This is the time of year when companies offer samples of their products in hopes you'll buy them for gifts or party menus. Here is a sampling of places that invite you in for a sample before you buy.
- Oliva Bella, 400 Old Vine Street, will have its eighth annual customer appreciation party and holiday open house on Sunday. The olive-oil importers will have boxes made from wooden wine crates available to hold gifts of olive oils. Hours are 3 to 5 p.m. The tasting room is at 400 Old Vine Street. Call (859) 983-3567.
- The bakers at Caramanda's Bake Shoppe will offer samples of their holiday cookies Wednesday. Included are gingerbread men, coconut macaroons, Derby cookies, chocolate kringles and Christmas tree-shaped sugar cookies. Caramanda's has two locations: 332 Southland Drive, (859) 278-7172; and 3805 Dylan Court, (859) 223-9755 or go to Caramandas.com.
- Unlimited Spirit, 404 Southland Drive, is having a bourbon sampling Dec. 14. Representatives from Barrel House Distilling and Four Roses Distillery will talk about their products 4 to 7 p.m. Four Roses brand ambassador Al Young, who is a member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, will sign bottles of bourbon. Call (859) 309-2903.
- Santa is coming to town on Saturday to have breakfast with the kids at Oleika Shrine Center. Breakfast is 8 a.m. to noon at the center, 326 Southland Drive. The all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast is $5, and tickets are available at the door. Children 4 and younger are admitted free.
- Cameron Tinker, owner of Tinker's Cake Shop, recently won the grand prize at Aurora's Midwest Gingerbread House competition in Evansville, Ind. Tinker and the other competitors had 61/2 hours to assemble their edible structures before being judged. Tinker placed first in the professional division and won the $2,500 grand prize for his "gingerbird house." Tinker's is at 317 West Maxwell Street. Call (859) 252-9636 or go to Tinkerscakeshop.com.
- Greentree Tearoom, 521 West Short Street, now is open Tuesdays during December. Here's the menu for this month: Tomato bisque, cranberry and white chocolate scones, cheese timbale with roasted red pepper coulis, parmesan tomato rounds, ham salad tea sandwiches, red velvet cupcakes, and bourbon balls. Luncheon tea is served at noon Tuesday through Saturday. Call (859) 455-9660 or go to Greentreetearoom.com.
- The Julep Cup, 111 Woodland Avenue, is serving slow braised lamb shank with dried figs as the dinner special this weekend. Also included are grouper baked in phyllo over sweet potato purée. John Hedger plays lute 7 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call (859) 226-0300.
- While out and about this holiday season, you might want to stop by Nell's Diner for a home-cooked meal. It's off the beaten path and away from traffic at 1401 North Forbes Road.
Daily lunch specials include cabbage rolls on Monday; meatloaf, Tuesday; salmon croquettes, Wednesday; baked chicken and dressing, Thursday; and fried chicken, Friday. The cost is $5.95 and includes two sides and fried corn bread. Dinner entrees are fried frog legs, lamb fries, hand-breaded and fried oysters, and hot Browns. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call (859) 255-8840.
Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog: Flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com.