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Armenian Festival – impending yumminess

We’ve been hitting up the St. Peter Armenian Church’s Armenian Festival for several years now with much gusto.  With a nod to my Armenian heritage, we’ve made the trek to Watervliet over and over.  It’s always been well worth it.  Smaller and more ‘homemade’ than what the PolishFest is turning into, we come home stuffed, satisfied, bearing treats, and wet.  Yes, wet.

What’s the deal, St. Peter’s?  Must it always pour just before and/or during the Festival?  I’m sure they’re even more sick of it than we are, but really, it’s getting ridiculous – and this year will be no exception with more torrential rain headed our way tonight and early tomorrow to, once again, turn their nice back field into a mud pit.  Le sigh.

Still, we’ll put on our old sneakers and head there with smiles on our faces.  Perhaps the mud will dry in time to put our mud sneakers back on to go strawberry picking at Bowmans soon, also in the mud as usual.

The kebab meals will, naturally, be the centerpiece of our pig out.  My wife will have the chicken and I’ll likely have the lamb.  Each will be accompanied by a golden pool of hot, oh-so-buttery pilaf that I couldn’t bring myself to make so rich at home.  Also, a serving of salad topped with a fresh, light lemony dressing that cries out for a warm, sunny afternoon – not the damp drizzle fog we’re more likely to encounter.  Did I mention the pita?  We’ll eat every scrap.

Here’s the menu, you can start drooling now.  And, don’t look now, but they’re changing things up this year.  Sorry, belt, I might have to leave you at home.

Looks like you have more choices in your kebab meal this year, which is a fantastic option.  All the above for $15, this year featuring 3 skewers of meat instead of 2.  And you can pick what you want.  Ummmm…lamb.  You can also get pork or losh (half ground beef, half ground lamb).  Previously the lamb meal was one lamb and one losh and I always wanted more lamb…looks like my wish comes true this year!

Or for $8 you can get one skewer, pilaf, and pita.  That’s a nice deal right there.  Heck, these ladies’ pilaf is worth that.  And, what’s this?  A burger?  A lamburger?  It’s the “Hye Burger”: “10 oz. Beef/Lamb burger with authentic spices served on fresh baked hard roll, topped with traditional Armenian salad and a serving of pilaf.”  Interesting.  Where are my stretchy sweatpants?

Two years ago we tried the cheese beoreg and just about melted at the cheesy, pastryness of it.  I think we’ll have to get another this year.  I tried a lahmejune instead last year and, while OK, I want another beoreg!

Did I mention the yogurt sauce?  Oh, man, the yogurt sauce.  I freaking love that stuff.  Not quite a tzatziki, this is a thin, yogurty, lemony delight.  I eat it with my pita, with my kebab, with my pilaf.  I made my wife hang around for like 15 minutes last year while I pestered one lady after another on what was in it…except none of them could tell me.  Each one I asked referred me to another one, each one older and more important than the last.  But none of them knew what’s in it.  Somebody‘s gotta be making it.  Maybe this is the year I find out.  Truth be told, I think I’ve found the recipe, or one very similar online, but still, I’d love to get the recipe straight from the source.

Then there are the take home treats.  My wife almost always brings home a kadayif, which she really likes.  Almost-but-not-really baklava (or ‘paklava’ here) with shredded phyllo instead of layered, I don’t care for the nuts.  Incidentally, one of our cats goes absolutely freaking bonkers crazy over this thing.  I don’t understand it at all.  She’s never had any to taste, but when she gets a whiff of it she ends up crawling all over my wife, practically climbing on her head to get a whiff of it.

We’ll also bring home cheoreg.  They’ve got some quality cheoreg bakers at this church and my continuing effort to replicate the deliciousness will continue.  I’ve made some OK cheoreg, but I’m just missing something.  I plan on enjoying this batch slowly and carefully to see if I can figure it out.

Well, I’m already hungry.  12-8 on Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday, I cannot recommend too strongly that you should go visit this annual festival and the friendly, smiling faces.  I haven’t even mentioned  the other things to do there, just the food, but the food alone is worth it!

Update: And we’re back.  Amazingly, the torrential rains decided to stop before the festival this year.  Crazy, I know.  The kebabs?  Fantastic.  Pilaf?  Drool-worthy.  Salad?  M’eh.  Cheese beoreg?  Nom nom nom.

They set up some games for the kids this year in addition to the bouncy house.  A band was wailing away in the dining tent (um, amplification not necessary, guys – we were as far from you as possible and couldn’t hear ourselves talk) with traditional music.  Dancing.  Food demonstrations.  Desserts.  Shirts.  CDs (Armenian Hot Dance Mix! heh!).  Brought home a bag of cheoreg, a slab of cream-filled kadayif, and, surprise!  A nice lump of string cheese!  That’s new this year – or at least we never saw it there before.  I’ve never had the traditional Armenian kind, which this appears to be, so I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

You’ve got until 8 Saturday and noon to 5 tomorrow – go stuff your face, you’ll thank me!