to consider next time we’re in Athens. Love loukomades especially!

    • Jenny Freedman February 22, 2015 at 6:39 am #

      There’s nothing quite like a full days graze through a city! The tour is definitely one I can recommend when you’re next in Athens. Loukoumades are pretty special aren’t they! Thanks for stopping by Margherita.

  12. Jo July 16, 2015 at 10:16 am #

    I can’t say that I blame you for Eating All The Things, but you have made me very hungry! Wow, what some enticing delights. I think you had me at greek yoghurt, honey and walnuts though and that is possibly something easy enough for me to replicate at home (in not such an authentic way perhaps) to enjoy 😉 Fabulous photos too 🙂

    • Jenny Freedman July 23, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

      I definitely didn’t eat a big dinner after the tour Jo. It was well timed and spread out with nice walks in between the stops. The greek yoghurt with honey and walnuts was sensational! I’d eat it every day if I could.

  13. Sue Reddel July 18, 2015 at 2:34 am #

    Should not have read this post before lunch! This culinary tour of Athens makes me even hungrier. I’m not sure where I’d start first. Glad you took the time to explain feta cheese. I never liked it till I had the real thing and now I’m hooked. Off to eat some Greek!

    • Jenny Freedman July 23, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

      The tour was a great insight into the city Sue. I learn’t so much about many of the different foods not just the fetta. You know when you’re not getting the real deal don’t you!

  14. Irene S Levine July 18, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    I love culinary tours. This one of Athens looks so appetizing!

    • Jenny Freedman July 23, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

      It was particularly good Irene. I loved finding the old places that had so much history attached to them…and fabulous food!

  15. Kalogiannidis October 18, 2015 at 6:11 am #

    Hello!

    What is the name of the Feta Cheese shop?

    Thanks you,

    • Jenny Freedman October 24, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

      Hi Diane. I have sent you an email with a photo of the name of the shop. Hope you can find it!

  16. Ambily September 19, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

    Hi Jenny!!
    Very tempting post. May i also request you to send he name of the shop from where you purchased feta. Also, can it be bought while travelling? Does it not require cold storage?

    Thanks
    Ambily

    • Jenny Freedman October 27, 2016 at 8:47 pm #

      Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the shop Ambily but it is in one of the streets in front of the market.
      You’d be best to ask the shopkeeper about travelling wit it…it really depends on where your going and how long it will be out of the fridge.

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