Friday, May 20, 2011

Get him to the Greek... Food Festival.

FOUR-PACK OF GOODNESS:  $6 for these Greek pastries
  • FOUR-PACK OF GOODNESS: $6 for these Greek pastries
This is what so many people think of when they think of the Greek Food Festival. And yes, you can get baklava there. And sourota. And melomacarona. And sweet bread and butter cookies and Pasta Flora and Kourambiethes and even chocolate baklava. But if you think the Greek Food Festival is just about picking up pastries… well, hrm.
Last year somewhere between 18,000 and 20,000 people came out to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church to eat, dance, party, learn, eat, shop, listen, eat and eat. The largest festival of its sort in the state, it’s in its 27th year and still busy busy busy,. And it’s still free.
I went over to the church this morning to check out the set-up and find out a bit more about things. After walking through the pastries set out on row after row of tables in the back of the main hall of the building, I took a few shots of the Greek Market and went into the kitchen.

There, Pete was cooking up batches of spanikopita. The spinach-filled pastry is available in a couple of different ways — baked like a casserole, in long pastry rolls or in small appetizer-sized triangles. He sprinkled a little water over the tops of the pastries before putting them in the oven.
The spanikopita, like so many other dishes, was made in advance over a period  of several months by the folks at the church. Pete says the baking starts February 1st, with pan after pan of baklava put back and frozen. His famed dressing was one of the last things to be made — and he started with that on Monday.
You have to have a large amount of food prepared for the festival. I went out and talked with Tina Alley, who knows all about what’s going on at this year’s festival. She crunched some numbers on the festival for me. Want to know how much food is really served out there each year? Try a whole ton of chicken. 2100 pounds of potatoes. 1100 pounds of lamb. 38,500 pieces of pastry. And still it may not be enough. Last year the pastries ran out on Saturday night. The horror! There are more this year, but every single year the festival grows more.
I got to talk to Mr. “Hot and Juicy” himself, Adam Kahmis, otherwise known as the Gyro Guy. The nickname comes from what he hollers — which you’re bound to hear at the gyro tent. “Come get your hot and juicy here!” he bellows, and folks do come running. He shaves off the beef-lamb combination on the gyro cone and gives it a fry on the griddle before passing it over to be placed in pitas and topped with tzatziki sauce, tomatoes and onions. He estimates he’ll make 3000 gyros, easy. I have a feeling it’s more than that. They’ll go through more than 100 cones of meat these next couple of days.

I could talk for hours about this, but wanted to bring you this look early this morning. For you vegetarians out there — you need to check out the Jerusalem CafĂ©. It’s all meatless fare — hummus in pita, falafel, tabouleh salad. This year there are also new dishes being offered — Mezethes, or “small plates,” with calamari or Greek sausage served up with olives and Feta. Oh, yum. Just $5.
So, ya wanna go? You know parking can be crazy — which is why I advocate utilizing the shuttle service from Agape to the south or Asbury Methodist to the north. There have been more shuttles arranged so you shouldn’t have to wait as long for one. The other option is to do the valet parking — at $10 it might be worth it to have someone else park and fetch your car!
And of course there’s the drive-thru. You can order online and pick it up without ever leaving your car. I don’t know of any other festival that offers that.
And it's all for charity. How cool is that?
Anyway, lots more information over at the festival website. I’ll see you there.

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