Updated: Jul 15, 2020
By now the grocery grind is probably bringing you down a bit, because what used to be a simple errand is now laborious, a chore, an anxiety-ridden odyssey into pandemic-era pathos. But wait, before we pile on even more silver-dollar words often with Greek roots to lament these tenebrous times, remember that there are other ways to get your Greek groove on, and some of them are quite yummy. Report from Athens.
1. Greek coffee.
You take that little brass briki you bought as a souvenir when once upon a time things called stores were open, and actually use it! It does help to have some appropriately ground Greek coffee around; mine like my briki comes from one of my favorite coffee chains in Greece, Coffee Island.
The thing that's great about Greek coffee in a lockdown (or any 'ol time) is not just the robustness of the brew but the ritual that it takes to craft it: filling then heating the briki with water, adding the sugar, then the coffee and allowing it to settle and foam; taking it off the fire and knocking it against the counter before setting it back on the flame for a final frothing before the pour. Congratulations, you've just spent 10 minutes making a single cup of coffee and that "loss" of time actually comes like a balm in times like this.
2. This Greek book.
What goes better with a strong cup of Greek coffee than a great little book? I'm talking of course about Walking in Athens by Nikos Vatopoulos. By now we've all seen the photos of the empty streets of New York, the eerily calm Acropolis and true enough you can walk the streets of any major metropolis during a lockdown and have it largely to yourself, but if you're a city person then an empty city is just a ghost so...
...maybe it's better to leave your shoes at the door and fall for the charms of a seasoned flâneur like Vatopoulos who takes you on a thoughtfully annotated vicarious wander through the Athens of his dreams. Eclectic architecture, crumbling houses juxtaposed against concrete buildings, quixotic spaces and facades and secret landscapes populate his informative and emotional urban journey.
3. This Greek cherry yogurt.
Did everybody suddenly forget about Greek yogurt? I haven't, and I found a real winner in this unique cherry blended Greek yogurt from Fage. The cherry hits just the right balance between sour and sweet. Also I've never approved the addition of chunks of fruit to packaged yogurt, and there are no annoying fruit bits here. And the kid-sized package is just the right amount! Roughly the size of the classic conical Yoplait yogurts, if you find as I do that the "adult" size individual yogurts in Greece are just too big for one serving thenyou'll love Fage's kiddie range. And it goes without saying that until you've tasted Greek cherries, you haven't really tasted a cherry.
4. This organic FreshMint drink by Greebals.
In ancient Greece the Athenians would take wild mint, mix it up with honey and other good things from the earth and whip it up into a potion they would use to fall into a trance during mysterious rites of spring about which despite some artistic depictions we know very little. While delicious mint still finds its way into Greek cooking, it's completely absent from Greek desserts and drinks—except for this one: Greebals Fresh Mint Greek Herbal organic beverage. I discovered it at a fancy food expo at Athens Airport last year—the show was cancelled this year because of the Chinese scourge however, I still count on my Greebals for absolutely essential mint refreshment.
5. These British grocery items...in Greece!
This spring I had planned two flights to London and surprise surprise, both were cancelled. So London would have to come to me. That's why I was so tickled to find a British specialty grocer right here in Greece, in Chalandri which is one of those nice leafy suburbs north of Athens. George Miaoulis's BR Foods is a fine purveyor of everything blissfully British from Warburtons frozen crumpets and McVities Jaffa Cakes to Galaxy chocolate bars (mm) to Walker's Nonsuch Toffee and that other springtime essential—mint ice cream. BR stocks more than 3,500 delicious items.
6. These outrageous Riddle Bars from Parfait.
Hail chocolate and peanut butter with a gourmet Greek twist! The Riddle bar is new but has classic chocolate-meets-peanut butter snack appeal. Think three layers of crisp wafer with velvety peanut butter cream coated with milk chocolate in a handmade snack bar perfect for travel or anytime, anywhere snacking.
These delicious Riddles come in two varieties. The Riddle peanut butter bar is a crisp and light wafer coated with milk chocolate and filled with velvet peanut butter cream. Rich yet light and not too sweet, this delectable chocolate bar "crumbles delightfully and melts slowly in the mouth leaving the palate with the delicious aftertaste of their premium ingredients and give the body the boost and energy of a real super food."
7. This fantastic Greek olive oil...
This is my favorite olive oil in Greece: Live Longer Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Kalamata area. It's a limited production of superior category extra virgin olive oil originating from a single family grove in the Messinian mountains. Cultivated and harvested without the use of chemicals or preservatives, this tangy green gold has a distinct spicy and slightly bitter (but balanced) taste that comes from its rich polyphenols—which are known to contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress (hence the name, Live Longer). But not only is the stuff beneficial, it's delicious too, with low acidity and a lovely middle fruit intensity that perks up pastas, salads and more. In fact, we love this olive oil so much that we've asked Gelson's supermarkets in Los Angeles (you know, where the Kardashians and lesser mortals do their shopping) to stock it. In the meantime, you can find out more about it here.
Looking for more delicious Greek items? Check out Greek Column's discoveries on Instagram.