Nosh News: Everybody Loves a Cheeseball Edition

April is National Florida Tomato Month.

Happy National Cheeseball Day! Don’t have the time (or the stomach) to ball up a wad of brie so you can celebrate? Well, Sunday, April 22, is National Jelly Bean Day. And you’ve got all of April to commemorate National Florida Tomato Month, along with National Soft Pretzel Month and the oh-so-unspecific National Food Month. Where did all these food holidays — seems like there’s at least one for just about every day on the calendar — come from, anyway?  Bon Appétit explains it all: How National Food Holidays Became a Thing.

When most people look at a hunk of cheese, they envision a snack or a meal. Painter Mike Geno, however, sees artistic inspiration. The Philadelphia artist has made a career out of painting portraits of beautiful blues, richly textured cheddars and other visions de fromage. Jeff Gordinier’s profile of Geno for the New York Times, Like the Mona Lisa, but on a Cracker, includes some delicious tidbits about the artist’s process (yes, he does devour his subjects after he’s polished off a canvas) and a slideshow of some of his works.

Know what goes great with cheese? Beer. If you’re looking for a new microbrew to savor, the Trot Line’s got you covered. The Atlanta-based website’s coverage of Southern culture includes detailed, thoughtful reviews of beers from all over the region. Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale from Mississippi brewery Lazy Magnolia, for example, sounds like a must-try to me. If you prefer the hard stuff, The Trot Line’s writers have a lot to say about bourbon, as well.

Nosh News: The Best of Everything Edition

Anthony Bourdain vs. Paula Deen: Two celebrity chefs enter, one leaves (possibly slathered in butter).

’Tis the season for Top 10 lists. Here’s a rundown of 10 of the most entertaining best-of-the-year roundups I’ve found around the Web, in no particular order:

1. Top 10 Food Trends of 2011 by TIME. A wide-ranging overview of the year’s highs and lows. Thumbs up to #3: The New Vegetarians and #10: Regional Food, thumbs down to #9: Texting at the Table.

2. Top 10 New Foods at the 2011 State Fairs by Endless Simmer. Check out which state nabs the dubious honor of #1 fair-food innovation.

3. Top 10 Food-Related Lawsuits of 2011 by LA Weekly’s Squid Ink blog. A big thank you to the plaintiff behind lawsuit #3 for ruining late-night Taco Bell runs for the rest of us.

4. Travelers’ Choice 2011 Top 10 Food & Wine Destinations in the United States by TripAdvisor. I visited four of the 10 cities on this list in 2011 (and, in previous years, I’ve dined in three more). While #3 Chicago, will always be my favorite place on the planet to eat because it’s my hometown, my introduction this year to the dining scene in #1 New Orleans landed that city high on my own list of the most enticing food destinations.

5. The Best Cocktails of 2011 by Tasting Table. Blame it on Mad Men. In 2011, classic cocktails edged out other alcoholic beverages, prompting home mixologists to begin experimenting with bitters, shakers and garnishes. If you’ve already perfected your take on the French 75, this list offers 10 fresh recipes to test-drive.

6. Top 10 Food-World Spats of 2011 by CHOW. My personal favorite smackdown? Anthony Bourdain, who seems to despise everyone in the culinary world but himself (and his dudebro David Chang, of course), vs. the equally unctuous Paula Deen.

7. Ten Best Vegan Cookbooks of 2011 by VegNews. A great resource for everyone who wants to add more meatless dishes to their cooking and baking repertoires. As a lifelong diner devotee, I need to add a copy of “Vegan Diner: Classic Comfort Food for the Body & Soul” by Portland, Ore., chef Julie Hasson to my cookbook collection.

8. Top 10 Food-Related Apps by the Washington Post. Perfect for foodies who received a shiny new iPad or smartphone for the holidays. I’m eager to explore Chefs Feed, which features prominent chefs’ picks for great dining experiences in a handful of U.S. cities, with more locales to be added in 2012.

9. Top 10 Food Trends for 2012 by Epicurious (via Yahoo! Shine). An intriguing look ahead at the forces that will shape how we eat in 2012. I’ll be watching to see how these trends play out in Tallahassee in the coming year. We’re already got several excellent artisan cheesemakers in the area, and I hear that there’s a new churro purveyor in town, but I have yet to spot fennel pollen on a local menu.

10. Top 10 Simpsons Food Episodes by LA Weekly’s Squid Ink blog. OK, so this list isn’t limited to 2011 episodes, but it’s way too much fun to miss. Whether you’re fantasizing about a colossal donut or a mug filled with Skittlebrau — or perhaps something slightly less Homeric — here’s hoping that 2012 serves up an array of edible delights.

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.