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From sardines to truffles: Greek food stars at weekend festivals

Greece’s culinary delights are on the agenda this weekend with two gastronomy events in Athens showcasing why the country has come a long way since the days of moussaka dominance. From sardine sandwiches as street food extraordinaire to rare-to-come-by wild truffles, the wealth of local produce is laid out through displays and lots of interactive activity.

Athinorama city guide is behind “Ellada Giorti Gefseis” (Festival of Greek Flavors), an event running to Sunday at the Technopolis cultural complex in Gazi, central Athens. Already in its second edition – according to organizers, last year’s debut drew some 15,000 people to the same venue – the festival presents an array of events ranging from tastings (including blind sessions) to cooking courses, a photographic exhibition as well as a string of music events. At the same time, the Benaki Museum’s nearby Pireos Street annex presents its own culinary journey through “Days of Gastronomy,” an event that also runs to Sunday and includes an Aegean Sea gastronomy conference.

At Technopolis, the country’s new wave of small local producers are showcasing goods including cheeses, cold cuts, olives and olive oil, dips, sauces, vegetables, sweets, wine and beer, among others, all of which visitors may sample and purchase.

Also at the Gazi venue Greek star chefs including Lefteris Lazarou (of Varoulko fame), Ettore Botrini, Christoforos Peskias, Dina Nikolaou and Myrsini Lambraki, among many more, are leading cooking workshops focused on local and global culinary trends. The festival’s star guest chef is Greek-Austrian Konstantin Filippou, whose namesake restaurant in Vienna is ranked among the Austrian capital’s top three.

At the Benaki Museum, “Days of Gastronomy” is also running for the second time round, this time showcasing over 70 events highlighting culture, innovation and community spirit in the world of Greek flavors. Product displays, tastings and round-table discussions featuring experts from the fields of gastronomy, journalism and business cover a portion of what’s available to visitors, while cooking sessions presented by 21 chefs, including Ilias Mamalakis and Vissarion Parthenis, among others, point to a panorama of local kitchen-to-table activity.

“Days of Gastronomy” further boasts the debut edition of the Athens International Culinary Film Festival, an event including screenings of food stories complemented by cinema-inspired events as well as discussions on the affinities between gastronomy and the silver screen.

In association with the Cycladic Chamber of Commerce, the Benaki festival features a special section dedicated to the gastronomic traditions of the Cycladic islands, with a focus on wine, cheese, herbs and honey, among other delicacies. Bartending, food pairing and food styling events along with a live streamed session with British journalists Gary Sharpen and Sandrae Lawrence, aka the Cocktail Lovers, are also on the museum’s event list.

At the Pireos Street building, a first Aegean Sea gastronomy conference is scheduled to take place tomorrow, with the participation of officials including EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki and Greek Agriculture Minister Athanasios Tsaftaris.

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“Ellada Giorti Gefseis,” Technopolis, 100 Pireos, Gazi, tel 210.347.5518, 210.345.3548. Opening hours: Friday 4-9 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. General admission 6 euros. For more information, visit www.elladagiortigefseis.gr;

Days of Gastronomy, Benaki Museum, 138 Pireos, tel 210.345.3111, www.benaki.gr, www.imeres-gastronomias.gr

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