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Drinking and dining al fresco 

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a friend's backyard after work, sipping a nice chardonnay and chatting, when a mosquito interrupted us. Turns out she and her pals were interested in having drinks, too.

Even so, I deny that it's already too late to eat and drink while enjoying the pre-90s temperatures. Even if I have to slather myself in chemicals, I still want to be outside.

And so I continue last week's theme of drinking or dining al fresco: on the porch, on the terrace, on blankets on grass.

For starters, head over to The Carolina Inn (211 Pittsboro St., Chapel Hill, 933-2001, www.carolinainn.com) for Fridays on the Front Porch, every Friday through Oct. 16. Yes, yes, there's bluegrass music from 5 to 8 p.m. (see the Web site for a list of bands), but I'm there for the snacks. Twelve dollars buys a ticket to a Southern-style buffet, complete with pulled pork barbecue sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers, cole slaw and more. Beer, wine and items from the Inn's Lounge Menu ranging from $8 to $13 are also for sale.

Then, ChathamArts hosts its annual fundraising event, Potluck in a Pasture, from 5 to 7 p.m. June 7 at Central Carolina Community College's Student Farm in Pittsboro, at 764 West St.

Visitors can see what's growing at America's first two-year sustainable farming program, share a potluck picnic of locally produced food, meet local artists and musicians and buy farm-fresh food. For more information, contact ChathamArts at www.chathamarts.org or 542-0934 or call Katy McReynolds at 444-1900.

Visitors are asked to bring a dish to share with at least one locally grown ingredient (and the recipe noting origin of local items), as well as a beverage, lawn chair or blanket, and a donation to ChathamArts.

My favorite place to eat outdoors in Durham is in Sutton Station, in the courtyard between Bocci Trattoria & Pizzeria (5850 Fayetteville Road, 206-4067, www.bocciitalian.com) and Nantucket Grille & Bar (5826 Fayetteville Road, 484-8162, www.nantucketcafeandgrill.com). Both restaurants have tables in the huge, wide-open space. This time of year, there are plenty of diners enjoying the weather and their kids enjoying a place to run around. On Thursday evenings, Bocci hosts a Courtyard Concert Series from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.; May 28 features Steve Hobbs & Friends playing jazz.

Finally, if I want to have more picnics, I could improve my skills at prepa ring picnic food. Savor Hospitality (815 W. Chatham St., Cary, 468-0515, www.savorhospitality.com) is offering plenty of cooking classes that would help under its "Summer Series" banner: salads, vegetarian cooking, fish, cold appetizers, grilling and something called "fruit frenzy," which includes how to make wine-poached pears, curried fruit salad, tropical mango salsa, citrus section salad and three-berry compote, for $55 each class or $195 for any four of the six classes.

Know about a fun food happening in the Triangle? Send it to Now Serving at food@indyweek.com.


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