Nosh News and Best Bites: Jammed Together Edition

Now is the time to find ripe strawberries at local farmers markets and roadside stands.

Berry fans, rejoice: The local strawberries are ripe! I picked quite a few quarts on Tuesday during my volunteer shift at Full Earth Farm, and got to take some home. We ate all of them fresh — the first ripe strawberries of the spring never last more than minutes around here — but next time I luck into a berry bounty I’m going to restrain myself long enough to make this recipe, which was inspired by a dish served at Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort: Simple Strawberry Soup from Christy Jordon’s Southern Plate blog.

Paella and flamenco make the perfect picante pairing. On Friday, April 27, you can relish both at Mission San Luis, 2100 W. Tennessee St. Award-winning guitarist Grisha Goryachev will perform modern and traditional flamenco music while local caterers Real Paella serve a sit-down gourmet dinner that includes sangria, Spanish salad, flan and, of course, paella mixta with vegetables, meat and seafood. The event begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35. Visit the Real Paella website to order tickets or call 339-2043.

In the epic battle of the big coffee chains, I’ll choose Dunkin’ Donuts over Starbucks every time. So I was thrilled to discover that filmmaker Whit Stillman prefers the Double D, too. In fact, the crew on his just-released film “Damsels in Distress” was treated to two Dunkin’ Donuts runs each day. I found out about Stillman’s coffee predilections, along with a handful of unexpectedly intriguing everyday insights, when he was featured this week in Bon Appétit’s My Morning Routine series, which explores how people kick-start the day.

Do you dream of owning a food truck? Find out more about how to make it happen at the Food Truck 101 Workshop offered by the Tallahassee Food Truck Association. The event is set for 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 27 at the All Saints Hop Yard, 453 All Saints St. Attendees will learn about required licenses and registrations, insurance, suppliers and more, and will have the chance to talk with food truck owners who’ve already hit the local streets.  The cost is $25. To register in advance, visit the Tallahassee Food Truck Association website.

Roll into National Bike Month with the Capital City Cyclists, who are encouraging Tallahassee-area bicyclists to get together for dinner at a different local restaurant on each Wednesday in May. The Dinner by Bike series kicks off on Wednesday, May 2 with a meal at Mike’s Stone Baked Pizza, 1313 Jackson Bluff Road. Start your ride from home, work or school and meet up with other riders at the restaurant anytime between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. For more information about Dinner by Bike and other National Bike Month events, visit the Capital City Cyclists website.

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Nosh News: Growth Spurt Edition

Whenever I’m in Athens, Ga., I always fuel up at Jittery Joe’s. Several of the microroaster’s excellent coffee blends are now available at Earth Fare here in Tallahassee.

The Red Hills Small Farm Alliance, which runs the Red Hills Online Farmers Market, just announced its Growing Here Workshop Series. During three sessions, local farmers and other agricultural experts will share their knowledge about growing fruits and vegetables successfully in our local climate. The series kicks off with a workshop about planting dates, site selection and seed varieties, 1 p.m.-5 p.m. January 8 at Turkey Hill Farm. Speakers include Louise Divine of Turkey Hill Farm, Lilly Anderson Messec of Native Nurseries and Katie Harris of Full Earth Farm. The series continues with a workshop on organic pest management on Feb. 12 at Miccosukee Root Cellar and a soil health workshop on March 11 at Full Earth Farm in Quincy. Admission is $15 per workshop or $40 for all three workshops for Red Hills Online Farmers Market members; $30 per workshop or $80 for all three workshops for non-members. (Red Hills Online Farmers Market membership is $10, which is reimbursable for members of the Bread and Roses Food Cooperative). For more information about the Growing Here series and to register online, visit the Red Hills Online Farmers Market website.

Throughout my culinary life, cupcakes have been very good to me, the not-so-skilled baker. Homemade cupcakes work for just about any occasion and nearly everyone greets them with glee, even though they’re much simpler to make than, say, a pie or a torte. I never need an excuse to eat cupcakes, but National Cupcake Day on Thursday, Dec. 15, does present me with an opportunity to celebrate by whipping up a flavor I’ve never baked before: Hummingbird Cupcakes, a Southern classic that intrigues me.

Noted around town: Chipotle is now offering, at long last, brown rice for burritos and bowls; Earth Fare has begun carrying coffee beans from one of my favorite indie caffeine purveyors, Jittery Joe’s in Athens, Ga. I recommend the microroaster’s organic, full-bodied Morning Ride blend.

Five Favorites: Holiday Treats

Some Southerners believe that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day will bring good luck. Listening to the Black Eyed Peas, however, will bring you nothing but an earworm.

1. Pumpkin spice lattes. Catalina Café on Capital Circle Southeast serves an excellent one.

2. Shrimp pasta salad. My mom makes this old-school American classic for every major holiday, and now I do, too. My family’s recipe couldn’t be simpler: Boil, drain and chill a 1-pound box of elbow macaroni. To the pasta, add 3-4 cans of tiny pink shrimp (drained and rinsed), a couple of handfuls of diced celery and several big dollops of mayonnaise, then toss it all together. Season with salt and pepper to taste and let the salad sit in the fridge for a few hours so the flavors meld.

3. Latkes. This is the year I will learn to make these perfect little potato pancakes. For a carb fanatic like me, latkes are the ultimate cold-weather comfort food.

4. Homemade gingerbread cookies. Dressed in crunchy sugar crystals, please.

5. Hoppin’ John. My Georgia-born friend Elle Crash introduced me to the Southern tradition of greeting the New Year with a big bowl of black-eyed peas. This year I’m going to try Bryant Terry’s version of the dish, Creole Hoppin’-Jean, from the Vegan Soul Kitchen cookbook.