We slept soundly the first night in Athens, but despite nearly 12 hours of snoozing, we all got up around 6:30 am on Day 2 of our trip, a little groggy, barely jet-lagged, but utterly famished. We had to wait until the hotel breakfast buffet (included with the room) opened at 7:30 am, but the wait was definitely worth it. One of the first guests to arrive at breakfast, we managed to get a table outdoors on the terrace, facing a small but elegant garden and gazebo surrounded by flowering shrubs and an incredibly lush patch of tarragon. Gardens are a rarity in this part of town, so sitting near a couple of palm trees was a nice treat. Add some cool weather in the upper 70’s and a bright, uniquely greek blue sky with an occasional cloud, and the setting was perfect. The buffet was pretty impressive for a European hotel, and there was a nice selection of hot and cold dishes. But the first thing most of us reached for was the huge bowl of utterly spectacular looking Greek yoghurt…
For my first taste of this thick and creamy yoghurt, I added a teaspoon full of thick honey and a spoon full of strawberry preserves. The preserves came from a selection of jams and preserves that appeared to be made in-house. Chunky, irregularly cut marmalades, cherry preserves abundant with deep red/burgundy fruit, a nice consistency to both the strawberry and apricot preserves and more. I tasted just one spoon full of yoghurt with a touch of honey and I must have literally groaned. Yes, it was that good. Greek yoghurt differs from pre-packaged yoghurts in North America and elsewhere (including the Philippines) in that it typically has up to three times (3x!) more butterfat than its wimpy cousins. Made from both sheep’s milk (lower fat) and cow’s milk, the creamiest Greek yoghurts can have up to 10% butterfat. That’s why it is so creamy, so luscious, with just a touch of sourness, but really more like eating good unsweetened whipped cream.
After a small bowl of yoghurt, I had a heaping plate full of scrambled eggs, sausages, ham and pan-fried potatoes with ketchup, of course. Several glasses of freshly squeezed greek orange juice (they had this machine that would continuously cut and squeeze oranges as required), a cup of hot tea and we were definitely on our way to being totally fortified for the day. But how could I resist two warm croissants, with sweet butter and more of the delicious strawberry preserves?
And for “dessert”? Of course a bowl of incredibly ripe and luscious strawberries with more of that spectacular greek yoghurt. Yum. And we had 6 more days to explore everything the buffet had to offer… But one thing was absolutely consistent at breakfast during our entire stay in Athens… a bowl of delicious greek yoghurt. If you are curious, and want to make your own greek yoghurt, this link makes it sound easy. And here’s another trick you might try – take some good store bought plain yoghurt and stick it in some dense cacha or muslin and let it hang over the sink or a large bowl for a couple of hours to drain/extract some of the water content. The resulting yoghurt will be thicker and more similar to greek yoghurt, but still not as creamy and rich due to the difference in butterfat. Greek yoghurt is sublime. Also check out this concoction I once tried with homemade guava jelly and greek style yoghurt… now I know why the combination naturally felt so right!