With Fall right around the corner, it is becoming more evident in other parts of the country with the crisp night air and changing leaves. Here in Arizona, the forecast high in Phoenix is 105 and a slightly cooler 100 in Tucson so suffice to say that we are a ways off from experiencing the Fall that most of the country enjoys – maybe Winter.
The one tell tale sign that Fall is approaching is the 37th Annual Greek Festival at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church. The expansive grounds of the church are set up in the rich history of Greece and the atmosphere is electric with a vast array of Greek music and dancers. There is also an Oktoberfest feel with the beer garden community tables where thousands will congregate and enjoy a somewhat cooler evening.
With all the Greek dancers and music to create such a festive atmosphere, the real draw is the food and for a large number of people, including all my friends – the beer. Festival goers will be treated to Greek specialties such as Roasted Lamb Shanks, Athenian Baked Chicken, Souvlaki, Spanokopita and my all-time favorite – Saganaki This wildly popular appetizer is cheese dipped in a special batter and pan-fried and flamed with Greek brandy and lemon juice – Opa!
Fret not, there are still the old standby dishes that you might be more familiar with like Gyros, Hummus plates & Greek salads, but I urge you to try something new & exciting – maybe even the Dolmathes – grape leaves stuff with ground beef, rice & seasonings served with a tangy lemon sauce.
Now onto the beer – KEO is a traditional Greek beer that is brewed on the nearby island of Cyprus and is the exclusive import beer of the Tucson Greek Festival. This light straw-colored lager has a rich head yet surprisingly light flavor. This is the perfect session beer if you plan on making a night of it which always seems to happen with my group. Bottles of Greek wine and shots of ouzo always seem to make their way to our tables and no trip to the Greek festival would be complete without dessert. Baklava, Ouzo cake, Loukomades & Kataifi are the most most popular and are a definite must-try for that sweet tooth in your life, I rarely eat sweets, but these treats are absolutely divine.
The Festival begins tonight and runs through Sunday. Hours are 5-10pm tonight, 5-11pm on Friday & Saturday and from Noon-6pm on Sunday. Admission is FREE tonight, so go to their website http://www.tucsongreekfest.com to print out your free ticket. Otherwise, the admission is $3 per adult per day or a 4-day pass for $5. Children under 12 and Active Duty military with ID are always free and Adults over 60 are free on Saturday from 4-6pm. There is free parking on site as well as shuttles form the Amphi Plaza parking lot and Salpointe High School on Friday & Saturday nights.