One word: Baklava.
There are very few things in this world that I love more than Greek food. For this reason, I practically jumped with joy when I discovered another gem in this quirky little city: The Portland Greek Festival. This is event is 63 years in the running, and is on track to continue for many years to come. Essentially, it’s a large celebration of Greek culture hosted by the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. It began in the 1950’s as a fundraising bazaar-type event hosted by the women of the church and grew into the annual tradition it is now.
There are performances of traditional dance (you can even join in on the fun– hit up the beer tent before and you’ll be amazed at how great you are at Greek dancing), a few booths with Greek goodies, merchandise, and tourist-style knickknacks, banquet-style dinners, cooking classes (this was a great experience I’ll talk about in a moment), and dozens of traditional pastries and snacks to munch on as you mingle. Food is definitely the focus of this cultural event, so come prepared with a few bucks to sample as many goodies as possible. I highly recommend the Loukoumades—deep-fried balls of dough, soaked in honey, and sprinkled with cinnamon. Every bite of honey-infused delicate crispiness hits the sweet-tooth-spot like no other.
Speaking of food, there is one event you MUST attend if you make it to the festival: a cooking demonstration. This event is supposed to cost $3, although they never ended up collecting our fees, so it was essentially free (But… soon it will cost me $30, because I don’t know if I can live without their cookbook…)! Even if it cost $3, it’s beyond worth it. An adorable, elderly Greek couple takes the audience through the steps of preparing a 6-or-so course meal, adding in hilarious anecdotes, answering questions, amicably arguing with one another over the proper way to spice a salad, and, the best part: offering samples of every delicious morsel.
Thank you, Portland, for this fun, cheap, delicious event. If you plan on attending the Portland Greek Festival then I definitely suggest checking out their schedule (posted online), getting a bit of background knowledge on the wide variety of pastries available (be prepared to wipe drool off your keyboard…), and planning your visit around at least one special event (it can be a bit crowded, so having an event to focus on for a while can help the experience feel less overwhelming). To find out more about this cool event, go to the website: http://portlandgreekfestival.com/.