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Arab recipes, Brazilian flavour equals Greek businessman July 30, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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Greek businessman Theodoro Daris arrived in Brazil in the 1950’s and started producing tahine, sesame seed paste used in Arab cuisine. Nowadays, the company established by the immigrant produces 40 different items and supplies to famous restaurants in the city of São Paulo, as is the case with restaurants Arábia, Almanara and the Habib’s chain.

São Paulo – Businessman Theodoro Daris migrated from Greece to Brazil at the beginning of the 1950’s. He landed in Rio de Janeiro. From that city he came to São Paulo, the land of opportunities. He took advantage of the one that arose: he noticed that Arab food could please the Brazilians and started producing tahine, a sesame seed paste used in many Arab dishes. As time went by Daris became one of the main suppliers to the main restaurants and fast food chains in the country. The company currently produces 40 items, including sweets like halawi and rahat.

The sweet recipes are his family’s, from his father, who had a store in Greece and another in Romania. “Daris brought the recipes in his luggage and adapted them to the taste of the Brazilians,” explained Roberto Melo, the commercial director at Istambul, the brand created by the Greek. According to him, this is one of the secrets to the company success. “The tahine made by Istambul, for example, is saltier than that eaten in the Arab countries, as in Brazil the foods are saltier,” he explained.

To produce tahine and other products based on sesame seeds, the company imports the grain. They buy mainly from India and the countries of the Middle East. “Production in Brazil is still small and is not turned to the food industry,” stated Melo. Around 1,200 tonnes of sesame seeds are consumed per year.

The products, mainly tahine, the company cash cow, are sold to end users through large supermarket chains in the country, like Pão de Açúcar. However, the main revenues come from sales to restaurants like Almanara, Arábia and chain Habib’s. “Consumption at these restaurants has risen in recent years. This shows that Daris was right. Arab food was incorporated into the diet of the Brazilians,” stated Melo.

Growth > Daris’ growth from a producer of artistic products to company owner took place in the 1970’s. “The demand for products started rising and the customers started knocking at our door,” stated Melo. The growth, however, took place after the incorporation of another three brands of Arab products: Oriente, Nasser and Zacharias. The first is still active and is turned to whole meal products. The two latter brands have been closed. The company currently has 50 employees.

Exports are beginning. For the time being, only some countries in the Mercosur, the customs union between Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, receive the products. “And even to them the exports are sporadic. People come, buy and take,” stated Melo. According to him, for 2006, the target is to invest more in foreign sales. “One of the challenges, however, is the prices of products, which consumers still consider high,” he added. A 250-gram pot may cost as much as 12 reais, approximately US$ 5.50.

Qantas has Greek roots July 30, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in News Flights.
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The first five passenger planes of the Australian airline Qantas (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services) had Greek names “Perseus”, “Pegasus”, “Atalanta”, “Hermes” and “Hippomenes” as among the first shareholders of the company was Greek Australian Charis Koronis who owned a number of luxury hotels in Queensland and sought in every way to improve air transportation in the remote Australian state.

Charis Koronis was a fisherman from the island of Kythera, south of the Peloponnese in Greece, and went to Australia for a better future in 1919.

Qantas is the biggest Australian airline and one of the oldest airlines in the world and the 85th anniversary of its founding was celebrated with a number of events across the country.

Cybercafes in, telegraph out in Greek price basket July 30, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Living.
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Internet cafes will replace telegraph services in an upcoming revision to Greece’s consumer price inflation basket, a government statistician said.

Every five years, Greece’s statisticians revise the list of goods and services that make up the official basket used to measure the change in consumer prices.

But the relatively long gap between revisions mean that the basket also charts changes in Greek lifestyles and tastes. For example, manicures, cafe espresso and home exercise equipment are all making their debut.

And telegraph services have definitely been phased out.

“I mean, really, who sends a telegram these days,” said the government statistician, who declined to be named.

Also gone will be video cassettes, some hard to find fruits and the increasingly rare three-spined stickleback fish.

Government statisticians expect the revisions to shave 0.1 to 0.2 percent off the inflation rate. Last year, Greek inflation rose 3.5 percent, the second highest rate in the euro zone.

According to statistical rules, the more time that passes from the base year of an index, the more that index tends to overstate the change.

The changes are expected to be formally announced May 12, and will take effect with the April inflation data to be released the same day.

A museum with a difference July 30, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Museums.
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greekolivemuseum.jpg  The entrance to the museum and the restored, original facade of the Sparta Electricity Company.

Olive’s role in economy and life explored in one of Piraeus Bank group’s heritage projects.

Travelers passing through Laconia should not miss a visit to the excellent Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil, in an award-winning building in a semi-rural setting on the outskirts of Sparta and one of a number of similarly successful projects carried out by the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation (PIOP).

The stone facade of the old Sparta Electricity Company building was retained by architect Dimitris Diamantopoulos in his design for an airy, spacious building (winner of the Hellenic Institute of Architecture’s Architectural Awards 2004 in the public works category).

The museum has two levels, both overlooking an olive grove where an extension is being built to display the process of olive cultivation and harvesting, and prehistoric, ancient and Byzantine oil-pressing installations.

(PIOP is continuing with the theme of the olive on the island of Lesvos, where its Museum of Industrial Olive Oil Production is due to open in September in the old community olive oil factory in the village of Aghia Paraskevi, PIOP’s press officer Olia Vlachou informed us.)

In Sparta, the exhibits are arranged so as to take visitors on a journey through the ages as they stroll through the museum, beginning with the olive tree in antiquity and the earliest cultivation of the olive as a crop. Fossilized olive leaves, 50,000-60,000 years old, were found in Thera’s (Santorini’s) Caldera, while the first written references date back to the 14th century BC, on clay tablets inscribed with Linear B script found in the Mycenaean palaces of Knossos and Pylos.

There are displays on the use of olive oil in nutritional, cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications, in lighting, and its symbolic importance in religion, mythology, customs and more. This section concludes with a brief presentation of the olive’s position in art.

The lower level is devoted to the development of olive oil production technology from antiquity until the early industrial era. An animal-powered olive oil press from Lefkada and a wooden double oil press with a winch, from the neighboring area of Xirokambi, are displayed, many of them donated or loaned by inhabitants of these areas. At the press of a button, visitors can set in motion working models of powered (by water, steam, diesel or electricity) olive oil presses, a great way to keep the children (and not only!) interested.

For those with an interest in botany, there is a section on the natural environment of the olive tree, its taxonomy, morphology, and its cultivars.

There is also an interesting section on making soap from olive oil, both domestic and industrial, with examples of the large cauldron still used by housewives in olive-producing areas as well as industrial soap vats. Soap and olive oil are among the products on sale at the museum gift shop.

Future plans include a multipurpose hall for conferences, temporary exhibitions and other events. Touch screens, CD-ROMs, video, the museum’s guide and monographs on relevant topics that could not be presented in detail in the exhibition units will also be available.

The museum, which opened to the public at the end of 2002, was included in the Regional Operational Programs for the Peloponnese and financed by the European Union’s 2nd Community Support Framework.

Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil, 129 Othonos-Amalias Street, Sparta, tel 27310 89315, www.piop.gr. Open daily, except Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (from October 16 to February 28 until 5 p.m.). 

A tour of the National Gallery’s art July 30, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece.
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An outward-looking policy that is aimed at bringing as many people as possible to the National Gallery has been a priority from the very start for the institution’s director, Marina Lambraki-Plaka. The director has had a strong public presence and has collaborated with the media repeatedly in order to draw larger numbers.

A DVD-guide to the gallery’s collections, which was presented to the press a few days ago, falls within that same policy. It is targeted at adolescents and is primarily meant for use by Greek schools. The DVD, which comes with an illustrated booklet, shows Lambraki-Plaka guiding journalist Lambros Tagmatarchis around selected works in the gallery’s permanent collection. The collection consists of 15,000 works, of which 500 are exhibited. The works that lay in storage in the past because of the venue’s limited space have been put on permanent display under the directorship of Lambraki-Plaka.

The guide follows the development of Greek art in chronological order, beginning from the post-Byzantine period right up to the 20th century.

The DVD does not offer any sweeping survey of Greek art but isolates specific works to make a more lasting impression on the viewer. The tour begins with a post-Byzantine icon, “Crucifixion” by Andreas Pavias, a painter of the Cretan school, and moves to the three works by El Greco that were purchased with the help of contributions by the Greek public.

Paintings from the 19th century and the period of the country’s liberation from the Ottoman Empire are classified in terms of their genre: history paintings, portraiture, genre painting or still-lifes.

The project includes four, 25-minute-long sequences and the DVD that is in circulation (and available at the National Gallery) includes the first two, with the rest expected to be presented in the fall. The DVD-booklet kit was published in 5,000 copies, of which half are to be distributed free of charge (by the Cosmote, the project’s sponsor) to school libraries and schools in the Greek provinces.

New York > Networking and Tasting Wines July 30, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Wine And Spirits.
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Networking and Tasting Wines with AHI at Kellari Taverna

A spate of new, upscale Greek restaurants in New York attest to a rising public interest in Greek food and Greek wines, and, as is warranted by its beauty and most attractive culture in general, in Greece itself. Kellari Taverna, at 19 West 44 Street in Manhattan, which formally opened on February, is one of these. In its promotional materials, Kellari Taverna’s tag line is “Come enjoy the pleasures of three and a half thousand years of cultivation.” Mr. Stavros Aktipis is one of Kellari Taverna’s principal owners.

On March, Kellari (which means cellar) Taverna hosted The American Hellenic Business Network, The New York Chapter of the American Hellenic Institute and Amerikus Wines, “The Greek Wines of Today”, wine tasting and presentation with mezedes.

Mr. Andonios Neroulias, Senior Vice President of Western Management Corp. and New York Chapter AHI member, said that “The AHI is always willing to help out Greek business people here New York, with the American Hellenic Institute focusing on business networking . . . helping young professionals meet each other, and establish contacts so they can advance their careers. We should help each other, and take lessons from some other ethnic groups. So an event like this is always welcome . . . and it’s also good to be exposed to Greek wines.”

Amerikus Importers offered at the tasting were one white wine and three reds.

The dry white wine were Megapanos, Pikermi, Attica, Central Greece, a Savatiano, Regional Wine of Spata 2004, from selected grapes of the renowned grape variety of Mesoghea, Savatiano. Vatistas.

The reds were Vatistas, Lahi, Lakonia, Peloponnese Red Regional Wine of Monemvasia 2001; Cabernet/Agiorgitko 2001; and Stelio Kechris, Thessaloniki, Macedonia Xinomavro 2001.

Mr. Konstantin Drougos, owner of Amerikus Importers said “We wanted to put this event together to bring different people people in . . . it’s a little introduction to Greek food and wine and to the restaurant. We’re planning to do a series of these events, from Kellari Taverna to Milos, and Stamatis in Astoria. We want people to just know all these different environs of what is Greek today.”

Kellari Taverna’s storage for the approximate 110 Greek wines out of a wine list of about 250 total wines is visible on a suspended balcony with a glass floor at the back of the restaurant, a contemporary interpretation of a “kellari”. As well, Nick Lyras, formerly of The Atlantic Bank, and now manager of Kellari, said, 24 wines are offered by the glass on a daily basis, and half of these are Greek wines. “We wanted to focus and promote Greek wine and deepen its penetration in the US market. And then comes the food part. Our tag line “Come enjoy the pleasures of three and a half thousand years of cultivation” is not only about the grape and its byproduct, the wine; the cultivation is also in the Greek cuisine.”

Putting their stamp on the food and beverages of Kellari Taverna are Corporate Chef, Costas Tsingas (who formally operated Agrotikon on 14 Street in Manhattan and was Executive Chef of the 2004 Athens Olympics), and Executive Chef, Peter Spyropoulos, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, a former chef at Milos and Avra in Manhattan.

The chefs use traditional elements of Greek cuisine, the flavorings and ingredients, and re-organize, re-combine, and present them in a contemporary way, said Nick Lyras.

A large space with good ambient lighting, whose rustic look is reminiscent of a “kellari” due to the wood-beamed ceiling and stone- textured walls, Kellari Taverna provides intimate dining but the restaurant centerpiece, a Joshua Tree table from Ralph Lauren, a seamless, 3 – 4 inch thick, 14 foot long section of an African Zebrano Tree is perfect for a parea.

Greeks treat oregano as gift from the gods July 30, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Greece.
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I’m not sure if it was true Greek oregano that we grew or just oregano grown by Greeks. Either way it flavored my family’s meals with the essence of our ancestry and made even the most dishes a little more Greek.

Macaroni and cheese always had bits of green in it, meat loaf was much more than just a loaf of meat, and chili was pretty much Greek spaghetti sauce with a few kidney beans tossed in for good measure. The salt and pepper shakers in our house never had any alone time because a tin of freshly crumbled oregano was always wedged between them, either in the spice cupboard or on the stove.

Greek oregano’s potent, pungent flavor and fragrance are what distinguish it from the other less flavorful varieties. Some say that one’s tongue will numb from eating fresh Greek oregano — a burning sensation resulting from the chemical carvacrol. One taste or smell of this spicy Mediterranean herb will leave a lasting impression, making you never again succumb to the supermarket variety.

Cultivation: As a hearty perennial, Greek oregano grows wild in its native arid landscape and thrives on neglect. It grows in tufts like weeds, perfuming the air and inspiring the weary with manifold medicinal properties. Asthma, colds, fatigue and pain are said to be relieved by either ingesting oregano by decoction or directly placing it on the source of pain. Greek oregano is also a strong antiseptic containing thymol.

Oregano and marjoram are both members of the mint family Lamiaceae. It’s easy to get confused categorizing these similar-looking perennial herbs, especially as both carry the same botanical name, Origanum vulgare. When shopping for seeds or plants, it’s important to look beyond simple labels identifying oregano because these are most likely wild marjoram, not the potent Greek variety. If unsure, look at the leaves of the plant, which should be very hairy.

The best test, though, is to pinch off a leaf and smell and taste for yourself. Once the plant is established and blooming, it should produce white flowers, whereas marjoram produces pink flowers.  (more…)