Tag Archives: greek

Greek Food: Does it Count?

Think Ancient Greece, and immediately you think, the center of Western Civilization. But for centuries the Greeks were under Ottoman Turkish rule, leaving them with a culinary tradition that is very similar to that of Turkey and the Levant, using many of the same essential ingredients of the eastern Mediterranean like olive oil, yoghurt, eggplants, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

I had been wanting to have some Greek food for a while, and I wanted to find a Middle Eastern restaurant close to Columbia that wasn’t Falafel on Broadway or Amir’s. One restaurant that had great reviews was Kefi on 85th and Columbus, so I decided to try it out.

I went with a friend who is a fan of Greek food, and we went all out; we ordered a mezze platter for two and a Greek salad to start, then he ordered souvlaki and I had a roast chicken with lemon, garlic, and potatoes, and we ended with a traditional walnut cake.

Pork Souvlaki with rice and Greek salad
Pork Souvlaki with rice and Greek salad















It was a lot of food, but there was no regret. The mezze platter consisted of yoghurt, chickpeas, eggplant, and “caviar” dips. The first three were very familiar to me. They were basically labneh, hummus, baba ghanoush, and they were great in this platter. The last one was something I had never had before as a mezze. It was fish roe, and I did not find it to be very great. That was because it was not very flavorful, and I was probably a little bit shocked that fish roe would be on a mezze platter. The Greek salad that we had was not as good as others I’ve had. It was missing the briney olives and salty feta that I love in a Greek salad.

Next came the main dishes. My friend found his pork souvlaki to be very succulent, and the rice that came with it well seasoned with lemon juice and parsley, giving it freshness. The roast chicken was delicious: the chicken itself was juicy, flavorful, and had a very crispy skin – my favorite part of roast chicken. It was paired with a delightful, creamy lemon and garlic sauce smothering perfectly roasted, melt-in-your-mouth potatoes.

Roast chicken with lemon, garlic, and potatoes
Roast chicken with lemon, garlic, and potatoes















Finally, we had a moist, mildly sweet walnut cake topped with sugar and with walnut ice cream on the side. If there is one reason why you should go to Kefi, it’s for the walnut ice cream. It was fantastic.












The mediocre salad and strange fish roe mezze aside, Kefi was a great experience for me and my friend. It has made it into our list of go-to Middle Eastern restaurants around Columbia. I hope you give it a try!

Oh, and, Happy Restaurant Week! May your restaurant holiday season be filled with good company and great food.


Dinner and a Movie: Before Midnight

Spending a summer working at movie theater in Hollywood has its perks.  I get to bask in the glamour of serving popcorn to and cleaning up after stars who pop by the sneak peaks of their new openings; I am comforted by the scent of freshly made kettle corn while I scrub the lenses of the 3-D glasses clean.  It is actually a fun gig, and so far I’ve learned some useful lessons:

Me introducing a movie to an eager audience

1)    Popcorn is extremely messy and difficult to sweep up off of a carpeted floor.

2)    It is more difficult than it looks to create the perfect condiment design on a hot dog.  My apologies to all the patrons whose hot dog buns came with a glob of mustard on one end that slowly trailed into a squiggle.

3)    People who are given free food are much messier than those who pay for their concessions.  People who see “The Purge” and “Fast & Furious 6” are much messier than people who see “Francis Ha” and “Before Midnight.”

I have not seen the first two, but I have seen those last two (though my cleanliness may be more related to the fact that I now know the people picking up my trash than my movie choices).  I’ve never been a fan of action-packed summer blockbusters.  So when “Before Midnight” opened in a sea of adrenaline pumpers, I was more than ready to settle into the cool, nearly empty movie theater.  Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight,” starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, focuses on a single day in Jesse and Celine’s relationship.  The two are approaching the end of their summer Greek getaway and a possible breaking point.

While the ladies prepare their final Greek feast, the camera zooms in on the chopped juicy, bright red tomatoes right down the center, and focuses on the women as they tenderly fold marinated rice into succulent grape leaves.  I of course developed a hankering for Greek food.  This recipe for homemade tzatziki is simple yet refreshing.  If you are not summering at a Greek villa, don’t fret—this dip will make you think you are.


Tzatziki Recipe

Adapted from Serious Eats and Chobani



½ pound cucumbers

1 cup Greek yogurt

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 handful of dill, minced

1 tsp. lemon juice



  1. Seed the cucumbers.  To do this, cut it lengthwise.  Take a spoon to the middle and scoop out the mushy center part.  You’ll be left with a little cucumber boat.
  2. Shred the cucumbers in a food processor.  If you don’t have one you can just chop the cucumbers thin.
  3. Mix in all the ingredients.  You may want to play around with the amount of lemon juice you use, depending on your taste.

Enjoy with pita, veggies, or a spoon!

Thymari, a surprising approach to Greek cuisine

As a Greek-American, I have grown up surrounded by Greek customs, celebrations and food (aspects which are far from mutually exclusive). Due to my more traditional cultural experience, I had not given much thought to its’ potential for modern adaptation. That is, until I dined at Thymari.

Located in Astoria, a region in Queens with a historically Greek population, its name is Greek for “thyme”, and it advertises its cuisine as Greek. So what could be different from your run-of-the-mill homestyle Greek eatery?

First of all, I never thought in a million years that I would hear John Mayer’s Gravity playing at a Greek establishment of any kind. To add to this already surprising non-Greek musical repertoire, Thymari has live music on Thursday and Friday nights, featuring jazz and acoustic pop and rock. This may give a heart attack to the older generation of Greeks—those used to listening to Rembetiko folk music when having a meal. I went with my family, and my grandparents seemed puzzled by Thymari’s vision of Greek cuisine.

The younger generation, more open-minded and accustomed to an increasingly common global exchange of ideas and flavors, seems ready to welcome this vision with open arms. My cousins and I were eager to taste Thymari’s dishes that give classic Greek culinary concepts a trendy Nouveau American spin. I dined during weekend brunch-time, so the menu featured an especially interesting medley of Greek and non-Greek elements. There are plenty of French toast options, none of which are conventional. One French toast dish is served with a cinnamon goat cheese spread. Another French toast dish comes with Greek yogurt, toasted nuts and a chocolaty hazelnut spread. Both are made of slices of Tsoureki, a sweet bread that is a staple of Greek Easter. In the same way that the typical French toast is transformed, the burger dish is anything but standard. It is made of lamb instead of beef  and has hot pepper feta cheese instead of cheddar. The spanakopita (spinach and feta pie) is accompanied by a rich garlic herb yogurt for dipping and a sweet vinaigrette drizzled salad. A cup of sage tea offers a soothing and aromatic end to brunch.

Thymari gets an A for décor. It has a long wooden bar close to the entrance, and a huge dining room in the back. The walls are lined with brick and the ceilings feature dark wooden panels. A wine ladder is on display. Lighting is dim but not dark. Service can be on the slow side, so I recommend you don’t come too famished.

32-07 34th Avenue

Take the N/Q to Broadway.


Artopolis (the one in Queens)

Melina unleashes the treasure trove of the mother ship Artopolis bakery in Queens, located conveniently near several other shops you’ll also want to take a peek into.

We all love the friendly neighborhood café on Amsterdam between 113th and 114th street that offers a summery European “order a frappe and sit for hours” kind of vibe year-round. Artopolis Espresso blends Greek specialties such as spinach and cheese pies with American staples and a classic French and not-so-classic selection of crepes.

As if that was not good enough, I come blogging good news. The Manhattan location is not the only Artopolis. The main Artopolis is actually a bakery located in Astoria, Queens.

It is in a shopping complex, adjacent to a main road. The shopping complex features a Greek specialty market, a butcher, an herbal shop, an orthopedic office and a large parking lot. All that to say that one would probably not walk alongside these shops, browsing as though it were 5th avenue and stumbling upon Artopolis. It also doesn’t help that it lays tucked away in the corner.

While the Astoria bakery does not have much seating like the Morningside Heights location does, and while it does not serve crepes, it is renowned for its traditional selection of Greek sweets. Artopolis transports its customers to a small Greek village; one where a little old grandmother makes fresh batches of cookies and pastries, constantly making sure that no shelves become dessert-less. The entire establishment is off-white and beige, with a gazebo-like structure in the middle where you will find the cashiers and registers. The cookie section is covered in mesh material, which serves as a protective veil that still allows customers to feast with their eyes. Continue reading Artopolis (the one in Queens)