For this year’s round of bazaar eating, we decided to try some new ones in addition to our old standbys. We discovered a new favorite or two, and one that would become a favorite if it weren’t so darned far away.
In addition to revisiting those described in last year’s report, we went to the Ethnic Food Festival and Bazaar at St. Mark Orthodox Church in Bethesda. The social hall’s smaller rooms were filled with crafts, but our attention was focused on the food offerings.
There was a large room, down the hall from the hot food being dispensed from the kitchen, filled with baked goods. Breads, pastries, cookies, and other sweet things from all over Eastern Europe were presented in tempting arrangements, complete with descriptive cards decorated with matryoshka dolls.
We got the distinct impression, from the helpful volunteers, illustrated menu posted on the wall, and handouts filled with descriptions of the food on offer, that they had refined the process over years of acquainting non-Eastern European patrons with the various dishes. Indeed, the handout noted that it was the 45th year of the bazaar.
We had dropped by after visiting another lunch event, so decided to get some hot food to go and reheat it for dinner. We bought Blini filled with ricotta, Halupki (stuffed cabbage), and Halushki (cabbage and noodles).
And a Black Russian Cake. And a Raspberry Torte. And…stop! Pace yourself! Conclusion: the hot food is good, but the real star of this bazaar is the bakery.
The Winterfest of the Church of the Resurrection in Burtonsville hosts over 100 crafters, a silent auction, raffles, a cork pull (a game of chance to win bottles of wine), and some unremarkable but agreeable food – hot dogs, hamburgers, Italian sausage, and an almost-authentic Philly-style cheesesteak.
But what made it special, gastronomically speaking, were two tables in the back purveying Home Brew Beer and Mike’s Homemade Wine.
The brewers, Pat Ryan and Ryan Ferris, went for a minimal presentation – just a homemade sign and a keg, but Michael Stempihar’s table conveyed the full ambiance of wine-making.
Their products belied the advice of the old song (The Alcoholic’s Anthem: “So steer clear of homemade beer, and anything that isn’t labeled clear…”) Just one more example of bazaar serendipity!
And finally, a brand new (for us) nationality: the Icelandic Christmas Bazaar in the American Legion Post deep in the wilds of Fairfax. We don’t generally venture into Virginia for bazaars, but we’ve been wanting to experience Iceland for several years now, so we strapped on our mukluks and slogged across the river. We were glad we did, at least once.
For some reason, the Iceland bazaar attracted a group of bikers. Are there Icelandic bikers? Or are bikers attracted to Icelandic food? It remains a mystery. One of them really enjoyed the loaded hot dogs, for which Iceland is justly famous.
These hot dogs come with many interesting condiments. In addition to the usual ketchup and relish, there were frizzled onions, remoulade sauce, and the most delectable mustard I’ve come across in years. Pylsusinnep, identifiable in the picture by the rather fetching hot dog on the bottle, was the great discovery of this event for me. Unfortunately, no one could tell me where to get it around here – but Google is my friend.
There was also a buffet line of open-faced sandwiches, a common feature at the Nordic bazaars. And the uncommon: excellent smoked lamb sandwiches and flatbreads (similar but not matching), and cream-filled crepes (delicious). The bikers liked them too!
Friendly servers wearing traditional costumes made an amusing contrast to the denim jackets and many Icelandic sweaters on display.
Another terrific feature: free coffee and hot cocoa. We drank both with our full plates of excellent food.
There was also a selection of vendors offering wool, sweaters, jewelry, gnomes, and culinary specialties for homesick Icelanders. Dried fish, anyone?
But no pylsusinnep for sale. How could they have been so negligent?