A quick reminder that the Irvine Global Village Festival is coming up this Saturday, October 4, at Bill Barber Park in Irvine. The fun lasts from 10am - 6pm. Don't miss it!)
Rosy-fingered Dawn had barely brushed the horizon when I arose from my slumber, unable to rest as visions of Loukoumades danced through my thoughts, the fluffy golden orbs dripping with honey and cinnamon. I knew I had to have them. I knew where I could get them.
Every year, St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine holds its "Taste of Greece" Greek Festival. Nearly 10,000 visitors attend this still-growing event to tour the church, taste the food, participate in craft and art exhibits, and enjoy the sense of community fostered by the friendly parishioners. The money raised during the three day celebration goes towards church maintenance and charity work.
Cat had wanted to go to the festival for years and see St, Paul's mosaics. With a wifely understanding of my sometimes sedentary nature, she planted a few seeds in the fertile soil of my mind and allowed them to blossom into gluttonous madness. By the time she'd woken up, I was already chomping at the bit, eager to get on with our next food adventure.
A $3 admission fee got us into the bustling church grounds covered with tents, crafts, products, and people. Greek music, laughter, and the smell of sizzling lamb fat filled the air. Naturally, I headed straight for the food.
I found the objects of my desire at the very first food booth I saw. Entire flotillas of Loukoumades bobbed in a wine-dark sea of hot oil, gently crisping in the thermal bath.
Even better, they were being meticulously tended by a grey-haired granny. Everyone knows grannies and aunties make the best food.
But, my honeyed Greek donuts were just the beginning as Cat and I ate our way though the entire fair. (Well, mostly me.) Pieces of Kota (Roast Chicken), liberally crusted with herbs and spices, were reduced to bones under our combined assault. We crunched into Spanikopita (Spinach Pastry), shattering its numerous layers of flaky phyllo. Crimson rounds of Loukaniko (Anise Sausage) burst in our mouths like licorice-packed Slim Jims, releasing savory juices scented with anise. I made quick work of the Païdakia (Grilled Lamb Chops), slurping up each meaty lozenge. My favorite by far was the Saganaki (Greek Flaming Cheese), seared in a red hot skillet, then deglazed with Ouzo (Anise Liquor) and fresh lemon juice. However, the coup de grace was an entire lamb roasting on a spit over a charcoal fire. The aroma coming off of it was unbelievable.
To help us digest, Cat and I toured the various non-food booths. We enjoyed some great live music, as well several impromptu dances by a quartet of very happy festival-goers.
(Nice stuff, mean proprietor.)
We also enjoyed the crafts and products. Most of the vendors were friendly and very happy to tell us about their offerings. Unfortunately, there was one aggressive gentleman who got in my face when I tried to take a picture of some visitors looking over his table. He even went as far as sticking a hand in front of my camera lens as he chewed me out. However, he was an exception in what was otherwise a very close and welcoming community.
Cat and I were halfway home before we realized that we'd forgotten to tour the church's mosaics and check out the events going on inside. That's all right. It gives us even more to look forward to next year.
St. Paul's "A Taste of Greece" Greek Festival - A wonderful event for a good cause. The kindness of the church members staffing and attending the event really warms the soul. Stay away from a short, curly-haired man selling glass bottles. He's a mean one.
St. Paul's Greek Festival - A Taste of Greece
(Held at the end of September every year)
4949 Alton Parkway
Irvine, CA 92604