Asheville Greek Festival: Eat, drink and learn to cook Greek

Loukoumades, deep-fried dough balls soaked in a honey syrup, are among Greek delicacies to look for at this weekend's Asheville Greek Festival. Photo courtesy of Asheville Greek Festival

A smorgasbord of Greek delicacies to tempt every palate will be part of the 28th Annual Greek Festival this weekend on the grounds of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of Asheville in historic Montford. Visitors will be able to sample Greek recipes handed down through generations, all prepared fresh on-site and, fortunately, you don’t have to be able to pronounce them to enjoy them.

Among the savory entrées to expect are moussaka, fried eggplant stuffed with seasoned ground beef and topped with béchamel sauce, and arni, a lamb shank slow-cooked in a tomato and vegetable sauce and served with rice pilaf.

Vegetarian dishes include spanakopita, layers of paper-thin phyllo dough filled with cheeses, spinach and herbs, and dolmades, grape leaves stuffed with rice and marinated in a lemon sauce.

Visitors will also want to save room for an array of handmade Greek pastries such as galatobouriko, a phyllo custard drizzled with syrup, and melomakarona, honey-dipped cookies sprinkled with walnuts. Wash it all down with hand-brewed, traditional Greek coffee, or sample a Greek beer or imported Greek wine.

Check out the full menu here.

Throughout the festival, Sue Arakas will head up the cooking demonstrations to illustrate this year’s theme, “From Mountains To Sea.” She and co-presenter Catherine Faherty will prepare a different seafood entrée each day of the festival accompanied by wild and cultivated greens that the Greeks favored.

But spectators will get more than just a cooking lesson; they can taste the dishes and take home the recipes. They may also get a few stories, like the one about the time Faherty made dolmades out of that bane of Southern landscapers, kudzu. “Foraging played a role in survival for the Greeks during the Civil War in the 1940s and after World War II,” Arakas explains.

Arakas has also enlisted her two sisters, Betsy Vlahos and Virginia Moutos, to help out with the cooking lessons. “Saturday’s demonstration will be the most unique,” Arakas says. “We’re doing a fish soup with a whole red snapper wrapped in cheesecloth, so the fish can be removed intact and served on a platter.”

The church’s recently renovated Morris Hellenic Cultural Center will be transformed into a market place, or agora, featuring Greek spices, olive oil, jewelry, clothing and hand-carved wood pieces. If you enjoy the festival’s food samples, booths, including the Bakaliko Grocery Store, will allow you to stock up on authentic ingredients. “We’ve got the best prices on feta cheese and kalamata olives,” Arakas says.

A map of the grounds will help visitors navigate the festival.

Nick Demos and the Greek Islanders will be playing authentic Greek music throughout the festival. Dancing is highly encouraged and so is shouting “Opa!” Not sure how to dance Greek style? No worries, there will be dancing performances throughout the festival by the church’s adult and youth groups. There will even be a Carnival Corner with inflatables and face painting for kids.

Festival-goers can take a guided tour of the church and learn about the history, architecture and orthodox liturgical practices. All are invited to attend services.

The festival runs 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of Asheville, 227 Cumberland Ave. Cooking demonstrations are at 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday; noon and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

 

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About Toni Sherwood
Toni Sherwood is an award-winning filmmaker who enjoys writing articles, screenplays, and fiction. She appreciates the dog-friendly, artistic community of Asheville.

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