After 46 summers of hosting a wildly popular Greek Festival at Oak Park, the St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church decided in the fall of 2020 to host a less social but still culturally relevant fundraiser by selling traditional, homemade meals to the community under the banner of Greek Grab ’n’ Go. They repeated the formula in the spring of 2021, and now it’s back again, with orders — which range in price from $5 for dolmas and donuts to $50 for a full dinner platter — being accepted until October 16 for pickups at the church on October 29 and 30.
The event introduces many Santa Barbarans to the strikingly beautiful campus — stark white and blue structures, with colorful mosaics, set against our rugged mountains — and raises ample money for the church, which supports well-building in Tanzania, among other outreach efforts.
“The real success is that it brings our congregation together in a communal way,” said Dr. Ernest Kolendrianos, a retired pediatrician and member of the congregation for half a century. “They have fun doing it, and they’ve inherited the recipes from their parents and grandparents.”
He was introduced to these foods while growing up in Virginia, surrounded by 60 other Greek families. “I might as well have been in a little Greek village,” he said. “All the customs and foods were preserved.” He’s volunteered in the church’s administration for years, but he readily admits, “I happen to be the choir director’s husband. That’s my status in the church primarily.”
There is hope that the festival may one day return, but there remains hesitation with COVID lingering. Those decisions are now up to the next generation of church leaders. “We’re blessed that this younger group of people have taken this on,” said Kolendrianos.
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He shares his Grab ’n’ Go ordering advice below.
Gyros: “Gyro means ‘to turn’ because usually the meat is prepared on a roll that’s turned,” said Kolendrianos of this meat-on-pita sandwich with tomato, onion, and shredded lettuce. “But the secret of the gyro is that tzatziki sauce, which has strained yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, olive oil, a little garlic, and sometimes dill. That combination really gives an incredible flavor. The gyro is the Greek equivalent of the hamburger, if we put it in those simple terms, but it is considerably more flavorful.”
Spanakopita: This savory, usually triangular phyllo dough pie is stuffed with feta and spinach. “For vegetarians, this is an ideal offering,” he said.
Dolma: These rice-stuffed grape leaves are “are low in calories and high in vitamins with lots of fiber,” said the doc, noting the leaves are harvested earlier in the season when they are tender.
Fakes: This is a vegetable soup based on brown lentils. “It’s a great soup for autumn, with an earthy flavor,” said Kolendrianos.
Baklava: Layers of phyllo dough are stuffed with chopped walnuts and honey in this tooth-stinging treat. The congregants in charge will make 40 to 50 pans of it for the event, working from dawn to near dusk to get it done. “It’s very labor-intensive, but it’s enjoyed very much,” he said.
Loukoumades: These Greek donut holes are covered in honey, cinnamon, and sometimes nuts or seeds. “Loukoumades are making a big dent in baklava!” laughed Kolendrianos.
See the full menu and place your order by October 16 at greekgrabgo.com.