I recently attended the Valley Greek Festival which took place at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church located within the San Fernando Valley. This event invites the public to be immersed within a Greek cultural experience with live music, dancing, a Greek market, cooking demonstrations, and of course the centerpiece..eating various types of authentic Greek cuisine.
The Valley Greek Festival does well to create an authentic Greek experience, where the guests literally feel like that are at some far away festival in Greece. The music enhances the atmosphere and gets the crowd into a festive mood, while dancers dressed in their traditional outfits perform to enthused crowds. The Greek Market is also a crowd-pleaser where guests can leisurely shop around for Greek items and relate with venders. The festival also has cooking demonstrations where they can fully immerse guests within the Greek culture and show them how to cook authentic Greek cuisine.
Speaking of Greek Cuisine, food is by far the centerpiece of the festival. Like one would see children line up for rides at the amusement park, guests wait in long lines just to taste the incredible flavor of various authentic Greek cuisine. While most of the names of the foods could not be pronounced, the flavors were fantastic. While some dishes needed to be approached with an open mind, guests are surely wowed by the Greek cuisine.
So lets talk food! There was a wide variety of authentic Greek dishes at the event which could almost be slightly overwhelming, so I decided to start with the comfortable calamari. Deep-fried to perfection, the calamari had wonderful flavor with added spices and of course lemon-juice.
I then worked up some courage to try the Pork Souvlaki, which is just marinated beef that is skewered and barbecued, as well as barbecued lamb chops. Both were mouth-watering and full of incredible flavor, as we watched them being grilled to perfection. While there were many of dishes that I cannot not pronounce, I became too full to try all of them.
I quickly moved to desert when I spied a delightful dish called Loukoumathes, also known as “Greek Donuts” that are deep-fried and then covered in honey and cinnamon. I can honestly say that out of all the food at the festival, these were my favorite. My mouth was drooling as I watch the cooks take the small donuts fresh out of the deep-fryer and on to my plate.
Since we are talking about desert, I cannot forget the mention the various traditional Greek pastries sold around the festival. Once again, the names can be tongue-twisters and the look can be a little frightening, but when in Greece you have to keep an open mind. We decided to try three different types of pastries: Baklava, Kourambiethes, and Kataifi. The Baklava was my favorite and featured very rich and nutty flavors.
While the food was all fantastic, the festival also provided tours of the nearby church. The church I found was absolutely breath-taking with the various portraits, stain-class artwork, murals, and statues. It also provided a welcoming peace and calm from the fast-pace festival outside.
Overall, the Valley Greek Festival was an exciting and memorable event; I felt as if I was in the middle of a Greek festival in Athens. Not only were the dishes delightfully delicious, but the venders were very welcoming and did well to immerse the guests in a traditional Greek cultural experience.
Photos by: Christopher James Sigman