PUNGENT DISHES: If you've ever been to a food festival, then you know there tends to be one or several centerpiece cook-offs, many involving home cooks with Really Big Ideas about the star ingredient of the weekend. But those home cooks didn't just get everything together that morning, pots, pans, and their dish's concept, before leaving for the festival grounds. They've spent months perfecting their plate, from flavor and tone to appearance and finish. Months? Okay, a year, quite often, if they started immediately after the last festival wrapped. So while we attendees may drift by a cook-off, plastic spoon and paper plate in hand, ready to try, we should all pay respect to those recipe-smart competitors, people who have planned. And the planning for one of the biggest food festivals in all the land is already very much underway. Did you just get a spicy taste in your mouth, some sort of foodie foreshadowing? We bet you did, because we're talking about the Gilroy Garlic Festival, which cloves up the weekend of July 25 through 27.
RECIPE WANTED: If you have a ginormously popular garlic recipe, one the friends and fam rave over, then best get it into the fest people by May 1. Garlic pasta with brie, garlic tahini bliss, garlic cookies -- why not? -- garlic milkshakes -- why not again? -- garlic anything, the lines are open. There are a few rules, like the number of cloves that must appear in each dish or amount of minced or chopped garlic, and, if you make it to the top, you'll cook alongside seven other garlic lovers on stage at the fest on July 26. So performance under pressure is key. The 2013 winning recipe? Carnival-Style Fish Sticks with Lemony Jalapeno Mayonnaise and Spicy Apple Kohlrabi Slaw, by the by, so get inspired, garlicians. Oh, and top price? Five thousand cloves, er, clams, er, bucks. The heat, as the song says, is on.