Friday, September 16, 2011

OPA! Or why you should hurry up and get to the Greek Festival.

One of my absolute favorite events is in Columbia this weekend: The Greek Festival.  Every year for the past 25 years, the local Greek Orthodox Church runs a weekend long festival of all things Greek: food, folk dancing, music, shopping, etc.  They also have carnival rides for the kids, and this year, they are offering tours of their brand new church.  In spite of all that goes on, this is really a low key event.  It's a time to get together, eat some incredible food, absorb a little bit of a different culture, and, if you're me, thank God that your rather stubborn grandmother was never able to convince your parents to sign you up for traditional folk dancing lessons.

I adore Greek food.  Or at least most of it.  I still can't bring myself to eat dolmades.  Let me explain.  This Hungry Lady is half Armenian.  Yep.  Just like those irritating Kardashians.  I promise that my family is not that annoying.  Unfortunately, we aren't that wealthy either.  Anyway.  Aside from geography, there aren't really that many differences between Armenia and Greece.  Greek music tends to be a little more upbeat, but let's be honest.  Armenians are the depressed cousins of the Greeks.  When it comes to food, the flavors and types are pretty similar. Both are heavily influenced by dishes traditionally associated with the former Ottoman Empire and the Middle East.  Greek food tends to incorporate more Mediterranean flavors.  This may be why I prefer Greek food to Armenian.  Or it may just be that being forced to eat traditional Armenian food as a three-year old turned me off of it for life. At any rate, the flavor profile traditionally associated with Greek food is one that I've carried with me my entire life.  So when the Greek Festival rolled into town this year, I jumped on my chance to go.

I met a couple of friends during lunch to grab some gyros, Greek fries, and baklava.  There are plenty of other things on the menu, but as you know, I always seize the chance to eat a real gyro.  Let's be honest though.  I'm totally toying with the idea of going back for dinner tonight.  Or maybe for lunch tomorrow or Sunday.  The gyro was perfect.  A great blend of beef and lamb, topped with tomatoes, onions, and dressing.  Greek fries are really just french fries coated in a Greek seasoning blend.  I happened to get to the booth just as they were seasoning a fresh batch, so mine were awesome.

And then there's the real reason that everyone goes to the Greek festival: the baklava.  And I'm not talking about that weird pastry-like thing you get at most restaurants that is passed off as baklava.  This was warm and gooey, and so fragile it nearly fell apart in my hand.  The layers of filo were even thinner than normal, and the honey and nuts just oozed out the side.  It reminded me of being a little girl at my grandparents's house for Christmas Eve.  You see, way back in the day, back when my grandma was forcing me to eat weird Armenian food, she, her mother, and my aunt would do an awful lot of cooking and baking for the holidays.  Everything was from scratch.  They'd make all sorts of glorious food (at least for those who liked Armenian food), and on occasion, there would be baklava.  So good.  I may actually have to talk my aunt into making some this year....

But I digress.  The entire point of this post was to encourage you to get to the Greek Festival before it closes at 8 p.m. on Sunday.  It's a good time and very casual and laid back.  Parking is kind of a nightmare, so be prepared to drive around a little while before you find something.  Enjoy the food, drinks, and entertainment.    It's always a great time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rock, Blues, and Beer Gardens

A couple of weeks ago, M and I drove up to Charlotte to see Grace Potter & the Nocturnals at the Fillmore.  If you've never heard GPN, I suggest you check them out.  The show was awesome - excellent music, excellent vibe, and excellent crowd.  But since this is a food blog and not a music blog, we'll move on.

I think the Fillmore is a great place to see a show.  Partially because the venue itself is really nice, but also because of the surrounding area.  The Fillmore is part of the North Carolina Music Factory.  There are a handful of venues, both inside and out, clubs, and restaurants.  And - this might be the best part - FREE parking.  Right?!?!?  When was the last time you had free parking for a show?

At any rate, the restaurants were what interested me.  M and I met up with a few friends of ours who live in Charlotte (and who were kind enough to let us spend the weekend) for dinner before the show.  Since we were a little pressed for time, we decided to hit one of the restaurants near the Fillmore.  K, our resident Charlotte tour guide, took us to VBGB, a Beer Hall and Garden.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Voting Time!

I promise, as soon as this whole contest business is finished, I will return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.  But first, we have a winner to decide on!

Only four people emailed me contest entries, so the odds of winning are pretty good.  But ultimately, the winner will be crowned by y'all.  That's correct.  I, like normal, can't make up my mind, so I'm asking for input.  I will be posting all four entries - a photo with a caption describing the meal - on Facebook.  All you have to do is "like" the photo and caption that you think looks/sounds the best.  Make your decision carefully.....there is a $50 gift card at stake here!  Voting will end on September 14.  Then I'll contact the winner, and we can make arrangements for you to get your gift card.

Sound good?  Well, tell your friends to come vote.  This isn't going to work if only the people who entered vote.  I will NOT be voting, as I don't think that's really fair.  So let's get voting, yeah?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Food Truck Food Court Takes over Columbia...again.

Yesterday, Cromer's played host to the second Food Truck Food Court (FTFC) to hit Columbia.  I attended the inaugural event, and you can read about it here. I had a great time, so there wasn't any doubt in my mind that I would go to the second event.

So here's the rundown, before we get to one of the best lunches I've ever experienced in Columbia: