Athos
7.00 – 7.25, 7.25, 7.25, 7, 7, 7, 6.75, 6.5
.

Grekolimano, Souvlaki, Baklava, Agiorgitiko, Nemea, Cephalonia, Melitsanosalata, Youvetsi!
          It was Greek to us,…
          … and DP8 was converging on Albany’s Western Avenue, at Athos, whose menu proved to be a blend of the initially exotic and comfortably familiar.

Driving past Athos would be forgiveable, for a driver could easily overlook it for one of the typical offices on that stretch of Rt 20. After reconnoitering a nearly full parking lot, the rear entry led directly to the maître d’s podium, to be whisked past a quick glimpse of the twenty-foot dark-stained bar lined with a dozen stools and several booths on the east wall before ambling into a white and light pastel room that imitates the classic Santorini whites and creams of advertising allure.
         
About the size of the bar area, this 25’ x 50’ space is visually divided into three areas—a front slice with half-wall partial dividers, a side banquette area, and the remaining main room. Banquettes lined the long sides, with a host of white-linened tables arrayed on the dark hardwood flooring.

Sizing up the menu was a vertiginous exercise, dozens of unfamiliar words making a scramble of the page. Ameliorating the initial lost-ness were the accompanying descriptions.
          The menu of a few cold mezethes (appetizers), a dozen hot ones, another dozen classic Greek entrées, about ten apo ti schara (from the grill), and several sides necessitated ten minutes to navigate before narrowing to a few.
         
Even the wine list was full of names unfamiliar to America’s casual wine tasters.

Finally, we started with a distinctive combination—salads to feed four, and we tried both—enough for the eight of us.
==> Traditional Greek Salad - romaine, tomato, cucumber, onion, peppers, olives, and imported sheep’s milk feta, with house dressing, and the:
==> Athos Seasonal Salad - arugula, radicchio, mandarin orange, cranberries, and toasted almonds, with citrus-pomegranate vinaigrette
         
Both were well-made, enjoyed by all, and, for three dollars per person, surprisingly economical.

Instead of the usual bread or rolls, slices of vertically stacked pita filled two cloth-lined wire baskets, each accompanied by a square ramekin of tapenade.

Not only was the Medley of Warm Greek Olives appetizer (roasted red peppers, oregano, and extra-virgin olive oil) a tasty stand-alone as well as a unique addition to the salads, but its capable preparation proved a welcome stereotype breaker of the usual “drag those green things from the refrigerator.” (Good idea, Joyce and Mark.)

After a few scans, and one more major pondering, choices for entrées evolved. And borrowing from the website:
==> Veal Cephalonia—hand-cut veal, spinach, leeks, dill, lemon, artichokes, and rice, slowly simmered in a traditional earthenware pot (Don: very good, with good chunks of veal, should have eaten it from the bowl, enough to take home for another meal, an interesting soup/stew that Deb K and I tried to figure out)
==> Shrimp Grekolimano—jumbo shrimp, tomato sauce, feta cheese, and ouzo, slowly simmered in a traditional earthenware pot, accompanied by pilaf, lemon potato, and vegetable (Chay: very good, nice mix of flavors)
==> Seafood Marinato—sautéed citrus-marinated diver scallops and jumbo shrimp, with olives, caper berries, peppers, and a hint of saffron, accompanied by pilaf, lemon potato, and vegetable of the day (Deb T: very good; Joyce: very good)
==> Seafood Souvlaki—skewered jumbo shrimp, diver scallops, red onion, and bell peppers, finished with lemon-herb extra-virgin olive oil (Deb K: excellent; Mark: very good although the seafood was perhaps a tad overcooked for his tastes)
==> Hanger Steak—finished with lemon-herb infused extra-virgin olive oil (Kriss: well-done, and tasty; Ken: good, even if a little tough, an interesting flavor)

Impressed by the other choices, we promised to return soon. Still, other than Don’s bowl that seemed like a small pail, portion sizes were not considered large but ample enough. Even after salad and appetizer, the urge for dessert could not be suppressed.
==> Peach Phyllo Crisp—peaches and almond crumb enveloped in phyllo, served à la mode with honey drizzle (Mark & Joyce: a share, and excellent)
==> Baklava Cheese Cake—walnut liqueur-flavored cheese cake accompanied by crumbled baklava (Ken: very good)
==> Yiaourti--strained imported goat’s milk yogurt, drizzled with honey and toasted walnuts (Deb T: excellent, smooth and rich, definitely not sweet)
==> Milk Chocolate-Filled Loukoumathes - fried pastry puffs drizzled with sweet syrup, showered with caramel sauce and confectioners’ sugar, filled with milk chocolate (Deb K: a moan of Oh, God says enough; Don: no moan but a creeping smile that attested to the sinfulness of fried dough with a touch of chocolate; and for both, the portion, eight to ten pastry balls filling a eight inch rectangular plate, was more than ample; Don took about a third home)
==> Vanilla Ice Cream, with chocolate sauce (Kriss: very good, and a decent sized portion)

Greek wines may have been a first for some. We selected two of the least expensive wines from the list, and both were deemed worthy by the six tasters:
==> Kourtaki 2012 Agiorgitiko Attica
==> Skouras 2011 Agiorgitiko Nemea

Service by Terry was excellent, an effervescent style, forward with suggestions and answers, pleasant, and available. He and his fellow servers were dressed in black shirts and black pants, with only a tie to spell a difference.
          We were seated two-sides-of four which can make the ends hearing each other a bit difficult. (I had requested a table with ends but no idea what happened.) Room noise, for the table ends, started at straining-to-hear that gradually dissipated to conversationally-audible. Our initial chill from the over air-conditioned room soon thawed; someone must have beat us to the request of less AC.
          The ceiling consists of the deep and wide insets with recessed lighting. The side walls held decorations of interior shutters that could open to the Aegean Sea with some imagination. However, ours were closed, with a lighting piece between each set of shutters. Five chandeliers created a pleasing visual vista but seemed to be secondary lighting.
         
Glasses were filled as soon as sat down and continued to be re-filled regularly, Ken’s coffee delivered upon request, and table wear was cleared and updated for each course.
          Our tally-figurer announced $107 per couple, and off we jaunted southward, having enjoyed the camaraderie and another culinary experience.

Present for the evening were six regulars – Chay and Deb, Don and Deb, Ken and Kriss, while Mark and Joyce pleasurably rounded out the eight. The forty-five minute drive to Athos was in full sunlight, always a pleasant experience after the near darkness of March.

The evening started at the Teator house, with Deb’s scrupulously clean gardens and grounds showing the beginnings of spring – snow drops past peak, crocuses and daffodils full or past, and the magnolia try to erupt into full rapture.
          An Excelsior Cab Sauvignon quickly was depleted to be replaced by a Trapiche Malbec; Kriss enjoyed her white zin; and Dundee beer filled Chay’s mug. Plates of vegetables and dip, cheese and crackers, and Patricia’s enchiladas served as appetizers.
          Topics during the pre-session, on the trip to, at dinner, and on the way back included: the crescendo rat-a-tat-tat excitement of retirement for Chay and Mark; the C-D retirement dinner; the end-of-the-year party and the future of such parties with no “school year” next year; the Adamses’ schedule and their arrival this week coming; the pleasure of seeing the Monteverds again; the Monteverd winter; who the Monteverds saw; where the Monteverds went; the Monteverd grandchild; work for the last real-worlder; winter finally gone; impatience of Spring not being stronger; three diets converging this evening; the baseball game yesterday at Cooperstown at Doubleday Field between Cairo-Durham and Dunkirk (Chay’s home town); risqué birthday cards; an irreverent engagement notice; the open floor view into the wine cellar at Athos; RPI goings-on; summer plans for trips; new AC at the Teator house; deer damage;… there must have been a ribald comment here and there but the content is lost for eternity.