Usually my over the edge adventures involve encounters with wildlife, nature, and exotic locales. But this month, my encounters were with wildly creative chefs in Tallahassee, Florida. Fasten your seat belt, this food is over the top delicious.
At Kool Beanz Café
in downtown Tallahassee, the aromatic coffee wakes us up as Chef Keith Baxter tempts with a delicious Sunday Brunch. “How about banana rum French toast, topped with plantains and walnuts? Or grilled andouille sausage, fried grit cake, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce?” he smiles. “I’ll try it all, I say,” only half kidding. Then I order tender fresh seared sea scallops topped with mango-jalapeno salsa, yucca, and coconut black bean sauce. Incredible and not my typical breakfast of greek yogurt on strawberries. Relaxing on the airy patio alongside Tallahassee hipsters, Chef Baxter’s lively café goes way beyond scrambled eggs and toast.
Another fabulous spot is Paisley Café
. Owner Kiersten Woorell segued from banking to baking, so lucky diners now feast on her warm blueberry biscuits and crispy baguettes with fig preserves. Kiersten’s pretty garden is an oasis of paintings, flowers, and birds. What better place to enjoy hearty smoked gouda hominy grits, apple butter smoked sausage, and baked grapefruit with prosecco and Tupelo honey?
After this feast, you might be a size bigger. So go shopping for new fashions and cool jewelry at Tallahassee’s chic boutique, Cole Couture
If you can work up an appetite after all that breakfast, drive over to Tallahassee’s Market District and dine at Mozaik
, a festive Brasserie with photos of movie stars and hip Italian lighting. The menu is southern eclectic: fried green tomato, bacon, lettuce, sandwiches, crispy eggplant gyro, deviled eggs on rye, poblano almond crusted ahi tuna. If you love crab cakes as much as I do, you’ve gotta have the mini crab cakes with ponzu mayo. Divine!
Time to relax on a country outing. Head 45 minutes north to Thomasville, Georgia for a cheese making tour at Sweet Grass Dairy
. Then visit their charming Marketplace shop in Thomasville’s Historic District. Sip wine while tasting artisan cheeses like tangy Black Swan, or Asher Blue with a rich robust flavor. Browsing Thomasville’s gift, clothing and antique shops is a pleasant way to while away the afternoon.
Three of Tallahassee’s most popular restaurants are Avenue
, and Liam’s
. Their chefs regaled us with their culinary prowess, turning out some of the best dishes anywhere in the USA.
In 2010, Chris Clark teamed up with Chef Greg Brown, to open Avenue Eat+Drink. Dedicated to serving farm to table fresh ingredients, this duo presented one of the finest tasting menus I’ve experienced.
Chef Brown’s six courses were each a work of art:
Heirloom tomato gazpacho inside a crunchy cucumber bowl. Grilled Gulf prawn in mango barbecue sauce. Three mini sausages-smoked, jalapeno, and cheddar. Stripling sausage and cheese grits. Grilled romaine with shaved manchengo crostini. Lamb with horseradish potatoes. Bread pudding with amaretto cream. Four happy hours later, we were practically wheeled out into the starry evening.
At Liam’s, Chef Scott Foster treated us with Arctic char, wild mushroom soup, picked beet salad, and bananas foster.
This friendly bistro with flickering candles and intriguing art is delightful, and owners Rhonda and Scott Foster hospitable hosts.
Chef Craig Deihl at Cypress entertained us with his favorite culinary anecdotes, presenting a memorable
3 course-tasting menu: Ahi tuna tartare with crispy wonton and ginger aioli. Fried okra and tomato salad, with Sweet Grass Dairy cheese. Pan seared redfish in coconut-lemongrass broth with ginger rice. Each course was highlighted with delicious wines from Spain, Oregon and Washington.
The best way to work off culinary decadence like this is to tour Tallahassee’s delightful attractions, like Bradley’s Country Store, Full Moon Farm and Apiary, and Monticello Vineyards.
My two-day Tallahassee culinary adventure was much too short. But meeting passionate chefs dedicated to creating glorious meals is reason enough to visit again. Soon.