In keeping up with our summer activities, this weekend we wanted to try something different. We found out about the “Taste of Greece” at the Greekfest in Minneapolis and it sounded like fun. It was a gorgeous day to be outside yesterday, so off we went. We picked up our friends, Sheri & Kevin and met Claire & Leo at the fest.
The Taste of Greece was taking place at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church. None of us were familiar with Greek Orthodox and their beliefs, so of course, this is where Google game into play. This is what found and I’m giving you the simplified version…
Greek Orthodox Churches, unlike the Catholic Church, have no Bishopric head, such as a Pope, and hold the belief that Christ is the head of the Church. However, they are each governed by a committee of Bishops, called the Holy Synod, with one central Bishop holding the honorary title of “first among equals.”
St. Mary’s Church is very pretty inside and out. We loved the look of the dome outside and inside it had a painting of Jesus in the middle.
When we first arrived, we did not know what to expect, how many people or if we’d be even able to find it. We were pleasantly surprised as we walked up to this outdoor festival and found not one table open. They had jumpers for the kids, bands playing Greek music on a mini stage, and food everywhere! Our first stop was to go buy some tickets and get a beverage. As we were waiting in line, we noticed signs all over with Greek words, translations, and how to pronounce them. It is not an easy language, but that is usually the case. Nate kept calling Sheri & I…Kookla’s. The one word he learned…it means “Dolls.” We asked him, “Are you saying, “Kookla or Kooky?” ha~
Inside the church, they had many activities going on as well as another stage. Since there were no tables, we managed to find one inside right next to the band. We enjoyed some authentic Greek cuisine. Nate, Kevin & I had the Gyro and Sheri tried a sandwich called,
- Souvlaki: (lit: “skewer”) grilled small pieces of meat (usually pork but also chicken or lamb) served on the skewer for eating out of hand, or served as a sandwich wrapped in pita bread together with tomatoes, onions, tzatziki and tomato sauce; a popular fast food, also called kalamaki (small reed) mainly in Athens.
Claire gave us a taste of her dish that was called,
- Spanakopita: spinach, feta, onions or scallions, egg and seasoning wrapped in phyllo pastry in a form of a pie. This melted in our mouths. Phyllo dough is used quite often in Greek dishes as we found out.
Next year, we’ve decided that we need to try what is called…loukaniko (dried pork sausage). This sold out while we were in line, so it must be good. We’ll be braver on our second time out. Nate & I kept it simple with the Gyro that we know we like.
In another room in the church, they had a boutique, free samples of more food, and a bakery area. We loved this room and had a lot of fun talking with the vendors and trying their samples. We learned of a great store to buy greek ingredients if we are ever in need…and it’s only two blocks down from the church. The main thing we found here in Greece, is that they like their olive oils. I found this on my Google search. The most characteristic and ancient element of Greek cuisine is olive oil, which is used in most dishes. It is produced from the olive trees prominent throughout the region, and adds to the distinctive taste of Greek food. Greek cuisine uses some flavorings more often than other Mediterranean cuisines do, namely: oregano, mint, garlic, onion, dill and bay laurel leaves. Other common herbs and spices include basil, thyme, and fennel seed. Many Greek recipes, especially in the northern parts of the country, use “sweet” spices in combination with meat, for example cinnamon and cloves in stews.
As we continued to wander through this lovely room, we girls spotted the boutique and had to take a peek inside just for fun. They had some nice sets of jewelry. Lots of crosses, which seemed to be the popular item. Very pretty things in there.
We couldn’t go to a fest without trying their wines, beers and spirits. As Sheri says as we walked in..”when in Greece, do what the Greeks do.” Think she meant, drink what the Greeks do. She was ordering the Ouzo right off the bat! Brave lady she is. I went for the Greek wine and was pleasantly surprised. Really enjoyed their dry red called, “Kouras” I spent the rest of the night trying to say it with my Greek accent. Nate had to keep reminding me of the correct way. He and Kevin tried the beer and enjoyed that as well. It was easier to pronounce too.
Claire is good about grabbing pamphlets when we are at these things and telling us what events are happening at what time. As we were eating, she announced…”There’s a baklava demonstration at 7:00.” Okay, lets go! We found yet another room that housed non-greek people as ourselves, and we walked in. Little did we know, we were a bit late and the demo had already started and we were a little loud. We laughed and giggled all the way to our seats and then kept quiet and watched. It turned out to be very interesting and we got a sample at the end. Claire even bought some Phyllo dough afterward to try and make her own dessert sometime this fall.
In case you are wondering what Baklava is… it is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey. It was very rich, so a little goes a long way.
Baklava is normally prepared in large pans. Many layers of phyllo dough, separated with melted butter and vegetable oil, are laid in the pan. A layer of chopped nuts—typically walnuts or pistachios, is placed on top, then more layers of phyllo. Most recipes have multiple layers of phyllo and nuts, though some have only top and bottom pastry.
Before baking, the dough is cut into regular pieces, often parallelograms (lozenge-shaped), triangles, diamonds or rectangles. Baklava is usually served at room temperature, often garnished with ground nuts.
Perhaps you’ve heard someone shout “opa!” when a plate was broken in a restaurant, whether it was a Greek establishment or not. A single definition for this commonly used word or expression does not exist. I did find this little blurb on Wikipedia that helps.
Opa! (Greek: Ώπα), is a common Greek verbal emotional expression used frequently during celebrations or dancing in Greece. In the Greek culture, the expression sometimes accompanies plate smashing (purposeful or unintentional). It is also used during weddings or when people are dancing. The original meaning of the word is “Oops!” or “Whoops!”.
So to end my blog for today, I won’t be smashing a plate, but I will say, we got a little educated yesterday while enjoying good friends, and good food. That earns an Opa!