Tag Archives: loukoumades

2013 Greek Festival…deconstructed!

If it’s the second weekend in February it’s the Greek festival at Saint Demetrios! It’s such an exciting event but there’s a tremendous amount of work involved.  I thought I’d bring you a “behind the scene” peek-see look.  All weekend the kitchen is slammed with people rushing in and out carrying scalding hot trays of succulent lamb shanks or pulling out of the many ovens trays of tender Greek chicken.

Chef Delcho in action!
Chef Delcho in action!

The amount of food that comes out of that kitchen is astounding!  On the other side of the kitchen counter is the baked goods area in the capable hands of our ladies group, Philoptochos.  In the days prior to the festival these ladies have mixed and rolled out cookies that only scream “homemade”!!  Hundreds of snowy white Kourabiedes are stacked waiting for a happy home.

The powdered suger butter cookies just melt in your mouth!
The powdered sugar butter cookies just melt in your mouth!

A fellow Greek school classmate of mine baked cakes from scratch for the festival!  No one asked her to.  But that’s the spirit of our volunteers at St. Demetrios.  That was Mary’s way of doing her part.

This ancient, moist cake is Karythopita.  Its principal ingredient is walnuts...finely chopped, NEVER ground!
This ancient, moist cake is Karythopita. Its principal ingredient is walnuts…finely chopped, NEVER ground!

The list of Greek sweets is almost but not quite endless!

The ladies offer you Diples, sweet, fried ribbons of pastry  splashed with a honey syrup, a sprinkling of chopped walnuts and finally dusted with a pinch of cinnamon.  Can you stand it?
The ladies offer you Diples, sweet, fried ribbons of pastry splashed with a honey syrup, a sprinkling of chopped walnuts and finally dusted with a pinch of cinnamon. Can you stand it?
Chocolate Baklava.  We have without chocolate if you're watching your weight.
Chocolate Baklava. We have without chocolate if you’re watching your weight.

The Greek festival is where you see family members savoring time with each other.  Mom will keep a watchful eye on the children who dance while Dad might help out in the Gyro or Souvlaki booth.

Have you ever seen a more beautiful mother-in-law daughter-in-law team?
Have you ever seen a more beautiful mother-in-law daughter-in-law team?

And what goes perfectly with a Frappe, the Greek equivalent of iced coffee?  Loukoumades!  Soft, round nuggets of dough dropped into vats of boiling oil and fried to golden perfection.  And being Greek you HAVE to gild the lily!  The hot balls are quickly tossed in a honey syrup, then strewn with chopped walnuts and finished with cinnamon.  It’s truly a bowl straight from heaven!

I want this machine!!!!
I want this machine!!!!
And I WILL have Loukoumades!
And I WILL have Loukoumades!

The music plays joyously from speakers well-placed under the tents urging a quick dance with a friend and then a longer drink to catch up.  The kids who dance with the church have been together sometimes since they were toddlers!!  They love to dance, in costume and out, at parties and celebrations.

Handsome Greek boys!
Handsome Greek boys!

All the kids take pride in their costumes, most handmade in Greece, all have meaning.  Ask any one of these kids where their costume’s from and is there any significance to the braiding, the coins or the pleats and they will give a quick lesson.  But in costume or out they truly love dance.

Dance hard and dance fast!
Dance hard and dance fast!

It’s just terrific.  The friendships are lifelong and many of the young people you see come back from college on their own to help out at Festival.  It’s what we do.

Been dancing since grade school and now...college!!
Been dancing since grade school and now…college!!

Dinner’s on and the lamb shanks at St. Demetrios festival are legendary.  The size of a caveman’s club, this is one succulent, fall-off-the-bone tender feast.  Served with Greek orzo, Krytharaki, and a Greek salad you’ll be begging for mercy.

Battle of the Titans!
Battle of the Titans!

There’s spinach pie, Spanakopita and cheese pie, Tyropita.  We have Moussaka, Gyros and Loukaniko, that exquisite Greek sausage flavored with orange peel, flambeed in Metaxa, Greek brandy and served on warm, soft pita bread.  We have a Greek market with gorgeous Greek olives and Greek cheeses that are like nothing you’ve ever had before.

Manouri, Mizithra, Kefalograviera...you can get it all.  Right here.
Manouri, Mizithra, Kefalograviera…you can get it all. Right here.

There’s really something for everyone.  There’s plenty of room to spread out.  Pick up a bottle of wine or couple of Mythos beers,

IMG_4126

gather your parea, your group of friends

Your friendly bartender will help you make wise choices!
Your friendly bartender will help you make wise choices!

and spend a day or two with us as if on an island in Greece. Yassas!

OPA at the Greek Festival!!!!

What a time!  And what a place!  It’s festival time at St. Demetrios and after a huge amount of work organizing, baking, prepping and setting up, it’s time to party!  When I got to the church this afternoon, people were still working out the kinks.  All around I heard “does anybody know where I can find an extension cord?” or “we need another table over here, please” or my favorite “where’s Jim?  does anybody know where Jim is?”.  Slowly but surely it all smooths out to one good time.  I made my way through the big hall and stopped to visit with my favorite Philoptochos ladies.  They are amazing!  They bake unbelievably rich pastries for the festival year after year.  They knit blankets for babies in crisis and have pediatric cancer wards under their wings.  They tell jokes that will make you blush!  These are women from which you truly will learn.  They applaud your smallest triumph.  In conversation, I used the word “avrio”, the Greek word for “tomorrow”, and they immediately noticed and congratulated me.  Hard to believe, but I AM shy and I don’t enjoy someone laughing at me if I’m trying to expand my horizons!!  If ya ketch mah driff!!

Anyway, let me walk you through this mecca of sweet delights!  There were handmade Kourabiedes, hundreds of them, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, rolled in confectioner’s sugar, cookies.  Mmmm.  You just can’t have too many of those.  Diples.  Thin sheets of dough, rolled, deep-fried and tossed in sugar and cinnamon.  One cannot stop breaking off little pieces, working through the roll, until…oh, no!  There’s none left!

My favorite are the Koulourakia.  Butter cookies, not too sweet, perfect with a cup of coffee.  Or grab one on the fly, to tide you over until you have a chance to eat.

But James’ favorite?  (And everyone elses!)  Well, that would have to be the Loukoumades.  Think Greek donut holes but lighter, NEVER greasy, fried morsels of dough bathed in a syrup of Greek honey and orange juice then dressed with finely chopped walnuts.  Finally, after a shower of powdered sugar and cinnamon, they’re handed over to you steaming hot in a bowl with three or forks sticking out SO YOU CAN SHARE THEM WITH YOUR PAREA…YOUR FRIENDS???!!  Honey, it gets no better!!

I’ve helped at the festival for a few years now and I’m always struck by the love these people have for their church and each other.  At the booth where I was working, I was asked to go to the church office to have some admission signs printed.  I went and Susan, who works in the office said “sure, just give me five or ten minutes”.  The office leads into the church.  I wandered in and there was Father Spiro giving one of his scheduled church tours.  I quietly sat down and listened.  He was discussing the iconography, the architecture of the church, and the reasons the Virgin Mary is so revered in the Orthodox Church.  I was riveted.  And, I decided, tomorrow I’m leaving my booth to sit through an entire tour with Father Spiro.  The richness of it all leaves me hungry for more.  Did I mention the tours are free?  Oh, and ask any question you want.  My admission signs ready, I hurried back.  I passed so many friends!!  In this community, family is sacred, and guess what?  We’re all family!  Mothers watch out for other people’s children.  People who have worked all day, and worked hard, give up their seat for that person who might not be feeling that terrific.  Every once in a while you get a boy or girl, dripping with perspiration in a BOILED WOOL costume, fresh off the dance floor who wants a coke, a Nescafe frappe, or Baklava sundae.  Something to help them cool off.  And they’re short a dollar or two.  Time and time again I’ve seen adults dig into their own pockets, with a “Don’t worry, Niko.  Enjoy your ice cream!  You look good on the dance floor.  How’s your Mama and Daddy, Niko?  You give them my love!  Now, go have fun!  Ella!!”

I miss James when I’m there.  I see his friends and they give me such joy!  When you’re in college, sometimes you can make it back and sometimes you can’t.  But it’s all good!!  We all remember the kids who have left, they all come back at some point!  And they dance!  And dance!  It’s just fabulous!!  They know the words to all the songs, make faces at each other and laugh when someone makes a mistake!  They looked exceptionally good tonight, they had just won platinum at the annual Hellenic Dance Festival in Atlanta. There’s a word in Greek that really can’t be translated, “kefi”.  It’s a combination of happiness, good time, joy…I can’t explain it, but it’s a great thing and, at festival, everyone has it!! Later on, as I was leaving, I found my Jimmy and discovered he hadn’t eaten.  Since 7:30 this morning.  That’s not a good thing as Jimmy gets mean, REALLY MEAN, when he doesn’t eat!  How about some juicy, tender, roasted chicken with orzo, giant butter beans and a Greek salad?  Oh, hell yeah!  Poor thing.  He needed to eat!

With my man fed and happy, I made moves to head out.  And I saw something that just made me grin from ear to ear.  All grown up, Katelyn, Adam and Mikey, laughing and carrying on with the familiarity of children who had grown up together.  Which they had!  Together, year after year, serving on the altar, dancing at countless practices then at Festival, youth group car washes, church bake sales, the list goes on and on.  I remember one year James chose to miss a big dance at school because GOYA, Greek Orthodox Youth Association, had committed to sing Christmas carols at the VA hospital.  NOT a pretty place.  As I said, the kids always return.  And here they are, once again, giving back to their church.  Bravo, pedia!!