Mid-East Fete: Homemade favorites mark Lebanese food fest | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Mid-East Fete: Homemade favorites mark Lebanese food fest

"The Lebanese people are known for their hospitality."

Church members making saj bread
Church members making saj bread

Baked kibbee, lamb kabob, tabouli, saj bread — it's all on the menu this weekend at the Lebanese Food Festival, held at Our Lady of Victory Maronite Church in Scott Township. 

One of the last such events of the summer season, the Lebanese Food Festival opened to the public just five years ago. But it's been growing in popularity each year, drawing people from as far away as Ohio, says Father Rodolph Wakim.

The food — Middle Eastern fare that features cracked wheat and healthy doses of garlic — is prepared by the women in the church. Often three generations of the same family work together to make the dishes, Wakim says. 

"It's all homemade," he says, adding that it will take 20 of the women to supervise the rolling of the grape leaves. "Everything is done in the kitchen here."

And as the daily festivities take place, they'll continue making fresh batches of saj bread, a thin flatbread that the women toss and work like pizza dough before placing it quickly on a domed griddle. 

Other offerings at the festival will include Lebanese coffee — "I would venture to say it's stronger than espresso," Wakim says — and sweet drinks made with syrups created by boiling rose buds and blackberries. More than 50 different types of pastry will also be available. 

There will also be live music, dancing and games for the children. Admission and parking are free. Food can be purchased a la carte with cash, check or credit, and ordered online in advance at www.pghlebanesefestival.com. 

Proceeds will go toward church expenses, particularly youth programs. 

"The Lebanese people are known for their hospitality," Wakim explains, adding that new visitors to the festival should not feel shy. 

"Whenever you come to the festival, you feel like you're one of the people here."

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