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Roast pig at Greek Festival, Arlington (long)

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Roast pig at Greek Festival, Arlington (long)

ju | Jun 4, 2005 12:29 AM

Made it to St Athanasius Church today for lunch (thanks to GretchenS for the Chow alert). We got parking right in front of the church, or, more to the point, right in front of the spits on which the piglets and lamb were roasting.

A long tent stretches from the kerb-side spits all the way to the back, a block long. Under the tent are long tables placed end to end, upon which lie an array of chafing dishes holding the food offerings. The good ladies of the congregation man these tables and dish out the food. At the back is a large seating area were a gentleman mans the stereo equipment which blares out Greek tunes.

We dithered a little over which meat to order, but I'd a hankering for pig and seeing them rotating on the spits just sealed the deal. (The friendly church ladies also told us that the pig is the winner every year, over the lamb). The two of us shared a specialty plate of spit-roasted pig ($15) which also comes with rice pilaf and a little Greek salad. We got a pig knuckle with generous amounts of meat and crackling, plus a couple of ribs, and chunks of pork shoulder. The meat was tender, juicy and very porky (in a good way); not like the anemic pork, laced with additives, that you get in the supermarket chains. There was a nice amount of fat which further enhanced the porkiness. The crackling was a crunchy treat I've not had in a while. WHile the salad was ordinary (somewhat limp as it had been dressed in advance), the rice pilaf was topped with a delicious, slightly tart tomato sauce that cut through the porky fatness of the meat.

We were pretty full, but had to try the lamb. The roasted lamb plate ($10) consisted of 4 thinnish slices of roast lamb with the rice pilaf and salad. The lamb was well-seasoned and spiced (rosemary and ?oregano) and, although well-done (I prefer medium-rare), was not tough. Overall, though, my vote goes to the pig.

We also shared a large square of spanakopita ($3) -the buttery, flaky layers of filo encasing a generous filling of creamy spinach and cheese was some of the best we've had.

The other savory offerings - gyros, moussaka, souvlaki (beef/chicken kabobs), tiropita (chicken pie), pastitsio (similar to lasagna), dolmathes and loukanico (Greek sausage) looked good, but we were full (alas).

But not too full for some dessert.
Loukoumades ($3) - 8 small balls of fried dough tossed in cinnamon-laced honey and chopped walnuts. They were still warm, very light, and subtly spiced.

Baklava ($2) - delicious and fresh, with a nice crunch to the pastry, though a little too sweet.

Galaktobouriko ($2) - creamy custard sandwiched in filo was a winner too.

Wanted to try the other desserts (kataifi and diples, a deepfried rolled dough) but, yep, was too full. (BTW, the church ladies told me the diples are prepared the night before whereas the loukoumades are fried fresh in batches).

To drink, we had homemade lemonade ($1) and Greek coffee($1). The latter was disappointing as it tasted like diner coffee.

The whole thing is well-organised and well-run. There weren't many people there this afternoon and the ones there appeared to be families who attend the church. A very elderly gentleman, after finishing his lunch, was helped to his feet and proceeded to do a few steps of Zorba-type Greek dancing to the lively music before collapsing back in his seat. The ladies in the congregation make all the food and how I envy their families getting such great home-cooked specialties year round :) Everything is freshly prepared; while hunting for a restroom, I passed the basement kitchen were they were cooking up fresh batches of baklava and kabobs.

A great experience, and for a good cause. I've linked to their website (which has a menu).

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