For coffee, food and hiking while based in Old Agios Athanasios, part b

Our first day at Old Agios Athanasios, Pella was full, and so did we intend for the second one to be! The weather worried us a bit, but it did not put us in a bad mood, since the nature of the area was very beautiful, even with clouds; it had another charm…

Read the first part of our article based in Old Agios Athanasios:

In the second part of our travel article based in Old Agios Athanasios we start the day with breakfast at the Metohi Inn, drink coffee at the tavern of the Naoumidis brothers in Agios Panteleimonas and visit their processing unit to learn everything about the innovative pepper products that they prepare, eat sweets at the Evora Café-Restaurant and take a walk to the nearby waterfalls of Panagitsa, and return to Agios Panteleimonas to end the day with a wonderful meal at the award-winning restaurant Naoumidis.

Good morning from the cloudy Old Agios Athanasios!

For the coldest days of autumn and winter, the Metohi Inn of Mr. Nektarios Voliotis and Mrs. Ioanna Arseniou has a very nicely decorated indoor space, made of wood and stone, with a homely feel and a fireplace, where one can drink his coffee and have his breakfast, but also enjoy his drink later. But we also like the cloudy weather, so we sat again in the courtyard of the guesthouse and prepared for the day that would follow.

The indoor space of the Metohi Inn where you can drink coffee, have breakfast or have a drink in the evening
The owner of the Metohi Inn Mr. Nektarios Voliotis
The weather does not scare us and does not deprive us of our favorite yard
Warm coffee this time!
Croissants, local jam, cold cuts and cheeses
Fried eggs and fresh bread

We ate our breakfast, drank our coffee and started for our first destination: the tavern of the Naoumidis brothers in Agios Panteleimonas. Agios Panteleimonas is a settlement built at the foot of Mount Kaimaktsalan, on the shores of Lake Vegoritida. So you can imagine what a beautiful environment we would be in! It is about 26 km from Old Agios Athanasios, so it would take us half an hour to get there.

Lamb on our way from Old Agios Athanasios to Agios Panteleimon

The tavern-grocery Naoumidis, as well as the nearby award-winning restaurant Naoumidis, where we would dine in the evening, are located on the main road that passes by the lake. Naoumidis tavern has a very elegant interior, with stone and wood painted in shades of green. It serves local, exquisite delicacies, made with traditional recipes, along with a modern twist, while one can also try products based on Florina peppers from the processing unit of the Naoumidis family. The delicacies are accompanied by -what else? – quality wine of the region.

A first taste of the innovative products based on the Florina peppers of the Naoumidis brothers

What excited us even more, however, was the outdoor area of the tavern, which is literally on the lake! There was waiting for us Mr. Angelos Naoumidis, one of the chefs of the family, who spoke to us with love about their family business that includes the tavern, restaurant and processing unit of Florina peppers where we would go together after our coffee and our nice conversation.

On the shores of Lake Vegoritida, with the Golden Hat award-winning chef Mr. Angelos Naoumidis

Mr. Angelos told us about their story, which begins with the grandparents, and continues with their pioneering parents, who set up the first restaurant in Western Macedonia with a menu based on local dishes. The younger generation consists of four brothers, who continue the family business with their mother.

Very important for their development were the childhood experiences they had from the restaurant; inevitably, their professional orientation turned to gastronomy and communication with people. In addition to their parents’ restaurant, in 1983 they opened their second restaurant. The Naoumidis family believes that in order to attract people to a remote area, you have to offer something special, cook properly, respect the tradition, connect the visitor gastronomically with the history of the place.

Mr. Angelos told us that he entered the kitchen from a very young age and that he used to observe the customers when they tasted the food, in order to understand from their expressions how he would make them happier. In this way he was slowly improving.

For the Naoumidis family, gastronomy is not something that a chef develops on his own; it is a composition of tradition with the talent of a cook. And despite the fact that Greece has suffered historically, there has always been the festive table, from which we can today get inspiration. A cook is someone who has cooked a recipe over and over again with love and passion, as mom and grandma do. By making the same food over and over again, the cook improves and achieves harmony in his creation. He must be calm and humble.

We asked Mr. Angelos about the processing unit that we would visit later and he told us that initially they had a garden, a field, which they acquired in 1983 together with the second restaurant; in the morning they worked there and at noon they brought the vegetables to the restaurant to cook. Thus, they cooked seasonally based on what nature offered them, fish, game meat, wild duck from the lake, wild mushrooms, peppers…

The visitable production and promotion unit of the Florina pepper of the Naoumidis family in Agios Panteleimonas

As Florinians they had a love for peppers and planted more than other vegetables. When there was a surplus in the restaurant, they did not want to sell them fresh, because it was the result of hard work and love. Therefore, they started making some jars with a very old recipe, with vinegar and must; the grape must was used to soften the very strong Xinomavro vinegar that the area has. Having collected many jars, the idea came to them to go on the market.

The moustopiperia, the product from which everything started…

Mr. Angelos’s brother, Mr. Petros Naoumidis, a cook and agronomist, is responsible for the processing unit. Mr. Petros stressed that everything that his brother told us about gastronomy also applies to the field of peppers. Their pepper has a great gastronomic culture behind it. It comes from a seed that is passed down from generation to generation, a unique variety among thousands.

In addition to the variety, cultivation and garden practices are important, which differ from the industrial practices applied elsewhere. No machine is used, the pepper is planted by hand. There is of course the special microclimate of the area, which favors the cultivation of peppers. The Naoumidis family not only cultivates organically, but also protects a seed from being lost; it does the same for cultivation practices.

After talking for a long time with the Naoumidis brothers, who had a bunch of interesting stuff to tell us, they invited us to visit the Florina pepper processing unit. We warmly thank them for the rich conversation and the unique experience!

Entering the stone-built processing unit of the Naoumidis family
The seed of Florina pepper, from their own bed that ensures the authenticity of the seed
Organic Florina peppers, completely natural and bright red!
With Mr. Petros Naoumidis, the head of the processing unit in the open space where the pepper is sorted

The peppers are picked from the field by hand and come to the processing unit for sorting. Then they move on to the next stage, in which various ways of cooking are done. For example, some are grilled all night, others are baked and turned into pepper, there are 4-5 different cooking lines, so to speak. Grilling takes place at night; the processing unit does not close, it operates 24 hours/day!

The day before, the peppers were grilled all night.
The oven in which the pepper is made.

After each treatment, the peppers go to the warehouse, where the labels are placed on the jars. Entering the building, a fantastic smell flooded us, which represented everything that had been told to us. The jars then go down to the two cellars of the building to rest; this is a very important stage. The goal is to get the pepper as quickly as possible from the field to the basement. The woods used in the warehouse and in the cellar are all Greek, from Black Pine.

The warehouse of the processing unit, full of red jars!
Mr. Petros also showed us the cellar where the products rest at a constant temperature, in the dark.
Vine leaves from the local variety Xinomavro

Mr. Petros explained to us that the secret of cultivation is that the recipe is made in the field: the first pepper is unripe green, then it is ripe green, the same pepper turns red – every fortnight the taste changes.

Jars with different colors of peppers
Pepper ketchup, a very original product!
With the Naoumidis brothers in the office of the company
On the same day, a large tribute to the Naoumidis processing unit was published in the Real Taste magazine of Real News paper

It was all really fantastic! Leaving, we could not miss the field of the Naoumidis family, which is full of peppers. Mr. Petros had told us that the peppers are watered with drinking water and all the procedures are done in the traditional way. In fact, it was time to pick the peppers by hand. Green, scattered with red drips, the field was a painting!

The estate of the Naoumidis family in the ravine and in the background the peak Piperitsa of Mount Kaimaktsalan
We also got into the field for a while!
The Naoumidis brothers gave us three of their most special products: tomato pepper ketchup, piperomelo and filetopiperia (grilled pepper). Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

It was still early in the afternoon and there was a place we definitely wanted to go to, the Evora Café-Restaurant, above the village of Panagitsa. We were told that it has a great view and that it serves delicious pancakes, so as you can understand the decision was one way!

Panagitsa is located on Mount Kaimaktsalan, at an altitude of 736 m. And the area of Evora -from which the café-restaurant took its name- is even higher at 1030 m. It was starting to rain but we were not discouraged, we made a distance of half an hour by car from Agios Panteleimonas where we were, put on our hoods and went out into the beautiful nature.

The green area of Evora has three artificial lakes, which are harmoniously integrated into the natural landscape. We saw up close the third lake, the one next to the café, with its ducks and geese swimming in the clear waters.

One of the three artificial lakes in the area
The Evora Café-Restaurant is located up there, among the chestnut trees, and has a wonderful view!
The view, as seen going up to Evora

As we have already said, the weather does not scare us and there was no way we could lose the incredible calmness and the shocking view of the outdoor tables of Evora. We sat down, ordered our coffees and started a very interesting conversation with Mrs. Stavroula Parthenopoulou, who welcomed us to her business.

The outdoor tables of Evora have a really privileged position!

Mrs. Parthenopoulou explained to us the usefulness of artificial lakes: each lake has a hydroelectric station that produces electricity that is sold to Greek Public Power Corporation. Also, a percentage is deducted from the residents’ accounts in return. To undertake this project they have set up a company. In addition to this function, the lakes are also used for irrigation, to irrigate the fields of the area.

As we have learned, the artificial lakes offer a lot to the inhabitants of the area!
Near the lake there is also the building of the company

The restaurant of Evora is open only for events, weddings, baptisms, which we are sure will be wonderful next to this amazing view! Apart from the tourist part with the café and the restaurant, for 2-3 years now they are also engaged in the processing of the products produced by their place, making jams, spoon sweets, some without sugar, dried fruits without sugar, which Mrs. Parthenopoulou offered us to try. Thank you!

Beautiful events are organized in the restaurant of Evora (source)
Coffee, view and interesting discussion, all perfect… and how could we know that sweets would follow!
Magenta Pancakes with praline spread and raspberry sauce from raspberries they grow themselves
Dried apples produced by Evora
Cheesecake Pancakes with Philadelphia cream, biscuit and strawberry sauce from their handmade jam
We also got our presents: Apple Firiki Spoon Sweet, Strawberry Jam and Cherry Jam without sugar. Sincerely thanks!
A playground for young visitors!
In the interior of Evora, with a fireplace, for the coldest days of autumn and winter (source)

We drank our coffees, ate our really delicious pancakes, and now what? A short hike for digestion, to the nearby small waterfalls! The distance was very short and it is a real pity to lose this hidden gem… So, if you are in Evora do not forget to go to the small waterfalls!

A very short hike, a little uphill and we arrived!
The bottom of the waterfall, which you reach without any effort.
From there you go up the stairs to see the waterfall from above.
Eliza waited down for Giorgos to take his photos…
And a pose in front of the waterfall is a must! 😊
Last selfie and we’re off!

The sky was getting darker and we were heading to our guesthouse in Old Agios Athanasios, just 20 minutes away. We got a little cold, so we had to sit for a while to regain our strength and then we would get ready for our night out for dinner.

On the road from Evora to Old Agios Athanasios

When we arrived in Metohi Inn it was starting to rain. Our furry friend had taken refuge on the steps of our maisonette, to protect himself from the rain. We knew exactly what suited this situation: a warm, enjoyable soak in the hydromassage tub!

Our friend found a roof to protect himself from the rain.
Without words…

After the complete relaxation in the hot hydromassage tub, we were looking forward to try the dishes of Naoumidis restaurant about which its chef Mr. Angelos Naoumidis had spoken to us in the morning. Mrs. Ioanna of Metohi Inn had also told us to go to Agios Panteleimonas before dinner to take a walk on a beautiful pier under the restaurant. So, just before dark we reached the village and saw the big pier. It was very charming, in the turbulent waters of the lake – it was a very windy day. We went up and took our photos!

A large pier in Lake Vegoritida
A fisherman is standing at the end of the pier, through rain and snow
Boats on the shores of the lake

Having enjoyed the wonderful lake, we headed to the Greek Cuisine Award-winning restaurant Naoumidis. We chose to sit at the tables outside, to have a full view of the water landscape.

Going out into the outdoor area of the restaurant a large fountain dominates, with the lake in the background. In between are the outdoor tables.
The lake stretches endlessly in front of the restaurant
We tasted one of the wines from the privately owned organic vineyards of the Naoumidis family, a dry rosé from Xinomavro and Syrah of 2019, with PGI Florina, and it was fantastic!

During our morning meeting with Mr. Angelos Naoumidis, we were told that at some point in their restaurant, little by little, they began to use the products of the lake, following at the same time the current cuisine. So the fish stepped on French bases, always keeping in mind that the material undergoes the least modification by the cook. The products, from ancient times when it was needed until today, which is a trend, all come from the place, up close. The mother of the Naoumidis brothers established a creative cuisine, without forgetting to achieve a perfect taste with the very simple local products; they maintain this philosophy to this day, and we have seen it in their dishes.

The cuisine that the Naoumidis family represents, as Mr. Angelos told us, is Balkan, based on tradition, with influences from neighboring countries, since their place is acritic. All over the world, in the remote areas, there is a formatting of recipes, a culmination. For local gastronomy to assimilate an element from another culture, it must be something special, shocking.

The menu of the restaurant is very rich, with traditional appetizers, fine cheeses, salads, fish, local free-range meats, but also fantastic dishes of the day such as crab spaghetti with fresh handmade linguine, lobster with orzo and sushi rolls with lobster, octopus and crayfish. We made our choices and were enchanted by the local flavors that were beautifully combined with a modern approach.

“12 greens Naoumidis” salad: young tender vegetables with red fruits and grape molasses vinaigrette in a parmesan nest
The warm, fresh bread that accompanied the dishes was really impressive!
Organic melitzanopiperia: roasted eggplant, roasted pepper, roasted tomato, garlic and olive oil
Baked gigantes: PDO Prespa giant beans with roasted tomatoes, onions, garlic, celery, carrots and olive oil
Chicken fillets with white mushroom, carrot and black truffle sauce
Peeled trout: river trout roasted in wild pear wood with fresh vegetables and lemon cream
The elegant interior of the restaurant
A piece of mosaic on the floor of the restaurant’s outdoor area
Our friend welcomed us as soon as we returned to our guesthouse!

It got dark and we will say goodbye to you once again, until our next article, which will be dedicated to Florina, with a visit to the Holy Monastery of Agios Markos, the city of Florina with its museums, but also the award-winning Kontosoros restaurant in Xino Nero, Florina. See you again!

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Willow Croft says:

    Loved the visit to the pepper farm!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much dear friend for your kind comment!!

      Liked by 1 person

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