Friday, August 2, 2013

Deli Fare in the Village Square


In the pretty village of Archanes, Crete,
a charming, new bistro is open for business!
Bakaliko, a specialty grocery store and deli, 
cooks up delicious delicacies with a fresh twist!


 Agnes and Zsuzsa, two lovely ladies,
have an interesting story to tell of their chance meeting
and, ultimately, a culinary collaboration that
satisfies both the savoury and the sweet, 
using locally grown treasures from the island of Crete!


Won't you have a seat by the window, 
overlooking the village square?

Agnes (left), was kind enough to grant me an interview on behalf of Zsuzsa, and herself.
And prepare for an appetizing account
of this talented pair!


How did you and Zsuzsa meet?

Soon after I arrived to Crete 7 years ago, some friends and I had gone to Istioploikos (the tavern at the sailing club) for dinner. Giorgos (Zsuzsa’s husband) the maitre d, heard me speaking Hungarian on the phone and said a few words to me in Hungarian. You can imagine my surprise! But he quickly explained that his wife, who happened to be in the kitchen cooking, was Hungarian. And that was the beginning of our friendship.


How did you decide on the colours and decor in general?

My good friend, Ellen Weijers, was first charged with the task of designing a logo to go with our name. During this process, we looked at mood boards and color combinations and finally decided on this combination of mauve, olive green, beige and grey.  This then led naturally to the colors in the store, but of course an incredible amount of thought went into how exactly the colors should be used. We could not have done it without Ellen’s design advice and help and great ideas.


Do you have professional backgrounds in the restaurant business,
or are you self-taught and just plain talented?!

Yes, I do. My undergraduate University degree is a B Comm in Hotel & Food Administration and then I have a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). I am not however a professional chef, so that part of my restaurant life has been self-taught. I have also taken many, many wine courses along the way in my life and consider myself a connoisseur.


What is the most enjoyable part of your job? The least?

There are just so many enjoyable parts. For me, the best part is when customers get what we are trying to do. They understand that even though most of the products are traditional, we and our cuisine is not. We use the products in more innovative and non-classical ways to show all that can be done with these superb ingredients and each time we do a new menu item, it is exciting. I also really love it when I discover a new product that I think would be good for the store.

 Summer Salad: Grilled Haloumi skewers on a bed of watermelon,
 cucumber and red onion with a fresh mint-honey sage vinaigrette.

For me the least enjoyable part is knowing how much more I could be doing to promote the store and things like that if I were more at home in the Greek language and if the day had more than 24 hours!


What inspires your culinary creations?

It is a combination of so many things, including of course both our long years of experience in different countries and with differing cuisines. We are also often inspired by our Hungarian backgrounds. We also subscribe to the paradigm of using local and seasonal ingredients, so we are inspired by what is freshly available.  We also peruse food blogs, internet sites and often cookbooks of famous restaurants worldwide.


What is your favourite thing to eat on the menu?

It changes all the time. The first week it was the Mediterranean chicken sandwich, but  since we expanded the menu with lots of interesting Meze, I would say my favorite is our version of Saganaki. It is Graviera cheese first of all, then it  goes in an egg wash and is rolled in carob flour with dark and light sesame seeds, then sautéed and it is served with a seasonal chutney. Currently it is a grape chutney.  There are just so many combinations of flavors.


What are some surprises that you've had since you opened?

That there is no way of predicting what the day will hold since there are no 2 days alike and so far after 2.5 months, no patterns have emerged. Also surprised that overall we are quite accepted here in Archanes, even though we are both foreigners and our concept is very new to them.


What do you love most about life on Crete? Least?

As cliché as it sounds, to me the weather is all-important. Having so much sunshine is a blessing for someone who had seasonal affective disorder in the long, dreary winters in Canada.  I love that you can go on an excursion for half a day even and discover amazing vistas, sights, foods.   I love the fresh, simple ingredients available here and that the big trends in North America, like “farm to table”, local, seasonal and organic is as natural to Cretans as breathing.


One of the things I don’t like is the lack of civic pride of most people- littering all over the streets and not seeming to care as long as their place is immaculate, but one step beyond has nothing to do with them. I also have trouble with the way most locals treat stray dogs and cats. I cannot understand the cruelty of so many toward our four-legged friends.


 Besides great food and service, do you plan on introducing anything else with regards to your business, for example, music?

We have lots of plans for Bakaliko starting with “Producer Showcase” weeks, where each week we will highlight one of our suppliers and their products on a table outside with tastings and even having some company representatives available on say Friday and Saturday nights. We also want to do some community-based events such as art exhibitions, poetry and music nights, and in the later Autumn and Winter we will have wine dinners, wine and oil tastings, etc.



We hope to expand our product line in the Fall and Winter to include products from other parts of Greece so that it would be of greater interest to local.  I would also like to have our e-shop up and running by late Fall so all those who have visited us and have purchased, can buy online and never be without their favorite Cretan products.

 

Do you consider yourselves entrepreneurs?

Absolutely! Apart from a few stints teaching at Colleges & Universities and working in International Advertising, most of my life has been starting and operating my own businesses. I opened my first restaurant and 4 bedroom lakeside country Inn when I was 24.  This was followed by an Art Gallery featuring art from Hungary. These 2 business were in Canada in and around my hometown of Ottawa. 


Carob Pasta Salad with lemon, peppers and Feta

Then I left Canada for Hungary and in 2000 opened a fine dining restaurant in the World Heritage Castle district of Budapest. I sold this when I moved to Crete in 2007. My first business in Crete was my gastronomic guide- Meet & Eat in Crete, which is now in its 7th year and also includes applications for iPhone and Android. I also have an online villa rental company called Elite in Crete and now BAKALIKO.


Thank you Agnes and Zsuzsa
for your inspiring story!


So, dear readers, 
next time you're visiting our island,
take a break and stop by Bakaliko 
for a delightful, deli experience
that is both tasty and tasteful.



Thanks for visiting me today!

Poppy


Photo credits:
Images, from top, 2, 8, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 20: Bakaliko
All other images: Poppy View

42 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing their story! Looking at these pictures makes me feel as if I'm there having a wonderful lunch at the restaurant. Ahh, if only it were true!
    Have a great day, Poppy!

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  2. Oh, how I wish I was passing by...

    Penny
    x

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  3. Oh she lived down the highway from me - what a small world - Ottawa is only a couple of hours at most from Montreal!!!
    The photos are just lovely -
    Were you angling for a gig there Poppy ( asking if they were going to introduce music :)
    Great post!
    Hugs,
    XOXO

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    1. You are TOO funny, my friend! Wanna be my new manager?;)

      xo

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  4. Awesome post Poppy....everything sounds delicious and the pictures are so inviting!!!!

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  5. Hi Poppy, how beautiful it looks there and the food must be so good. I love greek food! Thanks for sharing this story and have a great weekend.
    Julie from julieslifestyle.blogspot.com

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  6. What a wonderful interview and I love the pictures. It was almost like I was there with you.

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  7. What a lovely story, and the food looks wonderful!

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  8. Oh Poppy, what a great story. I wished I lived close by so I could go that beautiful deli and sit outside and have one of their wonderful dishes. The pictures are amazing. May thanks for sharing this with us.
    Have a great weekend.
    Mary

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  9. Aloha Poppy,

    wow what gorgeous countryside and the food there looks amazing, I could definetly enjoy an entire day just trying out all the wonderful local food!

    I'm inviting you to also join us for Travel Photo Mondays, it runs the whole week and starts on Mondays, come link up with us.

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    1. Hi Noel,

      Thanks for the kind comments and the invitation to Travel Photo Mondays; will be there!

      Have a great weekend!

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  10. Poppy, this was wonderful, and exactly the type of post I love to read, about local life in other cultures. As an avid traveler, and something of a Greek "foodie," I ate this up (pun intended!). And what I would give to try that Saganaki!

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  11. Oh Poppy,
    So very interesting and enlightening. I must say I would like some of the grape chutney and perhaps when they get their e-store up and running it will be available to order. Your many days of Sunshine sound simply glorious-
    Happy Hugs,
    Jemma

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  12. You made me wish I could be at a table at Agnes and Zsuzsa's restaurant right now! You are a great interviewer, Poppy, asking the kinds of questions of most interest to all of us. I wrote down the ingredients you showed for the beautiful summer salad. Is Haloumi a fish? It looks delicious and the description of Saganaki with grape chutney is a dish I'd love to try.

    Great post, Poppy, perfectly delightful!

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    1. Hello my sweet friend,

      Thanks so much for the kind words! To answer your question: Haloumi is a traditional Cypriot cheese that is slightly salty and is usually grilled. I had the pleasure of trying it on a recent visit to Bakaliko. It is exactly as it appears in the photo - delicious!

      xo

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  13. Poppy
    I can't imagine having access to such beautiful, fresh food!
    These ladies definitely have their act together.
    best of luck to them in this new venture.

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  14. Poppy, This was a wonderful interview of these very talented and genuine women. It's always interesting to hear about how it all began.. if there is a passion for something, it's likely you will be successful. The fresh ingredients are always best and if they are locally grown, that's even better. I would enjoy a meal here! xxleslie

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  15. Thank you for such an interesting interview you transported me to the restaurant x

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  16. So interesting, and gorgeous pictures! Thanks for stopping by my blog- I'm your newest follower :)
    Susan

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  17. I really enjoyed this post, lovely photos and a lovely story. These two women are very inspiring, and the food looks delicious. I love haloumi, I call it the salty, squeaky cheese !

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  18. My dear Poppy,

    Your post takes me back to that wonderful day which I spent together with you and my family in Archanes. I was on a mission to visit Bakaliko since I heard about it from a mutual friend, and you were eager to see it too. We had a wonderful lunch and sampled some of the most delicious and unusual combinations of ingredients. Seeing these pics brings back the taste and smell of the food and I'm almost there on that hot July day, talking to Agnes and snapping pictures of her lovely restaurant/store. I bought a packet of carob pasta from her which I have sadly forgotten at my parents-in-law's house.

    I agree with Agnes about her comments regarding the lack of civic pride in Crete. It's one thing that was making my blood boil when seeing so much trash on the streets, while their homes were immaculate. I also always found it heart-breaking how some animals are treated. In many ways Greeks have a long way to go.

    I take my hat off to Agnes and Zsuzsa for their efforts, creativity and enterprise. They are a great example and inspiration to all women, especially ones closer to our age. I wish them all the success and I can't wait for my next visit, which I am hoping will be next summer.

    As for the post, it is yet another thoughtful, well written and well-interviewed piece with stunning picture. I've enjoyed it tremendously. Bravo!

    Mxoxoxo

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  19. Hello dear friend, I reckon you can be a good food writer too. I will replicate that haloumi and watermelon recipe. Now that spring is coming soon down under. I live the combo of olive green and mauve, it
    Is so Medit

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  20. Oops...hit publish without finishing it. Silly IPad.

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  21. Just the thought - first of visiting such a beautiful place....and then of sitting down to some of that delicious-sounding food - well, you had me! I'm dreaming now....

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  22. Hello Poppy

    That for this fascinating interview. Wishing Agnes and Zsuzsa continued success.
    I would love to dine at their restaurant now, in that window seat please

    Helen xx

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  23. This sounds like an amazing place! Very interesting interview also! Since I may not make it to Crete, it's nice to know they may sell some things online for all of us to enjoy!

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  24. Wonderful interview and a wonderful story. The food looks delicious, I wish I could go there and try some myself. Thanks for sharing, have a great week!

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  25. If only! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview and seeing these gorgeous pictures. The interview was interesting and I wish these women all the very best with their eatery!

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  26. Only one thing wrong with this post -- I can't get there for dinner tonight (or next year for that matter, darn it)...but I loved the post ... great reading, mouth-watering pictures. Lovely story...thanks for sharing it.

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  27. This looks like a fabulous place to eat. I was sorry to read about poor treatment of the cats and dogs.

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  28. This looks like a place I would love to eat at ... the decor and colors are wonderful and the food looks great. I would just like to visit your island! thanks for such an interesting post. I really enjoy your blog. I bet you do like window boxes !!!

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  29. Such a neat post. Such wonderful ladies and what a magnificent place they've created.

    Lovely to have have you at Seasonal Sundays.

    - The Tablescaper

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  30. It's always nice to hear a success story of women and particularly when they have started a business in another country. Their place sounds wonderful and somewhere I'd like to eat if I were to visit Crete.
    Judith

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  31. Intriquing post and lovely photography ~ Food and decor and ambiance of Crete looks so inviting ~ thanks, xxooo

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  32. Very interesting to read this interview accompanied by your lovely photos and rhymes ( always fun to visit here, Poppy! :)

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  33. Poppy, I just discovered your blog and will soon add it to my BlogLovin' list! We love Crete and spent part of our month-long travels there this spring. We've been researching properties for sale, as well as properties, thinking that part of the year spent living in Greece (Crete, in particular) might be the direction for our lives to take. Finding your blog is giving me a touch of that life! Can hardly wait to read more. . .

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  34. Hi, Poppy. My name is Eleni and I come from Crete as well. I just discovered your blog and I sure will come back as if our island connect us. See you again...! Oh by the way I loved this interview...and the "bakaliko"...! I like Archanes too...!

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  35. Hello Poppy, what a fantastic restaurant! Looks beautiful - they have an amazing story - would LOVE to visit! I am delighted that you shared with Home and Garden Thursday,
    Kathy

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  36. So interesting to hear the inspiration and ideas for the restaurant and also how the colors come straight from nature...so pretty! It would be wonderful to go there!!!
    Thanks so much for sharing at Amaze Me Monday...
    Blessings,
    Cindy

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  37. Poppy, Congrats! You'll be featured at Simple & Sweet Fridays for this inspiring story. Don't forget to grab a button if you'd like. Have a wonderful weekend!

    Hugs,
    Jody

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Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I really appreciate hearing from all of you! Have a great day!