Saturday, June 12, 2010

Syracuse Greek Cultural Festival at Saint Sophia's Church

Hey All!
Gonna switch it up a tad, and rather than post a recipe this time, I'm going to relate my adventures at the aforementioned Greek Festival at Saint Sophia's Church in Dewitt. The Festival opened Thursday night (which is the night I went), and ends tomorrow night, for more details, go here:

     Pardon the bad grammar, but I love me a good cultural festival. The food is basically guaranteed to be delicious, because the cooking is the real deal, prepared by the real professionals, the ethnic grandmothers :) Interesting stuff for sale, music, dance, sometimes there are lectures and suchlike, and everyone is in such a good mood, it's absolutely infectious. I went alone, just me and my camera, and I had a great time :) Cultural Festivals are a great atmosphere for observing a piece of real life. People are just having fun, doing their thing, and being themselves. There's an unpretentious quality to events of this type that I'm having difficulty putting into words, the festivity is very.....honest....that's the best I can do, but I think you can understand what I mean.

  One of the first things I saw when I wandered into the food tent was this:
 Apparently, someone had had the brilliant idea to create an Ouzo flavored non-alcoholic soda (and may I applaud the use of Pure Cane Sugar!!! :) I'm hot and cold on Ouzo. I don't really care for licorice or licorice- flavored things. However, I once took a shot of ice-cold Ouzo on a super-hot summer day whilst lounging poolside at a friend's house, and it was damn refreshing and totally appropriate in that atmosphere. So, thinking the soda might be similar, I made a mental note to give it a try before the evening was over.

    Before jumping into the super long food line, I went into the church social hall and poked around, looking at the various books, jewelry and suchlike they had for sale. While inside, I had my first culinary adventure of the night. I was introduced to a confection called Loukoumi, which is essentially Turkish Delight, or a gelatin based dessert: Observe:

They were 50 cents each, so I took a vanilla flavored piece, and the piece pictured above, which was, get this, ROSE flavored. The vanilla Loukoumi was good, but unremarkable, the Rose flavored Loukoumi, however, really left an impression on me. It really did taste like Roses. I wouldn't exactly call it it sweet, I actually don't even know that I would consider it dessert-like. It tasted like eating rose petals, which was oddly enjoyable, and a wonderful change from the sticky sweetness that usually comes with gelatin-based confections. I would almost put it in the "palate cleanser" category. At any rate, I enjoyed it :)

  Eventually, I wandered back outside and got in line for food. For those of you who don't know, I have an unreasonable obsession with Dolmades (rice stuffed grape leaves), Sweet Jesus, I love those things. So, I got an order of those, Lamb Souvlaki with rice and salad, and sat down to watch the kids and teens from the Church's Greek School perform. Perhaps not the most adventurous choices for dinner, but there's always something to be said for familiarity and comfort food. For the record, the Lamb and Dolmades were excellent :) And so was the dancing :)

    After dinner,  I took a tour of the church itself, which was very beautiful indeed, and then got in the extremely long (but reasonably fast-moving) line for pastries and other desserts. Having gone traditional with dinner, I went for a pastry that I had not only never tried before, but had never even heard of. It was called Galactobouriko. Galactobouriko is phyllo dough with custard filling and soaked in honey syrup. It was a really enjoyable mix of flavor and texture. The crunchy phyllo, the cool, dense custard, and the sweet (but not cloying) honey syrup. The flavors were light, but the dessert was certainly substantial, and left me totally satisfied, God Bless the Greeks, they know their pastry:)
Dessert accomplished, I went back to the first thing that caught my attention, the Ouzo- flavored soda. I will definitely say that the licorice flavor was not overpowering, which I appreciated. But, while I did like it, the soda was only served cool, not cold, which took away from the experience for me. Ouzon (the brand name of the soda) would have been excellent served over ice, much like it's alcoholic counterpart, and under those circumstances, would be an ideal summer drink, very refreshing :)

   I was at Greek Fest on a Thursday night. I wish I could have gone on a weekend  night, because on those nights they give an open Greek Dancing Lesson that I would have loved to participate in:) That not being an option, however, and having just eaten like a Queen, I got comfy and watched more dancing :)
When the opportunities arise, go to the cultural festivals in your area, they are indeed worth it, trust me on this one:) Okay, got to do it, OPA!!! Be Well:)