Baklava at Athos

athos baklava

By Deanna Fox

Lately, I've been feeling wanderlusty.

Don't get me wrong -- Upstate New York in fall is a wonderful place to be. I relish and marvel in it every year. But I've also had this desire to uproot myself and go explore a less familiar territory. Maybe it is the change in seasons that has me yearning for a change in my own life, too.

Whatever it is, I've got the travel itch; unfortunately hopping on a plane to some exotic locale is not in the cards for me in the moment. I did the next best thing: Took a day trip to explore unknown towns around me, and tucked into food that would transport me to another place.

Cerulean seas were calling my name. I opted for a piece of baklava instead.

Food, at its core, is sustenance and nourishment, but it nourishes deeper than just from the basic perspective of calorie intake. Sometimes food can remind us of a place, a time, a person. It can makes us nostalgic for experiences past and those yet to come.

And so it was with the baklava from Athos in Guilderland. I wasn't necessarily in the mood for Greek food, but driving past the restaurant on my way home from a brief foray through the Hudson Valley made me crave the sweet stuff and salivate like Pavlov's dog. It piqued the urge to travel that I thought I had quelled with that quick jaunt I was just coming from.

It also made me reminiscent of those many times I attempted to make baklava for a Greek boyfriend I once had. (I thought my efforts were tasty. He deemed them never quite as good as his mother's.)

So, I stopped in and ordered a slice of baklava to go ($7). This isn't the big square of baklava you might find at a Greek diner, nor is it the small two-bite offering from a place like Ali Baba. This is an elegant, bias-cut parallelogram of flakey phyllo, moistened golden raisin, minced walnuts and almonds, all soaked in a glistening honey mixture.

It felt wholly European in its taste and texture. It was sweet enough to satiate, but not cloying. It was chewy and rich, but delicate in the way the layers of phyllo flaked with each bite without sticking in my teeth. Subtle hints of cinnamon provided an earthy nuance to the dessert, creating balance.

It was well-executed simplicity, proving that thoughtful preparation of a few basic ingredients can elevate a dish to more than just the sum of its parts. It becomes a unique amalgam of flavor that makes it a hallmark of Mediterranean cuisine.

While I wasn't able to sail that catamaran around the Greek Isles, like I find myself daydreaming about lately, I could close my eyes and imagine being transported to a seaside eatery and indulging in a little baklava from Athos, the perfect foil to rich and bitter Greek or Turkish coffee.

Deanna Fox writes about many things, mostly about food. More can be found on her website, Twitter, or Instagram.

More Eat This:
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+ Takeout from Nirvana
+ Peach blueberry cobbler at the Palmer House

Find It

Athos
1814 Western Ave
Guilderland, NY 12203

Comments

That picture looks so good, but you lost me at raisins. I still haven't gotten to Athos yet to eat. I should change that; though I think I'll skip the baklava.

Sorry I have nothing against the Greeks' BUT........This article is very misleading, you are using a Turkish delicacy to promote a so-called Greek desert?

Baklava is a Turkish word! and is also a Turkish product registered in the European Commission list of protected designations of origins and protected geographical indications, a list that aims to promote and protect the names of quality agricultural products.

@LEVENT -- I guess wars are fought over stuff like this. My Cypriot Greek stepmother and my Yia-Yia are rolling over their graves over your claim that the Turks "own" baklava. There are variations, of course. Greeks tend to use walnuts, while I believe Turks like to use pistachios, also variations in how much honey -- or no honey -- in the sugar syrup, or additions like rose water or orange blossom water.

But a Big Fat Greek No on raisins in baklava, at least for my Cypriot relatives.

Baklava is a dessert made in a variety of ways all over that part of the world: Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus, North Africa, and Central Asia. All of the styles of the styles that I've tried are delicious, although I'm a little biased towards types with pistachios.

The word we use for it comes from the Ottomans and the Ottoman empire popularized it for sure. But to pretend as if the Turks own the dessert or are the only ones to make it the "proper" way is a kind of strange nationalism I find very boring.

Hi everyone! Thank you for your great comments.

A mea culpa on my behalf: The first piece of baklava I had, I swear I got raisins. The second piece (because I went back for more!) had certifiably ZERO raisins. Just lots and lots of walnuts and almonds. So, @Beck, maybe give it a try?

And hey @ChrisCK -- A Big Fat Greek "I'm sorry." My bad.

@LEVENT I have to go with the majority on this one. Baklava takes its form in many ways, depending on local. Just like pieorgi are different depending on what Slavic country one might be dining in, or dumplings are still dumplings whether its a Shanghai or Cantonese style.

Just because pizza is made in New York and not Naples, is it still not pizza?

And besides, I never said the Greeks "owned" baklava. And I did make reference to Turkey (by way of coffee) in this post.

Nabisco/Mondelez might own the trademark on Oreo, but do other versions of a sandwich cookie still not exist? (Ahem... Hydrox.)

I think we're safe in still calling it baklava.

Armenian weighing in here. Now you all must stop appropriating *our*dessert, the proper spelling and pronunciation of which is pahklava. Everyone knows Armenian style is best: made with simple syrup (not honey) so it's light and not too sweet and lots of walnuts, not pistachios you silly people! Back in the day my grandmother even made her own phyllo dough which is really beyond, but I've never had it anywhere that even closely approximates hers. It was sublime. (And I agree with all that Deanna you must've been having a palate hallucination about the raisins which would be an abomination to man and nature if incorporated within)

Man, you readers are ruthless. Sorry. I've had it with raisins before. I thought the first piece also had raisins.

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