July 25, 2012 § 1 Comment
I took off from Athens for a couple of days for a real vacation — a tour of several Greek islands. And somewhere between piling my clothes into my backpack for what feels like — and is probably close to be being — the hundredth time, conquering the scorching heat in rickety buses, where the driver yells at you to get on board without answering your question about the destination of said bus, with sweat pouring down your face, and dipping my toes in the water, as the sun finally starts to set, things started looking up.
I think I forgot that it is summer. That I am in a foreign country, where everything I look at is brand-new to my eyes. That this is the time for exploring, for pushing myself, for doing me and for doing the incredible amount of things waiting to be experienced around me. Volcanoes. Black-sand beaches. Ferry rides watching the clear, vibrant blue ocean drift past. Dancing on tables. Souvlaki — pita stuffed with meat shavings (traditionally lamb) vegetables, tzatziki sauce and a smattering of French fries — at five in the morning. And while I may be experiencing Greece mostly as a tourist, I am rounding up some awesome Australian friends. So guess what continent we’re exploring next?
Meanwhile, I’ve been stepping back and actually enjoying time to myself again. Time just sitting still and taking it all in — except I rarely actually sit still. After a day of lazing around poolside, with a walk along the harbor and an ocean-side skype sesh with the boyfriend, I finally deemed the temperature low enough to attempt a run. Boy, was I wrong. But run I did, up every damn desert hill on the island. Beet-red, panting and pouring buckets of sweat, I finally made it back to the hotel, where a dip in the Mediterranean and a watermelon slice twice the size of my head were exactly what my body ordered.
And then, I also wanted to share the site that I’ve been working for in Athens, and also in Barcelona — Culinary Backstreets. It just launched yesterday, and you’ll see my photos popping up here and there in the next few weeks. Here are some from a delicious lunch at Melilotos in Athens. I got to go into the kitchen here one night to take photos — lots of fire action for a traditional chicken pasta dish. When we returned in the afternoon, it was too hot to attempt eating pasta, but the veggie options were not scarce.
Beet salad with balls of creamy herbed goat cheese.
The best citrusy tabouleh I have ever had, served with a row of freshly fried, salty sardines.
Deep-fried tomatoes and cheese.
Zucchini very thinly sliced and flash fried. Crispy, crackly, and served with tzatziki yogurt for dipping.
I still dream about that bittersweet chocolate pie with buttery biscuit crust and may have to make a quick stop before heading to the airport.
July 8, 2012 § 1 Comment
I am obsessed with the old yellowed buildings, gothic balconies and small alleyways of Barcelona, cut by the wide boulevards lined with palm trees and grassy areas. I am enthralled, and have managed to overcome my dislike of walking to wander about the city for entire days at a time. Hidden pockets of stores, bakeries and tapas joints, just off the main streets, but somehow secluded, guarded by the intricate maze of alleys, which act as fortifications against the throngs of tourists that pack the city center at all times of day.
What I am not quite so taken with is Spanish food, which is unfortunate, since that is the reason why I am here. I am simply failing to grasp the obsession with anchovies, why a perfectly good pepper has to be stuffed with some strange cream cheese in order to be served as a tapa, and why shrimps are cooked with delicate care, except with their shells on so that the diner can strip away all the oils and herbs, leaving nothing but a bare shrimp, with his intestines still intact. I know the latter is typical (and traditional) in many cultures, but I still just don’t get it, unless the satisfaction lies in your fingers smelling like shrimp for the remainder of the day. I have however, braved a sardine head, before eating the entire fried fish (yes I know they’re tiny, but eating a sardine is a big deal for me), pulling out the teeny skeleton as I went.
And, of course, I have managed to embrace several sweets, along with the architecture: donuts filled with dulce de leche or rolled in flaked coconut, and crispy, chewy churros, served alongside hot chocolate so thick it can be eaten like pudding — or simply used as a dipping sauce, as is traditional. Desserts so rich they ooze guilt and indulgence.
When I was not wandering aimlessly — I somehow managed to not go to the majority of the monuments, Gaudi houses and churches, mostly due to my impatience with waiting in long lines — I sat on the patio in the hostel, with 2 euro wine. And then, later on, laid by the rooftop pool of my hotel, taking in the sun and feeling the breeze from the sea drift over my face.