Sometimes you go traveling (not that I travel alot, alas, I don’t ), and there are a couple of things that you consider THE THINGS TO DO. For me, it was to visit my yia yia (my maternal grandmother) in Sparti, visit my husband’s family in Sykea and explore how he grew up in his village, and to see Lefkada, my dad’s neck of the woods. All wonderful experiences and impossible to really explain to you here.
On the food front my main goal was to try bougatsa. I’ve never had it before and have only seen it on TV or something, but I really wanted it. Bougatsa is a Greek pastry served earlier in the day, filled with custard, cheese or meat. I really wanted to try the cheese variety, but could only get my hands on the custard filled ones, and let me tell you that having to stick to custard filled bougatsa is not a disappointing compromise. I love..no wait, I adore all things custard. Give me kataifi ekmek, galaktobouriko, creme brule, a lemon custard tart from French Fix and anything else in that realm and I will be very happy.
So yes, the custard here is important and its partner in deliciousness is the pastry it is wrapped in. I’m not going to be a snob and tell you that bougatsa that isn’t made with homemade pastry is unacceptable. That’s not fair. I can guarantee that if you work your ass off perfecting your custard you will be proud of your bougatsa once paired with an appropriate store bought filo or puff pastry. My first bougatsa attempt may be with store bought pastry probably anyway, so I will not be the pot calling the kettle black on this one.
In Greece I ate alot of bougatsa, served hot and warm and sometimes topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. I had it from Molaos, Monemvasia, I think in Sykea, Sparti , Athens and Lefkada. My favorite was the one in Lefkada. My cousin Spiro surprised me with my first two bougatsa samplings – huge pieces of warm custard wrapped in filo were handed to me while I sat by the pool. I picked one at random and I bit in and loved it..this was what I came here for. All of a sudden Spiro stopped me and said, no– eat this one. He speaks really fast, but I know he said something about Thesaloniki. Then I realized, the other one was Thesaloniki style, and this my friends, is the food I really came to Greece for : Thesaloniki style bougatsa. The filo was beyond good, it was epic. It was something you feel like you have been waiting a long time for. I was in heaven and so overjoyed. It meant so much to me that Spiro remembered I was on a bougatsa quest and the huge smile on his face when he knew I loved it was priceless.
So the secret was out that I loved bougatsa, and my wonderful husband, my inlaws and cousin would grab me some before I had a chance to go myself. All the bougatsa I had was delicious, with the only meh one being from Flow Cafe at the Athens Airport. I thought it was terrible. It was a shrivelled spiral of pastry filled with barely a whisper of custard.
Take a look at some of the mesmerizing videos below. I hope they inspire you to get curious about bougatsa. The people here are artists.
ENJOY THESE BOUGATSA VIDEOS FROM AROUND THE WEB!