Concord Greek Festival

On Sunday, September 16, 2007, I drove up the bay, over the bridge, through the tunnel, to the Concord Greek Festival. It was held outdoors nestled among some tawny, rolling hills. The weather was perfect for an outdoor festival: sunny (but not blinding), warm (but not uncomfortable so), and with a pleasant gentle breeze.

At first I thought the festival had more booths than most Greek festivals, but I realized I was wrong. It was merely that being outdoors made the festival feel more expansive and that the booths that were there interested me more than usual. There were two booths with high quality paintings and one with a guy selling face jugs that I saw previously and liked.

Greek festivals are often held at the local church, provided it can accommodate the crowds. They usually offer tours, but I've rarely gone on one because I haven't been at the festivals at the right time. This festival, however, allowed one open access to the church--one could look around on one's own. I appreciated that.

These movies capture the feel of the festival, the music, the dancing, and the church; the pictures show what I ate.

The menu was pretty standard for a Greek festival. I had lamb shank, the only item I hadn't seen offered previously. I forgot how great lamb can be. The tomato sauce topping it was entirely unnecessary. I also had a spanakopita. Filled with warm spinach, my mouth filled with warm liquid each time I took a bite. This was definitely better than the usual Greek festival rendition.

Both of these were really good. At Greek festivals, the gyros are usually the best, and departing from them is often is a mistake. It wasn't a mistake this time--at this point, I wrote down this was probably the best meal I've had at a Greek festival.

Desserts, however, weren't as good as usual. From the traditional wide selection of Greek festival desserts, I had a half-order of loukamades. These doughnut balls with honey weren't on the same scale as those as I've had elsewhere. These were denser than others, not light and airy, and were not uniform in color and texture even within a ball, implying temperature differences within the cooking oil. Further, I didn't even like the honey, walnut, and cinnamon topping.

While I drove home, the sun was setting. As I descended from the east bay hills, I saw a fantastic sight: above the bay and the distant San Francisco, the sky was a continuous gradient of colors, from light pink, through reds, blues, and violets, to black.

Sadly, by the time I decided I wanted a picture I'd descended too far and it was less impressive. And then I realized that, while I could turn around, by the time I returned to where I wanted to be, the vision would be gone.

Armenian Food Festival 2007

On Saturday, September 15, 2007, I headed to an Armenian Food Festival in San Francisco for a late lunch.

The festival is aptly named. It sells a large variety of Armenian food, especially pastries. And, in fact, there isn't much at the festival besides the food. There were about a half dozen booths not selling festival-affiliated food. Even some of these booths sold food, such as strange cheeses, many varieties of grapes, and various dried fruits and nuts. Sure, there was a stage for dancing and the schedule listed many bands who'd play in the evening, but, while I was there, the music was simply a DJ's selections and the stage was unoccupied. Not too exciting. There was also a kids' zone, which included an inflatable slide, an inflatable castle, and assorted carnival games. Nevertheless, it was clear all these things were secondary: the purpose of the festival was the food.

I ate

  • Kufta, an Armenian meatball. This was the main reason I went to this festival. I have fond memories of the amazing kufta I had at an Armenian festival two years ago. It's a moist meatball in a thin, meaty (meat and bulgur) shell. And it was nearly as good as I remembered! I think the meat inside was freshly ground by the festival and tossed with spices, onions, and parsley.
  • Iman-bayildi, eggplant stuffed with red and green bell peppers, onions, a few herbs (parsley?), and spices. Decent.
  • Salad with "Armenian dressing", a sweet, Italian-dressing-style vinaigrette. Decent.
  • Sha-abiat, a triangular dessert of filo dough filled with custard. Fairly good, though too sweet (from honey) for my taste. Due to the sweetness, it would've gone great with tea. Even the slightly cheesy custard didn't help cut down on the sweetness much. Sprinkled with ground pistachios.
Sadly, my camera batteries were dead--I think my rechargeable batteries are no longer keeping their charge--and so I don't have any pictures.

I also picked up some food for later in the weekend:
  • sou-boerge, filo filled with cheese and parsley. Quite good. I appreciate the lightness and mildness of cheese; most cheese-filled items are overwhelming.
  • Another kufta. I was surprised and delighted to learn it reheated to be as good as when it was fresh.
  • Armenian apple delight. Okay. An Armenian version of an apple strudel, only with relatively little apple and lots of filo dough. Topped with powdered sugar. Nothing much substantial inside.
  • Bourma, a rolled version of baklava. Decent. When I saw these next to the baklava, I wondered why the bourma, at half the size of baklava, cost the same amount. Now I know. These rolled desserts are so dense with crushed walnuts, they probably have the same quantity of ingredients as baklava, simply compressed into a much smaller space.

San Mateo Farmers Market

On Saturday morning, September 15, 2007, I woke up early. Out of milk, I decided I might as well go to my local farmers market and grab some form of breakfast while there.

Apparently I wasn't yet entirely awake--I missed the exit for the farmers market not once but twice!

Once there, I got in the long line at a baked goods shop, Crepe & Brioche. It always has a wide selection of breads and pastries. I got a huge, incredibly moist, mixed berry muffin. It was thoroughly satisfying. By the time I was done, I think my lips were stained a bit from all the raspberries and blueberries. It was almost too large to finish.

I also left the farmers market with

  • two flavor queen pluots
  • an "Indian red fruit" (not unlike a pluot; I don't know the real name)
  • a small basket of raspberries (pesticide-free though not technically organic)
  • a bag of English shelling peas. (I've seen these often at markets and decided I was in the mood to experiment with them.)
  • a mini loaf of vegan pumpkin bread from Alonso Baking which I'll use for breakfast this coming week
  • an assortment of Top Nosh's pies . (I often pick up a few when I make it to this farmers market. They make a nice component of a meal.)
It turns out the heirloom tomato vendor that made me miss not having a camera at my last visit to Mountain View's farmers market was also at this market. Once again, I lacked my camera. In addition, this farmers market also had two other vendors with displays of heirloom tomatoes, packed with tomatoes with character.

On the way home, I stopped by Safeway to pick up some things, such as milk, on my shopping list. Why is it that I get such a simple pleasure from leaving Safeway with a receipt that says I saved 24% by choosing Safeway select discounted items?