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. [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.

While 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.

 

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.

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.