A Corporate Do-Gooder

But--but what's that noise? Oh no, it's dead copy editors spinning in their graves over the Sage Hen's utterly distracting menu, the one thing at this brightly lit charmer that truly needs to be redone, top to bottom. Where even to begin? Simply determining what is on the menu made me want to bust out green eyeshade and thesaurus, and by the time my third visit rolled around I was offering my guests cash prizes if they could find the lunch chimichangas in under three minutes. (They couldn't; they're hidden under the heading "Fajita Chimi's." The breakfast chimichangas are merely a red herring. Go figure.) Burgers are sequestered where you'd instinctually turn to look for dessert and--ugh--under the heading "bun appetite." No one knows the restaurant serves a not-bad assortment of homemade desserts except for me--really! I'm the only one who knows that if you ask about cakes and such you'll find homemade flan-berry-tart, chocolate layer cake--oh, all sorts of things.

And hey, need a laugh? Direct your eyes to the category descriptions like this, for "Fire Baked Skillets": "Skillet potatoes laden with a symphony of ingredients finished with a crescendo of fire baked cheese and two basted eggs. A serving of the Sage Hen's daily bread selections complete your feast. The forest and wilderness is indeed a symphony and mankind must live in harmony with Nature." Yup. All of it. Really.

I'm telling you, the Miracle Mile: She giveth forth nigh endless mirth in a mirthless world, for truly, she is a Miraculous Mile.

Michael Dvorak


AN ENVELOPE OF CASH?! I always hoped I'd get a wad of greenbacks in the mail; I just never figured it would come from a church. You know, a church. With the pews and the clergy and the morality and all. But lo and behold, there it was, in a package of promotional material for St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church's upcoming festival; a fat plain No. 10 envelope just stuffed full of cash. That sure got my attention.

Well, it got my attention long enough to see that it wasn't cash at all, but promo dollars redeemable for pastitsio and such at the church's upcoming "Taste of Greece." Now, St. Mary's is the pretty domed church on the hill that overlooks the east shore of Lake Calhoun. You know the one: Walk twice around Lake Calhoun and you're sure to see it gleaming up on that hill in the sunshine. But odds are that unless you're one of St Mary's 1,400 parishioners you've never gotten to see the inside of it. And even the parishioners probably haven't seen it with a belly full of beer and honey pastries, all of which is possible this weekend when the church throws its annual fundraiser. There will be an outdoor beer tent, a moonwalk for kids, live music, church tours, and lots and lots of food.

So, what does Greece taste like? Like lamb and honey, mostly. "The big attraction is our delicious Greek food," says Nick Grammas, the festival's chairman, noting that local Greek restaurateurs from Rudolph's Bar-B-Que, Santorini, It's Greek to Me, and Gardens of Salonica are all donating food, including moussaka, roast leg of lamb, gyros, and souvlaki. Sample dishes à la carte from about $4, or for $12 you can dine from a vast buffet heaped with all sorts of treats, including homemade pastries provided by Philoptochos, St. Mary's women's philanthropic organization. "These are pastries the women have learned to make from their mothers and their families, so they're the real deal," says Grammas.

Of especial interest to me are the loukoumades, deep-fried dough balls about the size of egg yolks, served coated with honey. Loukoumades are a traditional Greek festival food that I've never seen in Minnesota before, but that figured prominently in my childhood. In grade school in New York all my best friends were Greek, and I grew up in the shadow of a Greek Orthodox basilica, and so seem to have spent a significant amount of time tearing around festivals while the moms set up, and I remember loukoumades occupying a major place in the system of rewards and punishment that make up the life of six-year-olds: If you don't quit it, you won't get any loukoumades. If you effectively tape streamers to that wall, you will get loukoumades. If you stand innocently by the loukoumades table pretending to play with dolls, you can sneak plates of them. When the moms want to know why your good party dress is covered with honey, feign complete bafflement.

Are loukoumades really all that? I for one am going to find out, and now I'm going to even have to pay for the things with my own money, for now that I've reached the bottom of this item I see that I've really painted myself into a corner, having publicly admitted receiving envelopes of currency and then writing about the event the cash was meant to promote. Rats! Credibility bought and sold again. So please know I'd never use my fat wad of under-the-table church cash, though I am having my attorneys look into whether I can use the stuff to buy off a couple dozen venial sins....St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church: www.stmarysgoc.org; 3450 Irving Ave. S., Minneapolis; (612) 825-9595; Greek Festival 2001 Friday, September 14, 5:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; Saturday, September 15, 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.; Sunday noon-6:00 p.m.

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