This is the weekend for a much-anticipated event in Birmingham: The Lebanese Food and Culture Festival. Birmingham has a strong Lebanese community that makes significant contributions to the city, not the least of which is this amazing food and cultural festival. There are a number of restaurants around town that offer these types of dishes, but, in my opinion, none of it beats the food served at the event at St. Elias Maronite Catholic Church.
Menu offerings include falafel, kibbeh, spinach pies, meat pies, tabbouleh, and of course, baklava! Members of the church prepare all of the food, and let me just say, these folks know how to cook! A couple of my favorites are the spinach pies and the kibbeh, which is ground lamb and bulgur. It's really hard to decide what to eat, and it's a good thing that they offer a sampler plate of pastries so you don't have to make a choice.
Another item I love here is the Lebanese thin bread. The women making the bread roll out thin rounds of dough and then toss around like you might toss pizza dough. Then they stretch the dough over something that looks like a pillow, then transfer it onto a hot dome that looks like an updside-down wok. It cooks for about 1 minute or so, then they pull it off and serve it. Eating this bread hot off the "dome" is a divine experience.
In addition to the food, there are traditional dances performed by the children of St. Elias as well as tours of the church. This is the 100-year anniversary of the church, so the festitivities are extra-special this year. Because it's such an important part of the culture, the food is really the key to the fun, fellowship, and full stomachs. They just don't believe in letting you go away hungry!
If you're not lucky enough to live in a place with Lebanase food, you might want to check out our collection of Middle Eastern recipes and try some of the classic dishes. If you prepare them with much love, they may turn out almost as good as the food at St. Elias.