Saturday, May 19, 2012
GET ME TO THE GREEK!
One of the hallmark food events in Mercer County takes place this weekend, with the 37th Annual St George's Greek Festival in Hamilton, NJ, on he grounds of St. George's Greek Orthodox Church. It is a huge, loud, music-filled, laughter-washed, joyous weekend of food, dancing, Greek beer, wine, retsina and ouzo, but most of all, authenticity.
The weekend is a quick and almost seamless immersion in Greek culture, tradition and society, but it's the food and people that draw me there every year. If you want to know what pride looks like, step up to the buffet line set up for lunch and dinner in the school gymnasium and carefully watch how your servers dish up your food. It is with a love and care rarely seen outside the home kitchen, and that is really what sets apart this festival from other ethnic festivals in the area. The elder members of the church do all of the cooking (and you can see them in the easily visible kitchen fussing over their respective dishes). The food, to me, is of the highest quality imaginable, and at ridiculously low prices. Moussaka, Pastitsio, Souvlaki (made with filet mignon!), flawlessly roasted, lemony chicken, garlicky shrimp and huge roasted lamb shanks are just a few of the entrees served at prices as low as $10, topping out at $14. And that includes golden,roasted potatoes, rice, tomato-sauced green beans, feta-flecked salad, rolls. Additional sides of spanikopita (spinach pie) and trikopita (cheese pie) and stuffed grape leaves are also available at a nominal charge. No skimping on food here.
At three different locations there are tables selling all manner of Greek pastries and breads, and another table selling Greek comestibles, like Greek oregano, bay leaves, coffee, feta and kasseri cheeses, grape leaves, olives, meatballs and other savories. It's a foodie overload. There's also a flea market set up in various classrooms of the adjacent Greek school, a bar with Mythos beer, Greek wine (including one labled "My Big Fat Greek Wine"), retsina (a wine made from pine tree resin, actually quite refreshing and crisp) and ouzo, the licorice liquor with which you absolutely must toast the evening and the people of St George's.
And I almost forgot the outdoor grills, where you can snag a big, soft Greek pita stuffed with souvlaki (inexplicably made from pork instead of lamb, but still quite tasty), or gyro meat, that composite, spit roasted meat sliced paper thin and doused with garlicky,cucumber yogurt sauce called tzatziki, along with tomatoes, onions and lettuce. Two gyros were MY entree of choice last night when I stopped at the festival with the kids and the Queen (more on her later). Those gyros are STILL the best gyros served in all of Mercer County, and I just wish it wasn't just for 4 days in May. You have two days left to experience this fantastic ethnic celebration. Don't miss it. Get yourself to the Greek!
St. George Greek Orthodox Church
1200 Klockner Rd. Hamilton, NJ
Sun: 12 Noon-6:00PM