Angela Swartz/Daily Journal
Marian Peris, the food coordinator for the Belmont Greek Festival, helps prepare the baklava for this weekend’s event.
This Labor Day weekend, if you’re looking for your fill of handmade sweet treats, you will want to make your way to the Belmont Greek Festival.
For the past few years, Marian Peris, 63, has been the person behind all those treats and other Greek specialties. Peris is in charge of coordinating all of the cooking for the festival, which is run by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross. This is the 43rd year of the celebration and fundraiser for the church.
“I grew up learning how to make all these things,” Peris said, who lives in San Mateo and joined the parish in 2007. “And I continue to learn.”
Peris, whose father shortened the family’s last name from Perdikas when he emigrated from Greece to the United States in 1943, is a research scientist by day at Life Technologies in South San Francisco. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology from University of California, Los Angeles as well and is fluent in Greek.
“I do this [the festival] for fun,” Peris said. “It’s also about my faith and supporting our church.”
What desserts can you expect at the festival?
There will also be traditional homemade Greek pastries such as loukoumades (doughnut holes covered with honey), baklava (layers of nuts and phyllo pastry soaked in honey), kourambiedes (crescent-shaped butter cookies covered with powdered sugar) and galaktobureko (phyllo pastry filled with custard and covered with syrup). Crumbs and broken pieces of baklava will be served with baklava sundaes.
Some of the other menu items include barbecued lamb chops (with special Greek seasonings), souvlakia (Greek shish-kebab), spanakopita (spinach and cheese stuffed inside layers of phyllo pastry) and dolmades (grape leaves wrapped around ground beef and rice).
These food items all came from recipes passed down through the church. Recipes are published and there are cooking lessons at the festival led by Helene Nemchik, who demonstrates how to cook food you’ll find at the event.
The event required 600 pounds phyllo pastry, 850 pounds sugar, 350 dozen eggs, more than 500 pounds of butter, 210 gallons of honey, 1,500 pounds chicken, 1,300 pounds lamb (whole, chops and shanks), 1,000 pounds squid (calamari), 600 pounds flour, 900 eggplants for moussaka and more than 500 pounds of feta cheese.
“We all ate this way in our house,” Peris said. “It’s typical to eat this way year-round.”
When did Peris and rest of the parish start prepping the food for the event?
“In June,” Peris said. “We froze some of the items. I’ve dedicated my weekends and evenings to preparing and took a week of vacation from work leading up to the festival.”
This year, there will also be rizogalo, Greek rice pudding, since organizers found themselves with extra milk.
In addition to the food, there will be music, dancing, theater and a children’s amusement area.
You can join in on the festivities at 900 Alameda de las Pulgas, on the corner of Ralston Avenue, in Belmont from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and noon to 8 p.m. on Monday. About 20,000 people are expected at the festival this weekend.
Admission is $5 for adults and $2.50 for seniors and kids ages 13-17. Children 12 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Sunrise Living Belmont, the San Carlos Elms and residents and staff from other nearby senior communities all get free entry.
The church donates a portion of the festival proceeds to several local charities. Previous recipients of festival donations have included Samaritan House, Interfaith Network for Community Help, Children’s Advocacy Council, local schools and churches, along with the Belmont mayor’s choice of charity.
For more information go to goholycross.org/Festival or call 591-4447.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105