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#1
Posted June 7th 2004, 5:04pm
I believe it was Antonius who wrote up this store, primarily for olives, but if I remember wrongly, I apologize. Anyway, based on my memory of the write-up I went by and they do indeed have good olives at good prices.

I bought very plump kalamatas, greens, and oil-cured black olives. All lovely.

My one vague disappointment was that when I asked the counterman if he had any opinions as to which were the best or most flavorful of the greek olive oils, he said flatly that if they were extra-virgin, then they were all good and there was no appreciable difference.

This leaves me to wonder if a) He just didn't know or care, or
b) unlike their Italian counterparts, Greek oils really just don't vary very much.

Does anyone have either objective knowledge or anecdotal experience reflecting either the sameness, or important differences among greek EVOOs?

PS - I'm becoming quite fond of some of the breads at Artopolis. The multi-grain loaf in particular, of late.
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#2
Posted June 7th 2004, 5:39pm
Mr. Barolo,

It was I who wrote the long review of Athens Market on the other site not too long ago, in which I noted that while the owners are quite friendly, they are extraordinarily parsimonious with the responses to questions. As an example, I asked them many years ago something about one of the cheeses they sell, along the lines of: "What do you do with manouri?". I expected a brief mention of some dish in which it is used or some other serving suggestion. The response was, however, the not so useful "we eat it."

About olive oil; I've tried just about all of them, like almost all of them, but tend to favour those from Crete. Try the Sitia which comes in two grades (both extra virgin but one with guaranteed super-low acidity). The higher grade one is really delicious but the cheaper one is great too and I use it extensively in cooking.

Re: Artopolis. I concur, some of the breads are great, including the multi-grain, but some I've had have disappointed.

Antonius
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#3
Posted June 7th 2004, 6:09pm
I bought a jug of Hellenic brand extra virgin olive oil at Athens Market, which says it's from "the southern part of peloponnese." I've really enjoyed it, a hearty enough flavor to eat alone with some good bread, and plan on buying it again if I see it.
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#4
Posted June 7th 2004, 6:12pm
address, please.
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d
Feeling (south) loopy
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#5
Posted June 7th 2004, 6:26pm
Antonius - I forgot that you had commented on the interaction. Well, they delivered what you described. Thanks for the tip. I did take home a liter of oil, but now I can't remember the brand. It was one I hadn't had before at it was from Crete, but that's all I recal.

Also, I forgot to mention that I also tried the Greek feta. Much drier that I'm used to. Texture of a farmer's cheese or ricotta salata - also similarly salty. Much less creamy/tangy that the sheep feta's one gets at Whole Foods, etc. Still good. Just different style. Don't know if it's cow or sheep. Didn't ask.

D Dickson - I'm terrible at addresses. I just wander. But it's toward the south end of the Greek strip. On the west side of Halsted between Adams and Jackson, I believe. Possibly a half block further south. 320-something south, I believe.
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#6
Posted June 7th 2004, 9:27pm
Here's a link to my appreciation of the Athens Market on the other site which appeared back in early March, I believe. It's a few doors north of Van Buren on the west side of Halsted, with convenient parking in the back (enter where the parking for Costa's is).

http://www.chowhound.com/midwest/boards ... 42205.html

Concerning the feta, I remember that you, Mr. Barolo, favour the 'French' (actually from Corsica, which is an integral part of Groß-Italien) Valbreso, which I agree is a cheese of superior quality. But the Greek stuff, in all its understated, even Laconic, sobriety, satisfies deeply. It is surely made of sheep's milk and, on occasion, having taken the piece that is left over from the first-day feeding frenzy, as it warms up, one detects that wonderful woolly fragrance that recalls the smell one gets when wiping one's nose on the sleeve of a bonny Harris tweed as one strides across a rain soaked brae near Loch Ness or Loch Tay... Or something like that... Anyway, I like it.

Antonius
Last edited by Antonius on June 10th 2013, 12:32pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#7
Posted June 8th 2004, 3:30pm
"...I remember that you, Mr. Barolo, favour the 'French' (actually from Corsica, which is an integral part of Groß-Italien) Valbreso, which I agree is a cheese of superior quality. But the Greek stuff, in all its understated, even Laconic, sobriety, satisfies deeply...On occasion...as it warms up, one detects that wonderful woolly fragrance that recalls the smell one gets when wiping one's nose on the sleeve of a bonny Harris tweed..."

Antonius


Corsican! Who knew? (Rhetorical question, of course, as clearly you knew...but...well...anyway...)

"Understated Laconic sobriety"...yeah, it was on the tip of my tongue. It just came out as "drier" and "saltier."

I'll have to check with my son to compare notes on the sensory experience of wiping one's nose on the sleeve of a bonny Harris tweed. Not that I lack such experience, but his are fresher. In fact, he may be doing so even as I type this. Ben! Ben!!......
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#8
Posted June 8th 2004, 4:46pm
Mr. Barolo:

Since writing my response(s) to your posting(s) on Athens Market, I remember another strange exchange I once had with the proprietors there. I am very fond of retsina and have tried a number of them over the years. From my experience, I have come to believe that the Boutari retsina is the best readily available here and markedly better than most of the others I've gotten at the Athens Market or elsewhere in Chicago. Well, one day I thought I might inquire as to what they think the best retsina in their inventory is. Their reaction was polite but clearly they thought (think?) I am not well-hinged. I recall (though being possibly not well-hinged, who can say my recollections are reliable) that they said they're all the same and one might as well buy the cheapest.

Perhaps I am delusional but I stand by my belief that the Boutari retsina is markedly superior to other, cheaper brands. For, while the resin flavour clearly levels out the underlying flavour of the wine to a good degree, I find the Boutari product is a good bit less strongly resin flavoured and actually maintains a balance between the flavours of resin and wine.

On my most recent visit to the Athens Market a couple of weeks ago, I tried again to get a suggestion for a different retsina and this time my effort met with some success. One of the owners smiled and pulled a lovely shaped bottle off the shelf and, while handing it to me, said: "try this one; it's good."*

But now I'm wondering: was he just humouring me?

Antonius

*The new one is Kechribari, 11.5% alc., from Thessaloniki. As I said, a handsome bottle. I haven't tried it yet and will submit a report after I do.
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#9
Posted June 10th 2004, 11:33am
Athens Market is also a source for the wonderful canned Giant Beans in large quantities (No. 10 cans). I have become addicted to these beans, they are wonderful straight from the can, added to a table full of mezze, or just as wonderful if added to some lightly sauteed spinach or arugula.

I had them on the table a few years ago at a big tapas buffet, and a Greek friend just raved about them, then when she found out they were Greek, was like "well, of course." It was she that tipped me off to the large cans at Athens, but now that I work right there I can buy them regularly.

As well as the multi-grain at Artopolis. Haven't really tried the flavored breads. The French can be good if it's in a shape that gives it a good crust, it seems like they change the shapes of it. Just the boule I haven't liked as well. The more intricate shapes I've liked, but then I'm a crust freak.
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#10
Posted June 10th 2004, 12:21pm
annieb wrote:Athens Market is also a source for the wonderful canned Giant Beans in large quantities (No. 10 cans). I have become addicted to these beans, they are wonderful straight from the can, added to a table full of mezze, or just as wonderful if added to some lightly sauteed spinach or arugula.


Annieb:

I too am addicted to giant beans but buy them dry and cook them up. So far, all the packs I've bought at Athens Market (which is a rather large number) have been sufficiently new that the cooking time (using initial quick soak method) is remarkably short for a bean of such proportions. They have a wonderfully buttery flavour and can be cooked and held without too much trouble at a most pleasing texture. There are many preparations of them I use, including serving them together with cooked dandelions bought fresh from -- where else?-- Athens Market.

One of my favourite lunches (or breakfasts -- no Captain Crunch for this lad): A soupy preparation of these beans, built on a foundation of some garlic sauteed in olive oil, flat leaf parsley, perhaps a little oregano (sometimes I use a little za'tar), with or without greens, ladled over some barley paximadia from Crete (or stale D'Amato's bread), finished with black pepper and/or freshly ground red pepper flakes and a drizzle of the best Sitia oil (in any event, a Cretan or Sicilian or southern Italian oil that's green and intensely flavoured). As good as it is healthy.

Antonius
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#11
Posted June 10th 2004, 12:35pm
Antonius,

You have more time to cook than I do, lately. Although I did get a very nice stainless "cocotte-minute" recently that needs some good recipes. Beans may be it.

For the underpinnings of your breakfast, have you thought about the freselle from d'Amato's? I imagine they would be quite tasty.
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#12
Posted June 10th 2004, 1:04pm
annieb wrote:For the underpinnings of your breakfast, have you thought about the freselle from d'Amato's? I imagine they would be quite tasty.


Annieb:

I have used their freselle and I agree, they are really good; pretty much everything from D'Amato's is really good, but that should be another string/spago. But I really love the barley paximadia too, which are an admittedly rustic sort of a rusk (lots of fibre!). As a (in large measure) southern Italian with old fashioned tastes, I also love stale bread (Sophia Loren has sung its praises) and I intentionally buy enough D'Amato's bread to have always a good supply on hand.

I cook the beans up whenever I have a block of time when I know I'll be at my desk at home for a couple (or three) hours. I make a large batch and then have them for a dinner preparation, e.g., baked slowly with Greek tomato sauce, in pasta 'e fasul (various preparations), side dish to lamb or in a stew, etc. The extra ones stay in the fridge for quick breakfast/lunch preparations of the sort mentioned above.

A
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#13
Posted June 10th 2004, 1:55pm
beans, built on a foundation of some garlic sauteed in olive oil, flat leaf parsley, perhaps a little oregano (sometimes I use a little za'tar), with or without greens, ladled over some barley paximadia from Crete (or stale D'Amato's bread)


Do you ever use these beans for pane cotto? And, what's your experience with this dish? I have only ever seen it in restaurants in CT, baked with greens, where it looks to be a little soupy. My mom's family fried it in a pan: beans, soaked stale bread, oilive oil and spices, maybe some bacon. A fairly dry dish, cheap, starchy, greasy and filling, not wholly unlike American turkey dressing or a bread-based mofongo. Been since college since I made any.
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#14
Posted June 10th 2004, 3:20pm
Jeff:

I'm sure at some point I have used the giant beans in something more or less like the dish you describe your family making, though I also cook up cannelini beans (and romans and pintos and mayo cobas) fairly often. For me, the stale bread dishes are almost always done on the spur of the moment with whatever is on hand for a hearty meal. Beans of whatever kind, greens (curly endive, escarole, cabbage), with or without some pork product (bacon or pancetta or a prosciutto butt cut up), with olive oil and garlic and maybe an herb and a little chili, made a bit soupy and ladled over stale bread or biscuits or toasted bread... For me there's no set recipe with this sort of dish, though it sounds like you're referring to something that's a more fixed preparation?

Digressing slightly, I would add that I've long made for myself something which (in ways) closely resembles the Tuscan pappa col pomodoro. I make a simple tomato sauce (oil, garlic, peeled tomatoes, fresh basil if it's on hand or else parsley), let it cook 20 minutes or so and, while it's still a little thin, lay slices of stale bread on top of the cooking sauce in the pan. Once the bread has warmed up and softened, take it out, put it on a plate, and dress each slice with 1) a spoon of the pulp of the sauce, 2) a dollop of fresh ricotta (or a thin slice of fresh mozzarella), 3) a generous grind of black pepper (enough to be a little spicy). I eat this with a knife and fork and sometimes I do this in preference to making pasta.

To me, from the many years of watching my grandparents (and others of their generation both here and in Italy) cook and eat, these kinds of dishes typify the spirit of traditional southern Italian cooking as much as anything -- what for many would seem like something barely worthy of eating, would be turned into a treat that you would find yourself longing for.

Did your family use stale bread a lot?

A
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#15
Posted June 10th 2004, 6:10pm
Did your family use stale bread a lot?


They did. And speaking of ricotta, my folks are in town having just visited the little Western PA burg of New Castle, where there still remain a few very old-fashioned, old-world bakeries, salumerie, confectionaries (Caiazza Candy, eg) and, most important, cheesemakers. My mom brought a great chunk of ricotta salata back, with which I have a date shortly.

I'll let you know how it is.
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#16
Posted June 11th 2004, 1:36pm
By the way, we're soon to finish up a chunk of myzithra which we got at Athens Market on our last visit. Myzithra is similar to ricotta salata but is usually very dry (drier than the cones of excellent ricotta salata from Apulia available in Chicago these days). I like it very much for grating on pasta (esp. kritharaki in Greek tomato sauce or giouvetsi) but sometimes it's a little bland. This most recently purchased piece is, however, particularly nice.
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Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
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#17
Posted June 14th 2004, 11:04am
Antonius wrote:On my most recent visit to the Athens Market a couple of weeks ago, I tried again to get a suggestion for a different retsina and this time my effort met with some success. One of the owners smiled and pulled a lovely shaped bottle off the shelf and, while handing it to me, said: "try this one; it's good."*
But now I'm wondering: was he just humouring me?
*The new one is Kechribari, 11.5% alc., from Thessaloniki. As I said, a handsome bottle. I haven't tried it yet and will submit a report after I do.


I think they were humouring me. The Kechribari, despite the elegantly curved bottle, was not to my liking at all. It had a sharp, metallic sort of an edge to it that wasn't merely unappealing unto itself but also interfered with the flavours of the meal. Perhaps it was just an off bottle somehow (though I doubt that) but at more than $5 for 500ml, I'm not sure I will bother trying it again and instead stick to the old, tried and true Boutari. Ah the taste and smell of pine resin... I bet George Brett likes retsina.

(Billy Martin, we miss you still.)

A
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#18
Posted September 13th 2004, 2:34pm
Athens Market II

In the interest of filling out the archives of this site and simultaneously updating the information posted earlier, I thought I would return to the topic of one of my favourite food stores in Chicago, Athens Market.

Below is a long post I wrote for bourgeois food-site back in late winter of this year. Everything included there is pretty much still true with one major exception: due to a lack of demand, AM is no longer selling either fresh lamb or the roasted lamb they used to offer on Sunday mornings. This development is regrettable and, in light of the fact that they have for some time now reduced their vegetable offerings (they haven't had eggplant, for example, for quite some time now), one wonders to what degree the opening of the Dominick's up the street has affected them.

If you like Greek food and wine, if you like olives, if you like interesting and pleasant little ethnic markets, please visit and support this shop at least once in a while.

One note: Amata and I were there yesterday and I got a half pound of myzithra, the ricotta salata-like, sheeps milk cheese for grating that is made in Greece. Like all real food, that is, food that isn't processed to insure consistency (blandness, extended shelf-life, etc.), myzithra, even from the same makers, shows a certain amount of variation. The chunk I got yesterday is wonderfully intense, more intense than it usually is, and I'm looking forward to making a dish of spaghetti and dressing it perhaps just with a little parsley, some chopped walnuts, black pepper and a good dose of myzithra. Check it out; if you like ricotta salata, you will like this myzithra.

Antonius

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Here's the old post on Athens Market:


March 03, 2004 at 12:02:11

In a previous posting which, among other things, responded to another writer's praise of D'Amato's, I mentioned that that venerable bakery and the Taylor Street salumeria 'Conte di Savoia' had been especially important culinary resources for me when I first moved to Chicago in 1989. There was, however, a third such business which I didn't mention in that post (since the discussion was specifically on things Italian). That third place was the Athens Market, on Halsted just north of Van Buren, thus the southernmost block of the centre of Greek Town.

The Athens Market (AM) serves several different rôles, namely, lottery sales office, pint-bottle liquor shop, small grocery and Greek specialty shop; in this last rôle the Athens Market is a wonderful and, for me, indispensable culinary resource. In part, its particular value to me has had to do with geography, being a convenient source for various beloved items both when I lived in Hyde Park and even more so now that I live in the Loop, but I would make a special trip there even if I lived much further away. These are the main points which draw me there:

1) Olives: There is a very nice selection of olives, at least 7 or 8, I would guess. Since they seem to do a brisk business in the specialty items, their olives are reliably fresh and delicious (over the many years I've been going to this shop I've had at most only a couple of disappointing experiences with Alfonsins or Royals, which presumably don't move as quickly as the Kalamatas). The Kalamatas are pretty much always as good as they can be -- large, plump and juicy -- and the batch I bought yesterday sent me into ecstasy.

2) Cheeses: As with the olives, there is a wide selection of items and the quality is first rate. They have Greek, Bulgarian and domestic feta in bins to be cut to order, and also big wheels of the common trio of Greek hard cheeses: Kaseri, Kefalotyri, Groviera. They also have other brands/versions of these three, displayed on the upper shelf of the cheese cooler. Also available are myzithra (hard sheeps-milk cheese for grating), manouri (a dense, creamy yet crumbly sheeps-milk cheese that I heartily recommend to any cheese lover who hasn't yet had it), and the Cypriot specialty, haloumi (at AM they sell 'Pittas' brand , which is quite good -- a better but much more expensive haloumi is available at Whole Foods).

3) 'Deli' Counter, Varia: Also at the deli counter they have salted anchovies and oil-packed tuna which you can buy in whatever quantity you wish. A further item I mentioned in a previous posting are the 'volvi', a kind of hyacinth bulb eaten in Greece and southern Italy (in Italian 'lampascioni' but also sometimes called 'cipolline' but then qualified as the bitter ones). Volvi are available from a large vat at the deli counter or now in smaller bottles as well. Containers of Greek yoghurt (a couple of brands), jarred taramo and a couple of kinds of preserved meats (including pastourma) are on sale there as well.

4) Olive Oil: A wide selection of Greek olive oils are always on hand. I'm especially fond of the ones from Crete (the highest grade Sitia is my personal favourite) but it's nice to be able to buy and try so many different ones (more than one from each major region).

5) Greek pasta: They have a wide range of shapes by Misko, also some from Melissa, and a number of other brands of pasta (e.g. Divella, La Molisana) and, of course, sweet and sour trahanes in a couple of different brands and hylopites in various brands and sizes.

6) Paximadia: These are the hard biscuits which need to be resuscitated one way or another. AM carries at least two brands which in turn come in various sorts according to the grains used. My personal favourites are the barley paximadia from Crete but they're all swell (when swollen).

7) Other Grocery Items: Lots of herbs and spices, honey from Attika, dry giant beans, Greek coffee (as well as brikis), pomegranate syrup, tahini, canned prepared foods from Greece (I'm not too enamoured of most of these but some are good for a quick fix)... etc. etc.

8 ) Vegetables: Sometimes some of the vegetables look a little tired BUT for a long time this was the only place I knew in Chicago where I could always get dandelions (and they're usually beautiful); they also always have endive (curly green), flat-leaf parsley, dill, garlic, lemons, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, potatoes, celery and a few other vegetables and fruits. This section of the store is a welcome convenience, not a destination in itself.

9) Flesh: They have a cooler populated by little lamb carcasses which they will chop up for you. For no particular reason, I just haven't bought any lamb there of late but I used to do so with great regularity and it was always first rate. The lambs are really lambs (I remember one time when I asked for lamb chops and they had to apologise for not having any that day -- their supplier had turned up with lambs that were too big and they refused to take them). They also sell roast lamb on Sunday mornings.

10) Greek Wines and Spirits: Lots of swell things to wash down your Greek meals. The offerings of Greek wines are extensive and, while I'm sure these items are all available elsewhere, the prices aren't too bad and the convenience of one-stop shopping is nice.

All in all, AM is a great shop and eminently worthy of ... support. Given that their limited bread offerings are now easily supplemented by means of a quick visit to Artopolis up the block (currently selling 'lagana', the flat-bread with sesame), this is a wonderful place to go to get quickly all you need for an excellent Greek meal. The people who run this shop are from Tripolis in Arkadia, just a little north of Sparta in Lakonia (southeastern Peloponnisos); they're really quite friendly but a little taciturn, not surprising perhaps given their patria borders the land of the Laconians.

Kalí sas órexi!
A


Post-site-move character problems fixed.
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#19
Posted August 7th 2010, 1:48pm
We were in Greektown last night, buying some goods at Artopolis, and noticed that our favorite grocery store Athens Grocery was boarded up. I've since learned that they were affected by the Costas fire earlier this year. Does anyone know if they plan on reopening? Costas is completely gone, building & all, but Athens was still there, albeit boarded up.

Just in case, does anyone know where we can get green & kalamata olives as good as the ones that Athens had?? They were our absolute favorites and we drove across town to pick them up.


Thanks
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#20
Posted August 7th 2010, 2:51pm
The rumours I have heard have not been encouraging, which is quite distressing for long-time regulars; I miss this shop terribly...*

Antonius

* viewtopic.php?p=9943#p9943
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