A taste of the Mediterranean comes to Wilkes-Barre

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Maybe you can’t plan a picnic at the Parthenon in Athens right now. Or enjoy the view of the Acropolis over dinner. If you’re in northeastern Pennsylvania, you’re not close enough to the Mediterranean Sea to dip your toes.

But you might discover the next best thing at the Greek Orthodox Church Proclamation Mini Food Festival, which continues today and Friday both days from 11am to 7pm for takeout only at the church, 32 East Ross St. in Wilkes-Barre.

Here you’ll find spiced beef gyros on warm flatbread and fried chicken platters; those are two of the most popular things, said Shavertown Church Council Chairman Tom Iliadis on Wednesday afternoon, the festival’s opening day, as he and his wife doula worked on savory dishes in the church kitchen.

You’ll also find dolmadakia, which are vine leaves stuffed with minced meat and rice and cooked in lemon broth; Spanakopita, a mix of spinach, feta, and other cheeses baked in puff pastry, and Tyropita, a similar triangle of cheesecake without the spinach.

“People are so happy that we have this,” said church secretary/treasurer Christine Stelmack of the Hanover Congregation, noting that the church hosts a food festival twice a year. “They tell us how much they were looking forward to it.”

And everyone seems to have a favorite dish.

A customer waiting to order outside the church said he was a big fan of pastitsio, which is baked macaroni with seasoned ground beef and béchamel sauce.

“I call it Greek lasagna,” he said with a smile. “And I’ll be back for more.”

Eleven-year-old Ave Kramer from Dallas, who lent a hand with the older volunteers, particularly enjoys the manestra, orzo pasta baked in chicken broth with parmesan cheese.

Many of the foods come from recipes brought from Greece by various church families, Iliadis said.

“The hardest part, believe it or not, is dressing the Greek salad,” he said. “And the sauce for the Galaktoboureko.”

“It’s a special sauce,” Falls volunteer Cynthia Dulsky said as she scooped a sweet syrup over a tray of golden brown Galaktoboureko pastry pieces, each filled with custard.

“Look, there’s cinnamon and oranges cooked in there,” she said, tilting a ladle to reveal a stick of cinnamon and a half-circle of orange zest in the syrup.

Other desserts include baklava, flogeres, and kataifa, all of which contain walnuts and spices. You can order them by the piece or order a Mother’s Day gift basket filled with the sweet treats.

The festival is take away only, with collection outside the church (opposite the side entrance of the Wilkes-Barre Post Office). The Church encourages pre-orders by phone or internet at least two hours prior to your pick-up time. For more information or to place an order please call 570-417-4465 and leave a message or visit greekfoodfestival.webs.com/.

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