If you’re going to a Greek festival, don’t miss dessert. Several Greek parishes host annual events showcasing culture, food and entertainment, and you’ll find a wide variety of traditional homemade sweets, often served in a separate dessert tent within the larger festival.
Here’s an array of treats to taste:
This famous Greek dessert has a creamy custard filling baked in phyllo dough and topped with syrup.
“Milk and cream are warmed with sugar. Phyllo dough is spread on the bottom with layers of butter,” says Martha Tsarkalis, 46, of Setauket, who works at the Greek Pastry Tent at St. Nicholas Shrine Greek Orthodox Church’s festival in West Babylon. “It’s cooled and another layer is added on top. Once cooked, syrup gets poured on top.”
The classic Greek pastry is made of layers of buttery phyllo dough filled with walnuts, almonds and cinnamon and topped with syrup.
“Baklava is an older traditional dish,” Tsarkalis says. “It has a nutty-cinnamon-sweet type of flavor.”
These mini Grecian cakes come in three flavors: sokolatina, a dark chocolate filling; serano, lighter chocolate mousse; and amigdalou, a vanilla and almond cream. “They go fast,” warns Tsarkalis. “Last year we sold out by 9 p.m. on Saturday night.”
Kataifi dough gets stuffed with creamy custard and topped with whipped cream, cherries and almond slices for this treat at St. Nicholas’ Greek fest. “It’s a traditional Greek pastry served in the summer months that’s refreshing in the heat,” says Tsarkalis.
These oval-shaped walnut cookies are baked, then soaked in honey. “These are my favorite,” Tsarkalis says. “Normally they are served during the holidays and winter months, but we bring them out for the festival because people really enjoy them.”
Imagine a Frappuccino crossed with an iced espresso. This summertime treat is a caffeinated cool-down beverage in a 16-ounce cup.
“It’s all about the froth, which we make with a handheld mixer,”says Bessie Poulos Ktistakis, 50, of Glen Cove, who works the coffee booth at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Resurrection in Brookville. “The drink can be served black, with milk, or half and half. Most people like it a little sweet.”
Water, sugar and coffee get brewed together in a briki pot until it boils. The flame gets shut off quickly as the coffee is immediately poured into the cup in order to get the kaimacki (foam) on top.
“It has this gritty grain on the bottom,” says Ktistakis. “When you drink it, you flip it over and let it sit on the plate. The design at the bottom of the cup is supposed to be a fortune reading.”
This orange-flavored sponge cake with a simple sugar syrup is one of the biggest sellers at the Greek festival in Brookville because of its homespun touch. “Everyone has a different version,” says Georgia Kontogiannis, 65, of Old Brookville, who makes the dish for the Brookville church. “This particular recipe has been passed down in my family for years.”
These homemade braided cookies, made of butter, eggs, vanilla, sugar, flour and a touch of cognac, are a constant presence at the Greek festival in Brookville. “It’s a nice accompaniment to have with your Greek coffee,” says Vasilianna Fakiris, 42, of Roslyn, president of St. Catherine’s Philoptochos who oversees the dessert café at the Greek festival in Brookville.
Cost: $5 (5 per container)
These homemade butter cookies covered with powdered sugar can often be found at Greek weddings and baptisms as well as at Christmastime and at the Greek festival in Brookville.
“People buy these by the bunch,” Fakiris says. “Kids love them too because they are fun.”
Cost: $5 (4 per container)
UPCOMING GREEK FESTIVALS
ST. NICHOLAS GREEK FESTIVAL
WHEN | WHERE 5-9 p.m. Thursday, May 31, 5-10 p.m. Friday, June 1, noon-11 p.m., Saturday, June 2, and noon-9 p.m. Sunday, June 3, St. Nicholas Shrine Greek Orthodox Church, 200 Great East Neck Rd., West Babylon
INFO 631-587-1150, stnicholasbabylon.com
LONG ISLAND GREEK FESTIVAL
WHEN | WHERE 6-10 p.m. Thursday, May 31, 6-11 p.m. Friday, June 1, 2-11 p.m. Saturday, June 2, and noon-9 p.m. Sunday, June 3, Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Paul, 110 Cathedral Ave., Hempstead
INFO 516-483-5700, longislandgreekfestival.com
GREEK VILLAGE FESTIVAL
WHEN | WHERE 6-11 p.m. Friday, June 8, 3-11 p.m. Saturday, June 9, and 1-9 p.m. Sunday, June 10, Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Resurrection, 1400 Cedar Swamp Rd., Brookville
INFO 516-671-5200, resurrectiongoc.org