Sunday, July 29, 2007

Athan's, Washington Square

Sunday morning, it was drizzling out, and I had the apartment to myself. I spent the morning reading (all of Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby? by Allyson Beatrice, then starting Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, an anthology of food writing about eating alone) before succumbing to hunger. A quick prowl of the shelves proved that there was nothing bordering on edible in the house. Right then and there, the day planned itself out for me: find something to eat and go grocery shopping.

My first thought was Athan's in Washington Square. The day before, I bought some florentine cookies, which are pictured below, for a party. While I was in there trying to decide, I noticed too many tempting items.

When I walked in, the small front room, filled with display cases and the register, was busy. I really wanted a pastry (the apricot and almond struedel looked especially enticing), but I knew I needed something a little more meal-like. The cafe has a small sandwich menu... I was all ready for the roasted veggie wrap when I spotted two of the sweetest words not in the English language - brie panino.

I ordered and took a seat at the bar in the crowded dining room. It took a while for the sandwich to be delivered, but I forgot all about it when I took the first bite. The cheese was gooey, almost liquid, against an extra-crispy ciabatta bread. The pungent sweetness of the brie was offset by ripe tomatoes and zesty basil, a nice play on the more typical tomato-mozzarella-basil sandwich.

Another sweet surprise came on the drink menu - Nescafe frappe. The owners of Athan's are Greek, which is shown primarily through the large display of various baklava and galaktoboureko, but also through offering Nescafe frappe. This drink, made from instant coffee and milk, is available everywhere in Greece. It does not contain ice cream, like a Boston frappe, and is pronouced frap-PAY. It's the lovechild of iced coffee and a frothy latte, sweet but with a little bitter bite and much tastier than anything you'll find at Starbucks. I know I'll be back, if for no other reason than to order a frappe again.

Thus filled with cheese and coffee (and bolstered by some more reading time), I headed out for a 3-market grocery tour of Allston-Brighton and Brookline. I am now better prepared for the next time I'm home alone and starved.

The florentine cookies, also from Athan's, were a replacement for cherry tarts that failed. I needed something to bring to a party, and these looked delicious. (Of course, I also bought some for myself). They are, from top to bottom: almond, sesame, and pistachio. These are not typical lacy florentines, but more like little caramelized nut clusters. The almond, the most traditional, was tastiest; the sliced almonds were rich, and there was a good ratio of nut to candy. The sesame was also good, but it reminded me of sesame candy that is available at middle eastern markets in the bulk bins. (I'm not knocking the stuff, I grew up on it!) The pistachio was not very good, but this may just be because the typical bitter tones of the pistachio didn't match up well with the toffee like coating.

Athan's Bakery in Brookline


Liney said...

mmm panino

Sarah said...

Do you ever get comments about taking pictures of your food by yourself in a restaurant? I'm not knocking it...more impressed :-)

Pam said...

When I'm with people, they obviously know about this site and are more interested in seeing the post go up. And I've pretty much stopped caring about it when I'm alone. If people want to look, that's fine.

I also try to be pretty discreet about it, only taking a few shots.

thesouthender said...

Nathan's baked goods are reallllllly good. Plus, the prices are so much less than in Boston proper. When I need to bring a li'l somethin' for dessert, I try to stop by there. The small cookies are to die for and must be left in the trunk of my car as if they are kept in the car, they won't make it home.

thesouthender said...

Whoops, I menat to type "Athans," not "Nathan's"!!

Anonymous said...

Best thing about Athan's - they are open on Thanksgiving morning when you are taking the train to a relative's house and you forgot to stop earlier in the week and pick up a little something nice.

I believe I have also done this on Easter, and maybe even Christmas.

Athan's - Bakery of Choice for Procrastinators.