I was last in Greece more than a decade ago, in fall of 2009, on a Mediterranean cruise with my family. We stopped in Athens for a day, saw the Parthenon and the Acropolis Museum, decided Athens wasn’t all that nice of a city, and moved on. So it was time to revisit one of the arguably most important western countries by ancient contribution in this week’s quarantine date night.
Greece has a lot to offer, and this date was significantly more positive of an experience than that trip. Here is what we did, but you can feel free to edit it for your own tastes.
Greece-Themed Date Night
Eat: Braised Lamb, Lemon Potatoes, and Greek Salad; and Baklava
The pattern is routine at this point; I make the main course, everyone loves it, and then A outdoes me with the dessert. Today I braised lamb shank in chicken stock, adding onion, olives, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic, cherry preserves, and salt/pepper. After searing the lamb, I added the rest of the ingredients and let it simmer for about 3 hours until super tender.
The potatoes were suggested by George Pagonis of Top Chef fame. Toss potato wedges in lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and oregano, then put them in a baking pan with a few cups of chicken stock and into a 400 degree oven until soft. Pair with a Greek salad (I made a lemon vinaigrette to echo the potatoes), and dinner!
A asked me to make sure to tell everyone that her homemade baklava was “painstaking.” I can confirm that, as just the assembly portion (layering phyllo with a butter wash – 18 sheets! – and two layers of chopped nuts with sugar and cinnamon) took 45 minutes. Add the prep and cook time, and this was her most time-sapping dessert yet. It also may have been her best. She added orange extract into the honey syrup and it was a great little flavor boost!
It’s almost hypnotic to look at!
Immerse: Home Olympiad
As we know, the Greeks invented what has drastically morphed into the Olympic Games. Originally, the events were just running, jumping, wrestling, boxing, discus, and javelin. Well, A and I weren’t about to box, but some of the others can be done at home. We got inventive.
Our events were: standing long jump, pool noodle javelin throw, and Tupperware top discus throw. I pretty much owned the javelin, as evidenced both by my convincing stance and the actual results. The discus was a bit of a mixed bag as any wind made for negative throws. Still, it was fun, though interrupted by intense laughter!
The athletic prowess is evident, no?
But hey, look at that result!
Learn: Ancient Greece
Dinner-time documentaries are so going to be a thing! This time, it was “Ancient Greece in 18 Minutes,” a history from the early Cretan civilizations through Alexander the Great (and slightly beyond as Rome incorporated Greek culture into everything). Totally well done, especially in making the timeline understandable (like the centuries between the Trojan War and Peloponnesian Wars).
Experience: The Acropolis of Athens
It’s a tad outdated in terms of restoration progress, but the Acropolis has a pretty stunning virtual tour! Best part? You don’t have to share the place with the mob of other tourists, as all of the fully 360 degree scenes are people-free. Each one also has a nice description with some pretty cool information, both about the history of the complex (not just the Parthenon) and about the process of restoring it. It took us about an hour – maybe a bit more – to explore the whole thing. Be sure to look for some of the night scenes.
Blankets and a virtual tour make for a solid evening.
Watch: Troy: Fall of a City
Parts of this were confusing, though we only watched the first episode. Basically, Paris finds out he’s a prince of Troy (I don’t remember if this is the way the actual story goes) and is then sent to Sparta as an emissary where he falls in love with Queen Helen. That part is true, or at least true according to the legend. Either way, the show was… ok. I’m not sure we will continue it. You might be better off with the Troy movie, or My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
I find myself really looking forward to these date nights each week. Though I can’t travel, planning the activities is similar to planning our days in a new place. It is also recharging for us as a couple to spend quality time together doing something new and interesting, rather than just the same boring quarantine routine. I hope they help you, as well!
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