There are some connections you have to feel come from a higher power. And when Gary Icardo wants to talk barbecue with you, you know it's one of those moments.  

Monsignor Perry Kavookjian of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church knew of Icardo's barbecue bona fides since he and his family have manned the grill at events for Cal State Bakersfield, St. Vincent de Paul Center, Garces Memorial High School and many churches for a number of years.

"The Icardos have always been so generous. He approached me about a year ago and said, 'I’d love to do a barbecue for you.'"

Thus the idea started marinating for what will be the first Seton Spring BBQ, taking place Thursday on the parish grounds west of Old River Road.

Icardo teamed with fellow barbecue event powerhouse Deborah Leary to help organize the fundraiser.

"They have it down to a science. Within a week of our first meeting, literature was being produced — and tickets."

The pair optimistically predicts upwards of 600 diners but Kavookjian would be happy with 500.

"Along with being a fundraiser, it's about building community. ... I see this becoming an annual event for us that will continue to grow and draw people in. Good food and good fellowship."

The church has been in its current location almost two years, previously holding Mass at Frontier High School, starting in 2008. It serves a congregation of about 2,000 households.

"We're a church in progress."

With some Masses at "standing-room only," the need to expand is pressing. Kavookjian said designs are being discussed for a larger church and, pending approval, that a capital campaign could start next year, with building being completed within the next five to six years.

Proceeds from Thursday's barbecue will benefit the church's youth ministry program, which is focused on helping teens develop leadership skills and prepare to receive the sacraments in the church, Kavookjian said.

Tickets are $30, which includes a meal of your choice of Harris Ranch New York steak or teriyaki chicken along with beans, salad, roll and dessert. Diners can eat there or take their meal to go. Purchase tickets at the church office after Mass on Sunday, during office hours or on the night of the event.

Doors open at 5 p.m. Thursday on the grounds of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, 12300 Reina Road. 

Bakersfield now runs on Dunkin'

The grand opening isn't until Tuesday, but Bakersfield's Dunkin' Donuts is already feeding and caffeinating the city at Artisan Square at Brimhall and Allen roads. That growing shopping center is home to a Walmart Neighborhood Market, the Habit Burger, Body Xchange and more.

Matt Higgins, franchisee of Frontier Restaurant Group, which also owns the Tehachapi Dunkin' Donuts that opened in December, took a break from work to share some details.

The businessman, who said he can't start his day without an iced caramel macchiato, wrote in an email that he's excited to bring the chain's signature coffee items, including cold brew, lattes, macchiatos and the new Frozen Dunkin’ Coffee to town, along with the baked goods and sandwiches.

Guests who swing by throughout the day Tuesday can sample some of the most popular items including a variety of doughnuts, Munchkins (doughnut holes) and hot and iced coffee.

Vice Mayor Bob Smith will speak at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which will also be attended by field representatives for Sen. Jean Fuller and State Assemblyman Vince Fong. The members of Frontier Restaurant Group will present a $1,000 check to an Honor Flight Kern County representative, who will attend with local veterans.

Having opened Kern's only locations of the popular chain, Higgins said the team won't stop with two if the market supports the pastries and coffee.

"If Bakersfield has an appetite for Dunkin’, we would love to open additional locations."

The store is open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 1211 Allen Road, Suite 300.

New and different

Just in time to celebrate the completion of the Highway 178 widening project, Tony's Firehouse Grill and Pizza opened in northeast Bakersfield. The new restaurant, at 10701 Highway 178, is Tony's eighth location and the second larger-scale grill (the other is in Delano, where the chain started in 1979). Stay tuned for more details in The Dish. ... On Monday and Tuesday, California Pizza Kitchen will participate in a fundraiser for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. If Diners mention the fundraiser to their server, 20 percent of their check will be donated to CHLA. Those purchases include dine in, take out, catering and all beverages. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, which last year served one in every 25 L.A. families, was in the news recently when late-night show host Jimmy Kimmel shared his personal experience with the hospital in discussing his son’s open heart surgery at just 3 days old. ... Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers has two new limited-time offers this spring: the spicy chicken sandwich and the peanut butter crunch concrete (made with Snickers). The sandwich features a tender chicken breast with a cayenne pepper kick, cooked crispy golden brown and topped with crunchy pickle planks, all on a toasted bun. The concrete blends vanilla frozen custard with Snickers candy bar pieces, roasted peanuts and peanut butter, then it's topped with whipped cream and garnished with Snickers pieces. Both items are now through mid-June or while supplies last. ... Marie Callender’s is now offering a Southern kitchen menu, featuring classic Southern dishes, ranging from $12.99 to $15.99. The new entrees, which come with a free slice of pie, are: Southern fried chicken, soaked in buttermilk, egg, Cholula sauce and spices, fried then served with loaded mashed potatoes and creamed corn; chicken and St. Louis barbecue ribs, served with fries and almond coleslaw; Southern fried chicken po’ boy sandwich, served with fries; and a Southern-style tri-tip platter, with choice of gorgonzola cheese sauce and crispy onion tanglers or barbecue sauce, served with loaded mashed potatoes and creamed corn. ... To sate Americans' quest for lighter versions of favorite foods, Foster Farms now offers a full line of baked, never-fried chicken products nationwide. Available in the frozen section of most major retailers, the new product line features nuggets, tenders and fillets made from chicken breast that contain half the fat and 25 percent fewer calories than traditional offerings. Packed in resealable bags, the offerings retail for $8.99 with a “Love It or It’s Free Guarantee” (visit fosterfarms.com/baked-never-fried for details).

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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