Thursday, January 27, 2011

Next Top Model. Where's the Sparkle?

Is it just me or is this season's Next Top Model pretty tame? Where are the fights between the girls? Where is the super bitchy judging? Even Chris Kontentos seems to have lost his ability to verbally rip a girl to shreds since cutting his hair off. It just ain't the same. He should grow it back.
And, did you know they let those girls out of the model house? Yeah! I know! I thought they weren't allowed to go anywhere for their entire incarceration.

This week the girls competed for an AIDS awareness shoot in which they'd have to pose naked with one of the male judges. Evangelia and Sindorela won. Dirty Harry was naturally right in there with Evangelia, because he's a judge you see and maybe he could help Evangelia earn some brownie points off camera. After all, she has become a bit of a fatso lately so we are repeatedly told. And if that's overweight, then there really is no hope for the rest of us. Put that celery stick right down, wannabe fashionistas. From now it's warm water and half a pumpkin seed for lunch.

Sindorela being underage posed more of a problem, so she got Christ Kontentas who's tastes we all know are otherwise inclined, and ended up looking like fashion roadkill.

Next, since we have to keep the sponsors happy, the girls were invited to a Lipton tea party. Hey, did you know that all over Athens there's this new concept and people are throwing themed tea parties where you pick a concept and everyone gets together to drink tea and you... oh? You've never heard of them? Or been to one? Well they're all the rage according to Tasos. Oh well. What do we know.
More sponsor bum kissing followed in the form of Georgia's Vodafone sponsored birthday. What the hell? Is this show now just a carriage for the sponsors?

As the show progressed it became obvious the judges are getting bored too, and with nothing better to do they asked the girls to do something totally ridiculous. They made the girls catwalk at judging panel blindfolded. Now, tell me seriously, except for cheap laughs what did anyone learn from that exercise?

Eliminations time rolled round and much to my disappointment, no one got eliminated. Although I can't really complain since Nancy got kicked off last week. I waited a really long time for that. I even wish I had baked a cake to celebrate.

But none of that is really important, because Greece's Next Top Model pulled out a trump card so fabulous on Monday night that it left all model wannabes screaming with all the delight that their skinny lungs could muster. Ever watched America's Next Top Model where Tyra builds the girls up talking about a fashion designer or photographer they're going to meet, who usually just turns out to be a friend of Tyra's (eg. Nigel Barker. Not so much noted fashion photographer as Noted Pal of Tyra) and in the end the vast majority of us are like "Who?"

Well next week the Next Top Model girls are off to Paris. Where they get to meet Jean Paul Gaultier. Awesome. We can ignore for a fact that my brother in law took some of the shine off this moment by reminding me that JPG used to regularly appear on a tacky British TV show called Eurotrash, and therefore was a pretty easy to get hold of fame whore.

Who cares! It's Jean Paul frickin' Gaultier! Beat that, Tyra. Let's celebrate with a tea party at my house!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Restaurant Review - Barba George's Indian

Whenever someone in Athens asks me if I know where they can get good Indian food, my answer is usually "Yes. My house." But why would I want to find an Indian restaurant when I can cook the food myself? Well, sometimes you just want a curry but are too lazy to make it yourself.

My quest to find a spice fix has so far either ended up being totally bland, way too expensive or just mediocre. That is until I was watching TV on Monday night and the presenter of a cooking show showcased a tiny little restaurant in Exarcheia. My eyes popped. Tandoori chicken and tandoori naan! In a genuine tandoori oven! It seemed way too good to be true.

I had to investigate. So last night Mr Zeus and me took two friends and headed downtown to a teeny little restaurant tucked away in a side street, Baraba George. I was anxious, having eaten a fair share of pretty shitty Indian food in Athens. I wouldn't care if I was doing it on my time, but here I was with two friends I'd dragged away from a couch potato evening.

"Guys, if the food is yia ta baza, I'll cook for you as compensation"

The shop had four tables outside and three inside. It was nothing special to look at, but personally I don't care about aesthetics if the food is good.

We were handed laminated A4 menus, which listed a bunch of your usual Indian restaurant items. I went over and had a talk with the chef, who is from the Home Country, and he recommended what to order if I wanted something close to "How we eat it" as he put it.

Satisfied, we ordered the following:
1 order of samosas (I originally went for onion bhaji, or pakora as it's also known, but the chef recommended samosas instead)
1 chicken tikka
1 seekh kebab
1 chicken madras
1 chicken rogan josh
4 tandoori naans
1 raita
2 beers
1 coke

First to come were the samosas, which disappeared pretty much as soon as they arrived and got an all round thumbs up from the parea. Next came the chicken tikka and seekh kebab. The chef brought me over some extra spicy sauce to give the tikka and the kebab some kick, since they were pretty mild, but perfectly cooked. Tender and juicy, just what you'd expect from a tandoori oven.

Next came what I had been dying to try, the tandoori naan. I love naan but I'm far to lazy to make it myself. I have to admit, these naans were pretty much perfect. Gently puffed, chewy and with that particular flavour you can only get from a tandoori oven. I've certainly not had better in Athens. I'd happily have ordered 10 to takeaway and eat the next morning smothered in jam.

The two curries came served with basmati rice. The madras was firey hot, leaving us all sweating and puffing over it. If the madras was that hot, I think the vindaloo is probably on the menu as a party trick. I have doubts as to how edible a curry can be beyond a certain level of spiciness.

The rogan josh also had a pretty decent kick to it. At least as far as these two dishes are concerned, the restaurant made no exceptions for wimpy diners. The place was packed and the first question everyone was asking the waiter when they were seated was "Just how spicy is it?"

The menu has a selection to cover all levels of spiciness, and I would recommend an order of raita to take the edge off the heat. I did note though that fresh coriander was not used. This is most likely because not everyone likes fresh coriander. Some people say they find the taste soapy. Personally, I love it, but I have had Greek friends scrape it off curries I've made because they can't get used to the taste.

Overall, Barba George surprised me with how good it was. I have paid an arm and a leg for food that was not even close to what I ate last night. I admit that it was so far the best Indian food I have had in Athens. For someone as picky as me when it comes to Indian food, I was really impressed. I'd even go as far as saying it's on par with some of the places I've eaten in the UK.

The restaurant is very small and no frills. We're talking budget deco and plastic plates. But the food is great, and the price very attractive in the current climate. Our entire bill came to EUR 40.50, including drinks. For four people that's EUR 10 a head and we ate well. I'd call that a good deal if I ever saw one.

Another plus point that the food was quite light on the stomach. One thing that irritates the hell out of me with restaurant Indian food (in the UK too) is that sometimes the spices are not cooked properly, leaving you with terrible indigestion and a feeling of heaviness. Not so with Barba George. Apart from the fact that I made such a pig of myself that I lay in bed moaning about my over-stuffed belly, the food itself went down easily.

Don't be put off by the location in Exarcheia. Pak-Indian, the much touted and supposedly most authentic Indian food in Athens is on much skankier Menandrou Street, and serves food that is much more expensive and not nearly as tasty.

Barba George also does takeaways and souvlakis Indian style. I would definitely go back there.

Barba George
Mesologio 4, Exarcheia
210 3826505

Το Ινδικο του Μπαρμπα-Τζωρτζ
Μεσολογγιου 4, Εξάρχεια
210 3826505

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bollywood Tuesday

Greece has always been a lover of protests, clocking up around 400 per year in average conditions. Yes, that's more than one protest per day across the year. With the economic crisis growing deeper by the day, the current climate is no exception.

Just in case you thought life in the capital was getting sort of boring, this week we are being treated to two transport strikes and now, in protest to government proposals to open up previously closed professions, pharmacies in the capital will be shut from this Wednesday to Friday. And next Wednesday to Friday. Because why the hell not! It's not like the pharmacy is the only place you can buy a packet of paracetamol if you need it!

Oh, whoops. Actually it is. Thanks to the pharmacy system in Greece being a 'closed' profession, they have a total monopoly on selling all types of medication. This makes perfect sense for prescriptions etc where you need expert advice, but is a pain the butt for other types of over the counter medication. Also, there is no such thing as own brand medication in Greece, meaning prices can be pretty high.

Anyway, with all this doom and gloom about, it's time we had a Bollywood song, don't you think?

And easy on the jokes about the title. Munni in Hindi is an affectionate term meaning 'little girl'. So you could easily go to my village and call a girl Munni, whereas if you tried that in Greece you'd end up with a black eye.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Sorry I've been out of action for so long. 2010 ended up not being the year I was hoping for at all. I lost several people I loved dearly, including the apparent suicide of a childhood friend in the home country in the dying days of the year. I'm not someone who deals at all well with losing people I love (who does, right?) and maybe the lesson from last year was that you have to just roll with the punches when a battery of unexpected departures happens. I keep dreaming about my friend. I just hope she has found the peace that elluded her during this life.

The result was me staring down the seconds on the clock until 2011, desperate for nothing else to go wrong within the leftover moments of the old year. I've been depressed, but I'm starting to feel better.

Finally the year did turn over, and nothing more terrible happened. I have been home for just three days in the last month or so thanks to work related trips and a holiday, and now that I have my feet firmly planted on Greek soil, I can say I have never been more grateful to be back in Athens. It's funny how you never realize how much you miss your home until you've been forcefully separated from it for several weeks. I spent most nights of the London trip crying because I missed Mr Zeus and our cosy little flat, and it was so cold, and I was scared my flight would get cancelled because of the snow, and I got flu.

But here I am, back again amongst an ever-deepening economic crisis, brows that are even more furrowed over money worries, but still, this is home, warts and all.

But there is plenty to look forward to. Winter dinners with friends, spring walks on mountains and my favourite season, the summer, which needs no further explanation. I have a feeling in my belly that 2011 won't be such a bad year.