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Athena Greek and American Family Restaurant

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All About Good Food and Family

By Barbara King

The kitchen at Athena is full of activity, and like everything else about this unique restaurant, it’s all about family, all the time.

The Sklavenitis family, sister co-owners Vicky and Effie run an authentic dining experience like no other. Recipes handed down from generation to generation remain the mainstays on the menu, infused with Greek flavors and love for good food.

Athena opened in 2013 and is growing strong thanks to their good friends and customers that keep coming back according to Vicky. The clientele started out with folks who had visited Greece and were familiar with the food but has grown by word of mouth to regulars who can’t get enough of the atmosphere and homemade delicacies.

Vicky and her daughter-in-law Mariam are running the show in the kitchen tonight, but the entire family is involved and makes the place the labor of love that is quite evident as you are greeted warmly at the door.

“You have to be passionate about food, people, and service,” Vicky said, explaining that the 90 hour weeks are not for the faint of heart. “We get in early, get the prep work done, which includes three different Greek homemade soups, salads, and of course, our specialty Greek desserts,” she explained.

Vicky and her family make sure you are made right at home and make it a point to visit with customers at their tables. Vicky said, “If you order something and it is not to your liking, we make sure that we make it right every time, and will bring you something else to try from the menu. Our goal is to make sure no one goes home hungry, and everybody leaves happy.”

The family hails from the Greek island of Lekas, and moved to North Carolina to begin their restaurant business, then on to Tyler. Every family member pitches in, and the kitchen is a whirlwind of activity, from chopping the fresh vegetables to slicing the gyro off the roasting spit.

The menu is a cornucopia of delights; appetizers including traditional hummus, dolmas (imported grape leaves stuffed with rice, served with tzatziki and pita bread) rotisserie gyro, spanakopita (fresh spinach pie) are all served with exquisite presentation and attention to detail.

Salads are perfection, including Aphrodite’s salad, served with fresh spinach leaves and strawberries, with feta cheese, tossed in their own balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Traditional Greek favorites are a taste sensation, including chicken or pork souvlaki, lamb shish kabob, pastistio (layers of pasta and ground beef sautéed in herbs and spices, topped with bechamel sauce, and served with warm pita bread), and mousaka (layers of roasted potato, eggplant, parmesan cheese, and ground beef). Drunk pork chops are marinated in Greek wine and grilled with Greek spices.

Greek food isn’t complete without traditional pitas, and there are a lot to choose from: famous gyro pita, pork, chicken, lamb, vegetarian, philly, or kefte (Greek meatballs wrapped in a pita topped with diced cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, tzatziki, and parsley).

Athena literally has something for everyone. For those craving more traditional items there is Grecian spaghetti, lasagna, chicken parmesan, manicotti, and spaghetti kima (homemade meat sauce).

Craving something from the sea? Athena also has tilapia. They offer a variety of platters that will fill 

 

everyone up including the Gyro Plate (lamb and beef served with tzatziki sauce, French fries, Greek salad, and warm pita bread), Athena’s Combo (beef and chicken, onions and peppers, tzatziki , pita, and Greek potatoes), or Athena’s trio (pastitso, moussaka, spanakopita, and warm pita bread).

Drop by during lunch for soup and salad, lamb souvlaki, gyro and Greek salad, and pork or chicken souvlaki, with lunch items ranging from $5.95 to $9.95.

You can’t leave Athena without trying some of their homemade baklavas, layers of filo pastry, filled with chopped nuts, syrup, and honey. It will leave you wanting more and more! Other items on the dessert menu are Galaktoboureko (Semolina custard in filo dough) tiramisu, chocolate, or cheesecake.

You can enjoy beer and wine with your meal, including authentic Greek wines. In the future, the sisters hope to bring a nephew from Greece for a few months to entertain customers with great music while they dine.

Athena’s also caters and has handled weddings, corporate lunches, and events in the Tyler area.

When your dinner arrives, garnished with feta, olives, and warm pita bread, it looks almost too good to eat! Vicky said, “You have to love to cook and serve the best food you can prepare to your guests. Our motto is, ‘When you’re here, you’re family,’ and we truly believe that.”

Athena is open Monday-Thursday, 11am-9pm, Friday and Saturday, 11am-9:30pm, and Sunday, 11am-9pm. Athena is located at 1593 WSW Loop 323 in Tyler.

For more info call (903)561-8065, go to athenagreekrestaurant.com, or find them on Facebook at Athena Greek and American Family Restaurant.

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Around East Texas

Festival of Fruit: 34th Annual Tomato Fest Saturday, June 9th

34th Annual Tomato Fest Saturday, June 9th

Welcome to Jacksonville – home of the best tasting fruit – tomatoes!

Local farmers are busy getting ready for the upcoming 34th Annual Tomato Fest in Jacksonville, Texas by planting acres of the best tastin’ tomatoes. Join the celebration Saturday, June 9th in downtown Jacksonville for a BIG day of activities that will be happening all day long. Over 200+ vendors and all kinds of festival food, including the famous fried green tomatoes, Farmers Market, $500 Got Talent Contest, Car Show, Motorcycle Show, Tennis Tournament, Soccer Tournament, Softball Tournament, Entertainment, Kidz Zone, and so much more will cover 5 blocks downtown. Tomato events include Salsa Contest, Tomato Eating and Peeling Contest, Tomato Archery, Tomato Shoot, Best Home Grown Tomato Contest, Tomato Packing Contest and tour the Tomato Shed. Saturday evening, Chili’s Street Dance will take place featuring Brian Chance Band and Lady Chazz and the Tramps. 

Activities kick off on Saturday, June 2nd with a 5k run sponsored by All Smiles. Monday, June 4th and Tuesday, June 5th is Family First Clinic’s corporate challenge Dodgeball Tournament. On Wednesday, June 6th, a Gospel Concert sponsored by Whataburger featuring, The Group, will perform at Central Baptist Church. New this year on Thursday, June 8th  is the Farm to Table dinner event that will take place at Castle on the Lake on beautiful Lake Jacksonville and will be catered by Rob Gowin, Sadler’s Kitchen & Catering. A 4 Man Scramble takes place at the Cherokee Ranch Golf Club on Friday, June 8th. The final Tomato Fest week celebration ends at Lake Jacksonville with a Ski Show on Sunday, June 10th.

Taste for yourself the best tomatoes and fun festival packed with lots to do for everyone.  For additional information, contact Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce at (903)586-2217, or go to  JacksonvilleTexas.com/Tomato-Fest or Facebook.com/JacksonvilleChamber.

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Fitness

East Texans Learn to “Live Healthy”

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This Month at Integrative Health Matters:

Integrative Health Matters offers a healthy alternative to losing weight.

“Food is the real medicine. Through our innovative, hands-on programs, we aim to inspire healthy change through education. Diseases, chronic conditions, inflammation, and immune system disorders are often attributed to diet. Food is the medicine that can fix the problem. Integrative Health Matters is lifestyle medicine. It’s not about drugs and doctor’s appointments. It’s about how to eat right, how to think right, and to understand all the things we have to do to stay healthy,” said neurosurgeon Guy Danielson, medical director and founder of Integrative Health Matters. “This is root cause (medicine), not covering up symptoms with something from the pharmacy. The pharmacy is out in the garden.”

The public has opportunities to visit Integrative Health Matters at any of these classes:

  • Every Wednesday (12:15-1:15pm) – Mindful Movements ; (5:15-6:15pm) – “Just Breathe” Meditation
  • May 4th (10-11am) – Functional Food Friday: Detoxing
  • May 8th (6-7:30pm) – Kitchen Talk: Tabbouleh with Karol
  • May 11th (10-11am) – Functional Food Friday: Eating Seasonally
  • May 21st (6-7:30pm) – The Good News About Type 2 Diabetes
  • May 22nd (6-7:30pm) – Kitchen Talk: Raising Healthy Eaters
  • May 25th (10-11am) – Functional Food Friday: Eating Healthy on a Budget

Cooking classes offered twice monthly are in-depth health and cooking presentations. These “Kitchen Talks” invite the public into the IHM instructional kitchen to learn to cook tasty and nutritious meals and create a healthy home environment.

Integrative Health Matters is located at 419 WSW Loop 323 #400 in Tyler, next to La Madeleine. For information about Integrative Health Matters, contact (903)595-8077 or visit ihm.life.

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Around East Texas

Pure Bliss at M6 Winery

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M6 Winery:

Celebrating Life & Good Things

Written and Photographed by Barbara Greenbauer

Take some time to wind down, breathe, and enjoy a superb glass of wine at M6 Winery & Tasting Room and Gift Shop in downtown Bullard. Owners Joe and Anne Moody set the pace as the charming and affable owners who greet you at the door and welcome you inside.

The atmosphere is palatable the minute you arrive, inside the front door is a Texas trove of hand-made one of a kind wood pieces that can either house your own wine collection or accent it. Move along into the inner room and you will feel right at home as you order wine, food, and listen to live music.

Joe Moody is in his element and passionate about his foray into the wine business. Relying on his business background and his interest in the wine-making industry, he has developed an inventory of his own, a grand selection of whites and reds that will be taste bud treats to either the wine connoisseur or novice.

“Wine is about celebrating life and the good things,” explains Moody. “Anne and I have traveled from California to Italy and experienced multitudes of vineyards and tasting rooms.  We were ready to bring all of our experiences to East Texas.” M6 derives its name from the Moody’s family of six, including the four grown children who were a piece of the business from its infancy. M6 Winery & Tasting Room is nestled on a corner of downtown Bullard, a piece of property Joe Moody has owned for over 20 years that has served as his office for both an oil/gas and real estate business over the years.

“Creating a good wine is an act of love and patience,” explains Moody. “Grapes cannot be rushed and in the process, you have to be aware of what you are looking for in a flavor profile. It takes a lot of planning and preparation; blending is like art with different aromas, colors, and flavors.”

The tasting room is an experience in itself, from the beautiful front and center bar fashioned from the ribs of wine barrels to the tin roof and rough cedar ceiling accents. Choose your wine and sit back while local musicians entertain.

There’s another great space outside that the Moody’s affectionately call The Vinery, a vine-covered patio with plenty of room and great furniture to sit on while you  enjoy the Texas weather.

Your palette will applaud you when you sample an M6 original wine. White wines include the Blue Norther, an aromatic semi-sweet Riesling with hints of apples and stone fruit. The Bluebonnet is an off-dry white blend, perfect for poultry, fish, and pasta dishes. Or try the Sweet TexAnne, named for Mrs. Moody, with sweet honeysuckle and strawberry overtones. This wine is perfect for summer salads and cheeses and is sweet enough to serve as a light dessert wine.

The Texas Viognier is an unoaked, medium to full-bodied dry wine, with notes of pears, honeysuckle, and tangerine. It pairs well with roasted poultry, orange chicken, seafood, apricots, fennel, capers, or pumpkin.

M6’s Rosé wines include the Blushing Texan, a semi-sweet Rosé wine blend with a light pink color. The appropriately monikered Tyler Rosé is a dry blend with a touch of High Plains Zinfandel. This blend was created especially for our local Tyler market and its famous association with roses.

If red is more your thing, there are lots to choose from. Friendship Red is made with the hearty Ruby Cabernet grape. It is a great compliment to all things pasta, as it goes great with all sauces, from marinara to Alfredo.

The Moodys very first Signature Blend is Vintner’s Touch, a bold red blend that pairs well with roasted meats. This blend is made from grapes grown both in Texas and California.

Red Texana is great with Texas BBQ or Tex-Mex dishes. It is full-bodied and made from the Ruby Cabernet grape. It has a spicy finish.

Feel free to pair your wine with meat, cheese, or combo plates, olive oil with bread and spices, or a slider plate. Paired flights include a chocolate or cheese, and of course, you can do a Tasting Flight of five different wines and keep the signature M6 tasting glass. M6 wines range from an affordable $18 to $28 a bottle.

Be part of the family and join the M6 Wine Club to experience the best of their offerings with five special wine shipments annually. When it’s time to get your selections, M6 offers a complimentary glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres to members at pickup parties.

M6 can host your private party and create personalized wine labels to commemorate any event from birthdays to anniversaries.

Joe has nothing but compliments for the wine-growing community in East Texas, saying “We are all very supportive of each other and share resources and information.”

Mark your calendars for the Piney Woods Wine Festival, running May 11th-12th and join M6 and the other 18 wineries on the trail for a spectacular weekend of music, art, and of course, lots of wine to taste.

Lauren and Bobby Grounds from Tyler wanted a new destination and searched the internet for wine and live music and found M6. “We love this venue,” said Lauren. “It’s very different and fun, and the wine is fantastic.” They were trying the Blue Norther and the Blushing Texan with a cheese plate and Billy said “We will definitely be back. We like the atmosphere here.  It’s very welcoming.”

Joe is thrilled that M6 wines are featured at favorite Tyler restaurants, including Rotolo’s, Dakotas, and the Grove. “Mention that you would like to try an M6 wine and you won’t be disappointed,” he said.

The Moodys welcome you to experience M6 Winery & Tasting Room. “We want everyone who visits us to feel like they are our honored guest,” said Joe Moody.

M6 is open Saturdays from 1-6:30pm and is located at 201 W. Main St., Bullard. They can be reached at (903)360-0369, by email at info@m6winery.com, or on Facebook at M6Winery.

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