It's late summer, the foodie's favorite time of year -- especially if you're a locavore.
Flavorful fruits and veggies abound, and chefs are showing them off all over town with special dinners that are often held outdoors.
Here's the lowdown on a few such meals:
Italian Garden Dinner: Fern Hollow Nature Center in Sewickley plays host to a dinner on the lawn featuring fresh fruits and veggies from the farmers at St. James Farmers Market, also in Sewickley. The dinner, to be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 24, will include bruschetta with gorgonzola and Fern Hollow honey, chicken with lemon and rosemary, a pasta station, homemade gelato, limoncello and many other Italian favorites, with BYOB permitted. Seating is limited to 100 people, who will sit at one loooong table on the lawn of the nature center. Cost is $75 for Fern Hollow members or $100 for nonmembers. Proceeds benefit Fern Hollow's educational programs, including science presentations for local schools. For information or reservations: 412-741-6136 or fhnc.org.
Grandview Park Farm Dinner: This third-annual event, at 5 p.m. Aug. 19 at Grandview Park in Mt. Washington, features a cocktail hour and five-course meal of fresh, local foods prepared by Chef Justin Severino of Cure. The menu is not pre-planned and will include only ingredients available in mid-August. Dine amongst the farmers, cheese makers and wine makers while enjoying a family-style meal served in the park overlooking the city. Seating is limited to 150 people; the previous two years' dinners sold out. Cost is $85 per person. Information or reservations: 412-431-2650 or e-mail email@example.com.
Got a green thumb? Penn State Extension educators in Allegheny and Washington counties are hosting a six-session "Start Farming: Beginning Vegetable Production" course from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 25; Sept. 8, 22 and 29; and Oct. 20 and 27 at area farms. Course topics will include soils, plant propagation, weed control, insect and disease control and other basics. $250. 724-228-6881 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taste of Cranberry: Food samples from local restaurants, plus children's activities. 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 12 at Cranberry Municipal Center, 2525 Rochester Road. Part of the proceeds will benefit the Butler Humane Society. $12 for adults; $5 for children ages 5 to 12; free for children ages 4 and younger. 724-776-4949.
Cookie Cruise: Pittsburgh's O'Connor family hosts this 20th annual cruise on the Gateway Clipper Fleet, featuring a picnic buffet, dancing and fireworks, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. (boat sails at 7:30 p.m.) Aug. 22. $30 benefits the American Liver Foundation. email@example.com or 412-434-7077.
Uncorking a Cure: Wine-tasting benefit for cystic fibrosis, including Pennsylvania wines, a beer-tasting station, cigar tent, food and live music. 7 p.m. Aug. 24 at The Gathering Place at Darlington Lake, Darlington. $40. 724-827-2833 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pressley Ridge Ice Cream Fundae: All-you-can-eat ice cream in more than 10 flavors, plus African drums, face painting, craft store and photo ops. 6:30 p.m. Aug. 25 at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Highland Park. Proceeds benefit Pressley Ridge, an organization serving children and families with behavioral disorders. $25 for adults, $10 for children under 12, free for children under 3, or family packs of four tickets for $50. A VIP reception with Steelers alumnus Jeff Hartings starts at 5:30 p.m. and costs $125. pressleyridge.org.
Greek Festival: Given by Presentation of Christ Greek Orthodox Church at 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. today through Sunday at Olympic Hall, 1672 Electric Ave., East Pittsburgh. 412-824-9188.
Wine & Food Festival: Wines from 30 Pennsylvania wineries, wine seminars, gourmet food, live entertainment, and arts and crafts, for ages 21 and up only. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 25-26. $30 for Aug. 25 and $21 for Aug. 26 if tickets are purchased by tomorrow; $5 extra if purchased later. 7springs.com or 888-718-4253.
Bagna Calda contest: To enter the famous Bagna Calda (garlic dip) contest at Kennedy Park in Vangergrift on Aug. 19, call Andretta or Kathi at 724-265-4603.
60s and Sensational: To celebrate her 60th anniversary, the Chicken of the Sea mermaid is giving away four birthday packages to people ages 60 to 69 through a Facebook contest. Nominate yourself or someone you know by submitting a photo and short essay (less than 400 words) before Sept. 6 on Facebook.com/ChickenoftheSea. Winners can choose from three packages: a shopping spree, dinner with three friends with limo transportation, or a spa package with hotel and dinner.
The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank reports that it distributed a record 27.4 million pounds of food in the past fiscal year ending June 30. This translated to 22.8 million meals for families in the 11 counties of southwestern Pennsylvania. The Food Bank also cut its operating expenses by 4 percent over the previous fiscal year.
The Food Bank reports that continued economic difficulties have spurred greater need than in past years. More than 12,000 people volunteered with the Food Bank during the past fiscal year. For Food Bank information, visit pittsburghfoodbank.org.foodcolumn
Rebecca Sodergren: email@example.com