As the weather turns cooler (at least in theory) it seems like Tallahassee cranks up the social calendar to full force. On the docket this weekend was the Greek Food Festival at the Holy Mother of God Greek Orthodox Church.
This is an event we look forward to each year for the delicious food and little else. It’s generally crowded and noisy, and we’ve often gone long enough to pick up one of the plated dinners ($15 a piece) and a tray of desserts and fled to the car (which has been parked a block away, at least). I know, that doesn’t sound incredibly festive, does it?
Well, this year we tried things a little differently. We slowed down, enjoyed the evening and admired the church by the light of the full moon.
Because of Todd’s current job and it’s habit of having him work a bit late, we didn’t make it to the Festival until after dark, around 7:30. It was no less crowded or noisy (thanks to the band, but to call it noise probably isn’t acurate–the music was great but there was an added din from the crowd) but we decided to take our time.
First up, a gyro. Even though there’s a Greek restaurant across the street from my office I often forget about it. Thus, it’s probably been a year or my since my last gyro. Why I’ve gone so long without it’s delectable goodness is beyond me, but the one we got was well worth the wait in line and the $6 a piece they cost.
Foregoing the dinner plates meant that in order to enjoy a full meal we’d be waiting in a few more lines before the night was done. It turns out that this is a perfect way to graze through an evening meal. You get your first course and eat it while deciding which line to stand in next.
In our case we went for the A La Carte booth that carried various and sundry side dishes: moussaka, kota riganati, patates, Greek-style cole slaw and, our selections of the evening, spanikopita and tiropita ($3 each). We each has a spinach pastry of our own but split the cheese one. That turned out to be a very good idea as the tiropita was incredibly rich, half of one was more than plenty.
The crowds around the three jewelry and souvenir booths were still pretty thick and it was getting late so we went ahead and got in line for the pastry room. Oh, my, this is what dreams are made of. Yes, I’m perfectly capable of making my own baklava and sundry other pastries but it’s just not the same. The line is long to get in but moves fairly quickly and, once inside, the pastries are all laid out with plenty of help to serve you whatever you like.
We start with the Express Box ($15 for finikia, kataife, kourambiedes, walnut swirl, pecan swirl, almond cookie and a baklava triangle) and then add a few favorites to our tray on the way to checking out ($2-$3 a piece). The kataife look like shredded wheat biscuits but are soaked in honey and filled with nuts, they are my absolute favorites. Second runner-up is the galatoboureko (glazed filo rolls filled with custard) and Todd loves the almond cookies and kourambiedes (wedding cookies covered in powdered sugar).
A new find, this year, was rice pudding ($4) that was not overly sweet with grains of rice that still held their texture–it was divine and we almost missed it because they were only on the right-hand side of the room and we’d taken the left side. Thankfully I spied it between groups passing by and snagged a cup.
Those were for later, though. First we headed over to the Taverna for a glass of sweet Greek wine($4 a glass) then browsed the vendor booths, the crowds around which were thinning out, and had a baby raccoon run right behind us. I figure he was either looking for leftovers or trying to tell us to pack it in for the night.
But we had one more stop to make. The wine was nearly gone and we needed something salty to balance the sweet so over to the Souvlaki tent where the Greek Fries ($3) were hiding. At this point in the evening (9 pm) the lines were practically non-existent and the crowds had thinned enough where you didn’t have to hurt your neck trying to see the band and the dancers on stage.
The fries are awesome. To duplicate them at home season your favorite fries with oregano, garlic powder, salt, paprika and parmesan cheese. You know the only thing that would have made them better? Some garlic aioli to dip them in.
We figured, at the end of the night, we’d spent pretty much the same amount on food as we did in previous years when it was glorified take-out and had a lot more fun in the process. We grabbed a couple of our refillable water bottles out of the fridge before leaving the house so, even with the wine, we spent $32 dollars on dinner and $34 in the pastry hall (but those will last us for several days, still), which is a great deal considering our usual night outs are at least another $30 and don’t provide us excellent desserts for the following week.
Have you checked out your local food festivals, lately?