When I first arrived, I remember thinking I wouldn’t have much opportunity to make friends outside of the embassy community. And while most of my friends here work or have spouses working for the US government, I’m pleasantly surprised at how many Greeks and Europeans I’ve gotten to know. People are so incredibly friendly here…I really shouldn’t be surprised at all.
Case in point: I had the amazing opportunity to enjoy a traditional Sunday Greek supper with a local family I’ve gotten to know. Now, I’ve been to tavernas before, but we usually just order what we know, and we honestly have no idea what is good. Or if it’s even good — usually we end up in a very touristy place. So I was delighted to try a taverna in a small neighborhood in Athens recommended by folks who know good cooking.
We arrived at 3, hoping to avoid the rush at 2. I’m still getting used to the mealtimes here: lunch/supper at 2, dinner at 8 or 9. The restaurant was still packed…lots of families linger. We managed to squeeze our party at a table really only meant for four. We had four adults and three children. Yikes! But we managed. The place was loud, but I was relieved it wasn’t smoky.
Katy and her husband, Dmitrius, greeted us warmly and happily translated the menu. Near the entrance to the taverna was a large metal cask with spigots for red and white wine, which the wait staff would pour into little metal cups and distribute to the tables. We must have our wine! I overheard D ordering the wine, and I pointed out that it was the one thing I could actually order in Greek. Ha!
After hearing the translated options and recommendations, we settled on a Greek sausage accompanied by Gigantes (giant white beans), a beef ragu with pasta, shaved pork and fries for the kids, and Dolmadakia with yogurt (rice wrapped in grapevine leaves). And we started with a not-so-traditionally-Greek spinach and cranberry salad. It took us a bit to flag down a waiter, but once we ordered, the food arrived promptly. We all tried a little from each other’s plates, in typical Greek fashion, so we got to try some roast goat and potatoes as well. Unfortunately, by 3 they were out of lamb. The food was absolutely fantastic, the best Greek cuisine we’ve had since we got here. The kids loved it, too. The Dolma was probably my favorite. I remember trying them years and years ago, but I’m sure they were not this good.
We drank, we ate, we all got to know each other. Liam charmed the adults, as usual. And Violet and little Aimilia played peek-a-boo with each other. Violet couldn’t get enough of the goat. I caught her gnawing on a gnarly piece of skin and fat and just LOVING it. As we finished our main course, the staff brought out a complementary dessert: yogurt covered in berries and syrup. So yummy!
Our friends promised to take us to their favorite seafood restaurant next time. I had to admit that I’m not a fan of the whole-fish-on-the-plate thing, but I’d be happy to try squid and prawns, so long as there’s a minimal amount of dissecting required. I come from the Midwest, where seafood is a bit of a mystery. But I’m excited to try it!