Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to summer and there are 99 days between May 26 and Labor Day on September 1. That’s 99 fun-filled ways to spend those summer months. It may sound like a lot, but summer fun usually flies by quickly.
More than any other season, summer brings to mind activities with family and friends, lazy days, getaways and plenty of cookouts, vacation food, vegetable gardens and farm stand produce.
Whatever you have planned for summer, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a flavorful summer right here in East Texas. With great patios, special events, tasty destinations and an abundance of East Texas grown fruits and vegetables, get ready to enjoy as many of these 99 flavors as you can possibly fit into each and every day of summer.
There are nine categories filled with delicious ways to enjoy summer and refreshing ways to beat the heat. This week is all about flavorful events, tasty destinations, grown in East Texas, frozen treats and grill favorites.
Next week covers patios to visit, summer drinks, must-have products and taste of summer recipes.
June 14, 30th Jacksonville Tomato Fest, Downtown Jacksonville: The tomato capitol of the world, hosts a full day of events including an airport tomato drop, tomato eating contest, salsa contest, arts and crafts, plenty of food, live music and a street dance. Go to www.jacksonvilletexas.com for details or contact the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.
June 14, 25th Texas Blueberry Festival, Downtown Nacogdoches: The festival runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and includes arts, craft, live music, food, blueberry pie and a cupcake contest, pie-eating contest and plenty of blueberries to eat and purchase. For additional information go to www.tbf.nacogdoches.org or contact the Nacogdoches Chamber of Commerce.
June 14, American Cancer Society Cattle Barons Gala, Tyler: Wranglers & Roses is this year’s theme for the 27th Annual Cattle Baron’s Gala. This year’s gala includes plenty of great food, live music, auction packages, dancing and gaming. Benefitting the American Cancer Society, it will be held at the Rio Neches Ranch located west of Tyler off of Texas Highway 64. For ticket information go to www.cattlebaronsgala.net or contact the American Cancer Society at 903-597-1383
June 21, Far Out Art Fest & Junebug Music Festival, Ben Wheeler: Art show, live music, crafts, food, drinks, wine-tasting. Go to www.benwheelertx.com for more details.
June 28, Downtown Wine Swirl, Tyler: A premiere tasting event in the heart of Tyler. Move around the square to taste samples and pairings from 18 Texas wines and 18 locally-owned restaurants. Tickets are available at Gallery Main Street, 110 W. Erwin St., and online. For more information, visit www.DowntownTylerArts.com or call 903- 593-6905.
True Vine Brewery Open Taps, Tyler, Last Saturdays: Tyler’s first brewing company is open on the last Saturday of each month for Open Taps. Visit the brewery at 219 S. Englewood Avenue for live music, food and a chance to try their latest brews. Go to www.truevinebrewing.com or email email@example.com.
July 3, ETSO American as Apple Pie, Liberty Hall, Tyler: Join the East Texas Symphony Orchestra and Liberty Hall for an All-American celebration. The event will feature a patriotic concert from the Tyler Big Band and an Apple Pie Baking Contest. The concert starts at 7:30 and the judging of the contest will take place prior to the concert. Winners will be announced after the concert. For ticket information go to www.etso.org or libertytyler.com. To receive an entry form and contest rules for the pie contest go to www.etso.org or the ETSO office at 107 E. Erwin St. A panel of local celebrity judges will be judging the pies on appearance, crust and flavor. The grand prize will be a Perfect Pastry Class for the winner and three friends with Chef Simon Webster from Sabor a Pasion Estate & Vineyard. Chef Webster was born in England and raised in New Zealand and was classically trained in pastry and culinary arts at the New Zealand Culinary Institute through the City & Guilds of London.
July 4, Anywhere in East Texas: Backyard cookouts, grilling by the pool, picnic in the park or a day on the water – however you spend your Fourth of July, do it with plenty of traditional food, such as hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, cole slaw, homemade ice cream and apple pie.
July 26, Sabor a Pasion Grape Stomp, Palestine: Live music, grape stomping, footprint T-shirts, food, drinks and other activities. Benefitting the Elmwood and Montalba volunteer fire departments who saved the vineyard from the 2011 wildfires. For ticket information go to www.saborapasion.com or call 903-729-9500.
August 9, Black Tie Bingo: A Night at Moulin Rouge, Downtown Tyler: High stakes bingo, auction, French cuisine and spirits. Benefits Heart of Tyler main street programs. For more information go to www.heartoftyler.org .
August 14 to 16, Some Like it Hot Festival, FRESH by Brookshire’s: A celebration of spicy foods with cooking demonstrations, activities and store specials. For more information go to www.freshbybrookshires.org .
“I love to find the local mom and pops no matter where I travel. I won’t do chains when out and about, nor will I eat something I can easily find at home if there are more authentic choices,” Jennifer Smith Cook, Jacksonville
Echo Springs Blueberry Farm: Pick your own blueberries or shop in their store. 7235 Farm-to-Market Road 607N, Murchison, 903-852-5277, www.echospringsblueberryfarm.com
Ripe, Tyler: Homegrown produce, snip-your-own-herbs, dried mushrooms, fresh eggs, plants and more. On days when you can’t shop the farmers market Ripe sources locally-grown produce and a variety of eggs. 12239 Texas Highway 64 W, Tyler, 903-262-4582.
Area Farmer’s Markets: Tyler has three farmers markets this year located behind the mall, at the fairgrounds and in the Jul’s restaurant parking lot on Old Jacksonville Highway. Shop until 1 p.m. on Tuesdays or Saturdays at all three markets and on Thursdays at the market behind the mall. In Lindale, visit the market on Blackberry Square and Fatt Apple on Saturdays.
FRESH by Brookshire’s: Grabbing something to go from the chef-prepared case or a casual dinner on the patio at the 801 Grill makes summer dining easy and delicious. FRESH offers fun meal-planning solutions and hundreds of ways to fill your picnic basket or create a party by the pool with ease.Live music on the patio every weekend.
Brookshire’s Produce Department, Rice Road and Broadway: Miss the farmers market? Local produce is always available at the Rice Road location of Brookshire’s. From Jacksonville tomatoes, Noonday, East Texas corn, blueberries, squash and zucchini – the store’s produce department has some of the most unique and creative offerings for fresh, homegrown flavor.
Leona General Store: “It’s just something you have to do. But be sure to get there early!” – April Johnston, Palestine. The Leona General Store is almost too far to consider it in East Texas, but the steaks and the experience are good enough to make the list. From Palestine head west on Texas Highway 79 to Buffalo. Then go south on State Highway 75 to the small town of Leona. They are only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Many say if you aren’t there by 5:00 then you won’t get fed. 136 N. Leona Blvd, Leona, Texas, 75850 (Texas Highway 75 and Farm-to-Market Road 977,903-344-2202.
Longview Farmers Market: Visit the Historic Longview Farmers Market on Saturdays and Wednesdays from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Enjoy live music, prepared food, baked goods, art and crafts, homemade soaps and lotions, farm-raised meat and lots of homegrown fruits and vegetables. For more information go to www.historiclongviewfarmersmarket.com .
Kiepersol Tasting Room, Vineyard & Distillery, Tyler: Spend and evening or the day at Kiepersol Estates visting their vineyard, winery, tasting room, restaurant and distillery. This year a new tasting room has been built, as well as a distillery where Dirk’s vodka is made from Kiepersol estate grapes. Tours and tastings available Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., 4120 Farm-to-Market Road 344 E, 903-894-8995.
Sadler's Kitchen, Jacksonville: Nothing says summer like a slice of pie and Sadler’s Kitchen in Jacksonville has some of the best pie in East Texas. Go for dinner and enjoy a burger, steak, seafood or pasta and finish it off with a slice of chocolate, coconut cream, strawberry or lemon icebox pie. On Thursdays, the have a farmer’s market on the patio starts at 5 p.m. Located at 101 S. Bonner, Jacksonville, 903-589-0866
The Stand, Tyler: Hot dogs are an American tradition and the iconic food of summer. And the best place to try an assortment of dogs is at The Stand Hot Dogs & Sausages. From boudin to bratwurst, Italian-style or Chicago, you can top your dogs with grilled onions, BBQ sauce, kraut, relish and, even, mac & cheese. Located north of Loop 49 on Old Jacksonville Highway at 16700 Farm-to-Market Road 2493. For more information go to www.thestandhotdogs.com or call 903-504-3292.
Grown in East Texas
Jacksonville Tomatoes: “My daughter and I cannot get enough Jacksonville tomatoes. She has loved then since she started eating solid food. All it needs is a sprinkle of salt and pepper and it is perfection.” Dana Hughey, Tyler
East Texas Blueberries: “Some of my favorite summer memories are from going to pick-your-own farms with family. It was great fun and we always came back with enough blueberries for lots of pies, muffins, pancakes and more – even after we ate out of the bucket all day long.” Grant Gardner, Tyler
Fresh Figs: “You don’t often see figs at the market, but ask around and you may find a neighbor or friend with a tree. Fortunately, I know someone with a tree who is not a fan of figs. I can’t wait to raid her and leave only slim pickings for the squirrels.” Christine Gardner, Tyler
Cooper or Ragsdale Peaches
Purple Hull Peas
Homegrown Herbs: Growing fresh herbs is easy and takes very little room. A couple of pots in a sunny window or on the patio will yield all the basil, mint, thyme, oregano or rosemary you could possibly need for a summer of great seasoning. The Green Acres Herb Farm on Highway 69, on the way to Jacksonville, is a wonderful place to go for some creative options. Pineapple sage and chocolate mint are just a couple of the fun herbs they offer.
Things to Eat Frozen
Andy’s Frozen Custard: “The line at Andy’s Frozen Custard says it all, doesn’t it? The kids love it, especially with M&M’s.” Dana Hughey, Tyler
Snow Cones: Locations throughout the area including Red Barn Square, W. Gentry and 5th street near Golden Road. “We love the Red Barn Snow Cone Stand. Either Rainbow, Blue Coconut or Wedding are our favorite flavors.” Susie Bergfeld Lofquist, Tyler
Paletas: These popular Latin American pops are made from fresh fruit and can be found at many Mexican markets in the area. One popular palateria that was mentioned by readers ins Palateria Polar located at 917 S. Vine, Tyler.
Plain Old Popsicles
Homemade Ice Cream
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Salted Caramel Milkshake from Sonic
Gelato from FRESH by Brookshire’s
Dairy Queen Dipped Cone
GoldenBrook Farms Black Cherry Chocolate Greek Frozen Yogurt
Throw it on the Grill
“Anything and everything, from steak to salmon and corn to zucchini. A grill basket is a must have.” Brian Pearson, Tyler
Hot Dogs, brats and Sausages
Pizza: Look for pizza stones made for the grill. They withstand the high surface temperatures of the grill and can create results that are similar to wood-fired pizza ovens.
Plank Grilling: Using grill planks, usually cedar, are an easy way to grill fish or other meat and impart a smoky, fragrant flavor to the food. A variety of planks designed for grilling everything from salmon to steak, even brie are available at Sweet Gourmet on S. Broadway in the Tyler French Quarter.
Smoked Chickens: “On Sunday afternoons I like to fire up the smoker and cook a couple of chickens. Pair that with some grilled vegetables, potato salad and my wife’s, three bean salad and you have the perfect lazy Sunday supper.” Jerry Gardner
Mixed Vegetables: Whatever is fresh – onions, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, broccoli, even peaches – just cut into chunks, toss in oil, lemon, salt and pepper and place in a grill basket. It’s the perfect side to any grilled meat.