Don’t try and say the names, unless you are confident in your ability to speak the language of Greek pastry.
Me? I just point and smile at the pastry counter at Tacoma’s Greek Festival. The festival, put on by volunteers at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, continues through Sunday.
There are several ways to dine at the festival. There’s the dining tent, with the a la carte booths serving gyros, souvlaki, Greek fries, calamari and more. In the kitchen, there’s an appetizer window with dolmades and tyropitakia. In the dining room, there’s a seated fixed-price dinner that’s a multi-course meal.
But my favorite stop is at the pastry case to the back left side of the dining tent. Behind the glass were honey-laden cookies, creamy custards topped with shattery-crisp sheets of cinnamon-dusted phyllo, crunchy cookies and silky puddings.
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I snatched up one of everything. Here’s a quick tour. (Be sure to scroll through the photo gallery.)
Baklava: The sweet pastry, cut into a triangle, is the classic Greek dessert. Here, the dessert was a flaky mass of phyllo, layered with spiced walnuts and steeped in a honey syrup. $3.
Melomakarona: The honey-soaked butter cookie practically dissolved upon first bite. Topped with crushed nuts, the traditional Greek Christmas cookie was spiced with cloves and orange peel. $1.
Kourambiethes: Yes, there was a cookie under all that powdered sugar. Think of these as the Greek version of a Mexican wedding cookie. This was a snappy butter cookies coated in a pile of powdered sugar. $1.
Galaktomboureko: Ever had old fashioned milk pie? That’s exactly what this tasted like. The wedge of silky-textured pie came topped with crisp phyllo sheets dusted with cinnamon and a slick of honey. $3.
Rolled kataifi: Shredded phyllo crunched satisfyingly as I bit into this rolled pastry that tasted similar to the honey-syrup soaked baklava, but with deeply toasted nuts carrying a richer flavor. $3.
Ouzo cake: Pillowy lemon cake was teased with a slight licorice flavor from a brush of ouzo, the Greek aperitif. It came topped with crushed walnuts. $3.
Flogeres (rolled baklava): This tasted exactly like the honey-soaked baklava, but instead of a pastry cut into triangle wedges, this dessert was rolled up tight in phyllo. While baklava is crispy, the texture of the flogeres was softer. $3.
Paximathia: If you don’t eat this with the Greek coffee ($2), you’re doing it wrong. These were the Greek equivalent of Italian biscotti. Crunchy, mildly sweet, and perfect for dunking into a hot beverage. $1 for two.
Koulourakia: Another cookie meant to be dunked in coffee. These snappy, buttery cookies were coated in sesame seeds. $1 for two.
Kataifi ekmek: This dessert got a makeover this year. Instead of cut into wedges, the custard was served in a plastic cup, with a layer of shredded phyllo, and a topping of whipped cream and a cherry. $3.
Rolled baklava with chocolate: These were crispier than the other rolled baklava (flogeres). The nut stuffed pastry was drizzled with chocolate. $3.
TIPS: Exchange cash or credit for tokens that can be used at the pastry case, or any of the booths in the dining tent or kitchen. Unused tokens can be exchanged for cash when you leave. Many of the pastries in the dining tent are available pre-boxed upstairs in a bakery just off the main church entrance (cash, check or tokens only).
54TH GREEK FESTIVAL
Where: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 1523 S. Yakima Ave., Tacoma.
When: The dining room is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday (Oct. 2) and Saturday, and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.
Entry: Free entry. The festival accepts cash and credit cards for food.
Benefitting: A portion of proceeds goes to the Family Renewal Shelter.
Info: 253-272-0466, stnicholastacoma.org.
Greek dancers: Friday at 5, 7 and 9 p.m.; Saturday at 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 p.m.; Sunday at 1, 3 and 5 p.m.
Church tours: Every festival day at noon, 2, 4 and 6 p.m.; with an 8 p.m. talk Friday and Saturday.
FOUR WAYS TO DINE
SEATED DINNER: Salad, string beans, rice pilaf, bread, and coffee or tea come with each dinner served at tables in the dining hall. Baked chicken ($12) will be served Friday-Sunday. Baked white fish ($12) will be served Friday-Saturday. Roasted lamb ($14) is served Sunday only. Cash or credit for dinner.
DINING TENT: This is the way grazers like to dine. Exchange cash or credit for tokens that can be used at the a la carte booths in the huge dining tent outfitted with long communal tables (unused tokens can be turned in for cash). Find gyro sandwiches ($6); calamari with skordalia sauce ($6); Greek fries ($4), Greek salad ($4); pork souvlaki ($5); loukaniko sausage ($4) and fresh-fried loukoumathes ($3). The pastry case at the rear of the dining tent holds more than a dozen kinds of pastries priced $1-$3.
KITCHEN WINDOW: Exchange tokens for rice-stuffed dolmades and cheese turnovers (2 for $3), served Friday-Sunday. Spanakopita (spinach and cheese turnovers) will be served Sunday only, $3 each.
UPSTAIRS BAKERY: Packaged pastries in small or larger boxes, including trays of baklava and assorted pastries by the dozen, and sweet bread. Cash, check or token only.