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.

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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.

Best Bites: Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week Edition

Here at Tallahassee Bite By Bite, we’re excited about the first Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week, which kicks off today and runs through April 22. (Yeah, that’s a full week and then some). We’re planning to check out several of the special prix fixe menus offered by the local restaurants participating in the event. Look for our report on what we ate. We’d love to hear about your Restaurant Week experiences, too!

Here’s the full announcement about Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week from Visit Tallahassee:

Inaugural Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week Showcases Local Tallahassee Delicacies

Tallahassee, Fla. — Celebrating the diverse selection of culinary delights available in the Capital City, Visit Tallahassee is proud to announce the inaugural Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week, April 12 – 22, 2012. Participating restaurants will offer specially selected prix fixe menus during both lunch and dinner, featuring two to three course meals priced at $15 or $25.

During the culinary extravaganza, patrons will dine their way through Tallahassee, exploring the tastes of the area’s most popular neighborhood eateries from casual fare pizza and fresh seafood to farm-to-table and white tablecloth venues. As varied as Tallahassee’s ever-changing landscape — from rolling hills to the 78 miles of Spanish moss-draped canopied roads — is the diverse menu of authentic regional cuisine, fine dining and international fare.

“Tallahassee’s restaurant scene is evolving and we are proud to highlight the incredible dining options available to residents and visitors alike,” said Lee Daniel, Visit Tallahassee’s executive director. “The region has an array of local delicacies and we look forward to showcasing the world class food available in Tallahassee.

Capital Cuisine is part of Visit Tallahassee’s Natural Tallahassee campaign, which highlights the outdoors, culinary delights and numerous events and celebrations taking place in the region March through May. The restaurant week will span 10 days, giving diners opportunities to take advantage of Capital Cuisine deals and bring exposure to the area’s restaurants and locally produced foods.

Participating restaurants range from the casual and fun Momo’s Pizza, Po’Boys Creole Café and Barnacle Bill’s to the intricate menus and sophisticated ambiance of A la Provence, Georgio’s and Avenue Eat & Drink, just to name a few.

A fusion of cosmopolitan flair and charming personality defines the spirit of Tallahassee, Florida’s Capital City — where it all comes together for visitors. Situated just off Florida’s northern I-10 corridor, stretching along the state’s Panhandle, Tallahassee is a place where college town meets cultural center, politics meets performing arts and history meets nature — a place where the vibrancy of what to do is matched only by the city’s inviting hospitality.

For more information on Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week and a complete list of participating restaurants, visit www.NaturalTallahassee.com or call Visit Tallahassee toll free at (800) 628-2866.

Chili Cook-off Victory is Sweet … and Spicy

On December 3, Ryan (my boyfriend) and I won first place at Andrew and Heather’s 2nd Annual Chili Cook-Off! Our friends Andrew and Heather have a serious chili cook-off every year, so we were prepared to compete. They decked their house out in chili decorations, had t-shirts made and gave out chili-themed prizes. Last year, Ryan and I came in second place, so we felt the pressure, and wanted to beat it! *Side note: Ryan and I are both really competitive.

Our first-place pot of chili.

There were eight different types of chili entered into the contest. Everyone left the kitchen and each pot of chili was given a number. Heather, the host, handed out small cups of every chili and all the guests tasted them, then ranked each chili from 1 to 10 (10 being the best) on their scorecards. After each chili was tasted and ranked, Heather tallied up the rankings. The results are as follows:

3rd place: Chris Lowery

2nd place: Manuel Bermudez, Rachel Henry, and Alberto Bermudez

1st place: Amanda Doumanian and Ryan Reeves

After the contest, everyone enjoyed chili, chili dogs and chili cupcakes. The sweet and spicy chili cupcakes were made by Candace aka Cakes by Candace. This fun night ended with a win and has left us pondering what to do for next year.

Chili cupcakes made by the local baker behind Cakes by Candace.

If you want to learn more about hosting a chili cook-off of your own, email me at tlhbitebybiteAD@gmail.com for more details. If you want to know our chili recipe, too bad — it’s top secret 😉

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.

Best Bites: It’s Almost the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Edition

Khara Plicanic is biking across the country, offering free photography classes at eight cities along the way. Her [UN]tour stops in Tallahassee on Wednesday, Dec. 14. (Photo courtesy of the [UN]tour)

The Havana Holiday Festival & Lawn Mower Parade rolls through downtown Havana on Saturday, Dec. 10. Doesn’t that sound like the most fun ever? In addition to the wacky procession of riding lawn mowers and golf carts transformed into parade floats, visits with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, live music and more family-friendly fun, this annual holiday celebration also offers festivalgoers the opportunity to help out the hungry. Bring a canned good or jar of peanut butter to donate to Community Cares Outreach of Havana, and you’ll receive a holiday ornament to decorate and hang on the town’s Giving Tree. The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the parade starting at 1 p.m. on Main Street. For more information, visit the Havana Florida Events website.

Would a little chocolate make your holiday shopping more pleasant? How about some Champagne? Ten Thousand Villages will serve up free samples of both at the second annual Champagne & Chocolate Open House, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. at the shop in Market Square, 1415 Timberline Road. Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit fair trade organization, carries an array of items created by artisans across the globe, so you can feel great about snapping up some unique gifts while you’re at the shop. For more information, call 906-9010 or visit the Ten Villages Villages Tallahassee website.

Food bloggers live and die by their photos, and I know I’ve still got a lot to learn about taking great shots. That why I’ll be attending the Tallahassee stop of the [UN]tour, set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 621 Gallery, 621 Industrial Drive in Railroad Square Art Park.  Nebraska photographer Khara Plicanic is traveling across the country by bicycle, with her husband, Emir Plicanic, to share her 10 Tips for Instantly Better Photos, whether you’re shooting a holiday party, an awe-inspiring landscape or your latest culinary creation. Admission to the one-hour class, which is geared to hobbyist photographers of all skill levels, is free. (Khara also will offer a free Wickedly Fast Wedding Workflow class for professional photographers at 4:30 p.m. the same day.) For more information, visit the 621 Gallery website or the [UN]tour website, where you can register online for either class.

Best Bites: It’s All in All Saints Edition

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

Join this fellow at the Fermentation Lounge for drinks, food and live music at the Festical fundraiser on Wednesday, Dec. 7.

If you love visiting All Saints as much as I do, then you’ll be thrilled by the slate of great events taking place in the neighborhood during the next several days. That’s in addition, of course, to the monthly First Friday festivities hosted by the galleries, shops and eateries in Railroad Square Art Park, set for 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2.

Good news for fans of eating on the go: The number of mobile food trucks operating in the state of Florida jumped more than 10 percent this year, according to a report by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. You can grab a meal on wheels at the Food Truck Round Up, which begins at 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2 at the All Saints Hop Yard, 453 All Saints Street. Participating trucks include Fired Up Pizza, Kool Beanz, Lasang Pinoy, Lucy & Leo’s Cupcakery, MoBi and Street Chefs. Sounds like the perfect stop for a late snack. Admission is free. For more information, visit the All Saints Hop Yard website.

Bread and Roses Food Cooperative will hold its 3rd Annual Vegan Chili Cook-off at 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3 at 915-2 Railroad Ave. Chili chefs will compete in one of three categories: traditional, fire alarm and innovative. If you’re going for the glory, plan to arrive at 2:45 p.m. and bring a notecard listing your dish’s ingredients. Chili aficionados who just want to eat can sample all the entries for a suggested donation of $3. For more information, call 425-8486 or email breadandrosesfoodcoop@gmail.com.

The folks at Fermentation Lounge will help out one of their own, bartender Trevor Bond, who incurred huge medical bills after a recent mountain biking accident, at the Festical fundraiser. The event, which features food, a silent auction and live music by the Stoned and Lonesome String Band, begins at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7 and runs into the wee hours at the lounge, 113 All Saints Street. Festical-goers also will get first crack at imbibing a new haus apple cider that’s spiked with cinnamon and cranberries. Twenty percent of the night’s sales will go to Trevor, and the lounge’s owners also will match the first $500 in donations made by attendees. Admission is free. For more information, call 727-4033 or visit the Fermentation Lounge website.