Monday, October 19, 2015

Lithuanian Festival of Baltimore

We kicked off our Savannah road trip in Catonsville, Maryland at the Lithuanian Festival of Baltimore. We had never had Lithuanian food before, so when I saw the festival announcement on Chowhound, conveniently scheduled for the day we would be driving from Maryland to North Carolina, we knew we had to stop by. We had no idea what Lithuanian food would be like, and were really excited to try some.

When we got to the festival, we paid our admission fee, and then made a beeline for the back hall where most of the food vendors were. So many things looked good, but we weren't entirely sure what anything was and looked up the dish names on Google to get more info. The first thing we decided to try was cepelinai, which Wikipedia told us was the Lithuanian national dish. Well, if it's their national dish, then we had to try it.

Cepelinai are basically grated potato dumplings stuffed with minced meat and sometimes some cheese, which are then boiled, and served with sour cream sauce and bacon. These were so good. The texture of the potatoes was so interesting. It was different from an actual potato, a little denser and thicker, kind of sticky and gluey. I'm not really sure how else to describe it, but we liked the texture. The filling was tasty, as was the bacon in the sauce. We were pretty happy with these. 

After the cepelinai, we wandered around the festival a little bit looking at the various things for sale and the other food options. Eventually we made our way outside to the armory's parking lot where they had set up a mini beer garden. A is always looking to try beers from other countries, so when he saw a lot of people drinking Utenos, he got one of those. It was pretty much what he was expecting. It was a light-flavored, crisp beer that went down smoothly. It's not his preferred type of beer, but it was definitely refreshing on the warm day.

After exploring the beer options (which I didn't really partake in, as I was driving this part of our road trip), we decided to try one more Lithuanian dish. We were tempted by the potato pancakes, but we can get potato pancakes at home in NYC. They may not be Lithuanian potato pancakes at home, but they're probably relatively similar.

Eventually we decided on kugelis. According to the sign the vendor put up, kugelis is a Lithuanian dish "made with potatoes, bacon, onions, eggs, and seasonings, then baked," and served with a side of sour cream. When we got the plate, it looked like a loaf.

It pretty much was a potato and egg loaf, so it was very filling, very dense, and very rich from the bacon flavor. You could definitely taste the eggs, as parts were very reminiscent in flavor of an omelette. Since we were planning to get lunch in northern Virginia, it might not have been a good idea to get this as our second dish, as it was really heavy, but the flavors were good. Between the two, we liked the cepelinai a little bit more, but both were good. Overall, it was a nice introduction to Lithuanian food. From what we saw, the cuisine seems filled with sausages, potatoes, and bacon. We're okay with that.

In addition to food, one of the highlights of our stop at the festival was getting to watch the Lithuanian traditional dancers. The heavy dishes filled with potato and bacon made a lot more sense after seeing how active the dancers were and how many calories they were burning. Unfortunately for the rest of us though, we were just sitting/standing and watching them, which didn't really help our waistlines. We stayed in Catonsville a little longer than we had planned since the folk dancing was really fun.

We were pretty happy that we got to start off our trip with a cuisine we had never tried before. We're not sure when we'll have Lithuanian food next, as we don't really know of many (if any) options in our area, so we're glad that we were in Baltimore on the right day!

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