Eating local in Tallahassee is easier (and tastier) than it may seem

Call it ignorance or naivety, but I always carried a stigma that Tallahassee simply wasn’t the place to indulge in a locally-minded lifestyle. Places like Chattanooga and Boulder are rampant with the local mentality, but Florida just doesn’t seem to have hopped on that train yet.

After checking out the Locavore Index 2012, a chart that ranks states based on commitment to locally-sourced foods, I was disappointed to see that Florida not only ranked poorly – we were at the very bottom of the list. Not cool, Sunshine State. So, to further my adventures in local eating, I journeyed to three different places this week that showcased some of the best locally grown and owned destinations in town. Check ‘em out:

The Cool Cow

The vacant space next to Fat Sandwich on Railroad Avenue has seen many eatery ideas, but it wasn’t until an ice creamery popped up that the void was finally filled. Walking into this joint isn’t exactly impressive – but the simplicity is part of the experience.

The Cool Cow offers six flavors daily. Chocolate and vanilla are always on the menu, but the four other varieties are swapped out every two days – a total of 200 flavors rotate through the soft serve machines. On the day of our visit, we were offered Georgia orange, kiwi frozen yogurt, berry sorbet, and mocha hazelnut.

I went for the mocha hazelnut – and it was outrageous.

Topped with rainbow sprinkles and marshmallows, my cup teeming with creamy mocha ice cream was beyond tasty, but Niko’s treat took the cake. He ordered a banana split, and got everything on it – which was a solid decision. His chocolate, vanilla, and mocha hazelnut ice cream plops were layered thick with hot fudge, caramel drizzle, waffle cone bits, fat dollops of whipped cream, and even a cherry on top. It was pure perfection.

The mocha oreo milkshake my buddy ordered also deserved an honorable mention, but the part of our cool experience that deserves the biggest ovation is the service we received. Our ice cream guru was not only a wizard with a can of whipped cream, he handled everything with the best attitude I have ever encountered in the food industry. He was kind, courteous, and complimented Niko’s choices of toppings. He’s the kind of guy you leave a 40% tip for. Kudos, Cool Cow – we’ll be back.

The Tallahassee Farmers Market

I am a huge fan of produce markets – so much so that I am dedicating a portion of the 2013 trip to exploring as many as I can. Niko and I have made a few trips out to the Thomasville Farmers Market in Georgia, but we had never taken the quick trip to the convenient one located in Market Square.

After a few weeks of failed Saturday morning attempts, we finally made it out to explore the covered pavilion loaded with local goods. Some of my favorite farms were in attendance, including Turkey Hill and Orchard Pond Organics. The pavilion wasn’t huge, but it was certainly big enough to hold every bit of produce I needed.

We strolled around the stands before making our final selections, feasting our eyes on a huge assortment of goods. There were plump peaches, thickly husked corncobs, freshly cut sunflower stalks, ripe heirloom tomatoes, and more. My bounty was a harvest of ripe blueberries, Japanese eggplant, okra, lemon and lime, and more tomatoes than I know what to do with – plus a little rosemary plant!
 Hands down, this is the best fresh produce market in town, with friendly farmers, great edible offerings, and unbelievably reasonable prices. Whoever said eating healthy and local is expensive clearly never stopped by a farmers market.

Au Peche Mignon

On the way back to my car after making out like vegetable bandits at Market Square, a bright red awning catch my attention. A French bakery, here in little ‘ole Tallahassee? It couldn’t be. I begged Niko to join me for a quick gander in case they had my ultimate sweet tooth temptation – meringues.

We were disappointed to see that the bakery wasn’t opening for another twenty minutes, but decided to stick around and wait. Within minutes, the entire storefront area was packed with a voracious crowd who were apparently already in on the secret. As the shop finally opened and the vultures swarmed inside, I knew I was in for a treat.

The glass display cases inside Au Peche Mignon are packed with all manner of sweet pastries, dessert cups, scones, and more. Rows of fresh coffee beans line one wall, while the rest of the shop is dedicated to delicate munchies oozing with European influence. We were instantly overwhelmed by the overflow of options, even though there was nary a single meringue in sight.

We first decided on a baguette – a solid choice from any bakery, right? I also settled on a little pear-shaped pastry with a pear and cinnamon custard, while Niko treated himself to a poppy seed croissant. We were both satisfied with our pickings, and devoured them promptly in the car (the meager seating area was quickly claimed by the aforementioned crowd).

As we sat and noshed on our discoveries, we vowed that this farmers market and French pastry filled morning was our new Saturday tradition.

My pursuit towards living a healthier, more locally-sourced lifestyle leads me towards new venues, I can’t help but feel a sense of community with this city that I had never before realized. While Tallahassee predominately struck me as nothing but a college town, I have begun to transform my perspective through these new findings.

Folks, if a lady can live locally in a state that hits rock bottom on the Locavore Index, anyone can. Eat local – not only does it taste better and fresher, you simply feel better about it.

Do you have any favorite local eateries you’d like to give a shout-out to?
Have any must-see local restaurants or farmers markets I should add to my big 2013 trip list? Let me know!

Katie Boué lives and breathes the outdoor lifestyle. She is an ardent advocate for fresh air, muddy boots, and clean eating. After spending a 365 days living in a van during a yearlong climbing road trip, she continues to document and share the everyday adventures of life.

Comments

  1. valinreallife says:

    Tallahassee has come a long way. Faboo!

  2. Never knew Tallahasee had such good eateries. If in SLC check out Caputo’s Deli, have an Epic Beer, and get breakfast at the Blue Plate Diner.

    • I will most certainly put those three eateries on my to-do list when I head up to the OR Show in a few weeks! Will you be attending as well? We should catch a bite together if so!

  3. Florida has a pretty sizeable Agricultural sector, no? You’d think that would carry over into more locavore culture.

    • You would think – but I guess we’re all just so sick of oranges and orange juice that people tend to overlook everything else we grow here. Example: The monstrous and impossibly creamy avocados growing in my backyard in Miami right now!

  4. These places sound amazing, and oh that banana split! Its also incredible what a difference good service can make – we definately have our favourite restaurants & shops here in London… Cant eait to one day come over to Florida – my hubby & brother in law practically drool each time someone mentions Olive Garden! We have a few great markets here & they are getting better all the time. We went to an amazing Foodie Festival recently too…

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  1. [...] and I instituted what may be our greatest tradition of all time – Saturday morning dates to the farmers market at Tallahassee’s Market Square pavilion. Each week, we take a leisurely drive across town to the familiar covered gathering spot [...]

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