gotta give it up to the greeks for having such an enriched culture full of confident, free spirits who collectively exude an openness that can only be enjoyed in person - regardless of your background, you can't help but feel right at home with them.
the blue and white festival (from jan. 21 -jan. 24, 2010/ jan. 20 - jan. 23, 2011) is hosted by the st. mark greek orthodox church and true to its promise was filled with authentic food, vivacious personalities, markets for people to shop in and several forms of entertainment throughout the weekend. upon entering i was greeted with a powerful wink from a woman collecting admission fares, glancing to my right and then saw a group of twenty men grilling meats and bopping their heads to the loud greek music. a lot of these people looked like the cast from my big fat greek wedding (stereotypical but true) and better yet, acted in a similar manner too. i loved the energy - observing their pride and desire for people outside of their community to partake in this grand celebration of life. groups of big families trailed along together from table to table while ancient rhythms played throughout the tented grounds.
first stop - food court (naturally)
either walk through the widespread buffet to pick from dishes such as mousakka (eggplant casserole), dolmades (grapevine leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables), keftedes (fried meatballs) or even just a simple greek salad and if overloading your plate didn't do the trick, then for sure the gyro/souvlaki station did - the party was over here, kids. choose a simple combination of either well-seasoned lamb or tender chicken roasted with tzatziki sauce and garnishes of shredded lettuce, tomatoes, onions, etc. all wrapped in a perfectly sized, warm pita bread.
finding cupcakes 'chief samurai', if you will, went with the classic lamb with the works and extra sauce. this was all business for me - research & development phases. if i was wearing sleeves, they'd have been rolled up.
as i waited for the kind man to assemble my edible masterpiece, i couldn't help but shake my head in dismay noticing the sign above pronouncing gyro as 'yi-ro' in a big, bold print - since just the other day i was bickering with my fried-foodie-friend asia samson because he insisted that gyro was pronounced with a 'y' once overhearing me call it a 'gye-ro'. i swore the way i pronounced it was correct based on the principle of it's spelling and partly from my self-assurance built from my early spelling bee days... bbbzzzz). the two of us went back and forth - him "no, it's yiro" and me "nope, definitely gye-ro" until the sounds of our whining - it became lengthy- finally weakened our need to be correct.
and here i was, at the freaking greek festival and at the freaking gyro station where someone clearly made the executive decision to print the pronunciation for misinformed patrons such as myself. i quickly accepted defeat, calling asia letting him know i was wrong just in time for the woman behind me to yell her order, "i'll have a yiro!" and mr. fried-foodie on the phone was basking in his glory. fair enough.
anyhow- i got over it at a fast rate when i was handed my yiiiiro. as soon as i picked it up, the ingredients fell all over me instead of the plate and there was no turning around after that. as heavy as it appeared, i was happy that it was actually relatively light. the lamb was perfectly grilled and seasoned just enough so that nothing overcame the natural flavors a well-cooked lamb ideally should maintain. my yiiiiro was savory, messy and overall, just delectable. if given another hour to digest, i would be making the executive decision as the hard-working 'chief samurai' for the blog and order another.
dessert... holy baklava.
i positively annoyed the teenage volunteers who were selling the assortment of greek sweets, asking any question possible hoping to get the best dessert there. one girl kept repeating 'oh- this is really good, i just don't know half of the ingredients... but it's yummy! for everytime i asked her what something was made of. after bothering her for about ten minutes and realizing that most greek desserts just have a lot of honey and nuts, i went with the standard baklava... leading me to the path of pure bliss. A classic baklava dessert consists of layers of phyllo and in between are ground nuts, way more honey than one can imagine and the sweetest syrup drizzled on top. this was the real deal. anything flaky, crispy and crunchy combined drives me wild.
yiro, gyro, i don't give a shiro anymore. my weakness for desserts was getting the best of me...
after an inevitable baklava induced coma, i trotted around the rest of the tents to take a look at the clothes, jewelry and art work. lots of gold, florals and handmade glass items being sold. i fell in love with a 'gold-grass' made jewelry line that is originally from brazil but influenced with grecian designs. everything at the festival had striking features and all so ornate - best part is that the vendors didn't harass you to buy anything. if you wanted something, you ask- otherwise they just sit and watch you. the watching part was a bit creepy but i always appreciate when someone allows you to browse on your own without aggresively seeking a sale.
the festival was big, fat and... greek.
movie's fault, not mine.
my exit from the festival consisted of scooping a ridiculous multi-colored, completely decked out sequin visor (no idea what was greek about it) , getting a whiff of perfectly seasoned meat where a station of four lambs were roasting on the spit and little children dressed in traditional greek attire getting ready to dance for their family and friends as the music traveled through the grounds - it was a joyous event filled with old, young, modern and traditional souls taking pride in their heritage and giving the outside community a closer glimpse of their country's culture.