Taste of Serbia in Lake Forest is about eating, and a whole lot more
BY Frank abderholden email@example.com September 1, 2013 6:12PM
Dancers from the 87-year-old Serbian folk group called Fourteen October, named for the date their country was liberated from Germany, show off their costumes and dance moves for the crowd. | FRANK ABDERHOLDEN~SUN-TIMES MEDIA
Updated: November 1, 2013 2:30AM
While we urge students to study abroad to learn about new cultures, you could do the same every year at the Taste of Serbia that’s hosted by the St. Basil of Ostrog Serbian Orthodox Church in Lake Forest.
From the iconographer and his pictures of Jesus, Mary and child and other saints to a full menu that includes Serbian meat and vegetarian dishes, beverages and deserts, to folk music and dancing, you can get a little taste of their culture and have a lot of fun.
Father George Krosnjar, the pastor of the church, arrived in 2009 and found the festival exciting. “This was excellent,” he said, explaining that while it may have started out slow about 10 years ago, the Taste of Serbia has grown into an important fundraiser for the small church on Bradley Road in Lake Forest.
“It was slow in the beginning; now it’s getting bigger than us,” he said. “It’s a way to share our culture with everyone. We now have people from all walks of life,” he said.
Foodies especially like to try the small grilled sausages called Cevapcici or the Cevap Pita sandwich, wash it down with a Serbian drink and then have a Serbian dessert like the Krempita, a whipped cream and custard pastry that is their No. 1 seller.
“People like ethnic food,” said Krosnjar. “We now have more non-Serbians than Serbians,” he said with a smile. “We try to have very good food and good hospitality,” he continued.
Sophia Scalzihi of Vernon Hills has been the chairman of the festival for a number of years and her enthusiasm is very contagious. “OK, this where the magic happens,” she says introducing a visitor to Milos Jovanovic of Gurnee and a charcoal pit away from the main area.
“This is an old-fashioned system we’ve been using for hundreds of years,” he said as he kept an eye on eight pigs turning on spits. “The only difference is they used to turn it by hand,” he said, explaining the machine to turn all the spits of meat was made by his friend, Hank Bosnack of Waukegan, who has since passed.
“He made this 20 years ago and it’s still working,” he said. He explained that the meat is salted on the inside and then cleaned out after it’s slow roasted. They also use hickory chips to give it some smokey flavor.
“It takes between four to five hours” to slow-cook it correctly, said Jovanovic.
From there, it makes it way to the grill area where it is cut up and prepared and packaged for the customers who can eat it in a large tent where music plays throughout the day or they can take it home.
“We pride ourselves on freshness so we try and time it perfectly,” said Scalzihi.
The meat dishes include pork and lamb and they roast 49 animals over the two-day festival. The desserts like Krempita and Keks Torta, with chocolate and walnuts, are baked by members who live in Libertyville Manor and then brought to the site, said the pastor. There is also Pogaca, an authentic Serbian bread.
At the bar, you can get an American beer, but why when there is Jelen in a bottle, a Serbian pale ale. Marko Vojcanin of Chicago runs the bar and he says the literal translation is “buck” although most people think it’s deer “because there is a deer on the label,” he said. There is also some wine made by a Serbian Rick Quinn of California called Opolo. He knows Fr. Krosnjar through the priest’s wife, Anne, because they both lived in Minnesota before Quinn “escaped in 1979.”
“We run out of everything ever year,” said Vojcanin as he instructed servers to restock the bar area. “A Serbian, Croatian or Slovenian would be able to get something that would remind them of their homeland,” he said.
With a children’s area, bookstore and other merchants and a coffee shop, you really have all you need for a wonderful time.
“The best way to get to know someone is through food and music,” said Scalzihi, chairman of the event.
She said the event started at a time in the late 90s when war in Bosnia gave people only one impression of the people of that area.
“We started this to show we are American, Serbian, and let them know about our culture,” she said. “What better way to get people to get to know you than through food and music,” she said.