It’s that time of year when heirloom tomato fans flock to tastings, workshops and festivals.
Heirloom tomatoes have captured their attention thanks to their irregular shapes and rainbow of colors — including shades of red, green, yellow, purple and striped or with a painted-splattered appearance — and memorable names like Mortgage Lifter, Black Krim and Green Zebra.
Heirlooms also are admired by tomato fans for what they insist is an orb of superior flavor.
I spotted my first Kurlbaum heirloom tomatoes of the season during a 10-year anniversary dinner last week at Michael Smith Restaurant. Liz “The Tomato Lady” and her husband, Sky Kurlbaum, were at the dinner and eagerly filled me in on this year’s roster of chef dinners at their farm in Kansas City, Kan.
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“People are just champing at the bit and can’t wait to get tomatoes in their hands and in their mouths,” Liz says.
Smith will be teaming up with chef Jasper Mirabile of Jasper’s Restaurant for a dinner at the Kurlbaums’ farm. The menu includes heirloom tomato soup en cuppuccino and an heirloom tomato salad with Missouri plums, warm goat cheese and Amarena cherry dressing. (Aug. 1, $150).
There are also still seats for a Kurlbaum’s Shawnee Mission East High School fundraiser presented by Brio (Aug. 4, $60) and a benefit for Wayside Waifs at Chicken and Pickle in North Kansas City featuring chef Alex Staub (Aug. 14, $70).
If you can’t make one of the dinners, she lets her fans in on which restaurants feature Kurlbaum tomatoes through an email blast. If you want to get on her “tomaniac” list, send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jasper’s has become famous for serving Kurlbaum heirloom tomatoes as part of the restaurant’s seasonal Mozzarella Theater. When I stopped by the dining room for a Facebook Live on making mozzarella, burrata and ricotta, Mirabile said when the Kurlbaums’ tomatoes begin to flow his customers can’t seem to get enough caprese salad. ($9.95 per person, minimum of two people, available every night until Oct. 1.)
Mirabile is also teaching a tomato and mozzarella class at Olive Tree in Overland Park (July 24, $55). And he’s teaming up with James Worley, a Department of Conservation education specialist who is known as the “Tomato Whisperer.”
Worley will be hosting a four-course dinner (Aug. 4, $35) at Jasper’s, featuring fresh heirlooms in every course.
Worley is also the organizer of the 9th Annual Tomato Tasting at The Local Pig (9 a.m., Aug. 5). This event is free and open to the public. Participants are encouraged to bring labeled tomatoes from their gardens and/or tomato dishes or other tasty treats to share. Last year the event drew more than 200 attendees.
At 1 p.m. there will be a BLT Challenge to benefit Slow Food and the Veteran’s Community Project. The challenge is $5 and judging is $25. For more information, go to Worley’s blog.