Rochester, it’s the end of July. Time to get (even more) serious about summer vacation.
(Related note: I walked by a storefront sign yesterday declaring “new year, new shoes” or something like that, and I felt embarrassed for them that they had such an old sign up. Then I realized that BACK TO SCHOOL STUFF IS SUPER ALL OVER THE PLACE ALREADY. The Midwest summer syndrome is real. Let’s just say I wasn’t embarrassed for them anymore.)
Now that we’re all panicking, let’s get laser-focused on our summer bucket list. Here are my top five, can’t-miss, summertime, food-related events to check off before heading to that back-to-school shoe sale.
• Rochester Downtown Farmer’s Market (Fourth Avenue and Fourth Street Southeast, 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays). Don’t even tell me you’ve never been to the farmers market. Freshest vegetables anywhere, friendly farmers who will help you know what to do with things like Swiss chard, more familiar characters like all kinds of berries, peppers and baked goods, live music, homemade goat’s milk soap, wood-fired pizza, healthy smoothies, and I could go on. Stop not going to it. Go this weekend. It’s not hard. (Sorry to be harsh. It’s tough love.)
• Down By The Riverside concert (Sunday nights, behind Mayo Civic Center in downtown Rochester). OK, so this isn’t technically a “food-related event,” except that you can bring your own. So here’s a genius idea: Shop the farmers market on Saturday, then bring that stuff in a picnic, pack a few drinks and your lawn chairs and enjoy the most eclectic music lineup ever. (This Sunday, it’s country singer Eric Paslay, and next week, it’s the Rochester Concert Band and Choir.)
• Berne Wood-Fired Pizza (Wednesday nights through August from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Zwingli United Church of Christ, Berne). Sure, the pizza’s delicious and the music is good, but people keep coming back for the feeling it gives you. Good Swiss-bred folk just out feeding their friends and neighbors makes you feel like part of a larger community, heritage and history. And the fresh air ain’t bad for you, either. (Pro tip: They’re branching out and selling bratwurst in addition to their pizza offerings this year, if you want to go but don’t want to wait a couple hours for your pie.)
• Dine outdoors (everywhere, every night). I realize every destination so far has been outside, but I’m talking about patio dining here. Summer nights really are magical around here, and taking advantage of what has become a pretty spectacular set of dining spaces especially designed for enjoying the elements. (Terza, Chesters, ZZest, Twigs and soon-to-be-open LaVetta come to mind.)
• Try a new beer. This one’s easy — all you have to do is check out new Rochester brewery LTS Brewing Company. You won’t have to wait long, either, because LTS is hosting its grand opening tomorrow, Friday, from 3 p.m. to midnight at their brewery (2001 32nd Ave. NW). LTS is a production brewery, and that means lots of beers. They’ll have seven varieties of beer served up tomorrow, including a Kolsch, Belgian-style blond, American IPA, golden ale, brown porter, oatmeal stout and a Belgian-style saison. Firebrick Bread Wood-Fired Pizza will be rolling in to provide some nosh, and Dakota Chaser will be providing some music. Come out and support the latest craft brewery to open its doors in Rochester — and let me know what you think of the beer.
Of course, there are always a zillion things to do in the summer I’m not even touching here, so don’t consider this a comprehensive list; this is just your jumping-off point. Send me a note the next couple of weeks and let me know how you’re planning the rest of summer (along with dishes and favorite menu items, of course).