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The Cyprus Wine Guide March 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Wine And Spirits.
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Why such a good book should be on everyone’s shelf

The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards were founded in 1995 by Edouard Cointreau as the World Cookbook Awards. Awards are now given in three categories for cookbooks and 14 for wine books, with a total of 48 prizes up for grabs. The objective is to reward those who cook with words, or, in our case, drink with words. The awards also help readers find the best among the 24,000 food and wine books produced each year. Most importantly, it creates an opportunity to access the major markets in English, German, Spanish or French for books originated in other languages. There is even a Cypriot award winner, who won a prize in the ‘Wine guides in English’ category, selected from 6,000 entrants.

The Cyprus Wine Guide by Yiannos Constantinou, wine writer at Politis newspaper, is now an award-winning book and has been entered for the organisation’s final round of competition, which will be held in Beijing on April 7. Cyprus wine is at the most important phase of its development in terms of searching for an identity. The success of this book can only help the cause, the goal of which is the complete reorientation of Cyprus wine towards quality.

Wine guides are just that, guides. They do not dictate your taste, nobody should do that. However, the information contained in this guide is almost unique and the best I have seen in any publication on Cyprus wines. The second edition has been revised and updated, including 26 wine producers and up to 70 recommended wines, the best out of 300 tested. Additionally, there is a full description of all Cyprus wine regions, a page on the Cyprus Wine Museum and, for foreign visitors, information on each winery, maps and charts with over 200 specially commissioned colour photographs.

This is an excellent country guide, which should be in all serious wine libraries. We wish The Cyprus Wine Guide good luck in Beijing. It is available in all good bookshops and newsagents throughout Cyprus.

Wines of the week > Costas Tsiakkas’ winery in Pelendri. It is one of the loveliest wineries on the island, situated among the woodlands of Pitsilia. Costas, as always, was a great host and without wasting time we soon tasted the Xinisteri 2006, kept on its lees. Watch this space. However, the 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Lemesos region, Alcohol Volume 12% has set a serious candidacy for the best summer lunch wine. Clear and light yellow in colour with a faint green background, the nose is fresh and aromatic. Grassy notes with lush, tropical fruit and candied citrus. The palate shows good balance with ripe lime allied to fine mineral acidity. The finish is clean, a refreshing wine. Serve at 8 degrC with shellfish and salads, especially with a touch of spice.

Clear, salmon pink in colour, the 2006 Tsiakkas Rose, Lemesos region, Alcohol volume 12.5% proves that, in most cases, the best roses are made from red grape varieties. In this case, the Grenache Noir does the trick. Youthful on the nose, this wine is bursting with strawberries, redcurrant and notes of lavender. On the palate it is lush and delicately dry, crispy and acidic with strawberries evident on the finish and integrated tannins providing support. Do not chill too much. Excellent at 10 degrC with oriental food and mild curries.

The 2004 Tsiakkas Vamvakada, Lemesos Region, Alcohol Volume 12.5% has a dark purple colour and a nose of black cherries, damson and cinnamon. Ripe cherry flavour on the palate, medium body, balanced and round with fresh acidity and light tannins. Summer red? Yes. Serve at 16 degrC with local grills but best with pork kebabs and lamb chops.

Renovation of the Zinovia building March 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Cyprus.
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Meet the architect behind the stunning renovation of the Zinovia building in central Nicosia, now the home of the British Council

Walking around the two pedestrianised main streets of Nicosia’s old town, Ledra and Onasagorou, is always a revelation. Ledra Street in particular always has something going on, from street artists to new restaurants and cafes popping up every few months. What saddens the onlooker though is the state of some of the buildings.

Once beautiful architectural gems are fading away amid neglect and indifference. In some cases, derelict skeletons of houses are on the brink of collapse. The ornate, limestone, brick facades of terraced buildings stand testament to their glorious past. Once the hubbub of Nicosia’s elite, the area is now the refuge of low-paid workers from East Europe or Asia. Locals inhabiting the area are scarce.

Onasagorou, on the other hand, always came second best but a newly-renovated architectural gem a few metres away, in Aristotelous Street, will no doubt will create a buzz of activity. The British Council has recently moved into the Zinovia building, that once housed a halloumi, Cyprus traditional, cheese factory.

As Sir David Green, Director General of the British Council said, the Council’s investment in this new centre provides “a strong demonstration of our commitment to our work in Cyprus”. Surely, if an organisation of their calibre dares to move to the old part of Nicosia after spending 32 years on Museum Street it must be a sound decision and a good enough reason for more businesses to follow suit, giving the area a much-needed boost.

“Taking up the task of restoring a historical monument or building is always awe-inspiring. The extent of the responsibility is nothing compared to building a house from scratch,” said architect in charge of the renovation, Andreas Nicolaou. “The challenge of removing layers and layers of plaster to reach the original mud bricks and, in this particular case, demolishing additional structures that intervened with the design is so fulfilling. Looking at its progress, overcoming building or administrative problems and finally concluding the work is pure joy.”

The building takes its name from its previous owner, in the business of making halloumi, although it was first used as an inn during the late 17th century. According to the architect, the inn must have covered a much larger area but over the years many alterations and adjustments were made, resulting in today’s smaller version.

The property was bought 20 years ago by its current owners, in a derelict condition. Over the years it fell further into disrepair as it remained uninhabited. Walls started falling down and by the time the roof collapsed speed and efficiency were needed to save the building.

“Fortunately, by that time, we had the approved plans for the restoration of the building. My first concern was to find out the original design of the building and as there weren’t photographs or any form of archives my discoveries were made on site. Deciding which features to include as part of the building’s history was equally important,” Nicolaou said.

And history has been included in the new look with large pots traditionally used to make halloumi visible on the ground floor. To feed the wood fire, there were small openings visible from the courtyard. Also in the paved courtyard, three limestone, sculpted columns supporting the ceiling exhibit the original cobbled floor of the inn at their base.

During renovation, the decaying wooden logs were substituted, reinforcement and support was implemented where needed and a metal fire escape staircase was added in the courtyard. As a listed house, nothing could be altered or modernised. “The third stage of planning was the technological upgrading of the building, making it contemporary and user friendly without altering its traditional image,” Nicolaou said.

The most striking feature of the building has to be the part marble, part wood staircase leading to the upper floor. “The stairs are a later addition. Once the inn ceased to exist, the building was turned into a wealthy man’s house and one of the three arches that was part of the original design was built in to accommodate the stairs leading to the additional upper floor,” he added.

The high-ceilinged room, divided by the impressive arches and featuring the stairs, now houses the reception and public areas of the British Council. Glass walls offer clear views of the courtyard. According to the British Council, the building “combines tradition, culture and innovation in a contemporary, customer-friendly environment”.

Nicolaou’s love for culture and historical monuments stretches back to his years spent as a student in Italy. He is currently researching Medieval Fountains in Arsos, Limassol but is also putting together a book of photographs on old Limassol titled The History of the Town Through its People and its Buildings. And Nicolaou is keen that these buildings do not remain as merely part of history but are kept.

“The state has a moral duty to stand by those business people that take the risk of investing hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to save old historical buildings. By doing so, automatically the inner city of the capital is upgraded bringing in revenue and reviving the area,” he said.

Nicosia’s Habitat reopens to offload remaining stock March 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Shopping.
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The HABITAT store in Nicosia on Tuesday reopened its doors to the public in an attempt to get rid of its outstanding stock.

Large queues formed inside the Makedonitissa showroom as people tried to take advantage of cut-price household furnishings. Habitat stopped trading indefinitely back in December after running into economic problems. A sign in the window simply stated: “Closed until further notice.” Yesterday, many unhappy customers who had put down deposits for goods they had still not received flocked to the store in an effort to find out what was going on.

At the time of closure a Habitat statement read: “It is with deepest regret that we confirm Habitat’s franchise partner Franco Import has come into financial difficulties leading to the closure of four stores, three in Athens and one in Cyprus, on December 11. This situation has been triggered by an external supplier to Franco Import, not by Habitat.”

The statement went on to say that Franco Import and Habitat UK Limited have been partners for almost ten years and that the company was, “saddened that Franco is facing challenging circumstances. We regret any inconvenience this situation may cause to customers who have ordered through Franco Import and ask for their co-operation and support during this time.”

But yesterday Habitat was closed again, with curtains drawn across the store’s windows. A small note informed customers that Habitat, “will reopen on Thursday morning at 9am.”

It is not clear whether this will again be for one day only, with Habitat headquarters in London unable to clarify the situation any further. According to local press reports, prices in Habitat’s Greek stores were higher than in their other European stores.

Though the companies are owned by the same conglomerate, the opening of two IKEA superstores in Athens and Thessaloniki is said to have hit Habitat hard in Greece, with an Athenian newspaper reporting that it was only a matter of time before Habitat got into trouble. IKEA is set to hit Cypriot shores in June this year.

Habitat is owned by the Ikano Group and operates as an independent commercial legal entity from the IKEA Group. It currently has 74 directly operated stores, 39 of which are located in the UK. In addition, the company operates stores in partnership with wholesale/franchise operations in many different countries around the world.

Anna Vissi’s tour in N. America and Europe March 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Greek.
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Anna Vissi, the Greek diva who represented Greece with her ballad “Everything” at last year’s Eurovision Song Contest, is launching a tour in North America, next April.

Greek comedian and performer Takis Zaharatos will accompany Anna. The dates announced are >

April 14th > Foxwoods, CT
April 21st > Trump Taj Mahal, AC
April 25th > Vic Theatre, Chicago
April 27th > The Palace, MTL
April 28th > Roy Thomson Hall, TOR

Anna will return back to Greece in late May, as she will participate in a Nikos Karvelas’ musical at the Athens Concert Hall, to be staged early next June. A tour in Greece will follow, while she’s already scheduled concerts in Europe, especially in the Balkans, where she’s very popular, since many of her songs became hits there by local artists.

Last week, Anna accompanied her friend Patricia Field (Academy Awards nominee for Best Achievement in Costume Design for The devil wears Prada) to the Oscars, in L.A.

Related Links > http://www.annavissi.net

Enhance your Greek experience March 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Greece, Technology.
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If you have ever wandered around a Greek archaeological site in midsummer, clueless about what you are seeing or where you are going, help is finally at hand.

Greek Culture Ministrer on Thursday unveiled a hand-held gadget for visitors that offers high-resolution video, detailed diagrams of sites such as ancient temples, position indicators, and imagery along with stereo sound.

The battery-powered, touchscreen devices are about the size and weight of a personal stereo, weighing just 270 grams, or 9.5 ounces. Instructions come in four languages, Greek, English, German and French.

The units will be available at 15 sites around the country including the Acropolis and National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Thessaloniki’s Archaeological and Byzantine Museums, Delphi, Rhodes, Olympia, Mycenae, Vergina, Epidaurus and Knossos in Crete.

“We are offering visitors one of the most technologically advanced tourist guides in Europe,” Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said at a news conference.

The cost for assembling and programming 5,000 units came to €9.5 million. The system, developed by Siemens and Fujitsu, will first be tested in Thessaloniki and Mycenae and should be available at all sites by summer 2008. Rental prices are yet to be determined, Voulgarakis said. The Ministry also unveiled new automated ticketing systems for 18 major tourist sites, which will cut down on waiting time for visitors.

Greece is expected to draw more than 15 million tourists this year, more than its total population of around 11 million, but its famed cultural sites have until now been slow to introduce technological support for visitors, such as the audio guides frequently used at Museums abroad.

The sky is no limit for Greek Theon Sensors March 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Technology.
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Theon Sensors decided three years ago to become less dependent on armed forces procurements and to strengthen its international presence further, so the Athens-based company chose to invest in a rapidly developing sector of technology.

The vast majority of the company’s revenues, about 10 million euro, still originates from its Electro-Optical Systems unit and products such as night-vision viewers and other products for security and defense, but its Micro-Electronic Mechanical Systems  unit has particularly ambitious plans: More than 1 million has been invested in its operation and today it is designing three products for the international market.

Theon is one of the approximately 15 small Greek companies investing in the microelectronics sector, designing and developing integrated circuits to be applied in sectors ranging from consumer electronics to health and aerospace. Most of them are members of the Hellenic Semiconductor Industry Association (Hellenic-SIA) and they mainly get their revenues from the international market.

The Micro-Electronic Mechanical Systems unit of Theon contributed just 100,000 euro in 2005, but raised its contribution by 150 percent the following year according to its Director, Emmanouel Patsios. He adds that two major international firms may incorporate the flow measurement sensor, currently under development, in their products.

Next month the company will sign an agreement with the European Space Association (ESA) for Theon to participate in a program concerning the design of an accelerometer for spaceships or satellites. Theon, only one of five Greek companies funded by ESA, designs, develops, assembles and produces integrated circuits in its MEMS unit, delivering products to customers just before their final stage, says Emmanouel Patsios.

“We work on the original product until it is about 75-80 percent finished, and in cooperation with the customer we adapt it to his requirements,” he explains.

As space systems cannot increase revenues, Theon Sensors also intends to develop commercial applications for its solutions.

Related Links > http://www.theon.com/en/homepage_en.htm

Jazzman pianist turns to organ March 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece.
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Helsinki-based Giorgos Kontrafouris plays material from his latest album at Athens club tonight, tomorrow

For his Guru shows, Giorgos Kontrafouris will perform selections from ‘Little Daddy’s Blues,’ an album that will soon go into circulation in the USA under the Chicken Coop Records label of legendary organist Tony Monaco.

Giorgos Kontrafouris is justly considered one of Greece’s most important jazz pianists. Lately, he has also been making his mark as an organist, giving a memorable concert last January of jazz standards at St Paul’s Anglican Church on Filellinon Street, central Athens, along with saxophonist Dimitris Vassilakis.

Tonight and tomorrow, Kontrafouris is due to put on his organist’s hat once more an appearance at the Club Guru – Jazz Upstairs venue, accompanied by Demos Dimitriadis, another accomplished saxophonist, Sami Linna on guitar and Teppo Makynen on drums.

In a recent television interview the Greek organ player, who lives in Helsinki, teaching jazz at the Sibelius Academy, before his arrival in the Greek capital said: “Finland is a small country,” he says, “but with the arts it is something else. For example, one student received a grant to go to Costa Rica for two months to record a composition titled ‘The Life of the Butterfly.’ If she’d made the same request in Greece, they would have thought she was mad. You talk to students in Helsinki who are off to Argentina to study the tango, for example. We’ll never see this sort of thing in Greece. On the other hand, in Finland everyone is very obedient. You won’t see a lot of earth-shattering things happening but that which does happen will be very solid. Imagine that Helsinki has just one newspaper with a music critic. What does that show? That people don’t disagree and that’s why when a decision is made, it is done.”

Kontrafouris has recorded six albums in Finland, under the alias Sideman with Finnish musicians, while he appears every so often in Greece, at the Parafono jazz club and at Guru.

In this new appearance at Guru he will perform selections from an album he recently recorded in the United States as an organ-player. Titled “Little Daddy’s Blues,” it will go into circulation soon under the Chicken Coop Records label of the legendary organist Tony Monaco. “I sent him a demo of my work, and he liked it a lot. I always wanted to play the organ,” says the 40-year-old musician, who first turned to jazz at the age of 16.

“I was a rocker, but then I heard Bud Powell’s ‘A Night in Tunisia’ and that was it. Then I discovered classical music. But, we are very cut off from developments in Greece. A Swedish jazz musician will be invited to a festival in Finland. A Serb will go to Bulgaria. We will never get invited to Italy, nor to the Balkans. I was recently invited to Montenegro via a Finnish band. I would never have been invited as a Greek. No one believes we can play jazz. I recently played in Austria with a great Finnish ensemble, the Five Corners Quintet. A Greek journalist was there, singing their praises. When they told him the pianist was Greek, he said: ‘But, we haven’t got jazz in Greece.’ Quite the opposite. We have musicians who have nothing to envy in their counterparts abroad, like the Nukleus trio or Demos Dimitriadis, who has done wonderful didactic work, and Takis Paterelis, among others.” 

At the Club Guru – Jazz Upstairs Venue, 10 Theatrou Sq, Psyrri, Athens, tel 210 3246530. Tonight and tomorrow.