Food & Drink

Attack of the killer (in a good way) tomato festivals

The Liquid Caprese: a tasty tomato cocktail

Motor Supply Co Bistro's Josh Streetman uses garden fresh tomatoes to create a summertime refresher
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Motor Supply Co Bistro's Josh Streetman uses garden fresh tomatoes to create a summertime refresher

Growing tomatoes in the South is a given. Whether it be a big box store variant or an heirloom variety, almost everyone at one time in his or her life has had at least one plant— even if it’s in a pot on a porch.

Harvest season has begun and in the Columbia area, the tomato will be celebrated with three festivals: The 5th Annual ALR Mater-fest, SPLAT 2017 and the Tasty Tomato Festival. Each festival is a little bit different, but all focus on the ’mater.

Maybe during one of these events, we can finally come to a consensus as to whether you consider the tomato a vegetable or a fruit...

5th Annual ALR Mater-fest

5-8 p.m. Thursday, July 13, at Richland Post 6 American Legion, 200 Pickens St., Tickets $10/person at the door.

Heirloom tomatoes and everything else you need for the perfect tomato sandwich will be provided at Mater-fest, says Rupert Rentz. This event is a fundraiser for The Legacy Fund that provides scholarships for children of parents who lost their lives while serving our country or are VA-rated, post 9-11 veterans with a combined disability rating or higher.

“100 percent of the proceeds from Mater-fest goes to The Legacy Fund,” Rentz says. According to him, Mater-fest raised $1,500 last year and The American Legion and Legion Riders combined efforts raised around $22,000 in 2016.

For his part, “I’ll be in the kitchen makin’ bacon,” for the build-you-own tomato sandwich bar. And although there’s a contest for the most creative sandwich, “most people just eat them rather than enter them,” says Rentz.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a tomato dish to share and there will be prizes awarded for the best tomato dish and best dessert (non-tomato is fine). You can even enter the ’mater eating contest (you may want to bring a bib — or wear an old shirt).

SPLAT 2017

9 a.m.-3 p.m. July 22 at 2528 Old Dutch Road, Little Mountain. or call (803) 924-6084.

Join the South Carolina Piedmont Lycopersicum Annual Tasting of heirloom tomatoes at the home of Rodger Winn, of Rodger’s Heirlooms. Winn is a seed saver and grower of heirloom varieties for various national seed catalogs. His multiple gardens should be at their peak. Stroll through an English-inspired formal garden or check out his vegetable and flower gardens (he grows over 120 varieties of tomatoes, as well as okra, peppers, peas and beans, and flowers such as zinnias and sunflowers).

Winn likes to mix his perennial green shrubbery with flowering annuals and vegetable plants, so you may see pods of red okra or purple-podded beans among the boxwoods.

In addition to the garden tours, there will be seed saving demonstrations, general tomato care information and Winn will be available for your questions. Dress for a day on a farm, summer weather and possible rain. Event is free, donations accepted. Bring your heirlooms to show off and share. Enjoy tomato sandwiches (white bread, Dukes and ’maters) and live music.

Tasty Tomato Festival

1-7 p.m. Aug. 5 at City Roots, 1005 Airport Blvd. $12/person/advance online, $15/person/cash only day of event. Tickets and more information at or

Presented by Sustainable Midlands, Tasty Tomato is probably the better known of the tomato festivals. This event held at City Roots Farm celebrates all things tomato-y with heirloom tomato tastings, tomato bobbing, tomato-centric foods and beverages, plus craft beer, live music, farm tours, scavenger hunt and bounce houses.

Tomato growers can enter their bounty in the Homegrown Tomato Contest which honors the best grown colors (red, yellow, purple and unusual) and sizes (big or small) and type of grower (public garden, school or community garden or child’s home garden).

Those with an eye for artful arrangement or natural settings can enter the Show Me Your Tomato Photo Contest. Categories in this contest include On the Vine, On the Plate and Tomatoes Unleashed (get really creative with this one!).

Local bartending legend Joshua Streetman, of Motor Supply Co Bistro, created a cocktail from fresh tomatoes from his garden. Here is his version of caprese...

Liquid Caprese

Makes one drink

1 ripe, medium tomato

1 sprig fresh basil

1/4 ounce white balsamic vinegar

1/4 ounce rice wine vinegar

dash maraschino liqueur

1 ounce gin

dash fresh lemon juice

1/2 ounce agave nectar


fresh basil and cherry tomato for garnish

In a large tumbler, muddle together the tomato and basil.

Add white balsamic vinegar, rice wine vinegar, maraschino liqueur, gin, lemon juice and agave nectar. Fill tumbler with ice and shake to combine.

Strain liquid into clean cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh basil and cherry tomato.

Josh Streetman, Motor Supply Co Bistro