It's finally summer.
I keep hearing people talk about "that winter" and how we survived it.
And the weather of late has been glorious in northern Indiana and southern Michigan.
We'll take it. It feels like we earned it. And as we gather outside, we should eat as many local strawberries, blueberries and sweet corn as we can stomach. Let's just say that's a given.
Here are five other things you should eat this summer in or around Elkhart County, plus something to wash it down:
1. Dean Karacson's tomatoes. Karacson is a tomato-growing genius. For decades, the Edwardsburg man has filled a couple greenhouses with tomato plants. In the spring, he puts the plants in rich soil and strings up the vines. He lets three tomatoes mature near the ground and takes some of the leaves off the plant above it.
I got to write about Karacson for the new digital magazine for Flavor574 that came out a couple weeks ago. You can download it on a tablet to see some gorgeous photos and more cool stories about a range of stories around the theme "Homegrown."
But you should have one of the tomatoes. He literally picks them with gloves and knows how to grow one that's full of flavor. You can get them at his stand on weekends at 25195 U.S. 12, Edwardsburg, or at Charlie's Butcher Block in Elkhart.
2. The Nut Shoppe’s gelato and sorbet on a stick. The Nut Shoppe, 204 S. Main St., Goshen, started making gelato and sorbet a couple years ago. People don't line up the way they do at The Chief. There's less history than at Yup's Dairyland, Simonton Lake Drive-In or Flavor Freeze.
But Justin and Danae Bell now put the gelato and sorbet on a stick and dip it in chocolate. So you can get a bar made with cinnamon gelato and dark chocolate. Or perhaps a fruit flavor. They come in milk and dark chocolate, said employee Brandi Morehouse. They're $2.50 each or five for $10.
3. Baker's Nook Cafe's peanut butter danish. Linda Zimmerman started a bakery to make pies, cakes, breads and cookies that were part of her Mennonite heritage. But then she started expanding. So when the late Chris Arvanitis wanted her to try baklava, a Mediterranean dessert made with puff pastry, nuts and honey, she gave it a shot and has done it well.
Recently she started making danishes. Conversations with customers led her to make a peanut butter danish like the one that DeBoni's Bakery used to make in Elkhart years ago.
The danishes, peanut butter and other flavors, are tender and rich. They could be a bit flakier, but are a good start. They're $1.29 each and are available at the bakery east of Goshen or at the cafe at 127 Easy Shopping Place, Elkhart.
4. Stella Moo burger at Flippin' Cow, Elkhart. The burger that has won Elkhart County Burger Wars and is competing in Northern Indiana Burger Wars is getting a lot of love these days.
But it's just a fine burger. The toppings, bun and burger make it worth a visit to Flippin' Cow. And make it worth voting for in Burger Wars. Wouldn't it be cool if an Elkhart County burger topped the list among seven Indiana counties? The restaurant is at 51330 S.R. 19, Elkhart, and the burger is $9.49.
5. Eggplant Arugula Salad at Antonio's Italian Ristorante, Elkhart. The search for the best salad in Elkhart County ended in October at Antonio's and Sports Time Family Pub & Grill. Owner Paul Cataldo kindly pointed out it would have been nice to name a winning salad earlier in the season. So this is a reminder that the salad is there and it's still darn good.
The eggplant is breaded lightly and fried and then layered with fresh mozzarella and tomato slices. Then it gets a topping of arugula, mint and other greens dressed with honey and balsamic vinegar.
This is a vegetarian salad that feels meaty. You could probably make it vegan, but that'd be a shame. I can't think of a way to improve it.
Steve Kruse of Kruse Farm Supply is selling Cataldo greens and onions. (Kruse will also have more wasabi arugula that you may find at some local restaurants again soon. It's fun and funky to eat greens that have a spicy bite.)
6. Black Walnut Creme from DiVine/Round Barn Winery. The southwest Michigan winery is turning black walnuts into a creme wine that tastes like Bailey's, only better. It took three years to get the mix right, according to those at the winery. But it's $19.99 a bottle and worth a taste. This could also be a winter warmer, but there are ways to enjoy it this summer too - such as drizzled on ice cream.
There's my list. It's only a start. What's on yours?
However you cook out, eat out and take in this summer, be safe and eat well.
I'm hungry. Let's eat.
Marshall V. King is managing editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.