The vogue for Mediterranean freshness will return to Elgin this weekend as the St. Sophia Church kicks off its 32nd annual Greek Festival.
The celebration will start at lunch time Friday, July 9 and officially open at 5 p.m. It will continue through Sunday.
St. Sophia's 32nd annual Greek Fest
Where: 525 Church Road, Elgin, just north of I-90 at Route 31
When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday, July 9-11
Cost: $2 for adults; children admitted for free with a paying adult
Details: Call (847) 888-2822 or visit st-sophia.com
Its chairwoman this year, Kyra Poulos, said as one of the bigger Greek festivals in the Northern suburbs, the Elgin bash attracts more than 11,000 people each year due to its unique family style.
"There are about 250 families in our church's parish. More than 100 of them are actively involved in this," she said. "It's a very close-knit Greek festival."
That homey taste is also carried over to the long menu of Greek cuisine.
Polly Gorski is arranging food services for the Elgin Greek Fest this year. She said most of the food, including pastries, is homemade by the parish community members. Dolmades, for example, is a dish made with rice and meat rolled up in grape leaves.
"We had about 20 women picking the leaves locally, blanching and rolling them." Gorski said.
Also featured is pastitsio, so-called "Greek version of lasagna," which pairs macaroni with braised ground lamb and beef, topped with béchamel sauce.
Of course, a shallow pan of saganaki, seared vlahotiri cheese flamed with brandy and lemon juice, is indispensable for any "opa!" moments.
Last but not the least, shower your taste buds in loukoumades' sweet flow. The deep-fried doughnut, dipped in honey with a dash of cinnamon, has long been popular among visitors.
Celebration of Greek traditions will not just stop here. Three days of live entertainment will start off with the Agape Dance Troupe. Children from the first grade up to the end of high school will perform Greek dances in traditional costumes. For anyone interested, there will be Greek dance lessons at 7 p.m. every night during the festival.
Besides Personalities DJs from Northbrook, Parry Tsangaris from Pericles Productions will spice up Sunday with his bouzouki, a Greek lute.
The festival will feature fun activities to kids. Euro-bungee, Moonwalk and Dual Lane Super Slide along with other games will be open for most of the three days.
The Agora Marketplace, featuring a wide range of crafters and vendors, will add some bustle to the festival. Jewelry, silk, toys and books will be for sale.
"We want everyone to come here and be Greek for one day," said Poulos.
Bring your appetite
Rule number one of Greek Fest is: come hungry.
Here is a sampling of the many dishes that will be served at the annual Elgin celebration of all things Greek.
• Grecian chicken: half chicken roasted, Grecian style, with a mixture of lemon, oil, and oregano. Served with rice, salad, and bread. $9.
• Souvlakia: grilled pork tenderloin marinated in our special recipe. Served with rice, salad, and bread. $10.
• Gyros plate: Lamb, grilled and sliced fresh, and served on pita bread, tzatziki (cucumber and yogurt) sauce, tomatoes and onions. Served with olives. $8.
• Pastitsio: The Greek version of lasagna - macaroni with braised ground lamb and beef, topped with béchamel sauce and baked. Served with salad, olives and bread. $9.
• Moussaka: Layers of eggplant, potato, ground lamb and beef, topped with a light béchamel sauce and baked. Served with salad, olives and bread. $9.
• Appetizer plate: A bit of everything. Dolmades (grape leaf, rice and meat), tyropita (Greek style cheese pie in a crispy phyllo crust), spanakopita (Greek style cheese and spinach in a crispy phyllo crust), Greek sausage, kasseri cheese, tomato, cucumber, olives and bread. $5.
• Loukoumades: the ultimate doughnut, light and airy, served warm, dipped in honey with a dash of cinnamon. $6.50/dozen.
• Baklava/saragli: A classic pastry, Prepared with many layers of thin buttered pastry sheets, walnuts, spices and honey syrup. $2.
• Floyeres - $2.00 A rich, baked dessert prepared with thin layers of buttered pastry sheets, almonds, spices, and honey syrup.
• Kataifi - $2.00 Shredded dough with chopped nuts and honey syrup.