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.

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

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!
 Eating local in Tallahassee is easier (and tastier) than it may seem  Eating local in Tallahassee is easier (and tastier) than it may seemHands 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. [Read more…]

The foodie gods answer my edible prayers with Pho 7 and Latin Xpress in Tallahassee

Living in Denver introduced me to a lot of things, but the biggest culinary revolution I experienced was being exposed to the liquid paradise that is pho. A Vietnamese tradition, pho is arguably one of the best dishes of all time that combines broth and noodles. Returning to Tallahassee after indulging in the rich cultural offerings of Denver brought disdain to my tummy, until I happened upon a sign advertising for Pho 7.

I was instantly intrigued.

Niko and I vowed to try it out, but we weren’t fully committed or convinced until our foodie climbing friends Barbara and Andrew tested the waters. Their report on Pho 7? It was authentic, and it was delicious. Delighted by their positive feedback, I made a dinner date with some friends for the next day.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into Pho 7 is their walls; they’re painted my favorite shade of marigold. The casual seating is reminiscent of an adult cafeteria, and I appreciated the no-frills layout of the restaurant – plus, each table is adorned with enormous bottles of sriracha and hoisin sauce, my favorites. It took our group a few minutes to survey the menu, and then we ordered a true feast.

20120409 103056 The foodie gods answer my edible prayers with Pho 7 and Latin Xpress in TallahasseeWhile my companions took their taste buds on an adventure with Vietnamese subs and meaty rice platters, I stuck with what I came here for: pho. I ordered a tofu pho, cheese and crab wontons, and vegetarian spring rolls.

Everything was amazing. 

The beefy pho broth was easily the best I have ever tasted. It was richer than any other broth I’ve tried, and offered the perfect balance of spices. My soup only came with one slice of lime, but the meaty pho hardly needed any fixings anyways. Our entire table was satisfied with their meals, and we all agreed to return soon.

 The foodie gods answer my edible prayers with Pho 7 and Latin Xpress in Tallahassee  The foodie gods answer my edible prayers with Pho 7 and Latin Xpress in Tallahassee

While chatting over our scrumptious Vietnamese grub, my buddy Juan mentioned the Latin Xpress eatery that sat at the opposite corner of the strip mall. I had heard good things about the joint, and my input peaked Juan’s interest – so we decided to pop in to “just check out the menu” after pigging out at Pho 7.

Fast-forward about an hour, and you’d find our little crew slouching in another cafeteria-style booth. This time, we weren’t surrounded by chopsticks and bean sprouts. Our table was littered with tiny mugs that were once filled with sweet, strong Cuban espresso shots. We drank ten total, unable to resist continually ordering more rounds.
20120409 103108 The foodie gods answer my edible prayers with Pho 7 and Latin Xpress in Tallahassee

Displeasing my already bursting belly, I was unable to shake the temptation of Latin Xpress’s surprisingly affordable menu. Cafecito shots were just 60 cents, guava and cheese pastelitos ran under $2.00 each, and a dry-erase addition to the menu hanging over the counter lured me in with mamey shakes for only $2.50.

My stomach aches just thinking about it.

Needless to say, the strip mall that I previously knew solely as the place where Planned Parenthood resides has now taken on a new identity. Within a single visit, it was reborn as my go-to destination for cheap, tasty eats with unique cultural flair.

Tallahassee, you never cease to amaze me with your hidden gems.

Taking a bite out of healthy, convenient fare from Fresh Fit Meals in Denver

freshfitmeals logo Taking a bite out of healthy, convenient fare from Fresh Fit Meals in Denver Through a stroke of good luck, I recently won a $25 gift certificate to try Fresh Fit Meals, a Denver-based healthy food facility that cooks up convenient and wholesome meals for the on-the-go eater. Since I love to promote great local businesses, I figured I’d share my experience sampling Fresh Fit Meals.
Bon appetite! 

I’ll be the first one to admit that these pre-packaged, microwave-friendly meals don’t exactly look like a divine edible intervention – until you take a bite. Don’t let the fuss-free appearance of these meals fool you; every bite is jam-packed with flavor and spice. A bit peppery, spicy enough to require a refill on my water, and every once in a while I get a nice hint of celery. Taking a bite out of healthy, convenient fare from Fresh Fit Meals in Denver

As soon as I arrived home from Emerald City Smoothie with my aromatic package, I couldn’t resist digging into one of the containers. My first victim was the “NOLA Dirty Rice.” Looking back at it, I think this was my favorite dish. The turkey was piled generously on top of a bed of savory rice, sprinkled with peas and carrots. I could seriously nosh on this meal every single day.

The “Get Yo Mac On” dish immediately caught my eye, but I was skeptical about the brown grain macaroni; try as I might, I just can’t seem to get on good terms with non-white pastas. Fresh Fit Meals knocked the ball out of the park with this mac. The pasta was perfectly done, and didn’t have that unpleasant grainy taste most “healthy” pastas have. Once again, the ground turkey was the star of the dish, perfectly seasoned with a great kick of flavor. Taking a bite out of healthy, convenient fare from Fresh Fit Meals in Denver

Could I have added a handful of cheese to my mac? Of course. Am I also a shameless glutton? Yes. I reasoned with myself that it would be a travesty to ruin such a healthy meal with heaps of cheese, so I sliced up some fresh avocado and tossed it into the mix – a perfect idea.

The next day, I dug into the “Sweet Potato Bird” as a late afternoon meal. The thickly sliced turkey looked a bit dry out of the fridge, but as soon as I was done heating it up, the meat was dripping with juice. This dish didn’t quite have the spicy kick of the other two samplings, but it offered a perfect balance of tender turkey meat, earthy rice, and creamy sweet potatoes. Another thumbs up, though this meal wasn’t quite as dazzling as the first two.  Taking a bite out of healthy, convenient fare from Fresh Fit Meals in Denver

My final samplings were the turkey and eggs breakfast tacos. I had a moment of dread when I realized that the tortillas were of the corn variety (I’m a flour snob), but after heating up my meal I was delighted to find that these were some of the best corn tortillas I’ve ever had. Once again, the turkey was perfectly seasoned and kept me coming back for more, but I was a little iffy about the eggs. I’m very fussy about my meat products, so it was a bad move on my part to wait four days to eat the eggs – oops. The tacos also came with a small side of salsa that added a great little burst of flavor to each bite. Taking a bite out of healthy, convenient fare from Fresh Fit Meals in Denver  Taking a bite out of healthy, convenient fare from Fresh Fit Meals in Denver

I would highly recommend grabbing a few of these pre-made meals to keep you going throughout the week without having to worry about cooking lunch. It was great to be able to pick a dish, pop it in the microwave, and have a healthy, tasty meal at my disposal without having to fuss around in the kitchen. They were ideal for post-climbing dinners when I returned from the rock gym burnt out, famished, and lacking the energy to get down in the kitchen.

The best part?
Our friends at Fresh Fit Meals are extending an offer to the readers of The Morning Fresh:

Get 10% off your order by using the code “themorningfresh10”
now through February 28th!

Be sure to check out Fresh Fit Meals online. Survey their sweeping menu of savory selections, give them a ‘like’ on their Facebook page, and connect with them via Twitter! Trust me, all it takes is one bite, and you’ll be hooked. Finally, an eating addiction that’s actually good for me!

Why I’m dedicating my life to advocating for travel in America and the outdoor lifestyle

Growing up, my parents planted the travel seed in me at a young age with camping trips to Yosemite, excursions to England, and a bevy of outdoor pursuits. During my college days, fellow students regaled me with their experiences studying abroad in places like Florence and Valencia. Recently , mingling with fellow bloggers has exposed me to an industry loaded with hostel hounds, overseas corporate escapees, and every passport-toting persona imaginable.

Travel has always been one of my biggest passions – but it wasn’t until last night that I consciously settled into my own traveler’s nook. Looking back at my recent trips, one thing is clear:

I am in love with America – and the outdoors. Why Im dedicating my life to advocating for travel in America and the outdoor lifestyle

Take me to the sweltering depths of the desert in Moab, the misty morning forests of Sequoia National Park, the swampy Everglades wetlands near my hometown in Miami, the rocky outcrops of climbing crags in Tennessee, the peaks of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains – take me now. Sure, I gladly spent two amazing summers sunning topless on the rocky beaches of the French Mediterranean, and I spent a few years working as a travel writer promoting Caribbean vacations – but when it comes down to it, there is no place in the world I’d rather be than right here in my own backyard.

Think about a round-trip plane ticket to Europe. When I last went, the airfare cost over $1,000.

I could live happily in the United States for over a month with that $1,000.
In fact, I already did.
(And you can too.)

You could spend a lifetime traveling solely throughout America, and you’d never even graze the surface of all that there is to do and see here. The United States is admittedly a young country, but the land is laden with history, heritage, and natural wonders. Think about Yosemite National Park – I spent a week there in May, and only saw a slice of what the area had to offer. Beyond the hikes and picturesque waterfalls, there was an entire community and inspiring history left unexplored. I could easily spend an entire year in Yosemite alone.

Plus, travel in America means you don’t have to deal with pesky exchange rates, being lost without a lick of the local language to help you find your way, unfamiliar driving, tourist-targeting pickpockets, getting caught up in political turmoil – and worst of all being scoffed at when you reveal where you’re from. Luckily for me, I was able to get away with claiming I was from Miami during my European exploits (Miami apparently doesn’t qualify for those anti-American sentiments because of the city’s heavy international influence).

I understand why it’s so easy to get caught up in the glamor of the international hostel life, European wine, and young exotic people looking to indulge in the traveler’s lifestyle – but it’s just not my style.

 Why Im dedicating my life to advocating for travel in America and the outdoor lifestyleGive me a tent and an open fire to cook my food over, give me a National Parks pass and a handful of trail maps, give me evenings spent downing locally brewed beer, give me tired mornings spent hiking out to climbing areas, give me those long stretches of farmland in Kansas, give me fruitful farmers markets in the southeast, give me America. Hell, I’ll just take it.

I’m not the best spokesperson for the dirtbag lifestyle, especially considering my unwavering need to carry sanitizing wipes with me everywhere I go – nor am I some phenomenal mountaineering survivalist, nor the strongest climber, nor the most savvy camper. But that’s the point. You don’t have to be some untamed wilderness vagabond to live this lifestyle and immerse yourself in America.

If I can do this, anyone can.

So what’s The Morning Fresh’s niche? American travel. I’m dedicating myself to advocating for a revival of the American road trip, the patriotic spirit of appreciating our land, supporting our local businesses, and demonstrating to the entire world what a beautiful, natural nation this is. I’m bringin’ America back baby.

Interested in connecting with The Morning Fresh to promote your American-minded cause? I’m looking for local companies, outdoor venues, parks, campgrounds, farmers markets, and everything in between. Help me connect America with your cause – drop me a line at katieboue@gmail.com or find me on twitter @themorningfresh!

Find the best (and worst) restaurants, local shops, accomodations, and more with me on Yelp

Writing restaurant, salon, and small business deal copy for LivingSocial has exposed me to the wonderful interweb resource that is Yelp. An outlet for rabid rants about poor customer service, rambling rave reviews about outrageous eateries, and a general source of excellent information, this site allows users – Yelpers, if you will – to contribute their opinions to a pool of star-rated write-ups that ultimately offer insight to the best, and worst, establishments in town.

Having to use Yelp reviews on a daily basis to gather information about merchants for whom I am assigned to write creative LivingSocial copy for, it was only a matter of time before I created my own account and began yelping. I quickly realized that this newfound addiction was a perfect companion for The Morning Fresh – it allows me to share my experiences at establishments all over the country.

Readers, whether you’re looking for a nosh-worthy Cuban joint in Key West, a home style eatery where you can score saucy barbeque in Mississippi, the best place to thrift in Tallahassee, or a sweet shop filled with secondhand climbing gear in Colorado, my Yelp reviews will help you find what you’re looking for. It’s admittedly a work in progress, but crafting Yelp reviews based on my travels has become a preferable distraction over my usual musings on Facebook.

Check out my Yelp reviews here.

Got an account of your own? I’d love to link up.

Road Trip America – Frozen treats at Sweet Action Ice Cream in Denver, Colorado

After stuffing face at Bull & Bush Brewery in Denver, I didn’t think I’d have room for any dessert – but I was wrong. Local Denver lady Sara insisted that we head to the Sweet Action Ice Cream shop for some post-dinner deliciousness.

getimage ashx Road Trip America   Frozen treats at Sweet Action Ice Cream in Denver, ColoradoI had resolved not to touch a bite of ice cream, until Sara suggested that I try the salted butterscotch flavor – how could I refuse that? I ordered a single scoop, which was really two scoops, and dug in to one of the most creamy, salty treats imaginable.

My cup of frozen cream was flawless. The actual ice cream was thick and creamy, with none of that icy bite that I loathe. Every few bites would present a little crunch of salted butterscotch, delivered in modest amounts that never overwhelmed me. My only regret about my experience at Sweet Action is that I didn’t take the time to ask for a sample of the ginger peach flavor, which sounds out of this world. Return visit in the making?

The shop handmakes all their flavors, and is constantly updating their giant chalkboard menu with new offerings. They have all the usuals like milk chocolate and vanilla bean, plus a selection of unique concoctions like peach ginger, basil lime sorbet and pineapple upside down cake. For the discerning eater, they even have multiple vegan flavors available.

The store front itself doesn’t suggest the epic ice cream that awaits; all you see is white walls with few scattered paintings and an open air counter at the front of the shop. Don’t let their humble appearance fool you, Sweet Action recently earned accolades as one of the top ice cream stops in America by Food & Wine.

sweetaction Road Trip America   Frozen treats at Sweet Action Ice Cream in Denver, Colorado
Have I mentioned lately how smitten I am with local businesses? Why would you ever go to an ice cream shop chain when you can have freshly made, locally influenced sweet treats? Top notch, Sweet Action!

Beer and Green Chili at Bull & Bush Brewery in Denver, Colorado

dsc 6613 Beer and Green Chili at Bull & Bush Brewery in Denver, ColoradoFrom the moment we arrived in Denver, Niko made his mission clear: He was in dire need of a micro-brew with excellent beer and pub food. We left the decision making up to the Colorado residents; McGoo and Rob did us good.

Bull & Bush Pub and Brewery is the dreamchild of two Denver natives, who grew up biking past a local dairy shop that would eventually be home to their award-winning brews in 1971. The atmosphere screams ‘pub,’ with dim lighting and heaping plates of grub. The playlist didn’t quite set the mood, with funky 90s reggae and pop hit that’s mildly disturbed my beer drankin’ attitude.

I ordered the tuna melt, with a side of mashed potatoes topped with Bull & Bush’s famous green chili. It was hands-down the best tuna melt I have ever had, excellently seasoned tuna, cheese and avocado smooshed on a buttery croissant. Niko got the Ruben sandwich and a Man Beer, plus a Hefeweizen that he had to order for me because I’m a fool and forgot my ID. The rest of the table order juicy burgers, in both beef and bison varieties.

dsc 6614 Beer and Green Chili at Bull & Bush Brewery in Denver, Coloradodsc 6612 Beer and Green Chili at Bull & Bush Brewery in Denver, Colorado

bull and bush logo Beer and Green Chili at Bull & Bush Brewery in Denver, Colorado

Two very big thumbs up for this brewery. Our waiter was entertaining and honest – he frankly informed us that the burger of the month was pretty lame when we asked about it. The food, service, ambiance and company was superb. If you’re in Denver, be sure to check this place out for some great beer and grub.

It’s time to go local, and you should to! Support local businesses to support your community.

I’ll admit, pinching pennies at Walmart has been a budgeting tactic of mine for the past four years. It’s simply too easy to save money at Wally World, but the time has come to ditch my selfish habits. Yes, shopping locally doesn’t always bring the deep discounts presented by big corporations like Walmart, but spending a few extra bucks on groceries will benefit my community and my health.

Do you really think that Walmart is concerned about the quality of their produce? It’s cheap, but it’s also laden with chemicals, and probably came from a corrupt field of genetically mutated garbage picked by underpaid, unappreciated workers.

Produce is the first area where I plan on making the switch – and I invite you to join me. Farmers markets are popping up all over the place, and it’s a trend train that everyone should hop aboard. Get your fruits and vegetables from a local farm; this produce will be handled with love, and you’ll be able to see exactly where your money is going. Did I mention how much better local produce tastes? Plus, shopping in an open air market beats the overbearing fluorescent lights of Walmart any day.

dsc01426 2 Its time to go local, and you should to! Support local businesses to support your community.

Need advice on some great local places to pick up your veggies in Tallahassee? Consider these:

  1. Bread and Roses Food Cooperative on Railroad Avenue – Always a favorite stop for healthy munchies, I recently discovered that Bread and Roses also carries a great supply of local produce. They are entirely volunteer-run, and offer hearty discounts for members. Regular food shipments arrive on Mondays, and Thursdays are their local produce day. Plus, they’re connected to the Fermentation Market – another superb local business.
  2. New Leaf Market and the Lafayette Street Organic Growers’ Market – In addition to New Leaf’s constant supply of delicious health food, every Thursday from 3 – dusk, they host the Lafayette Street Organic Growers’ Market behind The Moon. The market supplies fruits, veggies, seafood, meat, baked goods and more. New Leaf also participates in Local Business Saturdays, offering great deals for patrons supporting local establishments!
  3. The Thomasville Farmers Market – Just a 30 minute drive to Georgia will take you to a sweet open air farmers market that comes complete with the Market Diner, which cooks up fresh food using local ingredients. Totally worth the drive, and a perfect opportunity to explore Thomasville. Check out my previous post about the market.
  4. This last one will have to be further updated in another post. While scoopin’ dinner last week with Niko at the shopping center on the corner of Apalachee Parkway and Capital Circle, we stumbled upon this newly opened produce market that appeared to be operated by a local farm. I have vowed to check it out after my Rocktown trip, and will dedicate an entire post to these guys – if it’s worthy!

dsc01428 2 Its time to go local, and you should to! Support local businesses to support your community.

The plan is to start featuring loads of locally owned markets, restaurants and shops on a frequent basis. If you’ve got any suggestions for a place I should feature, let me know and I’d be glad to check it out! I hope you all join me on this journey towards fully embracing local pride!

Weekend Plans – Tallahassee’s Jingle Jubilee Fashion/Shopping Extravaganza

Calling all Tallahassee fashionistas, merchandising majors, shopping addicts and every lady in between: this weekend, the Junior League of Tallahassee is hosting the ‘Jingle Jubilee — a Holiday Shopping Extravaganza.’ This weekend-long celebration of fashion will run from November 18 – 20th, and it loaded with excellent events and shopping opportunities.

 Weekend Plans   Tallahassees Jingle Jubilee Fashion/Shopping ExtravaganzaThe festivities commence with a fashion show inspired by “the runways of New York and Paris.” The event will be featuring local boutiques and coveted fashion accessories from top designers. For me, the most enticing part of Fashion Tallahassee is the cocktail reception, which starts before the runway event.

If runways and fancy drinks aren’t your cup of tea, head to the 3 day shopping haven that will be hosted inside of the Leon County Civic Center. Admission is cheap, and guests will be able to find everything on their holiday shopping list in one venue. Choose any day between Thursday the 18th and Saturday the 20th to stock up on apparel, handbags, houseware, holiday decorations and more. This is the event that I am highly recommending. What better way to get in the holiday spirit?

Football fanatics will be drawn to The First Touchdown Football Lounge held on Saturday. At this event, worn out shoppers and sports fans will converge to watch the Seminole’s football game while sampling beers from our local Tri-Eagle distribution company. Yes, I said free beer samples.

Don’t you worry, more adventure stories from Little Rock City are on the way! Until then, get yourself geared up for some fun holiday festivities. This year, I’m planning on fully embracing the holiday spirit. Last season was a bit of a bust, and I refuse to be overcome by bah-humbugs.

Tasty Thursdays – Star Seas Cafe in Railroad Square is Closing its Doors on November 6th.

Folks, it is with a heavy heart that I spread the news that the charming red caboose at Star Seas Cafe will be serving its last parfaits and spicy black bean burgers this weekend. On Friday, they’ll be serving their usual tent-style dixie cups of beer for a few bucks during First Friday, and hopefully I’ll be able to snag one last chicken salad sandwich. Saturday evening, they’ll be hosting a farewell party from 5:30-11:00. The entire evening will be accompanied by live bands, like The Popheads and Justice of Funk.

45370001 2 Tasty Thursdays   Star Seas Cafe in Railroad Square is Closing its Doors on November 6th.

This was the first film shot taken with my old Canon AE-1; the caboose of Star Seas Cafe. (Photo by: Katie Boue)

This Railroad Square staple always satisfied my munchies when I spent long days at the nearby Tally Rock Gym. The first time my old roommates and I decided to live together, we were stationed at a cramped little table in the old caboose, munching on burgers and fresh fruit. I’ll miss their gooey brownies, their granola parfaits drizzled with honey, their not-so-sweet sweet tea and the twinkling of their outdoor string lights. With both Bakin’ N Bacon and Star Seas abandoning the Railroad Square Warehouse district, I simply do not know what I’m going to do when the munchies strike while I’m climbing at the rock gym. I suppose I’ll have to stick to my usual everything bagel down the road at All Saints Cafe.

Star Seas, you will be missed! Thank you for all the tasty treats, the Railroad Square camaraderie and everything that you’ve shared with the hippies and hipsters of the humble warehouse collection. We are all sad to see you go, but can’t wait to party with you one last time this weekend.

It’s the end of an era.