Saturday, May 21, 2016

It’s Great to Be Greek, Even If It’s Just For a Weekend!

That is the theme of this year’s Greek Festival at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension in the beautiful island of Oakland, CA and I could not agree more.  With such a diverse community in the Bay Area, we can immerse ourselves with the flavors of Japan at the Cherry Blossom Festival one month and that of Greece the next.  

Normally during the beginning of May, this year just happened to be a few weeks later (May 20-22), giving me the chance to catch it before it was too late.  With hours from 10AM-11PM Fri-Sat and 11-9 Sun, we made sure to arrive early to secure one of the free parking spots at the Mormon Temple, Ability Now Bay Area, or Head Royce lots.   Although shuttles run between, I like parking by the Mormon Temple lot and walk down when the shuttles are most busy and then take the shuttle back up when it is pretty empty since many are still arriving.  If money is no object, there is a pay lot for $15 right at the pavilion as well.  Admission is $6 with a dollar discount if you bring a can food item for the food bank with special hours free or today’s promotion, anyone who attended today’s A’s game gets in for free by showing their tickets.  If you have tokens from previous years’ festivals, use them up as this will be the last year accepted.  Payment is now via credit card, phone pay or prepaying a GC that can be scanned at each booth. 

Although not the only Greek Festival in the Bay Area (Marin, San Jose, Castro Valley, SF, and Contra Costa still to come), this is easily my favorite maybe because it is so food-centric.  Spanakopita or lesser known Tyropita to start?  Haloumi, Loukaniko, Souvlakia, or Gyros to follow?  Just make sure to save room for Galaktobouriko, Kaitaife, or Kourambiedes (and you thought Baklava was hard to pronounce).  No room, no worries as they have Take-Home pastries for about $15 for a pack of 5-6 pieces.  

This being my second time attending, my main focus this time around is the food so one promotion that I easily took advantage of is the passport.  Taste all 5 regions (purchase 1 food or beverage item from each of the 5 regions), get your passport stamped and get a free bowl of Loukoumades (honey dipped pastry puffs). 
Arriving right before 11 with no lines in sight, we split a loukaniko (greek sausage in pita)
then straight to dessert with the galaktobouriko (fillo, milk custard, and honey) at their café
then back to appetizer with a good sized spanakopita (fillo, spinach, cheese). 
Go ahead, be bold, eat dessert before appetizer…there are no rules here!  To work off all this good food, walk around and check out the non-food booths, the entertainment at the Windmill Plaza, Olympia Bar, or Platia Stage and take in one of the church tours of the Cathedral. 
After working up an appetite again, a gyro was calling our names washed down with thirst quenching lemonade. 
Five stamps down, loukoumades here we come!! 

It sure was Great to Be Greek, Even If Only For a Day!  Okay, maybe for more than a day if my to go lamb shanks and moussaka are any indication.  


Becoming an annual tradition now, we have returned for all our favorites above and trying the saganaki 

and souvlaki and lamb chop. 

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