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It tastes good, it smells good, it gives you a good feeling... food is always good!
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05 July 2006

This Months Meaty Calendar Sheet

Another month, another souvlaki!
The famous souvlaki calendar - July

At the end of last year (right on time) here at the office we got sent a special calendar for the new year 2006. It came from one of the many Souvlaki shops of the area and it depicts for each month one of their foods. No, I don't know if there is any person who hangs a picture of meat and chips on their wall and flips it over every month.

But in order to share this beauty with you, I scanned in the sheet for July and posted it here. Yeah, I know, the scanner cut off some of the borders, but that can be considered part of the act of creating true art.

You can click on the image to view a bigger image... and even spot the phone number so you could order if this beauty triggers your appetite!


06 September 2006

Drinking with the Phrench

And "On the concept of signing PGP keys"
mitch at the lesbian ouzerie

For a few days a friend of Saad came over to Athens for work. Jerome (aka mitch) didn't have time for anything but work, but yesterday he managed to sneak out for a few hours. We went to the Ouzerie "Lesvos", which is run by people from the island of Lesbos, where they are said to be making the best Ouzo. Naturally we drank a few (small) bottles of Ouzo and ate some small plates of fish, meat balls, cheese, and salad. The food there is simple but good. A nice evening after all, we chatted with Jerome about work, countries, prices, OpenBSD, the student movement and employment laws in France, ... and we did some PGP key signing...


Right before he left (had to get up early for work tomorrow), we exchanged fingerprints for our PGP keys and had a good look at each others ID cards. (In the process we discovered that Jerome is from the Cognac region in France, but he drinks Ouzo nonetheless :-). When I came home I signed his public key that I have gotten before. The idea to use PGP encryption for mail and other things is uncommon enough, but even some people who use PGP are not common to checking fingerprints and signing keys. In some circles it is even considered signing PGP keys is "so linux kids". Well, it may be, but I think it's still a useful thing. I'm sitting here in the opposite corner of Europe from some of the people I communicate with. Encrypting mails is fine, but a digital signature also offers a trace of identity to things. PGP has this concept of the "web of trust", which just means that I can draw a line from me, to mitch (who came to visit in person), to some friend of both of us who I might not have met in person - and have a bit more of a certainty that there are people behind the keys out there.

All in all checking fingerprints and ID's was a business of 5 minutes, maybe count in another 5 minutes for actually signing the keys and sending the public keys back. Those 10 minutes result in a "pretty good" assumption that a mail from mitch or a direct friend is really from them and has not been tampered with. Worth it to me, especially when I get to drink Ouzo too, while signing.

Posted by betabug at 09:49 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
05 October 2006

Menu: Souvlaki (and that's it)

A visit to an old fashioned Souvlaki shop
 

Souvlaki is one of the internationally most known Greek foods. Essentially it is just meat on a stick, but comes in many varieties. In Athenian parlance, the term "souvlaki" also means the complete small pita bread with souvlaki, fries, tomato, tsatsiki, and anything else - confusing enough it may be called souvlaki even if it contains a sausage or gyros instead of a real souvlaki. The modern souvlaki shops offer a wide variety of the stuff, customized to the nth degree.

Yesterday we went to an old fashioned souvlaki shop. They offer exactly one food on their menu: Souvlaki. To be more precise, they offer what in Athens is called "Kalamaki", small wooden stick souvlaki with bread, no pita, no fries, no tomatoes, no salad to go with it, nothing...


They do have one brand of beer and some soft drinks like lemonades. They have a special charcoal fueled grill exactly the size of their souvlakia and an elaborate procedure to produce the right amount of food through that pipeline. That is necessary, because in contrast to most modern souvlaki joints, their product is not pre-grilled and later warmed up. Specialization has its merits, the taste is excellent. We didn't even get lemons with our order, instead the souvlakia are dipped into a lemon juice, olive oil (and likely secret herbs) mixture.

Next to the cashier is a multiplication table: 1 - 1.20, 2 - 2.40, and so on up to 24 or so. You can only do that when you have only one product, but I would have guessed that you get to know these numbers by heart fast.

Shops like these were more common a couple of years ago. The existed alongside the "normal" souvlaki shops. And there were (and sometimes still are) varieties that sell only steaks (brizoladika), biftekia, garides (shrimps), or some other single selection speciality. These usually serve at least a salad with their main food, but don't count on it. I remember as a teenager being taken to one of the shrimp places and they only had either Cola or Lemonade, whatever box was on top, but not both. The "kalamaki" only shops have become a bit more rare, and I'll likely go and get some more from the one we visited yesterday on Papagou Avenue in Zografou. Did I mention they don't have home delivery either?

What I did forget to mention: The place was busy, with plenty of customers.

Posted by betabug at 14:07 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
06 October 2006

Eating Like the Ancient Greeks

Visiting the restaurant Αρχαίων (Arhaion) for some "old" food
 

It's full moon time. Time for doing something romantic, like going to the Acropolis in moonshine. Unfortunately the nights when the Acropolis is open to the public in full moon nights are only in Summer. As an alternative we went to dine in the garden of the restaurant Αρχαίων (Arhaion), eating food like the ancient Greeks did. We had an interesting food experience and a good view of the moon too...


Eleni had heard about that restaurant through some student information for foreign students here. I was a bit cautious, but looked them up on the web and finally called for a table. They are what one would call a "themed" restaurant, following the line of the ancients with a nice sense for the detail.

There aren't really any proper recipes handed down from ancient times, but the cooks studied the ancient writings and recreated what could have been some ancient foods. The menu describes the foods and quotes the texts that referenced them. But that's just where it starts. There are obviously columns in the restaurant, with nice subdued lighting. The personnel is wearing classic garb. On the table you will find no glasses, but earthenware cups - ashtrays and the bottled water usual in expensive restaurants spoiling the effect a bit.

...and the food?

The food doesn't have potatoes, pasta, american corn, tomatoes, any of the foodstuff brought to Europe in the last few centuries. Other foods like barley and peas take place. The spicing of the food is also very different, since for example pepper is likely absent. We tried a salad with lettuce, cucumbers, pears, apples, plums, raisins, dressed up with yoghourt, honey and spearmint.

Our main dish was "stuffed slices of pork", filled with plums in dark juice - which was really excellent. It was accompanied with artichokes that were somehow not to my liking, even though I normally like artichokes. It also came with a mousse of fresh mashed peas. Now that was definitely something one has to get used too. Those mashed peas have a weird smell on them, but they taste almost ok when one eats them. All in all my oppinion on the plate is still ambivalent, but I enjoyed the salad.

Ancient computer bugs too!

We also had ordered "Sausage slices with mustard and sauce from leeks and cress" as a starter. It never materialized on our table, and since the helpings are big enough, we did not feel the need to complain (except for getting it off our bill, where it of course materialized, the modern computer ordering system being at odds with the spirit of the ancients).

Talking about the bill: The place isn't cheap. For me it's a sometimes for fun expense level, not pure luxury, but not some reasonable price level. Lots of patrons were tourists. But the price is in some sense held up by the special atmosphere, a very nice neoclassical surrounding, and all the work and research that has gone into creating the place and the menu.

Some of the details they created are little things that are missing: We were surprised to not have any forks on our table. But that is to be expected, since likely the ancient Greeks didn't have forks on their tables. Eating a salad with a spoon is an experience too.

Restaurant Αρχαίων (Arheon): 22 Kodratu Str. , Metaxurgio Tel. +30 210-5239661, www.arxaion.gr

Posted by betabug at 16:23 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
07 October 2006

Towing, Ancient Recipes, Pictures

Bits and pieces...

While coming home from Αρχαίων (Arhaion, the restaurant with "ancient" Greek food) by bus, we found our bus suddenly blocked in a small street. In front of us was another bus, and before that one was someone who had parked his car in a corner and walked away. We were close to home, so went out and contemplated walking the last bit. While we thought about it, we had the chance to watch the tow car arrive, hook the offending car up, and tow it away. Revenge! The car didn't have a car alarm, so the sound effects were low-key.

Also I wanted to remark on my last post about that restaurant Αρχαίων. Obviously they can't tell you that their food is really exactly like in ancient Greece, because nobody alive today (and out of a psych clinic) has eaten genuine ancient Greek food. But it's the idea that counts, and maybe the old texts and inspiration were enough for the chef to produce something that could pass for ancient food. It's a bit like "experimental archeology", where they build huts and run around in self-made cloths out of hand-spun wool.

Today we went for coffee at the very nice kafeneion in the National Garden next to Syntagma square. I made a little drawing there, which I liked (no bragging here!) and would have really wanted to use to illustrate this post. But somehow with the drawings I am back to where I was before the digital camera in my phone: I'll have to scan it in and then I can publish it. Maybe I should combine taking photos and doing sketches. Adding the drawings to the posts two days later isn't such a great idea in the weblog format, so maybe I'll add small posts just with the drawings as they come along.


Posted by betabug at 19:40 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
08 December 2006

Christmas Chocolate

Office diet destroyer
 
Lindt Christmas Chocolate

From my trip to Switzerland I had brought back about four kilograms of swiss chocolate. I don't eat much chocolate myself. Really, these were mostly for presents and to give away. Yesterday I had brought three bars to the office, amongst them the "Christmas Chocolate" from Lindt.

I opened it myself and took two pieces to get a taste. The moment I opened the packaging, it smelled of christmas. I can't really describe it differently. It also tasted like that. I tried to taste what the ingredients are (before reading the packaging), but the spices are so well rounded out, that no single one stands out. Then I read that cinnamon and coriander are in there, which I agree with. They are, but well - as mentioned - in a balanced spicing, so I can really recommend this chocolate.


Posted by betabug at 10:43 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
30 December 2006

Ξεκίνησε η σεζόν φοντί!

Χειμώνας είναι, βουτάμε ψωμί στο τυρί
 

Χτες το βράδυ στο σπίτι μας φτιάξαμε το πρώτο φοντί τις φετινής σεζόν. Όποιος δεν το ξέρει: το φοντί βασικά είναι λυόμενο τυρί, στο όποιο όλοι με ψιλά πιρούνια βουτάνε κομματάκια ψωμί. Το φοντί είναι τυπική ελβετική σπεσιαλιτέ, αρχικά από την γαλλόφωνη Ελβετία, εδώ και πολλά χρόνια γνωστή και στην υπόλοιπη Ελβετία.

Με το λυόμενο τυρί ζεσταίνεσαι. Το φοντί συστήνεται μόνο το χειμώνα, κανονικά πρέπει να έχει τουλάχιστον -2C, αλλιώς ζεσταίνεσαι πάρα πολύ. Αυτό μας είχε συμβεί και χτες. Επειδή στην Αθήνα έχουμε ποιο κοντά στο +10C, μας έπιασαν οι κάψες. Εγώ με το t-shirt καθόμουν στο τέλος.

Παρ' όλο αυτό θα επαναλαμβάνουμε το "event" αυτό. Οι Ελβετοί πάντα γίνονται "ποιο ελβετική" όσο πιο πολύ είναι μακριά από το μέρος τους. Έτσι και εγώ ξεκίνησα το φοντί και μου αρέσει να φέρνω κόσμο στο σπίτι να κάνουμε μια βραδιά με ελβετικό φαγητό και πνεύμα.

Για όσους δεν θα προλάβουν μια τέτοια εξαιρετική πρόσκληση έχω βάλει την συνταγή για το φοντί στο "παπάκι". Προσοχή: Η συνταγή είναι αρκετά εύκολη να την διαβάζεις, όμως δύσκολη να σου πετύχει! Κουράγιο!


Posted by betabug at 18:33 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
10 April 2007

Μπανάνα!

Shake it...
 

Πρέπει να ομολογήσω κάτι (είναι και λίγο εποχή για τέτοια)... μου αρέσει πολύ το μιλκ-σέικ, ειδικά με γεύση μπανάνας. Όταν άλλοι βαράνε φραπέδες, φρέντους, ή καπουτσινοειδής, εγώ προτιμώ το γλυκό ποτό με παγωτό και γάλα. Στις καφετέριες της Αθήνας μια χαρά τα φτιάχνουν, και όταν στέκεται το καλαμάκι λέει πολύ.

Αυτό που δεν κατάλαβα ακόμα είναι γιατί οι περισσότερες καφετέριες δεν έχουν μιλκ-σέικ μπανάνας. Βανίλια, σοκολάτα, φράουλα: κλασσικά. Τι τους χαλάει να βάλουν και το δικό μου μπανανάκι; ΟΚ, μερικοί μπορεί να μην έχουν όλα τα παγωτά "stock", άλλοι όμως πουλάνε την μπανάνα παγωτό, μόνο που δεν την κουνάνε με γάλα. Εάν κάποιος ξέρει το λόγο, shake it και ενημερώστε με!


Posted by betabug at 20:43 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
16 November 2007

Crêpes Party - French Culture 101

Eat and Party!
 

Yesterday's crêpes party was quite nice. It seems that breton crêpes indeed are special. They are much lighter, fluffier than what one gets here, and very tasty. We only had crêpes, no gallettes - didn't find the right flour (buckwheat) to make those. So we had apple mousse, honey, sugar (with or without lemon), Nutella, and marmelade to go with our "french pancakes" (if I'm allowed to make this crude translation).

Having good company in the house was fun too. As usual we had a babylonian mess of languages. The conversation going from Greek to French, to English, with a word of German sometimes.

I wasn't so sure about the actual concept of how a "crêpes party" works. It seems this just means that some people make the crêpes in the kitchen (one cook, the others for company), while everybody hangs out in the living room. From time to time the cooking team delivers a plate of crêpes to the party zone and all jump on the delicacy. I tried to lecture our guests about the dangers of eating too much (and volunteered to take some of the burden upon me), but they wouldn't listen. These were really good crêpes, you know.


Posted by betabug at 14:23 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 November 2007

Hofbräuhaus... und Käse

"... die Herren sind ja grösstenteils Akademiker"

Was tut man als Tourist in München? Man geht ins Hofbräuhaus. Ich auch, und zwar am Mittwoch abend. Unten drin gibts die "Schwemme", da ist der Bär los und es wird jeden Abend "die Wiesn" gegeben für meine japanischen und amerikanischen Mit-Touristen. Blasmusik, lange Tische, Bier in Massen. Wir begaben uns nach oben ins Bräustüberl. Dort ist es auch bayrisch, gemütlich, aber eher ruhig. Es spielt ein Akkordeon und man isst sehr gut, zu moderaten Preisen. Wenn man die Lage (beste Innenstadt) einrechnet, sogar günstig.

Heut abend gibts dann Fondue. "Man hat ja nicht jeden Tag einen Schweizer im Haus." Ich habs ja schon einige Male gemacht, aber etwas Nervenkitzel ist immer dabei: Gelingts oder nicht?

Aus irgendeinem Grund hat sich dann die Frage gestellt, "bei welcher Temperatur schmilzt so ein Käse eigentlich?" Das Gesuche geht los... gar nicht so einfach zu finden. Laut Bundesamt für Landwirtschaft, Pflichtenheft für Vacherin Fribourgeous (.pdf) weiss ich nun, "muss [Vacherin] durch Zusatz von Wasser bei einer Temperatur von unter 48° C schmelzen". Wir haben zwar Emmentaler und Greyerzer, aber als Anhaltspunkt solls reichen. Solche Fragen sind sowieso gefährlich, siehe Tucholsky's berühmten Text Wo kommen die Löcher im Käse her?. Die Antwort darauf gibt's bei emmentaler.ch.


Posted by betabug at 18:16 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
14 December 2007

Celebrating with Chäshörnli

Always a reason to party!

The swiss political system is very peculiar - it's very much different from most other countries systems. For example, we have only 7 ministers in the government, and they come from 4 different parties. For four years we had a certain Multi-Millionaire by the name of Christoph Blocher in the government, someone on the "political right", who (as usual) plays the role of "people's poltitician" but in truth just bought his way to power. Well, to make a long story short, his stint in the government will be over by the end of the year. The swiss political system is built on cooperation, compromise, and consociationalism - which didn't work well with someone who wanted all the power for himself. In the end the system was healthy enough to clean up itself.

Myself I was smiling all day yesterday. Not only does it mean that the country where I grew up has still some chances for a continuation of a political system that is slightly more sane than other countries', but it also means that it's much easier not having to explain to non-swiss people why a country that is perceived as free and democratic has someone like Blocher in the government.

So, yesterday I bought some swiss cheese and tonight I'll serve my friends swiss Chäshörnli (recipe in Greek) in celebration. Always a reason to party! I should translate that recipe to English and take some nice pictures. Hmm, I should get a real camera (like wildweasel tells me all the time), so I could take food pictures like the ones on the Once Upon a Tart blog. Incidentally I found her by searching for chäshörnli pictures, but her recipe is much different from mine.


Posted by betabug at 09:54 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
28 January 2008

Rösti-Pleite

Seufz
 

Kleine Erinnerung an mich selbst: Wenn die Kartoffeln beim Raffeln schon wässrig erscheinen und dann beim in die Pfanne tun eine Konsistenz wie Kartoffelstock haben, einfach gar nicht erst versuchen eine Rösti draus zu machen. So was von Pleite. Deswegen auch kein Food-Foto, wie eigentlich geplant. Naja, beim nächsten Mal wirds besser.


Posted by betabug at 21:45 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
09 February 2008

Cheesy Aftermath

The weather was right for it too
 
The battlefield on the next day

It's actually still winter here, as evidenced by my hard-to-eradicate cold and the cold, wet and windy weather. Yesterday after staying in bed all day (helped a lot with the cold), we had friends over for Fondue. The stuff fits with the weather. Take for example our guests: Our friend Panos (libero) came in totally frozen through from riding on his new motorbike. There's nothing like burning hot liquid cheese to get him warmed up again.

There were some lessons to be learned too: 1.5 kilos of cheese is adequate for 7 people. Unless of course one of them happens to be our friend Thanassis (McKellaris), but it all came out well, since Eleni had made a lot of salad and there was definitely no shortage of bread. Speaking of bread: The hard part in making a good Fondue in Greece is not getting the cheese or the equipment, it's getting good bread that won't just fall apart when cheese diving for more than 3 seconds.

Each time I make Fondue I promise this to be the last time, because I get really anxious for the mix-and-heat process to fail. This time I really voiced my ph34r, which resulted in our friend Javier (aka graffic) to offer to make a spanish omelett instead if all goes wrong. I guess we have to take on his offer on another day!

Oh, the picture. It's what I saw this morning when I woke up and visited the living room. We left a bit of a battlefield, but with a joint effort it was cleaned up fast and easy.


Posted by betabug at 19:51 | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)
12 February 2008

Veto! Ouzo @ Lesvos

mjam
 


We are with company, drinking ouzo (of the Veto brand) and having eaten appetizers at the ouzerie "Lesvos" in Exarheia.

Appart from the company, I also have something to celebrate: Eleni received her Master (Magister) with very good grades today! Wow!


Posted by betabug at 22:01 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
02 March 2008

Foody Weekend

Food is always good
 

This weekend had an interesting twist on the usual food-centric current phase of my life. Where I had planned to spend the Saturday evening at home looking after an old project of mine, soaking up some calories only from a souvlaki from the shop up the street, all of a sudden graffic appeared online and... one thing led to another, he came over to my place an hour later, ready to cook us a true tortilla (aka spanish omelette). By that time FF with company had arrived too, coming home from traveling for 2 weeks, so there we went, with company and storytelling.

I love graffic's tortilla. It's amazing how something that consists only of potatoes, eggs, and onions can taste so delicate. It was past midnight when he got it ready, but none of us had a problem to eat so late.

This noon most of the usual gang went to the Greek Restaurant Papayanni - one of my favorites close by. The meat stuff there is fantastic, a simple bifteki is getting a whole new dimension. We also enjoyed the nice weather, eating at a table on the sidewalk.


Posted by betabug at 20:35 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
05 March 2008

Eat Simple

Mozzarella and Tomatoes
 
Mozzarella and a sauce of fresh tomatoes

On my way home yesterday evening I passed by a supermarket further away from our area and there I found some Mozzarella di Bufala. Imagining that it would be expensive, I took just one of these and two "normal" Mozzarella. (Mistake: The price difference is minimal and the taste much better.) Went home and motivated FF to make us some special pasta using his expert Italian pastah mastah skillz.

Which he did... cutting the Mozzarella in small pieces. Boiling over (to peel) 2 ripe tomatoes, cutting them in small pieces too (in a separate bowl, see pic). Seasoning the tomato sauce to be with a bit of salt, a little bit of fresh garlic, capers, some oregano, olive oil. Then stowing the sauce a short while in the freezer. At the same time cooking the pasta (Rigatoni) al dente. When the pasta were done, bringing them into a big bowl, mixing in first the tomato sauce, then the mozzarella.

A very simple recipe, a very excellent food that is usually served in summer. The tomatoes were of course out of season, but us being in Greece they still had enough taste. Mjam.


Posted by betabug at 09:37 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
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