A Greek Odyssey

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On an overcast day I set off to discover some of Sydney’s Greek heart.The Greek Odyssey Tour from Gourmet Safaris, starts at Central Station, Sydney city, kicking off , by bus at 8.30am.

We are accompanied by good Greek Girl, Liz Kados. Liz’s growing up Greek stories, are the perfect fit for this adventure and makes for an interactive Greek experience.

The philosophy behind this tour is the simple idea, that people want to be taken behind the secret door. . .Where do Greeks shop?  Who are some of the Greeks running successful businesses?  Sleepy suburbs harbour traditions and culture that are a fascinating peek into another world.

The trip begins with a visit to  Adora chocolates on the edge of Marrickville and Earlwood, the little known heartland of Greek suburban life clinging determinately to the inner west of Sydney.  Near Here also, is a walking tour , traversing  bakeries, butcher shops and delis, still owned and run by Greek families entangled with the new predominately Vietnamese culture also thriving in this area.

We are offered a coffee or hot chocolate and two chocolates each from the enormous display of chocolates on offer, I can’t choose!. I end up with a passionfruit and white chocolate and a choc chilli truffle.  After this we are taken out the back of the shop where Katerina and Tina give us a personal tour and have a bit of a laugh at the story of the beginnings of  their business.

Sisters,  Katerina and Tina began making chocolates from home in 1993. Landing many accolades and an Opera House contract they moved the business to a shop front in 1995, where the girls say they were shocked when people started coming throught the door and they didnt know what to do with them.  Today they are a slick and organised business with two other premises. One in the city CBD ( opened in 2006)and the other newer store in Parramatta, in the outer western suburbs and have been in business now for 18 years.

They prefer to make chocolates and truffles from fresh ingredients using no preservatives and try to use fairtrade chocolate, ( from Callebaut) and vibrant fresh flavours like passionfruit , raspberry, lime , cultured butter and cream..

A large non-dairy selection is also produced and most chocolates are gluten free

Shop P9, 2A Bligh St, Sydney
Ph: 02 9232 6601  CBD: Open Monday to Friday 8:30am – 6:00pm.

This is their new and very beautiful gift packaging. Earlwood
10 Homer St, Earlwood
Ph: 02 9559 5948  Open Monday to Friday 8:30am- 6:00pm and Saturday 8:30am 4.30pm.  Look on their website for Parramatta address www.adora.com.au

Everyone  piles back onto the bus fuelled with coffee and chocolate and in a much more relaxed state. We head deeper into Earlwood which Liz explains is a little bit like Greece itself, in that Greece is an Island and Earlwood , although a suburb of Sydney , is like a little Greek settlement just off the beaten track.

We are heading to Trianon Cakes/bakery, whose family ownership spans 32 years. The machinery is original and ancient, even the old lbs and ounces weights are survivors of the original shop. This is a shop steeped in tradition. The old recipes provide constancy and Greeks travel here from all over Sydney to buy by the tray.   Greek shortbread, Tahini pie, Baklava and Galaktoboureko, made with filo pastry, custard and syrup. There are more modern Greek bakeries, but Trianion, has its moments of brilliance. The Haloumi and Olive bread ( eliopsomo- with olives, onion, dill, shallots and olive oil), are some of those moments. We all squeeze out the back of the kitchen and witness the making of these golden fully stuffed loaves , that I suggest you try. They are not cheap at $8.00, but you will never taste another olive or haloumi loaf like this!

Did you know that if you are asked to be a best man and woman at a Greek wedding, you may remain in service for a lifetime? Once you are asked and have performed your duties on the day, you remain as the best man or woman until the first child is born…… then you may become a God parent , if you are lucky. This will bind you further to the family with years of eating and being available for family get togethers and open house feasting on name days.  In fact , really if you are Greek you must always have something to offer guests and this is why Trianon is always so busy.

The shelves are full of freshly baked goods and the shop is bustling. Many of the tourists buy treats to take home before we head up Homer Street to the Greek Deli /Earlwood Wines.

Trianon Cake Shop 289-291 Homer St Earlwood 02 9558 3347

Earlwood wines and the Greek Deli are known by Greeks far and wide. The selection of Greek wine and food is staggering, this is the biggest Greek wine store in Sydney. They stock imported and Australian foods, from legumes to cheese, salamis, olives and spices.  In addition it is also a one stop shop to purchase paraphernalia for your soul.

Harry Ipermachou and his son, Con, have been running it since 1987. Harry’s wife makes all the taramasalata, tzatsiki, eggplant dips and the like. Taramasalata was a favourite with their customers. The production is now at a gut busting 500 tubs a day!. We taste all her had made dips, dried olives, wine and Ouzo from Lesbos. Some of their customers are chefs like David Tsirekas, Xanthi, Peter Conistis and the guys from Nicks Bar and Grill who buy the olives , oils, cheeses and wines. Notes here are,  Greece is now a first world wine country, if possible steer clear of Retsina and try the Taramasalata!.

Earlwood Wines. 285 Homer Street, Earlwood. Tel: 9559 5673. Open Mon-Sat, 8am-6pm; Sun, 8am-5pm.

Some of us have had a bit of Ouzo and probably should not have!! The trip to Hurlstone Park , a neighbouring suburb is filled with laughter and we are dropped outside a small suburban butcher shop ” Parkside Superior Meats” owned by Peter Kefalouros . ( now closed – 2015)

There are two things you first notice here. Peter is a very good looking Greek man and second you are welcomed into his shop as if it were his lounge room, this is because Peter spends so much time at his shop it probably is like his lounge room. As an ex chef he knows a lot about flavours and entertaining and he will deliver anywhere at any time , just to make his customers happy ( make sure you order up to $50.00 worth). Try this for customer service………do you live in Point Piper? he’ll deliver there. Do you live in the Hunter valley, he’ll deliver there too. Give him your order and he’ll bring it to you on the way home!

 

We try some of his delicious handmade sausages in flavours like haloumi, sundried tomato and pesto, pork and fennel with caramelised onions and  curry sausages with a hint of Tzatsiki or try his Chicken or Lamb kebabs.  During Easter he works 3 or 4 days straight putting together orders for his Greek customers including his famous Souvlaki Lamb, sourced from Juni and made with secret spices he likes to call “Peter’s Greek Love”.

A real perfectionist, Peter loves his job and customers and checks every order personally. He is a perfect for this trip, a secret discovery you will be glad to have made. Have your meat cut to your own specifications receive free cooking tips and a chat. You will find free range Ottway Pork and free range poultry, and beef only from from the farms he visits each year on his 2 week break, and yes he has all the usual family favourites as well.

Parkside Superior Meats and Souvlaki-10 Crinan St Hurlstone Park 95585000 ( now closed)

Our driver is waiting to take us to our next stop, The Nut Roaster Food Gallery. It is not Greek owned, but this is where waves of Greek shoppers stock up. There are fabulous spices, cheese, preserves , honeys, nuts and halva in this warehouse style shopping mecca . A traditional Greek refreshment of spoon sweets with yoghurt is offered to us when we arrive. Sometimes this is offered to visitors in a glass of cold water , instead of yoghurt, and is a little bit like a lumpy cordial consisting of fruits in thick syrup. Restaurants also offer platters of yoghurt with spoon sweets and lots of spoons to groups of diners . The yoghurt we try is thick and creamy and the fruit is preserved cherries, but could just as well have been quince or melon or even walnuts in Greek honey, all sold here.  A tasting table offers haloumi, nuts , dried olives, some delicious green olives, Kefliatari, feta with oregano and olive oil and Kaseri cheeses.  Greek olive oil is a specialty here, very reasonably priced.

The haloumi sells in 2 kg buckets  and I notice that they also have Riverina haloumi, a Northern Rivers company, along with the yoghurt and cheeses in many shapes and sizes. I stop to buy a pack of fresh sumac ( not quite Greek is it?) and some dried Greek Oregano that I use for in Mexican cooking!

The Nut Roaster Fine Food Gallery 81 Chapel St Lakemba 97591206

We arrive at the Athenian just in time for lunch.

Lunch was an all round tasting menu of Greek traditional fair. I am a big fan of the likes of Xanthi and George Colombaris’s modern Greek, however the food was a great way to try these favourites done well.

We started with Taramosalata and Tzatziki. Creamy and delicious with bread. Next a crunchy feta salty Spanakopita ( spinach, dill and feta)dipped in Tzatziki . A Greek salad contained shredded carrot, chunky tomato cucumber and feta sprinkled with dried oregano. It was refreshing but unexciting and a Tiropita triangle ( ricotta, dill, feta, egg) all wrapped in phyllo pastry, was a welcome delicacy. A plate of tender fried squid and octopus was simply served with lemon and was one of my favourite dishes. We finished our lunch with slow cooked Lamb melting and tender served with lemon and chunks of potato and pumpkin. Very simple and quite delicious.

Liz made a valiant attempt to brew us a Greek coffee in the dining room, however the portable gas stove refused to flicker into action. The coffee pot was taken to the kitchen where the molten instant Greek coffee was brewed and returned for all to try . Mint Turkish delight was a refreshing finish, covering the taste of Mastic we had all previously tried. Mastic is a tree sap that is used in many Greek dishes giving an unusual medicinal taste that requires a little getting used to. It is available in food stores as a nub of white sap or ( if you are Greek, get excited now…..) as a chewing gum.

www.athenian.com.au

This is the end of a lovely day and a real Greek Odyssey

Please go to http://www.gourmetsafaris.com.au/shop/category/sydney-safaris-on-wheels-safaris for costs and dates

Tania travelled as a guest of Maeve O’Meara

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