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Kitchen showdowns, demos and more! Photo credit:

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It's here! It's finally here, the time of year where that glorious, shiny orb in the sky is exuding its warm rays upon us and we can bring our foodie loving ways to the outdoors. It's one of my favorite times of year because I can pretend that basking in the sun while getting in some steps is enough to burn some extra calories that I have every intention of devouring.

Here's just a couple fun outdoor events to get you started:

The Olympia Farmers Market celebrates their annual Berry Harvest Celebration Saturday, June 29, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Pacific Northwest berry harvest is teeming with juicy, plump berries of all sorts fueling berry delicious shenanigans worthy of a festival-styled gathering. Among festivities that include live music, berry-themed vendors and restaurants concocting fresh berry culinary works of art, there will also be a series of workshops! Starting at 11 a.m., you have Story Time in the Garden with TRL with "berry" fun music, movement, and books for the whole family. Followed by Helping Pollinators with Olympia Beekeepers Association, Soil Testing for Success with Thurston Conservation District, and Growing Berries with Burnt Ridge Orchard and Nursery.

Each year, you can also anticipate supple servings of handcrafted Market Berry Shortcake and feel good about the indulgence as all proceeds generated from sales benefit the Holiday Food Drive. These funds help provide local families in need with meal boxes during the holiday season. Bask in the sweet nectar of the berry harvest; the event is free to attend and open to all, rain or shine. 700 Capitol Way S., Olympia

I usually head to Point Defiance to quietly soak in the splendor of the nature around us, but once a year, the Taste of Tacoma (Friday-Sunday) gets me out there for an afternoon of beer and booze gardens, food trucks and outdoor grub, and live music. But that just skims the surface. My very favorite festivities are the cooking demos and "CHOPPED" styled mystery basket cook-offs that you can spy local chefs duking it out over. The Taste Cooks!, presented by Albert Lee Appliance, features cooking battles and demonstrations all weekend.

What is intriguing and endlessly entertaining is getting a glimpse into local chefs' favorite recipes and techniques, and the witty banter as they dive into a basket full of mystery ingredients. 

Bonus, if you happen to be spectating, you might be one of the lucky viewers who get to taste and critique and judge the grub. The winning chef will be announced live, and will receive a $100 donation in their name towards the charity of their choice. Last year's winners donated to charities including Ronald McDonald House, Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Emergency Food Network. Some of the best chefs in the South Sound will make appearances including returning competitors: Jon Maley (Ch?cH), Saffron Hodgson "The Aussie" (, Hudson Slater (Asado Cucina), Aura Mae the Kitchen Beautician, and Shawn Tibbitts (Tibbitts@FernHill) and some new to The Taste Cooks! stage: Jan Parker (Jan Parker Cookery), Brittany Erwin (Cooks Tavern), and Kris Blondin (Devour). For the full lineup of The Taste Cooks! demonstrations and cook-offs, or for other Taste of Tacoma details, head to 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday, 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma

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