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Choose from dozens of Greek dishes and desserts at this year’s food festival. Courtesy photo.




St. Philip Greek Orthodox Church Greek Food Festival

When: Friday, May 20, and Saturday, May 21, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: 500 West Hollis St., Nashua
Tickets: Free admission and parking; priced per item.
Visit: stphilipnh.org/events/festival/




Go Greek
St. Philip kicks off food fest season

05/19/16
By Allie Ginwala aginwala@hippopress.com



 For over 30 years, St. Philip Greek Orthodox Church has opened the region’s Greek food festival season with an event filled with gyros, spanakopita and baklava. This year’s festival on Friday, May 20, and Saturday, May 21, is no exception with plenty of dishes, desserts and entertainment that will give the community a much-anticipated dose of authentic cuisine.

Jamie Pappas, festival co-chair and food production coordinator, has been involved with the festival for a decade and has seen its popularity grow among folks looking forward to getting their Greek food fix for back-to-back meals. 
“We have repeat customers every year. … They come for lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday to get their fill for the year,” Pappas said in a phone interview. 
She estimated that at least 75 percent of festival attendees aren’t from the local Greek community, with some even traveling from other parts of the state and Massachusetts. 
“We get drive-bys and people that plan for it. It’s a big to-do,” she said.
A team of parishioners prepares all of the food for the festival, churning out the traditional dishes using large quantities like this year’s tally of 1,600 pounds of lamb and 1,000 pounds of chicken. Some items are made as early as late January, like the popular spanakopita. The spinach pie is very labor-intensive, Pappas said, and they need to make more of it than anything else (165 pans, in fact). They’ll also make 6,000 dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), 100 pans of baklava, and hundreds of dozens of koulourakia and powdered kourabiedes.
“There are quite a few [cookies], and the nice thing is we have little left at the end,” Pappas said.
In order to ensure freshness, many of the pastries are made just before the festival, like the custard-based galaktoboureko with honey syrup, prepared the Wednesday before. The pumpkin pita is also made close to the festival, as are key sweets details like the syrup for the baklava. 
“[The] finikia, we’ve made the cookies, but we haven’t dunked them yet because they’ll get mushy, so you do it a day or two before so it’s nice and fresh,” she said.
While there are a number of nearby restaurants that have Greek items on the menu, like Giorgio’s in Merrimack and Milford and Maza Mediterranean Grill in Nashua, Pappas said the community is currently without a tried and true Greek eatery.
“In Manchester you have Athens [Restaurant] ... a specifically Greek food restaurant, not a mix. But you don’t have that in Nashua anymore so people really look forward to [the festival],” she said.
Over the years the church has used recipes from different parishioners, some tweaked slightly here and there, but for the most part they’re the ones people use in their homes. Certain dishes like the spanakopita are pretty straightforward so the recipe never changes. You might add dill or parsley, but the basics of spinach, feta cheese, cottage cheese and lots of butter remain. Others, like cookie recipes, have more flexibility. One year Pappas’ mother’s recipe was used and another it was from the church’s ladies’ society cookbook.
The tables of food will be lined up inside the big hall with both the main dishes and desserts, and two large tents will be set up outside for folks to dine under. The classroom area will play host to three vendors; Art of the Lands Russian artifacts, painted eggs, nesting dolls and amber jewelry, another selling Greek olives and oils, and a woman who hand-makes jewelry. 
“Our biggest pride and joy is the church itself and Father Alex and a team of volunteers will be giving tours and answering any questions and giving history of the church and our faith,” Pappas said. “We do have a beautiful church we love and that’s why we do what we do, because it helps the church and community outreach.”
The church’s youth dance troupe will perform throughout the weekend, sharing another facet of the Greek community’s culture. 
“We want people to come and enjoy and learn a little about us and our heritage and culture and religion,” Pappas said. “We’re all … going to say [our festival] is the best, [but] I feel ours is the best because the whole of our food is outstanding. Everything is made by the parishioners of the church, so we take pride in that.” 





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