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Lowell Folk Festival! July 24 - 26

Hi all!

Just a heads up that the Lowell Folk Festival is this weekend - Friday evening through Sunday. Food from around the world, cooked by the local community (Latino, Greek, Portuguese, Jamaicain, African American, Filipino - that's just off the top of my head! (As they're cooking outside, and for hundreds (thousands!), each dish may not be as special as you might find in a restaurant - but the variety! The "hunt"! And the excitement of finding new treats!

There are past posts about favorites - Look for the Nigerians in St Anne's courtyard (Several of us Hounds think this food is the standout at Lowell!), the octopus stew from the Portuguese at JFK, and, for something lighter, the fatoosh sandwich (salad with delicious zatar on pita) from the Armenian's, also at JFK. I also always get sweet potato pie at the African- American tables!

Check back here during the Festival for new finds!

The Festival itself is a wonderful, FREE conglomeration of home-grown, terrific music from around the world, on six outdoor stages....Rain or shine! (Will be moved indoors if non-stop rain or if Friday evening is very wet - Otherwise, bring a small umbrella, and a plastic bag to sit on!)

EXTREMELY kid friendly!


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  1. I just checked out the link. The festival looks great - expecially the foods. Do you know if they have small samplings for sale of the various ethnic wines or beers?

    5 Replies
    1. re: RandyL

      Nope, but at the Main stage(JFK), there IS a beer and wine stand (May be the only wine stand)...Also another at the end of the row near Boardinghouse Park, where you can't leave their Beirgarten with your beverage, and another behind the Mill Bldg where some of the galleries are, with a bunch of newer food vendors. larger area there, and IIRC, you can take stuff with you, I think...Don't quote me here...Obviously, I have paid close attention to this issue.

      1. re: galleygirl

        We just came from the new stage "Dutton Street Stage" and there was also a beer/wine booth. Food is awesome, as usual. We started with a falafal, rice and fotoosh (sp?) at a middleeastern booth across from Boarding house park. Then after the wonderful blues music at Dutton Street Stage, we got some fantastic asian food: spring roll, pad thai and chicken basil.

        We love this event every year, still deciding on lunch tomorrow - can I have it all???

        1. re: lexpatti

          Oh yeah, I forgot, that fattoush is also a must-have...

          1. re: galleygirl

            I make something very similar all the time but I've been calling it Panzanella Salad (I use lemon juice, not vinegar).

            1. re: lexpatti

              Yes, panzanella and fattoush are pretty similar, though seasoned differently. And fattoush is usually made with pita, while panzanella is made with different breads - I like ciabbata or a nice rustic Italian loaf.

              I had a big helping of the fattoush yesterday, which was indeed delicious. Also Barmy and I split a slice of the sweet potato pie that fredid mentions above - one of the best I've had in a long, long time. But I did regret not getting a lumpia of my own from the Filipino stand - man, that was good!

              Probably too late now, but the cold and unappetizong patties that Barmy mentions below were being sold at the Jamaican/Indian booth that had locations both at JFK Plaza, near the Polish booth, and at Boarding House Park.

    2. Don't forget the Polish and Southeast Asian food vendors! Though it is free, they do pass the hat at each of the concert venues and are rather hard up financially this year, so I hope that Hounds who attend will be generous! As with the weekly concert series at Boardinghouse Park, this is a family-oriented event. There's a strong Park Ranger presence. This is not the place for those who can't enjoy themselves without getting snockered. I've gone many times, and have rarely seen drunk or rowdy people. Either it doesn't attract them, or they are speedily removed.

      3 Replies
      1. re: greygarious

        They keep them in little pens, and make the alcohol difficult to find....Plus, Birkinstocks reduce the problem of reeling from too much alcohol.... (ha!)

        The best SE Asian vendor, with a slightly different menu than the others, is near Boardinghouse park. Last year, they were making papaya salad in a mortar and pestle...

        1. re: greygarious

          I agree. I was thinking along the lines of what the Annual Food and Wine Fest is like every Fall in Epcot. Along with small food samplings in kiosks from many different countires and regions of the world (and not just the countries that are represented in Epcot), they have small "pours" of beers and wines native to each area. Not nearly enough to get snockered but certainly give a taste of what they are like.

          1. re: RandyL

            It's a cool idea, but I think a big difference is that the food and drink at Epcot presumably come form Epcot kitchens and are covered by Epcot's liquor licensing.

            In contrast, each booth at Lowell is run by a different small group, most of them church groups, and I would think that it would be both difficult and expensive to get licensing to serve alcohol in those circumstances. Not to mention the challenge of each booth having to check IDs in crowded, hectic circumstances.

        2. Just came back from another wonderful few hours: The portugese booth by JFK was awesome, fava beans with luinguicia and smoked ham - hubby had the beef kabob and rice. We also hit the south african booth and had fantastic goat stew and meat pies.

          And for those asking, Ricardo's has opened a new wine/cheese shop where they are doing wine tasting outside. It's down an alley just off Prescott St., which is just of Central. IT's actually on the back side of Prescott on the Canal (sort of). Nice new shop!

          1. The Nigerian booth at St. Anne's had wonderful Goat Stew which we had with Jollof Rice. Great Combo. Also highly recommend the smoothies at the organic farm booth, also at St. Annes. That was a very nice lunch.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mirage

              we had the goat stew too. killah good.

            2. Wow - I love how they have menus on the site! Wish I could make it this year (can't). I'm drooling... I noticed they have food demonstrations listed separately from food sales - are they demonstrating how they make them?

              1 Reply
              1. re: threedogs

                Yes, though the demos are not necessarily run by vendors (often not, I think).

              2. New vendor: Sri Lankan food at St. Anne's (across from the Nigerians). No culinary trails being blazed but good solid homestyle bone-in chicken stew, dal, potatoes, rice, pieces of pappadum, they are not shy with the chili pepper, $5 for a generous styro boxful. I was there early and some items could have been cooked a shade longer, but not a deal breaker. An impressive debut. At 2:15 they were packed and gone.
                Whoever was supposed to bring the pepper soup to the Nigerian table never did show, but the goat stew was rich, deeply flavored and spicy/smoky, and better than I remember from the past.
                M&M Ribs was set up on John St. next to the fried dough stand. I don't remember them at previous festivals but may have missed them.
                In addition to the truck with beer (Bud only, I think, but did not investigate) and wine at the dance pavilion, more restaurants have set up outside tables, and I saw many patrons imbibing.
                Don't know if I've mentioned them, but the guys selling lemon- and limeade near Cobblestones (near JFK) do a great job.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Aromatherapy

                  I saw another beer truck on JFK this afternoon -- I was having enough trouble staying hydrated that I stuck with water all day, so I didn't investigate, but I wanna say this might have been a Sam Adams truck. Don't hold me to that.

                  Had a spectacularly bad Jamaican patty at a booth on JFK -- I don't remember who, so I can't warn folks away from it. It would have been edible if it was at least approaching warm, but there are few things grosser than a cold patty.

                  However, the Pinoy stand near Boarding House Park more than made up for it. $10 for the beef combo plate is one of the spendier items at the festival, but for that you get a long skewer of tender and perfectly grilled beef, fried rice with sausage and peas, rice noodles and a huge egg roll that was so good Allstonian was loath to give it back after she tried a bite. I recommend dousing the plate with the garlic and pepper vinegar near the cash register.

                  (Music geek digression: Walking into a set in the dance pavilion that was supposed to be some zydeco player I've never heard of only to discover instead the great D.L. Menard counting in to "Joli Blon" (the "Louie Louie" of Cajun music) was like walking into the corner bar and discovering that Paul McCartney had commandeered the stage.)

                  1. re: Aromatherapy

                    Had a really nice brisket sandwich at M&M.

                    They never explained while I was around why DL Menard was there and not Rosie Ledet and the Zydeco Playboys.

                    Michael White and the Original Liberty Jazz Band got spontaneous standing ovations. They were that good.

                    If you're into buff guys dancing around shirtless, check out Capoeira Luanda.

                    1. re: lergnom

                      rosie ledet is under criminal investigation, she was arrested last week. story is gruesome and in the lowell sun.

                      those luanda guys were amazing eye candy, lol.

                      had great raspberry lime rickies from monkey's today which really helped beat the heat.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        That's really too bad, I just read the article and made it back to the fest to see this band (which was awesome but she wasn't on stage).

                        We made all three days this year, although still not long enough - we had competing events on both Sat&Sun but next year, I could handle all three days with NO interruptions! This afternoon, we had more asian food with noodles, chicken satay and spring rolls.

                        The art exhibits were fantastic, anyone see that copper jewelry booth inbetween the mills?Vagabond Jewelry? Very cool stuff this year. And more places to sit to enjoy the food too.

                        Or the Sabra Bar - yes, little containers of sabra hummus with a bar to add things like roasted red peppers, roasted garlic, peppdew, chipolti peppers, jalapeno - ALL FREE AND FREE PITA CHIPS TOO!

                        All vegies and salads for me for the next week - I must gain several lbs from this awesome event.

                  2. The "banana rolls" at the Phillipines booth across from Boardinghouse Park were excellent! They seemed like cooked plantains in a wrapper that was deep-fried.

                    Great time with my 11 year old son, reacquainting him with his Quebecois and Cajun roots. Wish there was some jambalaya to eat.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: three of us

                      There was, and I was shocked and already had a full belly when we passed the sign at Cobblestones. We love jambalaya too - 7 years in NOLA doesn't ever leave ya.

                    2. Happy eating! Happy music! Happy Fredi!

                      First of all, I'm planning a NIGERIAN GOAT-STEW CHOWDOWN! with the Nigerians - so keep your eye out! (Hopefully, they'll prepare the goodies, one of us will pick it up and drive it to Boston, and we'll all happily consume!)

                      Recs for next year: Well, of course, that goat stew! Baked, spiced chicken also good, chicken stew fine but nothing new - Nigerian booth/St Anne's

                      Latin American/BoardingHousePark: They have a new (better!) warmer - got a fresh bacalaito/codfish cake.

                      African American/BoardingHousePark: Fried Chicken was delish! Moist, crispy, slightly spicy. Much better then previous, and great sweet potato pie.

                      Greek/BoardingHousePark: Lamb skewer on bed of greek salad was nicely done.

                      M and M/ John St.: Pulled Pork sandwich - tasty.

                      Middle Eastern/JFK: I recommend the gadaif (shredded wheat pastry) and lamejun (meat pie)

                      Portuguese/JFK: Missed the octopus stew! DARN! I like their rice pudding

                      Music! Treats: Alash/Tuvan throat singing! Senegalese twosome! Exciting BRASS klezmer! New Orleans jazz in the rain!! I was a happy girl!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: fredid

                        What kind of filling did the gadaif (which I usually spell kadayif) have? Was it a walnut, sugar, cinnamon, or a ricotta cheese. I could eat a who try of it.

                        1. re: Infomaniac

                          Walnut, sugar and cinnamon. I think they had both spellings at the booth...