Category Archives: parties

IMG_0536.JPG

A very happy day

Began with the turkey trot with Sirma:
IMG_0690.JPG

That ended with us smiling with our medals:

IMG_0514.JPG

Followed up with some football in the back yard

IMG_0515.JPG

And on television:

IMG_0518.JPG

And concluded with a great meal headlined with turkey

IMG_0520.JPG

many side dishes

IMG_0534.JPG

And great friends

IMG_0537.JPG

A kids table

IMG_0539.JPG

And concluded with dessert

IMG_0545.JPG

IMG_0541.JPG

And finished with a 1999 bottle of Canava Roussos Vinsanto

IMG_0547.JPG

A wonderful day of fun and joy with much to be thankful for ….

Happy Holi

One of the coolest parts about living in the bay area is that we get to celebrate Holi. After too many years of missing the fun, Nicholas and I went to party at Stanford organized by Asha.

Nicholas had a blast.

First there was just the fun of throwing colors. We eventually figured out that you don’t shove it in people’s mouth, but spread it on their cheeks and say “Happy Holi”.

Then we had ate some super-tasty and spicy Indian food. Nicholas ate some biryani. After a few bites he started to cry saying: Mouth hurts. I gave him some raita and promised it would feel better. He didn’t trust me, after all I gave him the rice to begin with. After a sips of raita, Nicholas told me: Mouth feels better! Then he ate some more rice, complained about his mouth hurting and ate some raita. When we were in the car on the way back Nicholas reassured me that Mouth feels better.

Finally we sprayed water at each other using water guns. It was a complete messy blast.

Arriving home we discovered that the colors are a little bit more resistant to water that I thought. After a thorough scouring we got – kinda – clean.

Athens Classic Marathon Part II: Pasta Party

Once the training is complete, the only thing left to do before the race is to carbo-load.

According to some dismal science I read, I had to eat 700grams of pasta the night before the race. That’s a shit-load of pasta.

In addition because eating large amounts of fats etc, could really upset your stomach – we will not explain how – it’s really bone dry pasta.

Some people can eat tomato sauce, but too much acidity causes me heart burns, so I had to be very cautious. Others can eat cheese, but well I am from the southern mediteranean so being lactose intolerant is a real downer.

But this is Greece, and this is my family and when we do food we don’t go half way.

Notice the massive bowl of pasta. In front of you, you’ll see the spring rolls. You can also see the meat sauce and tomato sauce to accommodate all possible pallets. You will also notice the salad. You do not see in the foreground the superb home made pizza  and cheese pies…

You’ll also notice that there are a lot of people there. In fact my cousin Maragarita whose husband Michalis inspired me to do the Marathon threw this soiree together. Her mom and dad were there, her sister and her entire family, her brother and her two sons and her maid of honor with her husband who was also running this marathon. It was really awesome to hang out with everyone.

The three marathon runners (Michalis – Margarita’s husband, Michalis –Sofia’s husband and I) had this look of terror on our faces. I, of course, full of bravado reassured them that since we had completed the training there was nothing to fear.

What was especially cool was that we also got to celebrate my Dad’s birthday, something I realized I hadn’t done in person in almost  20 years. My son got into the act and kept blowing out the candles. We had to light the candles half-a-dozen times because he kept wanting to blow them out.

At some point in time, Michalis who had completed the Athens Classic Marathon last year, brought out the finisher medal. The intent was to motivate me by showing how cool a reward I would get. I, of course, have deep suspicions about these things. You do not touch medals until you acquire them. If you touch them before hand bad, bad things happen. So there was this awkward moment where I looked at him with horror …

And in the background hidden from view is my son and his second cousins who were playing for hours like lunatics.

My only regret is that I was very stressed about the run the next day and could not just chill out and enjoy the family fun.

Lamb II

One of the more irritating aspects of my life is that I go through these long protracted periods of painful activity where things that I care about whither. One of those things is my blog.
Like last year, my wife and I decided to cook a whole lamb. Unlike last year, where half the fun was in trying to find the right components, this year was all about execution.

Here you can see the lamb:

purchased from Draeger’s.

You can see farmer kostadis bring the lamb into the house with his trusty dog Tony:

My wife helped me tie the lamb up (okay she did most of the tieing!):

With the lamb trussed, we could begin the process of cooking the lamb. Now it turns out that machinery exists to dramatically reduce the manual labour involved (approximately 5 hours of rotating) but manual labour does have it’s advantages:

Something tells me that the delightful nibble plate you see on the table would not have been made by my wife if we were using a motor.

This year’s innovation was to use a small plank of wood in addition to the 6 foot dowel. The plank reduced the strain on our wrists. Check out my friend Marcin rotating the lamb:

Marcin helped the most in this effort, showing up at 12:00 noon. But there were more. Some of the people I managed to take pictures of.
Jay Moorthi:

And later David Grunwald

Brian Quirion

And my youngest assistant was Lincoln Mendenhall:

When the cooking was done, we could begin the carving:

Of course, this is a Greek Easter, so having lamb is considered only part of the meal. We had an incredible spread of other food (that this time we took pictures of):

My wife and I look exhausted, and little did we know that we were only half way done at that point …

My old and dear friend Sanford Barr showed up:

All in all it was a great party with approximately 42 sentient (if you count dogs) there. The only tragic victim was my stuffed dog who had wine spilled all over him. Here we see him suffering over the bathtub:

And here we see the dastardly villain who spilled the wine trying to clean him:

For more pictures check out: http://kostadis.smugmug.com/gallery/2849696#152773237

Roasting whole lamb in the land of tofu eaters.

A great Greek Easter tradition is to roast whole lamb on Easter Sunday. Ever since I left Brown University I have been craving that dish. The problem was that for years I had no place to cook it. Living in apartments meant that I would have to find some largish open space that would let me cook a whole lamb over an open fire for approximately 5 hours.

This past August I bought a house. So my wife insisted that we use our large back yard to cook the lamb.

Little did I know that my adventures were about to begin.

To cook a whole lamb you need three essential components, a lamb, a fire pit and a 5 foot long rotisserie spit rod. The lamb was fairly easy to find. Draegers has a full service butcher that as long as you give them a two week warning will find a small whole lamb. The lamb was about 22 pounds in total and cost about 185$.

The fire pit was assembled from cinder blocks. We went to HomeDepot and bought them for a couple of dollars each.

The rotisserie spit rod was damn near impossible to find. In the land of tofu eaters (also known as the bay area) where eating meat is a crime against the animal kingdom and folks spend 100$ for the priviledge of eating raw uncooked vegetables, tools to cook whole animals are not easy to find. And unfortunately, since I’ve never done this before and I only knew the Greek word for souvla, Google was no help either.

I spent weeks on the web scouring for a solution. I found Big John’s how to roast a whole pig web site that had a 5 foot spit rod for sale for the bargain basement price of 250$. I got so desperate that I started looking at stainless steel rods, rebar, aluminium etc. The problem with all of those options was the toxicity of the metals. Rebar is made from recycled steel containing who knows what. Stainless steel may contain all sorts of very very bad stuff.

So out of sheer desperation we bought a 7 foot dowel that was 1″ thick for 8 dollars.

Turns out that it was the right decision.

However, the dowel had to be prepared. You need to pierce the animal and a 1″ flat top has very little piercing powel. So my wife had to wittle the dowel to a sharp point.

With the dowel in hand

and the lamb

we could actually start cooking.

First you have to prepare the lamb. Thankfully Vefa Alexiadou: Greek Cuisine helped. Vefa provided the key information about how to place the legs so that the lamb stayed in place.

My wife did most of the preparation.

But once we had finished preparing the lamb, it was time to cook it!

Cooking a lamb requires patience and good friends. The problem is that you have to continuously rotate the lamb else the juices fall into the fire pit. The lamb either gets burned or worse dries out.

Having friends is critical to cooking lambs. It takes approximately 5 hours to cook and it can be brain numbing work. Every 15 minutes my friends and I swapped. Critical to the whole cooking of the lamb is a well balanced fire and liberally and regularly basting it with a mix of oil, lemon and oregano.

When the lamb is finally cooked you know it’s cooked if removing the meat from the bone does not require the use of a knife. Ideally you should just tap the bones on the table and the meat should just fall off. We were not that good. But close.

Once the lamb was diced, the feasting could begin. Because we’re Greeks just having lamb was insufficient. My wife and her friends cooked spanakopita (Cheese+Spinach Pie), tiropites (cheese pies), mageiritsa (a soup made from the internals of a lamb), dolmades (vine leaves + meat and rice) and a Greek salad.

When everyone had finished eating there was much contentment.