MY GREAT WEEKEND IN ATHENS

Planning a trip to Athens?
Great idea for a destination where history, art, culture, food and entertainment will keep you busy from morning until dawn. I go there often, I leave on Friday and back on Sunday or even Monday. Here how to discover the city in 3 days.
I started big with the most classic step and the most spectacular destination:
the Acropolis. Scattered on a hill, the Parthenon, the temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaea monuments, Erechtheum and the theater of Dionysius await for you. Many steps, but without major problems. No strollers.
Obviously very crowded. Do like me, visit it around mid-afternoon, you’ll find less tourists and less lines at the box office.
Don’t miss the nearby Acropolis Museum, with its essential modern and minimalist architecture, almost a fortress that wants to protect those priceless beauty and treasures. Open until 8pm, Friday at 10pm. Closed Monday.
Do you fancy a Greek look?
Get inspiration in theNMuseum of Folk Art and the Museum of the History of the Greek Costume, located at Dimokritou 7, the BenakiMuseum, located Koumpari 1, that currently showing the exhibit ‘Doulamas, the magnificent. An exceptional overcoat’In these great venues, You will find traditional clothes,  historical costumes,jewels and wonderful embroiderie. Then rush to shop in the stalls of Monastiraki, a neighborhood famous for its weekend flea market and vintage stores.
I took a cab (very affordable there) to the Stavros Niarchos Center, one of the newest masterpieces in the City. Designed by Italian famous architect Renzo Piano.
It houses the National Library with more than 750,000 books! Have a tour, a coffee or a snack and  a guided tour of the majestic National Opera Theater, where ballet and opera lovers can applaud the stars of dance and the masterpieces of Verdi, Puccini, Mozart and many others.
You can get there with free shuttles from the popular Syntagma Square.
Do you want Athens (and the sea) at your feet?
Here the answers for day and night.
Mount Lycabetus is your destination.Take a taxi (very cheap) to Aristippou St, Kolonaki. You can walk or take the curious yellow funicular (5 euros). Short ride, breathtaking views and, of course, a selfie. You can walk down and enjoy the view.Get ready for an unforgettable dinner!
I discovered the GB Roof Garden Restaurant, located on the terrace of the sumptuous Grande Hotel Bretagne. It was a perfect ‘Welcome to Athens’ and a magic evening with one of the best view of the city. Not only the view, but also food was delicious Executive Chef Asterios Koustoudis, created dishes inspired by the new Mediterranean cuisine.
Grilled sea bass with steamed vegetables and extra virgin oil.
To end up an amazing dinner I had a taste of two amazing desserts created from Arnaud Larher ,  5 times  nominated ‘Meilleur Ouvrier de France‘. One of  top 10 chocolatiers of France. I just follow the MD suggestions: they were paradise!
The best way to discover Athens?
Ask a local….. actually contact This is Athens , great tours that will give the possibility to discover Athens as a real NTT , non touristy tourist!
You ‘ll see parts of Athens outside the tourist zone! This service is excellent, and it is free and staffed by volunteers, shows just how passionate they are about their city.
My lovely guide Danai took me to see so many things, even a solitary street where a national guard soldier was practising the traditional walk.
Let’s get lost in the market!
Varvakeios
, historical, chaotic traditional market, in the streets Athinas, Evripidou, Sofokleous and Vissis. There you will find everything from improvised sellers to souvenirs, to spices, to antiques. There is even a street dedicated exclusively to handles.
Do NOT forget to buy some amazing pistachios!
The Anafiotika district.
I went there without knowing where I was going … I felt like I was in a Greek island! It is a semi-abandoned village hidden in the hills. Small houses full of graffiti, narrow streets populated by lazy cats. Perfect location for a lunch in one of the many tabernas, including Elaia, Zorbas, Psara and my favorite To Kafeneio, pure Greek cuisine like the tasty handmade dolmates. I had one of the most traditional dish: yellow fava purè with onion, lemon. olives, capers and feta cheese.The Riviera is waiting!
On Sunday afternoon I discovered a heaven just few kilometers away he center of Athens.
It’s the  beautiful 5 stars boutique hotel Margi located in Vouliagmeni, the most exclusive area of the Athens Riviera.     Margi is just a few steps away from the most elegant sandy beaches but just close enough to Athens Historical sites. With its superb cuisine and organic food from its farm, friendly and attentive staff as well as exquisite design, this hotel offers a memorable experience for travelers all year round. I had a wonderful lunch served at the sunny swimming pool. The super fresh shrimp salad was superb!Over the years, owner Maria Stavridis’ and her son and Architect Yiangos Agiostratitis have created the warm and chic atmosphere of the hotel by combining artwork from all corners of the world with soft traces such as candlelit tables and plush furnishings.Next stop YOLENI’S, Joannis Filippidis is the young Executive Director in charge of this great Greek Gastronomy Center , located in the central and trendy area of Kolonaki .
The venue offers cooking classes, olive oil seminars,  wine tastings, among a restaurant, a bar and a great selection of greek products. ‘ We have the best pita in Athens, told me Joannis, try one…” He was right: crunchy pastry like dough and a delicious filling with eggplant and cheese., not too salty, just perfect. they are freshly baked in the groundfloor can be taken to go as well.

Yoleni’s produces 3 wines, called GReat (Gr+eat, you got it?)  and in the menu you can find rotisserie, eggs, wonderful pizzas.

A ‘ WOW’ evening?
Wear your trendiest outfit and dive into the Hellenic nightlife. Better not to go there by car or taxi: the streets are clogged, use the subway (very efficient until 2 am) to get off at Gazi or Keramikos, the most frequented districts of Athenians and tourists. Find music, pubs, clubs and ouzo non stop.
Here a secret and a discovery.
Diporto, a dungeon-restaurant. No sign, hard to find but, thanks to the address and my photos, you will reach the goal.
Frequented mainly by local workers, plus some intrepid tourists. Spartan ambience, food  is homemade and very fresh. No menu, the dishes are chosen directly from the pots: a few choices served with bread, water and wine (only white). Two entrees, a couple of main dishes with meat or fish and of course a rich Greek salad with black olives and feta cheese. I tasted a spectacular chickpeas soup and a bean stew. Gruff owner (and chef). Don’t even think about asking him for a selfie …
Low prices, but not very low … but the atmosphere is magical and the food super tasty. Attention: it is open only at noon, closed Saturday and Sunday, but if you arrive  in Athens on Friday morning or if your return is on Monday afternoon, you can make this experience truly unique.
Here the address: Sokratous 9 &, Theatrou.
Good hunting and καλή όρεξη !

FOR MORE INFO
athenscvb.gr
www.visitgreece.gr
www.thisisathens.org

http://www.visitgreece.gr/
GB Roof Garden Restaurant
Margi
YOLENI’S,
National Greek Opera

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<<<TOP CHEF WITH RECIPE<<< CHRISTOS ATHANASIADIS Nice n Easy, Athens

THE RECIPE: CALAMARI SAUTE’ WITH FAVA BEANS FROM LAKE FENEOS

Cooks in: 25 minutes. Serves: 2
Ingredients
4 calamari

400g fava beans
2 onions
1 potato
1 carrot
1 bay leaf
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Salt
Pepper
For the Calamari
Clean up the calamari, cut diagonally and sauté them.
For the fava beans
Preparation
In a large cooking pan, boil 1 part fava beans with 1 part of water with cut vegetables added and skim occasionally. When they are tender, mix into a high-speed blender adding olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper

INFO
Nice n Easy
Omirou 60, Athens

A dinner with Audrey Hepburn, Sean Connery, Elvis and Sinatra? I had it!

Text and photos by Cesare Zucca

For my first night In Athens, I discovered a real hidden gem called Nice n Easy, a cosy restaurant located in the quiet and romantic Omirou Street, n.60.
Nice n’ easy, inspired from Frank Sinatra’s well known song offers a beautiful menu based on quality and simple organic ingredients, carefully chosen. The dishes, created by the well known Chef Christos Athanasiadis, are a blend of Mediterranean flavors, keeping an eye to the tradition and the innovation. In the ‘savvy&healthy’ menu I found the place of origin of each ingredient, calories, and the nutritional value of each dish.

 

Many of them have a screen legends ’signature’ from

 

 

 

Between the pastas stands up (who else…) the Sophia Loren, a gluten free vegetarian dish with skioufihta pasta, wild mushrooms, organic baby tomatoes and aged Cretan Graviera cheese flavored with thyme. Talking of screen goddess, here comes Audrey Hepburn grilled wild mushrooms with gorgonzola, flavored with thyme  and Brigitte Bardot, where carrots, zucchini, baby corn, soya and bamboo sprouts meet noodles made of konjac root, that has zero calories, is rich in fiber and, thanks to the glucomannan, it absorbs liquids in the stomach, improves the level of glucose in the blood and decreases cholesterol, helps to detoxify the body and to stabilize the glycemic index and cholesterol levels. Viva la Bardot! I loved the gluten free Sean Connery, baked wild fresh salmon with barley crust, herbs and citrus, on quinoa tabbouleh with mustard- honey sauce. For meat lovers I suggest the succulent Frank Sinatra, prime beef flank tagliata with marinated grilled zucchini, organic baby tomatoes and truffle oil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All paired with an intense Thema 2016 made of assyrtico, probably Greece’s most striking white grape from Drama, Northern Greece.

 

 

More than anything, ‘nice n easy’ is a way of living. It’s the food, it’s the music, it’s the people and it’s the moo. Nice n’ easy in open all day for lunch and dining, coffee and cocktails, not to mention a fab Sunday brunch.

A ‘NICE AND EASY‘ INTERVIEW WITH CHEF CHRISTOS ATHANASIADIS
by Cesare Zucca

Where do you find inspiration to create a dish?
I look at the nature around me. I observe at the seasons, I look at what grows out of the soil, the characteristics of a place, is there a sea, is there a mountain at the area? In general, I look at what nature has given me and take those natural and local resources and create something new.
What convinced you to become a chef?
My grandmother had a big impact on me and influenced much my decision. She passed me on her love for food and the idea of being authentic, all of which helped me find my talent as a chef from a young age.
How do you express your personality in the kitchen?
I have to say I’m strict but very tolerant to mistakes as I believe that we learn the most out of our mistakes. Most of all I try to inspire my fellow chefs to love the kitchen environment even more through the position of a leader and not a manager. Is there a food you love only if cooked by another? Ravioli with anthotyros cheese dipped in butter that my grandmother used to make.
How relevant is the greekness in your dishes?
Hugely relevant.
All of my dishes and all I create spring up from the greekness that had been developed since the day I was born and have intimately within me.

What or Who inspires you? Why?
I get inspired by geometry, shapes, clean lines and colours. If I had to name someone I would say Thomas Keller because his dishes are very constructed, because of his creativity and the way he converts a food scene through his unique “plasticity” and last but now least I really like his personality.

 

 

 

Connery, Monroe, Elvis…Nice n Easy menu has often stars names. Why?
Because the creativity element that stands out within the nice n’ easy restaurants is authenticity. We believe that the old era of Hollywood is one of the most authentic ones in the history of arts. We’ve tried to find elements that each Hollywood star liked and combined those with our plates.

Eros and food, a proven combination.
Your aphrodisiac dish?
Ganache with back chocolate and chilly.
A food we will always find in your fridge and one that we will never find.
You will always find basil because I really love and use it frequently in many of my dishes. You will never find coriander as I’m allergic to it.

You are the guest of honor in the Mater Chef Grand Finale. What would you do to impress the audience?
I would be myself. You can only impress by being the authentic you.
On your chef’s life, any curious episode?
300 pieces of wedding cake that were completely destroyed by the truck that was transporting them to the location and we had to make up for it within only one hour. We did it!
Open the drawer and tell us your dream.
To end up, after a long journey, to my beginnings; in a small restaurant by the sea in a beautiful island with only 5 tables. I want to serve people feet naked, go fishing in front of the restaurant and to live the everyday sun along with the authenticity of the location.