Five area festivals mean two days of foodie bliss
By Lisa Brown firstname.lastname@example.org
The next two weeks will be heaven for ethnic-food-lovers in the Merrimack Valley.
The coming weekend will offer authentic foods from Latin America (the Latino Festival in Manchester), Southeast Asia (the Southeast Asian Water Festival in Lowell), Lebanon (the Middle Eastern Festival in Manchester) and Greece (Greekfest at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Manchester.
And then there’s the chili (Henniker).
And save room; next weekend is the African Caribbean Festival in Manchester.
Don’t want to cook for the next week? Come early, bring cash and load up.
Baklava & spanakopeta
Assumption Greek Orthodox Church dishes out the good stuff
There could be a Greek festival every weekend in Manchester, and there would still be people who hadn’t had enough baklava.
When it comes to the flaky, sticky and totally scrumptious Greek pastry, one piece is not enough. Thank goodness the women at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church have made more than 1,800 pieces. Start the diet on Monday; indulge yourself this weekend. Greek Festival 2007, Assumption Greek Orthodox Church’s annual food festival, takes place this Saturday, Aug. 18, and Sunday, Aug. 19, at the church grounds, 111 Island Pond Road in Manchester. The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
All the food is traditional Greek food and made by some of the members of the parish, who begin some of the preparation as much as a month in advance. In the days leading up to the festival the church kitchen buzzes with activity as volunteers begin the final sprint to the end. While there are several Greek festivals held in Manchester each year, each one is a little different and always unique to its parish. Each cook brings generational secrets about how to make baklava or pita that are harder to crack than the DaVinci Code. Artemis Lazos, one of the volunteer cooks, has her own notebook brimming with recipes, all written in Greek. Last week Lucie Skouteris was in charge of the kataifi (kah-dee-EE-fee), which is very much like baklava but made with shredded filo.
“It’s what I call shredded wheat and filled with walnuts and cinnamon and butter, of course, and once it is cooled down we will pour the syrup,” Skouteris said.
Organizers say they plan the amount of food to cook based on the attendance from previous years
“We make about 60 to 65 pita [spanakopita] trays, 16 trays of baklava, 24 pounds of kataifi, 3,000 grape leaves,” Skouteris said. “We have made about 3,000 koulourakis [twisted butter cookies], and I think we have used about 40 pounds of butter to make the kourambiethes [buttery cookies with powdered sugar].... ”
One of the new items on the menu will be baklava sundaes. Skouteris says there will be plenty of food and plenty of choices including some of the crowd favorites.
“The most popular food? I would say the pitas [spanakopita], the baklava goes well, of course, the lamb, the pastitsio [Greek macaroni pie] the meatballs and the grape leaves, definitely the grape leaves and they are delicious this year,” Skouteris said.
While the food may be a bit caloric, weight watchers can work it off. In addition to food, the festival will have a live band each night playing traditional Greek music for dancing. The festival also features Greek imports, fine jewelry, a penny sale, raffles and crafts.
While the Greek festival is primarily about food and serves as the major fundraiser for the parish each year, organizers say the event is more about celebrating traditions, Greek culture and local community.
“It’s just fun to see everyone here all together enjoying themselves,” said Mariana Gasis, one of the cooks. “You see people from different parts of the community, not just the church community, but the local community of Manchester that helps us out and supports us every year.”
The festival has been taking place longer than most parishioners can remember. It first was held at Pine Island Park, an old amusement park off Goffes Falls Road.
“In the 1930s when they first started having it, it was just called the annual picnic,” said Janet Malin, secretary at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church. “They changed the name over the years and now we call it Greek Fest.”
“In the older days, it used to be much more symbolic,” said Father Athanasios Nenes, pastor of Assumption Greek Orthodox Church. “They used to dance [in a circle] around the church to show what is at the center of the whole event, the church.”
Today the festival honors The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (on Aug. 15), for whom the church is named.
“We are celebrating our big feast and it has been a big tradition for our parish so people are free to celebrate,” Nenes said. “We show our love for everyone and everyone is accepted. It is our filoxenia, our hospitality.”
Nenes says filoxenia is a Greek word that means friends of foreigners.
“The main purpose of our tradition and religion is to be united in the Body of Christ and we are experiencing this thing by showing love and hospitality to people.”
For more information about Greek Fest 2007, call 623-2045 or 623-2941.
Stuffed Grape Leaves
Many of the women of the Philoptochos Society at the Assumption Church have their own Dolmades recipes. This recipe, which is used for the Greekfest, was adapted from all of them.
1 jar grape leaves (1 pint)
1½ lb ground beef
2½ teaspoons salt
Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, finely grated
1 cup long-grain rice
Juice of 1½ lemons
½ cup parsley
¼ cup dill
¼ cup melted butter
2 cups beef or chicken broth
4 to 8 tablespoons lemon juice Rinse leaves in cold water. Let stand.
Combine ground beef with next 8 ingredients, adding enough water to make a soft, loose mixture. Place 1 teaspoon of ground beef filling in center of a grape leaf and shape into a narrow roll. May be frozen at this point.
Arrange dolmades in layers in a deep baking pan. Add butter, broth and lemon juice. Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until rice is tender.
3 eggs, well-beaten
¼ cup water
Juice of 2 lemons
Beat eggs, water and lemon juice. Gradually add hot liquid of Dolmades, a little at a time, until eggs are lukewarm, beating constantly. Pour egg sauce slowly over Dolmades. Serve at once.
Empanadas & frijoles
Manchester’s Latino festival just keeps getting bigger
Veterans Park in Manchester is about to burst with the sights, sounds and exotic flavors of Latin America.
The annual Latino Festival of New Hampshire takes place on Saturday, Aug. 18, from noon to 8:30 p.m. in Veterans Park in Manchester. More than 7,000 people are expected to attend the event, which continues to grow every year.
“The purpose of the festival is not only to promote our culture and to promote leadership during all the activities, but it is also to provide scholarships to Latinos in New Hampshire,” said Sonia Parra, president of Latinos Unidos de New Hampshire, the organization overseeing the festival. All money raised from the event will go toward the scholarship program.
The day kicks off with a parade down Elm Street beginning at 11 a.m.
“We are lining up at 10:30 a.m. at the parking lot in front of St. Joseph’s Cathedral on Chestnut Street and from there we will go down Concord Street to Elm Street and then to Veterans Park,” Parra said.
This year’s grand marshal for the parade is Lillie Ramos Spooner, known locally for her work with the Greater Manchester AIDS project. Spooner serves on the Governor’s Commission on Latino Affairs. Marching in the parade for the first time this year will be four groups of soccer players who participated in the first Latino Soccer Tournament held recently in Manchester.
“We just finished doing our first Latino Festival Soccer Tournament and the four teams are going to be there with their big trophies,” Parra said. “It happened to be an international soccer game where we had players from Brazil, Colombia, the Congo, Somalia and other African nations.”
Parra said the Latino Festival is a celebration of all cultures.
“This festival ... promotes an awareness that the community is growing and we are a community moving the economy,” Parra said.
An eclectic mix of musicians will perform throughout the day, representing the sounds of a variety of Latin American countries. Look for colorful costumes, ethnic dancing, lots of pageantry and an amazing assortment of food representing Cuba, Puerto Rico, Columbia, Honduras and other Central American countries. Local restaurants cooking it up for the festival include Rincon Colombiano of Nashua, Don Quijote Restaurant in Manchester and El Rancho El Salvado in Manchester.
Expect to find plenty of foods to choose from including traditional rice & beans, arroz con gandules, empanadas, tacos & burritos, plato paisa, roast pork, Spanish rice and sweet plantains.
Latino Festival Entertainment
12:45 p.m. Inkawasi (Peru) traditional group
1:35 p.m. Grupo Caribeño (Dominican Republic)
1:55 p.m. Grupo Diamante (Mexico)
2:45 p.m. Bajacul (Colombia)
3 p.m. Bolivian’s Forkloric Fraternity of Rhode Island
3:45 p.m. Telemundo 60 (Latino Festival official television channel)
3:55 p.m. Tropical Sound (salsa)
4:40 p.m. Power 800 (Latino Festival official radio station)
4:50 p.m. Taller Borinqueño
5:05 p.m. Kontroversy (hip-hop)
5:20 p.m. Defenix (reggaeton)
6:10 p.m. Veronica (Mexico)
7 p.m. Fuerza Tropical (El Salvador)
7:55 p.m. Banda X (merengue).