Food Festival season may be in full swing, but so are 10-page papers. There is little to be festive about during midterms. It’s hard enough for me to get to my blogging. But amid the stress, I managed to break away from my studies for the Annual Greek Festival a few weekends ago.
Upon arriving, a great white tent was the beacon that led me to the food. A menu filled with Greek goodness greeted and entreated me upon my entrance into the tent. Before me a long line of silver pans, each filled to the brim with food. Wafting smells of fried, greasy food met with the sweet accents of honey, cinnamon, allspice and nuts. As a made my way down the production line, jovial Greek workers piled my plate high with mounds of spanakopita, pastitsio, gyros, green beans and loukoumades. I could barely fit a bottled water onto the plate! My mouth was watering even before I reached the cash register. Even if you come to a festival completely full, you always seem to make room for more.
For those unable to attend, I will taunt you with pictures and descriptions of all the food.
Spanakopita, or spinach pie, is a cheesy, flaky phyllo pastry and spinach dish. They call it a Greek snack, but the chunk I was served filled up a significant portion of my stomach. Savory spinach combined with feta and/or ricotta cheese, onions, eggs and seasonings like parsley, oregano, dill, etc., all layered within some flaky, buttery phyllo pastry – even kids would have to love this. It’s spinach, but so much more! Overall, it was standard Greek dish well done by this festival.
My first entrée [I was going to have more than one because I was starving from all that paper writing, of course] was the pastitsio. Pastitsio is like a meaty pasta casserole, but far superior due to the delicious Bechamel sauce and nutmeg that are crucial components to this divine concoction. Although this dish can be seen throughout the Mediterranean, it fit in nicely alongside my other dishes. The dish started with a solid bottom layer of pasta and egg, followed by a pile of ground beef and spices, and topped with a Bechamel sauce and more pasta, sprinkled with cheese and nutmeg. On the side, some seasoned green beans, soft to chew, but great in taste. A heaping spoonful of Pastitsio right after the Spanakopita was the perfect choice. The nutmeg compliments the taste of spinach well, and the heartiness of the meat and pasta were a welcome guest to my Greek plate party.
Next, the gyro. Pronounced “jiro”, for those of us not Greek inclined. Oh what a combination: spit-roasted lamb meat, tomato, onion, lettuce and tzatziki sauce all served rolled up inside a thick pita. The contrast of hot sandwich with cold cucumber sauce was astounding. I mean, really, what isn’t ultimately better with tzatziki – a cold sauce made from yogurt, cucumber, garlic, dill and lemon juice? Unfortunately, most of the sauce was shoved to the front of the gyro making for a tasty start, but a disappointing finish. I will have to investigate ways to make this one at home…
Finally, the sweet, fried dough balls drenched in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon. Loukoumades are like little doughnuts, they say. They are a bit different from your midnight munchies run to Dunkin’ Donuts, but we are talking scrumptious ethnic doughnuts here. Each little ball of dough was soaked in honey – completely saturated in sweetness. It was the kind of thing you had to take one at a time, making it made it last much longer than I anticipated [which is a good thing to be certain]. It was a wonderful finish to the meal.
Afterwards I could barely move; my stomach and arteries were pleading no more!
But then why does it all taste so good?! Needless to say, the Greek Festival was a hit. My taste buds were left with a happy tingling sensation, and I knew I was going to be full for the next 3 days, easily.