It's a tough gig I have here - getting paid to go eat Greek food at the St. Nicholas Church's Greek food festival. It's one of the best eat-around festivals in the region. Much of the food is made by an army of church volunteers. My favorites? Always the dolmades, stuffed grape leaves, and the tiropites, feta cheese turnovers, and anything found in the pastry display case. Today I found a few new favorites - ouzo cake and galaktoboureko. Click "read more" to see what I ate. Also, please comment and tell other readers what you feasted on at the festival. What'd you think?
Today, my eating was in the dining tent, with the option of picking what you want and eating it a la carte. Trade your cash or use your credit card to buy tokens at the booth just inside the tent to eat your way free style around the dining tent. Each taste is $2-$6. Unused tokens can be exchanged back for cash when you're done eating. (This year's tokens commemorate the festival's 50th year). See details below for the sit-down meal offered in the dining hall.
Here's what I found in the dining tent:
Souvlaki ($4): Grilled pork on a skewer with a slightly puckery olive oil marinade and crusted with a heavy thump of oregano. Served over two rounds of sliced bread, which made a perfect sponge for the pool of the oregano-flecked olive oil in the dish. Yum.
Tiropites cheese turnovers ($2): Two flaky triangles of phyllo dough stuffed with salty, melted feta. I loved the crackle of the exterior as it broke to a flaky, cheesy center. Best deal of the festival, besides the dolmades.
Dolmades ($2): Ribbons of lemony cream sauce spilled over three stuffed grape leaves, each filled with a missle of seasoned ground beef and rice.
Greek Salata ($2): The salads seemed larger and better dressed this year. A hand-chopped mixed greens salad with oregano-marinated kalamata olives, a zippy vinaigrette and a heavy blanket of feta clumps.
Calamari ($6): This year's calamari coating tasted more flavorful. Fried rings were tender, they always get it right, it's never chewy. Served with a side of creamy skordalia dip, a potato dip flavored with garlic, served cold.
Gyros ($5): A warm, doughy pita stuffed with three slices of ground, pressed gyros meat, a few slices of tomato, diced onions and with a heavy coating of garlicky tzatziki yogurt sauce.
Greek fries ($3):Fries covered in Greek seasoning that tasted heavily of oregano, with a coating of feta. Last year the cheese was a bit more generous. I should have asked for extra.
From the pastry display case:
Ouzo cake ($3): Now how did they thoroughly soak the cake in ouzo, yet keep the spongy texture of the lemon cake? I loved how saturated it was with the taste of the licorice flavored liqueur, but the cake stayed springy. Delicious.
Baklava ($3): Flaky layers of phyllo dough sandwiched with chopped walnuts and a honey syrup laced with cinnamon and other spices. This baklava is tough to eat with a fork. You'd have better success picking it up and jamming it into your mouth. Don't worry, everyone around you will be too busy stuffing their faces to notice you're eating like an animal.
Galaktoboureko ($3): A creamy baked farina custard dusted in cinnamon, with a phyllo crust.
Kourambiethes ($1): Is there a cookie under there?? A pile of powdered sugar must be sifted through until you find the cookie, a crisp butter cookie.
Sesame cookie ($1): A crisp cookie coated in sesame seeds. Did I taste anise? I thought it was delicious.
Greek Festival Where: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 1523 S. Yakima Ave., TacomaWhen: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday Oct. 7 -Saturday Oct. 8 and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday Oct. 9Tickets: Free admission. Food costs range from $1 for a la carte items to $12-$14 for complete dinners.Contact: 253-272-0466 , stnicholastacoma.orgPayment: Cash or credit card
FOUR WAYS TO DINESit-down dinner: A full meal for a fixed price. Chicken or fish (until it runs out) served Friday and Saturday. Lamb or chicken served Sunday. Dinners include salata (Greek salad), fassolia yahni (braised string beans), rice pilaf, bread and coffee or tea. Prices are $12 for fish or chicken dinner, $14 for lamb dinner.
Dining tent: Food booths offering tastes, including gyros, calamari, souvlaki, Greek fries, pastries, Greek coffee, beverages and a deli selling take-home foods. Exchange cash for tokens and use those to buy at the booths. Leftover tokens can be converted back to cash.Kitchen window: Dolmades and tiropites served at a window in the kitchen.Upstairs: Trays of baklava and pastry combo packs can be taken home to eat.Take it home: I saw dried herbs for sale for $1 each (dried mint, oregano, bay leaves and more). Also, olive oil, coffee and other Greek items for sale, over by the pastry case in the dining tent.