Summer festivals are major feasts of ethnic eats

HAPPY EATER

June 06, 1993|By ROB KASPER

On a recent morning I found myself eating cipelinai, potatoes stuffed with spiced meat and topped with bacon bits. This was followed by some naliesnikai su mesa, or crepes stuffed with meat. And I finished off with eziukas, or porcupine cake, a butter-cream cake with "quills" made of sugar stuck into it.

This meal, a preview of the food that will be sold at the Lithuanian festival Saturday and next Sunday at Festival Hall, marked the beginning of the ethnic eating season. From next weekend until the fall, Baltimore's ethnic groups celebrate their heritage with festivals. A large part of any group's heritage is its food.

With that in mind I compiled a list of "gotta-have foods," dishes that have to be at a festival to make the event authentically ethnic. I also figured the list of eats could be a useful guide for curious types willing to taste foods from a "foreign" kitchen.

I compiled the list of "gotta-have foods" by talking to folks with impeccable credentials. They were the folks working on the ethnic festivals. And I also got tips from serious eaters, folks who are willing to eat morsels they have never heard of simply because they might taste good.

One such informed eater told me that the loukoumades, or fried dough balls rolled in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon and eaten while still warm, were required eating at the Greek Festival. It will be held Friday through next Sunday near St. Nicholas Church, 520 South Ponca St., said Maria Nicolaidis, head of the festival. The karydopitta, walnut cake drenched in honey, also made my informant's list.

Anyone who goes the Polish Festival (June 18-20 in Patterson Park) without eating a pierogi has missed a main event, said John Balicki, festival chairman. The pastry turnovers stuffed with meat, potato or cheese are quintessential Polish fare, he said. In addition Balicki suggested trying the golabki, or stuffed cabbage, and the sour grass soup. This soup, Balicki said, is made with real, edible grass, and is really good.

The Italians, who gather in Patterson Park July 30 through Aug. 1, will have Italian sausage and fried dough. Virtually every ethnic festival in Baltimore has these two stalwarts. But chairman Vince Luca said someone wanting to eat like an Italian would do well to have the lasagna, the manicotti or tube-shaped pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese, and the cannoli, baked pastry shells filled with sweetened ricotta cheese.

A source told me that the marinated meat kebabs of the Hispanic Festival, Aug. 7-8 in Hopkins Plaza, were a gotta-have dish. Delfina Pereda, who heads the festival, said the kebabs were favorites of the cooks of Bolivia, El Salvador, Peru, and Honduras. She also recommended the corn-flour tamales representing Guatemala. "They are good. I know because I make them," she said.

The buryani, curried rice laced with chicken or vegetables, is a

must, said Prem Bhatt, chairman of India Day, Aug. 8 at Festival Hall. He said other typically Indian dishes were the samosa, triangles of dough stuffed with potatoes, chilies and meat; and the thosa -- pancakes rolled with vegetable curries.

A visitor to AFRAM who did not taste the soul-food fare of fried chicken and barbecued ribs, the Jamaican curried chicken, or the African rice would be missing a major eating experience, said Richard H. Lewis, who puts together the Aug. 13-15 gathering in Festival Hall.

When the Germans put up their tents in Carroll Park Aug. 20-22, the ethnically correct eater goes for the bratwurst, sausages made of beef and pork; the knackwurst, sausages made with just beef; and the German beer, said festival chairman Robert Sheppard.

The American Indians gather in Festival Hall Aug. 27-29; the recommended fare is buffalo stew, Navajo tacos, and "fry bread," which is probably America's original fried dough, washed down with fresh-brewed sassafras tea.

The Irish, who are holding their festival in the infield of Pimlico Race track Sept. 17-19, are serious about their soda bread. In previous festivals soda bread that didn't meet community standards was sent back to the bakery, said festival chairman Paul Williams. The ice tea served at the festival, a source said, must be sipped.

The Korean festival, Sept. 18 in Hopkins Plaza, wraps up the season. The adventuresome eaters should, according to sources, try the kimchi, or pickled cabbage; the gapchae noodles; and the kalbi, or seasoned pork ribs.

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