Saturday, April 26, 2008

Greeking out at Artopolis

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It was only a matter of days before I would lose my dear roommate AT to the charms of RA and his pup, and though their new home was only a few miles away, our almost-two years as roomies was ending. In the spirit of finally exploring our neighborhood together, we spent an afternoon wandering around Astoria, poking our heads into the numerous European supermarkets in our area and sampling halvah, cheeses, and cream-filled mini croissants.

We had begun heading up towards Ditmars when we came upon Artopolis, a large Greek bakery nestled into the corner of a small, otherwise-nondescript strip mall. The bakery was far from the tiny, down-home operations we had been checking out all afternoon; their goods were beautifully arranged in a series of wicker baskets, clear jars, glass cabinets, wooden boards, and even quaint little cabinets. They had covered their cookies and sweets with clean white netting, which gave everything a rather romantic appearance. Sort of like wedding veils for pastries.
Faced with such a selection, I couldn't resist sampling at least a few. When I learned that I could mix and match at will as long as the cookies were of the same price, I had a jolly time picking out a variety of treats. AT watched in amusement as I flitted from basket to basket, my crinkly plastic glove shielding the cookies from hand germs—or my hand from cookie germs.
With great restraint, I only got six or seven different items for us to try. After ordering an iced coffee for me and a hot chocolate for AT, we were ready to sit down for a cookie break.

I didn't really know what I had picked out, but as we sampled each one, we figured them out—there were a few savory, sunflower seed–covered logs; some pistachio shortbread; a salty sesame twist; a jam-filled walnut cookie; a sugar-dusted nut cookie; and a few varieties of taralli. We couldn't determine what some of the spices and flavorings were, but all of them were pretty good. I liked the iced coffee too—its color was surprisingly light, like the shade of mugicha or boricha, but it tasted clean and strong.

As we ate, the paranoid AT became convinced that the bakery was a front for Mafia activity, as all around us powerful-looking older men encased in leather jackets and chest hair were loitering, accompanied by young, hot women in tight clothing. I wasn't quite so persuaded, but I was intrigued by the mysterious, heavily Greek vibe in the air that day; we had been passing people on the street all afternoon in blue and white, waving the Greek flag or with the flag plastered on their clothing. Later, when we walked through Astoria Park, there was a hoard of Greek teenagers hanging out by the water, revving their engines and doing burnouts, which filled the air with acrid plumes of toxic white smoke.

The next morning we found out it had been the day of the Greek Independence Parade.
I leave you with this picture. And yes, I am twenty-seven and utterly juvenile.

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