Sunday, September 6, 2009

Middle Eastern Festival

While driving around town to prepare for CJ's visit last week, I noticed a banner advertising a Middle Eastern festival hanging over Ridge Road. How could I have missed this banner or any advertisement to this festival while I've lived and driven this part of town over the years?

I wasn't sure where the church was. At least Bug knew the general direction.

It was dusk as we were driving along a quiet stretch along Memphis Road. I wondered how we would know if we were at the right place? The answer became a bit obvious as we drew closer, from the carnival riders screaming over the groaning and wheezing of the motors to the aura that illuminated the sky.

MEF Tent
Food tent

The festival has been held the past 45 years on Labor Day weekend. With the rides, several carnival game booths, and blaring live music, it was lively.

MEF Grape leaves
Amazing stuffed grape leaves

Bug and I agreed that these were the best stuffed grape leaves we've had in a while. The leaves were wrapped tightly around the perfectly cooked rice-meat mixture. The thicker veins on the leaves were removed, as they should be, which prevented the contents from spilling apart once bitten or cut with a dull, plastic knife.

MEF Cabbage rolls
Cabbage rolls

The cabbage rolls were similarly firm, perfectly cooked, and well seasoned.

MEF Grape leaves and Cabbage
Cross-section of the delicious rolls

We prefer the bold, slightly bitter, dark green flavor of the grape leaves.

MEF Fattoush

The sumac-blended lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, and onions were crunchy and tart, perfect on this warm and muggy night. Fattoush is the only dish I will consume with raw onions.

MEF Fattoush pita
Fattoush with fried pita chips

I've mentioned before that my boss introduced me to this dish, and I will forever be grateful to him. My favorite way to eat this is scooping the vegetables with large, crunchy, fried pita chips. The chips and sumac act like a magical shield against the chopped onions for me. When the chips run out, the remainder is left with Bug.

I wish there were exhibits, but people don't go to cultural festivals to read. Food, drink, music, and dance are a great way to experience a culture...and the raffle to win $10,000 ($100/ticket, 400 tickets total).

- Cassaendra

St. Elias Church
8023 Memphis Ave
Brooklyn, OH
(216) 661-1155

4 deep thoughts:

Gar 14 September, 2009 09:41  

i love Middle Eastern food, especially hummus :)

SicklyBug and Cassaendra 14 September, 2009 21:23  

Hi Gar~

I love what I have tried over the years too! I would love to visit the region to learn (and eat) more about the cultures.

Richard Anter 02 April, 2010 10:43  

Thanks for the great plug! We try our hardest to make sure that everyone who comes to our annual festival experiences the joy and comfort of our family. You are welcome any time...even if the festival is not going on! :-) And I have to say that if it weren't for the army of little-old-ladies cooking such amazing food, none of it would be possible. They use recipes that have been in their families for generations, so they've pretty much perfected the art of cooking.

Cassaendra 04 April, 2010 14:08  

Hi Mr. Anter,

I am thankful that you have opened your home for everyone to share in the festivities.

It is evident that an enormous amount of planning was involved by how many people who attended and how smoothly everything ran. Kudos to everyone involved!

It is already marked on my calendar for 2010!

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