Mokka and the Sunset Bar and Grill in Newport, KY

Goetta is somewhat of a mystery—Paul Tenkotee

Somedays turn into wonderful days when you aren’t expecting it, when the Almighty Creator gives us a glimpse of His Mercy in the midst of chaos and angst.

Today was one of those days and it came as a revelation to me at Mokka in Newport, KY on a revitalized Monmouth Street across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, over a delicious goetta frittata.

Let’s go back a few days. Cue the harp glissando…

Mrs. Big Surf and I have been in the midst of selling a house in one state and remodeling a house in another state. I am counting down to retirement, she will begin a new job. We have just been through losing parents, cleaning out houses of memories, trying to get someone to take over my business, and just recently dealing with a beloved family member going through a medical crisis, which brought us unexpectedly to Cincinnati.

My lovely missus spent a sleepless night to be with this loved one in a busy hospital room. We were both exhausted from the previous weeks, she much more than I.

We left the hospital late in the morning to eat breakfast before heading out on the two and a half hour drive home. We settled in a booth in the above mentioned Mokka in Newport.

We started with a spicy Newport Bloody Mary for me and a raspberry Mimosa for the sleep-deprived darlin’. Now I don’t advocate any alcoholic beverage before noon but we were celebrating the incredible answered prayers on behalf of our loved one and her improved condition overnight.

Our meal was so good.

The goetta frittata was just what I needed. She had a platter of French toast topped with creme brûlée cream, a biscuit and gravy, and cheesy scrambled eggs, and to my surprise she consumed it all…who’s the big girl?!

Now I realize most folks who aren’t from the Cincinnati/Northern KY area haven’t a clue about goetta.

Goetta came from peasant German immigrants who settled in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. It was a way to make meat, usually pork sausage, last longer by mixing it with oats, onion, and spices. It is cooked and dried and formed into a loaf for slicing. It has the consistency of sausage and is usually fried crispy.

This morning as I sat in that charming cafe, across from my lovely wife of 36 years, both of us in the same clothes we put on yesterday, neither one of us had showered, me unshaven, and her without makeup, I knew what Sheldon Cooper meant when he said,”The Germans are such a comforting people.”

This spicy Newport Bloody Mary is one of the best I have ever had.

This plate of a Goetta Frittata with breakfast potatoes reminded me of the comforting pleasures God allows on this earth.

Mrs. Big Surf in a rare eating frenzy consumed this plate of delicious breakfasness.

Port St. Joe, Florida

And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop.’ —God to Job .

I am always humbled by the ocean. I love standing or sitting in the sand and just looking into the seemingly eternity of the endless sea. It gives me peace and I know that comes from the Eternal Creator.

So the next few paragraphs may seem like a living oxymoron…

In the paraphrased words of Clark W. Griswald, we packed up and headed out for a good, old-fashioned, family-fun vacation…six adults and five children, the oldest being five yrs old. Yeah, that’s right. Big Surf has guts, courage, lunacy, or a death wish.

It’s amazing how the synergistic effect of the energy of five children can overpower the synergistic effect of the tranquility of six adults. To make matters worse, the winds on the beach were above a soothing breeze and we adults were not allowed to go into the water due to the risks of riptides.

By midweek, I was ready to run up a white flag and replace the double red flags that blew as a constant reminder this beach trip was going to be different from all the others.

The locals kept telling us “This is so unusual for this area to have winds like this for this many days in a row.” As if somehow that was supposed to give me comfort. But nonetheless, Big Surf Daddy is still a beach animal and on the beach he must be.

We were able to spend two full days in the water out of six. One of those being at a lovely small beach called Windmark Beach near Mexico Beach. It was much calmer and we could swim.

Now don’t misunderstand me here, we all had a grand time, exhausting but grand. After all, we were on a beach in Florida for a week. Yes it was “breezeful” (to quote a former teacher), but we powered through and built castles and the kids played. We read books and talked and even built a few fires and roasted wieners and marshmallows and Big Surf wouldn’t have changed it for all the humid in Kentucky.

Port St. Joe is a beautiful small beach town just southeast of Appalachicola on the coast of the eastern Florida panhandle. There are wonderful seafood restaurants and markets. With the small children, we cooked a lot and ate out only a few times.

I will report of these food delicacies we sampled…

Our first night out, we had to go to plan B. Our first choice was, as always seafood, but there was a long wait. We went instead for some Mexican food at Pepper’s. We still had seafood, most of us had the Mahi tacos which were very good. So definitely no disappointments here.

These Mahi tacos were delicious and so fresh at Pepper’s.

Our go-to seafood market for the week was St Joe Shrimp Co. on Cape San Blas. This market had great service and selection. The tuna and shrimp were excellent. The frozen scallops were very good. The frozen crab cakes were good (but could have used a little more crab) and easy to fry up. The frozen hush puppies were great. They even serve lunch there daily of fried foods and sandwiches.

While our crew was eating lunch there one day, I bought some seafood for our dinner that night. I took a grouper sandwich basket and a bowl of seafood gumbo for lunch back to our house for Mrs. Big Surf and me.

There are two locations of the St.Joe Shrimp Co. One is on Cape San Blas and the other is in Port St. Joe.

One of our traditions on a beach trip is a Big Surf Low Country Boil. It is so easy. However in our rental house there wasn’t a pot to accommodate the size of the dish, so I had to divide it into three different pots. So not as easy as usual. This makes for a nice and relaxed atmosphere to enjoy with our family.

And if you have some left-over shrimp, just throw them in with some scrambled eggs and salsa for a great breakfast dish.

We cooked scallops, crab cakes, and hushpuppies with sides. Of course there are an abundant amount of PB&J’s for the younger diners. The seafood and delicious hush puppies came from St. Joe Shrimp Co.

Mrs. Big Surf and I took a little sanity break and headed over to see Apalachicola and found this nice little restaurant that was so good, The Hole in the Wall Seafood and Raw Bar. If you make it to this restaurant, try to get a seat at the bar, you will have a good experience.

These butter and Parmesan oysters were very good at The Hole in the Wall.

The Fried Grouper Basket may have been the best ever at The Hole in the Wall.

Our final meal out was a wonderful meal at Provisions in Port St. Joe. We ate outside and the staff was very accommodating for our group with children.

Big Surf started the meal with the Sesame-Seared Tuna. This was incredibly good.

My entree at Provisions was the St. Joe Sauteé. I highly recommend this dish also.

Our final meal was a take-out from Uptown Raw Bar & Grill. This was a spur of the moment decision, a good one, after spending the day at Windmark Beach. This restaurant is owned by a nice young couple.

I know food doesn’t photograph very well in styrofoam take-out containers, however these oysters were so good. This is the Uptown Special. Big Surf was well pleased with his selection here.

There are many opportunities to eat good seafood in Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas, and Apalachicola.

To end this episode, I will show some of Big Surf’s beach scenes. I love beach photography and beachscapes. I apologize for the many photos.

Port St. Joe Lighthouse

Port St. Joe is part of the Florida Panhandle lovingly referred to as “The Forgotten Coast”. I think this moniker is by design. After spending a week in this serene part of the Sunshine State, I don’t think I will forget it anytime soon.

Turkish Cay (Chai)

No road is long with good company—Turkish proverb

I read somewhere that offering tea in Turkey is akin to a handshake in the United States.

Though this thought seems to be hyperbole, it is not far from the truth. I have visited Turkey on two separate occasions, once in Istanbul and once in Malatya. The one common thread running through these cities, one a very large international city and the other a smaller traditional Turkish city, is the hospitality of the Turkish people and the offering of tea (cay which is pronounced cheye).

I was offered tea in the shops, a barbershop, a Turkish bath, and homes. And of course in the cafes. There are tea cafes that are for men only. This is part of the tradition of being a Turkish man, to meet in the cafes and drink tea. Men and women can go into the Turkish tea gardens and drink tea. My point is that the culture of tea in Turkey is very important and to refuse someone’s offer of tea is bordering on an insult.

I love this part of the Turkish culture and I hope it never changes. I love the fact that people gather in shops and cafes and just enjoy being with one another. It is a change we could adopt in the US. The closest we have is the coffee shops, but most folks are in there on their devices.

The above photo is of tea in a tulip glass in a cafe in Malatya, Turkey. It was a relaxing few minutes watching the city go about its business while seated at an outdoor table.

My son and daughter-in-law recently gave me a gift of a Turkish tea pot, which is actually two kettles.

This tea pot has given me comfort in the few short weeks I have owned it. The tea is a learning process.

When I drink the tea from the tulip glasses, I am transported back to the cafes in Turkey. I would have liked to have spent more time there.

I think about how the Covid virus has impacted this tea culture in Turkey and I realize that so many people have had to get through their day without their friends sitting around a table drinking some tea and conversing and just enjoying each other. I hope they can get back to seeing each other soon.

In the mean time, I will try to perfect my Turkish tea and think about those people who are missing their friends.

Big Surf’s Top Ten Airport Meals

O’Hare Airport, Chicago

Let’s get spaghetti. How expensive can that be?—Big Surf Daddy to His Lovely Wife, on dining in Manhattan

Covid has grounded us like a dense fog enveloping the runways. We are on board but can’t get away. We can’t go to our favorite restaurants and traveling is difficult. I have no desire to travel to any city of more than 50,000.

However, like a bowl of bran, this too shall pass.

There will be a time, hopefully soon, that we will, again, all feel safe eating out, staying in hotels, and getting on a plane. So in anticipation of all of you who can get to the airport early enough to pass through security points and still have time to leisurely spend enjoying some food (that should be about the number of people who read this blog), I have traversed my vast notes (one page ) on favorite foods I have eaten in airports.

Like the quote above, airport food can cause us to regurgitate our travel budgets and per diems into a little puddle on the counter near the tip jar by the cashier, as if there would be any money left for a tip. But if you are like me, I love to eat in airports because that usually means I have made it through security and my blood pressure has come down to something that can be measured.

At first I am usually overwhelmed by the number of choices on which to nosh. After a few minutes I can gather my thoughts and eliminate most of them (either by price or number of drive-thrus I saw on my way to the airport ).

Now forgive me if I sound like a well- schooled traveler, for I am not. My goal here is to sound pretentious enough that you may think I may know what I am talking about. Nevertheless, here are my ten favorite places to enjoy a bite in the airports I have visited:

  1. Sunshine Gate, Munich International Airport.

I know the reviews of this eatery are suspect and in fairness, I did wait a bit in line. However the currywurst was so good, it was worth it. This has been the best tasting thing I have eaten in an airport. Sorry I don’t have a photo of this, we were eating with two small grandchildren at the time.

2. Huxley’s, Heathrow Airport, London.

Smashed avocados on toast at Huxley’s

It is usually breakfast time when most Americans arrive in London and it was no different for us. We had a delicious traditional English breakfast of smashed avocados on toast. The food was very good and the coffee was wonderful.

3. Yo Sushi, Istanbul Airport.

I loved this place as much for the presentation as for the food. Though the sushi was really good, the conveyor belt presentation, ala THE JETSONS, was the draw here. You sit at your table and the food presents itself to you. You just pluck it off the moving belt as it comes by. So cool.

4. Pappasito’s, Houston Hobby Airport.

This has been my most recent meal in an airport, six weeks ago. The Monterey enchiladas were very, very, good. It moved up quickly on my list.

5. La Carreta, Miami International Airport.

The Cubano here is very good when warm.

I have eaten here probably more than any other airport restaurant. This is authentic Cuban food in a large sit-down restaurant. The Cubano sandwich, when it is served hot is so good. However the last two times I ate here, it was more on the cold side. So ask them to heat it up.

6. Sky Asian Bistro, Philadelphia International Airport.

Lately in Philly, I run through the airport like George Costanza. But I stop here for really good sushi when I have time. Again, sorry, no pictures here either, usually in a hurry.

7. Shapiro’s, Indianapolis International Airport.

I love Shapiro’s deli. I have eaten the Reuben sandwich here numerous times. It is big enough to share with Mrs. Big Surf. Sorry, no picture here. I have no excuse this time as I have eaten here often waiting for my flight.

8.Flocafe Espresso Room, Athens International Airport.

Check out the flaky pastry crust at Flocafe in Athens.

The drawing card here is the coffee. I loved the coffee and you can also enjoy some Greek food and pastries. Again there are some mixed reviews about this place, but our experience was very nice and relaxing.

9. Abitino’s, JFK International Airport, New York.

The Caprese Pizza at Abitino’s.

I can only recommend the pizza. We were traveling with a group of family with small children and had to have pizza. The Caprese pizza was really good.

10. Bubbles Wine Bar, O’Hare International Airport, Chicago.

No food here but a good selection of wine. We had a cabernet. It is a nice place to relax and meet fellow travelers. Sorry, no picture here either…was having too good a time with Mrs. Big Surf.

So there is my ten favorite airport stops for food. Air travel is so much more stressful nowadays so try to get there early and find a place to sit and eat…that always makes me feel better.

I would welcome anyone else’s suggestions on airport food.

Eating in Barcelona

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Estava bonissim!!

 

The above phrase is Catalan that translates to “that was delicious”.

This would have been an oft repeated phrase while we were in Barcelona, if I would have known it then.

My family and I recently visited Barcelona in January, six adults and four children under four.  Now some people would admire our courage and fortitude to attempt this traveling high wire act without a net, others would call it lunacy. When you have grandchildren that live in a foreign country, you do what you can to see them.  We were able to meet them for a week in Barcelona and it was wonderful.

Now I don’t have to tell those of you with small children and grandchildren that eating with a large group with four small children is a challenge at home, much less in a large restaurant, and even more in a small European cafe.  Just trying to find places to store the strollers is hard enough.  We had a double stroller, about the size of some European cars, that was like parallel parking a car between two cramped tables. The Barcelonans, to their credit, were very nice about it in the restaurants and went out of their way to accommodate us.

But, be that as it may, this blog is about the food we ate in Barcelona.  We were not able to eat a lot of meals together as you can imagine. Most meals we carried into our rental house in El Masnou, a beach town outside of Barcelona (that will be another blog). However, the food we ate in Barcelona was so good.

Our first meal was in the morning after we all met in the Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona.  We found chocolate croissants and coffee at Forn de Sant Jaume.

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Forn de Sant Jaume in Eixample.

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We loved the chocolate croissants and coffee at Forn de Sant Jaume.

 

Our only meal in the evening was at Set de Born. We rode the train into Barcelona and walked through the El Born neighborhood and found Set de Born.  This was a very good choice. We ate too early in the evening for the Barcelonans so we had the restaurant to ourselves and the staff was very accepting of our group. This was the one meal the little ones weren’t on top of their table manners, just on top of the table. Nonetheless, the staff was very kind and patient and we appreciated that.

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I loved the intimate setting of Set de Born, tucked into a narrow street in El Born.

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We started with some marinated olives…very, very good.

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I loved the anchovies on tomato at Set de Born.

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The meat plate with homemade sausages and Iberian ham was the hit of the meal, with very good reason.

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This is how our typical table looked in Barcelona, lots of food to choose from. The cheese plate was delicious, so was the tomato bread, and the goat cheese salad.

 

We visited the Santa Caterina Market two times. I got some more marinated olives that were a treat while walking the streets of Barcelona.

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I highly advise a foray into the many booths and stalls of this market.  It can be overwhelming, but keep in mind, there are no bad choices in here.

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The shaved ham cone was a big hit in our group, one of our purchases in the Santa Caterina Market. Why are there not any of these in the U.S.?

 

A highlight of our eating experience in Barcelona was churros!!!  I can’t express how good this treat is.  Our churro consumption was in Churreria Laietana in El Born. I don’t have any way to compare churros, but I do know this, these would be hard to beat.

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This lady that served up churros at Churreria Laietana was very impressive.  She could handle English and Spanish with ease, in a very busy and chaotic setting, while handing out little plates of love, all the while with a smile on her face.  I think she was also doing air traffic control in the back.

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CHURROS! CHURROS! CHURROS!  at Churreria Laietana

 

Our last meal together in Barcelona was a real treat. We had an afternoon meal at

El Quatre Gats (the Four Cats), one of the more famous restaurants in Barcelona.  It has a lot of history and is noted for being one of the hangouts of Picasso in his younger days.  It is located in the Barri Gotic  (Gothic quarter of Barcelona). I enjoyed this meal most of all.  The children were well-behaved and the staff was so nice and agreeable to our wishes.  Again, we ate at an earlier time than most of the Barcelonans, so it wasn’t very crowded.  This was a good plan on our part so as not to be too disruptive.  I think this is my best advice with those traveling with small children in Barcelona, eat early so as not to find the restaurants and cafes too crowded.  Keep in mind that a lot of restaurants in Barcelona do not even start serving food in the evening till about 8:00 PM.

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The 4 Cats entrance is inviting.

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The classic look of the historic 4 Cats.

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Just chunks of parmesan cheese to nibble on before the meal at 4Cats. Why don’t we ever think of these things?

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Tomato bread is a favorite tapas dish in Barcelona.  We ordered it everywhere we ate. I think the best I had was at 4Cats.

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The prettiest dish we ate all week was the roasted eggplant at 4Cats. It was as delicious as it was beautiful.

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These pork cannellonis were really good at 4Cats.

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One of my favorite dishes of the week…seafood rice at 4Cats.

 

If you are in these areas of Barcelona, I would highly recommend these eating establishments.

Barcelona, estava bonissim!

 

 

 

 

Louisville, KY (Another Eating Weekend)

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I never met a Kentuckian who wasn’t either thinking about going home or actually going home.— A.B. (Happy) Chandler

 

We all have fantasies.

My latest fantasy is to be able to eat three meals a day in Louisville, KY until I go through the entire menu of Louisville restaurants, which of last count has over 2,500 of them. This should take me about three years taking into consideration I may have to leave to go see grandchildren.

Bon Appetite magazine has called Louisville,”One of the best foodie small towns in America.”  Now to  me, coming from a small town of about 2,000, Louisville is a big city.  However I am not going quibble over a few hundred thousand residents at this time. My goal is to tell you about some good food in Louisville. You can find a previous blog written, by yours truly last year, about another eatin’ weekend in Louisville.

Our strategy this particular weekend was to pick restaurants that we had not visited in past trips to Louisville.  Believe me this was no easy task, because we have loved a lot of restaurants in this city that were hard to pass up.

Our first stop was lunch on a Friday afternoon, a very interesting choice, if only for the name alone…Mussel and Burger Bar .  Guess what?  We had mussels and a burger.

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The seafood burger at Mussel and Burger Bar was tremendous.

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This was one of the best mussel dishes I have eaten.

 

The next meal was our evening meal. We met some cousins at Havana Rumba in the Highlands, one of three restaurants of the same name in Louisville.

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This seafood stew, served with fried plantains and rice and beans was so tasty.  It was a chef’s special that night, along with shrimp ceviche that was very enjoyable.

 

On Saturday, we ventured out for some Vietnamese pho.  We found Pho Phi in St. Matthews. I love pho.  Mrs. Big Surf allows me to have this one food romance.  She tolerates it and actually likes it well enough to eat with me when I have a cravin’.

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Pho at Pho Phi satiated my pho yearnings.

 

Our evening meal on Saturday night was very special.  We dined outside at Couvillion, (pronounced  coo-ve-ohn).  Couvillion has a Cajun menu that was hard to work our way through, meaning we had a hard time making a decision about what to eat.  It all looked and sounded really good.

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At Couvillion, we began with roasted cauliflower, described in the menu as “slathered with cajun mustard vinaigrette” with capers and chili flakes.  This was the best tasting dish of the weekend.

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Mrs. Big Surf ordered the duck creole with ricotta dumplings.  This was so savory and delicious, I almost put my face in and bobbed for the dumplings.

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I had the catfish couvillion, which is a rich, red fish stew usually with catfish. It was also very good.

 

 

We had one more meal in Louisville, breakfast on Sunday morning, before heading up to Indiana to babysit grandchildren.  A friend of mine had read about, and urged us to visit  Biscuit Belly

I read about this new spot downtown and realized we could be standing in line outside.  We must have timed it right. There was a short line inside that moved quickly. However, by the time we left it was stretched outside.

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We had the fried chicken with gravy and cheese biscuit.  I see why there is a line outside.  We were more than happy when we left.

 

My advise to anyone looking for some really good food, go to Louisville, KY and feed your belly as they say at Biscuit Belly.

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Great Food in Athens, Greece

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Everything’s betta with a little feta—El Greco

 

Mrs. Big Surf and I make our travel plans based on what food we like to eat.  We love Greek food…so you can do the math.

We spent four days in Athens and I ate about two weeks worth of food.  This was the best Greek food I have ever eaten, tasted so authentic…oh.

If you can get past most menus looking like a fraternity/sorority talent show lineup, ordering food wasn’t too difficult. Most menus have English sub titles and most of the waiters and waitresses speak English. Of course if you don’t speak Greek or English I don’t have any advice for you.

We began our foraging through Athens on our arrival at the Acropolis Museum Boutique Hotel.  We arrived late and we asked the desk clerk for a recommendation and he steered us to a very close 24 hour restaurant, called 24oro .  He said it was good Greek food and he was right.  My advice here— don’t go by the names as we do in America where a 24- hour joint is probably not the best choice unless you are hungry at 3:00 AM.

Since it was late, we split a moussaka and we also began our four day love affair with fried feta drizzled in honey.

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Moussaka at 24oro.

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The fried feta, drizzled with honey and sesame seeds was our go-to appetizer in Athens.

 

I began the next morning with a short walk to the Acropolis Museum to get tickets for the day. I stopped by Terra Carpo for a cup of Americana coffee.  This may have been the best coffee I have ever had. This was my coffee stop for the next three days.

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After coffee each morning, we would eat breakfast at the hotel.  Our usual custom when we stay at hotels in cities is to get breakfast in cafes or bakeries  to maximize our time finding good food. However our breakfast at the Acropolis Museum Boutique Hotel was included, so we took advantage of this.  These breakfasts, with Greek delicacies, gave us a good start each day as each one was so good.

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This was our typical breakfast each day.

 

After a morning at the Acropolis Museum and a walk through the charming Anafiotika neighborhood, we had lunch at Klepsidra Cafe. 

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At Klepsidra Cafe, we had our first stuffed grape leaves, tsatziki, a Greek salad and sampled some ouzo.

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Yogurt with nuts and dates and drizzled with honey was also one of our favorites at Klepsidra Cafe.

 

Later that night, we dined at Strofi which was a short walk from our hotel. Our food was good but it wasn’t our favorite meal. However my appetizer of fresh anchovies marinated with spices, olive oil, and lemon was one of my favorite dishes of the stay in Athens.

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I hope you are lucky enough to get this view at Strofi.

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The marinated anchovies were delicious at Strofi.

 

The highlight of Day three in Athens for me…lunch at Diporto.  This is a very unique experience that I found on Youtube.  It is near the central market, has no sign and is below the street.  There is home cooked Greek food, homemade wine, and an intimate atmosphere, where the owner invites you into the kitchen to see what he is cooking for the day.  Don’t let the less than pristine appearance dissuade you from dining here when you descend under the street level through graffiti-marred doors, you will love this dining experience.

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One of the two entrances into Diporto.

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Our view of the street at Diporto.

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Three dishes with bread and homemade white wine was brought to our table.

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The grilled anchovies at Diporto may have been my favorite dish in Athens.

 

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Intimate dining at Diporto.

 

We had an unforgettable view of the Acropolis at Hotel Thissio. We stopped for another fried feta with some red wine and watched the sunset turn to the night sky over Athens.

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We had a great view of the Acropolis and Athens at Hotel Thissio.

 

We headed over to souvlaki row off Monastiraki Square and split a Greek salad and souvlaki at Savvas and had an outdoor table on the busy pedestrian street.  This wasn’t the best souvlaki that we had but it was still good.

 

The following day, our last full day in Athens, we toured the Acropolis and walked over to the old neighborhood of Plaka and had lunch at Estia Taverna.

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Our lunch at Estia Taverna in the outdoor part of the cafe was very enjoyable.  It was a nice sunny day and we shared a different fried cheese, called saganaki, named for the pan it is fried in. We also had some really good french fries which are popular in Athens.  We had a nice red wine that complimented this simple meal and were refreshed for an afternoon shopping in the shops of Plaka and of course finding more things to eat.

 

A few hours later we headed over to the steps of Plaka and found a table at Anafiotika Cafe.  It was a lively time on the steps, so we partook of some more ouzo. I really encourage anyone going to Athens to find these small cafes and eat on the steps.

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Afterward, Mrs. Big Surf was in the mood for a chicken crepe and she found one at a creperie on Souvlaki Row on Ermou Street and I went into O Thanasis for a souvlaki for take-out.  We took our purchases over to Montesoriki Square and found a spot to enjoy our simple meal in the midst of this lively and entertaining gathering place.  I loved both of our dishes.

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I thought this chicken crepe was very good, Mrs. Big Surf thought less of it but still liked it.

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I loved this souvlaki from O Thanasis.

 

The final stop for the evening was a rooftop bar overlooking Athens. We found a wonderful spot atop the A for Athens Hotel. The rooftop bar for a nice glass of red wine was a perfect spot to enjoy our last night in Athens.  The view is incredible and if you can get a seat at sunset, this would be a minor coup.  We were able to accomplish this,and let me tell you, it was hard to leave this view.

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We had a beautiful view from the A for Athens rooftop bar in the late afternoon sun and into the night.

 

We had an afternoon flight scheduled for Istanbul, so this gave us some time to head back over to the shops in Plaka.  While my lovely wife shopped, I of course looked for more food and was drawn to the small cafes on the steps one last time.  I had a very nice spinach pie with some jasmine tea (see cover photo). This was a great place to reflect on my stay in Athens and enjoy my last few minutes.

 

An addendum to this food story is our trip back from Turkey where we had a connecting flight out of Athens.  We had some time to kill so we headed over to the Sofitel across the street from the airport.  This turned out to be a very good decision. We shared a delicious assortment of Greek appetizers and a lemon tart with berries and a raspberry glaze.  The red wine complimented it very nicely.  This gave us a good send off from Athens.

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The plate of appetizers at Sofitel, a good choice if you have to kill some time in the Athens airport.

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The lemon tart was a nice treat also at Sofitel.

 

I look forward to the possibility of more good food in Athens if I ever get the chance again.

Athens, Greece

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How great are the dangers I face to win a good name in Athens—Alexander the Great

 

Evidently, Alexander the Great had a different experience in Athens than my wife and I.  The only dangers we faced in our four days in Athens were gluttony,  over-stimulation of the senses, and sunset fatigue.

Athens is a beautiful city that is easily navigated by foot.  We are not planners, we are plodders.  We walk a while, rest a lot and eat a while, rest a lot…you get the picture.

So when we were able to plan a side trip to Athens on our way to see some family in Turkey, we jumped at the chance.  It is an easy city to explore on foot and four days was plenty of time for us to see what we wanted in a relaxed visit.  The ancient sites and neighborhoods were an easy walk from our stay at the Acropolis Museum Boutique hotel (a 40 Euro cab ride from the airport).

We went to Athens in the middle part of April. We had some rain at times and some cool nights.  When it wasn’t raining, a tee shirt and long pants were very comfortable.  My wife wore some sleeves and we both had light rain jackets.  We still had pleasant evenings and saw some wonderful sunsets.

I will apologize for the many, many photographs.  I had a hard time editing.

The following are scenes of the Acropolis  with the Parthenon and other sites.

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I was mesmerized by these lovely ladies, possibly supermodels of ancient Athens.

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The Theater of Dionysus.

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Sunburst over the Temple of Athena Nike.

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The Parthenon.

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The Erechtheion.

 

There are some incredible views from the Acropolis looking out over the city of Athens.

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We climbed up to Mars Hill for a late afternoon view of Athens and joined the sunset seekers awaiting the show.  I think we were the oldest folks there.  Don’t despair for it is an easy climb up to Mars Hill.  I was more interested in being in the same place where the Apostle Paul introduced the Gospel of Christ to the Athenians.

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The trail up to Mars Hill was decorated with wild flowers. It is a very rustic path to the top.

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The view of the Acropolis from Mars Hill.

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Athens view from Mars Hill.

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Mt. Lycabettus seen from Mars Hill.

 

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The Panathenaic Way in the Ancient Agora.

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Ancient column top or pedestal in the Ancient Agora with the Temple of Hephaistos in the background.

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Temple of Hephaistos in the Ancient Agora.

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Columns of the Temple of Hephaistos.

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Hadrian’s Arch seen from inside the Temple of Zeus area.

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Temple of Zeus.

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Hadrian’s Arch seen on one of our night walks.

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The Panathenaic Stadium, all marble.

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Inside the Zappeion building.

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Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside of the Parliament building.

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The beginning of Ermou street, a pedestrian only shopping street beginning across from the Parliament building.

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As you walk down Ermou street, you will come upon the beautiful small church of Kapnikarea.

 

The following are scenes around Hadrian’s Library.

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Outside tables of the small cafes on the steps of Plaka.

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One of the narrow paths between houses in the Plaka neighborhood at the base of the Acropolis.

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A colorful graffitied path in the Plaka neighborhood.

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Lively Montistoriki Square.

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The market near Montistoriki Square.

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This is the terrace of the Acropolis Museum. It looks like a great place for coffee or lunch.  It was rainy this day, so it was the day we picked to go to the museum. It is a fascinating museum of sculptures and statues and to learn about the Parthenon which can be seen atop the Acropolis.

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One of the ancient sculptures in the Acropolis Museum, Hercules wrestling a sea creature.

 

The following are colorful street scenes in Athens, a great city to explore on foot.

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One last look at the sun-drenched city and I will say good-bye.

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Public Service Announcement for French Tourists

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Well, it’s a rainy night in Paris and I’m sitting by the Seine

It’s a pleasure to be soaking in the European rain.

Now my belly’s full of fancy food and wine

Oh, but in the morning there’ll be hell to pay

Somewhere along the line.—Billy Joel from “Somewhere Along the Line”

 

The above lyrics are from one of my favorite Billy Joel songs.

On our recent trip to Paris, I ate wonderful food.  So what could be the problem that would elicit a public service announcement from Big Surf Daddy?

Now we didn’t have any rainy nights in Paris and with three toddlers, we didn’t sit by the Seine.  We didn’t eat much fancy food, but we did have some good wine.  It’s the next line that matters…

If you aren’t accustomed to eating rich cheeses and breads in your diet, you may need to introduce them into your stay in France gently.  I ate as much bread and cheese as I could the first few days.  Well “Somewhere Along the Line” came pretty quickly.

I had to make a stop at the local pharmacie in Brunoy, where we were staying for the week.  You see, cheese has a binding property in your digestive tract…you get the gist of this problem.

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The local pharmacie had the answer.  I was eating cheese and bread the next day.

Enjoy the cheese and bread in France, just don’t cram it in like I did.  France has been making great breads and cheeses for centuries, so they will be there tomorrow.

 

Eating in Paris…Deuxième Partie (part two)

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How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?—Julia Child

 

I know Julia Child was NOT talking about France when she said this.

We recently spent a few days in Paris over the Christmas holiday with our immediate family.  We met up with my son, his wife and two year- old daughter.  My daughter-in-law is going to be a mother again in about three months.  So “bun in the oven” continues in the bread theme here.

We also traveled with my daughter and her husband and her two children, ages two and one.

So based on what you know for now, if you tuned in to an episode of fine French dining experiences on these pages, you may be disappointed. Parisienne dining “adventures” may be more apropos for our days in Paris.  Afterall if you want to have a fine dining triumph in Paris, sharing it with three toddlers is probably not the way to go.  However we did eat some really good food. Of course, it goes without saying that our breads, wines, and cheeses were good everywhere.

The photo above is a nice cafe decorated for the Christmas season.  We did not eat here.  Are you kidding?  Look at those lights on the tables, how long do you think those would last?  But alas, you can dream in Paris can’t you?

So let me give some advice to those who want to go to Paris with small children.  It’s good to research cafes and restaurants before you go, but be ready to chunk those plans and make decisions on the run, depending on the mood of one of the children.  So most of our restaurant choices depended on who could accommodate a double stroller and a single stroller and where would be the least likely place to start an international incident.

Our first meal was a late lunch in the Latin Quarter, Cafe St. Victor.  We were ready to eat and did not want to walk anymore and they met all of the above criteria for our group.  The bonus for us… the service was really good and the waitress was so good and patient, especially with teaching me how to eat escargot with meat hooks for hands.

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Cafe St. Victor, near Notre Dame in the Latin Quarter.

 

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We shared a good assorted cheese plate for starters.

 

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I loved the escargot even though the utensils were quite cumbersome for me.  My dissection skills were long forgotten from college biology. In the end our waitress brought me a toothpick and said this may be better.  Just dig them out.  She was such a good soul.

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Mrs. Big Surf, had one of her favorite dishes, French Onion soup.  I wonder if they just call it onion soup over there.   Anywho, she loved it.

 

Our next stop was a real treat for me. We found Odette on Rue Galande in the 5th arrondissement in the Latin Quarter.  We bought some of their famous choux a la cremes.  This was a very good decision for all involved.

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So we had to wash down these lovely cream puffs with some hot chocolate and we found it at Shakespeare and Company Cafe.

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The hot chocolate was really good but it wasn’t the best we had.  This cafe is across from Notre Dame, with a good view of the famous cathedral.

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This was the best hot chocolate and some say the best in Paris.  Angelina is a famous tea room and cafe with a history as rich as its hot chocolate.  Ask for the African hot chocolate and as an additional treat get some of their memorable Mont Blancs.

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These are the Mont Blancs.  6 Euros each.

 

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Angelina is across from the Louvre so there are lots of people in the area. There will be a long line outside, but if you want to get your hot chocolate and Mont Blancs to go, you can circumvent the line and go on in to the bakery. We made the mistake of standing in line for about 45 minutes before we figured it out.  You’re welcome.

For the best meal, I went against my general rule of dining in famous cities, don’t eat near popular tourist stops.  I try to go at least two blocks away, however there are always exceptions to the rules, again especially when the children are ready to get out of the strollers.

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Our most memorable meal in Paris for the week was Le General cafe.   The Arc de Triomphe could be seen from the outside tables.  We dined for lunch here before going to the aforementioned Arc.  We were so thrilled with this meal. We ate outside. The heaters were going and I even took my coat off, it was really pleasant to eat outside in December.

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You can see the Arc de Triomphe from La General.

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Mrs. Big Surf and I, and my daughter, ate this wonderful dish of scallops on a bed of risotto made with squid ink.  This was my first experience eating squid ink and I must say, this was the best dish I had all week.

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Since this was an early afternoon meal, my son and daughter-in-law has this good-looking and tasty dish.

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My son-in-law had the chicken fricassee with linguine.

 

Later we stopped into one of the many creperies in Paris.  I was not in the mood for a crepe so I had some good coffee.  Most of our group had a sweet crepe here and loved them, my wife ordered off the menu for a chicken crepe and she did not like it, but in the defense of the creperie it was not the chicken crepe on the menu. They had a spicy chicken crepe that she wasn’t in the mood for.  All-in-all a success … since the children liked it.

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After spending some time at the Eiffel Tower on our last night in Paris, we decided to walk over to Rue Cler for our last meal in Paris.  We found a small cafe called L’Eclair.

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We loved this cafe.  They were very accepting of our children even though it was fairly crowded.  We all had good food and a very enjoyable time here.

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My wife and most of our group had the classic French sandwich called a Crouque Monsieur, kind of a toasted ham and cheese sandwich.  Some of our group had a variation served with a fried egg on top called a Croque Madame.

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I had a flank steak with a sauce made from olives and capers.  So tasty.

 

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At L’Eclaire, we dined under the glow of this neon sign saying, NO BAD DAYS.

This seemed to sum up our time in Paris, there were no bad days.