It's time for killer tomatoes. They're everywhere: at farmers' markets, in backyard gardens and on ritzy restaurant menus all over the Triangle.
Chef Shane Ingram at Four Square in Durham (2701 Chapel Hill Road, Durham, 401-9877, www.foursquarerestaurant.com) is searching for the best local tomato. Through August, he will make his way through the various shapes, sizes, colors and flavors of the nearly 200 tomato varieties grown in North Carolina, including Green Zebras, Cherokee Purples, German Johnsons and Sungold Cherries. He'll serve them up on Four Square's special, four-course "tomato dégustation" menu ($65 per person, or $85 with complementary wine pairings). On July 18, farmers from Brinkley Farms, Lyon Farms and Flat River Nursery will be at the restaurant to talk about their tomatoes and provide insight into the nuances of the different varietals they grow.
Raleigh restaurant Zely & Ritz (301 Glenwood Ave., 828-0018, www.zelyandritz.com) grows its own organic, heirloom tomatoes at Coon Rock Farm. It is hosting two five-course feasts featuring "these luscious beauties of summer bounty" at 7 p.m. July 19 and July 25. Tomato expert Craig LeHoullier (www.nctomatoman.topcities.com) will speak at both events, which cost $39 per person or $68 per person, with wine pairings.
On Saturday, the Carrboro Farmers' Market (301 W. Main St., 280-3326, www.carrborofarmersmarket.com) hosts its annual tomato tasting. Beginning at 8:30 a.m. and continuing until the tomatoes run out, you can sample more than 60 varieties that grow in a 50-mile radius of the market, including conventional and heirloom varieties.
Some of the varieties featured in 2006 were Enchantment, Italian Oxheart and Mortgage Lifters. Tasters can vote for their favorite slicing and cherry varieties (winners will be announced next week); there will be tomato recipes on hand, and master gardeners will also be there to offer tomato-growing tips.
There are a few spots left in La Farm Bakery's (4248 Cary Parkway, 657-0657, www.lafarmbakery.com) last baking class of the summer. Co-owner and master baker Lionel Vatinet, who formed his formidable baking skills with the ancient Compagnons du Devoir Guild in France, will teach your kids to make pizza dough and focaccia from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday. Cost is $40. Classes for adults on pastry, bread and even chocolate resume in September.
Blu Seafood and Bar (2002 Hillsborough Road, 286-9777, www.bluseafoodandbar.com) is now open in Durham, in the spot formerly occupied by Grasshopper. (Thanks to www.bullcityrising.com for the tip!) Chef-owner Tim Lyons has hopscotched around the country to train at various eateries and has apparently realized those places pale in comparison to the Ninth Street area. While in Key West, Lyons worked at Louie's Backyard, a top South Florida Restaurant award winner, Top 50 U.S. Zagat winner, Golden Spoon award recipient and Wine Spectator Diamond winner. Blu serves lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday, and the menu features everything from conch fritters to oysters to bourbon-glazed salmon with maple mustard butter.
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