Every year we have to hit up the annual Greek Fest in Knoxville for some delicious Greek food, pastries, coffee, and dancing!
When fall rolls around, it’s become a little tradition to attend Greek Fest with our friends each year and the 2016 festival was no exception! I honestly cannot believe we’ve never blogged about it before. I snap pictures every time we go and have well meaning intentions to get a blog up, but time always slips away from me. This year I am finally getting a post up to share with you!
We attended the 37th annual version of the cultural festival back at the end of September at the Greek Orthodox Church in Knoxville located on Kingston Pike in the Sequoyah Hills area in what we like to call church row. Free parking is available nearby at the lower level of Western Plaza, Laurel Church of Christ, and Second Presbyterian with a complimentary shuttle bus to the church. If you park close enough like we do each year at Western Plaza, then you can walk up the hill and pre-burn off the Baklava Sundae you know you’re going to eat.
Typically it seems like this food festival falls earlier in September, but we all appreciated that later date of this year’s event because the weather was much cooler than in the past, especially since all of the yummy foods are set up under big tents in the back parking lot. That asphalt gets hot in the sweltering humid east TN heat found in late summer.
Seeing those familiar blue and white tents makes me giddy for Greek food! I’m drooling just thinking about next year’s festival. On the menu, they offer a TON of classics and some not-so-traditional Greek items like the Baklava Sundae!
The Souvlaki, which is marinated grilled pork tenderloin seasoned with lemon and herbs served gyro style in a pita with onions, tomatoes and tzatsiki sauce, is one of our favorites. They always go heavy on the sauce. Of course, had to get the tomatoes on the side for Remington. Souvlaki in the pita or just on a stick is a good stand by – it’s a solid choice when you just can’t decide and this year it was exceptionally tender. You can also get chicken in a pita or a true gyro with slice beef and lamb.
To try something new this year, we also split a lamb sandwich. It gets served on on a warm ciabatta bun with au jus spooned over the bottom bun. I was not sure what to expect with this sandwich since I love the classic pita with tzatsiki so much, but it was delicious! What a surprise! The sliced lamb was incredibly tender and flavorful, not dry at all. The only improvements would be more of that amazing lamb and a side cup of au jus for dipping.
Hubby LOVES the Spanakopita, so it’s a must every year! Flaky layers of phyllo dough are filled with spinach, egg and cheese then baked to golden perfection.
I personally love the Saganaki – Greek Kasserie cheese gets melted and flamed with brandy served over crusty bread with a lemon. I mean, come on, how could you not love that? Brandy flamed cheese?? Plus Kasserie is a nice smooth, rich and mild flavored cheese almost like Havarti. It’s just so good and it was exceptional this year!
We also got an order of the Dolmades this year. Dolmades are grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs. If I’m totally honest, I remember each time we get an order of these that they just aren’t my favorite. I’ve had pretty good Dolmades at restaurants, but the ones served at Greek Fest are lacking in flavor and the texture of the stuffy is too mushy. These are most likely made in big batches ahead of time, but rice just doesn’t do well when it sits like that with lemon and olive oil. I think they’d be much better fresh.
Our buddies, Matt & Erin, got a serving of Pastichio that they let us nibble at as well. Another unique, yet classic Greek food, Pastichio is what I would call the Greek version of lasagna or baked ziti. Layers of ziti noodles, grated cheese and a cinnamon spiced ground beef mixture get topped with a rich cream sauce, more cheese and baked! It’s a super heavy dish, but the different spices used that you don’t expect like cinnamon make you want to continue eating it. This was another item that was exceptionally delicious this year.
You can grab a spot under a giant tent to enjoy your Greek food finds with friends while listening to the live music play on the adjacent stage.
After a filling lunch of Greek favorites, we were all too stuffed for a yummy Baklava sundae (there’s always next year!), but we couldn’t pass up dessert completely. So we shared a serving of the Loucoumades. They are basically light, fried donut holes topped with cinnamon and honey syrup. I think the Greek refer to them as pastry puffs and that’s very accurate. These are definitely not as heavy as a true donut hole, but are light and airy delicious balls of glorious pastry dough fried up golden doused with a healthy amount of honey syrup. This is sticky, sweet finger food that disappears quickly!
We also can’t miss the homemade Greek pastries! Head inside the church to order yourself a box filled with Baklava, Koulourakia, Kourabiedes, Finikia, Galaktoboureko, or even Challah bread. We got the Baklava, Kourabiedes, and Finikia this year. We also tried out the Galaktoboureko, which was new to us this time. It’s a thick, creamy custard similar to cheesecake baked between layers of phyllo dough. That one disappeared quickly!! Our favorite pastry – the Kataifi – which looks like shredded wheat on top as well as the Baklava Cheesecake were already sold out though! Lesson learned, go to Greek Fest before Sunday afternoon if you don’t want to risk your favorite pastries already being sold out.
Just outside the church gym where shops and pastries are set up, you can get your caffeine fix for the week. This is seriously STRONG coffee. You can get a small cup of hot Greek coffee for $2.00 or an Iced Frappe loaded with chocolate, sugar and whipped topping for $4.00.
The hot coffee is made in a traditional style heated over a fire in a Turkish Ibrik by a tiny Greek lady. It’s just so perfect. We like our coffee very strong and this is almost pure sludge, but good sludge. It has a great robust flavor and just enough sweetness to temper the bitter coffee. They use actual Greek coffee beans to brew it. The Frappe on the other hand is made with Nestle instant coffee, milk, sugar and chocolate syrup. So it’s more of a sugar bomb. 😉
We like to finish up the fun watching some dancing Greek-style! Good luck finding a seat with a good view though, this area gets crowded as people love to enjoy the afternoon sitting back listening to Greek music and watching kids and adults alike dance.
Already looking forward to next year’s event!! And we will have a tiny hash-brown munchkin of our own in tow to teach all about different cultures and foods. 🙂
In the meantime, check out Brownie Bites’s posts of Greek Fest from 2016 and past years.