Sample Greek food, fellowship at Niles fest
Souvlaki kabobs are always a favorite at the St. Harlambos Greek Orthodox Church's Big Greek Food Fest.
St. Haralambos Big Greek
Food Festival in Niles
Holy Taxiarhai and St. Haralambos Greek Orthodox Church, 7373 Caldwell Ave., Niles
5 p.m.-midnight Friday, July 20; 3 p.m.-midnight Saturday and Sunday, July 21-22
Entrance to the festival is $2, most times, and individual dishes are sold separately and served cafeteria-style ($2-$9). Free-will offering for admission 3-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
(847) 647-8880 or see saintharalambosgoc.org
Updated: July 17, 2012 9:00PM
“Years ago every parish was doing them,” said Father Constantine “Dean” Botsis of St. Haralambos Greek Orthodox Church in Niles. He’s been participating in his parish’s annual picnic for more than 30 years.
From July 20-22, St. Haralambos will be hosting the Big Greek Food Festival in Niles. Despite the emphasis on Greek culture, the parish community is diverse.
“If you look at the roster, you’ll see Italian names, Arabic names, Turkish names … ” recounts Botsis. While the cultures may be different, they all share the common trait of what the Greeks call “filoxenia,” that sense of hospitality and the desire to break bread with one’s neighbor.
“Parishes are artificial communities. It used to be that a parish was the neighborhood church, but that doesn’t happen for us anymore,” said Botsis, noting that his worshipers now hail from Highland Park, Mt. Prospect and Lincolnwood, as well as Niles. He calls the festival a good opportunity for his parish to manifest itself as a community.
The Mediterranean feast is made by the parishioners and will include a multitude of delicacies like roasted lamb ($13/pound); bacalao “Plaki,” a baked cod specialty ($8); traditional Greek loukaniko sausage with pita bread ($4) and even a shot of ouzo ($5).
Cynthia A. Yannias of Morton Grove has been a steward of St. Haralambos since 1980. On Saturday and Sunday she will be conducting free cooking demonstrations beginning at 7 p.m. inside the church’s community center.
First up, Yannias will be making Pastitsio, sometimes referred to as the “Greek lasagna.” She makes it with macaroni and ground beef in an aromatic tomato sauce seasoned with cinnamon, a touch of garlic and wine. The layers are then topped with a sharp Kefaloteri cheese and finished with a fluffy layer of béchamel sauce, one of the basic sauces of French cuisine ($7).
To feed the more than 17,000 expected attendees, Botsis’ wife, Presbytera Georgia and “an army of women friends” have made an additional 50 steam table-size pans of pastitsio, which they filled with some 160 pounds of ground beef and 72 pounds of macaroni.
On Sunday Yannias will demonstrate how to make a dessert called Ecmek, which has both Greek and Turkish roots. Made with a layer of shredded wheat “kataifi,” it is covered with finely-chopped nuts, a sweet honey-like syrup and topped with a creamy custard and whipped cream ($2).
“People should come to our festival because we not only have the best food but a great friendly atmosphere. You will definitely experience the flavors and hospitality of Greece (and) everyone feels welcome and goes home well fed,” said Yannias.
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