Food gives you an insight into a place. However cosmopolitan a city may be, with the English language all pervasive and international brands on the high street, food is one thing that remains stubbornly local. You don’t have to wander far off the beaten track to experience the type of food that people have been enjoying for centuries. Yet people often find it difficult to engage with the local cuisine; they may be fearful about trying new things, or worry that they won’t know what to order in a restaurant. But you can’t experience a place fully unless you eat as the locals do. Which is why I found myself exploring Greek cuisine on the Savoring Athens tour, a culinary walk around the heart of Athens.
Understanding Greek Cuisine
Our guide was George, a lawyer turned tour leader, and he took us on a tour around shops and cafés, tasting as we went. We tried cheese and meats, olives and honey. It was the best of Greek cuisine, including a shop that specialised in Cretan foods, and one or two more unusual flavours, such as water buffalo salami (surprisingly tasty and not at all fatty). George was keen to give us tips about restaurants to try, and places to visit, as well as explaining the significance of what we were eating.
Family Owned Businesses
Most of the places we visited were long established, family-owned businesses, firmly rooted in traditional Greek cuisine. Like Ktistakis on Sokratous Street, a café that was established in 1912 and has only ever sold one product – loukouma, a crispy Cretan dessert of fried dough, cinnamon and syrup. Or the Polykalas liquor store, established by the current owner’s great grandfather, who owned a distillery and sold his own liquors in the shop. Even today some of the liquors are home produced.
I went on the Savoring Athens Food Tour as a guest of Dopios Premium Tours.