Fort Wayne Greek Festival 5K walk/run

Runners competed in the 4th annual Greek Festival Olympic 5K on Saturday at Headwaters Park.

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Photos by Ben Mikesell | The Journal Gazette
Nikos Nakos brushes a marinade on a 32-pound lamb that was served as part of a raffle held Saturday at the Greek Fest at Headwaters Park.

Food stars at Greek Fest

Diners traveled near and far to taste classics, octopus

Charles Troyer runs in the Greek Fest Olympic 5K run/walk event. Participants received gyro vouchers for the festival.

As the lunchtime line stretched across the main pavilion of Headwaters Park, Tim Beauchot had no doubt about what he was ordering Saturday at Fort Wayne’s Greek Fest.

His choice was listed on a hand-lettered sign on the back of a paper plate posted near the front of the cafeteria-style service area: Grilled Octopus Dinner $10.

Sufferin’ cephalopods!

“It’s the only reason I’m here,” the Albion resident said, describing the taste of octopus as “unbelievable.”

“It’s a delicacy, a true Greek delicacy,” he said.

Saturday was also the only day the annual festival, which features Greek food favorites from dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) to spanakopitas (spinach- and cheese-filled phyllo dough), was able to serve up octopus, which hasn’t been on the menu for several years, said food preparer George Gogos of Fort Wayne.

“We used to serve 400 to 500 pounds,” said Gogos, a native of Greece and member of the festival’s sponsor, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.

Octopus went on hiatus because it’s hard to get and costly.

“You have to buy it from Chicago,” he said, noting there are actually two kinds: so-called baby octopus, preferred by many people, and regular octopus.

Octopus comes frozen and is defrosted and boiled until soft. “But not too much; otherwise, it turns tough,” Gogos said.

Then it’s marinated in olive oil and Greek seasoning and put on the grill. The dish is usually an appetizer, he said.

Many Greeks drizzle it with a little lemon juice, as Americans might lobster or fish, he added.

Beauchot said octopus, especially baby octopus, is perfect when you taste a bit of sweetness mixed with a little acid and oregano flavor. You can tell baby octopus, which come in pieces about the size of a woman’s little finger, from older octopus by the suction cups on larger pieces, he said.

Beauchot said the flavor is like fish, with a texture both soft and coarse – the older the octopus, the coarser the texture.

“And obviously, you need Greek wine with Greek food,” he said.

Bill Freeman, owner of St. James Restaurant in Avilla and accompanied by his wife, Chris, said his friend Beauchot coaxed him into trying octopus for the first time.

Freeman said he liked the dish but added that it wouldn’t be showing up on his restaurant menu anytime soon.

“We’d sell some, probably,” he said. But he didn’t think they’d sell enough to make it worth the trouble to procure.

Seated nearby, Carol Garcia, 58, and her son Lucas Garcia, 22, both of Fort Wayne, weren’t adventuresome enough to try octopus.

Lucas ordered a chicken kebab and the pastitsio, a pasta dish with ground meat, tomato and white sauce spiked with nutmeg. His mother went for a gyro with baklava for dessert.

“We weren’t brave enough to try the octopus,” she said. “But if someone told me this was great, I’d probably be brave enough to try it.”

Lucas wouldn’t be. “I just don’t think the texture would go,” he said. “I’ve heard people say the texture is kind of strange.

“It’s just too weird for me.”