Picture the scene…The Wagoner Clan is in a new country (Greece), and we’re interested in exploring the culture, sights, and food. So what’s our plan? An Athens cooking class of course! We found the perfect Greek cooking class at Yoleni’s Greek Gastronomy Center.
Other than a gyro, I’ll be honest in that I didn’t know much about Greek food. Although that said, Heidi bought some Greek spices (Souvlaki and Tzatziki) at our store some time ago, and we’ve enjoyed them on chicken and in yoghurt sauce. And me not being an adventurous foodie person, I was a bit worried about the food we were going to be eating in Greece. The good news is I didn’t starve, and we found some amazing food.
And we were very fortunate to have found Yoleni’s! If you ever in Athens, and you’re interested in a Greek cooking class, restaurant, steak bistro, olive oil bar, or a Greek deli shop, check out Yoleni’s. They have it all in one location!
The Athens Cooking Class – Greek Food Experience
Our appointment was right at dinner time, so we were all hungry. When we first arrived, the deli shop was on the ground floor, and it looked so inviting that I wanted to browse around a bit, but I was directed to head into the elevator, and go straight up to the cooking class.
We lucked out as it was just 5 participants, so it that was nice. We were shown to our seats, and already the appetizers were laid out, with dolmades, eggplant salad, sun dried tomatoes, pickled veggies, and sesame bread sticks.
Next to that were the raw ingredients for us to create our own Greek salad. Yum! Once seated, our waiter Spyros provided us with some very cold water (so refreshing!) and a glass of wine. We also met our chef/host, Katerina, and she explained the menu, and how the process would work.
Prepping the food
One of the things I really liked about the experience was that you could get as involved as you wanted in cooking the main dishes. Katerina was very clear about the process and what she was doing.
She enlisted the help of the kids and Heidi, and it was fun watching everyone get involved. So while Katerina and her minions were cooking away, I was snacking on the appetizers and Spyros kept the water and wine coming. Our first Greek cooking class is off to a great start.
There were several dishes that were on the menu:
- Fava Soup– A thick soup made from dried split fava beans. Before the grinding process, they look very similar to lentils.
- Pastitsada – The main dish consisting of rooster legs that have been deboned.
- Santorini Salad – A type of Greek salad with simple ingredients and very easy to make.
- Handmade Milk Pie – A super delicious dessert that’s like a custard in a light-medium bread dough. And drizzled with honey!
If you recall, both Lars and Anya are vegan, and it was great that Yoleni’s is vegan-friendly, and with some slight modifications, Katerina arranged dishes that the kids would eat. Very accommodating, and a nice touch to the whole meal.
Cooking the food
Watching Katerina at work was pretty amazing. I don’t know how many times she’s made these various dishes, but it must be a lot because she made it look so easy! A few interesting things about the cooking in general:
The Pastitsada specifically calls out the use of rooster, as compared to hen legs (it can also be made with beef). I don’t think I’d ever had rooster, so I’ll admit I was a tad worried. Plus, this dish also included a very strong spice mix called spetsieriko. In fact, it is so strong you only season one side of the meat.
It was a new word and spice mix for me, and Katerina described it as a combination of cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, cumin, ground cloves, and bay leaves. You’ll notice those are some seriously potent spices, and I figured that the dish would be really strong and heavy. Hmmmm….
It’s also made with a lot of dry red wine, and as everyone knows, wine makes it taste better. I could delve into culinary chemistry, and the describe how the ionic flux in the wine molecules affects the other ingredients, but trust me; wine just makes it taste better.
When I asked about the wine that Katerina was using, she had Spyros pour us some, and it was a surprising experience. The initial taste profile gave it a bubbly texture. Like a red Champagne. It was crazy. I don’t know if it’s always like that, or it was a reflection of the other foods we had been eating, but each time I had the same bubbly experience. I really wish I would have gotten the name of the wine, because it was very interesting.
Eating the greek food
As Katerina was completing the various dishes, it was tasting time. First up was the Santorini salad which we all prepared ourselves. It normally uses Mizithra cheese (soft goat cheese from Crete), and I’m not a cheese guy, so I gave mine to Heidi. There was also fresh tomato, olives, caper leaves, and dried bread. And like all food in Greece, liberal amounts of olive oil were used. Very nice indeed.
Next up was the Fava soup. Initially I thought it was OK, but as I ate it, I really started to enjoy it. And yes, I was scraping the bowl at the end. Heidi even offered me some of hers. I think it would be a great soup to have on a cold day. Greek comfort food!
Now for the big unknown, the Pastitsada. The nature of the spices gave me pause, but Katerina explained exactly how she applied the spetsieriko to the rooster and how to properly cook it. And did I mention the red wine? It’s a pasta dish, and the flavor was remarkable. It wasn’t strong as I expected, but the tender meat in conjunction with the pasta and olive oil makes for a tasty dish.
And finally for the dessert, the Milk Pie. We ate it straight out of the oven, and it was so nice. I like my custard dishes on the cold side, so we wound up taking some of the dessert home. I don’t know how to say “Doggie Bag” in Greek, but that’s what we left with.
Athens cooking class Wrap Up
Katerina was a great host and chef, and Spyros was excellent as well. We all had a good time, and it was a great family food experience. Many thanks to both of them for providing an amazing Greek cooking class.
But I’m not through! Remember the deli/shop I mentioned at the beginning of the post? Well, before we left, I was able to check it out, and even though I’m not a Foodie, they had so many different sauces, spices, and various flavors of olive oil. If you consider yourself a Food Fan, and you find yourself in Athens, I consider Yoleni’s a must stop. They also have an online shop so that you can order from their large selection of products.
When looking for cooking classes in Athens Greece, you should book with
Yoleni’s Greek Gastronomy Center
Address: Solonos 9, 10671, Attica, Athens, Greece
Phone: +30 212 22 23 623
Coming soon our guide to Athens with Teens!
- Read more of our Wagoners Abroad family travel guides.
- Check out all of our Family Travel Cooking Classes around the world and food tours too!
Have you been to Athens? Did you try a Greek cooking class? Tell us about your experience or if you have visited Yoleni’s.