Maybe The Best Fest?

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris May 27, 2023 18:14 in Dining Diary

When the kids were little Tom did his show at The Greek Fest, something he talked about a lot more than other remote broadcasts. I was always intrigued by what he said, and I believe we all went one time many years ago. 

For a cultural event sponsored by a church, The Greek Fest is really a phenomenon, with lines stretching all the way for many blocks alongside Bayou St. John. We have had them on the show twice in two years creating a real curiosity about this event for me.

Tom and I decided on the spur of the moment to go yesterday. Vicky Katsulus told me on the show that I should call her to park close enough for Tom to go. We did that, and she graciously followed through on her offer. Luckily, we arrived just as the gates were opening. We wouldn’t have been able to do long lines with Tom.

I went immediately to the food booths and picked up a chicken Souvlaki and a beef Gyro at the next booth. And I had to get Tom a baklava sundae. I didn’t go into the Community Center to get the plate lunch Greek Dinner until too many people were in line. They knew the ropes and I didn’t.

There were more booths offering a few of the items from the Greek Dinner, including the cheese triangle. We found two seats together under some tents and began to sample the food.

Suddenly it became clear why there are so many people clamoring to get into this festival. The food is superb. The pita that formed the bread for both the Souvlaki and Gyro was a thickish and very large pita. Kind of doughy. On the Souvlaki, it was smeared with tzatziki and dill as a condiment. The pieces of grilled chicken had been marinated in a delicious Mediterranean-flavored lemony herbal mixture. It was bits of dark meat, which I usually prefer, though I am used to seeing Souvlaki with white meat. I found this tender and moist. This was very good.

I also wanted a chicken Gyro. Beef and pork were the two choices. I had never had either of these from a doner. It was very thinly sliced beef that looked like forcemeat, or sausage, though I know it wasn’t. A doner kebab is a vertical spit with marinated meat (chicken, lamb, or beef) speared and layered horizontally,  rotating in a circular motion as the heat source grills it on the edges slowly, watching the fat drip and moisten the whole evenly and completely. Thin slices are extracted vertically and put into a pita. Shreds of white onion and sliced tomato filled up the pita, dressed with the same refreshing dill condiment. This was a nice mouthful of food. I absolutely love sliced doner kebab. And all of this was quite delicious, as good as any Greek food I have had anywhere, including Greece.

We had to try the baklava sundae, mainly because Vicky had stories about when it first arrived on the scene at The Greek Fest. She had spoken to Tom about it. Baklava is a little too sweet for me, though it is made of a few of my favorite things, like layers of phyllo and pecans. It had a massive dome of cinnamon vanilla soft-serve ice cream, and was dusted with more shaken cinnamon. A cherry topped all of this. Tom was, as expected, wild about it.

While Tom devoured this sweet dessert, I walked around looking for more. The grounds were filling up with hordes of people in the foldout chairs they brought, listening to cliche Greek music. It was a beautiful afternoon and a really pleasant scene.

I walked into the big building offering all the other delicious things to eat. There were booths with beautiful packaged Greek salads, one for baklava without the sundae, and another with tremendous amounts of desserts filling boxes as an assortment.

But the main attraction and the longest line was for the “Greek Dinner” which included a square of moussaka with a lovely blanket of cheese, a triangle cheese pie in phyllo, and eggplant as a side. 

These were everywhere and I wanted some of that moussaka. Across the meadow where all the people were gathered were more food booths with wines and mezze. I stopped at one that had a watermelon, feta, and basil pile in a parfait glass, an eggplant dip, a zucchini and feta pie called kolokithopita, and tiropita, the big phyllo cheese-filled triangle. I got the last two.

The cheese triangle was divine, and I could have eaten several of these. The filling seemed like a mixture of cheeses, including ricotta. The texture of the filling was wonderful, including melted cheeses like Parmesan, feta of course, and eggs to make it creamier. The phyllo was flaky and buttery. Wonderful!

The feta and zucchini pie was also excellent. I got the last piece, a corner piece that they didn’t want to sell me, but I love the edges of things and it was a great piece. This was also a little soft and creamy with a lot of that tart feta flavor. There was a lot of butter in this too, making it rich and those edges oily, but pleasantly so.

We couldn’t stay a long time, but we stayed long enough for me to fully understand why the lines for this are so long, with people waiting patiently to experience the exuberance of the Greek culture and to savor the wonderful flavors of the Mediterranean.