It's all Greek to you, to go
With the exception of desserts, I don’t buy many prepared foods. Turns out that may be a mistake.
The Food section recently had the pleasure of tasting dishes from Demeter's Pantry, a Silver Spring wholesaler of Greek food. Maria Kardamaki Robertson, who grew up on Crete in the 1970s, makes dishes including moussaka, boureki, vegetable stews and salads that are sold in the prepared foods case at area Whole Foods Markets. They are sold under the Greek Table label at Roots Market and at the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op.
Robertson learned to cook from her grandmother. Her dishes embody the Mediterranean diet. Good olive oil, lots of beans, whole grains and fresh vegetables. Take palikaria ($2.89 for an eight-ounce container), a delightful bean salad accented with dill and red onion. "A lively little salad, and I don't like bean salads," one of our tasters noted. It should be. The name means "young, strong man" in Greek, and the dish was traditionally made as an offering to the gods for a fertile harvest.
More familiar dishes also impressed us. The moussaka ($7.99 per pound) is creamy, rich and subtly laced with cinnamon, just as it should be. But what I really liked about this moussaka was that it's more healthful than most. The meat is used as an accent for the toothsome eggplant. The béchamel is made with olive oil instead of butter. Tasters also loved the baklava ($3.99 for two pieces), which was surprisingly not too sweet. Too often, all you taste is the sugar syrup, but here crisp phyllo dough pastry and the taste of walnuts shine through.
Demeter's Pantry also offers a line of imported Greek food: the good stuff, not the usual stuff exported for "tourists," Robertson says. Mostly, she sells it wholesale.
But she has created a food-of-the-month club for Greek food lovers. One month you might get honey and cinnamon raisin cookies. Another month, the package might include jam and olive oil. Membership is $40 for three months and $150 for 12 months.
Update: A wise commenter informs us that Demeter's Pantry has discontinued the food of the month club. Ah well. You'll have to drown your sorrows in an extra piece of baklava.
-- Jane Black
June 3, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Shopping | Tags: Jane Black, shopping
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