This was our third adventure in eating a “free” dinner and, no, it wasn’t at the soup kitchen. I used to joke about when we’d become “old” people having to eat the early bird special at Denney’s, but my hubby and I have found one secret to a free and fun evening out that includes multiple samples of tasty, fresh, local and often organic foods, wine, champagne and dessert in a festive atmosphere with a great group of friends and neighbors. Here in Portland we are blessed with a local Whole Foods (but much better) type of market known as New Seasons. Our local NS has a wine bar and we’re not alone in stopping for a glass of something red while cruising the aisles on our weekly grocery outing. The folks at New Seasons are very community minded offering weekly classes on health, lifestyle and nutrition as well as Friday game nights, but the best kept secret in town is First Thursday. Tonight we sampled, six types of ham (it’s Easter weekend), pasta with a raw asparagus pesto (yum!) four flavors of soft sheep cheese from a local maker, grilled marinated lamb, two types of sausage, grilled asparagus on focaccia, a tasty melon salad, goat cheese/chocolate truffles and french toast with fresh whipped cream and strawberries and blueberries. But wait, there’s more! We also sampled several local wines, a local beer, a prosecco and a bellini. Yes, we were toasty and our tongues were dancing from all the great tastings. Good food, friendly people, walking distance from home and FREE. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Thursday evening. I’m already looking forward to next month. Salut!