By Tony Phyrillas
READING – The largest ethnic food festival in Berks County returns this weekend for its 44th year at Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church.
In addition to authentic Greek food and pastry, the three-day festival (Oct. 17-18-19) features live music, folk dancing, gift rooms and church tours.
New this year is The Plaka, where local crafters will be selling their wares, as well as children’s activities, including a train ride. Also new is an expanded seating area under an outdoor tent, which will offer new food choices and music/dancing to the sounds of the band Enosi, which will perform Saturday from 6-10 p.m. (There is cover charge for the Enosi performance).
“The food has always been the big draw at the Bazaar, but we’re trying some new things this year to give younger families and young adults more activities,” said Achilleas Lambriodes, who is chairman of the outdoor activities. “There’s a lot more to see and do this year.”
The food is prepared and cooked on the premises by church members using family recipes handed down through generations. All food items are available to eat-in in or take-out.
Athenian-style chicken platters, which comes with Pastitsio or rice pilaf, Greek-style string beans, a Greek salad, roll and butter for $12 will be offered all weekend in the main dining hall. You can substitute Plaki (fresh fish fillet baked with vegetables, herbs and wine) or Souvlaki (chunks of marinated pork) on the platter meal.
There are also a la carte items such Gyro (marinated beef and lamb slices) and Souvlaki (pork shis-ke-bob) sandwiches; Calamari (squid) cooked in tomatoes and wine; Moussaka (eggplant casserole); Arni Psito (roast lamb cooked with herbs); and Pastitsio (layered Greek pasta, seasoned with chopped beef topped with béchamel sauce).
A variety of imported Greek wines and spirits, including Ouzo, an anise-flavored liqueur, are available, as well as domestic and imported beers.
While enjoying a meal in the main dining hall, visitors will be treated to Greek music by Stavros & Maria, a brother-sister duo who are also members of the church.
The church’s youth dance group, Kefi, will perform traditional Greek dances wearing colorful costumes on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
After a hearty meal, there’s plenty to see and do on the church grounds. The Agora (Greek market) offers packaged Greek foods and prepared dishes to go. The Kafenio (Greek coffee house) features fresh-brewed Greek-style coffee, rice pudding and pastries in a relaxed atmosphere.
Visitors can also shop for original artwork, gold jewelry and items imported from Greece in various gift rooms.
A popular stop for all visitors is the pastry room, where you can sample Baklava (almonds, butter and honey layered in flaky pastry), Teelikta (walnuts, butter and honey rolled in flaky pastry); Kourabiethes (butter cookies topped with powdered sugar); Koulourakia (Greek twisted butter cookie); and Galaktobouriko (a filo pastry filled with custard and moistened with honey syrup).
Another Greek delicacy offered throughout the weekend is Loukoumades (puffed honey balls), a warm, dough pastry topped with syrup, cinnamon and chopped nuts.
Tours of the church interior, which features one of the largest collections of Byzantine iconography in the United States, are offered on the hour throughout the weekend.
Bazaar hours are noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Admission and parking are free. Additional parking is available at the adjacent Berks Catholic High School. The event will be held rain or shine.
The church is located at 1001 E. Wyomissing Blvd., about one mile from Business Route 222 South (Lancaster Avenue).
For more information, call 610-374-7511 or visit www.stsconstantinehelen.org