We had our culinary awakening over fried smelts on a Greek island in the early 00s. This was before the Euro. It was the off-season; fares had been cheap, and suddenly we were lounging at a table three steps from a restaurant without a name. The sky was full of clouds, but before us, shimmery tiny fish in pale, crunchy jackets practically darted across the plate, curling around a saucer of skordalia. Grinning, we ate them, heads and all, occasionally taking sips from a tall plastic water bottle that had been drained and refilled with white-gold wine. Ever since that day, our ears have perked up at the mention of Greek food.

Fellow fans will take note of the 2010 Los Angeles Greek Fest set to go off at St. Sophia Cathedral this coming weekend, September 10th – 12th. While bouzouki shredders and frantic dance-offs dominate the entertainment portion of this Tom Hanks-hosted event, the food will be the big draw–even bigger perhaps than the star of Big himself.

In the makeshift Taverna section of the festival, among other well-traveled delicacies, cooks will turn out loukaniko, pork sausages frequently flavored with orange peel and fennel, souvlaki, and “flaming” saganaki, that liquor-spiked cheese dish guaranteed to elicit oohs and applause from tourists. In the Food Court, pastries like the spinach-stuffed spanakopita and the cheese-filled tiropita await, along with more rib-sticking fare such as pastitsio, a casserole of ground beef, melted cheese, and bechamel–an anvil-like dish destined to make a hot day feel a whole lot hotter. In the pop-up Sports Bar, try octopodi, octopus that has been boiled until it is tender, and then blackened over coals with oregano, lemon juice, and plenty of olive oil. At least, that is how we recall it. Back in the early 00s, when we were marooned for a few hours in a bleak port town, it was the last thing we ate before leaving the country.

Should you want to eventually recreate something you enjoy beneath one of the festival's many blue-and-white awnings, on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 and 4:30 p.m., you can check out cooking demonstrations in St. Basil's Hall. Get more information about times and costs here.

2010 Los Angeles Greek Fest: 1324 S. Normandie Ave., Los Angeles. September 10th – 12th. 324-737-2424.

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