PICKING: BERRY FAST
Looking for something fun, yet competitive, to do with your sweetie in advance of Valentine’s Day? Wish Farms and Monte Package Co. are collaborating on the fifth annual Strawberry Picking Challenge this weekend.
The main event Saturday features teams that battle it out in a relay-style race through the strawberry field competing to win the title "Best Harvest Crew." In addition to the ace berry picking, there will be live entertainment, fun activities and a whole lot of strawberries at Futch Farms in Plant City. An on-site BBQ lunch, fresh strawberry shortcake and kids’ meals will be available for purchase.
"We had an amazing turnout last year," say Gary Wishnatzki, owner of Wish Farms, one of the state’s largest strawberry shippers. "While the Strawberry Picking Challenge has grown every year, the heart of the event is simple: bring the community together for a day of fun in the field to recognize our valued farm workers."
He’s not whistling Dixie. The event has raised more than $328,000 for the nonprofit Redlands Christian Migrant Association, which provides child care and early education for children of migrant farm workers and rural low-income families. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Parking and admission are free, and U-pick strawberries are $5 per quart if you want to get in on the action. 3536 Futch Loop, Plant City. wishfarms.com/spc.
BOOZE: TURTLEY AWESOME
Sure, you could do flowers or champagne, but here’s a thoughtful V-Day gift for the Florida wildlife lover in your world. Naked Turtle White Rum is doing its part to give our flippered friends a fighting chance. For every bottle of the gluten-free, preservative-free, five-times distilled rum, a donation is made to the Sea Turtle Conservancy to save a baby sea turtle. It’s not nesting season right now, but it’s still a delicious way to help the world’s oldest sea turtle research and conservation group. Get sipping, because nearly all species of sea turtle are classified as endangered. You can buy Naked Turtle at ABC and Total Wine, but a number of local bars are also getting in on the act: You can get a Naked Turtle Pipeline Punch at Pearly’s Beach Eats in Clearwater, a blackberry mojito at Black Rock Bar & Grill, a rum punch at Ducky’s Sports Lounge or a classic mojito at Green Lemon, all in Tampa.
OYSTERS: SECRET VALENTINE’S TREAT
M.F.K. Fisher, that great food writer, penned the ultimate tribute to the most aphrodisiacal of bivalves back in 1941, and few essays have ever been more perfect than "Consider the Oyster." I tend to agree with the magical powers often ascribed to the creatures, and here’s a tip: Take your sweetie to Bartaco in Hyde Park Village in Tampa for the fried oyster taco. They are bringing it back Friday through Feb. 16 and it’s not on the menu so you have to ask. I’m telling you, you’ll look like slick rick ordering off the secret menu. You’re welcome. 1601 W Snow Ave, Tampa. (813) 258-8226. bartaco.com.
FESTIVAL: WINE AND CHOCOLATE
The Ybor City Wine Bar offers a sweet opportunity from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday with the annual Valentine’s "Sip and Shop" showcase with more than 75 wines paired with gourmet chocolates, cheeses and desserts. You’ll also find a Valentine’s gift if you’re stumped, with specials on wine, gift baskets, and free gift wrapping and bags for purchases. $45. 1600 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City. (813) 999-4966. yborcitywinebar.com.