Sunday, April 20, 2008

Blondie and Brownie World Tour: Stop #3, Greece

Delicious Loukoumades

I love Greece. I grew up eating Greek food with Greek friends. And as Blondie counts down her final days in Astoria, a Greek mission was definitely in order...

Let's start at the beginning...Last year while in Astoria, I stumbled across Lefkos Pirgos, a Greek bakery and cafe. Their display case was well stocked with a wide variety of luscious pastries and the cafe populated only by aged Greek men, both good signs that this place was worth a try. I hadn't had some good loukoumades since Lawman and I were in Greece a couple years earlier and I was desperate for a fix.

Ah, loukoumades,
delightful delicately fried treats smothered in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon and clove--imagine the Greek version of a donut hole, but a thousand times even more delicious. Mmmm good. So good in fact that they were worth the icy glares of the older Greek woman behind the counter who was not charmed by my friendly chatter as I awaited my to-go order. No matter. The 12 made to order loukoumades were well worth their $5.00 price tag so I happily went on my way, shared the goods with Lawman, recommended the place to friends in the area, and vowed to make a return visit.

Plate of Loukoumades

Flash forward...Blondie is getting ready to leave Astoria so we plan a Greek adventure. Our mission: introduce Blondie to the wonders of NesFrappe--the best thing about breakfast in Greece--and loukoumades. Blondie suggested a few neighborhood cafes--Omonia Cafe and Athens Cafe to name a few--but no, I insisted on returning Lefkos Pirgos.

We arrived mid-afternoon on a Saturday and there were just a couple tables filled inside and several occupied tables outside. Not wanting to be presumptuous, we politely waited to be seated, and after a few minutes of being ignored by the older women behind the counter (see previous reference to being glared at for not being Greek), a lovely, friendly young waitress showed a nice table inside, but near the window/patio door where Blondie could watch the old men play backgammon (and the old men could not so subtly stare at us).

Shortly after being seated we placed our order. 2 NesFrappes ($3.50 each), 1 order of galaktoboureko (around $4.00, don't remember the precise price), 1 order of loukoumades ($5.00).

The NesFrappes and galaktoboureko arrived first. The NesFrappes were icy, frothy, and strong.

Frosty Nesfrappe

Delicious. We ordered them without sugar because I had read that some cafes made them overly sweet, but both Blondie and I added a packet of sugar.

Frothy NesFrappe

Next time, we'll just trust the kitchen to adjust the sweetness level properly. The galaktoboureko was just the right combination of flaky, phyllo pastry and a light lemony custard with just the right amount of honey drizzled on top.


Next up, the loukoumades, fresh and hot from the kitchen. Golden and perfect, and swimming in a honey syrup they were a sight to behold. Though the best loukoumades I've ever had were from Rendezvous Cafe on Naxos, these definitely satisfied my craving.

Honey Soaked Loukoumades

All in all a successful mission. I paid the bill, got a container to take the rest of the loukoumades home to Lawman and prepared to head out to our next Astoria eating destination. As I passed by the aforementioned pastry display case and I couldn't resist snapping another couple pictures of the pastries in the case for the blog to share their delicious beauty with our dear readers. Suddenly I hear some yelling in Greek. Ella, ella, ella!* Now I'm taking the photo and wracking my brains. Ella...what does that mean in Greek?...can't remember. Click, click. The owner(?) an older Greek woman comes and starts yelling at me saying that my taking a picture is not good. I try to explain that it's for my blog and that I like her bakery, but she either doesn't get it or she doesn't care or both. So I apologized for upsetting her and hightailed it out of there with Blondie.

I'll admit, the whole experience left me pretty shaken. I love taking pictures of delicious food. For the record, there weren't any signs saying the taking pictures was prohibited (at least I didn't see any if there were), I wasn't blocking anyone's view of the case, and I didn't even have my camera's flash on. I just wanted to get a couple other pictures so I could show my readers the other items they had at the bakery. When I returned home I discovered that I'm not alone in my experience of being yelled at for photo taking, the ladies at Alpha Astoria had a similar experience a couple of years ago. At least it wasn't just me.

For all of my fellow amateur food photog friends, here are a few sights that I found with really helpful info about rights of photographers: Attorney Bert Krages site has a printable flier listing your rights as a photographer when stopped or confronted for photography, an article from USAToday, and a post from Chubby Panda about photographer's rights.

Soo, I would definitely recommend the frappe, the pastries and the loukoumades at Lefkos Pirgos, but I would warn that unless you are Greek, you are not going to feel welcome there by some of the older staff (and I say this based on my experience(s) pre-photography incident). If you want to take your food to go or if you are unfazed by hostile stares and the occasional leer, give them a shot. It's best to know what you're in for, but overall the place is worth the trouble. For more photos from our trip check out our flickr.

Lefkos Pirgos
2285 31st St
Astoria, NY 11105-2713
Phone: (718) 932-4423
*ella means come here in Greek


Siobhan said...

My, my, I have man hands. Those were some delicious Greek Munchkins. We must search for more!

Anna's kitchen table said...

What a lovely post! I found your blog via tastespotting - I had to come and see what you had written! :-)

I wish I had access to Greek pastries, the only way I get to have them is if either I or a family member make them!

My Grandmother (who is 91) makes the most wonderful lokmadhes in the world!
(in my opinion of course!)


Brownie said...

Oh wow! I'll would definitely believe that your grandmother makes the best. I make very good koulourakia, but I would love to learn to make loukoumades.

michelle @ thursday night smackdown said...

fried dough balls in honey = can't beat that with a stick. we have 'em in italy too, except they're called strufoli and they're usually sprinkled with sprinkles instead of cinnamon.

i wish there was somewhere near my office where i could get that beverage, b/c i could really go for one. i wonder how quickly i could get to astoria and back...

talida said...

Seems like a lot of people have issues with customers taking pictures in their restaurants, including David Chang

Brownie said...

The photo taking thing is a bit of a hot button issue. I've been to places where they've been really flattered and excited that I was taking photos and other places where they were ok with it, but they didn't want certain things photographed.

Anonymous said...

I love loukamades;)
Next time you order a Frappe, ask for medium with milk (metrio me gala)- it's half as sweet as the "sweet" (glyko me gala) version. Roughly 2 tsp of sugar go in a Medium, and 4 tsp in a Sweet. I tried sticking to the unsweetened (sketo) for a summer, but I realized I enjoy my frappes a lot more with a little sugar;)