Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Yiayia Maria's Kitchen of Albuquerque...just Ring Bell For Baklava!

A column in the ABQ Alibi entitled "Turkish Delight, the Decadence of Baklava" jumped out at me -- especially the paragraph touting Yiayia Maria's Baklava as "Best in town, hands down." Had to have it and find out more about Yiayia Maria!

So yesterday we drove to Yiayia Maria's Kitchen in an Albuquerque industrial neighborhood where the baklava and other all-natural Greek pastries are made, sold and shipped. Kevin Mallory greeted us and told us about his grandmother from Metsovo -- coming to America circa 1935, and returning for a visit got stuck in Greece during WW II -- and her remarkable, resilient life with affection and pride. At one point, she was the head of the American Red Cross in Washington, DC...The motivating factor for a bakery was to keep Maria Nikopoulos' memory alive by perpetuating her recipes. She loved to bake and give her Greek cookies to family, friends and neighbors...and "who doesn't love cookies," Kevin said.

Yiayia Maria's baklava -- a dessert from Ottoman times, but is it really Turkish? -- is hand-made with 30 layers of organic phyllo, coarsely chopped walnuts and almonds, "lemony honey married to cinnamon," and a signature clove in the center of each piece.  Totally awesome...sorry you couldn't join me for the taste test!

When I mentioned my love for my own Yiayia's melomakarona (finikia), Kevin immediately offered me a box of Yiayia Maria's "Decadent Finikia." Kevin enjoys sharing family stories and cookies, just like his Yiayia did. 

You can try Yiayia Maria's Greek pastries yourself by ordering online, or by going in person to 740 Rankin Road in ABQ (8 am - 3 pm). And don't forget the totally addictive finikia, which melt in your mouth -- and are still my all-time favorite Yiayia treat (with or without syrup).

Bon appetite...or, as they say in the Old Country, Kali Orexi!

NOTE: The baklava at Anatolia Turkish & Mediterranean Grill at 313 Central Ave. NW was pretty good, too...I actually ate there on my birthday -- it's all Greek to me!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Keeping it simple and real w/ Brownie Brittle and Fage Greek Yogurt

For weeks since attending BlogHerFood in Miami, I have pondered the out-sized focus on food photography --  seriously considering buying an iPhone at one point just for that reason and setting up some sort of style table in my apartment even while questioning the necessity of it all. Thank goodness for The New York Times article "Your Eyes Are Happier Than Your Stomach" (Dishes Worthy of Instagram, but Not Your Appetite) published last week to put things back in the proper perspective.

Are photos more important than substance, with an implied and sometimes audible disdain for authenticity and/or spontaneity?  The Times article tackled the issue of restaurants pandering to "photo journalism" (so-to-speak), with increased plating space in kitchens and dishes over-designed for social media -- all of which can result in cold, not so tasty food.  Should I worry more about the sophistication of my photos than the authenticity of food I might want to report on or prepare?  Is there any good reason not to publicize something simple and real?

Paula's Delight
To that end, I tackled my craving for Sheila G's Brownie Brittle pieces mixed w/plain Fage Strained Greek Yogurt and fresh fruit, minus any razzle-dazzle.  I share Sheila G's obsession with crunchy edges and am a fan of Fage's dense deliciosity with little sugar content. Add fresh raspberries, which traditionally go well with chocolate, and you have a treat akin to a Dairy Queen Blizzard -- but significantly healthier. It's delightfully yummy and super-easy to put together. The photo says it all...really.

NOTE: While living in Greece circa 1968-78, I bought the terra cotta pot pictured above full of yogurt. That's how we got our yogurt, covered with a parchment-like paper not unlike that covering Fage yogurt beneath the plastic lid.  Turns out that Kalypso Greek Yogurt today sells its yogurt -- available only in New York City and Long Island -- in terra cotta pots to preserve and protect a product that has been strained until 97% of the whey has been removed.  Gotta get me some of that!