It's the 33rd year for the state's largest ethnic food festival, and there's a lot to try out. While the gyro is the go-to for most folks, I'm skipping it this year for different fare.
Well, you can't do the Greek Food Fest without the baklava. For six months before the event - starting in December! - the folks at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church tediously create and freeze pans of the pastry. They're then baked, sliced and packaged beforehand. No matter how many are made, there's never enough.
This year, a very limited number of pans of baklava will be offered when the festival opens. They sell for $50 and they freeze for later - which means you can enjoy the Greek Food Fest months from now.
A 1/3 lb. patty of flavorful ground lamb meat seasoned with Greek spices (think Cavender's, an Arkansas product) and topped with tzatziki sauce, feta cheese and lettuce, all served on a fresh bun made locally. Greek flavor, American sandwich!
This was my favorite new dish from last year, and I'm glad it's returning. The Mediterranean Lamb Shank Dinner is a bone-in cut of lamb slow-braised in a tomato wine sauce, served with rice and green beans. So succulent, so meaty, so... okay, now I have to clean the drool off my keyboard.
Okay, I know, everyone loves baklava and it'll always have a place in my heart - but this spice, nut and filo-rolled pastry dipped in honey syrup just makes me so very, very happy. The perfect dessert finger food.
Loblolly Creamery has teamed up with the festival for three new flavors that are new this year. The honey yogurt is light and refreshing, with a ribbon of locally-produced Fischer honey throughout. The ChocLava is Loblolly's excellent chocolate ice cream embedded with the crumbs of thousands of baklava pieces made for the festival (hey, they needed to go somewhere!) and it's just as decadent as you'd expect. But my personal favorite is the daring strawberry feta ice cream - with fresh, slightly salty feta cheese in a fresh strawberry cream. It's sweet and salty and really, really good.
The one dish Grav must have each time, and for good reason - it's the only time of year you can get a really satisfying slice of pastitsio you can buy within Arkansas's borders (unless you're really, truly good friends with an old Greek family). A Bechemel bounty of perfection.
I don't know what it is about these little almond wedding cookies rolled in powdered sugar, but you can always tell when I've made my trip out to the festival by the white sugar fingerprints on my clothes. Light and humble, I can always get behind a great kourambiethes... or several.
Learn more about the Greek Food Festival here - and be sure to drop in before it ends Sunday.