By all rights, a Mad Hatter party ought only to serve tea and bread and butter. But that would be boring and, frankly, would not be likely to raise very much money for any organization, no matter how worthy.
So that is why the Toledo Opera Guild is raising the culinary bar for its Mad Hatter's Party Nov. 9 at the Toledo Club.
Rather than buttered bread, the music-and/or-food lovers will nosh on heavy hors d'oeuvres prepared by Chef Mike Rosendaul and his staff: crudites, vegetable frittata squares, bite-sized baked potatoes (they're fingerlings), Boursin-stuffed mushrooms that have been rolled in panko breadcrumbs and fried (seriously, these are worth the price of admission), Swedish meatballs, jazzed-up grilled cheese sandwiches, and chilled beef tenderloin.
Dessert? That would be cupcakes, of course, but with a twist. You get to decorate them yourself.
Local actors will be dressed as characters from Alice in Wonderland, and guests are encouraged to do likewise. Music of two sorts, rock and jazz, will be performed. And if you are interested in such things, bags full of parting gifts will be handed out, including the icing used on the cupcakes (it's by the Cake Boss) and bottles of Mad Hatter beer.
Admission is $55, and reservations are essential at brownpapertickets.com/events/432154. The party begins at 7 p.m. at the club, which is at 235 14th St. For more information, call 419-475-1720.
When they cook a dinner, the women in the St. George Ladies' Benevolent Society do it in a big, big way.
Next Sunday, Oct. 27, will be the organization's 68th annual Lebanese Dinner. It is a big event every year, and no wonder: For just $15 — or $8 for children — you get a plate filled high with meat pies, stuffed grape leaves, green beans and rice, baked kibbe, salad, and baklawa. For a little more money, you can also add raw kibbe (this column's personal favorite) or damie (cooked lamb and pine nuts), plus date cookies, arroon (walnut-filled cookies), and more baklawa.
About those meat pies, which are called sfeeha: Recently, about two dozen of the women, whose ages range well into the 90s, got together to make them at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Cathedral, where the dinner will be held. Evelyn Zogaib, whom you would not begin to guess is 90, made the dough — vast mounds of it. She and the others formed it into walnut-sized balls (some 1,400 of them), allowed them to rise briefly, and then flattened them into round disks.
Next came the meat, coarsely ground lamb, seasoned with salt, pepper, allspice, onion, and lemon salt — another name for citric acid — which gives it a distinctive faint tang. A tablespoon of the meat went into the middle of each disk of dough, which was then folded into a triangle and baked to a golden brown.
The dinner will be served from noon-7 p.m., and it is available for take-out, too. If you stay to eat in the church basement, you can enjoy beer and wine with your meal and watch football on television. The football, we are told, is very popular.
St. George Cathedral is at 3754 Woodley Rd. For more information, call the church at 419-475-7054.
If you're really, really hungry and you want to make a lot of sfeeha, here is one-fifth of the recipe they use for each batch at St. George:
For the dough:
3 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1½ cups warm water
10 pounds flour
3 tablespoons salt
1-1/3 cups oil, plus a little for coating
9 cups water
For the filling:
10 pounds ground lamb
4 tablespoons lemon salt (citric acid)
4 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon allspice
4 cups chopped onion
For the dough: Mix together yeast, sugar, and warm water. Allow to rest 10 minutes; a foam should form on top of the water.
In a very large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Stir in the oil. Add the yeast water, and mix together briefly. Add the 9 cups of water and mix on low until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. Use oil to coat the sides of a very large bowl, place the ball of dough into the bowl, and turn to coat the entire ball with oil. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise 30-45 minutes until it does not spring back when you poke it with a finger.
Meanwhile, mix together all the ingredients for the filling. Preheat oven to 375° (or 325° for a convection oven).
When the dough is ready, pinch off walnut-sized pieces of it, form into balls, and place on trays to rest. Allow them to rest 15 minutes, then use your palms to flatten them into disks. Place 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each one and fold the dough over it from three sides to make the pies in the form of a triangle. Press or crimp together the edges where they meat, so the dough does not open during baking. Be sure to keep your hands dry while folding the dough.
Place pies on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes for the conventional oven at 375° or 23 minutes for the convection oven at 325°.
Yield: Really, a whole lot
Source: Dough by Evelyn Zogaib, filling by Dorothy Saba
It's stick-to-your-ribs food, food from the Old Country. Provided, of course, that the Old Country is Poland. Which, for a lot of area residents, it is.
Next Sunday, Oct. 27, at 12:30 p.m., the Toledo Poznan Alliance will be hold its 23rd annual Harvest Festival — Dozynki — featuring foods that even those of us who aren't Polish miss and crave.
We're talking mushroom soup. We're talking kielbasa, of course, both smoked and fresh. If we're talking chicken, then we're talked about cooking it wedding style (Kurczak na syl weselny). You'll have your Polish mashed potatoes and gravy, your sweet and sour cabbage (kapusta slodko kwasna, one of our personal faves), and your cucumbers in sour cream (also a fave).
On the carbohydrate side, they'll have dinner rolls, coffee cake, and apple cake. And of course plenty of tea and coffee to wash it down.
Then, you can work off some of those calories by dancing to Millie's Polka Band, or watch the experts in the Echoes of Poland Dancers. Meanwhile, there will be a silent auction of Polish goods.
Tickets are $30, with the proceeds benefiting the alliance's Dom Dziecka (children's home) and the PACT (Polish-American Community of Toledo)-TPA Scholarship Fund.
The festival will be held in the Franciscan Center on the campus of Lourdes University. For reservations, call Rosalie Hinde at 419-841-2909.