He said/she said: Paniyiri 2009

Paniyiri, AKA the Greek Festival, has been and gone for another year, leaving in its wake thousands of poor souls clutching their over-stuffed bellies. Two of those souls, Ally and Nick recount the weekend of festivities. Um-pah!

NICK: Paniyiri is something that I look forward to on the calendar. It’s a kick arse weekend of food and frolicking and the Greeks sure know how to put on a party. The festivities kicked off last Saturday (4/7) and went right through to Sunday night. There was food, culture, dancing, wines, fireworks and most importantly, honey-puffs (top)

ALLY: My mother will be proud to hear that I did not enter the honey-puff eating competition. Or the olive-eating competition. As appealing was the thought of stuffing myself with hands tied behind my back, in front of cameras and strangers, I did the sensible thing and smacked down half a dozen honey puffs upon arrival. These little pastry puffs are chewy but soft, and have a strong honey flavour. They were not as sweet as ones I’ve had from the New Farm Markets, but that might have been a wise thing.

I wanted to see all the brave souls who were putting their dignity and their arteries on the line in the eating competition. The program said that the comps would go until 5.30pm. We got there just before 5pm on the Saturday to find the olive-eaters wiping their mouths, and all eating coming to an end. This was disappointing; a little more clear-cut programing would have been better.

N: Meh! They’re Greek, they don’t keep schedules! I caught finals of both the honey puff and olive eating comps on Sunday afternoon. It was pretty damn funny watching four hapless souls stuff themselves for 60 seconds. John from West End (2nd from top) emerged victorious when it came to olives and some guy whose name and location I’ve forgotten crushed all corners for the title of 2009 Puff Eating Champ. He also got to hug Effie (right).

A: Along with the gorgeous Effie, there were more than 30 food stalls at Paniyiri, although unfortunately they all seemed to be doing the same thing. There were very slight variations in food between stalls, with grilled octopus ($7-$9), baklava (from $2), souvlaki (from $3.5), and haloumi (from $2) being the most popular options. And of course, honey puffs were everywhere. Yay!

N: I agree that the variety on offer wasn’t as extensive as one might of thought, but try as I did, I simply didn’t have the gastronomic capacity to try everything. On arrival we started with souvlaki, AKA meat on a stick. There were yummy lamb and chicken options. One of the things that hit me immediately was the sheer volume of food that was being served up. Clouds of smoke filled the air as vendors cooked yiros and souvlaki over big open fires. Everything smelled of meat cooking (right). Marvelous (sorry vegos).

A: I tried a piece of haloumi, and a chicken yiros. Pretty sure I just drooled thinking of the haloumi. Surprisingly it wasn’t overly greasy, and was chewy and held together well. I was looking forward to the yiros (on a trip to Greece a couple of years ago I ate them daily), but found it a little bit disappointing. These guys are like kebabs but with thicker bread and sometimes fries are inside. The meat was tender and they weren’t greasy in the slightest, but it lacked flavour-a good dollop of tzatziki would have been awesome. It was very different to an authentic Greek yiros.

N: Once I had my hands full with food and drink it was time to explore the cultural side of things. I’ve never actually been into the Greek Club before and wandered in out of sheer curiosity. It turned into one of those ‘right time right place’ situations as we walked into a cooking demo (right) in the upstairs conference hall. 10 mins later we had a samples plate full of moussaka, pizza and some stew with beans in front of us. Neat! We also saw Geni from Masterchef.

It was around this point that I began to notice the sheer number of people at the Festival. I’ve no idea what sort of numbers actually turned up but getting places, let alone more food, was becoming an issue.

A: On Saturday night apparently there were 20,000+ punters! I am crushed I missed samples, but can console myself thinking of the massive piece of baklava I ended my night with. This was the toast of the Festival. The baklava was dripping in a delicious honey, the excess of which I happily mopped up out of the container with my finger. I would say the best baklava I’ve had since I was in Greece.

N: After four hours of getting my Greek on I was absolutely buggered. I’d eaten, drunk, learnt, laughed, danced (?!) and generally over-indulged. I actually went looking for a piece of baklava to finish with but it seemed all the stalls had run out. So I settled for Turkish Delight instead, which was pretty good in its own right.

A: I enjoyed Paniyiri but I fear it’s becoming a bit over-commercialised. There was a huge sideshow alley (with huge prices-$6 for the Ferris Wheel? Do you know how many plates of honey puffs I could buy with that?) that seemed a little out of place. While the food options were good and the entertainment was fun (Effie rocks), I thought the $7 entry fee was a little steep. Having said that, there were some good eats there. I was also impressed to see they offered Mythos, a classic Greek beer staple. I remember drinking massive 700ml cans of this in Ios for a couple of euros each. That’s a story for another day though.

N: Pah! Don’t listen to her, Paniyiri kicks arse and $7 is a bargain entry fee. I agree that the side show alley is a little out of place but if it subsidizes the rest of the entertainment then I guess it’s a necessary evil. I’m definitely heading back next year – honey puffs need to watch their back.

Paniyiri Greek Festival

Musgrave Park
South Brisbane map

www.paniyiri.com

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