On Wednesday, August 8 at 7 PM at Hummingbird Restaurant's sister event space (Whitaker and Atlantic), one of those perfectly magical summer events will take place - a multi course dinner prepared by a great local chef focusing on that most treasured summer crop - tomatoes - enhanced by specially chosen Rose wines for each course. All that you need to know about the event - menu, opportunity to sign up - is at this link.
I can tell a few stories about summer time tomato dinners. My rather well known obsession with heirloom tomatoes led to my involvement in many such events over the years - starting with two at Enoteca Vin, by Ashley Christensen, the countless dinners over many years at Zely and Ritz hosted by Sarig (how I miss you, my friend) and Nancy Agasi - then again with Ashley for two at The Bridge Club, one by Arthur Gordon at Irregardless Cafe, and most recently, wonderful dinners at Acme Food and Beverage prepared by Kevin Callaghan. Now I get to add to my stories with the creativity of chef Coleen Speaks in what looks (judging from the menu) to be a memorable and delicious evening.
All of the events described about were marvelous, delicious, memorable and eye opening, in a culinary sense. But perhaps it's best to discuss what one of these events are like (and yes, I am working to entice you to register for the event, attend and see and taste for yourself!).
Tomato dinners bring out a mix of the adventurous, the tomato lover, the wine lover, the curious, and the social. For some attendees it is one in a series of every tomato dinner that is locally held - they are that beloved. For many others, it is something totally new.
All of us who grow and/or purchase and love tomatoes understand a few - some of us more than a few - perfect uses for great tomatoes. At a tomato dinner, the application is extended beyond what is imaginable - whether used creatively in starters, soups, salads...or stuffed, or made into chutneys or sauces - the desire to apply tomatoes to four courses - pair with wines - and perhaps the biggest challenge of all, in a dessert - results in many surprising and delicious combinations and memorable creations.
My part in these dinners tends to be one of sharing information, education, telling stories - helping the dinner guests move beyond the red tomato into the people involved with the very route of many varieties that grace the plates in front of the diners. Each tomato variety has a history and a lineage. Each has a personality - a size, shape, color, flavor - and each elicits a response from we who eat it. Tomatoes are nostalgia for many of us. They take us back to gardening with loved ones and back yard cookouts. I also love to answer questions - gardening questions for those who want to grow them (or grow them more successfully themselves). If anyone has a hankering to purchase my books, I will have them there with me as well.
Tomato dinners are noisy, festive, fascinating, delicious - and rare. I am so excited that Hummingbird is joining the growing list of area chefs who can't wait to show off their creative skills by incorporating an ever increasing selection of tomatoes into a complete multi-course dinner.
I hope to see some of you at Hummingbird on Wednesday...be sure to say hello - my wife Susan and I will be pleased to meet you.