«A Place at the Table»: The Story of Greek restaurant owners in Washington State
By TASO G. LAGOS
MORE than 300 restaurants have been owned or operated by Greeks in Washington state since 1900, about 200 of them in the Seattle area. Many places remained for a while, others for decades. An exhibit called “A Place at the Table,” the story of Greek restaurant owners in the state, chronicled this unique history and was shown at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle.
The organizer of the event, John Nicon, is a charming, affable man with a terribly winning smile who, along with his wife, Joann, has spent his retirement developing Greeks in Washington (www.greeksinwashington.org) to serve as a museum without walls. It collects, analyzes, sorts, and keeps a record of the events surrounding Greek immigrants in Washington state. I serve as an advisor to the museum.
We met a few years ago when my family still owned the Continental Greek Restaurant in Seattle (they sold it in 2013 and retired) and John would come in to enjoy a bow of lentil soup.
It was at a meeting of the Greeks in Washington board that the “Place at the Table” exhibit was first discussed. I suggested this would simply perpetuate the stereotype of Greek-Americans in the restaurant industry without regard to our other accomplishments. It’s a shortsighted view, but I confess that’s how I thought.
The exhibit went forward, but I didn’t attend, to my regret. Valuable would it have been to learn more about the extraordinary contribution that Greeks have made, and continue to make, in the culinary industry. What changed me from skeptic to admirer of Greek restaurants was a food class that I taught at the University of Washington a year ago.
Cooking with... Greek Yogurt (and Its Cousins)
Greek Yogurt, Hung Yogurt, Labneh and Skyr Provide Health Benefits Without Compromising on Flavor
“Real Greek yogurt” is brought into Milos Café and Yogurt Bar from a goat farm in Dutchess County, NY, and strained on premises.
AS the number of meals consumed outside the home continues to grow, restaurant goers are becoming increasingly concerned that the foods they are eating could be the source of problems ranging from weight gain to depression. While this doesn’t mean that burgers and French fries are in danger of disappearing from menus, trends are indicating that consumers are balancing those guilty pleasures with foods that are more healthful, without skimping on flavor. In the trendiest restaurants, chefs are tuning into these concerns and, with the urging of dieticians, are turning to ingredients that have health benefits. Greek yogurt, long the darling of the dairy aisle, is finding its way into recipes, as are its close relatives from the Middle East, India and Iceland.
As a probiotic food, yogurt is rich in beneficial bacteria that supports proper immune system function. As a marinade or condiment, the process of lactic acid fermentation in yogurt also increases the vitamin content of many foods. Moving beyond breakfast, American diners are quickly discovering the versatility of Greek yogurt as a recipe ingredient that adds a rich and creamy texture to savory foods. And while tzatziki (no sour cream, please!) may be the most ubiquitous of the savory foods made with Greek yogurt, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The Oinofile: Mikri Kivotos Red Blend Wine (Lantides Estate)
Mythology tells us that after slaying the fabled Nemean lion and bringing its carcass to Mycenae’s King Eurystheus to complete the first of his ten labors, the Greek demigod Heracles celebrated his feat with some of the region’s best Agiorgitiko wine. Since then, the storied grape has been nicknamed the “Blood of Heracles.” And so it comes as no surprise that this varietal is the primary grape cultivated in Nemea, the Peloponnese’s most important winegrowing region.
Mikri Kivotos Red Blend
Red blends, once discriminated against by wine purists as Frankenstein-like concoctions, are increasingly embraced by wine critics and enthusiasts alike. By blending varietals artfully, winemakers are recognized for their creative ability, resulting in wines whose tastes and attributes are created by design. In Greece, Panos Lantides of Lantides Estates is taking this approach with his Mikri Kivotos (Little Ark) Red Blend.
Combining the Agiorgitiko variety local to his estate in Nemea, Peloponnese, with Xinomavro from Florina in Northern Greece, Lantides has created a wine of complexity and depth.
Managing for Success
Words in the Foodservice Industry
Words mean a lot. Unfortunately, many of us don’t weigh their meaning, nor do we understand how the words we use communicate unintended meanings. Because we are in the service industry, it is imperative that we use words and phrases that continually send a signal about our commitment to service. And it’s imperative that we not only police ourselves but also monitor and coach our staff, as far too often their choice of words (and ours) send the wrong message to the guest.
In my work consulting restaurants, I am frequently called upon to conduct Front of the House workshops. The discussion of words and how we inadvertently send the wrong signal during those workshops is always a fun topic that generates spirited interaction. When we discuss the meaning of the phrases they frequently use, servers, hosts and managers alike are both shocked at the things that come out of their own mouths, and in agreement that there needs to be more awareness and caution with regard to the words we use. No one actually wants to send a negative message, but they acknowledge that this is what generally occurs.
The phrase “no problem” actually communicates to the guest that their request is a problem.
It starts at the host stand. In nearly every restaurant I have worked, and in nearly every one I have consulted, the host invariably greets the lone diner with the phrase “Just one?” And every time I hear it, I cringe. In my mind I’m not hearing “Just one?”—I’m hearing “So, you’re eating alone because no one likes you and you couldn’t find an eating companion if you had to buy that companion a lobster dinner and a bottle of the best champagne?” Okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get my point. Why would we want to rub it in the guest’s face when they are dining alone? Aren’t they already uncomfortable enough? Why would we want to remind them that they are alone, and create further discomfort? A much better phrase to use might be “Table for one?” or, even better, don’t say anything. If someone is meeting them, he or she will let you know. Just assume that someone coming in alone is not going to have a dining companion and show them to an appropriate table. Instead of honing in on the fact that he or she is alone, how about striking up a conversation as you seat him or her? “How’s your day going?” is a much better conversation than “Are you eating alone again, you loser?”
Briefs from Greece
Two Greek cities among the 100 best gastronomic destinations
Two Greek cities, Athens and Thessaloniki, are among the 100 best gastronomic destinations in the world according to a recent survey conducted by Caterwings, a UK-based catering order platform. The Spanish city of San Sebastian topped the prestigious list followed by the city of Tokyo in Japan, then New York in the US, while Athens ranked 54th with a score of 8.9/10 and Thessaloniki ranked 75th with a score of 7.2 in the category of the quality of offered services. The Caterwings-commissioned study focused on good food that was both accessible and affordable and examined factors such as the availability of vegetarian or vegan options, the quality of street food, and the ratio of fast-food chains versus restaurants.
Η ΕΝ ΨΥΧΡΩ δολοφονία 17 μαθητών στο Parkland, FL, από έναν 18χρονο που μέσα σε ένα χρόνο αγόρασε 10 πολυβόλα όπλα, συγκίνησε βαθύτατα την αμερικανική κοινωνία. Αυτό συμβαίνει συχνά αφού κάθε ψυχοπαθής, ακόμη και ανήλικος, έχει το δικαίωμα και την ευχέρεια να αγοράσει νομίμως όσα και όποια όπλα επιθυμεί χωρίς κανέναν έλεγχο της πνευματικής του υγείας και του ποινικού του μητρώου. Παρ’ όλες τις ομαδικές δολοφονίες σε όλα τα σημεία της χώρας, το Κογκρέσσο δεν κάνει απολύτως τίποτε για να θέσει ελέγχους στις πωλήσεις όπλων διότι βουλευτές και γερουσιαστές εισπράττουν γενναίες οικονομικές εισφορές (για την προεκλογική τους εκστρατεία) από το National Rifle Association και τις βιομηχανίες όπλων.
Αυτό το αίσχος πρέπει κάποτε να σταματήσει. Τόσο οι νομοθέτες και πολύ περισσότερο η Κυβέρνηση, έχουν υποχρέωση να προστατεύουν την ζωή των πολιτών. Το ξεσήκωμα της νεολαίας σ’ όλη την χώρα με πρωτοβουλία μερικών μαθητών του σχολείου όπου σημειώθηκε το πρόσφατο μακελειό, είναι ελπιδοφόρο.