With Fourth of July almost here, we have charred hot dogs and grilled burgers on the brain. Most Trianglewide public celebrations aren't focused on food, though picnic baskets are encouraged. I did find an interesting locavore activity perfect for staying cool. At the N.C. State Fairgrounds (1025 Blue Ridge Road, 821-7400, ncstatefair.org) on July 4, Raleigh Parks and Recreation and the N.C. Watermelon Association will host a "Got to be NC Watermelon Cutting" at 5 p.m. So get your bibs on and sink your teeth into juicy, locally grown watermelons. Slices are free while supplies last.
Raleigh hosts an Independence Day celebration and picnic at the North Carolina State Capitol. Sprawl out on a blanket and pack a lunch, or grab something from the concessions, including Ben & Jerry's, hot dogs and hamburgers. For more info, visit ncstatecapitol.org or visitraleigh.com
For more food with fireworks, head to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (409 Blackwell St., 956-BULL, dbulls.com) on July 4. There you'll find two locally owned concessions: Durham's Ricky's NY Pizza (5279 N. Roxboro Road, 477-2800) serves crisp and cheesy New York-style pizza, and Carolina Brewery (460 W. Franklin St., 942-1800, carolinabrewery.com) offers a specially crafted Bullpen Pale Ale, created expressly for sipping at the ballpark. If you'd rather watch the fireworks outside the ballpark, Tobacco Road Sports Cafe (280 S. Mangum St., 937-9909, tobaccoroadsportscafe.com) is the second-best seat in town, with an expansive patio overlooking the playing field and a selection of burgers, cheese steaks, wings, po'boys and N.C. favorites like sweet potato hash and shrimp and grits.
July celebrates our country's independence, and it is also my favorite month to honor my most favorite food: the tomato. These gems of a fruit disguised as a veggie are absolutely perfect this time of year.
Acme Restaurant in Carrboro (110 E. Main St., 929-ACME, acmecarrboro.com) and the Chapel Hill Wine Company will host a Tomato Festival Wine Dinner on Thursday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m. No juicy tomato is excluded from this decadent menu: green tomato soup with lump crab and grilled corn; pan-seared gnocchi with overnight-roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes; grilled Carolina quail stuffed with wild mushroom pate over ratatouille with yellow tomato sauce; grilled veal served with a warm fennel-tomato coulis; and beef tenderloin including beefsteak tomato and tomato jam with foie. Price is $65 per person. Reservations are highly recommended; call 968-1884.
Also in Carrboro, the Carrboro Farmers' Market hosts "Tomato Day: Da del Tomate" on July 17 during market hours. (I'm feeling giddy already.) The event will explore the Latin American origins of the tomato plant, with tastings, demos and recipes offered by local farmers and chefs. For more information, visit carrborofarmersmarket.com.
Correction (July 1, 2010): The Tomato Festival Wine Dinner at Acme is July 18, not July 9.