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One fast year has gone by since our last Greek festival and it’s looking like the 2014 St. Demetrios’ Greek festival is going to be bigger and better than ever!  I took a quick stroll this morning through the church grounds and was I impressed. It looks tight and well put together.  Many folk have worked long and hard on this event and I’m happy to report it paid off.  Let’s take a behind the scenes peek-see at what REALLY goes on!

The glorious dome!

The glorious dome!

It all begins in the church.  Under our magnificent dome tours are given to educate those interested on many different topics represented in the architecture of the church.  For many years I’ve caught snippets and bits of these tours while running from the kitchen to the food line or back but this I have deemed is the year I get to enjoy the entire presentation.  And you get to ask questions!

7 years of Greek school and I'm still stuck on the English side!

7 years of Greek school and I’m still stuck on the English side!

Signing in at the volunteer station was a breeze.  People are coming and going so there’s always someone you run into that you haven’t seen in a while.  Father John’s wife, Presbytera Abbey, seen left, is always ready to give of her time AND with a sincere smile on her face.  Anna, fluent in Greek, is a Greek school classmate of mine.  Her son, Dimitri, and my son James, which is Dimitri in Greek, danced together for many years.  Best of friends, they were on the altar together, traveled through Greece together and got in trouble together.  Anna and I will toast with a Metaxa to both of them later!

Sign in, please!  And thanks for all your help!

Sign in, please! And thanks for all your help!

As you can well imagine the kitchen is a hive of activity.  Chicken is roasting, salads are prepped and onions are chopped for a myriad of dishes.  Mammoth lamb shanks are bathed in a thick tomato sauce perfumed with cinnamon, onion and parsley.  That same sauce will be drizzled over hot krytharaki, orzo, and with a little feta on top???  It’s just sublime.

I eat these beans called 'yigantes" all year long.  Creamy and oh so savory I could eat this whole pot!

I eat these beans called ‘yigantes” all year long. Creamy and oh so savory I could eat this whole pot!

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We are blessed this year that the person who stepped up for kitchen duty is our Nicole.  She is staggeringly talented but always calm and collected in the midst of a huge amount of kitchen activity.  And she’s cute!  You can thank her for just about everything you eat with the exception of the pastries.

Chef Nicole.  Don't EVEN think about messing with her!

Chef Nicole. Don’t EVEN think about messing with her!

Wait wait!  Did I say pastries?  Why, yes.  Yes I did.  Our women’s group, Philoptochos, has worked tirelessly on the pastries and desserts for the festival.  All your dearest and best-loved sweets are here.  And these beautiful women have baked them.  In between mixing dough and tossing confectioner’s sugar they visit and catch up with each other.  It’s fantastic!  I was able to join them once when I wasn’t working and I had the time of my life.

Beer and pastries for all! (I wish.)

Beer and pastries for all! (I wish.)

These ladies are the best of friends.  They laugh together and cry together.  And they move mountains.  They will end up spending most of the weekend helping at the festival.

Loved by all!

Loved by all!

Now that we’ve bought our desserts let’s go outside for drinks and dinner!

Meze, Father?

Meze, Father?

Shall we start with an appetizer of flaming cheese and sausage, saganaki kai loukaniko?  I’ve found if you share it you have plenty of room for lamb shanks or an over the top stuffed gyro!  Or if you wish for something lighter go for some Greek meatballs, keftedes and a Greek salad studded with shards of feta.  Mmmmm…!

The czar of saganaki and loukaniko, Louie has been lighting Metaxa brandy to the delight of scores since the inception of the festival.  He makes a killer sandwich.  Watch your eyebrows.

The czar of saganaki and loukaniko, Louis has been lighting Metaxa brandy to the delight of scores since the inception of the festival. He makes a killer plate. Watch your eyebrows.

Everyone in the church is invited to help out for festival.  Every year we hear who’s coming back, from college kids to young married couples who know how important this festival is.  James is knee-deep in schoolwork, concentrating on his senior capstone project and won’t be able to come down this year.  But Louie’s grandson, Elias, is carrying on the tradition of working at the St. Demetrios festival.

Don't let Elias' good looks fool you!  He is a gifted and powerful speaker having won countless oratorical competitions nationwide representing Saint Demetrios.

Don’t let Elias’ good looks fool you! He is a gifted and powerful speaker having won countless oratorical competitions nationwide representing Saint Demetrios.  We’re so proud of him!

Did you think I forgot drinks?  And coffee?  Heck, no!  Stroll on over to the bar for some smooth, full Greek red wine or a cold Greek beer.

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After all that you’ll need a coffee.  Greek coffee.  It’s thick and strong.  If you’re lucky maybe one of the pastry ladies will read your grounds for you.

The pot used to make Greek coffee is called a "briki".

The pot used to make Greek coffee is called a “briki”.

This is a great little cookie perfect for dunking in your coffee.  They're called "koulourakia" and I love them because they're not too sweet...Just loaded with butter!

This is a great little cookie perfect for dunking in your coffee. They’re called “koulourakia” and I love them because they’re not too sweet…just loaded with butter!

My last stop is always the church bookstore on the way out.  Larry has beautiful little icons, incense burners and incense which has been blessed.  There are prayer bracelets, theology books and cookbooks.  It’s a real treasure trove and I always walk to my car with bags loaded with goodies.

Shopping!

Shopping!

You know? Maybe I’ll just get another beer and sit over here and check out my new cookbook!

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