Whenever I visit Athens, I always make it a point to visit these shops:
The Mastiha Shop.
Based on the natural gum that comes from the Greek island Chios, this clever shop (that now has a branch as far afield as New York City) has all kinds of spin offs. From soaps, to coffee, to liqueurs and even a great book by Greek cookery writer Diane Kochilas. I always buy my “I bought you this in Greece” gifts from this shop because it has some wonderful tins with tasty variations of Mastiha sweets. What I love to eat from there are the sour cherries in syrup and the lemon flower blossom preserve.
The sour cherry is out of this world on mastiha ice cream (if you are in Greece and you can find it) if not its equally divine on some vanilla ice cream. I would have never even noticed the lemon blossom topping had the shop assistant not pointed it out. When I realized at the check out that it was 8.50 I thought she had identified me as the foreigner to help shift her stock. When I spooned it on to some Greek yogurt as she had advised. Well… Perfect marriage of flavours! I have been eating it instead of my usual Greek yogurt and honey.
My toddler is a very finicky eater. I always make sure to take her along to the Ariston cheese pie shop. I had passed this little shop for over a decade before I even realized there was food inside! Now I wonder how on earth I could have missed it! Even though it is flanked by shops selling cheese pies on all sides, there is a steady stream of well heeled Athenians walking along with the plain white envelope bearing a steaming Ariston pie. They also have pies that include spinach, leeks and other vegetables but try the original to start. And make sure to pick up a fruit juice from the fridge, it works well against the salty backdrop of the cheese.
One of my favourite chocolates is chocolate covered cherries. I have loved them since I was a child (despite them being infused with brandy or maybe because of that…?). Ah, but there is such a delicate balance to be played in the making of a perfect chocolate covered cherry. The cherry within still has to be plump and flavorsome not a shriveled skin around a cherry stone. There has to be at least 1/2 a teaspoon of liqueur. Dark chocolate, that is preferably a thin shell. I have visited a lot of hoighty toighty establishments and asked to sample this only to be disappointed! But! I can say, hand on my heart, that the search is over, I have found it, Aristokratikon! They also have the best pistachios from Aegina and of course loads of other chocolates I have never even tried because I am to busy buying out their entire supply of cherries!
Address Book, in order of appearance:
Mastiha Shop, 6 Panepistimiou & Criezotou str, Metro-Syntagma, T. 210 3632 750
Ariston, 10 Voulis Str, Metro-Syntagma,
Aristokratikon, 9 Karageorgi Servias Strk, Metro-Syntagma T. 210 3220 546