happy & healthy 2009

Turkey is almost in the oven.  And a new year almost upon us.  My father just ran out to Whole Foods to get haloumi cheese for the stuffing (which consists of chestnuts as well).....

I'm reflecting on the wonderfully turbulent, busy, and overall good year we had in 2008.  I am looking forward to sharing with everyone even more recipes and thoughts on my experiences in and out of the kitchen.  



Merry Christmas

So incredibly belated.  But better late than ever.  I spent the majority of my time in Athens after my friend Elena's glorious wedding with a fever and the flu.  Thankfully, I had the attention and care of my friend and housemate from England, Lydia - and her mother.  I can't say enough about my friend Stelina, who in the process of keeping me company as I was passed out in bed, caught my bug.

I don't know where to begin and where to end.  Greece was complex.  But beautiful as always. Time with relatives and friends is always precious.  Unfortunately, I didn't get the opportunity to take a train trip up to my beloved Thessaloniki to see the rest of the family and my archery teammates. 

And despite the social climate and political unrest in Athens, I still managed to enjoy kourabiedes, souvlakia, melomakarona kai paidakia (not necessarily all in that order).


Αλέξανδρος Γρηγορόπουλος

It is with sadness that I have to post about the death of a 15-year old son of Greece this morning.  Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot by a police officer in the area of Exarchia in Athens on late Saturday night.  A senseless loss of life, and a vulnerable period for my beloved Motherland.  The protests and riots that have followed the news of this young man's killing reflect a passion and anger that touches upon something much deeper in the Greek psyche.  I would have rather posted about the wonderfullness of baklava, but I cannot ignore this cowardly act. 

Agaphte mou file Alexandre, kalo taxidi.....


can cassava save Africa?

I got my latest Nature News alert email, and this week, there's a very interesting piece on crop researchers out to tackle the food crisis. Of particular interest is the work done by Richard Sayre, who's the Director of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St Louis, Missouri.

Sayre is heading a consortium of researchers aiming to enrich cassava, which is a staple food consumed by over 250 million sub-Saharan Africans. Although it grows relatively well in bad soil, it tends to be low in nutritional content. It makes an interesting case for the potential of genetically modified crops. Thoughts?

melomakarona and baklava bake-off this Saturday

Courtesy of the Oxford Gastronomy Society, I wanted to let everyone know about a wonderful event coming up this Saturday in Oxford.  The event will be led by the illustrious Filitsa Douroupi.

Decadent layers of fyllo pastry packed with crushed pistachios, sweet almonds, sumptuousspices and aromatic syrup … food fit for the Gods. You’ve probably tasted Baklava, but nothing like Filitsa’s, OGS’s very own Greek Goddess. This Saturday, OGS has persuaded Filitsa to divulge her wonderful wizardry from behind the apron, and seduce us with her pastry prowess (afterall, tis the season of good will). We will bake trays of the much celebrated Greek Baklava as well as her auntie’s legendary ‘Melomakarona’ (devastatingly good). Melomakarona are traditional Greek Christmas cookies fragrant with cinnamon, orange and cloves, kissed with warm sticky honey and dusted with walnuts. Enough to bring Ramsay to his knees. £5 per person. 8 places with priority given to members. Email maria_kyriacou@yahoo.co.uk asap to book your place. Advance payment required. 

And I apologize for not having given you an update of what went down in London last Thursday at our Thanksgiving feast.  It was divine.  More to come (with recipes of course).


my father's roasted turkey

It's almost upon us.  Thanksgiving!  Greek-Americans adore this day.  You couple all the beautiful American traditions with your spanakopites and tiropites and you end up with a decadent feast.

I am in London and celebrating with dear friends from my earlier years in Oxford.  Here is my favorite turkey recipe (his words exactly) and stuffing by my father, Taki.

My Baba's Roasted Turkey

Defrost the turkey in cold water. When is completely defrosted, drain it and rub it with salt, pepper and Bell’s turkey seasoning.

Then, there are two ways to cook it. One way is to roast the turkey as is and bake the stuffing in a separate pan in the same oven. This is the way that your Mother cooks it. The other way is to stuff the cavity and roast it all together.

Method 1:
Roast The turkey separate from stuffing and bake stuffing in the oven.
As mentioned above, you rub the turkey outside and inside the cavity with salt, pepper and Bell’s turkey seasoning, brushing the skin with fresh butter, which has been already melted, and then you brush with a lot of olive oil and you place it in a Reynolds oven bag. Seal the bag and bake it in the oven at 325 F. Make sure that you fasten the neck skin to the back of the skewer, folding the wings across the back with tips touching, and tucking the drumsticks under the band of skin at the tail (or tie or skewer to tail).

6-8 lbs needs 3.5 hrs
8-12 lbs: 4.5 hrs
12-16 lbs:  5.5 hours
16-20 lbs: 6.5 hours

If you don’t have an oven bag, you can place on top of it aluminum foil, and every half an hour you just poor with a spoon juice from the pan to keep the turkey moist. Do not put water and don’t cover.

Stuffing: One 2 lbs bag of stuffing (roasted cubes of bread with seasoning)

1 cup of very small celery, diced
1 cup of green pepper, diced
1 big onion, diced
1 big carrot, shredded
½ cup raisins
1 lb chestnuts (boil them and peel them)

You place ingredients in the pan and add 1 cup of chicken broth. Place pan in the oven at 300 F and bake it for ½ hour. You check it to be moist and it should not get dry.


You fill the wishbone and the cavity area with the stuffing. Same recipe as above, but do not add the chicken broth. Do not pack the stuffing because it will expand. If there is stuffing left, then you put it in a pan, adding the chicken broth and baking it in the oven at 300 F for ½ hr.

The stuffed turkey is then put in the oven bag and roasted in the oven as mentioned before. Make sure that you tie the bag tight to keep the moisture. If there is no bag then you cover it with aluminum foil and keep the turkey moist every ½ hr with the juice from the pan.

For more questions call your Mother. 

Happy and enjoyable Thanksgivings.


i saw the world's best chef

Ferran Adrià. Last night. In London, at the Royal Festival Hall, along with my culinary colleague and mate, Susan Jane Murray. The owner and managers of Trinity, one of London's most beloved new restaurants, joined Susan and myself in what was an evening presentation by the head chef of the Catalan gem called El Bulli, touted as the world's best restaurant.

Adria is the inspiration for the likes of Heston Blumenthall and company. He doesn't particularly like to subscribe to the term 'molecular gastronomy', but they general public associates his name with those two words. You can tell, and as he articulated last night, that for Adria food is culture, which entails a whole dynamic of art, tradition, regional pallets, and national expression. I am totally getting into liquid nitrogen and applying some of his techniques to my repertoire.

Two days ago, I bought the recently published and highly anticipated book (for only £25 although it looks like I spent £70) by Adria on the daily operations of El Bulli, which up until now, where enigmatic. I love this book. I was expecting maybe an audience of 30-40 people, and the prospects of having this deity sign my copy. Sadly, there were 900 people in the hall (why I didn't anticipate this, who knows) and needless to say, I will have to wait for Adria's John Hancock.

I'm so applying to work at his restaurant for free. I'll wash dishes just to be in that kitchen. And speaking of kitchens, American Thanksgiving is upon us and I will be writing tomorrow a special post on my preparations. It will be celebrated with special friends (largely Oxonians) living in London. Until then, sweet dreams.


fabulous roast turkey with chestnuts

Courtesy of my pals at BBC Good Food, I have just received a new recipe today which can come in handy for your upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey roasts. Here it is my friends. My father's legendary recipe, which also includes a chestnut stuffing, shall come up very soon. The combination of the porcini mushrooms with chestnuts (with which I fell in love with as a child in Greece and thoughts of them brings me back to the streets of Athens where you will find typically Romas and the elderly selling them) is such a beautiful marriage. My only issue with this recipe is the use of foil during the roasting. I'm adamant on using roasting bags, which really keeps those juices circulating during the cooking process and the end product is so much more flavourful.


* 150ml Madeira or white wine
* 20g pack dried porcini mushrooms
* 2 onions , halved and sliced
* 25g butter , plus extra
* 15g pack thyme , use the leaves and reserve the stalks
* 2 x 454g packs Cumberland sausages , skins removed
* 200g pack whole cooked chestnuts (I used Merchant Gourmet)
* zest 1 lemon (halve and reserve the rest to use for the turkey)
* 15g pack flat-leaf parsley , chopped
* 85g fresh breadcrumbs
* 10 rashers streaky bacon


* 1 onion , quartered
* 4.5-5.6kg/10-12lb bronze turkey , giblets removed (to use in stock)
* 85g soft butter
* 1 whole nutmeg
* 10 rashers streaky bacon
* 125ml glass Madeira or white wine
* watercress sprigs, to garnish

Prep 20 mins, cook 4 hrs

1. First make the stuffing. Pour the Madeira or wine into a bowl, then crumble in the mushrooms. Fry the onions in the butter for 10 mins, until golden. Cool, then mix with the thyme leaves, the mushrooms and their soaking liquid, and all remaining ingredients, apart from 8 of the chestnuts and the bacon. Season well.

2. Set aside half of the stuffing. Line a greased 500g loaf tin with bacon. Pack the rest of the stuffing into the tin, then bring the rashers round over the top and secure in place with cocktail sticks. Use the reserved chestnuts to fill the spaces where the bacon meets. Chill until ready to cook. This will keep in the fridge uncooked for 2 days or can be frozen for up to a month.

3. Prepare the turkey. The night before, put the onion quarters, reserved lemon halves and thyme sprigs in the cavity between the legs. Pack the reserved stuffing into the neck end. Secure the neck skin with skewers and tie the legs together. Weigh the turkey. Calculate the cooking time at 40 mins per kilo, plus 20 mins.

4. Put a large sheet of extra-wide foil in a large roasting tin and put the turkey on top. Smear the breast with the butter, then grate over half of the nutmeg and season well. Cover with bacon, then pour over the glass of Madeira or wine. Seal the foil well to make a parcel. Chill overnight.

5. On the day, take the turkey out of the fridge 1 hr before roasting. Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Put the turkey in the oven; then, 90 mins before the end of cooking, remove foil and bacon, and drain off the juices from the tin to use in the gravy. To test whether the turkey is cooked, push a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh - the juices should run clear. If they are pinkish, cook for 15 mins more, then test again.

6. Transfer the turkey to a platter, cover with foil, then a couple of tea towels, and allow to rest for at least 30 mins before carving. Meanwhile, cook the stuffing loaf for 30 mins and reheat the bacon. Garnish with watercress and serve the stuffing loaf separately.


871 kcalories, protein 86g, carbohydrate 24g, fat 46 g, saturated fat 17g, fibre 0g, salt 3.01 g


too much cereal

Given our current financial crisis, and the focus on the financial services industry (and now what appears to be the auto industry), I appreciated a piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday regarding the deflation in crop prices (which is in sharp contrast to what was happening even six months ago) and its implications for farmers in countries like Cambodia.

Very interesting piece indeed.

honey-dipped Christmas cookies (μελομακάρονα)

My favourite time of year is here.  Christmas season.  One of our greatest traditions during this festive period is baking cookies and biscuits, of all sorts.  The most popular tend to be this ridiculously scrumptious shortbread dusted with powdered sugar called kourabiedes, and the elegant semolina cookies dipped in warm honey syrup spiced with cinnamon and covered in walnuts - melomakarona.

My mother's melomakarona and kourabiedes are legendary in our Greek community back in America.  Posts in the next few weeks will highlight these recipes.  I will also try to get my wonderful friend and science colleague Filitsa who's a master in the kitchen to provide me with her aunt's very old and very awesome recipe of melomakarona.  She made a batch this weekend and brought it into lab yesterday.  Needless to say, they were gorgeous.  The cookie itself had the perfect amount of syrup, and despite the richness of the honey, there was a certain lightness, attributed most likely to the semolina she used.

For now, here's one recipe I discovered a few years ago from one of the most prominent Greek chefs living in America right now - Aglaia Kremezi.

1 1/4cups light olive oil
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup fresh orange juice
3-4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup brandy
1 1/2 cups fine semolina


1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
2 cups water
1 large piece of orange peel
1 large piece of lemon peel
1 cup coarsely ground walnuts
2 teaspoons finely ground cloves


Using an electric mixer, beat the olive oil with the sugar. Add the orange juice. In a separate bowl, mix 2 cups flour with the baking powder, and add to the oil and orange mixture. Beat with the electric mixer adding the branddy, semolina, orange and lemon peel, cloves, and cinnamon. Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and start kneading, adding more flour, to obtain a soft and elastic dough. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap. Preheat the oven to 350 °F.

Take tablespoonfuls of dough and shape into oval cookies about 2 1/2 inches long. Press them on the top with the back of a fork to mark them with horizontal lines. Place on an oiled cookie sheet and bake for about 25 minutes. Let cool on a rack overnight. The next day make the honey syrup. In a saucepan, mix the sugar, honey, and water and bring to a boil. Add the orange and lemon peels and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Place 2 or 3 cookies on a large slotted spoon and dip them in the syrup. Don't let them soak in it; they should absorb only a little syrup, and remain crunchy. Place layers of honey-dipped Melomakarona on a serving dish. Mix the walnuts with the ground cloves, and sprinkle over the cookies. Let cool completely before serving. They keep well for about 10 days.


November 17

Wreaths being laid in front of a statue in Athens today commemorating the
November 17th student uprising

Today is the anniversary of the student uprising against the military junta on November 17, 1973 in Athens. Greeks love to celebrate holidays, but today is a day when we reflect on a profoundly tragic and defining moment in the democratic pursuit of freedom. I am reminded how lucky and blessed I am to grow up seeing a freer Greece.


the best pumpkin pie

Gourmet's Caramel Pumpkin Pie, photo by Roland Bello

My blog is the greatest source for help from all the food lovers across the globe. That is why, once again, I would like everyone's help in choosing what they consider the best recipe out there for pumpkin pie. I used one from the Food Network website last year for my Thanksgiving feast.

Any help?


unhealthy lunches

Instead of going for an Applebee's lunch next time, how about you bring your own sandwich from home. This piece by Men's Health editor-in-chief David Zinczenko has some sobering numbers on calories and fat for popular lunch options at many American establishments. However, it gives you the alternative, healthier items on these restaurants' menus. For example:

Crispy Honey Chipotle Crispers

1,890 calories
99 g fat (19 g saturated)
3,470 mg sodium

Calorie Equivalent: Like eating an entire medium Pizza Hut 12" pepperoni pizza!

Classic Chicken Fajitas
330 calories
11 g fat (2 saturated)
2,080 mg sodium

1,890 calories all in one sitting? That's a full day's worth of calories, folks.

an awesome food magazine

I wanted to let all my readers know about a superb magazine for lovers of food out there - Gastronomica.  Prof. Darra Goldstein of Russian at Williams College in the US is editor-in-chief of this beautiful read.  Their latest issue has a thought-provoking piece on politicians and food. 


olives on ice

Last evening, I had the great delight of taking my newly crowned doctor friend Cindy Drakeman to Jamie's Italian here in Oxford.  She is a proud graduate of New College and a recipient of a DPhil.

I enticed her to an Italian feast at Oxford's most popular restaurant.  Since its opening in late spring of this year, Jamie's Italian has been the hottest spot as far as fresh pasta and tiramisu are concerned.  We started with a meat antipasti plank, which consisted of cured meats, including a beautiful pistachio mortadella, gorgeous buffalo mozzarella, and pecorino.  The balsamic vinegar was expectedly of the best quality.  My mother being from Kalamata, you would think I am a great fan of olives.  If they are not pressed and not in the form of oil, then I'm honestly not a fan at all.  Nonetheless, Jamie's concept of large green olives on a bed of ice served with his own black olive tapenade and music bread was something I recommended for Cindy (since she's actually a fan).

For main, we wanted meat.  We shared chargrilled king prawns in a beautiful mint dressing, the highly acclaimed flash steak, which is a beef feather steak that's pounded with sage leaves and prosciutto, along with a free-range chicken (halved, boned, and marinated in some sort of pestoish sauce) and cooked under a brick. 

For dessert, I had the chocolate brownie which was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Very Americano in an Italian restaurant.  Forgive me.  But it was divine.  Cindy enjoyed the lemon and mango sorbet, which was pretty stunning as well.

We walked off our dinner by visiting the grounds of New College, which I never have before.  Cindy showed me the 'squeeky mound' (basically a hill in a garden with steps that looks like a Mayan temple and is how English gardens were designed back in the day), and also the old city walls of Oxford that are located within the grounds of New College and are marked by sections where the English would station themselves and shoot arrows at invaders.  We talked politics, the US election, and about Sarah Palin.   All of this under a brisk yet pleasant Oxford autumn night.

I will miss Cindy.


a great moment

I'm in tears.  Obama has just captured the presidential election.  It's 4AM here in England.  God bless America!  This is a precious, defining moment for the USA and the rest of the world!


david loftus

One of London's most amazing food photographers, the great David Loftus, was featured in a recent episode of the BBC's 'The Restaurant'.  His website has a great sample of his work.  His most famous client?  The great Jamie Oliver.


what will America's next president do about food?

A colleague of mine in Oxford last week told me about a must read, the October 12th issue of the New York Time Magazine.  They did an entire issue dedicated to food issues, and from what I understand there's a very well written article on the food crisis, with reference to what the next US president will need to consider to address it.  I think we may be seeing Obama embrace that role given the latest polls coming out of the States.

I just finished an experiment (yes at 2:50am), so I must go home, but I will have to leave this issue (which you can access online) for tomorrow.  

And just to let you all know, Oxford University has a farm apparently.  Who knew.  I found out about this after the principal of Somerville College brought this to my attention last Friday.  I had the privilege of representing my college at a breakfast meeting between students and faculty headed by the University Registrar, Dr. Julie Maxton.  I raised the issue of food sustainability with everyone, which sparked a good conversation.  I really would love to see Oxford do what Yale did (with regard to promoting organic/free-range foods in their dining halls).

For more on the Oxford University farm click here.  Strange McDonald's which I despise is a sponsor.  I'm going to arrange a trip to this farm very soon.

Over and out.  Good night.


who wants to join the Oxford Gastronomy Society?

Files kai filoi, I wanted to let all you lovely people to know about our first event by the adventurous Oxford Gastronomy Society. This Thursday, from 2-4:30pm, at G&D's on the Cowley Road, Susan Jane will lead a blind tasting of all the different flavours of the divine ice cream that we all know and love.

And just so you all know, if you join Oxford Gastronomy Society before the end of week 3 (we're in week 1 for those who don't subscribe to the Oxford term calendar) you can receive 2 memberships for the price of 1.

It's going to be a great term of events.....I look forward to Raymond Blanc's French cooking demonstration in a few weeks and meeting the head chef of El Bulli in London. For a link to the term card, click here...

By the way, I was so excited this Saturday when I came upon the new book of El Bulli (it's bigger than a Bible) at Waterstone's.  Now I know what I want for Christmas.


ringing in the new Oxford year

Hey folks (I feel like Sarah Palin now when I address everyone as such)...just wanted to let you all know that I'm alive and well and haven't fallen off the face of the planet.....

Fresher's week has started today with new students having arrived all over Oxford, and plenty of activities are planned for them. Fresher's Fair at the Examinations Schools on High Street kick off on Wednesday morning, and I will be joining my beloved Susan Jane, President of the Oxford Gastronomy Society, at a booth we'll have set up. New memberships are warmly welcome.

I have some new gastro ideas in mind which I'm going to share with you in the coming weeks. And, kalo mina (happy month, albeit belated)!


beef stew by the wonderful Filitsa

Last night, I had the privilege of dining at my friend and scientific colleague Filitsa's home here in Oxford. She's a brilliant cancer research scientist, and an equally brilliant master in the kitchen. Filitsa has been blessed with the ability to take meat and produce in the UK and cook them in such a way that she transforms them into authentic Greek cuisine. She's truly a master of Greek gastronomy. I don't pass complements like this lightly.

The menu included:

freshly made focaccia bread with sprinkles of feta cheese

roasted red-peppers stuffed with feta cheese and steamed courgettes along with the cutest little tiropitakia (little cheese pies) sprinkled with honey and vinegar

kokinisto (the most beautiful beef stew in a tomato-based sauce with a touch of brandy and a Greek all-spice called bahari {μπαχάρι}) served in a roasted aubergine and potatoes dauphinoise

I will try to see if I can convince my friend to share the recipe ;)


feta cheese by FAGE in England, woo hoo!

News report. Greek cheese by FAGE I've just discovered in Sainsbury's Local! Very exciting for me (I know, I need a life). Anyway, FAGE's website is very cool.

I must admit however that Mevgal's feta is one of my favorites.....My heart is in Macedonia.


best seafood chowder ever

My mate Robert Kennedy made the most delicious thing ever. A seafood chowder courtesy of Irish chef Neven Maguire. His gorgeous girlfriend bought the fish, the shrimp, and the mussels from the wonderful and famous Covered Market in Oxford. I forgot to nick the recipe, but the secret is in the leeks, 1/4 pint of fine white wine, and the quality seafood.

I was the happiest man Friday evening.


my favorite new olive oil

Sometimes, I really love being Greek.  OK, most of the time, but what inspires this post at 15 minutes before midnight is my latest acquisition, which is a bottle of some of the finest extra virgin olive oil I have ever purchased outside of Greece.  It's produced by Gaea and it's from Sitia, Crete.  I just broke it open and had a taste.  There's a harmonious blend of richness in flavour and and a softness in consistency.

Agh!   God bless whoever imports this stuff to England. 


i'm writing my thesis, and not cooking

not my thesis, but stuffed peppers (gemista)

Sad state of affairs on the cooking front, and I apologize for my unusual silence lately.  I've started writing my PhD thesis.  It's official.  However, last Friday, I cooked gemista (stuffed vegetables, peppers to be exact, with ground beef and rice) for my beautiful friend Alex.  She even got some wonderfully roasted pine nuts which are a personal touch of mine to a very classic Greek dish.  The recipe, I promise will be posted soon.  I am going to be punched for saying this (since I have yet to post the gorgeous recipe of cheesecake I made a few weeks ago for my friend Laurel's farewell get together).


greek kids rob supermarket, and then hand out food

No joke.  My best mate from America Justin just sent me an email with the subject heading 'was this you?'  Although I'm originally from Thessaloniki, I find myself in gloomy Oxford as I write this post.  So no, it wasn't me for the record.

THESSALONIKI, GREECE - Greek police say a group of about 70 youths protesting high consumer prices seized food and household products from a supermarket before handing them out to people on the street.

The youths, wearing hoods and crash helmets, also scattered leaflets outside the supermarket. Police announced no arrests. Thursday's robbery occurred in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki where Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is due to give an annual speech this weekend on the state of the country's economy.

The rise of Greek food prices generally outpaces inflation. The cost of food and nonalcoholic drinks rose 5.2 percent on the year in July, when consumer prices were up 4.9 percent from July 2007.

-Courtesy of AP


the famous Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookie

Here's a recipe courtesy of Erin O'Leary, who was kind enough to send it to me a few weeks ago. I will definitely test this.

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
  • 1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (approximately 30 seconds)

2. Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.

3. In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.

4. Using a 1 ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2 inch circle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies


foie gras can kill

Tissue fragment with amyloid in foie gras.  Congo red stain (Solomon et al. 2007) 

Oh God, it's already September.  Greeks are wishing me 'Kalo Ximona' ('Happy winter').  I don't want to think about that.  In any event, a big fat Greek happy birthday to my beautiful friend Maria.  We celebrated last night by enjoying a wonderful bottle of white at Summertown Wine Cafe.  Afterwards, we made our way over to Maria's flat, where in a desperate attempt, I made a Herculean effort to open up a can of foie gras (she claims it was of the highest standard).  I spent about 30-40 minutes, persistent, but in the end, unsuccessful in opening it up.

To my dismay, I found this study from last year that detected an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease with higher exposures to foie gras.  Scientists at the U. of Tennessee medical school fed lab mice foie gras, and then observed an increase in amyloid proteins in different tissues. Go figure.

Καλό μήνα μας!


comfort television

I'm sick. My stomach hurts. Really hurts. But at least I have UKTV Food channel and watching some really great cooking shows. My favorite dish was grilled salmon on a bed of grated fennel salad with creme freche (along with toasted pine nuts, lemon zest, and sun-blushed tomatoes) and accompanied with a zucchini fritti). It was amazing! Just amazing. I'm on a mission to make this for my mates. First, I have to get better though.


before you die, make sure you eat pizza at Pepe's

All Yale students are intimately familiar with the taste battle of Pepe's vs. Sally's pizza in the city of New Haven.  My favorite was actually neither.  Bar's pizza was just amazing (to be honest, all three are quite stunning).  I was spoiled in New Haven as far as pizza is concerned.  This remains the source of my bitterness from living in Oxford and not having access to great pizza.  But apparently, Bar's kitchen was run by a cousin or relative of Sally and Pepe.  I'm probably wrong, since I don't have any fact to back that statement up.  

Yahoo's travel section just had an interesting article on the ten places in America where one should eat before dying.  Well, Pepe's is on the list.  

By the way, a huge thank you to everyone for the apple recipes.  Already tried two and will write more on that later.  Thank you again.


apple dessert recipe anyone?

I have on my hands about 30 Bramley seeding apples (largely used as for cooking here in England). So, anyone up for pointing me towards some very good dessert recipes? I'm keen on an amazing apple pie, or apple crisp! Look forward to hear from everyone....Olympics are over, so I have to get back into sharing some of my latest recipes with everyone.

If you click on the link above, you will be directed by the British version of Martha Stewart - Delia Smith. She has some recipes using berries and apples. By the way, all I did yesterday on bank holiday was to watch the UK version of the Food Channel. Rick Stein is a god. He travelled to Australia and had a segment where he grilled fresh squid seasoned with paprika, then toasted rice and crushed it in a mortar, and added it both to a bed of lettuce, mint, and coriander as part of a glorious salad. The dressing included diced red chillies, lemongrass, and fish sauce.


the French love McDonald's?

Oh yes they do. Breaking news folks . I had no idea, but apparently McDonald's sales in France are significantly higher than those in the UK. This is all according to a great article published today in my beloved Times.

For more on this dirty French secret, click here.


verbal diarrhea?

I apologize for using such a word on a food blog of all places. However, yesterday morning, I had the privilege of talking to Phil Angell and Ali Booker on Oxfordshire's new radio station Jack FM, as I was subbing in for Susan from OGS. We discussed Greek food, and lightly touched upon childhood obesity. I was a novice at radio, and hopefully I didn't spew nonsense. The presenters were lovely folks, and I really enjoyed talking to them.

On my way back to city centre, I stopped by college and one of the porter's at St. Peter's said 'I just heard you on radio this morning, you have a very nice radio voice in fact'. I was thinking to myself 'are you sure you were listening to Jack FM?'


olympic dim sum

In honour of the ongoing festival otherwise known as the Olympic Games, I wanted to share with you my recent (and utmost positive) experience at one of London's best Chinese restaurants.  Ping Pong has nine restaurants across greater London, and I have been a few times to the one near Embankment Station (South Bank).  It's easily accessible, and despite being set a bit away from the Thames, the ambiance and the design of the interior provides a modern Asian and comfortable environment.  And then there's the food of course.

My college friend Flavia treated me this time.  How fitting, it was the evening of the Opening Ceremony in Beijing.  Ping Pong is praised for its dim sum, which is what the Chinese specifically refer to a range of light dishes often served in a small steamer basket or small plate.  Typically served alongside Chinese tea, dim sum is often available from morning until noon.  At Ping Pong, you can have any time your heart desires (hence why it's a popular destination for many Londoners).

We ended up feasting on the following:

steamed scallop and shitake (superb!)
steamed  charsui bun (delicious)
traditional sticky rice (cooked very  nicely)
fried crispy Thai chicken spring rolls (fantastic!)
seaweed, rice, & duck wrap (a signature dish)
variety of steamed vegetables

I was about to finish off with a dessert, but I just couldn't manage.  Comfortably full.  If I were to, my choice would have been a sweet potato with coconut (the chef's special) where crispy fried sweet potato in strips of light pastry, topped off with grated coconut and served with coconut ice cream and honey.

I accompanied my food with one of their special flowering teas - the flowering red amaranth, which is a hand-tied green tea wrapped around a 'spectacular red amaranth flower' according to the menu.  It sure was spectacular, and tasted lovely.

Now doesn't that sound like a delicious excursion or what?  Thank you Flavia.


the busy Greek

I have been slow to post an extensive array of new recipes, including stuffed tomatoes and peppers, and xilopites with sausage and Parmesan in a beautiful garlic and tomato sauce.

Between lab and planning our house move, I have been very bad in posting these recipes. There's also something called the Olympics which opened up at at 8:08pm on 8/8/2008. I am in heaven (and sleeping very little trying to watch live archery Beijing time).


why Olympic athletes are high maintenance

This is a bit silly. Check an article out by the NY Times on how for the first time in the history of mainland China strawberries from abroad (California, USA) will be imported since they have been requested by my American cousins in the Beijing Olympic Village.

Next thing you know the French delegation is requesting foie gras.


wine with the ladies (and a Swiss)

What a lovely evening I had (and I needed it after a stressful, miserable day during which I got into a fight earlier in the afternoon with some random lady on the bus who butted into my conservation). My friend from my undergrad days in Rochester, Flavia, arrived in Oxford for a few days, and after a baked cod dish with potato puree for dinner (recipe to come), we headed off to Northern Oxford for some fine wine at the Summertown Wine Cafe. I have heard great reviews on this place (for months now), and I couldn't pass up a chance to go. It was really the brainchild of the illustrious Susan Jane, along with Maria and Evie. The layout of the cafe was really interesting, with an outdoor area in the back, along with a gazebo of sorts that had the comfort of a family living room. I enjoyed a glass of Gottleman 'Munsterer Pittersberg' Riesling 2007 .

Loved it, loved it, loved it!


images of Greek produce

my uncle's grapes on his estate

the healthiest staple in the Greek diet - the olive

fresh cherries - sweetness like you can't imagine

Greek pumpkins (my little niece and her cousin)

On my most recent trip to the Motherland, I was reminded at what I love so much about Greece - its colours.  Fruits at the market or grapes on a wine, everything seems to have such colourful character under the Greek sun. 


dolmades disaster

The picture of this sad child captures how I felt on Saturday night.

Instead of using my mother's recipe on dolmades, I decided to experiment with the grape leaves I brought from Greece.  Grave sadness, however.  It didn't work out.  

You live and learn.


amazing lamb

This was shocking. I had a great main course in college last night during formal hall. Actually, to be honest, the new chef at my college, St. Peter's (Collen) is very, very good, and he's making a genuine and big effort to change things for the better.

Really enjoyed it. I'm going to miss my American summer school students. They were a wonderful bunch. Back to life, back to reality. Kalo mina (Happy Month), as we say in Greek .


the High Table Restaurant, Oxford

The spacious layout overlooking High Street

I had been waiting impatiently for last night's outing with the summer school program (2 week gig at my college) for dinner at one of Oxford's newest restaurants - the High Table. It is owned by the same group that operates the Quod on High Street, Gee's, and the Old Parsonage Hotel. Cuisine at all four venues is typically characterised as 'British contemporary'. Spacious and elegant, there's been a serious amount of buzz about this place.

We were a group of 18 American business and education students, three professors, myself and another St. Peter's student. I had called in the pre-order a few days in advance to make everyone's life a little easier. The price tag? £19.99 for a three-course meal (the pre-theatre dinner menu), excluding wine of course. Not a bad deal at all.

Leek and Potato Soup
Chicken and spinach terrine with chilli jam
Loch Duart Salmon gravadlax with lemon and dill crème fraiche

Char-grilled Pork T-Bone with wholegrain mustard mash, green beans and jus
Pan-Fried Sea Bass fillet with crème fraiche potatoes
Cherry tomato and basil risotto

Iced Mango parfait with Raspberry sorbet
Sticky Toffee pudding with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream
Classic crème brulee

As we sat down, ordered some bottles of French whites and reds, and started to enjoy the truly flavourful and quality balsamic and Cretan olive oil, we had a little surprise. Electricity went out on the block. This happened right before we were about to receive our first course. We were told they wouldn't be able to prepare the soup, which was fine. I think more people went for the salmon option than the chicken. I had the salmon. It was a quality starter. Loved it. Great on the palette.

bread, balsamico, and olive oil from Crete

Our French waiter (or manager, I couldn't exactly discern) was a bit stressed, despite his attempt to hide it. Nonetheless, Mr. French man and the rest of the staff were very pleasant. This was consistent with the service at Gee's (which I experienced on my birthday). We were told that it was a power outage in the entire block, and that it would take about 1-2 hours to get power up and running again according to the electrical company. At this point, we're heavy on the wine, and trying to come up with a decision as to what to do. Mr. French man said that Quad up the street could accommodate us for our main and dessert. In the meantime, one of the professors in the programme wanted our attention to inform everyone about an earthquake of severe magnitude between Los Angeles and San Diego.

The lovely American students were in fact from LA. As they got on their iPhones to their loved ones in the States, we got word that it was an earthquake of 5.4 magnitude, and that it wasn't as severe as the BBC had just made it out to be. Thank G*d. At this point, we decided to get up and make our way to other restaurant. As half the group steps outside, epiphany! Lights come on, the AC kicks in, and people start laughing. Round two. We manage to sit down once again, and get served our main. I had the sea bass, which was not warm enough for my liking, but still enjoyable and perfectly salted. Presentation was simple yet striking. Apparently the pork option was a huge hit with those who ordered it. A minority enjoyed the vegetarian option, risotto with cherry tomatoes and basil.

For dessert, I had basil myself. I didn't expect it. I ordered the mango parfait with raspberry sorbet, but the parfait base had an overpowering taste of fresh basil. It was kinda wrong. I am all for novelty, experimental dishes, but this particular marriage was not a success. I should have gone with the toffee pudding, since that's what my gut instinct hinted. Oh well.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience, despite the drama that ensued us from the onset. Do I recommend it? Yes. Was it the best food I had in Oxford. No.


the new Picasso

I just wanted to share with you an emerging young artist, who is Greek-American, and the son of a colleague. This kid is brilliant. Please click on his drawing of a Greek soldier (otherwise known as a 'tsolia'.

sandwiches in Britain: are they that healthy?

Are Pret sandwiches it really just made?

If you think you are getting a good nutritional value when you reach for a sandwich at M&S instead of a cheeseburger at McDonald's, you may be surprised to hear otherwise. Most of the sandwiches consumed by Brits today during lunch hour are loaded with salt, fat, and calories.

The latest Channel 4 show Dispatches aired a special last night on the British sandwich industry and it's strategic manipulation in getting the consumer to think that what they are eating is a better health alternative. To some degree, it may (if you compare it to KFC). However, I was really surprised to see chains such as Pret a Manger not faring well when they conducted a survey of various nutritional contents. You can't judge a book by it's cover, and Pret is a classic example of that. With pretty packaging with colors and buzz words on the labels that are more chatty than informative, one can see how Pret has deviated from its roots. It's a big business, and it's got a great marketing strategy. Boots rated consistently as having the healthiest sandwiches (although their packaging is a bit flat in my opinion, but it's about wellness not look that I'm advocating for).

The Channel 4 website for Dispatches has some great information for consumers. I am left a bit disturbed by what I saw last night.


what do you cook for Greek women?

Summer has arrived in England.  It's the end of July, and at last, we were able to sit outside last night without ski jackets.  We had a special celebration. My housemate Georgios was the entertainer this time around.  Our friend Denise's mother and her aunt are visiting from Greece, and hence, we wanted to test our culinary skills. Georgios took command of the situation, and delivered a beautiful dinner. The menu consisted of:

Gnocchi with parmesan cheese and white onion
Salmon steak with Dijon mustard
Shredded beet root, green apple and Greek yogurt salad
Spinach salad with balsamic dressing

for dessert we enjoyed the following:
Fresh cherries brought over from Greece
English organic strawberries with caster sugar and Grand Marnier 
Greek almond macaroons (amigdolata) from Monemvasia

Greek women are the most feared food critiques for us, and Georgios' efforts were met with great praise. The highlight of the dinner in my opinion was the beet root salad, which is a recipe by Georgios' aunt, who is a very experienced and excellent chef back in Greece.  Recipe to best posted soon. Denise's mother and aunt are coming over to cook for us youvetsi this afternoon.


tofu lowers sperm count?

News alert! Breaking news from Harvard's School of Public Health. Dr. Jorge Chavarro and his colleagues found a significant association between increased consumption of tofu and lower levels of sperm in male subjects. For more on this rather interesting finding, please check a piece by Tasmin Osborne in New Scientist. I tried doing a pubmed search for this article published in Human Reproduction, but I couldn't find it.

Sofia's big fat Greek baptism

My beautiful little niece Sofia was baptised into the Greek Orthodox Christian faith in style this past Saturday. Overlooking the Aegean waters and the mountains of Evia on warm summer's afternoon, the setting for this auspicious event was quite dramatic. My uncle's country estate has a very small white chapel, reminiscent of something from a postcard of the Cyclades. That's where the baptismal ceremony took place. Two-hundred people witnessed the joyous christening of my little niece. Despite her wailing following her little swim (if you have seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you know exactly what I mean), she seemed to not be phased by the fact that all these people travelled to see her.

The weekend celebrations kicked off a day earlier, on Friday, when 40 or so people, mainly close friends and relatives, sat along 3 long tables placed together on a patio at the base of the house. My uncle ordered from the seaside town of Kalamos 'paidakia' (lamb chops), pork kebabs, and biftekia (beef burgers, but Greek style and far more interesting than your ordinary hamburger). The lamb meat was deliciously tender. Platters of youvarelakia and vegetables came out of nowhere. We topped up with a wonderful Greek white wine, and I'm ashamed to say I didn't take note of the name and year. I will get back to you on that one. Dessert was ridiculous. We had three to four cakes, one of which was a birthday cake for my cousin Panagioti (the father of the baby). One cake was particularly stunning, which was essentially caramel and vanilla ice cream topped off with caramelised almonds.

Needless to say I didn't eat conservatively. In fact, I ate in excess, and felt the pain thereafter. But it was the kind of stomach pain that is in essence pleasure.

The following day, we didn't eat anything for lunch, even following our impromptu visit to the beach where I met up with family friend's of ours staying at the Kalamos Beach Hotel. It was my first and last swim in the Greek waters for 2008. A striking contrast to the 50-60 times I would go to the beach when I was a little bambino. At a seaside taverna (where I didn't eat anything) early in the afternoon, I engaged in a heavy debate over whether Greeks were following the unhealthy dietary habits of Americans, and the consequences of those habits on childhood obesity, diabetes, etc. My cousin Yanni was still convinced it wasn't a problem in Greece. I begged to differ.

After coming back to the house around 5pm, I cleaned up, threw on my pin stripe suit with a tie, and when I walk into the living room as guests were arriving, I noticed that I was the only one with a tie. Agh! I felt incredibly out of place. So off came the tie. I finally achieved the summer look I was going after.

As the cousins and friends of old started coming to the house, there was a euphoric feeling in the air that was palpable. You knew this was a special day, time, and place. The whole lot proceeded slowly down the hill to the chapel for the start off the ceremony at 7pm. The entire time, I was moving like a chameleon around the priest, the guests, the godmother, in an effort to take the best pictures possible. Total number of pictures taken in the end? 388.

The reception that followed was a true Mameletzis event in every sense of the word. Stylish. Apiro fagito (lot's of food). Apiro krasi (lot's of wine). At some point in the night, I decided to grab a girl called Aliki and start dancing. What followed was a dance-a-thon. I managed to grab others and bring them to the dance floor. My partner in crime was in fact my friend Christina. The previous baptism was that of Vassilis, and a guest list of 400 didn't see a single person dance at that event. For this occassion, out of 200 guests, a significant number of folks got their groove on. In the end, I threw a zebekia (type of Greek drunken man's dance) for my little niece. If you watch Zorba the Greek, you shall understand. We didn't finish drinking and dancing until 3:30am. Insanity. But well worth it.

On Sunday, at around 11am, I woke up to breakfast (and the realisation that my legs were sore from dancing) by the veranda with the rest of the family there. Sofia had managed to get at up 7am. The life of a baby, go figure. As if I hadn't eaten enough from the night before, my aunt Sofi organised yet another luncheon for 35-40 people. There were this time 3 sections. A table for children 5 and under. A table of 30-somethings. And then everyone else. Leftovers from the catering, coupled with fresh salads, was the perfect way to spend the rest of the afternoon. It was quite hot by 2-3pm, and an iced cold beer jug filled with Heineken from the tap made for the most refreshing drink of my life.
By 9pm, I managed to hitch a ride back with one of our friends to Athens, where I proceeded to meet up with other cousins in the swanky club-restaurant Akrotiri for my little cousin Yannis' birthday dinner. He is also a Yannis Mameletzis. There's three of us on this planet right now. The temperature was perfect. The company was perfect. The atmosphere was perfect. And my main course of rooster with spinach and potato puree was perfect as well.

Life is good.


my return from the Motherland

Me and the beautiful Greeks at the baptism
I just got back from the Motherland late last night. Had the most glorious weekend. The sole motivation was to celebrate my little niece's baptism in an area outside of Athens called Kalamos. Saturday evening, we had a classically Greek celebration, consisting of food and wine decadence, family, children, elders, and dancing into the late hours.

Back at work, but I will post a more extensive synopsis of the baptism, the family reunion, my little cousin Yannaki's birthday, and my supermarket field trips to Sklavenitis in Vrilissia and Marinopoulos in Kolonaki.


my Aunt Litsa's rabbit in wine sauce with fresh bay leaves

Unannounced, I ended up coming to my Aunt Litsa's house last night in Athens. Yes, Athens. As in Athens, Greece.

I ended up coming to the Motherland for the weekend (the perks of living in Oxford, England, and not Seattle, USA). My cousin Dimitra is baptasing her daughter tomorrow, and I couldn't fathom missing a Mameletzis celebration. I've been so busy with things that only about two people knew I was even making a trip. I went straight from the airport to my Aunt Litsa's house (not before helping a BBC reporter who had locked his mobile phone in his rented car at the airport), where I was met with this beautiful rabbit stew. The meat was incredibly tender, and I was surprised at the uncharacteristically large and soft bay leaves. My auntie had picked them that morning from her backyard. Go figure. I tend to boast about having fresh Greek basil by my kitchen window in England. Not as impressive as fresh bay leaves, however. We sat outside on her balcony with my uncle George and the rest of the family, including my Aunt Vivi who had just arrived from the States. On a beautiful Mediterranean summer's night, we caught up on life, enjoyed the most satisfying meal, and drank a sweet red Greek wine as we engaged in a heavy debate about the pace of life in America versus that of Greece.

Tomorrow is the baptism. I can't wait. God I love this country.


a little slice of Greece in Cranston, Rhode Island

starting them young in the kitchen, John’s New York System

This is a great article that recently appeared in the food section of the Providence Journal.  They feature a Greek-American establishment which opened its doors in Cranston, RI back in 1948. Pareskavoula Degaitas, the matriarch of the Degaitas clan which I have affectionally discussed in previous posts, opened John’s New York System with her husband back in 1948.

It's a well written piece on the joys and hard work of immigrant families in promoting the tastes of their ancestral homes.  


my facebook group

I am meaning to post the recipe from a beautiful chicken dish housemates Georgios and Markos prepared on Saturday night. But I haven't, since I've turned into Mr. Lazy the past 24 hours.

However, I want to inform y'all good folk about the Facebook group I created yesterday, My Little Baklava. If you want to join, just press here please. Caio.


dog meat off Olympic menu in Beijing

Breaking news. If you visit Beijing for the Olympic Games, which commence at 8pm on the 8th day of the 8th month of this year, you will be sad to learn that you most likely won't be able to order dog meat at any of the Olympic capital's restaurants. City officials have urged hotels and restaurants to temporarily take off man's best friend off their menus. For more on this, check out an article from the Financial Times.


quinoa with spinach and beetroot (κινόα με σπανάκι και πατζάρια)

I made a lovely, healthy, and hearty dish yesterday that boosted my protein levels! Nope, it wasn't organic chicken breasts. Nor was it a baked sweet potato. Instead, it was a healthy 'grain' that has its roots in antiquity. It's called quinoa. Revered by the Incas, this staple had been part of the diet of these native inhabitants of the South American Andes for centuries and still continues to be enjoyed by the Quechuas and Aymara people. Technically quinoa is not a grain (although it tends to be talked about as such). It's in fact the seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant.

I think of it as a substitute for rice. Where one would ordinarily use rice in popular Greek dishes, such as spanakorizo/σπανακόριζο (spinach rice), one could simply resort to this ancient supercrop. It's a great alternative, since couscous and rice seem to be an overkill in Mediterranean dishes.

Moving on. The following recipe is just for a single tummy. Perfect for a quick lunch or dinner post-gym.

1 cup of quinoa, washed under cold water to get rid of an otherwise bitter taste due to glycosids known as saponins
2-3 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of spinach, washed and sliced
1/2 cup of cubed beetroot (cooked, Tesco's finest is what I used)
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
1/4 cup of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Add oil and onions to a medium-size pot and cook onions until soft (over medium heat, making sure you don't burn those onions of yours). Add the spinach, beetroot, and garlic. When spinach has wilted, add the quinoa, making you sure you stir around all the ingredients. It's important that the quinoa doesn't stick to your pot (this step will give your quinoa a nuttier flavor). After a minute, add two cups of the stock. One final stir, and increase the oven knob to a high setting, so you bring the mixture to a boil. Once that happens, lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for about 12-15 minutes. Quinoa is cooked when you can see it translucent, with a white-spiraled tail detaching from the actually grain (seed, whatever you want to call it).
If this hasn't happened 12-minutes into the simmering, add more stock.

the final product

Serve immediately. For more recipes on this super-duper health food, check Susan Jane Murray's website, where the stunningly wondrous Irish cook, colleague, and friend offers plenty of wonderful recipes.

And for additional information on quinoa, please visit the BBC Good Food website.


do food critics suck?

Jay Rayner in the Guardian just wrote a review on a Greek restaurant in London called Lemonia. It takes some heavy words for me to be offended, but his patronizing tone made me see red, especially in the following statements.

There are many who insist that there is a higher, more complex form of Greek cookery to which we mere tourists are not exposed. I'm sure there is. (The mischievous part of me is tempted to say: yes, it's called Turkish, which has a truly fabulous tradition. But that would merely be courting controversy, and you won't find me doing such a thing.) I do know that Greek wines go far beyond Retsina, that there are some intriguing reds to be had if you know where to look.

What we probably have here is yet another superficial, stiff Oxbridge twit (he actually went to Leeds, but I'm on a rant here) who believes that he is an authority on world foods.  The challenge with Greek gastronomy rests on those who have inherited the tradition.  It is they who must convey and market the true essence and diversity of Greece's foods.  It's a tradition that is more than  just feta cheese dumped on top of something cooked in olive oil, Mr. Rayner.  

gordon Brown lectures us on food and then eats caviar

I am the first to be a proponent for supporting the local farmer over the commercial giant. I am also the first to advocate for food not being wasted. However, I find the outcry over Gordon Brown and the rest of the G8 leaders feasting on an eight-course dinner at this week's G8 summit a bit too much, even for myself. But then again, if I were the one to be preparing this dinner, I would have tamed the quantity (let's say 4-course) and strived for quality in entertaining George, Gordon, and Angela at the luxury Windsor Hotel overlooking Lake Toya in Japan.

What was on the menu you ask? Word on the street has it that one starter what nine different foods in it. The main course was milk-fed lamb with herbs, accompanied by black truffles.
At some point in the feast, diced fatty flesh of tuna fish and crab made their way to the G8 table. And in terms of drinks, Le Rêve Grand Cru Brut champagne and fine wine were in abundance.
An interesting op-ed by the Telegraph's Lance Price seems to be particularly critical of the 'PR mishap' a few nights ago in Hokkaido. For more, please click here.

On my personal cooking front, I made a rib-eye steak in a yogurt marinade last night, with a potato and beet puree and roasted yellow peppers. Recipe to be published later tonight.


marko's birthday present

Markos Karavias, housemate, friend, Greek brother, and personal food critic, got me Giorgio Locatelli's cookbook 'Made in Italy: Food And Stories'.  It is a very comprehensive guide on Italian cooking (with a very charming personal account of Italian life) by one the preeminent chefs of the Italian culinary tradition.  I trust the housemate, since he noted that this book is an essential addition to my library.

I'm very eager to read this, since it appears to be inclusive of interesting, colourful, and honest recipes.  I'm also very keen on paying a visit to Locatelli's London restaurant - Locanda Locatelli, his first independent venture and the recipient of a Michelin star in 2003.  Just curious as to how deep into my pocket I'll have to go for this one.  Surely, it will be worth it however, since I am a huge fan of the cuisine of our Mediterranean neighbour.


the Fat Duck review by AA Gill

Karen's favourite critic of restaurants from the Sunday Times was once kicked out of our beloved Gordon Ramsey's restaurant (by the man himself). Nonetheless, he has got some interesting reviews and for his take on our boy Heston's The Fat Duck (a little cottage with not one, not two, but THREE Michelin stars), please click here.

greek-american yogurt a hit

The Degaitas recipe came out a success (see post from a few days ago). Part II from my birthday to come, plus the amazing Cowley Road festival from Sunday. I haven't strained it however, since I couldn't find the cheese cloth. It's surprisingly thick in consistency, nonetheless.


plea on food waste by PM Gordon Brown

As the G8 Summit is underway in Japan, the global food crisis is high on the agenda.  Gordon Brown urged Britons to not waste food.  For more on this, click here.


my big Fat Greek birthday (Part II)

a satisfying cake that came all the way from Swindon

I'm trying to make a peace sign, but it looks like I'm flipping Karen off (or Markos, I can't recall who took the picture)

After a fulfilling meal at Gee's, I came back home to find all the housemates there and was immediately told that Venus had won the 2008 Wimbeldon women's title.  I was happy to hear this, since I've always liked her game better than Serena's.  Plans for the evening were to see my South African friend Karen, along with her husband and baby boy.  They were going to come to Oxford for a few hours, and afterwards, the vivacious Eirini (means peace in Greek), friend of Vilitsa and fellow lab mate, wanted to take me to the movies at around 10:30pm.  

Karen came around 7:30pm, but the men in her life weren't feeling well so they stayed home.  She arrived with the most scrumptious, devilish cake, which her mum-in-law so kindly made for me.  It was such an unbelievably sweet gesture.  Karen had even brought candles.  The housemates and she sang their own rendition of happy birthday in English, followed by the Greek version (Karen and Salim seemed confused with the latter).  I made about a hundred wishes in a split second before blowing out the candles.  That was followed by three pieces of cake I ate all in the span of 5 minutes.  I was having my sugar rush, and loving it!  Karen stopped me at piece number 3.  Housemates went about their own thing, and got ready to go to our friend Nikos' party (who had just submitted his thesis).  As they were leaving, I agreed to possibly meet up after the movies at the party.

Karen had to get back home, and so she decided to drive me to Eirini's house (the infamous and aforementioned 'Vilitsa') where we'd pick her up and go to the movies.  Karen is not just a friend, but also my mom-away-from-home.  As we pulled in front of Eirini's house, Karen told me not to waste money on my mobile and call her, but to just go knock on the door to get Eirini.  As I got out of the car, I saw our friend (and Eirini's housemate) Fani come out of the house wearing a birthday party hat.  I figured they had made a cake for me or something to quickly eat before going to the movies.  But then I turned to Karen and said 'wait a minute, are they having a surprise party for me?' and she smiled and said 'yes'.  I asked her if she knew, and she responded 'of course' in a cheeky grin. 

I was fooled.  As I walked into the kitchen, all the Greeks (and honourary Greeks, including Samir, Basak, and Christina), along with the housemates, screamed 'surprise!' in their thick Greek accents (especially George).  It was so sweet!  Eirini had me going the entire time. I was unbelievably clueless.  I guess since Friday afternoon Facebook messages were circulating to plan this.

The tall Aussie Matt came, he brought a bottle of ouzo for the festivities, we cut another cake (this one from my M&S, in the shape of a bear, chosen by Salim for some weird reason), drank, and had a blast.

The party continued at Nikos' place, which was great fun, with lot's of ouzo, wine, and loud music.  I went to bed that night (as in 3am) very thankful for having such special in people life.  

my Big Fat Greek birthday (Part I)

What a weekend. Full of eating. Heavy on the cake. Loud on the music. And genuine surprises.

Saturday, I had made plans to meet my labmate Srin at Gee's, a posh restaurant in North Oxford where I have wanted to eat for four years now. A place where parents take their kids after graduation, if you know what I mean. Srin can be cast as a food connoisseur, and she was excited to treat me on my birthday to the British contemporary cuisine for which Gee's is well known amongst Oxonians.

As I biked my way to the restaurant from East Oxford, I ran into my friend Eleni on Holyweel Street (a pedestrian road off the High Street, lined with charming and classically old Oxford buildings that includes an apparently very good Japanese restaurant I have yet to experience). I was in a rush, said hello, she awkwardly wished me 'Χρόνια πολλά, Γιαννάκη!' and then I dashed off to the restaurant. As I got to the restaurant, Srin still hadn't arrived. She strutted to the front of Gee's in a very stylish red dress and looked gorgeous as always. Our friend Haj (also a fellow lab rat) joined us as well as one of Srin's good mates, Kartik.

The restaurant, operated by an upscale leisure company called Mogford, is housed in a charming Victorian conservatory with chandeliers, Sophisticated yet inviting, and I'm a sucker for Gee's natural light. We sat by the window, and I sported my Ray-Bans given the sun (a rarity this summer in England). Our waitress was very pleasant, and after taking a look at their luncheon menu, which included a variety of Continental-inspired dishes, we ordered.

I hate pate, so the natural choice (of course) was to have sautéed duck livers and poached hens egg in a puff pastry case. I said go for it since I believe eating is about experiences. I wasn't a fan, but the presentation was a hit. The meat itself was quality, but I couldn't strip myself of my prejudice when it comes to liver of any kind. At least, I tried it. 

saute duck livers & poached hens egg in a puff pastry case

My main was a chicken confit with chorizo and slow roast tomatoes, which I very much enjoyed.  The portion was smaller than I anticipated, but then again, I am a villager at heart and used to rather large pans of meat pies. We also ordered a side salad of tomatoes and basil. The purple basil was unique, beautiful, and aromatic. 

chicken confi with chorizo & slow roast tomatoes

Srin had the poached salmon on crushed Jersey royal potatoes in an olive oil dressing. I tasted a bit of the potatoes, which were surprisingly light and flavourful. The salmon dish was particularly striking and pretty. With my meal, I failed to mention that I had small glass of the Muscadet sur Lie 2006, clos des Rosiers. Sweet and smooth, and complemented the chicken.

poached salmon on crushed Jersey royals, with olive dressing

For dessert, I thoroughly enjoyed the poached pear with vanilla ice cream and a dark, silky chocolate sauce. That's after I blew out the candle which our waitress kindly placed on top of the ice cream.
strawberry shortbread, strawberry & black pepper consomme

We stayed for a total of about three hours in the restaurant. We took our time enjoying our food, and talking for quite a long time afterwards (without being rushed by our waitress).  This was they type of establishment where you felt appreciated, which can't be said for middle-of-the-road restaurants throughout the UK.  Everyone knows I am very critical of the customer service we get in restaurants in this country, but Gee's was very much a positive experience.  

A memorable and special birthday luncheon.

the menu (which I had the chef, Mr. Oliver Lee, sign afterwards)

the illustrious Srin

the sophisticated Haj