My friend, Jo, and I flew to Athens, Greece, to take the Emerald Princess Black Sea cruise. The most anticipated activity on our visit to Athens was the Athens Small Group Food Tour, which we found on the Viator website. We had booked many past excursions with Viator and were satisfied with a fantastic tour. Food tours are a good investment of money and time in my book and it seems only fitting that Athens would be the perfect place with their delicious offerings.
My email confirmation gave us directions to meet in front of the Zara store, but due to a misunderstanding, we realized at 9:30 (our meeting time), that we were in the wrong area. We hustled through town and finally met up with the group about 45 minutes later. Our guide, Evangelos, was in the midst of a demo at an upscale shop where we sampled rich olive oils, balsamic vinegar, feta cheese, and my favorite, Greek yogurt with classic spoon sweets. Due to the Greeks using seasonal fruits, which vary with the climate, the Greeks often preserve whole fruits in a sweet manner and later use them as toppings for desserts, yogurt, or ice cream. They call these “spoon sweets”. The fruits were so flavorful that I had to bring home a jar of the sour cherries. We concluded this visit with a shot of syrupy sweet mandarin liquor.
Our group continued by foot to an herb store, where we were introduced to mastis, a lead ingredient in chewing gum, and given a sample. The store had many medicinal herbs and we were given explanation of how they are used. We then rounded the corner to a local meat store and munched on cured meats, similar to prosciutto, atop crusty rusks (similar to toasts). It was deliciously salty and decadent.
In the fruit market, we feasted on green seedless grapes and olives, both kalamata and big fat black ones. Evangelos informed us that only about half the Greek population like olives. The last stop in the market offered us samples of a chocolate candy-like product that was dry, but extremely palatable, was made of tahini (sesame seed paste), chocolate, and one other ingredient. Yum!
Evangelos prepared us for the sights and smells of the Varvakios Agora, Athens central market housing meats and seafood. He led our group through the dozens of weekend traffickers who were buying their fresh fish, all the while our group gagging from the smell of fish, all sizes and varieties, stacked highly on ice beds on both sides of the walkways. The smell was totally disgust, something you must learn to live with in that profession, and I could barely make it to walk through the market. We passed a man filleting fish with such vigor that the flesh and scales were flying all over the crowds. I knew that if a piece touched me I would pass right out, but I made it through, unscathed, with a racing heart.
We stopped in the meat portion of the market to talk about the meats available in Athens. Being from the states, it was hard to see all the raw meats in intense heat piled in heaps with insects buzzing around. They also had horses heads displayed on ice. Eek!
Our group was led inside Epirus Tavern to share a stew, made with vegetables similar to ratatouille, and fried anchovies, which most of our group politely declined. The vegetables in the stew were extremely tasty, smothered in an olive oil sauce, that was quickly sopped up by the doughy bread they provided us. The meal with complimented with local white wine.
The last stops of the Athens Small Group Food Tour took us to the hipster or trendy part of town, located near the flea markets. I fell instantly in love! Adorable cafes lined the tree framed alleyways and curvy streets, and beautiful restaurants beckoned for us to visit. We entered Psiri Grill House, a sleek and modernly decorated restaurant that was full of life, to sample both savory & sweet Greek cheese pies. What a fabulous creation! I preferred the savory over the sweet, but both were delectable. The last visit was to a friendly, traditional Greek restaurant down the street from Psiri, where we had souvlaki with tzatziki sauce, a meal in itself.
Evangelos sent us on our way with loukoumades, the famous ooey gooey Greek doughnuts drenched in honey and cinnamon, and with a great understanding of Greek foods, the pleasures of dining with friends and family, local traditions, as well as a nice guided tour of the city. I recommend this Athens Food Tour and encourage you to partake and fill your senses and stomaches with it.
Interesting: We tracked down a police officer and asked for directions. Jo and I were about a 45 minute walk away from our destination, so we set out walking across the city of Athens. I called the phone number provided to me in my email confirmation and spoke with a lady who was helpful and already knew that we had not shown up for our tour. She gave us the direct phone number of our guide, who told us where to meet and would wait for us there. That is very impressive in my book for the company’s main contact to have that much information so timely and on a weekend day. Color me impressed Athens Food Tour!
Though this tour was comped for my friend and I, opinions and reviews are solely my own and unbiased.
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