Sing along, won't you? "It's the most wonderful time of the year ..." No, not the holidays, silly. We're of good cheer because it's high season for tomatoes; home gardens, farmers markets and grocery stores are bursting with heirlooms and hybrids, from Brandywines to Sun Golds. Many Bay Area chefs take advantage of the bounty, turning out creative dishes at festivals and special dinners. Here's a chronological roundup of events: DeRose Vineyards in Hollister will present Tomato Time on Sept. 1, with dishes showcasing more than 50 types of organic heirlooms. For tickets, which are $25, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Sept. 8-9, unusual varietals such as Black Oxhearts and Gary O'Senas (grown at Love Apple Farms in Santa Cruz) will star in David Kinch's prix fixe Tomato Modernista Dinners at Manresa in Los Gatos. Reservations: www.manresarestaurant.com. In Livermore, Matt Greco, the executive chef at The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, has created a $49 prix fixe menu for the Sept. 10-16 Heirloom Tomato Week: Shrimp with Bloody Mary Remoulade, Pork Belly with Tomato-Braised Lima Beans and Tomato Garlic Bread, and Lemon Mascarpone-Tomato Panna Cotta. Reservations: www.wentevineyards.com. The Sept. 15 Heirloom Tomato Festival at Kendall Jackson Winery in Sonoma County will feature tomato-based dishes at 50 booths and a cook-off involving "Top Chef" contestants Kevin Gillespie and Eli Kirshtein. Author Debbie Macomber ("Cedar Cove Cookbook") will be a celebrity judge. For tickets, which are $85, go to www.kj.com. In Oakland, Oliveto's Celebration of the Tomato will begin with a tomato tasting Sept. 16 (tickets: $15), after which chef Jonah Rhodehamel will announce the menu he's fashioned for the dinners Sept. 18-21. All dishes will be available a la carte. Reservations: 510-547-5356; www.oliveto.com. Are you a great salsa maker? Or a great salsa eater? The Redwood City Salsa Festival will celebrate both at its Sept. 29 event at Courthouse Square. There's still time to enter your salsa recipe and make it for festival-goers, but act quickly: Go to www.redwoodcity.org and print out the entry form. It must have an Aug. 31 postmark. Festival admission is free. In Merced County, the Los Banos Tomato Festival will take place Oct. 6-7 in a town that has long been a tomato-processing center. There will be eating and competing; events include a Bloody Mary contest, a salsa contest and a pasta sauce contest. Celeb chef Ryan Scott, of San Francisco, will join the festivities. Admission is $5. Details: www.lbtomatofestival.com.
-- Linda Zavoral, Staff