The dog days of summer have arrived. Most camps are winding down. Vacations are a distant memory. Now it's just time to kick back and count the days until school starts.
But, as every parent knows, there are only so many times you can hear, "I'm bored. There's nothing to do," before you're tempted to just hand over the credit card and unleash the kids in the mall. Fortunately, there are a number of food-filled adventures that can be had before school is back in session.
Ever wonder what it's like to make your own cheese? It's probably not something most kids have thought about, but it can be a fun diversion for a rainy day and it's not at all complicated if you buy a kit. I first saw Ricki's Cheesemaking Kit at a Whole Foods Market, and it was always in the back of my mind as something I wanted to try. Finally, a friend and I got together and, with some milk we bought at the Westport Farmers Market, we experienced the miracle of making homemade mozzarella. Making it was easy; making it look pretty was another matter altogether, but it was a great way to spend an afternoon. The kits are available at Whole Foods or online at www.cheesemaking.com.
Speaking of Whole Foods, they have several events scheduled for August, such as Veggiecation (a nutrition program where kids can learn about vegetables), a Kids Italian Cooking Class, Kids Healthy Lunchbox Building, Kids Sushi Class, and Kid's Cooking Classes of Kids Favorites and Baked Desserts.
If you feel like taking a field trip (literally), there are a number of local farms that are fun to visit. You can go with a shopping list, or make a game of it and buy an assortment of vegetables and see how creative you can get in the kitchen.
This Saturday, Aug. 11, the 4th annual Easton Farm Tour will take place. Lots of events are planned, including pony rides, an antique farm tool exhibit, petting zoo, food tastings, greenhouse tours, Easton-grown and harvested veggies and fruit fresh from the farm, and pick-your-own activities. Best of all, it's free. For a full run-down, check out www.citizensforeaston.org
A little farther afield, in Orange, is this summer's hottest food-oriented find: the Pez Visitors Center. That's right -- the iconic candy is actually manufactured right next door to Fairfield County. Visitors can go on a self-guided tour that includes displays of all sorts of different Pez dispensers, trivia games and glass floors filled with candy. Kids can make their own video and can watch the workers on the assembly line. (Nothing like having hundreds of eyes staring at you all day while you work.) Admission is $5, $4 for children and seniors, and with each paid admission, you get a $2 voucher to spend in the store.
If their sweet tooth still isn't satisfied, kids can rock their chefs' toques at some area bakeries.
In Trumbull, the Cookie Workshop is a place where kids can make their own nut-free cookies. They roll out the dough, cut it into shapes, watch them bake and then go to town decorating them. Closer to home in Westport, Cake Suite has two events coming up. Cake Camp for Kids runs from Aug. 13 through 15, where kids ages 7 to 14 can learn everything there is to know about cake baking and decorating. On Tuesday, Aug. 21, adults can get in on the action with a Cupcake Chemistry class.
The excitement of summer may be coming to an end, but there's still plenty to do when it comes to exploring the culinary world around us. And when all else fails, there's always the last ice cream of summer to enjoy.
Patti Woods is a freelance writer; email her at email@example.com.
Cheesemaking kits: Available on line at www.cheesemaking.com
Whole Foods: Offering classes and events at each location.
Fairfield, 350 Grasmere Ave.; 203-319-9544
Westport, 399 Post Road West; 203-227-6858
Easton Farm Tour
Saturday, Aug. 11, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Start self-guided tours at the Easton Firehouse Green, 1 Center Road, Easton
Pez Candy Visitors Center
Admission: Children under 3 years old, free; children 3-12, $4; adults, $5; seniors, $4
Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m.
(Note: the production floor is usually not operating during weekends and holidays.)
35 Prindle Hill Road, Orange; 203-298-0201
The Cookie Workshop
Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; closed Mondays
100 Corporate Drive, B104, Trumbull; 203-452-8872
47 Saugatuck Ave., Westport; 203-557-0247