Lebanese food fest set next weekend in Scott

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With 14,000 grape leaves and other ethnic cuisine ready to go, the Lebanese Food Festival at Our Lady of Victory Maronite Catholic Church in Scott is ready for its 35th annual signature event. 

“This festival is a special because it showcases Lebanese food and culture and brings together the Pittsburgh community,'' festival chairman and parishioner Peter Djalaliev said.

On Sept. 12-14, the food fest will be held at the church at 1000 Lindsay Road, Scott. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 12 and 13, noon to 6 p.m. Sept. 14.

Some highlights:

■ At 4:30 p.m. Sept 13, traditional dabke dancing lessons will be offered.

■ At 8 p.m. Sept. 13 and at 2 p.m. Sept. 14, the church's children's dabke dancing group dressed in traditional garb will perform.

■ At 6 p.m. Sept. 13, there will be a live performance of Lebanese music by Cleveland-based Tony Mikhael and band.

Admission and parking are free.

Last year,more than 5,000 people attended. The festival is the largest fundraiser of the 200-family church, which conducts its services in English, Arabic and Aramaic, the language Jesus is thought to have spoken.

All of the food is homemade in the church kitchen by more than three dozen men and women, most of whom are parishioners.

''Besides being delicious, it is so so healthy,'' kitchen coordinator Anne Ayoob of Pleasant Hills said of the menu, which includes kibbee [a fried, stuff croquette], tabbouleh [salad with mint], hummus, falafel [fried bean patty], spinach/feta pies, lobia [black-eyed peas], rice, lamb and chicken.

The Lebanese-American woman said she grew up learning about authentic ethnic food from her mother, grandmothers and other parish women.

Her festival specialty is helping prepare the 14,000 grape leaves stuffed with sirloin tips, rice, salt/pepper and mint. Volunteers wash, stem, stuff and roll the leaves, then freeze them until the festival. Four grape leaves can be had for $3.50.

Other dinners are roasted chicken ($10); lamb kabob ($13); and baked kibbee ($11). Each comes with lobia, rice and pita bread. Many other items are sold a la carte.

''Cooking skills and recipes in the Lebanese community are handed down through generations. It’s not uncommon to see a grandmother, a mother and daughters prepare food for family or church event,’’ Mr. Djalaliev said. “'Our food is truly outstanding, and keeps people coming back.’’

For the complete menu, or to order takeout, visit www.pghlebanesefestival.com. Takeouts may also be faxed to 412-278-0846, or ordered by calling 412-278-0841.

Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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