The growing food festival scene in DFW presents wonderful opportunities to sneak a peek at foreign cultures. This weekend, St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church in Colleyville hosts the fourth edition of their annual DFW Romanian Food Festival.
Invited by Romanian hosts anxious to show off their native food, drink, and culture, we arrived on Saturday night to witness packed grounds with season appropriate pumpkin decor, festive folk music, and the distinct smell of grilled meats in the air. There’s no waiting around with this crowd, and after a few brief introductions, we were off to the food lines. Items can be ordered a la carte or through a variety of combo plates. The three combo plates ($15), with names reflecting various geographic regions of Romania, all included common dishes like samarle (cabbage rolls), mititei (Romanian skinless sausage), and coleslaw. We started off with the Moldavia combo plate, hoping to try the lamb pastrami, but to our disappointment the popular item had run out. However, the substitute, an oven baked chicken quarter, was still juicy, tender, and tasty.
It’s hard for an outsider to detect the subtle differences between various brands of eastern European cuisine, but I enjoyed all the familiar yet foreign offerings on my plate. The pickled cabbage contrasted nicely with the smooth rich ground pork filling in the cabbage rolls. The grilled skinless sausages had the same succulent texture as Vietnamese bo moi chai (ground beef rolls), and when dipped slightly in the sharp mustard, became the perfect companion to my Warsteiner. The polenta generously covered in crumbled feta rounded out a hearty autumn plate.
The night was getting chillier and our hosts were growing excited for us to participate in the festive dancing. Naturally, this was the perfect cue for my rhythm challenged self to get back in the food line and conveniently avoid the dance circle. The cleverly named “Romanian Flu Shot” soup booth caught my eye. The two soup offerings were the innocuous Romanian wedding soup (with pork meatballs) and the more alarmingly named Truth or Dare soup (sour tripe soup) at $3 for a cup and $5 for a bowl. Forgive me, I’m a texturally challenged Asian who passed the dare on the tripe soup and went for the steaming hot bowl of wedding soup.
Think Italian wedding soup plus vinegar/lemon juice and tomato; a tangy, soothing cure to your flu season afflictions.
For dessert, we tried a couple of slices of cozonac (a sweet, but not too sweet, bread with stuffed with swirls of ground walnut and golden raisins) and gogosi (a lemony fried donut covered in powdered sugar that is a like the fluffier and less greasy cousin of funnel cake).
Feeling full and toasty, I was ready for the church tour to mark the end of my evening. But as the often sitcom-esque timing of my life would have it, the performers on stage had expanded their dance circle into the audience as I was bolting to the trash can. Caught in the circle and no way out, no outburst of “opa” to distract the attention from my clumsy feet, it was four steps forward and four steps back until the end of the song, and the end to a fun, festive, and culture-filled evening.
The festival runs until 7:00pm tonight, so it’s not too late to check out the action for yourself.