Eat Local · Farmers' Market · Uncategorized

{Eat Local} Tomatogasm 2013

Tomato-Tasting-TableWe’ve reached that time of year once again, when summer’s sultry conditions explode in an avalanche of heirloom tomato varieties.  A plethora of colors, sizes and tastes satisfy multiple senses.  We relish every recipe, and savor the sauces prepared at the peak of flavor.  When they’re ripe and juicy, they are soooo good, nearly nirvana.

Tomatoes are best in the summer months (even during this year’s extra soggy summer). Thus, we’ve reached the pinnacle of tomato season here in the Triangle, and we’re enjoying nature’s bountiful fruit (barely disguised as a vegetable) through local festivals and events (the only event missing is coronation of a tomato queen and king, I think).  Everyone should have ample opportunity to get their fill of heirloom tomatoes as they are relished in all corners of the Triangle this month.

Tomato Festivals

Carrboro Farmers’ Market celebrates Tomato Day, Saturday, July 13th, 2013, 8:30 am to noon.  They invite us to sample more than 30 varieties of locally grown tomatoes as they give away raffle prizes totaling over $850 (see the Carrboro Farmers Market website for complete raffle details and participating businesses). In addition to those samples, Chef Seth Kingsbury of Pazzo! will be serving gazpacho. Look for a special tomato dish by Chef Kevin Callaghan of Acme too.  Tomato slices will be paired with tomato preserves from Farmer’s Daughter and cheeses from both Celebrity Dairy and Chapel Hill Creamery. I’d suggest you skip breakfast Saturday and “dine out” at the market that morning.

Raleigh Downtown Farmers’ Market declares July 17th a “Tomatolicious” day at the market.  With heirloom tomato samples, a healthy cooking demo by Gravy Restaurant Chef Brent Hopkins, music from local singer-songwriter Russ Thompson, and tomato-centric local lunches from Buku, Kimbap and Zpizza. Raleigh downtowners have no excuse not to indulge. Look for exciting giveaways, market recipes and tips and plenty of fun kids’ activities too.

Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market gets in on the action too, scheduling a Tomato Celebration on Saturday, July 20th (normal market hours are 8 am to noon), as does Eno River Farmers’ Market on the same date.  Durham Farmers Market invites us all to a Tomato Tasting event on July 27th (sign up for emails from each of these markets for full event details).

Tomato Dinners

Beginning this week (on these dates: July 10th, 18th, 23rd, 25th & 31st) downtown Raleigh’s Zely & Ritz annual (and frequently sold out) tomato dinners tempt tomato fans from around the Triangle. The multi-course meals start with a “BLT bite” and finish with a delightful Sun Gold Tomato Panna Cotta for dessert.  If that tidbit seems intriguing to you, do call the restaurant to make your reservation soon.

Another of my favorite downtown Raleigh restaurants, 18 Seaboard, will be serving patrons with reservations (call 919-861-4318 to make yours!) a special four-course heirloom tomato wine dinner July 16th and 17th. Cantina18 (the sister restaurant found in Raleigh’s Cameron Village) will begin serving a special brunch menu highlighting southern tomatoes with a southwest twist this month too.

As Acme restaurant in Carrboro puts it, “the 12th annual deep-fried, cross-eyed, absolutely tomato-fied belly flop into the juicy heart of summer in Carrboro is back.”  In other words, the Annual Tomato Festival (July 12th – 14th) returns with a reported 500 pounds of local tomatoes.  Since these festivals at Acme at pretty popular (so much so, they come with their own posters) reservations are highly recommended.

This year, Piedmont restaurant in Durham is holding its tomato dinner (starring Coon Rock Farm tomatoes) on July 11th (call 919-683-1213 for reservations). The three-course dinner (menu here) begins with a classic tomato and mozzarella plate (featuring Chapel Hill Creamery cheese), continues with a grass-fed hanger steak dish and ends with a silky buttermilk panna cotta and tomato watermelon sorbet. Did I catch you drooling? Uh huh  😉

Alas, Tomatopalooza, the annual tomato tasting event, is taking a year off to regroup & reorganize (read more about the decision at the organizer’s website). We’ll keep an eye out for 2014!

Know of any other local ‘mater-focused events in the Triangle? Please, do tell!

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