4 excellent eco-logical greek stores

Eco-conscious shoppers in Athens now have plenty of top quality option when searching for the perfect accessories, jewellery, clothing, and home decor items. As with vegan-vegetarian restaurants and stores selling Greek and global natural, organic cosmetic products, more and more stores catering to the ethically-minded are sprouting up around the capital. Here we showcase our top choices!

Convert Art (24-26 Pallados, Psyrri)

Used tyres, used inner tubes and electronic materials are skilfully up-cycled to create super-stylish and original convertible bags, wallets, belts, and jewellery. Created in 2012 by designer Marina Griponisioti after she found inspiration from the disposable items she found in a garage, this is Greece’s first upcycling company, with a choice of over 400 designs. You can also check out Convert Art’s online store on Etsy.

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Trash4Flash (9 Voulgaroktonou St, Nea Smirni)

Plastics, metals, rubber and other materials are upcycled to create necklaces, earrings, neck-wear, cufflinks, and bracelets that may not suit every taste but certainly present a singular style.
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Plastikourgeio (Asklipiou 51, Exarcheia)

Both a shop and a mini-factory/lab, this store follows the eco-philosophy of the global Precious Plastics movement and sells alternatives to plastic as well as their own upcycled plastic creations. With a plastic shredder, 3D printer and other machines the owners have created themselves, as well as collaborations with creative Greek designers, they showcase some exciting eco-options in jewellery, home decor, and accessories. Here you’ll also find bamboo dining sets, stainless steel straws, handmade lunch-bags and other trendy utilitarian items that don’t need to be dumped after use.


Living Green (Harilaou Trikoupi 53, Exarcheia)

In this innovative, brightly-lit and thoroughly-stacked store you’ll find everything from home decor items to children’s construction toys and other games, sophisticated gardening equipment like a rollable compost basket and sprouting jars, cosmetics, jewellery, lunch bags, office accessories, and hobby items. The store has a chain in the northern suburb of Kifissia as well as an online store.

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amazing ways to start the day

In Greece people use the saying “how your day will turn out is shown from the morning”; personally I’m not a fan of this saying because it suggests superstitious thinking and if believed, can essentially determine one’s mood for the entire day if the morning proves particularly unpleasant. I prefer to think that any moment of the day, regardless of what has passed before, is a moment when we can hopefully start afresh and change its course for the better. However, the positive habits and rituals that we dedicate ourselves to in the morning can indeed help boost our state of mind, mood, physical resilience and flexibility and overall outlook so that the day ahead flows in a more upbeat, dynamic and enjoyable way. The tips I will write here come from years of research – books, websites, interviews and of course tried and tested techniques to which I’ve added my own touches and wanted to share with you. As the mom of a preschooler I’m well aware that there is often little time to spend doing some of these morning rituals, but if you can slip in even a few minutes of some of them or one on different days, or do some after you’ve dropped your kid/s off to school, a little later in the morning, that will still make a positive difference.

So as Maria said in The Sound of Music, “Let’s start from the very beginning!” at the exact point that you wake up (either because your child has decided to tap you on the shoulder and offer you a handful of slime that he has “cooked” for your breakfast or because your alarm clock just rang so you can get your ass to work or because, oh you lucky blessed one, you have had a full night’s sleep and have woken up naturally).

Give Thanks

Whether you can lie in bed for half an hour meditating on gratitude or just speedily run through a quick list in your mind of the top things you are grateful for – even that your little one thoughtfully “cooked you some slime for breakfast”, that you are still here, that it’s a new start to your life, that you have a bed to sleep in and clothes to wear, hot water to shower in or food to eat, gratitude is the highest vibration to connect with at any time, and especially at the start of your day. “Acknowledging the good you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance,” according to Eckhart Tolle. Even if you wake up feeling particularly miserable and disgruntled with life, go deep to findat least one thing that you are thankful for – maybe simply that you are breathing!

Stretch

Whether you do a full yoga session or just a few Winnie The Pooh stretches up and down, or stretch your body out in bed into a star shape and upon sitting up at the edge of your bed let yourself do some backward twists to flex your spine, a little stretching goes a long way to reawakening your body and gently releasing any stiffness from your sleep. After saying good morning to our dog, who in turn taps her tail enthusiastically onto the wooden floor in response, my son and I greet her in a quick downward dog and she gets up to do her own natural stretch to mirror us. This makes stretching fun and easy.

 

Body Brushing


Body brushing, also known as dry brushing, is a fantastic way to exfoliate your skin and open your pores (that’s why it’s best pre-shower) while also activating your lymphatic drainage system and kickstarting your circulation. For vanity’s sake, it has been shown to firm skin and reduces cellulite, while on a more medicinal level it helps release small aches and pains by causing your energy to flow more freely. Starting at the soles of your feet, brush in firm strokes upward along the inside and then all other sides of your legs, then your bottom, then in a circular direction on your belly area, up your back, up your arms and up from above the breasts in the chest area. 

Tongue scraping
While you sleep, a layer of toxins rises and forms on the surface of your tongue. That can indeed make one cringe at the thought of a morning snog (though it may be well worth it and offer other benefits!). Instead of swallowing them all back into your organism again, the ideal thing to do is to use a tongue scraper or even the back, non-cutting side of a knife or a spoon to gently but firmly scrape the sludge off and rinse it away, several times, before even brushing your teeth (because brushing your teeth before doing this will again involve spreading all the stuff from your tongue all over your mouth). I know it’s icky, and several people I’ve recommended this Ayurvedic practise to have told me they tried it once and felt so disgusted they couldn’t do it again. But. Isn’t it better to remove it? I find it far ickier to swallow it all back down! And I can guarantee that it helps – on mornings after a night out when I’ve had a few glasses of wine, for example, as soon as I do the tongue scraping I feel my mind clear (not completely of course, if I’m particularly foggy-headed, but significantly!).

Enjoy your shower

For me, a complete hydrophile, hydroholic and water baby, showering is a wonderful ritual both morning and night. It cleanses us of stale energy, refreshes our mind and, whether you are using soap or not, offers the chance to massage our body. It’s also a great time to repeat your favourite affirmation for the day, or just sing! Make sure to splash a lot of cold water on your face as well, as this activates the vegus nerve, which lifts your mood, clears your mind and strengthens your immune system.

Colon-cleansing drinks
For 10 days at a time every two or three months, I follow one of these rituals, which help cleanse the intestine, which is the basis of our overall health, by reducing the bad bacteria and detoxifying.

  1. Psyllium husk water: In a tall glass of water add a heaped teaspoon of psyllium husk and stir very very well. Drink it all down at once, and then follow that by drinking yet another glass of plain water. The psyllium swells (like linseed or chia) and becomes gelatinous inside the intestines, absorbing toxins, fats, mucus and harmful bacteria which are then released in your stools. This is a good ritual to do for restoring gut health, especially if you are trying to lose weight, as it also creates a sense of fullness. Only do this in the morning, on an empty stomach, and wait around 15 minutes to half an hour before eating.
  2. Apple cider vinegar water: Add 1 tbsp of organic, unpasteurised (fermented) apple cider vinegar to a glass of tepid water and sip slowly. I just take it around with me and take sips as I’m getting ready. This too detoxifies the intestine, balances your pH, decreases blood sugar levels, lowers cholesterol and boosts gut health.

Another common morning drink is warm water with a big squeeze of lemon, and some like to add a teaspoon of organic honey, both of which are packed of nutrients (like vitamin C and antioxidants) and help balance and kickstart the gut.

Power smoothie
There are endless recipes to find online for great breakfast smoothies – from green juices to elaborate fruit and vegetable concoctions, but I’m writing my favourite tried and tested rituals here so these two are the best I’ve tried:

1. For a foggy head and tiredness: a shot of juiced ginger with a big squeeze of lemon and a pinch of cayenne. Fortunately, I don’t need this very often, but it’s definitely a zingy way to start the day.

2. Super-tonic milkshake:
I like my chocolate drinks (chocolate-everything!), but this is the adult, supersonic tonic version, with a few alternate renditions. In a blender add almond, hazelnut or other milk of choice, a heaped tablespoon of raw cacao (high in antioxidants), a heaped tablespoon of adaptogenic powder such as ashwagandha (this is an especially great for women, widely used in Ayurveda as the top health tonic, as it helps reduce stress, balance hormones, offer energy and strengthen immunity – at night it’s great in a warm milk with turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and honey) or maca powder (energy booster and even a sexual tonic) or astragalus powder (widely used in China as an immune-system booster), a teaspoon of cinammon (blood cleansing, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, boosts digestive health), a pinch of cayenne pepper (if you like heat) for heart health, a tablespoon of crushed linseeds (packed with Omega 3s) and a shot of espresso (wakey wakey!). Blend all the ingredients with a couple of ice cubes and hey presto! Another version is to exclude the cinnamon and cayenne and instead add a few tablespoons of nut butter – peanut, tahini, hazelnut, whatever you like, for extra protein and other nutty benefits. Yet another option is to add half an avocado and a banana as well, both packed with heart-healthy fats, collagen, B6 and other mood-enhancing vitamins and minerals like potassium and magnesium). Mixed frozen red berries are also high in antioxidants and vitamin C and mix well with chocolate.

Prepare your medicinal tea

While pottering around the kitchen preparing breakfast and tidying up, I always make time to boil a full kettle and prepare a large jug of herbal tea that I will refrigerate and sip in an ice-packed glass throughout the day (if you’re living in a cold country you can simply skip the ice and sip at room temperature, or add a bit of boiling water to your cp to heat it up before drinking if you want it hot). The key ingredient is the amazing herb that Greeks have used since ancient times because of its high iron content and mightly antioxidant content, Mountain Tea, called Tsai tou Vounou, which recent global studies have proven is also an amazing preventative herbal medicine for Alzheimer’s and dementia. I usually add fresh or dried mint and lemon verbena in summer or chamomile, linden and a stick of cinnamon in winter.

Another jug you can prepare to refrigerate is with vitamin water – just water (ideally filtered) that has chunks of any well-cleaned, ideally bio fruit and herbs chopped into it. The vitamins and minerals from the fruit and herbs will infuse into the water so when you drink a glass of it you’ll get a healthy, refreshing boost.

Walk your walk

I live in a hilly urban landscape and walk my son to school and honestly, that half hour daily up and down walk makes the world of difference to my day. If I were to start the day by just sitting at my computer I know I would feel completely different (as I mentioned in my introduction, everything I write here is tried and tested!). If you are a parent and your kids take the bus to school, try and find a way to add a half hour walk to your morning – if you are commuting to work get off a few stops earlier, if you work from home push yourself to go around the block a few times or let yourself explore different parts of your neighbourhood. If you have plenty of free time, hop on a bus or metro and get out in a place you’ve never visited and just walk around to discover something new.

Meditate or daydream while you do morning chores

I have around 20 plants on my balcony and as I water them with the hose I stop at each one, really trying to observe its individual beauty with my eyes, and speak my favourite affirmation, which I repeat to each plant as I water it (hopefully the plants don’t get together at night and bitch about me! ;)). This way I’m sharing my wishes and affirming to myself at the same time, by offering the plants their sustenance. I also like to talk with myself (it’s apparently more of a sign of genius than madness, haha) or visualize about my dreams, goals and projects while I’m doing mundane things like washing the dishes, chopping vegetables or sweeping. This is all meditational practice – who said you have to sit in the lotus position and chant Om to meditate? Meditating doesn’t need to have a direct spiritual purpose either – you could be letting yourself zen out while feeling the sudsy lather on your hands under the warm running water while you wash the dishes, and in that moment of sensual awareness your state of tranquility may be the perfect time for a great creative or even hardcore practical solution to pop up.

Try Donna Eden’s Daily Energy Routine
This is an excellent energy medicine sequence that kickstars your organism and clears your mind, while balancing the left and right parts of the brain. Even if you feel too rushed to do it all at once (although it only takes around 6-7 minutes), do parts of it at different parts of the morning. I sometimes do some of the thumps while walking along the street (Ok, first I look around to see there’s no one walking right behind me!). When I was presenting live on the radio I used to do the chest thump and the cross march a few minutes before going on the air. The studio technician started off by pretending not to notice, then asked me one day what the heck I was doing. When I told him he started doing it too!:
Watch Here!

 

 

 

a chat with athens’ top (vegan) chefs

‘Dirty’ Vegan chef Nikos Gaitanos

Nikos Gaitanos is a chef specializing in vegetarian/vegan cuisine. He has worked as a consultant at vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Greece as well as in the UK. Currently he is Head Chef  of “Healthy Bites” and “Vegan Nation” restaurants in Athens and “The Saints Stores” in Thessaloniki. He is the author of the cook book “Dirty Vegan”.

What is your food philosophy & practice?
Keep it simple; I love creating recipes with just a few but very high quality ingredients.

Were you ever a meat eater? How did your personal interest in vegan food begin? 
I was a meat eater long time ago – I actually haven’t eaten meat for 29 years! At first I was vegetarian, then a pescatarian and recently I started following a plant based diet. I first heard the word ‘vegan’ eight years ago. At first I couldn’t understand why they didn’t eat any animal products but gradually I began to make the connection, and after my sister became vegan somehow she manage to convince me to change my diet too.

How / when did you take vegan cuisine to a professional level?
I stopped cooking meat 13 years ago, because I started to feel it’s unethical to do so, especially when I wasn’t eating it myself. Since then I’ve worked only in vegetarian and vegan restaurants.

Can people easily get all their nutrients from a vegan diet?
The earth provides us with unlimited fruits and vegetables that have all the nutrients we need, so I believe we just have to eat a little bit of everything!

Is a vegan diet difficult to follow? What are its top advantages?
Initially it can be difficult because to say that you want to change your diet is just the first step. After that you have to deal with a society that is so widely based on the suffering of animals, and with the theories and comments of your family and friends. Last but not least you have to research and decide what you are going to eat from now on. Nowadays it’s much easier than it was a few years ago because the internet provides us with all the information, recipes and ideas you need to make the transition. More and more people are turning vegan every day and that makes it even easier. When you change your diet, you change your life, and you become a member of an ethical society; vegans are helping each other in every way.

What is your best advice for someone considering going vegan?
My advice to those who want to go vegan is to open your eyes to really see the injustice that’s being done to animals, and then block your ears to all those who try to tell you not to do it. What we learn from our fathers is not always right… We are the masters of our life and if we see and feel that something is wrong we must be the ones to change it, or at least we have to try to.

What is your goal as a vegan chef in Athens?
I want to provide excellent food choices for vegans so they will never feel that something is missing from their diet. At the same time I want to encourage the meat-eaters to discover that vegan food is packed with flavours, and that the choice is endless.

Athenians are showing increased interest in vegan food. Why do you think that is?
There are numerous reasons for this. Some are just curious about this relatively new (to Greece) trend, and some are simply fed up of meat and prefer to eat something healthy. Some are curious about making the transition, and want to find out what it would involve, try foods and learn more. The fact is that Greeks overall, not just Athenians are changing – actually people all around the world are changing in this sense as veganism is becoming a larger reality every day and nothing can stop it from happening!

Do you teach people how to cook vegan?
Over the last few years I have been teaching at cooking schools and running workshops on vegan cooking. So far I’ve taught at (Dipnosophistirion School of Gastronomy)in Athens, been a cooking workshop consultant in Thessaloniki, and worked at the Culinary Studies Centre in Herakleion, Crete.

What are your favourite vegan foods, what do they taste like and why do you love them?
My favourite foods haven’t change throughout the years – I love pizza, pasta, souvlaki and burgers! I’m a junk-food lover and the name of my first cookbook says it all: “Dirty Vegan”.

 

 

“What we learn from our fathers is not always right… We are the masters of our life and if we see and feel that something is wrong we must be the ones to change it, or at least we have to try to.”

 

Partners George Cassimatis & Esco Essence

Both Esco and George are yoga teachers and have been cooking and experimenting with plant-based food for more than 20 years. Esco is from Finland and has been working as a freelance chef at yoga retreats, private homes and corporate events. He teaches workshops and is a visionary raw food artist & vegan chef. George founded Triopetra Yoga Retreat in 2004 in the south of Crete and opened Soul Kitchen, Organic plant based restaurant in Rethymno, Crete in 2010. He gave up the city life for a good 12 years to study yoga and nutrition and now aims to share his passion for food and healthy living in Athens. Their vision is to create a working space where they can offer highly nutritious plant-based food and create awareness through workshops and education. With their business, The Plant Kingdom, they plan to deliver food to your homes and offices mainly by pre-order. They will create their own line of healthy food products which you can purchase at selected shops around Athens and of course serve our daily menu at our home base in Paleo Faliro.

 

Vegan chefs Esco Essence and George Cassimatis

What is your food philosophy?
Our food philosophy is based on the principles of healthy wholesome plant based foods. Foods that are nutritious and contain all the necessary elements that our body requires daily. Also the taste and appearance plays an important role on our plates. Our ethical choice is not to cause harm to other being and to work with local producers that share this vision in their work. Our everyday work is actually a creative process to find the balance and better ways to do things, to become inventive and curious and share our passion for a good life which starts with what we eat and goes on to what we think and what we do with our time on this planet.

Were you ever a meat eater? How did your personal interest in vegan food begin?
We both grew up eating traditional meat and fish dishes and slowly through questioning these cultural values and experiencing other ways of cooking from vegetarian to vegan to raw, juicing and fasting we found that our body and mind responds much better without the animal products and ethically this is a big disaster and problem we need to address and face in our time. We do not need to kill or exploit animals at the rate we are currently consuming. If you look into it, watch Eathlings for instance – you will probably agree that it is madness and definitely not a sign of an evolved civilisation, rather it is the opposite.

How / when did you take vegan cuisine to a professional level?
George: I started Triopetra Yoga Retreat in 2004 in the south of Crete and there had the time and great opportunity to experience the great food our chef Chris Clark was preparing daily for 6 years and since have enjoyed cooking with many vegan and raw food chefs from around the world when I started Soul Kitchen Organic Vegetarian Cafe in the old town of Rethymno in 2010. This has given me a good experience and now together with Esco we know what we are doing and doing it very well. Athens we feel is ready now for more and more vegan and healthy lifestyle.
Esco: With years of practice and with many & various experiences & travels. Practice is most important, and with much practice you become professional.

Can people easily get all their nutrients from a vegan diet?
Food is so important so yes when you pay attention and have time to prepare you can be super healthy on a vegan diet. For our climate here in Greece we recommend most of the time to eat 80% raw and 20% cooked food and you need to eat a lot, so much bigger quantities of salad and fruit everyday is perfect.

Is a vegan diet difficult to follow? What are its top advantages?
Nothing is difficult when you know what you are doing and know how to prepare. Advantages are good you get a good sense of well being, good health, vitality and longevity. We truly recommend for meat eaters to try and experience for themselves how they feel after 1-6 months cutting all animal products from their diet.

What is your best advice for someone considering going to a vegan diet?
Listen to your own body and everyday to taste and try something new, so you will find your own balance and taste and happiness. The transition period can last from 1 month to 3 years, to adjust to the plant based eating. We have already a solution as we offer daily meals 100% plant based and Plant Kingdom delivers Monday to Friday to peoples offices or homes so we do all the work for them to experience this food and in all cases our customers are very happy, energized and satisfied with our choices and food. Dinners with non vegans, well now there are plenty of vegan choices in most restaurants and more and more vegan cafes & restaurants popping up that are doing great work here in Athens & Thesaloniki.

What is your goal as a vegan chefs in Athens?
We want to spread the knowledge & experience we have through our food and also with hands on seminars and workshops we are planning to do this year. We plan to create a vegan/raw food cooking school here in Athens so that all this philosophy can become accessible to everyone interested to learn. Even teaching mothers how to cook healthier & tastier food for their young ones at home, switching away from dairy products & sugar to plant based creative, tasty and nutritious alternatives.

Athenians are showing increased interest in vegan food. Why do you think that is?
The younger generation seems more alert, sensitive & conscious of the ethical issues we are facing with our food. Many also understand and feel the health benefits of a plant based diet so it seems natural that even in Athens it is starting to grow and more people are asking for vegan food in their daily lives. So naturally again more and more businesses will transition to serve those customers.

Do you teach people how to cook vegan? If so, what kind of classes do you offer?
We are planning a series of workshops starting this February to teach people how to cook vegan and healthy meals and show them how easy it can be when you learn the basics so you can start very soon to try on your own and experiment with new ideas and ways to satisfy yourself and loved ones. We will teach one three hour classes once a week in a new workshop space in Dafni, Vouliagmenis Ave 223. This will be a series of three months training and then we will do the advanced workshop too and start a new series for beginners. More info on our website and Faceboook page coming up soon.

What are your favourite foods, what do they taste like and why do you love them?

George: I love eating big kale salads everyday with carrots and avocado, lemon, olive oil & black Himalayan salt. I love the textures, the freshness and taste of prana – life force the plants give us.

Esco: I like to eat everyday something different , so I combine whats in season with all the five sense of taste to create tasty flavors and to fully enjoy.

“We want to live with real peace inside and to actively participate in the necessary exciting changes our modern age is undertaking. We are experienced enough to give you good nourishment, good energy and inspiration for a good daily start.”

hawaii to heaven

And now, the time has come for Athens to taste succlent and mouthwatering Hawaiian poke, cubed raw or marinated fish with soy sauce, sesame oil and usually rice and other condiments of choice. On tiny yet increasingly lively Petraki St near Syntagma Sq, chef Yiannis Kandylidis and his partners Yiannis Biniaris and Konstandinos Yiannoutsas have put on their best poke faces and are drawing the crowds with their creative – and healthy – delights. The set menu flavours I tried are succulent, clean, fresh, colourful and delicate, and the ingredients are fresh, seasonal, local and high quality, which adds to the health factor. Raw fish (except the shrimp, which was boiled), fresh herbs like coriander and mint, fresh fruit, caramelised, raw or crunchy onions, edamame beans, chillies and other punchy flavours make the experience pretty exciting.

I interviewed Kandylidis before diving into a variety of dishes created by him (click link below to hear our chat) and went again a week later on my birthday along with hubby and my preschooler for dishes we added our own touches – either is fully encouraged. The prices are between 5.5-8.5 euros for the small or larger portions and beers, lemonade and cocktails are also for sale. As the chef revealed in our interview (below), the autumn / winter season wll also see the addition of heart-warming soups and other dishes.

fast food + vegan? sure thing!

Vegan Nation Athens salads
Vegan Nation serves several green and pasta salads daily. This one is with mango and cashew nuts.

Until recently in Athens, if you were looking for fast food, there are chains like Grigoris and Everest, Goody’s and MacDonald’s, neighbourhood bakeries of all styles, serving all kinds of pies, and of course a souvlaki shop around every corner. Now there is also Vegan Nation, located right across Monastiraki Square, where the focus is packaged, meat and dairy-free foods, showcased on cool shelves to be taken out or casually eaten at one of the two tables outside the tiny store. From vegan sushi to one of Greece’s most lauded meat dishes, moussaka, this place offers plenty of no-frills yet tasty options (with several ethnic cuisine twists) to tourists and locals seeking guilt-free fast food indulgence.

Vegan Nation is brand new to Athens and not only – its owner, Alex Potter, who worked with vegan chef Nikos Gaitanos to create the menu, claims that it is the first in the world of its kind.

The Experiment:
I visited with a friend Cassandra Wagstaffe who co-owns her own restaurant, Cafe Boheme in Kolonaki, Athens and whose diet is mostly vegan, and our preschool-age children, to sample a few dishes. Not everything on the menu was available as what the chefs create changes from day to day, and sitting at the table you aren’t handed any plates or glasses – as the idea is to keep it as fast-food-basic as it gets.

There are no freshly made drinks on the menu (and no alcoholic drinks either), although there are several cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices made in the morning and refrigerated for sale. One of our kids was fast asleep and the other (mine) did not take to the “popular moussaka” – he actually announced that he preferred the one his yiayia gives him. He spat out the soutzoukakia, probably because they were strongly seasoned with spices like cumin, which many kids his age are not very keen on, but he was thrilled by the cheesecake (which has a base of Oreo cookies)  and the strawberry-chocolate-peanut butter smoothie.

Vegan Nation Athens I'm Very Well Thank You Sushi Moussaka
The vegan fast food restaurant’s two most popular dishes du jour – Sushi Combo and Moussaka

I tried the Sushi Combo, a few forkfuls of the above-mentioned moussaka and soutzoukakia, as well as a salad with mango and cashew nuts and the cheesecake. Everything was tasty, and for a fast food place, very satisfying to my adult palate (although my friend and I agreed the moussaka was actually quite stodgy, and I found the sushi rice mushy – though I imagine keeping sushi rice to the perfect texture when it’s sitting on the shelf can be a challenge, considering it’s a food that has to be eaten immediately after preparation).

Vegan Nation Alexander Potter kitchen
Vegan Nation owner Alexander Potter in the kitchen with friendly chef Alexandra.


Conclusion:
Like many others, I am overall excited to discover that an initiative like this has been born in Athens, and Potter seems to have a strong vision for how he intends to develop and improve upon every aspect. I laud Potter (also a gracious host, BTW) for having the grit to launch something like this in crisis-slammed Greece (something we discuss in the interview below), and also commend him for pushing forth with a truly original idea that has already received a very positive feedback and I’m certain has a bright potential for dynamic expansion in Greece and abroad. As for finding the ideal savoury dishes that my preschool kid will love, I will definitely go again and try other options! Cassandra’s comment on the Vegan Nation experience was: “A nice concept, well organized, clean, fresh and instant food at an economical price. A great option for vegans on the run, or for grabbing lunch between work or shopping in the city.”

INTERVIEW WITH VEGAN NATION OWNER ALEX POTTER

Q: In a nutshell, how do you define Vegan Nation as a concept and what it actually offers?
AP: A 100% all vegan on-the-go eatery serving a full spectrum of freshly prepared hot and cold multi-ethnic, neatly packed and exquisitely presented meals along with desserts and cold pressed juices that can all be taken away or consumed on the premises in an enjoyable and refreshing atmosphere.

Q: Please tell me a little about your own connection to the vegan diet & lifestyle.
AP: I grew up in a vegetarian/vegan household so it’s in my DNA in many ways.

Q: Having lived in so many countries, why did you choose crisis-hit Greece for opening this business?! 
AP: Even though I am half Greek, I never grew up Greece. I would spend summers here when I was younger so I am familiar to some degree with the area. I ended up starting a venture in the digital media sector two years ago in full crisis Greece and was traveling back and forth between Los Angeles and Athens. While spending time here I saw that despite the country being in a crisis there was still ongoing demand both from the tourists as well as the locals especially in the food and beverage sector. Before going ahead with the shop I compared different markets including London and Los Angeles. From a business perspective I found Athens to be where it made most sense for this new venture.

Q: Who is your target audience? 
AP: Greeks, Foreigners, Vegans, Non-vegans, Vegetarians etc. It’s really geared to appeal to everyone’s taste (vegan and non-vegan alike) and everyone’s wallet size.

Q: What’s the feedback so far from your Greek clients?
AP: Amazing. I see a twinkle in their eyes when they set eyes on the store. They all love the concept, the menu, the food, the taste and the prices. For Greek vegans it’s a haven.

Q: Please tell me about your menu – what is the objective in what you serve?
AP: It’s about filling a gap in the market and serving great dishes from a wide variety of cuisines at very reasonable prices. I am a strong believer that one should be able to have amazing food without having to necessarily pay a high price for it.

Q: Do you do deliveries as well?
AP: We are already gearing up to start delivery come September. Orders will be available directly by calling our store and also through E-food.

Q: What do you aspire to in the future for Vegan Nation? 
AP: We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from everyone again from both Greeks and foreigners. An important amount of them have expressed on their own that they want Vegan Nation in their home country and in their local neighborhood. Humbly, we are working towards the opportunity of making that a reality.

Q: What do you really want our readers to know about Vegan Nation?
AP: That we are changing the dynamics in diversity of food being offered and the way it’s being offered with a unique and tasty 100% all vegan on-the-go wide selection menu.

 

 

 VEGAN NATION INFO
Ermou 86, Monastiraki
Tel: 21 0322 6226
Hours 10:00AM – 6:00PM

queen of herbal teas

PRODUCT REVIEW: ANASSA TEA

I’ve always been a major fan of fresh herbs – used to season foods, give salads the perfect flavour and steeped in hot water to make a heartwarming tea. Whenever I can, I pick my own, or just buy bunches at the local markets and traditional or bio Greek stores. The soothing quality of a cup of hot herbal tea in winter or iced tea in summer is delightful, and knowing that herbs have so many health benefits just adds to the pleasure.

 

Right now I’m crazy about ANASSA tea. To be honest it was their beautiful packaging that first drew me to their fragrant and tasteful blends. Starting with the outside, I liked see modern, sleek and minimal light grey metal boxes with illustrations of Gods; my favourite blend, Happiness, is represented by Pegasus, the divine winged horse, and contains a lovely and uplifting mix of savoury Mountain Tea (shown to have as many antioxidants as green tea), fine Mint, intense Sage and Lemon balm. Then upon opening the box, you’ll get an elevating whiff of aromatic herbs, and inside see something completely unique – a packet of biodegradable tea bags and a bunch of thin wooden sticks you can thread through them to rest on the top of your cup. And talking of cups they have even designed a glass mug with the word “δες” inside, meaning “see”, which reflects beautifully on the sides as you drink.

Anassa’s creators, Aphrodite Florou and Yanna Mattheou

Anassa (pronounced with an accent on the first ‘A’, and meaning queen in ancient Greek, but, cleverly, also meaning ‘breath’ when pronounced with the accent on the second ‘a’) was the brainchild of duo Aphrodite Florou and Yanna Mattheou, whose motto is: “Live Organic, Pick Greek, Enjoy thoroughly!”. Both with a solid background in managerial positions, they have successfully combined their love of nature, passion for medicinal and aromatic local herbs, and an inherent desire to work with 100% organic small producers around the country on fair trade terms with their marketing savvy and top of the range designers.

The herbs are handpicked and the clearing is done manually so as to preserve all valuable ingredients. They are then dehydrated in the most modern conditions in order to retain the aroma and vivid colours as well as precious essential oils. Apart from the multitude of information gathered about Greek herbs since ancient times in herbal bibles such as the Materia Medica, Mattheou  and Florou also worked closely with a scientific team in selecting the herbs they would be using and the blends they were creating. So here’s to a regular cup of their excellent tea!

DID YOU KNOW… Greece is endowed with 6,500 different species and subspecies of plants, 1,600 of them endemic, found now here else the world.

 

 

 


 

juicy livin’ – top 5 hotspots now

The world is crazy about health juice bars, and Athens has joined in on quenching its thirsty curiosity by relishing the specialized bars selling liquid concoctions made out of fruit, vegetables, roots, herbs and adaptogen superpowders. In Athens you can find at least 3-4 such places in every central neighborhood, like Acropolis, Syntagma and Monastiraki. Fresh juice’s universal appeal is simple: it’s a healthy, easy way to quickly flood your organism with a ton of vitamins, minerals and other body-mind boosting nutrients in one go, it can be a meal in itself, it is said to help ease or prevent particular ailments – from lowering cholesterol or bombarding a killer hangover with good stuff to easing respiratory congestion or digestive dramas…and very importantly, it’s an affordable daily commodity.

To Vazaki
(
Aristotelous 33, Halandri, tel (+30) 210 6800067)
To Vazaki is eco-conscious (they serve juices in recycled jars that they encourage clients to return, their deliveries are by bicycle only and they offer discounts to cyclists), health conscious, using only organic products and boasting the use of a Norwalk juicer, (which they say is the first in Greece and which produces cold-pressed juices, retaining many more nutrients), and holistically active, offering meditation, yogaand other seminars in their space. It also serves salads, soups, sandwhiches and light desserts.

Novagea
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(Vyronos 6 & Vakchou, Plaka, tel: (+30) 2114017427)
Although all the juice bars mentioned here make juices that benefit different health conditions, Novegea is singular in that it’s menu is written out like a list of medical perscriptions: ‘Smoker’s drink’, ‘diabetic’s drink’ and ‘nervous system tonic’ are but a few of their specialized potions. They also stand out from the rest with their ‘Dakos drink’, a liquid Cretan salad with Dakos rusk, feta and anthotyro cheese, tomato, throumba olives, pepper and capers. The juice bar is a whole production where you wait, jar in hand, as the juice made behind the counter pours out of a funnel on your side. Now also open in Varkiza’s coast (number 166). Now also serving a good choice of healthy snacks.

Himopeio
(Pandrosou 64, Monastiraki Sq, tel: (+30) 21 0325 4186)
There’s nothing cutting edge or trendy about Hymopeio, as its uncreative name suggests, but amongst establishments vying to outdo each other by proving how hip and clever they are, that’s an endearing quality. With a grocery-store style look and giant blackboards listing their drinks of the day, this place serves freshly squuezed juices, smoothies and seasonal soups bang in the tourist heart of Athens, all made with seasonal, local products that satiate a foreign as well as a growing Greek clientele.

Froots
(Athanasiou Diakou 6 & Porinou, Acropolis, tel: (+30) 21 0922 2234)
First dinky but good Frutteria (18 Frinihou St) juice bar graced the refined tourist area of Acropolis, and now Froots (with the motto “back to the roots & fruits”, a large, sunlit cafe with a pretty little garden, attracts all kinds of health conscious folks with a plethora of invigorating juices, smoothies and shots like wheatgrass or lemon-ginger-cayenne, made from organic produce and including superfood ingredients. They also serve vitamin water, homemade raw snacks made with fruit pulp and soups. Clientele includes tired tourists, stressed business people and athletes who each get their special liquid perscription by staff.

Pure Juice Bar
(Sina 21, Kolonaki, tel: (+30) 2130363671)15027816_1797826783819076_5193462766643596093_n
In a minimal, post-industrial-style space, owners Thanos & Dimitris, influenced from their years in London & Montreal created a menu centered on antioxidant, detox and superfood juices and smoothies made with high quality ingredients, including adaptogens. They also serve raw energy snacks and desserts such as Acai bowl and, once you’re inspired by their healthy vibes, you can shop at their mini grocery store selling organic produce.

vegan food scene, athens

Chocolate dessert served at Melikrini by pastry chefs Vegan Fairies


In the early 1980s in Greece, vegetarianism was an alien concept and a good excuse to mock someone mercilessly.
However, in the last decade in particular (perhaps also due to growing interest in alternative therapies and exercise like yoga) Greeks have become familiar with the vegetarian ideology and practice, and more recently the vegan diet too. That said, the Greek diet has a broad variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes, and the religiously faithful go on several vegan fasts per year, some as long as 40 days. Yet, the presence of meat, and in huge varieties, has taken centre-stage on the family table.

Avocado

The Original vegan hotspot in Athens, Avocado is run by Eraj, whose wife Vivi runs NYSY Studios yoga school right across the street. It’s also next door to Four Seasons organic mini-market so this whole area on Nikis Street has become a health-lover’s go-to place. The (organic) food here is nutritious, delicious and worldly – from Kimchi Wraps to coriander-topped Dahl or vegan sushi and avocado pizza, there’s something for everyone. The juices, teas and smoothies rock too, and if you’re in a hurry and nearby it’s well worth grabbing lunch in a glass here in the form of protein shakes or other superfood kicks. Also suitable for families (there’s a changing table in the women’s bathroom), work lunches and take-out.

Melikrini

A more recent arrival, with a Sacred Geometry-directed design by healing architect Lydia Yannopoulou. The dinky Exarcheia vegan hangout serves soothing , freshly made and superfood-packed, homemade soups (cold in summer and steaming hot in winter) , salads, tarts, snacks, desserts and a choice of hot and cold drinks. There are plenty of raw options too.

Lime Bistro

Run by two chefs who turned vegan a few years ago and then felt they had to open a restaurant to share their culinary inspiration with the wider public, Lime in Gazi has recently expanded by creating a pleasant back garden as well as having a funky interior imbued with shades of blue. Vegan burgers, a daily raw tart of the day, soups, power smoothies and salads (try the raw carob-‘dako‘ rusk tomato salad with creamy almond ‘myzithra‘ cheese), mouthwatering excellent desserts, and truly warm and friendly service.

 

Mama Tierra


Mama Tierra serves a broad variety of ethnic vegan and vegetarian dishes inspired by Latin America, India, the Mediterranean and Middle East, with hearty everyday dishes such as (mushroom) burgers, colourful fresh salads, and soothing soups. The ingredients used are all sourced from small, local, organic producers.


Yi

A raw menu almost exclusively based on uncooked cuisine. More of a cafe than a restaurant, Yi produces its own nut-and-seed “butters” and “cheeses”, and more. Mouthwatering “I can’t believe it’s raw!” desserts like hazelnut mousse and crepes. The focus is to create light, allergy-free dishes – lactose, gluten, sugar and dairy free, and of course non-processed. They make their own nut and seed butters, grow their own sprouts, and use marinades that effectively break down the tough fibres of some foods. Their specialty is hot (with hot water added, not boiled) and cold soups and their most popular dish is the Burrito platter for two.

NB. Raw and vegan cuisine has become a cool phenomenon that modern & especially younger Greeks are warming to, something to which the budding presence of health food stores, organic street markets and workshops by top level vegan chefs like Nikos Gaitanos.

Yi’s Burrito Platter — it’s raw!!!


INFO:

Avocado: 30 Nikis, Syntagma
• Tel.: (+30) 210.323.7878

Melikrini: 14 Asklipiou (Panepistimio metro),
Tel. (+30) 2155458787.

Lime Bistro: 23 Dekeleon (Kerameikos metro),
Tel. (+30) 2103474423.

Falafel House: 23 Athinas St (Monastiraki metro),
Tel. (+30) 2103234183

Mama Tierra: 84 Akadimias
Tel.: (30) 211.411.4420

Trivoli Vegan Kafeneion: Marinou Antipa 107a, Ilioupoli (Ilioupoli metro stop), Tel. (+30) 2114050120.

Yi: 69 Grigoriou Lambraki, Glyfada
Tel.: (+30) 210.964.8512.

Zahari kai Alati
38 Athanasiou Diakou St, tel. (+30) 2109244322.

TFL kale snacks

TFL could be said to have altered a lot of people’s dietary and culinary perspectives during their past six years of action in Greece, and probably not as an indirect result, there is now a growing movement in the vegan circles, with more and more vegetarian/vegan restaurants opening up, more grocery stores selling vegan-friendly products, and the opening of the capital’s first raw food cafe (Yi, in the southern suburb of Glyfada), which Troo Food’s Danae Tsekoura also helped set up.

Meeting TFL inspired me to attend some of their workshops in raw cuisine, usually taught by Danae. I loved learning the far more creative ways of putting together and enjoying raw ingredients to create delicious, health-boosting and colourful dishes, and despite realising that I will always like the art of cooking stuff too much to go completely raw, I relished discovering various raw food techniques, above all that of dehydrating foods. I developed a lingering crush for Danae’s Excalibur dehydrator and still long for one of my own today, dreaming of the day when I can concoct my own raw snacks. Meanwhile I will have to stick with the ones I can buy. And fortunately some of them are really good (though to be honest, a little too pricey for me to buy regularly).

tfl1

Curious to try out Troo Food’s new Kale chip range, I received Kale chips in three flavours (Mustard, Spicy and Cheezy) and kale crackers in two flavours (Cheezy and Mustard).
Favourites: The Spicy Kale Chips and the  Cheezy Kale Crackers.
NOTE: The cheese effect in the crackers is created with crushed sunflower seeds, cashew nuts and nutritional yeast (one of those ingredients I could never bring myself to use – I’ve very wastefully bought and chucked out this Vitamin B12 -rich product twice – but now I got a new idea of how great it can be.

Extra bonuses: Greek olive oil & Himalayan salt are used.

By Alexia Amvrazi

four seasons of fresh bio food

Souvlaki may still be one of Greece’s most popular and accessible (street) foods, yet for health-conscious foodies, Athens has become an increasingly easy and exciting place to live and shop in. Today, practically every neighbourhood in the city has at least one bio shop or food stores selling a decent choice of traditional, pure, healthy, ‘home made’ style foods. Then there are the weekly local laiki green grocer’s markets where if you do your research and talk to sellers, you can usually find ways to get the “good stuff” brought to you – fresh farm eggs, the best varieties of seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs, and more.

There are numerous by now for good quality and reliable organic produce in Athens, but one that has consistently remained popular throughout the years, and not by chance, is Tessereis Epoches (Four Seasons) on 30 Nikis St just round the corner from Syntagma Square. The substantial variety (over 3.500 products) of fresh, dried, frozen, canned and dry foods, as well as ecological household cleaning products and cosmetics, mainly from Greece but also from around the world, and the friendly, helpful and highly knowledgeable staff, serve to make it a highly desirable shopping destination.

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The bio store opened in 2004, when the bio food scene was still very quiet in Greece as demand was still very low – today, it’s always busy with people trying to tailor a better diet and healthier lifestyle for themselves and their family. The mini-market’s owner, Vassilis Souvatzoglou, who helps run the family business with his mother and brother George, says: “Our target goal was and still remains to rediscover lost essence of foods, and find out about new ones. We are a team of young people that are specialized in organic products and love what we do.”

At Four Seasons you’ll find fresh, seasonal produce by small producers from around the country, sometimes sold at delightfully affordable prices – locally-grown foods like rare mushrooms, avocados and kale in winter, huge bunches of asparagus in spring, strawberries, courgettes and more recently even Cretan papaya, mangoes and passion fruit in summer. Souvatzoglou says: “Daily we are offering small producers the opportunity to grow and provide their products to a larger group of buyers, while supplying our customers with some of the best that Greek nature has to offer.”

te3Souvatzoglou adds that he has witnessed a significant shift in how Greeks eat in the last decade: “Nowadays, people are searching for quality foods and are more cautious about what they eat. This outlook has led to the creation of a new scene in Greece.” Vassilis and his team make ongoing research into the food industry a priority, travelling far and wide to meet producers at the very places where they live and farm, seeking out quality produce. “We constantly travel around Greece and internationally to discover new ideas and healthy habits. Our main purpose is to promote healthy living and enjoy good food. That is why we always aim to be one step further and create our local food revolution.”