A stellar stamp

Some new Forever stamps from the U.S. Postal Service not only are stunning, but they may spur an appetite. The art for the four stamps featuring corn, tomatoes, cantaloupes and watermelons was inspired by vintage produce advertising, including 19th- and 20th-century shipping crate labels, seed packets and catalogs. In the 1870s, America's railroads first linked the East and West coasts, and fruits and vegetables grown in agricultural areas could be shipped across the country. Beautiful and sometimes whimsical labels evolved from a simple need: to identify the produce inside wooden shipping crates. According to a Postal Service release, the label designs became more alluring and colorful — an early form of advertising — as growers competed against one another to make their products the most memorable.

Printing houses employed some of the day's best graphic artists to create designs that featured clever slogans and unusual styles. The lettering, which named the contents as well as the grower, was sometimes outlined in gold ink mixed with small amounts of real gold. Crate labels were not exclusively an American art form; they also were used in France, Spain, Canada, Chile, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and other countries. In the 1950s, the use of preprinted cardboard boxes for shipping made the labels obsolete, but today, vintage crate labels are highly sought-after collectibles. Or become fodder for postage stamps.

Bread recipe is a winner

The National Festival of Breads baking competition, sponsored by King Arthur Flour, Red Star Yeast and the Kansas Wheat Commission, always yields great recipes. This year's grand prize winner is Lisa Keys of Kennett Square, Pa., for her Smokehouse Cranberry Cheese Bread. Entered in the "timesaving and simple breads" category, the loaf features smoked cheese, maple syrup, dried cranberries and tofu. Judges (among them Minnesota's Zoë François) noted the bread's depth of flavor, "incredible workmanship and texture along with ease of preparation." For the recipe, visit nationalfestival ofbreads.com/cheesebread.

Homebrewers unite!

The American Homebrewers Association will hold a rally at Surly Brewing Co. on July 19 from 2 to 7 p.m. (520 Malcolm Av. SE., Mpls.). The event will include beer samples, brewery tour and the opportunity to take home 5 gallons of Surly wort for home fermenting. The rally is free for AHA members; nonmembers can join online at www.homebrewers association.org, or you can sign up for a discounted member rate at the rally. RSVP online. For more info, go to tinyurl.com/o76cgo8.

And there's a winner

Congrats to Aaron Hanauer of Minneapolis, who won a dinner for two with restaurant critic Rick Nelson for a photo contest that required Rick-on-a-Stick to be part of the image (from our June event in the Star Tribune atrium). Hanauer posted a series of photos with his toddler, under the comment, "Weekend of dining out with a toddler. We would love an evening out sans baby. No offense, little one."