When you can eat deep-fried pastry in the name of diversity, it's a good day.
I sampled some Serbian pastries prepared by the women at the St. Peter Serbian Orthodox Church recently and you can try the pastries -- along with a lot of other yummy sounding food -- at the Serbian Festival on Saturday.
The free festival runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the church at 3502 N. First St., near Shields Avenue and First Street.
There will be music and dancing and tours of the Byzantine-style church, but the food is the star of the show.
Fresno doesn't have a large Serbian population, so some of the names of the food may be unfamiliar, as they were to me. But that doesn't make them any less delicious.
Last week I visited the church while a crew of about a dozen women made tray upon tray of rostule, a pastry made from nearly paper-thin dough that is cut into strips, deep fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Two of the women started early in the morning, making the dough from eggs, cream, flour, vodka and rum. The vodka and rum are used to keep the pastry from absorbing too much oil and cook out in the frying process.
They used a recipe that church member Vera Naden's mother brought with her when she moved to the United States shortly after World War I. That's about the time most of Fresno's Serbian population came to the area, looking for a better life, the women say.
All the recipes for food served Saturday come from the old country. And don't be surprised to find Russian pastries there, too. The food is fairly multi-cultural, as people with roots in places other than Serbia attend the church.
Church volunteers have spent the last month making and freezing goodies such as apple strudel, nut rolls called povitica and something similar to fried doughnut holes that the ladies and I couldn't figure out how to spell correctly.
There also will be marinated pork cooked over an open flame outdoors, a Serbian-style rice pilaf, sarma (cabbage rolls), and Zeljanica, which is similar to the Greek spanakopita with layers of phyllo dough, spinach and cheese.
Full meals cost $15. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. A la carte food is available all day.
For details, call (559) 227-5565 or this quick link to the church's page about the festival: fblinks.com/serbian.
-- Friday was the last day for the Downtown Hofbrau restaurant.
The restaurant, on Tulare Street just east of Chukchansi Park, served its German-inspired food since opening in September, but just couldn't survive, said Leon Alchian Jr., who owns the restaurant and the building.
"I gave it my best shot, but it just didn't work out," he says.
Business was strong at first, but tapered off. And with expenses exceeding the restaurant's income, Alchian decided to call it quits.
A lack of parking played a role, he says, noting that successful downtown lunch spots such as Cosmopolitan and the Mediterranean Grill & Cafe on U Street have their own parking.
-- Raisin lovers, the Old Town Clovis Farmers Market has kicked off a raisin recipe contest.
Raisins are naturally sweet, so the contest focuses on recipes that use raisins instead of sugar. It is accepting entries until June 15.
Contest rules are available online at oldtownclovis.org.
The contest was inspired by the "raisin party" at the farmers market scheduled for June 29, which will feature recipe demonstrations and samples, and vendors selling foods like raisin ice cream, raisin pizza and raisin cookies.
-- And speaking of raisins, the Sun-Maid raisin girl has started a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ SunMaidGirl.
Well, not she herself, but the Kingsburg-based farmers cooperative behind her.
The same group has released a free e-book version of the book it developed to celebrate its 100th anniversary: "Sun-Maid Raisins & Dried Fruits."
It's a bit of a dry title, but the book is full of interesting tidbits about the real Sun-Maid girl, photos, facts and recipes.
-- A couple of chain restaurants in town are trying to win the business of healthy eaters.
Marie Callender's has introduced a menu featuring dishes with 600 calories or fewer.
The meals include an 8-ounce Angus top sirloin, salads, a grilled chicken sandwich and vegetable pasta.
You can see pictures and details of the dishes online at this quick link: fblinks.com/marie.
Applebee's has added three meals that are under 550 calories and under 12 Weight Watchers points. They are grilled jalapeño lime shrimp, creamy parmesan chicken and cabernet mushroom sirloin.
You can see the dishes and details at applebees.com.