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Greek Food Festival set for Sunday

| Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2006

Now that the summer picnic season is officially over, folks may be on the lookout for fare that is more varied than hot dogs, hamburgers and baked beans.

Look no further than Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in New Kensington. From noon to 6 p.m., Sunday, you can reward your taste buds with tantalizing, traditional homemade Greek dishes. It is an opportunity to explore options and expand your culinary experience.

A peek at the menu reveals: moussaka, pastitsio, lamb shish kebab, gyros, dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), Mediterranean chicken, spanakopita and souzoukakia (meatballs in wine sauce). Moussaka is an eggplant-based casserole, and pastitsio is a dish similar to lasagne, made with layers of pasta and a ground-beef mixture and topped with a rich cream sauce.

There's something for everyone. Meatless dishes include spinach pies --spanakopita -- and cheese pies filled with ricotta and feta. For those whose tastes run to hearty sandwiches, there are gyros packed with seasoned lamb, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and a cucumber sauce, all rolled up in a soft dough pocket.

Joanne Kehris, of Plum, a church member and a past Greek Food Festival chairman, says, "All our food is homemade. Our women put their heart and soul into this."

In anticipation of the hungry Alle-Kiski Valley residents who descend annually on their small parish, church women have been getting ready for the festival for months. This year, they have prepared 3,200 stuffed grape leaves, 200 chicken dinners and 25 pans each of moussaka and pastitsio. Everything that can be frozen uncooked is, until it is baked the day of the festival.

In its 37th year, the food festival attracts more than 1,000 people, who come to savor the food.

Lambra Nemeth, of South Bend Township, this year's food festival chairperson, says, "This festival brings in the community to our church. It makes us part of the community and is about ethnicity and bringing in the next generation."

Delicious food. Visiting with family and friends. The lively sounds of Greek music. What's not to like?

Come hungry, but come early. The food sells out quickly. "There is never anything left," Kehris says.

Prices still are user-friendly. Order a la carte, and you can pick and choose; or, select complete dinners, ranging in price from $5 to $7.50. Takeout will be available. Once again, there will be a tent for outdoor dining.

For those who consider dessert a necessity, there will be plenty available, including the classic honey and nut pastry -- baklava. As an added bonus this year, the pastry will make an appearance in a Baklava sundae. Nemeth says, "We crunch and break up the Baklava, soak it in extra honey, and pour it over ice cream, and then drench it all in chocolate syrup. It's scrumptious."

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