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Greek Festival was a savory plunge into authentic cuisine

The+Greek+Festival+offered+attendants+multiple+authentic+cultural+foods+to+taste%2C+making+it+a+must-see+before+you+leave+CWRU.+
The Greek Festival offered attendants multiple authentic cultural foods to taste, making it a must-see before you leave CWRU.

The Greek Festival offered attendants multiple authentic cultural foods to taste, making it a must-see before you leave CWRU.

The Greek Festival offered attendants multiple authentic cultural foods to taste, making it a must-see before you leave CWRU.

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Driving down Mayfield the week I returned to Cleveland, I was struck by a large, sprawling banner advertising this year’s “Greek Festival,” seemingly full of food, culture and fun. Given my affinity for food of all kinds and a desire to learn more about the culture of my roommate—a full-blooded Greek, born in the U.S.—I decided to grab her and make the effort to get back to Mayfield in time for the festivities at the Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church.

Although dinner food does not have the sweetly sinful connotation of sacred dessert, the savory meal I had at this festival was incredible. They had the food set up buffet-style with cooks who shouted “Opa!” with every flip of their spatulas.

I ate a Greek salad and a generous serving of Greek meatballs, known as “keftedes”. The salad was my attempt at consuming a bit of nutritional value to offset the amounts of dessert I knew that I would consume. With a yummy vinaigrette, lots of kalamata olives and feta cheese, the salad was a nice start to my Greek dinner. I plowed through the salad and quickly began on the meatballs. Full of juicy pork goodness, a strong garlic and parsley flavor and the warmth of comfort food, the keftedes were a delicious introduction to the night’s food.

My roommate decided to pick up one of her favorite pairings for dinner, saganaki, which is just fried cheese, and a pork souvlaki pita roll. I went all in with the saganaki and my triangle of pita despite my debilitating lactose intolerance. The pita was a beautiful golden brown on the outside, and once you broke through the crispy top layer, the inside was like a fondue, aromatic and rich. I had to restrain myself to just a bite to save my stomach, but if I could have taken it, I would have eaten the block of cheese whole.

Once we were appropriately stuffed from the oily richness that was our dinner, we made a beeline for the inside of the church that housed the pastry buffet. Sadly we were there a bit too late for the baklava, but the plethora of lesser known pastries was more than enough to make up for it.

My roommates and I decided to split a wide selection of desserts so that we could all get a taste. We settled on rice pudding(”rizogalo”), powdered sugar cookies(“kourabiedes”), honey donuts(“loukoumades”) and a strawberry jelly shortbread. I am a huge rice pudding fan so I was excited for this cinnamon topped version. Sweet and creamy, the pudding was all that it should’ve been and my roommates agreed.

We went on to the two cookies before trying the hot loukoumades. Both cookies were light and buttery, but according to my Greek roommate, the kourabiedes should have been flakier. The strawberry shortbread was quite good with the juxtaposition of buttery shortbread and sweet strawberry jam. Once the loukoumades were cool enough to eat we dug in; essentially, they are soft doughnuts drenched in a honey walnut sauce. They were amazing to say the least, with a crunchy outer shell, flaky inside and one of the best dessert sauces I have ever tasted.

My roommate has a deep rooted love for good food and is always willing to try any food I put in front of her, but she can be a bit of a critic so I figure her thoughts on the festival would be welcome. She shared that “the food was authentic and tasted just how my family makes it. My favorite food was the loukoumades. My favorite parts were the food and the Greek dancing.”

So armed with her seal of authenticity and my praise for all food Greek, I encourage you all to check this festival out when it returns next August.

Beyond the food, the festival had Greek music playing throughout complete with kids performing traditional dances intermittently. There were also different small shops selling items ranging from Greek Orthodox icons to jewelry. We had a great time and I will definitely be heading back next year, for loukoumades, if not for anything else.

Cleveland is lucky to have representation from a wide range of cultures, so before you leave this city take the chance to eat your way through the Greek Festival or head to another cultural festival. Next month alone has Oktoberfest, and festivals celebrating Serbian, Polish, Hungarian and Armenian cultures.

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Greek Festival was a savory plunge into authentic cuisine