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.

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

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.

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.