It’s a late summer tradition that seems to get better with age. This year marks the 52nd year of the Original Rochester Greek Fest, which is held on the grounds of the Greek Orthodox Church this weekend.
Under the culinary direction of local Chef Johnny Mango, this year’s fest is sporting a few new menu items that sound so good, you’re definitely going to need to save some room.
The gyro is the old standby, and it’s as good here as you can get anywhere — with gyro meat (a mix of seasoned beef and lamb, roasted vertically on a spit), tomatoes, onions and tzatziki, served on a warm pita. If you’re not a fan of the traditional gyro meat, you also can get a falafel gyro or chicken gyro.
I’m definitely trying one of the new fusion recipes this year — the Greek burger. The ground angus beef patty is broiled, then topped with feta and tzatziki and served on a pretzel bun. Amazing.
I also need to try the complete-meal menu option, which serves up marinated, seasoned and roasted Greek chicken with whole baby red potatoes in lemon sauce, along with Greek salad and a baguette.
At this point, you’re just going to have to come back another day for all the desserts, including the “heavenly baklava” they’ve been serving at Thursdays on First this summer, as well as loukoumathes (fried dough topped with cinnamon and honey sauce), kataifi (shredded phyllo with nuts and a honey syrup), twice-baked paximadia (like biscotti) and so many more. There are so many varieties to choose from, but the good news is almost everyone is a variation of phyllo, butter, honey, nuts and sugar, that you really can’t go wrong.
Do you have to be Greek to attend the fest? The festival’s website (greekfestrochester.com) includes a handy flowchart with clues about family size, beards and the pronounciation of “gyro,” but even for those of us as Norwegian as they come, three shots of Ouzo is all it takes to become Greek for a day.
Greek Fest kicks off from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, then continues from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. It all happens outdoors under tents at Holy Anargyroi Greek Orthodox Church, 703 W. Center St. While you eat (which is the reason you’re there), you can enjoy Greek dancers, church tours and Hellenic music.
Four Daughters represents at the fair
The Minnesota State Fair kicks off today in St. Paul, and some of our own local talent will be showing off their culinary chops at an event this weekend.
Aug. 30 is Minnesota Cooks day at the fair, featuring a full day of demonstrations at Carousel Park. Each one-hour session pairs a chef with local food producers to prepare recipes using fresh, local ingredients.
Four Daughters Vineyard and Winery knows a little something about that. Their creative menu owes its superb flavor to many of the local farms and producers that supply their ingredients.
Four Daughters head chef Erik Kleven and his culinary team have the noon spot at Carousel Park, where they’ll prepare a Moroccan-spiced lamb and quinoa tabouleh and roasted garlic creme brulee.
Next week, I’m covering some of the fun new tastes and dishes being featured at this year’s state fair. What will you eat when you go?