In the Balkans…even the most casual visitor is greeted with a sweet and a drink on arrival. It’s a centuries-old tradition.

At Golden Festival…we have our own 34-year-old traditions. One is to communally prepare and serve a sampling of the cuisines of the Mediterranean and Balkans. It’s everything from an imported Balkan bonbon at the entrance, to a spread of veggie, dairy and meat specialties in the Skylight Room, to the lucky Vassilopita — Greek New Year’s bread with a hidden coin. (Will you find it this year?)

Our food is provided by local caterers (representing over a dozen ethnic communities in NJ and NYC), imported from Europe and the Near East. Other specialties are prepared by Golden Fest Kitchen volunteers — both home cooks steeped in tradition, and food professionals eager to try their hand at Balkan cuisine.

The cuisines of the Balkans, like its music, are regionally varied.  Indigenous agriculture and the outdoor lifestyles of shepherds and migratory peoples are the basis of this cuisine:  spit-roasted and smoked meats; fresh cheeses; herbs and greens gathered wild on mountainsides.

Later, other elements were adopted from distant lands — rice and spices from the Silk Route; coffee and meze traditions from the Arab world; tomatoes, potatoes, cornmeal and chili peppers from the Western Hemisphere; the overlay of Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman urban cuisines and Mediterranean maritime culture.

At Golden Fest we cherish this diversity and focus on winter specialties. These include cooked and pickled vegetable dishes, brined cheese, bean stews, and smoked meats. These foods demonstrate how the summer bounty is preserved for the winter table in the Balkans.

Please join us in the Skylight Room (adjacent to the Grand Ballroom):

— Friday between 8:30 – midnight
— Saturday 8:30 – 1:30
for a festive buffet of meze — light savory snacks to accompany drinks and share with friends.

Sweets will also appear around 10 pm each evening for your enjoyment.

  • Please use tongs and spoons for serving yourself. It’s cold and flu season! Thanks!
  • Please be considerate with your portions so everyone is able to sample every dish.
  • We regret that traditional cuisines contain many allergens. If you have any questions about ingredients, ask a host or server to contact the Golden Fest Staff kitchen manager on duty.
  • If you are interested in ingredients, vendors or sources of the foods we serve, please contact the Golden Fest Kitchen Manager (ask any of the servers to direct you).

The Skylight Room is divided into several buffet stations for convenience: two stations on Friday and four on Saturday.   The same kinds of food are served at all stations.   Select a color line and follow the balloons to the buffet.    After 10 pm we will change some lines to sweets, but there will also be savories available all evening.

Different specialties may appear throughout the evening. Feel free to check back several times in the evening to sample new offerings – the food tasting is included in your ticket.

After selecting your food and beverages, please take a seat in the Grand Ballroom or Atrium room and enjoy the music and snacks. Be prepared for long lines, but it’s worth the wait!

If you or your kids require an earlier snack, or a sit-down hot meal, support our Park Slope neighbors by patronizing local restaurants:  Turkish, Austrian, Czech, and Latino eateries — and more — along 5th 7th Avenues, within walking distance of the Hall.

Athena Mediterranean Cuisine, on 535 6th Ave., 3 blocks from Grand Prospect Hall, features delicious Balkan food and occasional Golden Festival specials (Please RSVP: 718-965-4578).  Mediterranean wines and spirits, and the all-important GREEK COFFEE!

If you leave the Hall for a meal or coffee, your wristband will allow you to return to the festival.

Beverage Service

Beverages (local craft beers, Balkan and Greek wines, šljivovica (plum brandy), raki and ouzo, juices and soft drinks (Balkan and domestic) are sold by Grand Prospect Hall on a cash-bar basis.

– Friday in the Skylight Room (2nd floor)
– Saturday in the Skylight Room (2nd floor) and the Speakeasy (1st Floor):

Organic coffee, ethnic teas, and soft drinks are available for purchase at the Coffee/Tea Bar in the Skylight Room on both nights.

Purchase beverage tickets from Grand Prospect Hall staff in the Skylight Room, and pay for your drink selections with them.  Sorry, this is cash only, so do come prepared.

Free water is available on every floor for thirsty dancers! Please label and reuse your cups.

Our insurance prohibits bringing outside alcoholic beverages to Grand Prospect Hall. Thank you for your cooperation.

Saturday 10:30 pm — Vassilopita (King Cake) in honor of the New Year

Please join us in the Skylight Room on Saturday night at 10:30 our Greek St. Basil’s Cake cutting. If you select the piece with the token, Lea in the Charshiya will magically transform it into a GIFT CERTIFICATE for dinner at Athena Mediterranean Cuisine, Brooklyn!

We thank our food donors and vendors for their interest in the festival, and share their belief in food and music as a way to bring the world closer together.

Elizabeth “MB” Ryan and Breezy Hill / Stone Ridge Orchards for their annual gift of organic apples and ciders. Their Hudson Valley hard cider is again on tap at the bar!  Elizabeth also hosts events at her Hudson Valley farms presenting Zlatne Uste and other Balkan artists.

Mamma Mila” Mitrović’s meze, salads and pastries reflect her Bulgarian and Serbian heritage.   She’ll cater your party too!

Chef Spiro and Teddy at Athena Mediterranean Cuisine for revitho-salata (hummus), and the Vassilopita prize.

Ethan Frisch and Burlap and Barrel for their gift of ethically-sourced spices and herbs to enliven our dishes. Please visit their table in the Charshiya!

Cvetko Petreski at Eternatea Coffee and Grocery, 131 Crooks Ave., Paterson, NJ. A pan-Balkan grocery featuring their own “Brian’s” brand home-style ajvar, pickles, meats.

The Greek Store,” at 612 Boulevard, Kenilworth, NJ, features the Diamandas family’s specialties, such as the almond skordhalia and taramosalata.

Brothers Produce, 325 Railway Ave., Paterson Farmer’s Market: bulk Egyptian, Bulgarian and Greek cheeses, dried fruit and nuts, Arabic groceries, and produce in Paterson’s historic souk.

Nouri Brothers, 999 S. Main St., South Paterson, NJ, hummus, baba ghanouj, warm Syrian pita, and more.  An Arabic department store worth a visit to Jersey!

Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods, sends  us fresh vegetarian dolmadhakia

Kontos Foods – Mediterranean-style flatbreads, made locally in Paterson, NJ

Balić Winery — continues their family winemaking tradition in South Jersey.  Alexander the Great, from the ancient Balkan Vranac grape, is available at the bar

Stop & Shop of South Orange — Mike & his staff prepared heaps of fresh cut vegetables.

Artopolis Bakery – Astoria’s exquisite patissiers’ annual Vassilopita, 23-18 31th St.  Astoria, NY

Quality Halal Meat Market, 829 S. Main Street, Paterson, NJ — Turkish + Albanian sucuk.

Taşkın Bakery — Fluffy, chewy, white and whole wheat pide breads, warm from their ovens in Paterson, NJ.

Balkan Bites —  Sample Ariana and Alida’s baklava on Saturday.  Welcome this newly-launched business featuring sweet and savory Kosovar pastries to NYC.