Truth be told, sugar is not that good for our health. But there are these beloved habits, so sweet in themselves, with or without the consumption of desserts, that you simply don’t want to quit! And when they are combined with a piece of dessert, then they become life experiences!
If you have friended us on Facebook, it’s very probable that somewhere… somehow… you have read our posts describing the scenery. Our best ideas, no matter what the topic, came to us during those times when we all gathered for work not seated at fashionable round tables in meeting rooms but as a group of friends… on a Saturday morning… with coffee and desserts! This sweetest of habits started when we observed that our editor, Christina, uttered the best remarks when, in our place of meeting, there was a dessert present for someone’s birthday or name day. And so it was decreed. And, if you exclude the scales’ occasional objection, this habit has been ongoing for years. It’s sweet and creative; and we want to share it with you. So, here are our favorite hangouts in the city, plus stories of beloved desserts…
Mastic tsoureki, the traditional
Its sworn fans don’t have to wait until Easter to savor it. This traditional, fragrant, sweet, mastic brioche comes from Armenia, where they used to make a typical round flat bread with sesame named chorek. It came to Greece in the years it was under Turkish occupation; that’s when we invented our version with eggs, milk, fresh butter and very fragrant Greek mastic – the tsoureki!
In our case, the fluffy mastic tsoureki usually accompanies aromatic filter coffee every time we meet in my place, in Pagrati. And the reason we choose it every time is because we can find the best tsoureki ever in the traditional confectionery Lido, on Chremonidou str. On the other hand, equally unforgettable is the chestnut-filled tsoureki covered with white chocolate from Terkenlis!
The eternal… Mille-feuille!
In French, the name means a thousand sheets! It is the most famous French dessert – also known as the Napoléon. It debuted in France, in 1651, and became one of the most important elements of French cuisine and confectionery, which, until then, had an entirely different philosophy. In Greece, we love because it is very often our Sunday dessert… while we have also taken care to devise several delicious variations to it: with chocolate, chestnut, strawberries or zabaione cream. The truth is that our own editor, Christina, makes a notorious mille-feuille… however, when we don’t get to taste her version, we equally love to have one from Despina Patisserie Catering, in Kolonaki (located on P. Ioakim str.).
Cheesecake… and the city!
We know it as an American dessert but, strangely enough, it is very Greek and also very ancient! I’m referring to the much beloved cheesecake, which is mentioned in historical sources as the dessert made for the athletes who took part in the first Olympic Games, in 776 b.C. Meanwhile, it was just in 1872, in New York, that the term cream cheese was first used – and this is where the dessert owes its current name. As a rule, Italians make it with Mascarpone cheese; while, here in Greece, we prefer Philadelphia cheese and often add a bit of yogurt. In any case, we simply love it… as it is light and delicate! Our best choice is Maggie’s cheesecake because it has a rich soft cream (no eggs) and divine forest berries! We prefer to buy it from Cake, in Kolonaki (located on Herodotou str.).
Tiramisu… lift me up!
This dessert is exactly what the name means… really uplifting! Especially when it is made with good quality Italian espresso – it can send you to heaven! The history of this dessert remains a mystery since there are many variations to it. For some, the birth of tiramisu can be traced back in the 17th century, in Sienna, Italy; invented in honor of Duke Cosimo de Medici III. Others claim that it was invented during World War I, when the women of Northern Italy made this dessert to tone the men during battle. In fact, they gave it a bitter-sweet taste so as to resemble love; this way, their men would never forget them. The second version is more romantic and, I have to admit, I prefer it. We have searched everywhere for the best version of tiramisu because one of our associates, Babis, has studied Pharmaceutics in Florence and, having acquired a deep understanding of Italian culture, is bound to be in high spirits after a good tiramisu; its consumption certainly skyrockets his creative ideas! Yet, we didn’t find it in a confectionery – instead, we enjoy it in a traditional Italian trattoria (Che Sara), as the conclusion to a plethora of authentic Italian dishes. It is truly the trattoria of our hearts, since it has sheltered us on many a hungry night after work; and, apart from the choice delicacies he offered us, Tony, the owner (Italiano vero that he is), also sang us a kantsoneta while playing the guitar. Che Sara is located on Notara str., in Tavros.
Chocolate worship with… Profiterole!
Who can say no to a delicious profiterole, with its rich creamy chocolate and its fluffy choux filled with velvety cream of real vanilla? You couldn’t, could you? Besides it would be so rude!
The profiterole is the king of French desserts; yet, if you visit France, you will not find the version we enjoy here in Greece. The original French profiterole is made of choux filled with Madagascar Vanilla ice cream on top of which is poured very hot chocolate. It is a dessert made in French patisseries upon order. Of course, us cunning Greeks (and neighboring Italians) have gone to great pains to devise many different variations… with white chocolate, almonds, caramel, even fruits.
The profiterole has always been a trademark for our company: every time we have to meet downtown for errands, a much needed and beneficiary break for espresso and dessert follows – always in Apollonio (on 3rd September Str.)… and maybe the surroundings are far from idyllic… but this is where you’ll find the best profiterole ever!
Honestly now. Is there any Greek who does not have childhood memories from granny’s house including galaktoboureko? My own grandmother, while preparing the cream, used to “hide” slices of fragrant bergamot skins in the pot; so that, apart from the dessert, the whole house would acquire the aroma. And it is true what they say: the confectioner’s skill becomes evident from the way of coating the dessert with syrup; it has to be light and artfully applied so that the galaktoboureko does not become too sweet (what the women from Smyrna called serbeti – too sweet) and can be consumed with pleasure… The truth is that we haven’t been able to find galaktoboureko with bergamot cream… but equally divine is the one they make at Galyfianakis, in the Caravel area; also very tasty is the kadaifi with galaktoboureko cream they make at Kosmikon.
The ballerina’s dessert… Pavlova!
It took its name from famous ballerina Anna Pavlova. Not unjustifiably since both are ethereal and able to monopolize the show! In Greece, it is not so popular a dessert – maybe because Greek desserts are truly marvelous. However, if you take into account that it was made in honor of the greatest ballerina of all times, it has to be divine! To taste it, we often visit… the obvious place… the House of Pavlova, in Kolonaki. We enjoy it in many variations: with mango, forest berries, lime, mocha… and then, blissfully happy, we go straight to salsa practice to burn the calories!
Cherry… cream… chocolate… otherwise known as Black Forest!
A German dessert named after the traditional clothing worn by women in the area of Black Forest. When properly made, it can constitute one of the best dessert choices after a meat course. And this is because it leaves on the palate an aromatic aftertaste of sweet vanilla, intoxicating chocolate and playful cherry – simultaneously! It is light… sweet and sour in a balanced dosage… absolutely digestive… truly delightful! And we couldn’t have found a better place to enjoy it than the beautiful garden of an authentic German beer house, in Kaisariani: the Ritterburg Beer Garden.
Coffee without apple pie… are you serious?
An aromatic afternoon coffee is best suited with apple pie – just like the key fits the lock! In any variation you prefer (classic, upside down – French style, with chocolate, with vanilla ice cream, with caramel syrup), apple pie is our company’s beloved winter dessert. Its history starts in 1860, in Paris, where the first tarte Tatin was made – an apple tart that, through the years evolved to today’s French upside down version of apple pie.
Apple pie is very popular and you can find it almost everywhere… however, most apple pies sold today are pre-made and frozen… and, for the lovers of this dessert (myself included), this constitutes hubris! I think that one of the best apple pies our little company has tasted while drinking coffee is the one by Tyligada Confectionery, in Pagrati (Antinoros & Sp. Merkouri). Home-made and fresh… just like we deserve it!
Loukoumades… or svigoi?
Most people know them as loukoumades (the Greek version of donuts). In fact, these delicious, honeyed, round pieces of dough are called svigoi; whereas loukoumades are rings of dough. In truth, their difference concerns more their place of origin and appearance rather than their taste! In any case, these juicy and sweet, fried balls of honeyed dough are among our traditional desserts and we honor them any chance we find! Moreover, their variations with caramel or dried nuts are equally worthy of mentioning and gastronomical test! OK, we all know it… for many years now… the best loukoumades of Athens can be found on Panepistimiou Str.: Loukoumades Aigaion… what else?
And so on and so forth… And we count endless working hours full of crazy creative ideas, a friendly environment, delicious desserts, strong espresso, jokes… And we like it! We like every bit of it… but, most of all, we like being professional amateurs… another word for lovers of art… every art! And we aren’t worried about the fact that, sometimes, we gain a bit of weight… because dear editor Christina, our pharmacist, can return us to fitness in no time at all!