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557 S. Limestone 253-0014. Voted best pancakes by Ace readers in the Best of Lexington poll year after year. Winner of 2001's "Best Veggie Friendly Restaurant." Live music. Free evening parking behind the building. Daily specials. Lunch, Monday - Friday 11-2. Dinner, Tuesday-Thursday 5:30-9, Friday & Saturday 5:30-10. Brunch, Saturday and Sunday 10-2.

Billy's Bar-B-Q
101 Cochran Rd. At the corner of High St. in Chevy Chase. 269-9593. Genuine Western Kentucky style pit barbecue and fixins. Dine in/ carry out/ catering/ bulk deliveries. We’re the home grown guys. Open M-Th 11am-9pm; F-Sat 11am-10pm; Sun 11:30am-8pm.

Cafe on the Park
369 W. Vine St. at the Radisson Plaza Hotel. www.cafeontheparkcom. (859) 231-9000. Wonderful view of Triangle Park. Breakfast 6:30am until 10:30am daily; breakfast buffet served in season. Lunch 11am-2pm, (pasta bar on Thursdays) Affordable upscale American cuisine and a wonderful wine list 5pm-10pm. 90 minute complimentary parking.

Dudley’s Restaurant
380 S. Mill Street in Historic Dudley Square. 252-1010. A Lexington tradition, with adventurous takes on regional cuisine and an award winning wine list. Patio, bar, and dining room each provide a unique atmostphere. Open everyday: Mon-Sat 11:30-2:30 for lunch; Sun 11:30-2:30 for brunch; and dinner Sun-Thurs 5:30-10 and Fri-Sat 5:30-11. Reservations recommended.

Ed and Fred’s Desert Moon
148 Grand Blvd. 231-1161. Affordable American Cuisine. Gourmet pizzas, fresh pasta, specialty salads and sandwiches, and a wide array of entrees. Informal yet elegant atmosphere. Wonderful wine list! Patio dining and banquet facilities. Lunch: 11a-3p Tue-Fri; Dinner: Tue-Sun.

Emmett’s Restaurant
Off Tates Creek Road, south of Man O’ War, 245-4444, offers innovative Southern cooking in a renovated farmhouse featuring a cozy bar, casual patio dining and seven lovely dining rooms. Dinner served Mon.-Sun. beginning at 5:30 PM and Sunday brunch from 11 AM-2 PM. Reservations accepted.

255-2431. It’s all about the food at this continental eatery where Chef Jim Plymale builds his menu around fresh, seasonal ingredients. For lunch how about Black Bean Cassoulet or Crispy Polenta Napoleon? Imagine the dinner fare. Located on (that’s right) 431 Old Vine St., the atmosphere is smart and cozy. And the bar is the swankiest in town. Dress: As yourself. Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-2:30; Dinner: Mon-Thurs 5:30-10; Fri-Sat 5:30-11.

"Food with Character" 735 E. Main Street (859)266-9000. Full-blooded, dipped in the Bayou, authentic Southwest Louisiana Cuisine at Furlongs! PO-Boys, Burgers, Creole, Etouffees, Gumbo, Pastas, Salads, Seafood, Steaks, Fresh Fish, great daily dinner specials and extensive wine list. Open for dinner: Mon.-Sat. 4-11.

The Homestead
3955 Harrodsburg Rd, 219-9922. Why not tonight? The Homestead Restaurant offers superb regional cuisine in a classic and beautiful setting. A warm and cozy ambience naturally complements the traditional southern dishes prepared by Executive Chef Tony Cortez. Open for dinner six nights a week. Open Sundays during Keeneland and holidays. Dinner: 5:30 Mon-Thur, 5:00 on Fri & Sat.

Jonathan at
Gratz Park

120 West Second Street 252-4949 Redefined regional cuisine served in our Southern dining room or in the English pub room. Festive Sunday brunch from 11:30-2 pm. Reservations suggested. Also call us for intimate dinner parties, fabulous banquets, business lunches, pre-wedding events to the reception.

The Mansion
at Griffin Gate
1800 Newtown Pike. 859-288-6142. Lexington's landmark of good taste. The elegantly restored antebellum mansion offers traditional American and regional southern cuisine with European flavors. Experience gracious dining at Lexington's first Four Diamond rated restaurant. The Mansion is open daily from 6pm-10pm. Reservations are suggested.

Merrick Inn
3380 Tates Creek Rd. (Top of the hill in Merrick Place.) We pride ourselves on being the establishment of choice for over 30 years. Enjoy Chef Jeremy Ashby’s savory nightly specials and superb signature southern cuisine all served in our Kentucky manor house. When the weather’s warm, enjoy Lexington’s favorite patio by the pool offering a more casual menu. Mon.- Thurs 5:30 to 10:00, Fri and Sat 5:30 to 10:30.

Scarborough Fare
355 Romany Road. 859.266.8704. A gourmand’s delight, featuring an array of entrees that will tickle your fancy. Menu changes daily. Deli dining, or gourmet carryout for those on the go. Open Monday-Saturday 10-8.

Starbucks Coffee
University of Kentucky Student Center. 257-1209. Lexington's first full size Starbucks location. Stop in today for fresh brewed coffee, espresso drinks, Frappuccinos, delightful pastries, and Starbucks merchandise. Conveniently close to downtown. We are a cyber-café; come surf the 'net on our laptop computers. Open Mon.-Thurs. 7am-9pm, Fri. 7am-4pm, Sat. 9am-4pm.

Yamamoto Japanese Grill
& Sushi
130 West Tiverton Way. 859-272-6668. Call for reservations. Prepared before your eyes!! Come enjoy our Fresh Sushi and a variety of Sushi Rolls and fantastic performance and taste in Habachi Grill. Lunch Specials and Lunch boxes available $5.95-9.95. Mon-Thurs 11-2, 5-10; Fri 11-2, 5-11; Sat 5-11; Sun 12-9.

l Cook globally, Buy locally

Another steamy summer morning and I stumble into my kitchen with the evening's dinner party weighing heavily on my mind. Armed with coffee and very little inspiration, I head to the Farmers' Market for produce and ideas. Walking past rows of colorful displays of heirloom tomatoes in every shade or orange, yellow, and red fairly bursting with the scent of summer; vibrant basil and lush sage plants, beans of every variety, baskets of okra, and tiny eggplant in every shade imaginable.

While in New York recently on a food-buying trip, I noticed many restaurants embracing the trend of using simple, local ingredients-each cooked to perfection. Each seasonal item is showcased while at its peak and is allowed to shine without the addition of heavy sauces or seasonings.

Likewise, the Farmers' Market here always transports me to European outdoor street vendors-it's so easy to see why the Europeans have always been passionate about shopping seasonally as well as locally. Summertime provides us with the perfect opportunity to choose menu ingredients first and then to form a menu and recipes. Many restaurants are headed back towards simple yet exceptional fare by relying heavily on ingredients that are ripe and in season. The best professional chefs and the kitchen novice can easily wow guests with an insalata caprese made of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes at the peak of ripeness, and basil leaves drenched with a heady, peppery scent. When your pantry is stocked with the best basics such as great extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, a selection of vinegars, and various condiments, it becomes much easier to throw together a divine seasonal meal plan. The same basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella can be combined with sautéed local baby eggplant on country bread to make a delicious summer sandwich. It only needs a drizzle of grassy olive oil and a sprinkle of succulent aged balsamic vinegar to pull all of the flavors together.

If you are tempted by the abundant baskets of green beans at the Farmers' Market, you have many possibilities for recipe success. Try steaming your beans until they are just slightly crunchy and adding them to boiled new potatoes with a simple olive oil and grainy mustard dressing. Rustic, tasty, beautiful fare that anyone can put together. Try going for an Italian-themed dinner with your insalata caprise, bruschetta rubbed with olive oil, salt, and garlic, and a straightforward homemade marinara over capellini pasta. Summer tomatoes simply beg to be simmered down with extra virgin olive oil, sautéed onions, salt, pepper, and of course, generous handfuls of fresh basil. You can create a meal reminiscent of the Tuscan countryside and set the mood by decorating your table with mason jars of fresh basil, dill, and rosemary sprigs mixed with lush floral bouquets from the Farmers' Market. As for the bounty of summer squash that you might encounter-try sautéing slices of squash in olive oil with garlic, pepper, and oregano until just tender, then tossing with pasta, cherry tomatoes, and a grating of aged Parmigiano Reggiano. Easy, yet sophisticated.

Last weekend, at Pastis in New York-in the trendy meat packing district-I ordered leg of lamb with grilled artichokes, potatoes, and onions. My meal was void of frills and instead concentrated on the intense flavors of the lamb and perfectly grilled vegetable medley. The dish was seasoned only with salt, pepper, and pan drippings from the lamb.

I also visited Osteria del Circo on 55th St. and was treated to superb Italian country fare elevated to star status by the freshness of each ingredient and the mouthwatering combinations.

The chef presented steamed lobster on a bed of local baby cucumbers, summer tomatoes, celery, and onions dressed only with olive oil, a touch of red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. I also ordered sea bass baked in a salt crust with a summer squash and zucchini stuffing. The flavor was distinctive and delicious.

Chefs and home cooks have long known the value of seasonal produce and supporting local farmers. Think globally and prepare exotic meals with simple, local ingredients. Experiment, and taste along the way-summer is the perfect time to embrace your inner chef and remember food is all about flavors, smells, and beautiful presentation, as well as gathering friends and family to share your beautiful meal.