Let’s play a fun game I call “Greek Pastry Math.”
+ 6,908 koulourakia
+ 4,492 paximadia
+ 8,517 kourabiethes
= get yourself to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church for some of the best Greek desserts you’ll ever eat.
Sure, you might not be able to pronounce them, but you won’t have to if your mouth is full of them.
The 53rd Greek Festival happens today through Sunday in the Hilltop neighborhood church. The festival’s primary focus is to introduce locals to Greek culture and food. On the menu is everything there is to love about Greek eats: roasted lamb, gyro sandwiches, pork souvlaki skewers and gallons and gallons of tzatziki sauce.
The volume of pastries listed above is a testament to just how many hours the army of volunteers at St. Nicholas church logs in the basement kitchen. There’s even a volunteer whose job it is to track those numbers.
Considering 9,000 diners are expected to attend the festival, that’s still less than one honey cookie (melomakarona), sesame-coated cookie (koulourakia), Greek biscotti (paximadia) and sugar-coated butter cookie (kourabiethes) per diner.
Sally Hallis, a volunteer and the one who tracked this year’s cookie counts, said the numbers are so precise that organizers usually can predict when the pastries will sell out. “4 p.m. on Sunday,” said Hallis. “We haven’t had any leftovers for two to three years,” she added.
Translation: Get there early.
What is unusual about this event is that almost everything — and not just the pastries — is made from scratch by a church member.
The rice-stuffed dolmades and the hand-pressed cheese turnovers are made weeks before and frozen until the festival. (Church members this year made 4,503 and 4,452, respectively.) In the days leading to the event, church volunteers baked 300 loaves of bread.
The tzatziki yogurt sauce, the marinade for the pork souvlaki, the honey syrup for the fried loukoumathes doughnuts — all are prepared and dished up by volunteers.
All that work is distilled into four different ways to dine during the festival:
A few tips from your friendly newspaper dining critic who attends every year: