[Karolina Breit (left) and Shadi Kafi. Greek Festival, Rochester, June 6, 2016]
The Annual Greek Festival of Rochester was held at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church , 962 East Avenue, this past weekend. Despite the rain on Sunday June 5th, hundreds were present casually strolling, shopping for Greek art, jewelry and pastries, listening to the Greek live band and enjoying the live dance shows.
According to Maria Aslaui-Breit, President of the Festival Committee:
Next year we are celebrating 100 years in Rochester! This is our main fundraiser of the year. It’s always the weekend after Memorial Day. We get between 15,000 to 40,000 people over four days. We are so grateful and give back to the community. Every year we have a featured charity that gets $5,000.00 and our previous charities, receive $1,000.00 each. In total we give $15,000.00 to $20,000.00to Rochester charities. This year’s featured charity is The Society for the Protection and Care of Children.
The delicious, homemade displays of Greek food were enough to make festival attendance well worth the efforts on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
The sign OPA! Greek Yogurt caught my attention immediately. As an Iranian-American, yogurt is a huge part of every Iranian meal, often homemade from milk left overnight at room temperature, then refrigerated.
Persian yogurt is mixed with cucumbers to make Mast-O- Khiar or garlic and shallots to make Mast-O- Musir. Or my ultimate favorite Borani Esfanaj (recipe): Persian yogurt mixed with spinach.
As Karolina Breit exlained:
We sell imported Greek yogurt from a Greek family farm in Canada. The farmers are from Crete and they use the exact process they use in Crete. It is strained and kept very thick. People love it because you can’t find this in the store. Traditionally Greeks love honey and walnuts on yogurt and Greek honey is the best, much thicker than any American honey.
It was delicious but I still vote Baroni Esfenaj as #1 in my heart! This yogurt can tie for 1st though!
Strolling along I got the backstage pass to learning main food preparation for the Greek festival. According to Peter Stamatis, head chef for the event:
We ordered 300 more lamb shank last night and will be out in a few hours today. It goes incredibly fast! We add celery, carrots, onions, garlic, diced tomatoes, chicken stock and drippings from the lamb roasting and roast for two and a half hours. People love it!
So whether you came out and enjoyed the eclectic variety of handmade pastries, yogurt, ice cream,main meals such as Lamb Shank, Chicken Soufledas, Spanokopita or simply came to stroll and listen to the music, there was definitely the familiarity and energy of a genuine Greek family working hard behind the scenes at the Rochester Greek Festival this year!
For me, that was key to giving all the foods more flavor and more importantly, giving everyone a greater curiosity and greater appreciation for Greek culture in our lovely city!
ALSO ON AND BY SHADI