Nosh News: Olé! Edition

At the Greensboro Supermarket, you can get dried chiles, a game of pool, a flat-top hair cut and the most authentic tacos in the Tallahassee area.

This Saturday, May 5, encompasses two events traditionally celebrated with lots and lots of alcohol: The Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo. If you’re looking to shake up your mint julep for this weekend’s run for the roses, check out the Kitchn’s roundup of five non-basic julep recipes, including a Cherry Julep made by my favorite talking head, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. To put a spin on the traditional Cinco de Mayo margarita, try Rick Bayless’ Champagne Margarita or Hotel California Jamaica Margarita. While you’re over at Bayless’ site, take a look at his collection of recipes for salsas, appetizers, entrées and desserts, too. The Chicago chef is one of our country’s great masters of Mexican cuisine.

With a Mexican native in my casa, we won’t be doing anything too splashy for Cinco de Mayo, since the Professor likes to point out that the holiday isn’t widely celebrated in his ancestral land. (It’s more akin to Casimir Pulaski Day than the Fourth of July). We’re always up for eating authentic Mexican food, however, so this weekend we’re planning to visit our favorite taqueria in the Tallahassee area. We love the picadillo sopes, bistek tortas and barbacoa tacos served at the little dining counter in the back of the Greensboro Supermarket, 119 Green Ave., Greensboro. The taqueria’s housemade tomatillo salsa alone makes the 30-mile drive worth it. The Greensboro Supermarket carries a variety of Mexican packaged goods, including all kinds of dried chiles, that can be tough to find locally, and also houses a pool hall and a hair salon. (Yes, I said hair salon). Now that’s one-stop shopping.

Have you dined at any of the eateries on the just-released list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants? I haven’t yet visited the heavy hitters ranked by Restaurant magazine, but several of my friends have marveled over chef Grant Achatz’s masterpieces of molecular gastronomy at Alinea. The Chicago restaurant, which claimed the No. 7 slot, is one of eight American eateries on the list published annually by the London-based magazine. Noma, a restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, nabbed No. 1. Personally, I’d love to compare the two menus of traditional and creative dishes offered by Biko, the Basque-Mexican hybrid restaurant in Mexico City that landed at No. 38 this year.

Nosh News and Best Bites: Jammed Together Edition

Now is the time to find ripe strawberries at local farmers markets and roadside stands.

Berry fans, rejoice: The local strawberries are ripe! I picked quite a few quarts on Tuesday during my volunteer shift at Full Earth Farm, and got to take some home. We ate all of them fresh — the first ripe strawberries of the spring never last more than minutes around here — but next time I luck into a berry bounty I’m going to restrain myself long enough to make this recipe, which was inspired by a dish served at Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort: Simple Strawberry Soup from Christy Jordon’s Southern Plate blog.

Paella and flamenco make the perfect picante pairing. On Friday, April 27, you can relish both at Mission San Luis, 2100 W. Tennessee St. Award-winning guitarist Grisha Goryachev will perform modern and traditional flamenco music while local caterers Real Paella serve a sit-down gourmet dinner that includes sangria, Spanish salad, flan and, of course, paella mixta with vegetables, meat and seafood. The event begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35. Visit the Real Paella website to order tickets or call 339-2043.

In the epic battle of the big coffee chains, I’ll choose Dunkin’ Donuts over Starbucks every time. So I was thrilled to discover that filmmaker Whit Stillman prefers the Double D, too. In fact, the crew on his just-released film “Damsels in Distress” was treated to two Dunkin’ Donuts runs each day. I found out about Stillman’s coffee predilections, along with a handful of unexpectedly intriguing everyday insights, when he was featured this week in Bon Appétit’s My Morning Routine series, which explores how people kick-start the day.

Do you dream of owning a food truck? Find out more about how to make it happen at the Food Truck 101 Workshop offered by the Tallahassee Food Truck Association. The event is set for 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 27 at the All Saints Hop Yard, 453 All Saints St. Attendees will learn about required licenses and registrations, insurance, suppliers and more, and will have the chance to talk with food truck owners who’ve already hit the local streets.  The cost is $25. To register in advance, visit the Tallahassee Food Truck Association website.

Roll into National Bike Month with the Capital City Cyclists, who are encouraging Tallahassee-area bicyclists to get together for dinner at a different local restaurant on each Wednesday in May. The Dinner by Bike series kicks off on Wednesday, May 2 with a meal at Mike’s Stone Baked Pizza, 1313 Jackson Bluff Road. Start your ride from home, work or school and meet up with other riders at the restaurant anytime between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. For more information about Dinner by Bike and other National Bike Month events, visit the Capital City Cyclists website.

Best Bites: Everything’s Gone Green Edition

Our weekly picks for the most enticing foodcentric events in the Tallahassee area.

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22.

With Earth Day coming up on Sunday, April 22, we’re all being bombarded with tips on how to go green. Here at Tallahassee Bite By Bite, we believe that supporting locally owned businesses, from farmers markets and shops to bars and restaurants, is an environmentally friendly act that we can choose to make every day of the year. To find your new favorite Tallahassee business, check out Locally Owned Tallahassee and Local Business Saturday.

Tallahassee’s fleet of food trucks will be out in force during Girlz Rock!, a night of music and dance performances by local women that’s part of Tallahassee PRIDEFEST 2012. The event begins at 7 p.m. Friday, April 20 at the All Saints Hop Yard, 453 All Saints St. Admission is free. Beer will be served by the Hop Yard and the Fermentation Lounge; a wristband for folks 21 and older costs $10 and includes 2 free drinks.

Friday, April 20 is the most wonderful day of the year for local mac ’n’ cheese fanatics. Bread & Roses Food Cooperative will host the 12th Annual Vegan Mac and Cheese Bake-Off from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at 915 Railroad Ave. in All Saints. For a suggested donation of $2, you can sample all the entries in three vegan categories: traditional, innovative and dessert. If you’ll be entering your own killer mac ’n’ cheese recipe into the competition this year, arrive 15 minutes before the event begins with your dish, a list of ingredients and serving utensils. For more information, call Bread and Roses at 425-8486 or email breadandrosesfoodcoop@gmail.com.

Earth Day in the Park, Tallahassee’s annual downtown celebration of all things green, will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 22 at Ponce de Leon Park. The family-friendly festivities include garden and aerobics demonstrations, music, one-mile walking groups, and fitness, organic food, wellness and sustainability vendors. Admission is free. You can find out about additional Earth Day Week events around the area at the City of Tallahassee website.

Nosh News: The Best of Everything Edition

Anthony Bourdain vs. Paula Deen: Two celebrity chefs enter, one leaves (possibly slathered in butter).

’Tis the season for Top 10 lists. Here’s a rundown of 10 of the most entertaining best-of-the-year roundups I’ve found around the Web, in no particular order:

1. Top 10 Food Trends of 2011 by TIME. A wide-ranging overview of the year’s highs and lows. Thumbs up to #3: The New Vegetarians and #10: Regional Food, thumbs down to #9: Texting at the Table.

2. Top 10 New Foods at the 2011 State Fairs by Endless Simmer. Check out which state nabs the dubious honor of #1 fair-food innovation.

3. Top 10 Food-Related Lawsuits of 2011 by LA Weekly’s Squid Ink blog. A big thank you to the plaintiff behind lawsuit #3 for ruining late-night Taco Bell runs for the rest of us.

4. Travelers’ Choice 2011 Top 10 Food & Wine Destinations in the United States by TripAdvisor. I visited four of the 10 cities on this list in 2011 (and, in previous years, I’ve dined in three more). While #3 Chicago, will always be my favorite place on the planet to eat because it’s my hometown, my introduction this year to the dining scene in #1 New Orleans landed that city high on my own list of the most enticing food destinations.

5. The Best Cocktails of 2011 by Tasting Table. Blame it on Mad Men. In 2011, classic cocktails edged out other alcoholic beverages, prompting home mixologists to begin experimenting with bitters, shakers and garnishes. If you’ve already perfected your take on the French 75, this list offers 10 fresh recipes to test-drive.

6. Top 10 Food-World Spats of 2011 by CHOW. My personal favorite smackdown? Anthony Bourdain, who seems to despise everyone in the culinary world but himself (and his dudebro David Chang, of course), vs. the equally unctuous Paula Deen.

7. Ten Best Vegan Cookbooks of 2011 by VegNews. A great resource for everyone who wants to add more meatless dishes to their cooking and baking repertoires. As a lifelong diner devotee, I need to add a copy of “Vegan Diner: Classic Comfort Food for the Body & Soul” by Portland, Ore., chef Julie Hasson to my cookbook collection.

8. Top 10 Food-Related Apps by the Washington Post. Perfect for foodies who received a shiny new iPad or smartphone for the holidays. I’m eager to explore Chefs Feed, which features prominent chefs’ picks for great dining experiences in a handful of U.S. cities, with more locales to be added in 2012.

9. Top 10 Food Trends for 2012 by Epicurious (via Yahoo! Shine). An intriguing look ahead at the forces that will shape how we eat in 2012. I’ll be watching to see how these trends play out in Tallahassee in the coming year. We’re already got several excellent artisan cheesemakers in the area, and I hear that there’s a new churro purveyor in town, but I have yet to spot fennel pollen on a local menu.

10. Top 10 Simpsons Food Episodes by LA Weekly’s Squid Ink blog. OK, so this list isn’t limited to 2011 episodes, but it’s way too much fun to miss. Whether you’re fantasizing about a colossal donut or a mug filled with Skittlebrau — or perhaps something slightly less Homeric — here’s hoping that 2012 serves up an array of edible delights.

Sweet Caroline’s Bakery is So Much More Than Sweet

Sweet Caroline’s Bakery in Palm Harbor, Fla.

Whether you live in Palm Harbor, Fla., or not, you need to go to Sweet Caroline’s!

Sweet Caroline’s does everything from wedding cakes to bread, and it’s all amazing. In October, I traveled down to Palm Harbor for my future sister-in-law’s baby shower. This is the first baby of our family, so both soon-to-be grandmas and I had so much fun planning the shower —which of course included getting a cake!

My Mom knows my desire to shop local, so she did some research and found Sweet Caroline’s. The entire experience from start to finish was great. Not only was the cake delicious and gorgeous, the service was impeccable! Executive Pastry Chef Michael Ostrander worked with my Mom on the design, flavors and fillings. Chef Michael has more than 40 years of professional baking experience, and he truly cares about his customers. Plus he uses all natural ingredients!

On the day of the shower, I couldn’t wait to see this cake. My Mom had really been talking this place up, so I had high expectations. Upon our arrival, the store smelled and looked amazing! Chef Michael personally came out to greet me and took me in the back to show me the cake! It was gorgeous! He cared so much that my mom was pleased with it that he asked me for permission to put gold spray on it. (He wanted to get my permission since my Mom hadn’t requested that). I figured gold makes everything better, so I gave him the okay. This was not your typical baby shower cake —it was a three-layer, chocolate-and-vanilla, raspberry-filled cake, topped with gold spray, and DELICIOUS!!!

The baby shower cake made by Sweet Caroline’s Bakery.

After our amazing experience with the cake, we ordered rolls from Sweet Caroline’s for our Thanksgiving dinner. These rolls were awesome. The first thing my Dad told me to do when I walked into our house in Palm Harbor was to eat a roll. Ha!

Sweat Caroline’s also offers baking classes on Sundays. You can learn how to make everything from bread to pies to cupcakes. For a full class schedule and more information, visit the Sweet Caroline’s Bakery website.

Just the facts
Sweet Caroline’s Bakery
3347 Tampa Rd., Palm Harbor, Fla.
(727) 781-1888

Nosh News: Growth Spurt Edition

Whenever I’m in Athens, Ga., I always fuel up at Jittery Joe’s. Several of the microroaster’s excellent coffee blends are now available at Earth Fare here in Tallahassee.

The Red Hills Small Farm Alliance, which runs the Red Hills Online Farmers Market, just announced its Growing Here Workshop Series. During three sessions, local farmers and other agricultural experts will share their knowledge about growing fruits and vegetables successfully in our local climate. The series kicks off with a workshop about planting dates, site selection and seed varieties, 1 p.m.-5 p.m. January 8 at Turkey Hill Farm. Speakers include Louise Divine of Turkey Hill Farm, Lilly Anderson Messec of Native Nurseries and Katie Harris of Full Earth Farm. The series continues with a workshop on organic pest management on Feb. 12 at Miccosukee Root Cellar and a soil health workshop on March 11 at Full Earth Farm in Quincy. Admission is $15 per workshop or $40 for all three workshops for Red Hills Online Farmers Market members; $30 per workshop or $80 for all three workshops for non-members. (Red Hills Online Farmers Market membership is $10, which is reimbursable for members of the Bread and Roses Food Cooperative). For more information about the Growing Here series and to register online, visit the Red Hills Online Farmers Market website.

Throughout my culinary life, cupcakes have been very good to me, the not-so-skilled baker. Homemade cupcakes work for just about any occasion and nearly everyone greets them with glee, even though they’re much simpler to make than, say, a pie or a torte. I never need an excuse to eat cupcakes, but National Cupcake Day on Thursday, Dec. 15, does present me with an opportunity to celebrate by whipping up a flavor I’ve never baked before: Hummingbird Cupcakes, a Southern classic that intrigues me.

Noted around town: Chipotle is now offering, at long last, brown rice for burritos and bowls; Earth Fare has begun carrying coffee beans from one of my favorite indie caffeine purveyors, Jittery Joe’s in Athens, Ga. I recommend the microroaster’s organic, full-bodied Morning Ride blend.

Nosh News: How Many More Shopping Days? Edition

Georgia chef Hugh Acheson’s cookbook, “A New Turn in the South,” would make an ideal gift for anyone who loves Southern cuisine.

If you celebrate a December holiday with a gift-giving tradition, welcome to shopping crunchtime. I’ve rounded up some ideas for great gifts that will delight the people in your life who love food (and isn’t that just about everyone?).

Want to give a far-away friend or family member a taste of Tallahassee? You can’t go wrong with Barb’s Gourmet Brittles. Classic peanut, dark chocolate pecan coconut, orange macadamia, even a virgin variety that’s nut-free … you can choose a different flavor of brittle for each name on your list. While you’re browsing at the shop on Lake Ella, snag a scoop of the excellent housemade ice cream, too.

The New York Times recently released its list of Notable Cookbooks of 2011, and every single title looks giftworthy. I’ve put “A New Turn in the South”, Hugh Acheson’s guidebook to the contemporary Southern cuisine he’s serving up to great acclaim in Georgia, on my own wish list.

Looking for some unique, ecofriendly options? Check out TreeHugger’s guide to green gifts for foodies. I love their idea of making a donation in your giftee’s name to Bluebell Giving, which lets the recipient choose which charity to support.

I’m always on the hunt for a little something sweet to send my best friend for the holidays. Since he’s vegan, I usually turn to Vosges, which turns out some of the most creative, delicious chocolates I’ve ever eaten, including quite a few varieties that are made without any animal products. My top picks from this year’s holiday catalog are the Luscious Vegan Truffle Collection, the Creole Bombalina Hazelnuts and the Aztec Elixir Couture Cocoa.