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Food for thought: local summer food events

Springtime and our fancy turns to food, especially the seasonal kind. (We are tired of eating oranges and out-of-season empire apples.)

We know your summer calendar will fill up fast, so with that in mind, here are some local food and drink experiences to make plans for that highlight the season’s bounty:

The gastro pub at Becker Farms/Becker Brewing (3724 Quaker Road, Gasport) serves items made from locally grown ingredients, many from the farm. Food service is from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and noon to 9 p.m. Saturday with Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The annual Strawberry Extravaganza on Father’s Day (June 19) features U-pick strawberries, a chicken barbecue from noon to 4 p.m. and strawberry food specialties, strawberry crush mimosas and white strawberry-lemon sangria. The Concord Grape Stomp is in September, the weekend after Labor Day.

Hurd Orchard's luncheons utilize fruits and vegetables grown on the farm. Here is a chicken pot pie with a salad of greens, asparagus and a plum applesauce made at the farm. (Photo credit: Michael Majewski)

One of our favorite perennial experiences is Hurd Orchards (17260 Ridge Road, Holley) which hosts fantastic luncheons and events throughout the spring into December. Events have already started for the season and feature delectable food from the farm served in the 200-plus-year-old family barn decorated with stunning flower arrangements from the farm's flowers. (We pretend we are at Martha Stewart’s when we visit.) There is a delightful gift shop that sells Hurd Orchard products like jams, made from the farms fruits.

Highlights include Strawberry Shortcake Luncheon (June 14), Four Fruit Festival (July 11-20), Midsummer Night’s Tastings (Aug. 4-5), Peaches & cream (Sept. 6), Pies! Pies! Pies! (Oct. 13), Thanksgiving Tastings in November and Christmas Teas in December. All events are listed online.

New this year, the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens will host Tasting Tuesdays, 4 to 7:30 p.m. June 20 to Aug. 22 (excluding July 4). This is a casual farm-to-table experience. Guests can enjoy small plates "and creative herbaceous drinks" from chef Avi Altman of Obviously Avi Catering at tables located in the tropical surroundings. Plates, drinks and sweet treats will be priced individually. The regular $11 admission price applies. The gardens are open from noon to 8 p.m.

Trattoria Aroma on North French (4840 North French Road, Amherst) continues its Aroma Farm Dinner Series at Oles Farm in Alden. While the first event isn’t until Aug. 26, now is the time to make your reservations. Transportation, wines, craft beer, multi-course dinner, live music, tax gratuity and “a few extras” is included in the price. Other dates include Sept. 23 and Oct. 7. Cost is $166.59 ($160 plus service fee through Brown Paper Tickets).

Local wine trails offer food/wine events like the Niagara Wine Trail's Wine & Cheese weekend June 3-4 ($22 pre-sale, $27 day of to sample up to 10 wineries). The big Niagara USA Wine Festival is July 29-30 at Academy Park in Lewiston, where local food shops and farms will be selling at the market. The Harvest Festival food pairing is Sept. 23-23.

The Lake Erie Wine Trail calendar is filled with quirky events at various wineries:

Liberty Vineyards Father’s Day Wine Tasting (June 19) includes chocolate covered bacon paired with wine. A Dine in the Vines dinner is Aug. 19.

—The Outdoor Grape Blossom Festival at Arundel Cellars & Brewing (June 10) will include food trucks, while the Merritt Estate Winery Strawberry Festival (June 10-11) will serve its famous Strawberry Wine Sangria slush, strawberry shortcake and chocolate covered strawberries.

America’s Grape Country Wine Festival (Aug. 11-13) will feature a food and wine stage and local food vendors selling everything from preserves and gourmet oils and vinegars to dipping sauces and even horseradish products.

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