Food & Drink

Strawberries get a big jump on their season, so go get 'em

If you want fresh, locally grown strawberries, you had better head to the berry patch or farmers markets now.

Above-normal temperatures through March moved the growing season forward about a month, said John Strang, a horticulturist with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. "You'll be out of luck if you wait," he said.

The strawberry season always is short, and many Central Kentuckians mark their calendars to pick berries around mid-May. But this year, they might be gone before Memorial Day, normally the height of the season.

Tacos among best

Two Mexican restaurants in Lexington are among the best places in the country to get great tacos, according to Everyday With Rachael Ray magazine. El Rancho Tapatio and Panchitos Express are listed in "The 64 Best Tacos in the Country." Tapatio is at 144 Burt Road; call (859) 373-9091 or go to Elranchotapatio.com. Panchitos Express is at 1389 Alexandria Drive; call (859) 226-0177.

Delicious uses of olive oil

Stuarto's Olive Oil Co. is joining the chefs at Spindletop Hall for a cooking class Wednesday. Stuarto's Stuart Utgaard and Spindletop executive chef Ed Valente and executive sous chef Timothy Wood will prepare roasted onion and cilantro oil hummus with pita bread triangles; wild field green salad with bean sprouts, pea shoots and radish sprouts, basil oil and strawberry vinegar with lemon twist sea salt; Florida wild-caught seafood with Persian lime and honey ginger white balsamic vinegar; creamy pesto and goat cheese polenta; haricots verts with raspberry vinegar and toasted almonds; and sautéed peaches with espresso mascarpone and granola. Classes are $35 and are 6 to 8 p.m. at Spindletop, 1414 Ironworks Pike. Call (859) 263-0088 or (859) 269-0088. Stuarto's is at 2200 War Admiral Way and 804 Euclid Avenue.

Where a love of wine leads

The enjoyment of wine led Faye Collins of Kenton County to become more interested in the grape varietals and how wine is made, which led to a book and a blog.

"I wanted to learn more about something I enjoyed and began reading books about grapes and wine," she said. "Friends began to ask me for advice about wines, grapes and wineries. A few even suggested I write a book about it. Some younger people suggested I start a blog. Last summer when I got finished with the book, I started thinking more about a blog. My publisher thought it would be a good companion for the book. So I launched it last fall."

Her book, A Wine Lover's Odyssey Across Kentucky, will be released later this year. Her blog is Kentuckywinelover.com.

Wine, herbs and quilts

The 20th annual Kentucky Wine & Roses Herb Festival and Quilt Show will be May 19 at Lakeview Park at the Franklin County Fairgrounds, Frankfort. Herbal crafts, products, foods and plants will be for sale. The event is free, but parking is $3. A sack lunch, $7, will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The writers' forum includes beekeeper Abigail Keam, author of the Joseph Reynolds mysteries; Maggie Green, Kentucky Fresh Cookbook; Viki Pidgeon, Ireland's Comfort Food; and Buddy Westbrook, Grandma's Heirloom Kentucky and Southern Recipes. Go to Kyherb.com.

Nominate a favorite chef

Cooking Light is looking for the best neighborhood chef. The second annual Trailblazing Chef Awards will recognize those who are setting the pace for important trends in U.S. restaurants in categories such as authenticity and innovation. This year's people's choice category gives consumers an opportunity to nominate their favorite local chefs. Finalists will be posted on Cookinglight.com for public voting in mid-June, and the winning chef will be featured in the November issue.

Editor Scott Mowbray said the true neighborhood restaurant is frequented and treasured by locals; feels essential to the fabric and soul of the area; and also feels, no matter how famous it gets, as if it were collectively owned by the customers. Nominations may be submitted on Cookinglight.com/chefawards through May 31.

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