Hayward Greek Festival

Midafternoon on Saturday October 8th 2005 I realized I didn't have any leftovers in the fridge nor did I have a recipe I was anxious to cook. Hence, around dinnertime I headed out to yet another Greek festival, this one in Hayward. Quite similar to other Greek festivals, upon entering I received a brochure much like the ones I received at past festivals (e.g., the history of the church, Greek words, a few recipes, many pages of ads from sponsors, map of the festival) along with a schedule of events. Looking around, they also had the small assortment of vendors that frequent these festivals, selling Greek and religious books, Greek clothing (including t-shirts with humorous messages about being Greek), pottery, and jewelry. One distinguishing factor compared to other festivals was the location: rather than a church, it was located in the local community center. Exhibits and the various food areas (desserts, dining room, grill, presentation room) were scattered around. They did offer the usual church tours and the like -the church was across the street I believe- but I guess it wasn't large enough for the festival itself.

Soon after I arrived at around 6:20pm and slightly hungry I heard an announcement for a baklava cooking demonstration. According to my schedule this should have started a little while ago but I was happy to learn it had been delayed. I took it as a message and attended. (It's also a sign because no other festival have had such demonstrations.)

The demonstration, by a mother and her daughter (later forties and early twenties I'd guess, was very colloquial and friendly. The mother had been a stay at home mom and apparently had many chances to try various baklava recipes and tweaks upon them and had many opinions as a result. It looked surprisingly easy to make and I'd like to try it, but the minimum size load one can probably make would be several dozen so I'd need many volunteers to eat them.

Post-demonstration I was famished so rather than looking around at more vendors and the dancing, I headed straight to the dining room. But the line was quite long, so I snuck off to get some souvlaki at the grill to tide me over, looked around a bit, and only then got in the (by then) shorter line.

For food, it had pretty much the traditional Greek festival menu. This time I opted for
* an aforementioned skewer of pork souvlaki (pretty good, with a little zest from the lemon and oregano (?))
* keftedes: Grecian style meatballs, very good (one of the better items I've had at a Greek festival), quite large and tender and with a complex tomato sauce. (Complex means something good was added to it, but I couldn't identify the flavor. :) )
* pilaf: well done. Like most pilaf, probably with a bit more butter than my health would prefer, but that's just part of what makes it good.
* green beans with tomato sauce. I had this at a previous festival and was unenthusiastic then. This time I was more unenthusiastic. Both had a boring tomato sauce, but this time the beans were overcooked.

For dessert I had a melomacarona, a cookie made from orange rind and soaked in honey and is about the size and shape of a C-cell battery. It was pretty good though screamed that it should be dipped into something (tea/coffee/milk). Then I had a second dessert -I wouldn't be surprised if all these food festivals are making me gain weight- a karidopita. This I hadn't seen at any previous festivals; billed as a walnut torte with a bit of honey poured over it, it was very tasty and moist, reminding me of a (sweetened walnut-flavored) carrot cake.

They had one stage devoted to music and dancing: while I was there they only played traditional Greek music and, compared to when other festivals played traditional music, had the largest crowd of dancers. They had occasional interludes with choreographed costumed dancers performing. These were fun for a few moments but the dances that I saw myself were pretty dull. (After a minute one gets the idea and realizes they'll just do those same moves over and over again.)

All considered, not a bad way of spending the early part of an evening.

No comments: