Greek mythology ambrosia is defined as the food and drink of the Gods. In the painting “The Food of the Goods on Olympus,” artist Nicola da Urbino depicts Zeus and friends dining together with the food granting longevity and immortality.
Luckily for the mortals in Columbia, we don’t have to be a deity to enjoy one of the city’s signature events. The Greek Festival returns for its 32nd year from Sept. 20-23.
According to officials, the four-day festival attracts more than 120,000 people with its lineup of live music, exhibits, tours, and tasty food. This year’s event will take place at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 1931 Sumter Street. The festival will include tours, dancing and “A Taste of Greece” culinary journey that will include broiled Greek styled chicken, roasted lamb and — of course — baklava.
“I look forward to attending every year. My favorite part is the food, especially the baklava,” said local vlogger Diandra Bull, who has the event on her calendar annually. “It’s the perfect opportunity for people wanting to have authentic versions of these great dishes.”
Your CHANCE TO BE GREEK FOR A WEEK
The Columbia Greek Festival is 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, through Saturday, Sept. 22, and noon-8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 1931 Sumter St. Here’s some of what you can look forward to:
EAT: Lunch and dinner plate menus include broiled seasoned chicken, keftedes (Greek-style meatballs), pastichio (Greek lasagna), roasted lamb and peasant shrimp – all served, of course, with spanakopita and Greek salad. A la carte, you’ll find a variety of foods, including Greek burgers, souvlaki, Greek roasted potatoes, dolmades and pastries like baklava, loukoumades (those heavenly doughnuts!) and karidopita.
DRINK: Drink like the Greeks with imported Greek beer and wine and Greek coffee.
DANCE: Gather ’round the "plaka" (town square) for Greek folk dancing throughout the weekend. Two bands will play indoors and outdoors. The Nick Trivelas Band and The Aegean Duo will perform live throughout the day.
CULTURE: Visit the cultural exhibit for video presentations and discussions of Greek culture, history and heritage and modern Greece. Tour the church’s sanctuary to learn more about the Greek Orthodox religion and iconography. And at 5 p.m. Sept. 22, watch a battle re-enactment of the fifth-century Greco-Persian War. Costumed soldiers will portray Greek Spartans defending their homeland against the powerful Persian Empire.
Make Your Own Baklava
If you want to put your baking skills to the test, here’s a simple recipe to try at home (full disclosure: This recipe from allrecipes.com is one this writer has personally tried).
All you’ll need: 1 pound nuts, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and one 16-ounce package of phyllo dough. You’ll also need some butter, water, honey and lemon zest.
All you’ll need to do: Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about six to eight sheets deep. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.
While the baklava is baking, make the sauce by simmering water, honey and lemon zest for about 20 minutes. Remove baklava from immediately spoon sauce over it. Let it cook and leave uncovered.
If you go
Columbia’s Greek Festival
When: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sept. 20-22; Noon-8 p.m. Sept. 23
Where: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 1931 Sumter St.
Find out more: columbiasgreekfestival.com