‘We have a new dessert this year’: Armenian Food Festival returns to Richmond for its 61st year


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — From grape leaves to chicken kabobs … cheese and spinach beoreg — the Armenian Food Festival is back in Richmond. 8News Anchor Katie Dupree got an inside look at the preparations.

“We have a new dessert this year. It’s called bishi. It’s like the Armenian version of let’s say … donuts,” said church member Lilly Bouroujian Thomas.

The longest-running food festival in Richmond has returned for its 61st year, and the long history of the festival and the Armenian church building itself can be traced back to pastries.

“Their goal was to build a church to thank America, first of all, for having them here, and for being saved because a lot of their family members were massacred during the genocide … so the women would bake,” said church member Linda Sharigian.

The original ladies raised enough money selling their baked goods all around Richmond to build the current church, and family members of those women are still baking today.

Lilly taught Katie how to make just one of the delicious pastries that can be found at the festival.

“We’re making bourma today. It’s almost like baklava — instead of layering it, we just roll it,” Lilly said.

“There you go. Perfect,” Lilly told Katie as she was folding the bourma in half.

“Then we butter this, the top also, so when we put the walnuts on, they stick to it,” Lilly explained. “Walnuts, cinnamon and sugar. Very light sugar.”

“Did you just give away the secret ingredient?” Katie asked.

“I didn’t give the measurements!” Lilly responded while laughing.

“That’s true,” Katie said. “Fair enough! OK, does that look okay?”

“Yes! Perfect,” Lilly said.

“Loosely roll?” Katie asked.

“Yes,” Lilly responded. “Just push it in.”

“Push it in like that?” Katie asked.

“Yes! That’s so pretty, Katie!” Lilly said.

The pastries may look pretty, but they’re not done yet.

“As soon as it comes from the oven, while it’s still hot, we put the syrup on,” Lilly explained.

You can find other sweets at the Armenian Food Festival and savory options, too.

“We have chicken kabob and we have pork tenderloin kabob … of course, our very famous hye burger. People love that,” Lilly said.

If the menu sounds a little familiar to other festivals in the area, the ladies tell me it’s the spices that set them apart.  

“It’s all homemade … it’s just good,” Linda explained.

The Armenian Food Festival runs from Friday, Sept. 6 through Sunday, Sept. 8 at St. James Armenian Church, located at 834 Pepper Ave. in Richmond.

The hours on Friday and Saturday are from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information about the Armenian Food Festival, visit their website.

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