By Marina Petridou
It’s nearly impossible to visit Ioannina and not try Select’s custard cream or feta cheese-filled bougatsa. This charming little pastry shop is located on Averof Street, Ioannina’s main street. The shop’s distinctive orange window display is simple yet eye-catching, and its pink walls complement the 60s décor perfectly.
Vasiliki Kaskani and her husband, who had learned the craft of pastry-making at Sakellariou, the oldest bougatsa shop in Ioannina, opened the store in 1964. He taught Vasiliki how to make bougatsa and she continues the tradition to this day. She goes to the shop every day, overseeingthe preparation and teaching her daughter and her son-in-law the secrets of the trade,andshefrequently serves the shop’s loyal customers herself.
She claims that the key to their success is in the ingredients and how they use them. Everything is made by hand. They use local cow’s milk to make the custard cream filling for the sweet bougatsa, and only Dodoni feta cheese for the savory bougatsa. However,it is the hand-made filo that makes all the difference. They don’t roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Instead, they stretch it out by hand, tossing it in the air until it is wide and thin.
The bougatsa is baked in large round baking pans and served on small plates, cut into small pieces. The sweet version is topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon, and you can order a mixed plate of sweet and plain savory bougatsa. The delicate, crunchy filo complements the velvety custard, which is just the right amount of sweet, or the fresh, slightly spicy feta cheese. Even though we prefer to eat our bougatsa at the shop, where it is served on tiny little white plates and accompanied by portions of handmade corn flour flatbread (a cross between a short crust pastry and a brioche) that come in separate baskets, we do occasionally take our bougatsa to go and enjoy it by the lake.
A friend, an immigrant from Istanbul, suggested they name the shop Select because the word “select” refers to things of exceptional quality. He must have been on to something…
This article was previously published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.