Ethnic and Cultural Festivals Summer/Fall 2012
Its ethnic and summer festival times, one of my favorite food attractions of summer along with farmers markets and grilling in the open air on the Harbor Islands. Unfortunately I am not in the area this summer, but I wanted to open a topic to share dates and food recommendations. This coming weekend is the Arlington Greek festival (6/1-3) which is very popular with hounds because it offers several spit roasted animals (lamb, pork), as well as pastries, sweets, and other attractions. Its also the date of the first Brazilian "Festa Junina" which are traditional festivals scheduled around days for Catholic saints which often celebrate rural traditions and as such feature harvest foods -- in Brazil today these are largely held by schools, but in Boston the various Brazilian Catholic churches host them some of them for 15+ years now. The first one is in Everett which is a strong Brazilian Catholic community and a strong food focus.
Many of the festivals in Lowell (Folk Fest 7/27-29, Southeastern Asian Water Festival 8/18) have food booths which are popular with hounds, and festivals in Cambridge (Cambridge banks of Boston Dragon Boat Festival 6/10, Riverfest 6/2, Carnival 9/9) also feature a variety of food boths. There are hounds which travel to the Southcoast for the extremely popular Feast of the Blessed Sacrament (Madeira Feast) August 2-5 one of many in the New Bedford/Fall River area, but most of the local Portugese Social Clubs have annual events which are simply published via word of mouth.
From other hounds I learned about Serbfest in Cambridge (early September) featuring some spit roasted meats and sausage, as well as Burmese and other unusual festivals. The North End Feasts and Processions are very popular as a tourist attraction, but if you keep your eye out there is decent fried calamari, shucked bivalves, and other delicacies hidden between the fried dough stands! Boston itself hosts not just a number of ethnic parades, some of which offer traditional foods, but also its own West Indian Carnival (in September) at Franklin park.
This collection of metro-Boston dates is condensed from information provided on the site Greekboston.com. It is included to help hounds schedule things and collect suggestions or critiques of the foods available, but there is additional information on that site (which should be credited for the work) as well as listings of other festivals in Greater New England.
June 1 - 3, 2012
Saint Athanasius Greek Orthodox Church, Arlington, MA
Friday 11am - 10pm
Saturday 11am - 10pm
Sunday 11am - 8pm
4 Appleton Street
June 8 - 10, 2012
Annunciation of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church, Woburn, MA
11am - 11pm
70 Montvale Ave
Woburn, MA 01801
June 22 - 24, 2012
Taxiarchae-Archangels Greek Orthodox Church, Watertown, MA
Friday 11am - 11pm
Saturday 11am - 11pm
Sunday 12pm - 10pm
Hellenic Cultural Center
25 Bigelow Avenue
Watertown, MA 02472
June 30, 2012
Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church, Lowell, MA
Saturday 11am - 11pm
25 Fr. John Sarantos Way (Clark St.
)Lowell, MA 01854
The Greekboston site doesn't list the Somerville greek festival usually held just after Labor day in Somerville at the Dormition Church.
Here is a list of the 2012 Festas Juninas and Julinas. I was able to source the dates from the Brazilian Apostolate of the Catholic Church of Boston which has greatly eased the work involved in compiling this over the past. However, they do not include addresses and English information so outside of the dates this is original work. I am not in the Boston area and the addresses are compiled from past experience and searches, but because of church closings there are probably some changes particularly in smaller communities. I would appreciate any corrections. The phone numbers are provided by the Apostolate and are in some cases the parish secretary and in other cases the festival organizers -- all will speak Portuguese, English is not guaranteed. I will provide guidelines for the festival hours in a separate posting.
Everett "Arraiá do Tonhão"
Igreja Santo Antônio
38 Oakes St
Phone: (617) 387-1393
Igreja Sagrada Família
403 Union St
Note: have not checked address in several years
Phone: (781) 871-5754
Paróquia Sagrada Família
75 Chamberlain St.
Phone: (978) 934-0622
(Note traditionally the Woodrow Wilson School has done this
during the school year and the Brazilian church didn't hold
one, so I believe this is a fairly new event although they
have had out of season "Festa Caipira" events before.)
Igreja de São Tarcísio - 562 Waverly St
Phone: (508) 875-6347
Saturday and Sunday 6/16-17/2012
Igreja Imaculada Conceição
122 Canton St
Phone: (781) 975-1620
Paróquia de Santa Maria
313 Court St (not confirmed)
Igreja Santo Antônio
480 Somerville Avenue
Phone: (617) 625-4530
St Anthony's/Igreja Santo Antônio
400 Cardinal Medeiros Ave, corner of Cambridge St
Festa held on patio behind the Church
Phone: (617) 229-9372
Igreja de Santa Brígida
1 Percival St (not confirmed)
Maynard, MA - 01754
Phone: (857) 888-6234
Santuário Madonna Queen
150 Orient Ave
Phone: (617) 569-9791
Igreja Santo Antônio
43 Holton Street
Allston, MA - 02134
Phone: (617) 783-2121
The Festas Juninas are organized around days for certain saints from the Catholic Chuch, drawing from traditions in Europe especially with the Festa Sao Joao (John). Because of the timing of the festivals (late autumn in Brazil) and the popularity of the festivals in the Northeast (where droughts are common and the tie to the religious aspect of the festivals is strongest), harvest foods play a large role in the celebrations, particularly food based around corn. Although the tradition is strongest in the Northeast, the festas and some of the cultural traditions are celebrated all over Brazil. In the Northeast there are huge festivals lasting weeks and drawing tourists, but also religious pilgrimages. In other parts of the Interior (such as Minas Gerais) they are celebrated on a town level and there especially festas juninas have stretched into festas julinas. And in many parts of Brazil schools teach the children some of the traditional dances and the schools hold their own festas juninas. Sao Joao is often thanked for a successful harvest, Sao Pedro asked for rain in the following year, and Santo Antonio in request for true love.
In Boston most of the Festas Juinas are organized around Brazilian parishes of the Catholic Church. Usually its individuals associated with the parish do the organizing (in some of the older parishes some members can be approaching 20 years in the community, but priests rotate). Whether the parish itself does the cooking can vary: most of the older ones do most of their cooking (Allston, Somerville, East Boston, etc), but some rent out spaces or have a mix of church food and vendors (Everett, Cambridge). There also are "festas caipiras" out of season (fora de epoca) and other arraiais (the arraial is the location of a festa juninas) including ones associated with local businesses, but year in and year out, its specific Brazilian parishes which carry on the traditions. In general these events do serve as fund raisers for the parish or possibly some cause associated with it, but are more of a community event than a religious event. In Framingham where there are the most Brazilian students the PTO of the Woodrow Wilson School organized an annual festa junina, much like schools in Brazil do, but since the Framingham church is holding one this year I do not know if they still will.
As I mentioned food is only one aspect of the festa junina tradition. There is often a band, couples dance quadrilhas (Brazilian square dances, with a caller and the costumes), and usually a country wedding which can be humorous. I consider these festivals chowish because of the strong role of the food traditions and some dishes which are hard to try elsewhere. That said if you go only for the chow, there is a chance of being disappointed. And Somerville in particular, the block party aspect to it can completely overrun the chow/traditions. I don't believe any festas serve a Quentao anymore (and its out of season), a few offer beer which will either be macrobrews who helps with advertising (Bud/Coors) or perhaps sponsored by a Brazilian brew (schincariol/nova schin and brahma have in the past) . Allston is one I like to recommend because its got a strong parish behind it which makes their own foods, without the total craziness of Somerville, but I am not certain why they moved their date to August this year. In general Saturday night festas start between 5 and 7pm, closing somewhere from 11-midnight (sometimes 10 depending on local towns). Sunday festas start around 2-3pm and can go as late as 9. Everett, East Boston, and Cambridge are all popular festivals which are reasonably family oriented (Everett is probably the most crowded).
Not all the foods you will run into are specific to festas juninas, some are not even Brazilian but here are some common offerings.
Corn based offerings
Espiga de milho verde (corn on the cob)
canjicao (semi-sweet dish made with milk and hominy, with cinnamon)
canjica (stew of grits often served with ribs and collard greens)
pamonha (brazilian version of tamale, both sweet and savory versions exist)
mingau de milho verde (brazilian style corn pudding, also with cinnamon and of varying sweetness) called curau in the northeast
other brazilian dishes
acaraje (fritters made from ground black eyed peas, associated with baianas from Bahia traditionally fried in palm oil)
vatapa -- paste/soup made with dried shrimp, peanuts, palm oil, coconut milk (served most often with acaraje, but good versions are worth eating a bowl)
pimenta malageta (not a dish per-se, but request it to have your acaraje spicy)
churrasquinho (skewers, with beef, chicken, maybe sausage and hopefully cheese)
salgadinhos (savory treats, search on board for more descriptions) -- look for "pastel/pasteis" fried to order
pe-de-moleque (a brazilian peanut sweet, sort of a mix between fudge and brittle)
cocada (fudge made with coconut and condensed milk, served as cubes)
doce de leite (just like dulce de leche)
Quentao -- brazilian version of a hot toddy made with lime, cinnamon, cachaca, etc (used to be served at Allston and Somerville but pretty unlikely to find these days and out of season. Trina's in Cambridge was offering a "quentão de vinho" a wine based quentão in the Winter)
Also beer, guarana, brazilian juices, and sodas
Note the Stoughton church requested an all-alcohol license, so that might have a caipirinha or quentão, but no guarantees.
cachorro quente (hot dog, but distinctly brazilian with many toppings such as corn sticks sort of like x-tudo and usually cooked in a tomato broth)
pipoca (brazilians do have pride in their own popcorn and its traditional to festa juninas, but this will be made in the usual carnaval style poppers)
algodao doce (cotton candy)
Andrea_ as opposed to the Brazilian Independence Day Festival which will be held on September 9th (http://verdeamarelo.org/festival/), the festas juninas and julinas are much more "by Brazilians for Brazilians." The Independence Day Festival goes out of its way to provide activities for an English speaking audience, there are musicians and dancers, as well as volunteers that don't even speak Portuguese, it happens when (Brazilian) students are returning to local universities, and its publicized in traditional event calendars (Boston Globe Magazine, Globe Weekend edition, etc). With the festas, what you see more often is a Brazilian will take some of their friends. The reason why I think the festas are interesting for chowhounds is they come from an agricultural tradition and food is an essential part of that tradition, plus some of the foods served aren't as common in restaurants or the Independence Festival (they try to attract food vendors by providing a very low table rental fee, but Boston permitting can be complicated, is the responsibility of the vendor, and the selection can vary from year to year).
If you want an afternoon out with the family listening to music, enjoying food and crafts in a nice park the Independence Day Festival is ideal.
The festas juninas are slightly less accessible -- both physically (at Brazilian/Portuguese/Italian Catholic Churches) and because the crowd is more predominantly Portuguese-speaking. However, some of these churches have been holding a festival for upwards of 14+ years, their kids went to US high school and are having kids now, so a chowhound that doesn't speak a lick of Portuguese can show up and order food (and some have gone alone) or check it out themselves. If you stay late into the evening, there is a band, and other activities so its also something 3 or 4 friends can get together and go to. (Somerville as I mentioned is a big block party, right in the middle of Somerville ave as you enter Union Square.) So if you want to sample a wide variety of unusual plates and are ok with homestyle cooking with a bit of pointing to communicate, the festas are a good opportunity to check it out.
Some of the parishes make all their own food (Allston and Somerville were like this), some make certain foods and offer tables to vendors (Cambridge, Everett and probably East Boston although it could be in the first category). Cambridge and Somerville definitely get more Americans because of location. You'll see Italians and Latinos in Everett and East Boston, Portuguese Americans in Somerville, Cambridge, as well as places like Stoughton (and Peabody which doesn't hold one anymore).
My suggestions would be Cambridge, Allston, Everett, and East Boston roughly in that order. Since Allston was moved back to August, it may have changed, but is usually my first choice (there is a large community from the "vale do rio doce" -- the area near Governador Valadares Minas Gerais including towns like Conselheiro Pena which has been active in that church and even some members who have moved to metrowest or the north shore regularly came back -- the valley being an area where you mix larger towns/cities like Valadares and some industry, with smaller agricultural towns around them like CP so rural festivals are popular). Somerville can be a bit overwhelming and if you go late, its so crowded that its hard to get food or things are poorly cooked, but generally not an issue if you go at 6pm. Everett and Framingham would also likely tend to being crowded (possibly Woburn too, but I have never been) but a bit more family oriented. My advice for chow is to go a bit on the early side, while understanding that Brazilians run late (eg for a 5pm opening, 6pm is "early"). In many of the festivals you have to buy tickets "ficha" at a booth to pay for food, at least for what the church supplies, so keep an eye out for that and just ask questions.
I don't know anything about this festival which already passed (5/5), but noticed a mention of Lowell Polish festival on the Catholic Archdiocese calendar and would be curious about it for next year. There also was a mention of a South Boston Polish (?) festival in past years, so would love to hear about that in advance.
Courtesy of Yelp, here is the Church which holds the South Boston Polish Festival. They don't have any events listed, but it was held in mid-September last year (9/18) as a harvest fest. If you look at the very bottom of the page and look for "PHF" you can still see the flyer from last year's event which doesn't talk too much about food. There are probably other Central and Western MA events (CT maybe too), so I might suggest posting on the appropriate boards if you are willing to travel.
Since the link I included for the Lowell festival may go away, I am going to copy the info below for future reference. For anyone speed reading, YES THE LOWELL FESTIVAL IS OVER for 2011. :-)
Polish Food Fest, Lowell
Holy Trinity Parish Hall, 338 High Street, Lowell
Polish Food Fest, Lowell -- Holy Trinity Polish Church will hold its 4th annual Polish Food Festival in the Parish Hall at 338 High Street, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. A variety of traditional Polish food will be available to eat in or to take out and frozen pierogi will be sold. There will also be a bake table and a raffle section. For more information, call 978-459-2873.
Here is my first take on listing some of the area Portuguese festivals as well as two of the most popular South Coast events. At both the Woburn Portuguese Club and Imperio Mariense you can rent a spit with meat to roast over charcoal, so no need to go the Southcoast for that, but no barrel served madeira. There is also the Cambridge/Somerville Portugal Day Parade, but I have never encountered much Portuguese food around that (St Anthony's does usually have a banquet that weekend though.)
Espirito Santo Feast
Taunton Eagles Soccer Club
(No information and their flash site is giving me problems, so please
call for info before going)
29 Oak Street
June -Portugal Day Activities
(I am having issues with the website, but usually there is a banquet
and a number of outdoor activities -- traditional horsemanship, whaling
boat race, but not particularly focused on chow)
Imperio Mariense of Saugus
262 Lynn Fells Parkway
Please note they offer a number of traditional style dinners which are listed on their website (www.imperiodesaugus.org)
Portuguese American Civic League
Festa do Espirito Santo
(do not have exact dates, but would guess 7/7-8 based on past info)
Holy Ghost Society of the Azores
369 Pearl St
Stoughton, MA 02072
Feast of the Blessed Sacrament (Madeira Fest)
New Bedford, MA
Nossa Senhora do Monte
Woburn Portuguese Club
Route 28, Main Street
Woburn, MA (near Winchester line).
End of August
Feast of the Holy Ghost/Bode de Leite
End of the Summer Azorean festival in Fall River
9/1-3 (not confirmed)
Our Lady of Fatima
The Ludlow Portuguese festival is usually Labor Day weekend
As far as transportation I would suggest posting on the Southeast Board as there is a fair amount of regional transportation in the New Bedford area, so you might get some pointers on commuter lots where you could get a bus in. I have generally carpooled and paid to park.
There are a lot of food options, some better than others. Assuming you partake, you definitely want to sample the madeira because its the only place its barrel served at least on this continent. Definitely consider the skewered beef or frango de churrasco, I'd look for cacoila (a portuguese american dish), stewed vegetables. There are other options like goat, stewed pork, chourico. Malassadas to finish. But I would choose by looking. I think Nab may have posted fairly recent observations here or on another forum.