Opa! The New Orleans Greek Festival returns to the banks of Bayou St. John this weekend with Greek food, music, culture and fun for kids and adults alike.
New Orleans' connection with Greece dates back to the mid-1800s when large numbers of Greeks immigrated here, bringing along their storied culture and traditional heritage. The Greek Festival celebrates that culture and heritage every year on Memorial Day Weekend at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral (1200 Robert E. Lee Blvd.)
Come hungry. Vendors will be selling succulent, slow-roasted rotisserie lamb, seasoned with Greek spices; gyro sandwiches; feta fries; strips of crispy, fried calamari; hefty goat burgers; sweet baklava sundaes (a local favorite); and homemade Greek pastries.
New this year, petite Greek appetizers, called "meze," will be available for sample in the festival’s Greek Grocery. The delicacies are based on traditional recipes, prepared by hardworking volunteers, and include zatziki — a light yogurt and cucumber dip, chickpea salad, stuffed grape leaves called dolmas, olives and soft pita bread. And since meze is often enjoyed with wine or an ouzo aperitif before dinner, the festival will pour a refreshing Dionysian Delight Wine Spritzer — a blend of Greek wine and soda water over ice.
A traditional “Greek dinner” is comprised of pastitsio (Greek lasagna), tiropita (flaky phyllo dough, stuffed with melted cheese), kieftethes (meatballs), and dolmas, along with salad and a roll. Vegetarian plates are also available.
If you always wanted to learn how to cook Greek food, you can learn how to make Mediterranean treats at cooking demonstrations in the Greek Grocery.
In addition to sampling Greek cuisine, guests can shop for Hellenic jewelry and clothing items in the market, or rent canoes and go for a ride on the bayou. The Hellenic Dancers and The Levendes, a band from Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, will perform throughout the weekend. Tours of Holy Trinity Cathedral, the oldest Greek Orthodox church in the Americas, are scheduled.
This year, organizers are offering a Weekend Blue Pass for $17. Without the pass, daily admission is $8 at the gate. Festgoers who arrive in a toga on Sunday are admitted free. Winners of the Best Toga Contest will be announced that evening.