May, a time when we can have our windows open all day and all night, might be my favorite month here, aside from those crispy weeks at the start of fall where you can smell wood burning and the holidays a-comin'. Dead leaves might be the best smell in the world, but tied for second is the wisteria that's exploding all over Durham right now paired with the aroma of folks firing up their grills again.
May is a full-throttle month for fresh fruits and veggies, and the barrage of fun food happenings is proof for my theory that May is one of, if not the loveliest month in North Carolina.
If you missed the Earth Day feature I wrote for the N&O; food section last week, then you might not be aware of just how local, seasonal and fresh the food scene is in the Triangle, particularly in the west, and more specifically in Durham.The Taste of Durham Festival
strives to embody all that Durham has to offer one's tastebuds, and if participating restaurants are anything like they were last year, it will literally be a smorgasbord of fine cuisine.
The festival, now located at the Imperial Center on Emperor Boulevard, kicks off its fifth year on Saturday, May 23, at 11 a.m. General admission tickets are $4 in advance, $6 at the door -- the same it's always been, despite the slumping economy. Expect a beer garden, wine pavilion and lots of live music along with your tapas-like samples from Durham's sweeping breadth of food offerings. (Each sample costs additional money, in the form of tokens, varying from place to place.)
Another reason May is just gorgeous is the fact that the Durham Farmer's Market
will open its Wednesday afternoon market again from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Erin Kauffman, the market manager, said she's heard that the strawberries are really coming into season, as well as asparagus. Mid-month we'll be seeing sugar snap peas, shelling peas, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
This summer also mark's the market's 10th anniversary, and with that comes a number of special events:
* Saturday, May 16: Chef Challenge
. Think Iron Chef but with Chris Stennat from Pop's, Aaron Vendemark from Panciuto and Justin Rakes from Four Square in place of Bobby Flay, Mario Batali and Masaharu Morimoto. The secret ingredient will be unveiled at 8:30 a.m.
* Sunday, May 24: Community Potluck
in Durham Central Park starting at 3 p.m. Everyone is encouraged to bring a dish with at least one local ingredient. Bring your own plate and utensils, too!
To further prove my case, May brings the kind of weather that allows you to eat outside without becoming a meal yourself to mosquitoes and such. Elodie Farms
, a family place in Rougemont (9522 Hampton Road), does a "Dinner on the Porch" each month. May 2 will feature Chef Adam Rose of Il Palio
in Chapel Hill, who will make a feast from local lamb, prosciuto, summer beans, berries, and of course, lots of Elodie Farms cheeses. Cost is $65 per person, call (919) 479-4606 and visit www.elodiefarms.com
for menu details.
And what better time of year than May to have an event as physically grueling as the Doughman
? Also May 23, this charity quadrathlon raises money for summer stipends for the teens working as Durham Inner-city Gardeners
(DIG) at SEEDS
(South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces, www.seedsnc.org).
It follows this circuit: eat+run, eat+swim, eat+bike. Starting at 8 a.m., teams of four will stop at Blu Seafood
, Four Square
, Daisy Cakes
and Dain's Place
, and perhaps more. Visit www.doughman.org
for more of the potentially vomit-inducing details -- the $85 team registration goes up to $100 after April 30.
I think folks should do the Doughman the morning of the 23rd, go home and shower and head over to Taste of Durham, then go back to the Doughman banquet starting at 6 p.m. at the pavilion in Central Park to sample, once again, from Durham's top restaurants. Tickets for the banquet are $20 per person, $15 per person from a registered team.
Also in Durham Central Park, there will be a Memorial Day picnic to raise awareness of the Durham Central Market
-- a co-op that has been in the works for some time -- Monday, May 25, from 5 to 8 p.m. Local food vendors and musicians will be on hand. Bring your favorite picnic supplies and dishes!
May is also home to Mother's Day (Sunday, May 10, for those of you that have forgotten), and with that comes brunch. Revolution
(107 W. Main Street) will have a special Mother's Day three-course prix fix for $39.99, which includes a champagne mimosa, as well as a continental buffet for $20. Reservations recommended by calling (919) 956-9999.
Revolution's owner and chef, Jim Anile, will also be featured at A Southern Season's
Cooking School on May 17 from 2 to 4 p.m., where he'll flaunt his deep knowledge of international cooking techniques. You can "join Jim for a unique dining experience" for $45 per person. Visit www.southernseason.com.
And let's not forget Cinco de Mayo (May 5, for those not fluent in espanol.) Blu Seafood and Bar, 2002 Hillsborough Road, will offer $5 margaritas and some Veracruz specialties starting at, you guessed it, 5 p.m.
May also means graduations, so beware the weekends of May 8 (Duke University and UNC-CH) and May 15 (NCCU.) Good luck making a dinner reservation!