Greek food always comes with a side when prepared by the parishioners of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral — their savory dishes are served up with stories of history and tradition.
And so naturally, guests at the church’s first-ever food and wine festival Saturday can look forward to both flavorful cuisine and personal anecdotes.
“Greeks love to talk about food,” said Eleni Monas, co-chair of the Taste of Greece Food and Wine Festival.
Monas is no exception, and as she discusses the festival’s food offerings, she peppers the conversation with childhood memories.
“There will be a lot of unique, really traditional food that you will remember if you grew up as a kid in a Greek household,” Monas said.
St. Sophia has been hosting an annual Greek Festival every February for more than 35 years, but Saturday’s festival is different because it is showcasing all of the distinctive dishes and wine from Greece.
The festival will feature a nostalgic dessert called visinada, a drink made of sour cherries syrup.
“It’s a traditional treat served to young people,” Monas said. “You would take a big heaping spoonful of sour cherry with a glass of cold water and would essentially make a sour cherry-ade. After you drank it, you would eat the cherries at the bottom.”
Another sweet treat that brings back memories for Monas is mastiha, a vanilla-flavored taffy. Monas and her sister, Annie Godur, recall summers spent in Greece when they would savor the treat.
“It is made from sap of the mastic bush that only grows on one island in Greece,” Godur said.
Mastiha will be at the festival, but it is hard to come by stateside.
“This is not something you would see typically at a Greek festival or restaurant,” Monas said.
There are plenty of options for the health conscious as well.
“This is usually an oxymoron, but Greek food is healthy and comforting,” Monas said. “Usually, comfort food is horrible for you, but with Greek food you really can get away with not having a lot of starches and dairy.”
Godur says another reason the food has a healthy reputation is olive oil is a staple ingredient.
“Even for cookies, we use olive oil,” said Godur, who has baked over 600 loukoumades, which are fritters with syrup, nuts and cinnamon.
For those new to Greek food, Godur recommends trying the lamb sliders cooked with Greek herbs and spices served on a soft roll with tzadiki sauce.
“Or anything with lamb,” Godur said.
But guests don’t have to commit to just one dish. Traditional offerings such as mousaka, which is eggplant, and a Greek lasagna called pastitsio will be available for sampling.
In addition to more than 20 food booths, the festival also features a wine and cheese tasting.
“We will have wine from different regions of Greece and we will be doing wine seminars throughout the day so everyone can learn something,” Monas said.
Families are welcome to enjoy the all-day festival, which will run from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the church, located on Coral Way and 24th Rd.
For more information, visit stsophiamiami.org