deli noun a store where ready-to-eat food products (such as cooked meats and prepared salads) are sold : DELICATESSEN
delicious adjective affording great pleasure : DELIGHTFUL
I must confess it has been several months since I felt sufficiently confident to venture out on ‘my pins’ into the town centre. The last time was to meet Mrs TheLatestSupper at that most favourite of haunts, The Whitford.
A lot has has happened since 20th December 2020, when we were plunged into yet another Lockdown. Trying to keep body and soul together has been a 24/7 challenge. With the sun shining I felt the need for one of those “its make or break” moments, & donned my out-riggers (crutches) and set out with wilful abandonment. If you were unaware, I require a double hip replacement & lockdown hasn’t been kind to me. I don’t dwell on the subject for there are others who are in or have been in, a much worse place than me.
One of the more positive results of this recent Lockdown has been Nikos & Laura’s diversification at the Whitford. With both restaurant and hotel having to remain shut, they firstly offered an excellent takeout service; that was last year. Then early this year they opened for “working lunches” and aimed their service at we who work from home. I have already written about the menu which is a delightful escape from the mundane daily drudge, “what’s for lunch?” I am happy to report a further evolution of the business; as well as the takeout & delivery service, they are now offering a ‘Deli’.
This came like music to my ears. It is relatively easy to source farm-fresh meats, organic vegetables, and fresh fish, not because one is trying to be something one is not, but because it tastes better. Unfortunately when it comes ingredients such as Olive oil, then it is the mass produced supermarket supplied I have to get.
Walk into any deli in Europe and it is a welcome attack on the senses; the joyous aromas that fill the air, and the wonders that greet your eyes; all a tantalising hors d’oeuvre to the main course; the tasting.
Needing a few ingredients I ventured to The Whitford. The warmest of welcome was received, as old friends do, however, that’s the norm – everyone is treated like family. I spied immediately the chiller and dived in. I was looking for the ‘Greek salami’ that I have heard so much about. I enjoy spicy sausage, whether in a simple sandwich with an accompanying cheese, or as an ingredient; fried to release the fats and spices to my pan. Intrigue got the better of me, and I grabbed the sausage, before scanning my next target. Nikos had disappeared momentarily whilst my attention was in the chiller, & reminiscent of the “Shopkeeper” in the children’s tv show Mr Benn, he “suddenly appeared”. Armed with a cocktail stick with an inch long chunk of the sausage. I was sampling! Salami can be over spiced, almost too peppery, and it is this spicy taste can be so overpowering not allowing you to guess what else was in the spice or herb mix. This though was quite the opposite. A subtle sweetness, and much softer texture than, for example, Spanish Chorizo, with overtones of garlic and then later possibly, hot Paprika. I had chosen well.
Next I spied the Hummus. Hummus is something I make, and yes it is something I buy in the supermarket. It’s ok, does what it says on the tin as it were, but I really enjoy the hummus I have with my trio of dips and pitta bread when dining in the restaurant, so a large pot was definitely coming home with me.
Like a kid in a sweet shop, I noticed the various bars of chocolate, and picked one out which had crushed almonds in – my Waterloo – chocolate with nuts. Nikos promptly suggested the bars next to the one I had picked up. “This one is made with Stevia, it’s a little healthier for you” – & that’s why it pays to shop local. Aware I am a diabetic for I always skip the dessert trolley; Nikos remembered!
If chocolate is my Waterloo, then my Leningrad is olives. I have the same moan about olives as I do about cockles. When I was a kid, cockles were 4 times the size I buy in Llanelli Market. I was once told that the bigger, meatier cockles command a better price and are exported; not sure if that’s true or just over fishing! Anyhow, back to the olives – buy a jar in the supermarket and they are these piddling little things. Not with “Nik the Greek”. Undecided whether I wanted black or green, I did the sensible thing – bought mixed.
Whilst pondering my Olive indecision, I revelled in finding an ingredient I failed to source at the weekend, sun-dried sweet peppers. This trip was becoming very bountiful.
Placing all my ‘finds’ on the counter for Laura to ring up, I enquired of Nikos whether he had started his own blending of Olive oils yet. Alas, there are only so many hours in the day and this is something that will happen soon. I still needed oil and soon had a sample to try. The only thing I know about Olive oil is, there are several pressings of the fruit. The purer the oil, the earlier in the process it is extracted, the dearer it is, however the taste is much, much more palatable. I drank – like nectar from the gods of Olympus. All jokes a side, it really tasted so much nicer, smoother than what I am used to, and spend similar amounts of money on. 500ml came home with me. This will go into an atomizer so I can have a spray with a salad and still maintain my Slimming World diet.
As spoke with Laura, Nikos did a disappearing act again! He returned this time with spoons for me to sample. Homemade Hummus – light, creamy, with a subtle reminders of the chickpeas, but with an aromatic, not spicy, well balanced taste of Garlic. If you like Hummus, and you love Garlic, you really must try this. This is healthy food – blood friendly garlic and protein packed chickpeas; & the entire time I am stood talking to the man that created it!
If the Hummus was a taste revelation what came next was the ‘Omega’ to my visit – the cherry on the cake. A sample of Nikos’s Taramasalata. A rich, creamy, not overly fishy, moreish mouthful. I showed my ignorance by not realizing that Cod roe produced a white Taramasalata, which is the superior product – richer and more exclusive. Following his mother’s recipe, Nikos has produced something truly first class.
I left wishing my friends good health & success weighed down with a bag of produce. Yes everything you can get from the ‘super marche’ – but it won’t taste anywhere as good. Nikas of Athens salami with the word “ΚΛΑΣΙΚΟ” emblazoned across the packaging. It translates as “classic” and that is exactly what it is class-ic. Spending time with people who are passionate and knowledgeable about our shared love, good food, it is a joy in itself. A trip to the ‘Deli’ – well does it get any better?