The post-fire smoke cloud that's still hovering over parts of the city will no doubt be blown away by the exotic spices and music filling the air this weekend. Two cultural festivals, the L.A. Greek Fest and the Little Ethiopia Street Festival, will put on proud displays of the best of their national flavors, textures and smells, offering Angelinos the opportunity for a showcase multi-national culinary tour, without ever leaving the city.
The L.A. Greek Fest returns to the Saint Sophia Cathedral for its 11th year, with guest hosts Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, dancing zorbas and Anna Vissi, sagnaki and yes, feta fries. Though the three day celebration kicks off with a free "Dancing Zorba Night" on Friday at 5 p.m., the $5 admission fee ($4 with a coupon from their website) on Saturday and Sunday is well worth the free cooking classes, at 2 and 4 p.m. in St. Basil's Hall. The cost of admission, however, does not include food, which will be overwhelmingly abundant all weekend. In the Parish Center Hall, a Greek dinner of sliced lamb or roast chicken served with rice, greek salad, feta cheese, Greek olives and bread ($12-14) will be served. Or go a la carte at one of the other three food stations: the Taverna for appetizers, kalamari ($7) and loukaniko ($4); the Greek Sports Bar for Greek sliders ($5), baby lamb chops(4 for $12), and Octopodi ("morsels" of grilled octopus, $8); the Food Court for traditional Moussaka ($7) and kebab ($5). Or, for $25, "Zorba's Feast" includes two kebobs, Briami, moussaka, pastitsio, spanikopita, tiropita, Greek salad and bread.
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If after two days of Grecian feasting you simply cannot look at another dolmathe, or even if you can, consider making your way to South Fairfax for the 8th Annual Little Ethiopian Street Festival. From 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday September 13, the Ethiopian restaurants numerically dominating this small section of street between Pico and Olympic open their doors wide for a proud showcase of flavors from their home country. If you have never tried Ethiopian food, I cannot suggest a better place to get your hands dirty. (Literally, since Ethiopian food is eaten atop a spongy sourdough bread called injera, without utencils.) Admission is free, and festivities include a colorful afternoon parade of ladies and gentlemen, dressed in little more than feathers.