Be Greek for a Day: Oakland Greek Festival


This weekend is the Oakland Greek Festival, an annual festival held at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in the Oakland Hills.   I am embarrassed to say that this is my first year attending even though it’s been held in my hometown for 43 years!   If you look to the East and into the hills from practically any vantage point in the Bay Area, you can locate the Mormon Temple.  The Greek Orthodox shares a space right below it.  So now that you know where it is, bring your cash so you can exchange it for tokens to spend at vendor stations selling food, drinks, desserts, or gifts. 

I love Greek lamb chops so knew I would be having some with a glass of red wine from Greece.  I was a bit shocked by the size of them, but then quickly realized I had plenty of room to try other items.  The lamb was good, but a tad salty.  It was good thing I had the piece of bread that came with it and my wine.
 My next course was grilled haloumi cheese.  The cheese is grilled and placed on grilled pita bread and topped with a slice of tomato and some type of vinaigrette dressing.  This was really tasty and much more impressive than the lamb chops.  
 I also picked up one of my favorite soups, avgolemono, a chicken rice soup with egg and lemon.    The soup is meant to be tart.   I always enjoy it because it’s comforting to me and I was not disappointed.  
 Now it was time to search out the desserts.  I had contemplated getting the loukoumades,  golden fried dough bathed in honey and cinnamon.  Instead, I was brought to the dessert room where they were making fresh Greek coffee. 

 It was a difficult decision but I was sold on the galaktobureko, milk custard with layered phyllo dough and honey.  I enjoyed the crispy texture of the phyllo against the soft custard.  It was very sweet and quite rich, so I packed my leftovers. I didn’t enjoy the coffee.  Even with the addition of more sugar, I never got it to the right balance.  As I got the bottom, I was left with a thick black residue.  I should have just had a regular cup of coffee.
 With some hits and misses, it is still a fun event learning about Greek culture.  It’s a great place to people watch as everyone is getting their Greek on with food, drinks, music, and dancing!  There is a lot to explore that if you can’t get it done in one weekend, there’s always next year.
The Oakland Greek Festival runs through today (11am-9pm).  Entry fee is $6 for adults and free for kids 12 and under. If you bring a can food donation, you can get $1 off.  If you bring a ticket stub from any A’s home game from April 28 through May 17, you can receive free admission.  I’m not sure what will be left, but it’s also free after 5pm today.