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Sweet work is labor of love for church fest

ThaliAnest (left) Libertyville adds honey syrup while GeorgiTrakas Gurnee cuts tray baklavbefore putting it inoven. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media

Thalia Anest (left) of Libertyville adds honey syrup while Georgia Trakas of Gurnee cuts a tray of baklava before putting it into the oven. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media

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If You Go

What: Greek Food Festival

When: Thursday, Nov. 15 and Friday, Nov. 16

Time: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 1400 N. O’Plaine Road, Libertyville.

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Updated: January 9, 2013 1:45AM

LIBERTYVILLE — A team of about 15 women labored over homemade dough, a walnut mixture and honey syrup Friday to make 1,152 servings of baklava.

The ladies are members of St. Demetrios Ladies Philoptochos Society, “friends of the poor.” They were baking 12 restaurant-size pans of homemade baklava in preparation for Greek Food Festival, which is next week.

Baklava is the most popular dessert, according to Thalia Anest, baklava chairwoman.

“They’re delicious and people don’t make them at home. It requires a lot of work,” Anest said.

They use her baklava recipe, which can be traced back to Greece.

The ladies make everything, including the dough, from scratch. They spent this week baking other Greek desserts, including galaktoboureko, a strudel; two other Greek cookies; a walnut cake; and diples, fried dough drizzled with honey.

The ladies also made homemade Greek yogurt that will be sold next week, she said.

This year is the 49th annual Greek Food Festival. Between 800 to 900 people will be served lunch or dinner during the two-day event at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church.

“They like the food because there’s not a lot of places you can get Greek food in the area,” Anest said.

Last year, the event raised more than $18,000. Some goes to St. Demetrios, but most supports about 15 charities that the philanthropic society supports, such as PADS, Red Cross and Feed the Hungry.

Sixty legs of lamb and 300 Athenian-style chickens will be prepared next Wednesday, the day before Greek Food Festival opens.

“Lamb seems to be more interesting to people,” said Niki Phillips, who is a member of Ladies Philoptochos Society.

She also said they wanted to thank the public for supporting the food festival.

Father Cosmas Halekakis of St. Demetrios said the concept for Greek Food Festival comes from the old country where they have villagewide celebrations for various feast days in church.

“We’ve expanded it here in America to include the community at large,” Halekakis said.

He said all the food at the festival is good, naming the baked fish, plaki, as his favorite. The Greek Food Festival is typically held in mid-November in anticipation of the holiday season, he said.

“I think people enjoy the hospitality and enjoy the food,” Halekakis said.

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