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A dream come true January 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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New Greek Orthodox church taking shape
An architect’s drawing of the new St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in Braintree.

St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in Braintree.

It was 25 years ago when parishioners from St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church in Quincy banded together to buy six acres off Common Street. They envisioned a new home on the site, a new center for the local Hellenic community and the growing number of families coming to worship.

It’s taken a few years longer than originally hoped, but the parish’s dream of a new church is finally becoming a reality, as its new 9,200-square-foot, Byzantine-style church starts to take shape.

‘‘It’s a dream come true,’’ said Demetrios Serenetis, president of the church council. ‘‘After 25 years when we purchased the property, to be alive today and see that dream fulfilled is something special.’’

St. Catherine’s is Braintree’s first new church construction project since 1959, when St. Clare’s Catholic Church on Liberty Street and the United Methodist Heritage Church on Grove Street were built. The Church of St. Catherine was also established in 1959 in a converted Protestant church on Beale Street in Quincy.

As membership grew, and the need for a bigger building became more apparent, parishioners began a multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign to build a new church and parish center on a former ice skating and picnic area in northwest Braintree known as Pappas Grove.

In October 2004, the parish moved into its new 12,000-square-foot administration building, which contained office space, classrooms, and a full-service kitchen. Church services have been held in a temporary sanctuary that will eventually become a large parish hall.

Using money raised by faithful parishioners and its popular summer festival, plus some financing from a local bank, the parish was able to sign construction contracts this summer. Steelworkers are assembling the church’s prefabricated metal skeleton.

‘‘The parish has been dreaming about this for more than two decades,’’ said the Rev. Alkiviadis Calivas, who is able to monitor progress through his office window. ‘‘It was exciting getting to see the whole project begin. Seeing the steel go up was ever more so, because until then it was all imaginary space.’’

The new St. Catherine’s is designed in the tradition of classic Byzantine-style churches. It will have a cross-shape layout, and a large copper dome topped with a Justinian-style cross that will be visible from the nearby Southeast Expressway. The brick exterior will have a red clay tile roof, a bell tower and a series of arches. The church sanctuary was designed with all support beams along the outer rim. The result will be a wide-open nave large enough to comfortably sit more than 400 worshipers under a 56-foot high domed ceiling. The church was designed by Chris J. Kamages of CJK Design Group, a San Francisco-based architect that specializes in Orthodox churches.

The Rev. Calivas is hopeful that worship services could be held in the new building by the end of this year.

The project’s $3.5 million price tag, however, doesn’t include furnishings, such as a new icon screen, baptismal font and other iconography. The church’s current icon screen, for example, was taken from the old church building and is too small for the new altar area. The cost of adorning the church, which needs to take place before it is consecrated, is estimated around $500,000.

Church leaders say membership has increased and continued growth will help the church meet its fundraising goals. Construction of St. Catherine’s is being welcomed by other Braintree clergy as evidence of the strong religious community in the area.

‘‘The construction of St. Catherine’s of Braintree is not only a positive endeavor but very exciting,’’ said the Rev. Scott Killian, who helps organize the town’s interfaith council of clergy. ‘‘It’s a milestone. It’s something many people in this generation have not seen and so there’s some excitement in that.’’


Mediterranean cuisine thrives on the Beach January 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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The gods may be smiling on Ouzo’s Greek Taverna & Bar, which has built a solid following at a North Beach spot that the owner was warned had been ‘jinxed’ before opening in 2002.

A few years ago, Liza Hadjichristou was warned about opening a restaurant at 940 71st St., in Miami Beach. Even so, Hadjichristou went ahead with plans for Ouzo’s Greek Taverna & Bar, a cozy, fairly priced restaurant and lounge that surpassed all expectations.

”When we opened in 2002, everyone said we would fail,” she recalls. “They said the spot was jinxed, but we had three lucky breaks.”

The breaks she cites: My Big Fat Greek Wedding became the box office sleeper hit of 2002, piquing the public’s interest in everything Greek. In 2004, the Summer Olympics were held in Greece. And the breakout South Beach Diet proclaimed Greek food, with its base of olive oil and lemon juice, and omission cream and butter, was healthy.

Others might say it wasn’t just pure luck. A customer, who says he has been a regular at Ouzo’s since it opened, says what makes Ouzo’s stick is the consistently good food and excellent service. ”Liza, the owner, is always there and she is so gracious and cheerful, and she has made the whole staff in her likeness,” said, who, as vice president of operations for Chicken Kitchen chain is knowledgeable about the restaurant business. Plus, adds, the belly dancing shows on weekends are also fun. He says his favorite dish is the Pastitsio, a Greek-style lasagna made with macaroni, feta cheese and ground beef, topped with béchamel sauce.

Also popular with diners: the five lamb dishes on the menu, including the Lamb Shank (broiled and served with fresh vegetables over rice) and Baby Lamb Chops, as well as the Grilled Octopus (marinated in Greek olive oil, garlic, oregano and fresh lemon juice). The octopus is among the menu’s 18 ”Mezes”, dishes that are placed in the middle and meant to be shared. Others include the Loukaniko Greek sausage, Fried Calamari, Baked Eggplant Rolls and Grilled Quails. The spot is also vegetarian friendly, with a healthy selection of salads and dips, such as the Melitzanosalata made of eggplant, Greek olive oil and fresh garlic.

Hadjichristou, who was born in Australia and speaks English, Greek and Spanish fluently, grew up around the restaurant business. Her uncle owned a popular restaurant in Sydney, Australia. Eventually, she decided to travel the world, scoping ideas to bring back to Sydney to open her own restaurant.

”But Sydney is like New York, it’s very competitive and chances are, if you open a restaurant there, it will fail,” she explains.

Then she arrived in Miami in 1993 and decided to stay. After a marriage, a stint in the music business and a divorce, she went back to what she knew best: restaurants. In 2002, she opened Ouzo’s.

At her restaurant, pink, blue, green and yellow chairs bring a Mediterranean feel, enhanced by murals of seaside towns, rocks and Grecian landscapes. One mural depicts Anthony Quinn in his 1964 leading role as Zorba the Greek. Stay long enough and you’ll catch, not only the belly dancers on weekends, but ”Zorba dancing” or a DJ spinning world music.

Despite the lucky breaks, there were challenges to overcome because of the area’s predominantly Hispanic population. Just after Ouzo’s opened, Hadjichristou says, “people would come in and ask for arroz con pollo, until I could convince them to try something Greek. ”Now,” she adds, “they just let me order for them.”

If you’re wondering about the name, Ouzo is a popular anis-based Greek drink. ”As an excuse to drink Ouzo all day long,” Hadjichristou says with a laugh, “the Greeks say it’s both an aperitif and a digestive.”

Greek Gyros Express, Pompano Beach January 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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Address: 3211 N. Federal Highway
Phone: 954-781-7953
Type of food: Greek
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday
Dining facilities: full-service restaurant with takeout available
Service: Order at the counter, then watch your food being prepared at this family-run spot where customers count.

The Dish
Come here for everything from gyros to souvlaki and beyond, including daily specials of fabulous-smelling lamb chops. Most everything is homemade, including the versions of moussaka and pasticcio, both served with a side Greek salad.

When you’re in the mood for something different yet Greek, try the stuffed tomatoes. An order is two good-sized tomatoes carefully scooped out and filled with a ground beef/rice mixture (more beef than rice). It’s a meal completed by a couple of hunks of lemon-herb potatoes and a small attractive Greek salad of romaine, chopped tomatoes, tiny pitted Greek olives and cubed feta dressed in an herb-infused Greek vinaigrette. You can opt for whole fresh green peppers stuffed with the same mixture if you like, for the same price as the tomatoes. Filling? You bet.

But save room for desserts made on premises. Baklava is rich and syrupy, custard-filled phyllo pastry called galaktobouriko is excellent, and there’s rich Greek yogurt served with drizzles of honey. This is what yogurt is really supposed to taste like.

Eat the Page with A Tasty Beverage January 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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Eat the Page

Detroit’s Greektown has spawned generations of lovers of Greek food, from flaming saganaki to grape leaves and Avgolemono soup to Greek salads and shish kebab and moussaka and pastitsio and, of course, grilled lamb chops, all with a side of garlicky tzatziki.

Jim Botsacos, chef of New York’s Molyvos restaurant, has written The New Greek Cuisine ($29.95 Broadway Books). With an emphasis on pies, appetizers and mezedes, bite-sized hot and cold foods, there are also recipes for entrées, sides and sweets. Go Greek!

A Tasty Beverage

Speaking of Greek, there is the often-ignored drink that is a natural with a Greek meal, especially with mezedes, and can spice up a coffee.

The Greek national drink, Ouzo, a spicy, anise-flavored liqueur is made from a combination of pressed grapes, herbs, berries and spices, including star anise, coriander, cloves, angelica root, licorice, mint, wintergreen, fennel, hazelnut and cinnamon and lime blossoms.

The drink is distilled in copper stills. The best is said to be made on the island of Lesbos. If you don’t like licorice, beware.

Olive Tree Turns 30 January 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste World.
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Congratulations to John Condiss, owner, of Olive Tree Greek Restaurant for 30 years of business.

This is no small feat in the restaurant business, especially for an independent restaurant. The Olive Tree is open weekdays for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and dinner daily from 5 p.m. Happy hour is from 4:30 to 7 p.m. with a bar menu and specially priced cocktails and wine.

The best-selling items include lamb chops, fresh fish, saganaki (flambιed Greek cheese) and spinach feta pies. They also cater and have a private room that seats 50 at 7000 E. Tanque Verde Road; 298-1845.

Wisconsin’s oldest Greek Orthodox church still thriving January 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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Centennial Celebration > St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Sheboygan celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2006.

The commemoration culminated with an October celebration that featured His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America and His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago, a Great Vespers service, banquet and divine liturgy.

The story of St. Spyridon is, on a small scale, the story of the Greek-American experience over the past 100 years, as a result of being the oldest Greek Orthodox Church in Wisconsin.

In the late 1800s, the church’s founders came from Greece to take advantage of the many work opportunities on the Midwestern frontier. They were single men who had left their families behind, with the intention of returning to their homeland with the money they made. As the community grew, its members found they needed institutions to order their common life. Thus, began the church that today still stands at 1427 S. 10th St.

Although the church is relatively small, with less than 50 families, members and church leaders see a continued bright future. The Rev. Peter Pappademetriou, who splits his time between St. Spyridon and Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Fond du Lac, points to the church’s maintaining a strong Greek culture as a foundation for the future. Helping that foundation, Pappademetriou said, is that church members know and teach the Greek language.

“We feel that in the world of tomorrow, people have to know more than one language,” he said. “Also because of our ethnic background, we take great pride. Greek is not a dead language.”

By knowing Greek, he said, it also helps members to be more able in English as well. And as a Greek Orthodox church, he said, one of the goals is excellence in education, which would only help strengthen the church.

“Many in the congregation know Greek, and it helps them to become more educated, more well-rounded.”

St. Spyridon through the years
Late 1800s:
Young Greek men come to the U.S., including Sheboygan, looking for work. As the number of Greeks increase, they found the need for a church.
1902: A community council was established to provide governance to the Greek enclave; the council became the first governing board of the parish.
1906: Church building completed; the bell tower would be added 10 years later.
1911: 21 icons from Athens arrive
1921: Church loses more parishioners, in addition to the numbers lost after World War I when the Greek immigrants return to Greece with their earned money. Loss of parishioners due to the priest preaching a sermon supporting King Constantine in his struggle for power.
1940: Greece invaded by the fascists, uniting the Greek immigrants here.
1959: Rectory added
1961: Parking lot added
1981: Church named a Sheboygan County Landmark because of its significance as the oldest Greek Orthodox structure in Wisconsin.

Miraculous Weeping Icon on exhibit for two days only January 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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The Miraculous Weeping Icon of St. Irene Chrysovalantou will be presented at Greek Orthodox Church of Holy Ascension on Saturday Jan. 13 at 6 p.m.

The Miraculous Icon will be accompanied by Metropolitan Paisios of Tyana and members of the Patriarchal Monastery from New York. It will be exhibited in Clearwater for two days only, from Saturday to Sunday. The schedule will include:

Saturday January 13

• 6 p.m. Great Hierarchal Vespers at the Greek Orthodox Church of Holy Ascension. Metropolitan Paisios of Tyana, Abbot of the Sacred Patriarchal Monastery will preside.

Sunday January 14

• 8 to 11:30 a.m. the Divine Liturgy will be celebrated, officiated by Metropolitan Paisios, assisted by local and visiting clergymen.

• 6:30 p.m., the Healing Service will take place, and a procession of the Miraculous Weeping Icon will follow outside the church with worshipers invoking God through the intercession of Saint Irene for healing and the answering of prayers.

The church is at 1440 North Laura St. Call 469-8826.