Strolling around Thessaloniki, I realised that there is a new type of bakeries – patisseries – cafés aspiring to become the new talk-of-the-town. One of my favorites lies downtown, at the corner of Aghias Sophias and Georgiou Stavrou and it is called Blé: a unique gourmet boutique, a destination for every single hour of the day.
Ideal to start the day; Just as perfect for all day long.
The latest store of “Blé” bakery-patisserie-café (Blé means wheat in French), open 24 hours a day, is housed in a neoclassical building in one of the most focal points of the city and it’s merely impossible to pass by without noticing it.
Its huge floor-to-ceiling windows give a glimpse of its inside “treasure” and give you no option but to enter its world: for taste and aesthetic aficionados, the entry to its premises will mark the entrance to a state of nirvana, with eyes scanning the area from the imposing 12 metres high wood oven which very much resembles a meteoric monolith (designed by the well known architect Claudio Silvestrin and executed by “Cob” construction team from Larissa) to the seemingly endless bench showcasing a multitude of savory pastries, breads, light dishes and salads further along to the sweet corner with mouth-watering pastries and artisanal ice cream.
I look around and notice that, luckily, I’m not the only one who loiters the tasty creations as the new attractions around town. Still, that doesn’t change the oh-so-dreadful reality that I somehow have to choose.
Here, the emphasis is given on quality ingredients from all over Greece but also from abroad which convert mealtime into a true ritual. Naturally fermented bread, handmade sourdoughs from grape must, yoghurt, fruits and herbs prepared with slow and natural maturation. In the shop there are also thematic products such as the Cretan ones, made on site by craftsmen and raw materials from Crete: lychnarakia (sweet or savory pastries in the shape of a little lamp), barley rusks (one of the main ingredients for preparing dakos, the well-known Cretan salad served with tomatoes, feta or myzithra cheese, olives, olive oil, oregano and basil) and sfakianopites (traditional pies from Sfakia area in a round, flat shape filled with sour myzithra cheese and often served with honey) transfer you directly to the Cretan Zen living. Thin and crispy dough focaccias, kneaded with extra virgin olive oil and stuffed with mozzarella cheese, homemade sauces and gourmet sausages are another winning combination.
The Belgian chocolate profiteroles and the tiramisu are the patisserie’s divas while among its artisanal ice creams (prepared without using any colorings or flavor additives) the ones that stand out are the Ecuador chocolate, Madagascar vanilla, tsoureki (brioche) and all flavors of ice cream made with Greek strained yogurt, especially the “yogurt – honey – caramelized sesame and thyme” one.
And when it comes to coffee, you can choose between traditional Greek coffee, filter coffee and freshly roasted espresso blends of 100% Arabica varieties which, in combination with “Κοukakis” fresh milk give a balanced cappuccino.
I finally make up my mind and select bites of sfakianopitakia filled with cheese and wild greens, lychnarakia with Belgian chocolate and a cappuccino; I sit comfortably on the stands looking out of the windows and enjoy a delicious breakfast. The décor is altogether inviting: stone, wood and large windows allowing the daylight in and warming up the space while the minimalistic approach brings the spotlight to the soul of this place, the food. Its outside terrace is a meeting point for locals, businessmen, mothers with their kids, young couples and lone travelers from across the globe.
One family – one vision
“Raftopoulos family along with its exceptional cooperators has shared a common vision: to create a new bakery concept with high-quality standards in all areas, an innovative store that is consistent with the high aesthetic quality and taste of our products. Our aim is the final result to be so unique that it will eventually surpass the borders of our country, “says Pavlos Pehlivanis from Blé.
With the idea “baking” for about a decade and after overcoming all the bureaucratic and construction problems, the store finally opened in August 2011. Since then, it has become a must in the city map for lovers of fine products and aesthetics.
Their holistic concept covers the culinary needs of the market throughout the day, based on creating products with entirely natural materials, traditional manufacturing techniques with modern and scientific methods of observation. Having a firm belief in their products’ authenticity, a never-ending renewal and adaptation to circumstances and culinary trends worldwide and prices that meet any budget and at the same time the products’ high standard of quality and taste, the new store has managed to turn the city lights on it.
It smells like Christmas!
Blé’s specialties for the festive period always makes me start the countdown from early fall: melomakarona (coarse-grained cookies soaked in a honey syrup, Christmas specialty throughout the country) handmade traditionally one by one, dipped in honey from thyme and sage from Taygetos mountain in the Peloponnese and filled with rich walnuts. Melomakarona with Belgian white chocolate with saffron or pink pepper of Madagascar. Melomakarona with Belgian milk chocolate, Normandy’s fleur de sel and lavender. Melomakarona with Belgian chocolate (66% cocoa mass) and pieces of candied chestnut. Exceptional panettone, vasilopites (New Year’s specialty cakes) with fresh butter, natural yeast and honey but also kourabiedes (almond sugar cookies, also a Christmas specialty throughout the country) with goat butter and freshly roasted almonds. What’s the date again ??
Address: 19 Aghias Sophias and Georgiou Stavrou street
Have you been to Thessaloniki and Blé bakery-patisserie-café? What’s your favorite among their menu?