By Ashley Soley-Cerro
My Memorial Day goal – and yes, I have a goal – is to go to bed feeling fat and happy. This means finding a place with great barbecue that will allow me to slowly eat myself into a coma while drinking in public.
I’ve spent years trying to fulfill these simple wishes, and I’ve finally found a place where people from all over Southern California gather to celebrate our shared Memorial Day goal. The Valley Greek Festival celebrates Greek culture, but let’s be honest: What it really celebrates is some amazing Greek food.
When you show up at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Northridge, you’ll be greeted by – well, a church, and a large, exquisite one at that. Don’t get the wrong idea. You’re actually headed to the beer and wine tents, where most people seem to start and end their day.
Dozens of booths offering fresh, homemade souvlaki (marinated meat grilled on skewers), dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), fried calamari and other delicacies will catch your eye and start your stomach rumbling. Don’t go crazy right away. You can’t eat everything your first pass through. Be selective.
As your stomach plumps and you begin to slow, feel free to recline, enjoy the live music and watch some traditional Greek dances.
If you’re the type that needs to burn it off, the dancers will gladly show you a few moves, or you can explore the booths selling clothing, trinkets, pottery, and jewelry.
After that you can explore your options, which is code for “eat.” Either continue your walking food tour or sit down for a traditional dinner of juicy roast leg of lamb, tyropita (warm, flaky pastry filled with cheese), and artichokes.
However you choose to eat your way through the festival, your journey should end the same way: at the dessert table. In addition to the normal run of Greek pastries, the festival features my favorite spin on a Mediterranean favorite – baklava ice cream. Sweet syrup swirls through vanilla ice cream spotted with tiny nuts and savory pastry bites, making a dessert so flavorful and divine it’s only right to consume it on a holiday.
Ashley Soley-Cerro is a digital-media producer with KTLA in Los Angeles.