Preparing for Christmas can be such a drag. The pressure is always on to try and do things better than you did last year and no one ever acknowledges the lengths you have gone to to make it a special day.
Sometimes it helps to have an easy reference guide to know where to go and what to do as you prepare for the culinary feast that is Christmas.
So what you have before you is a foodies guide to Christmas.
This is a collection of all the places to go to and things which you can buy so that you can enjoy a culinary Christmas with a difference.
The six major markets in Melbourne will be operating throughout the festive season so you will be able to get all the freshest of produce and meats, seafoods, cheeses, olives and nuts to enjoy during the Festive season.
Queen Victoria Market will be open on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of next week and the Thursday and Friday in the run up to New Year’s Eve.
The South Melbourne Market will be open from Tuesday to Friday next week and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the following week.
Footscray Market will be open from Tuesday to Friday over the next two weeks.
Prahran Market will be open from Wednesday to Friday next week and the Thursday and Friday before New Years.
Preston Market will be open from Tuesday to Friday this week and Wednesday to Friday the following week.
Dandenong Market will be open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of both weeks.
Going to a market sure beats shopping at a supermarket both in quality and in prices.
The Festive season is a perfect reason for you to up the stakes when it comes to the alcohol you serve on the day.
Serving new generation Greek wines and beers is a fantastic way of adding a twist to the beverages you serve.
Vergina beer is a crisp, cool premium Greek lager that can be enjoyed with a range of traditional and modern foods.
It can be found at selected bottle shops, including Bentleigh Fine Wines, Colossus in Doncaster the Psarakos Liquor Stores in Thornbury and Bundoora and the St Albans Super IGA.
Alpha and Keos beers are also light and refreshing and can be found at selected bottle shops across Melbourne.
If enjoying premium Greek wines is your thing head to Europa Cellars in East Melbourne and look for their range of premium wines from the Kir Yianni and Gaia Estate.
The Gaia Notios White and the Kir Yianni Petra White are great white wines while the Gaia Notios Red and the Kir Yianni Ramnista are great Greek reds.
You should also keep an eye out for the the ‘new generation’ wines by Tsantalis such as the accessible mid-range Halkidiki reds and whites and the premium red Rapsanis Reserve.
These wines can be found at selected bottle shops including IGA Oakleigh, Colossus in Doncaster nd the Psarakos Liquor Stores in Thornbury and Bundoora.
Olives and olive oils
There are a great range of olives and olive oils produced from Greek varietals by producers of Greek heritage in Australia.
The best Kalamata olives I have enjoyed in 2010 were from local olive grower Axedale whose olives are firm and tasty and perfectly cured.
Their olive oil pressed from late harvest Koroneiki olives are outstanding. Their olives and olive oils can also be found at the Continental Deli in Hawthorn or by calling them directly on (03) 9421 0701.
Coriole from South Australia also offer sensation award winning extra virgin olive oils and Kalamata olives which can be found at Essential Ingredient in Prahran and selected gourmet food stores.
Kailis olives also produce beautiful olive oils from Kalamata and Koroneiki olives which can be found at David Jones Food halls, Thomas Dux Grocers and selected organic stores.
One should not forget Victorian pioneers Nicolas Olives out at Dimboola whose light and fruity First Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil is available from selected farmers markets around town and from their online store.
Greek grocery shops
Greek grocery shops will be packed to the rafters in the run up to Christmas so it will be good to get in early.
The Athena Deli at Oakleigh Market is a popular destination with its extensive range of Greek foodstuffs, while the Oakleigh Gourmet deli also has an impressive range of Greek cheeses, olives and olive oils.
Colossus Deli just off High Street in Doncaster is one of those grocery stores that people travel miles for its extensive range of Greek foods and sweets, dips and knick knacks.
For those of you who live in the inner north head to the Diana Supermarket in Thornbury for your selection of delectable Greek delights and to Con’s Deli at the Preston Market if you live further north.
For those of you who live around Coburg you should try the Coburg Market deli while those of you who live out west should head out to Celiani in Kealba.
If you are happy to bypass feta and kaseri at the Christmas table this year and chance your arm on artisinal Australian cheeses made by small local cheesemakers, you have several places to go to for cheese with a difference.
Yiota Paraskevopoulos at Milawa Cheese in North Fitzroy has a small but selective range of Australian artisinal cheeses.
As well as carrying a full range of the camemberts, bries and fresh curd cheeses from Milawa, she also carries fantastic Australian cheddars and Australia’s best locally made haloumi.
Bill Tzimas from Bills Farms at the Queen Victoria Market has an outstanding selection of local French style white cheeses and his shop is one of the few places in Melbourne to sell manouri.
Steve Konstantinidis at The Epicurean in the Queen Victoria Market has a great selection of Australian fetas, cheddars and chevres as well as Australian goudas and edam style cheeses.
Tess and Peter Heristanidis at Delicatess at Prahran Market will also tantalise your tastebuds with their selection of Australian artisinal cheeses.
All of them know their cheeses inside out and will be able to advise you on which cheese to serve on your cheese platter on Christmas Day.
One hopes that these tips help you enjoy the Festive season and allow you both the luxury of indulgence and quality over the festive season.
One also wishes you a solid season of culinary indulgence and the exercise regime to survive it into the new year.