Sweet Stuff: Desserts in TLH

How sweet.  Summer has officially begun. What  a perfect time to indulge in fruity sorbets, luscious shortcake and over-the-top ice cream sundaes.

In Tallahassee, you can find all these treats, and lots more, whether you’re craving a gooey banana split with hot butter caramel, a pot of chocolate fondue or a refreshing chai crème brûlée. And you don’t have to miss out if you’re vegan or eat a gluten-free diet.

Our search for desserts led to ice cream and candy shops, bakeries, restaurants and even late-night delivery services. Friends and readers contributed their ideas as well, but if we’ve missed your favorite spot, let us know.

Here’s the scoop…


Big Easy Snowballs: It’s always snowball season at these two dessert shops, which create frozen treats using New Orleans-style machines. You have a choice of more than 90 flavors including the popular blue raspberry or tiger’s blood (three berries with a hint of coconut). The specialty is a “stuffed” snowball – any flavor with French vanilla soft serve ice cream in the middle. 1621 N Monroe St. (Lake Ella), 850-329-6010; 2819 Mahan Dr., 850- 999-1502.

Bruster’s Real Ice Cream: Wedding Cake ice cream, made with almond cake batter, and Tuxedo Strawberry, with white chocolate swirls, are the special June flavors at these two counter-serve spots, where you’ll find waffle cones, freezes, milkshakes, sundaes, ice cream and pies. Bring your own banana to Bruster’s on Thursdays and you get a banana split for half price ($3 instead of $6). 2475 Apalachee Pkwy., 850-309-0712; 1709 W. Tharpe St., 850-383-9782.

Cold Stone Creamery: Pick your favorite ice cream flavor, choice of mix-ins and it’s all melded together using two spades on a frozen granite stone, for a made-to-order confection. Centre of Tallahassee, 2415 N Monroe St., 850-553-4560; 1444 W Tennessee St., 850-425-1150.

Dairy Queen: There are three Dairy Queen shops in Tallahassee plus a spot in the Governor’s Square Mall, offering chocolate and vanilla soft-serve in a cup or cone plus varied Blizzard treats.

Fiocco at Urban Food Market: Rudy Sacchet’s family has been making gelato for more than three generations in the Dolomites in northeastern Italy, and now he’s sharing his experience at Fiocco Gelato Cafe in the sprawling Urban Food Market. Fiocco offers more than 20 flavors plus coffee drinks and bakery items, including cheesecake from Chef Alessandro Di Maggio of +39. Centre of Tallahassee, 2415 N Monroe St.; 850-765-9842.

Isabella Pizza: Along with Neapolitan pies and salads, Isabella’s offers six flavors of house-made gelato and Nutella pizza, which is stuffed with the hazelnut spread and topped with fruit. 799 W Gaines St.; 850-558-6379.

Lofty Pursuits: The venerable local ice cream shop, from owner Gregory Cohen, is a place where customers like to hang out. Watch Victorian-style candy made in-house on equipment from the late 1800s and check out retro toys and games. The ice cream menu itself is huge, offering floats, freezes, egg creams, ice cream sodas, nearly three dozen sundaes (not counting banana confections and treats like the kitchen sink, with 26 scoops in a stainless steel sink) and vegan ice cream options. Lofty Pursuits makes more than 30 syrups. Want dessert for breakfast? Order a pancake with candy, sprinkles and ice cream (regular breakfast items available as well). 1355 Market St.; 850-521-0091.

Mr. Cool: The Thai-style ice cream shop serves ice cream in six tight rolls instead of scoops. Servers mash mix-ins and a liquid ice cream base (including a basic version, vanilla, coffee, green tea or chocolate) on a pan chilled to a temperature of minus 14 degrees, then scrape the mixture into rolls, which taste a little lighter than a scoop. Pick one of the restaurant’s combos, like the Monkey Business (with bananas and Nutella) or create your own. Once the ice cream is rolled, pick three toppings. There’s one price: $5.99. 633 W Tennessee St.; 850-999-8476.

Nuberri Frozen Yogurt: The shop, with three locations, is primarily known for self-serve frozen yogurt (with no fat and low fat alternatives) but it also serves custard, gelato, sorbet and Italian ices. Dozens of toppings are available.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier: Satisfy your craving for chocolate or gelato (or both) at Peterbroke, which offers a cup, cone or pint of gelato, with 16 rotating flavors. 1817 Thomasville Rd. 850-577-3111.

Yogurt Mountain:   The yogurt shop serves more than 16 choices with nonfat, lowfat and gluten-free picks available, plus custard, dairy-free choices and tropical ice. 1801 W Tennessee St.; 850-765-0229.


Au Peche Mignon: Feel like you’re in France (we can all pretend) while gobbling macarons, croissants and other pastries at the cafe, open more than 25 years. You can also get imported cheeses, salami and lunch. 1415 Timberlane Rd.; 850-668-5533.

Lucy & Leo’s Cupcakery: The local cupcake shop from owners Jean Bates and Paula Lucas, offers about a dozen cupcake varieties daily, plus macarons, cookies and cake balls (mini cupcakes available by special order). Gluten-free and vegan options are available. During the summer, cupcakes are $2 on Tuesdays. 1000 Thomasville Rd.; 850-765-0374.

Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery: The colorful cupcake shop serves more than a dozen flavors daily. You can special order medium or mini cupcakes and get cupcakes for dogs on Saturdays. 1480 Apalachee Pkwy., 850-765-2785; 3479 Thomasville Rd., 850-999-1943.

Tasty Pastry: The family-run bakery, which originated in 1963, is still run by siblings and certified master bakers Debbie and Mark Cross. It’s the source for breads, cakes, pies, cookies, bagels, pastries and take-home casseroles. 1355 Market St.; 850-893-3752.

The Cake Shop: The bakery is brimming with breads, pastries presents pies, cheesecakes, cookies, brownies, baklava, quiche and specialty baked goods.. Open for breakfast. 1908 Capital Circle NE; 850-386-2253.

Treva’s Pastries and Fine Foods: In her small shop and cafe, Treva Pasquarelli offers soups, salads, sandwiches, entrees (to go) and pastries. Her specialties include Key lime mousse pie and blueberry almond croissants. She also makes ice cream for sale by the cup or pint. 2766 Capital Circle NE; 850-765-0811.


Blu Halo: Popular desserts at the upmarket restaurant include flavored nitrogen ice creams. The chilling temperature of nitrogen renders ice cream velvety and rich. Other signature treats are blueberry cheesecake with Kahlúa chocolate sauce and Nutella soufflé or splurge or a dessert cocktail. 3431 Bannerman Rd.; 850-999-1696.

Cypress Restaurant: Pastry chef Maria Mosca and executive chef/owner David Gwynn create a changing menu of gourmet desserts. Highlights include a decadent flourless chocolate cake with chocolate ganache; a bread pudding made of cornbread infused with maple syrup and topped with bourbon ice cream; and chai crème brûlée. The menu also features house-made ice creams and sorbets (including vegan and gluten-free). 320 E. Tennessee St.; 850-513-1100.

Food Glorious Food: Fans rave about the three-layer, sinfully rich “Perfect Chocolate Cake” but other favorite desserts at Food Glorious Food include Key lime pound cake and baklava cheesecake. 1950 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-9974.

Habana’s Boardwalk: Savor Cuban desserts like flan (caramelized vanilla custard), tres leches (vanilla cake soaked with three milks), churros con helado (fried dough and ice cream topped with cinnamon sugar) and guava and cream cheese empanada at this homey restaurant. 2819 Mahan Dr.; 850-391-9111.

– Kool Beanz

Kool Beanz: Pastry chef Sylvia Gould is known for her imaginative desserts on a constantly changing menu. Her specialties include toasted coconut cream meringue cake, blueberry fig crostata and Thai basil panna cotta. 921 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-2466.

The Melting Pot: Fondue lovers head to The Melting Pot for this chocolate treat (with several liqueur options for added decadence), served with numerous toppings including fruit and more chocolate. 2727 N Monroe St.; 850-386-7440.

Miccosukee Root Cellar: Owner Ruben Fields presents a menu of locally-sourced foods, much of it organic, and that includes dessert. Summer favorites feature a chocolate terrine with Thai basil ice cream, bay leaf pound cake with a strawberry lavender compote, and a pecan pie made with nuts from KBH Farms. Try house-made ice cream flavors like strawberry balsamic, Turkey Hill Farm sugar cane syrup ice cream and buttermilk crème fraîche. 1311 Miccosukee Rd.; 850-597-7419.

– 319 Wine & Cheese Shoppe

319 Wine & Cheese: This local cafe, owned by Bill and Lynne Edwards, features house-made cannoli, triple layer chocolate merlot cake, blueberry tarts, apple caramel bread pudding with ice cream and lots more. 6265 Old Water Oak Rd.; 850-765-7053.


Dipped:  If you’re craving chocolate-covered strawberries (and who doesn’t?), this place delivers. Cheesecake and other gourmet treats, including S’more truffles, Belgian waffles and bacon, delivered until 3 a.m. (call to check their delivery area). 2401 Pensacola St.; 850-296-7489.

Insomnia Cookies: Insomnia delivers cookies, ice cream and milk to fans anywhere within three miles of its Tennessee Street location to 3 a.m. 1525 W. Tennessee St.; 877-632-6654.

Z Baked: Find cookies and muffins as well as some comfort food, which you can pick up or get delivered (if you’re in their coverage area). Order online at zbaked.com. 2401 W. Pensacola St., 850-391-2206.


The Path to Dao

Dao, in the Chinese culture, means “way” or “path.” The path to the new Dao Restaurant in the Bannerman Crossings Shopping Center has its own special significance in Tallahassee, beginning decades ago, with local icon and entrepreneur Lucy Ho.

A pioneer of Chinese restaurants in Tallahassee, she opened her first venue, Lucy Ho’s Bamboo Garden, in 1970 and later launched Masa and Azu. Ho has retired, but her vision continues with Masa Nagashima, general manager of her restaurants for nearly 40 years, and Kenny Fan, the nephew of her late husband, who was a kitchen manager at Azu.

Nagashima, who is of Japanese heritage, and Fan, who is Taiwanese, are now both co-owners of Azu, on Apalachee Parkway, and Dao, which opened April 13 in the upscale Bannerman Crossings center.

If you’re a fan of Azu, you’ll be happy to have this outpost of the pan-Asian restaurant in the Northeast. The menu is the same as Azu’s except that some dishes are $1 or $2 more.

The setting
The setting is contemporary, desirable for a date night yet casual enough to bring the family. It’s spacious, with room for 209, but there’s warmth here, with lots of wood and subtle hues. Seating mixes tables and comfortable booths and there’s outdoor dining. Of special interest are the elegant displays of teapots from Taiwan. Dao has a room for private parties seating up to 24.

Dig In
Like many Asian restaurants, Dao has a huge menu so after two visits we’ve still only sampled a small portion of the choices available here. The restaurant offers plenty of appetizers, soups and salads if you just want to graze plus hot entrees and sushi, aiming to do justice to three cuisines — Chinese, Thai and Japanese.

As for starters, our four pan-seared pork dumplings (you can also order them steamed) were delicious, pan-fried to a golden brown, totally binge-worthy. We also liked the plate-size scallion pancake, crisp on the outside, chewy inside, pan-fired, and served with a dipping sauce of rich coconut curry. The fried oysters were coated with a light panko crust, and while not the best we’ve had, were tasty.

One of our favorite dishes at Dao was the coconut chicken curry, my husband’s go-to choice at most Thai restaurants. He was happy with Dao’s rendition, brimming with pieces of white chicken, green and red bell peppers and bamboo shoots in a lush sauce with a slight kick. All dishes come with steamed or fried rice.

Our friend raved about her Peking duck (she chose a half order), a generous serving of succulent, thinly sliced meat served alongside pieces of mouthwatering, crisp skin. You can slice open the accompanying doughy lotus pancakes and make a sandwich with the duck, skin and green onions.

The grouper filet was outstanding, a large piece of fish lightly breaded and fried, topped with bits of mapo tofu, a mix of ground pork and tofu in a perky sauce. On the side was perfectly cooked broccoli.

If you like beef, the shiitake steak was an eight-ounce rib-eye, which we ordered medium rare. The meat was tender, served with lots of shiitake and white button mushrooms in a soy-based sauce, and broccoli. It was much better than the beef tenderloin we ordered on our second visit to Dao. That tenderloin was overcooked and chewy — the saving grace was an array of just-firm sweet bell peppers, zucchini and mangoes.

Azu fans will also be happy to find Chinese classics like the salt-and-pepper soft shell crab, soy ginger cod, General Tso’s chicken, stir-fried eggplant, and Taiwanese-style rice noodles at Dao.

The menu offers six Japanese dinners, including teriyaki, tempura and panko-fried cutlets, which come with soup and salad. A friend ordered grilled chicken teriyaki, with green beans and some greenery (so you essentially get two salads). The chicken was moist and tender but it could have used a little more punch.

Dao has an extensive selection of sushi and sashimi, including dinners and a la carte choices, nigiri (leel, quail eggs with smelt roe, flying fish or squid), hand rolls (seaweed outside) and a list of more than three dozen rolls, including veggie rolls and picks such as the Philadelphia with smoked salmon, cream cheese and scallions, and the Dragon Fly, with eel, cream cheese, avocado, tuna, with eel and kimchi sauces.

We skipped the more elaborate combos and opted for the simple spicy tuna roll and the shrimp tempura, with a piece of the fried shellfish poking out of a roll with mayo and a spring mix, both standards done very well here.

We didn’t have dessert but Dao offers several choices, including ice cream, sesame balls, crème brûlée, fried cheesecake, and “Peanut Butter Explosion.”

Servers are young, friendly and helpful. When we took home leftovers, we were given a new carton of rice, a nice touch.

The bar
Dao has a full bar, plus bottled and draft beer (including Japanese beers Sapporo and Kirin), a small but varied wine list and hot and cold sake.

Bottom line
We found mostly hits and a few misses at Dao, but overall it’s a pleasant dining experience with reasonable prices and a welcoming atmosphere.

When you go …
3425 Bannerman Rd., Unit A102, Tallahassee.

Starters $2.50 to $15, entrees $9 to $22 ($40 for a whole Peking duck), rolls $4 to $16, sushi and sashimi dinners $18 to $28, dessert $4 to $7.50.

11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday to Thursday.


Tallahassee Table Rating
Worth a Drive

Rochelle Koff writes about food and dining at TallahasseeTable.com, and on Facebook, @TheTallahasseeTable and Twitter @tallytable. Reach her at TallahasseeTable@gmail.com.





Mom’s the Word for Brunch

Chances are, many of you are trying to decide where to take your mom for brunch on Mother’s Day, which is coming up quickly, on May 14. Moms should be pampered every day, I think, but this is certainly the time to do something special for the woman who takes care of everyone else all year.

There are plenty of choices for brunch in Tallahassee. And I use the term brunch loosely. Technically, brunch is a meal that combines breakfast and lunch, usually late in the morning, and most often offered on weekends. Consider this explanation of brunch from “The Simpsons” character Jacques, a suave bowling instructor: “It’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end.”

Here’s a roundup of some of Tallahassee’s best options, some likely with cantaloupe, for brunch on May 14. FYI, most places accept reservations but act quickly.

A La Provence
If mom likes a touch of class, A La Provence is a white tablecloth setting known for its French and New American cuisine. Options include bruschetta eggs Benedict, omelets, leg of lamb and beignets (savory as an appetizer and sweet as a dessert). 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; 1415 Timberlane Rd.; 850-329-6870.

Andrews Capital Grill & Bar
Open for four decades, the downtown staple serves a Sunday buffet with omelet and carving stations, plus a selection of individual brunch items. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. 228 South Adams St.; 850-222-3444.

Avenue Eat & Drink
The upscale venue offers its traditional Sunday brunch, including short ribs and potato hash, wild smoked salmon Benedict, pound cake French toast and shrimp and grits. 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. 115 East Park Ave.; 850-224-0115.

Blu Halo
Indulge in an opulent buffet at this swanky setting, with filet mignon and pork tenderloin on the carving station along with chicken and waffles, eggs Benedict and other breakfast items. Free mimosas for mom and a Bloody Mary bar for serious fans. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. 3431 Bannerman Road, #102; 850-999-1696.

Cypress Restaurant
Chef/owners David and Elizabeth Gwynn will be presenting a Mother’s Day brunch though the menu is still in the works. Check Facebook for updates. 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 320 E. Tennessee St.; 850-513-1100.

The Edison
Savor a brunch with lamb or Southern-style Benedict, stuffed French toast and shrimp and grits, salads and sandwiches while savoring a view that overlooks the fountains and greenery of Cascades Park. 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. 470 Suwannee St.; 850-765-9771.

The Egg Cafe & Eatery
This popular spot serves all the classics and classics with a twist, like the Ultimate Seafood Omelet; Lox, Stock and Bagel Benny; and shrimp-n-grits skillet. 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. 3740 Austin Davis Ave., 850-765-0703.

Fifth & Thomas
Set the right tone for Mother’s Day as the Tenessee group, Belle and the Band, performs during brunch at Fifth & Thomas. Choices include pulled pork Benedict; pickle brine chicken with Applewood bacon pancakes and a ham and egg buttermilk biscuit sandwich. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 1122 Thomasville Rd.; 850-694-3322.

Food Glorious Food:  FGF “Mackin” Cheese, pan-fried catfish, brioche French toast and a long list of other items are available on the brunch at this contemporary restaurant .10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 1950 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-9974.

The restaurant is opening early May 14 for Mother’s Day, offering seafood, prime steaks, drink specials and desserts. Noon to 7 p.m. 2971 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-877-3211.

Hotel Duval
Treat your mom to a lavish, picnic-themed buffet in the hotel’s eighth floor Horizon Ballroom. Highlights: truffled hash brown casserole, an omelet station and barbecue chicken with complimentary mimosas. There will be two seatings, at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. There’s a kid’s buffet and craft area so youngsters can make their own Mother’s Day cards. 415 N. Monroe St.; 850-224-6000.

Kool Beanz
Enjoy brunch surrounded by the colorful work of local artists in this laid-back space, where the menu features a full English breakfast, banana-rum French toast and shrimp and grits. 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. 921 Thomasville Road; 850-224-2466.

Liberty Bar & Restaurant
This is a bar but known for its good food as well as its chill atmosphere and drink menu. Sample dishes like a Scottish egg (a soft-boiled egg wrapped around sausage and fried), chicken and biscuits and pork belly Benedict. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 1307 N. Monroe St.; 850-284-7966.

Madison Social
Expect a multi-generational crowd soaking up the atmosphere at this casual venue, where you’ll find lemon ricotta pancakes, a pork belly benny and Buffalo chicken salad on the brunch lineup. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 705 S. Woodward Ave.; 850-894-6276.

Nefetari’s Fine Cuisine & Spirits
Make your mom queen for the day at exotic Nefetari, which showcases Egyptian-African artwork. There are two menus on May 14, one with regular brunch items and the other with entrees like pan-seared salmon, wild mushroom ravioli and “Zen” teriyaki with your choice of protein. Moms will receive a complimentary iced tea or mimosa. Brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; entrees served 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 812 S. Macomb St.; 850-210-0548.

Paisley Cafe
A cozy courtyard provides the backdrop for brunch, with chorizo hash, grits and collards with candied smoked sausage and daily specials. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. 1123 Thomasville Rd., 850-385-7268.

The restaurant’s executive chef-owner Terry White offers a sophisticated brunch menu, with chicken and mushroom crepes, steak frites, croque Monsieur, quiche, a burger topped with a fried egg and other breakfast and lunch specials. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. 3534 Maclay Boulevard South; 850-270-9396.

Southwood Golf Club
The Mother’s Day buffet features grilled redfish, an artisan cheese board, salads, an omelet and carving stations and assorted desserts in a classic space. Moms get a complimentary mimosa. Hours: 10 a.m. -12:30 p.m. (regular breakfast menu available from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.) 3750 Grove Park Dr; 850-402-5131.

Table 23
You’ll find sweet potato pancakes, biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles and other Southern-style fare in this breezy setting. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 1215 Thomasville Rd.; 850-329-2261.

319 Wine & Cheese
The cozy nook presents grits and egg frittata, stuffed French toast and other homey fare during brunch, with bottomless mimosas for $12. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 6265 Old Water Oak Dr., Suite 104; 850-765-7053.

+39 Fine Dining: Chef Alessandro Di Maggio presents an elaborate Mother’s Day brunch showcasing Italian dishes like chicken piccata, cannelloni and cioppini (Italian-style Fisherman’s stew) as well as several breakfast items including eggs Benedict, deviled eggs and quiche. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Urban Food Market;  Centre of Tallahassee, 2415 N Monroe St.; 850-536-6843.

Uptown Café
Pancakes, Benedicts, omelets, blackened chicken and smoked salmon are some of the faves on the extensive menu. Add a mimosa (classic or blood orange), a peach bellini or breakfast beer (FYI, no Bloody Marys) to celebrate mom’s special day. 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. 1325 Miccosukee Rd.; 850-219-9800.


Breaking bread at Lively Cafe

Stop by the Lively Cafe around 11:15 a.m. any weekday and you’ll likely see Leon High students chowing down on hot dogs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. An hour later, you might spot a
judge or two, downtown professionals, reporters, government officials and, yes, ladies who do lunch, all savoring items like curried chicken salad, a roast pork panini or wild mushroom soup.

Customers are drawn to the restaurant for its inexpensive, home-cooked fare served by good-hearted people. While the downtown cafe has been quietly serving a growing number of customers for decades, it’s still a surprise to newcomers who don’t expect to find a restaurant tucked inside St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The Lively Cafe is open to the public and while the atmosphere is nurturing, no one is stopping by to preach.

The Rev. Dave Killeen, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, said the idea of the cafe is “just a way to serve the wider community. It’s food made with love.”

Customers agree.

“It’s a very special place,” said Becky Liner, a regular customer and executive vice president of the James Madison Institute. “A wonderful oasis.”

Diner Mary Lee Kiracofe praises its “gourmet home cooking.”

At the helm of The Lively Cafe is Fran Doxsee, the church’s culinary
director. She and assistant Vivian Leonard are the only two paid

Tallahassee Democrat

church staffers running the show. More than 30 volunteers do everything else, helping with the food prep, working the cash register, taking orders and cleaning tables. No tipping here but there’s a jar by the pickup window for donations, adding up to $400 to $500 a month, used for church and community outreach.

Doxsee has developed four menus that rotate weekly. Salmon week may sound like it’s a feast of fish, but it refers to the menu printed on salmon-colored paper. There’s also Green Week, Blue Week and Yellow Week. Menus are also available online.

Customers order at a table staffed by a volunteer, then walk over to the kitchen window with a ticket to pick up their food. The process

rarely takes more than five minutes. Some people are here for takeout; others find a spot in the breezy open room, filled with

– Joe Rondone, Tallahassee Democrat

round tables and picnic-style umbrellas that lend a folksy touch. The church calls it an “indoor sidewalk cafe.” Some diners sit outside in the garden.

“It’s nice to walk in a place with communal tables,” said customer Elizabeth Emmanuel, program coordinator of Leadership Tallahassee, who eats at the cafe at least once a week. “You might sit with a friend or make one before you leave.”

The place stays busy but the pace is more relaxed than nearby
restaurants, and less packed and noisy.

“You can meet a friend and actually hear one another talk,” said Kiracofe.

The mix of people is another plus, fans said. “It’s so much more interesting than a typical deli,” said Liner, who raves about the soups. “I’m a soup person. Fran makes a scallop chowder that I dream about.”

Doxsee’s repertoire includes classics such as pimento cheese, crab bisque and coconut cake. Specials always feature a vegetarian dish and a panini of the week. She spices up the menu with items like a muffuletta, paella salad and Thai shrimp bisque.

“It is safe to say that many people have come to rely on the cafe as not only a place to find great food, but also a place to unwind, share a laugh or two and then take all of that goodness with them when they leave,” said David Butler, who has been volunteering at the cafe for three years.

Working at the restaurant is also rewarding  for the volunteers. “It’s a fun place to be,” said Edie Goldie, helping out in the kitchen on Tuesdays. Ginny Smoller, who takes menu orders, said “It’s nice meeting people every week.”

Doxsee said she and the volunteers “get to know the regulars. We learn their likes and dislikes, like who doesn’t like mayonnaise or who wants their bread toasted. We all like to be treated like someone who matters.”

Doxsee has been the church’s culinary director since 1999, a year after the cafe opened. In 2006, she helped oversee the renovation of the restaurant, mostly upgrading the kitchen, thanks to a donation from church member Emily Lively, who left money to St. John’s after she died. Doxsee also pushed for the restaurant, named after Lively, to become licensed and inspected rather than just fall under the umbrella of the church.

“We’re not here to make a bunch of money,” she said, so prices are kept low, with most items priced between $4.50 to $7.50. The most expensive item here is a $9.50 vegetarian sandwich that comes with soup and homemade pita chips. Sandwiches include a choice of grapes, potato salad, coleslaw, carrots, bean salad, potato chips or pita chips. Hot dogs are $3.50 and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches only $2.50, one reason these are hits with students, who get free drinks on Mondays. All customers can buy a $2 cup and get refills for 50 cents.

“I think food, on a very basic level, is a great unifier,” said Father Killeen. “It brings people together. It brings families together. It certainly brings churches together. It really brings the community together. I think that’s what I love most about the cafe.

“If you think about the example of Jesus in the Bible, he was always eating with people,” Killeen said. “I think Jesus knew that when you sit down and break bread with people, it brings them together powerfully in unity.”

When you go …
Lively Cafe at St. John’s Episcopal Church
Where: 211 N. Monroe St.; 850-222-2636, ext. 19
Hours: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Bonus: Free Wi-Fi.

Georgio’s Fine Food & Spirits

With so many new restaurants popping up in Tallahassee, it’s easy to overlook the city’s dining institutions. But there are plenty of venerable, tried-and-true choices still worth their turn in the spotlight. Georgio’s Fine Food & Spirits on Apalachee Parkway is one of them.

Its continued appeal is largely due to the man at the helm — owner  Georgio Koikos, who has been in the restaurant business 50 years. When you’ve been successful this long, you have to be doing something right. And Koikos, 82, has been doing many things right since he left his home in Athens, Greece in 1966 and came to Tallahassee.

If Koikos is in the house, and he usually is, expect him to visit your table during your meal to say hello. You might say that Georgio’s has an “old-school” approach to fine dining, with a focus on quality, exemplary service and attention to detail. The restaurant “stays true to its roots,” said Leni Spears, the general manager and Georgio’s daughter.

The setting
When Koikos got to Tallahassee in the mid-60s, he worked at his brother JImmy’s restaurant. Within a few years, he opened his own place, Spartan Restaurant & Caucus Rooms, at the Duval Hotel. Some might also remember the Brothers Three, owned by Georgio and siblings Jimmy and Pete.

Koikos opened Georgio’s in the Carriage Gate shopping center on Thomasville Road in 1994, but closed it in 2013. In the meantime, Georgio and wife Karen Koikos had opened a second restaurant called Torreya Grill on Apalachee Parkway in 2002. The name was later changed to Georgio’s, too.

On a recent visit to the restaurant, our party of eight was seated in one of the restaurant’s two semi-private rooms, a comfortable space that lent itself to easy conversation. Georgio’s also has two private rooms and a covered veranda. The main dining room is filled with large, intimate booths.

Some might term the decor at the Apalachee location as comfortable, if dated, with flowered upholstery cushions, dark wood interior and black-and-white photos. But you’ll find fans who wouldn’t change a thing.

Dig In
Just about everything at Georgio’s is made in-house, from dressings to desserts. Chef Grant Beane has been preparing steaks, seafood, Mediterranean and Greek classics for more than 20 years. Italian baker Steve Cucinella makes the bread. No shortcuts, Spears said.

The extensive menu covers a lot of territory, much of it melding Gulf seafood with Greek flavors. So many tempting dishes, starting with choices like escargot, stone crab claws (in season) grouper cheeks or Greek-style tenderloin tips.

For a bit of theater, we ordered an appetizer of saganaki from the list of chef’s specials. Kasseri cheese was flambéed at the table with a splash of brandy, sparking the requisite oohs and aahs. A squirt of lemon juice extinguises the flame and adds a bright citrusy flavor. The warm cheese is then easy to slather over the accompanying grilled pita.

We also shared a generous Greek platter with eggplant moussaka, spanakopita (spinach pie) and dolmathes — ground beef, rice and spices wrapped in grape leaves and finished with a lemony sauce. It was all served with a Greek salad, rice and carrots.

Entrees come with soup or a house salad. My traditional Greek avgolemono soup, an egg-based rendition, was rich and creamy with chicken and a bit of lime — homey. You can pay an extra $3 and upgrade to a specialty soup like a seafood bouillabaisse.

We did pay $3 for a salad upgrade. Our refreshing array of greens was topped with roasted pecans, sliced strawberries, cucumber and feta, drizzled with a perky balsamic vinaigrette.

Georgio’s is known for its seafood, like black grouper prepared Greek style with lots of olive oil and lemon, or snapper garnished with jumbo shrimp and a cilantro lime sauce.

Fishermen rave that fried grouper throats are a delicacy, one I’ve never had, so they were a must-try at Georgio’s. You have to work a little to dig out the meat but it was rich and juicy. Snapper throats are also available. The dishes come with golden brown hush puppies, Brussels sprouts, rice and carrots.

Georgio’s also specializes in hand-cut steaks and lamb, both winners at our table. The New York strip was grilled perfectly to medium rare, crusted with cracked peppercorns while the ultra tender garlic-stuffed filet mignon was served atop sweet red onion confit.

If you’re looking for a lighter, less-expensive dish, try a pita topped with beef tips, chicken or, our choice, a generous amount of fried shrimp, light and crisp, festooned with lettuce, tomato, feta and tzatziki sauce.

Desserts include sinfully rich orange chocolate torte (with grand marnier), baklava cheesecake, with layers of the airy puff pastry, lots of pecans and cinnamon and a special of frozen Bavarian chocolate mousse with mascarpone Greek yogurt cream, served in a hard chocolate bowl and with a garnish of strawberry coulis. A sweet ending indeed.

There’s a lengthy wine and beer list but we decided on cocktails, including a delightful gin blossom and a summery strawberry Sangria, one of the best we’ve had, brimming with fresh mint grown at the restaurant.

Excellent. Commitment is a trait Georgio has passed on to his daughter, Leni .Our server,Torrey, clearly knew his stuff, easily managing our party of eight with efficiency and charm. If he didn’t know something he found out.

Starters $8 to $14; salads $12 to $14; entrees $21 to $48; sandwiches $12 to $14; sides $3 to $8; kids’ meals $7 to $12; desserts $6.50-$8.

Bottom Line
Georgio’s is often considered a special-occasion restaurant. It’s not cheap, but it does offer special qualities — and generous portions — if you want a fine meal with excellent service.

Tallahassee Table Rating
Worth a Drive

When you go …
Georgio’s Fine Food & Spirits
2971 Apalachee Pkwy., Tallahassee

4 to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday.






Lunchtime Trolley on a Roll

It was a balmy day and the breeze coming in through the open windows was spring-luscious. A friend and I were sitting in a city trolley, getting a free trip to our lunch destination. No need to hunt for a parking spot or feed a parking meter. No hassle of mid-day traffic.

We were among the riders trying out the city’s trolley on Monday, the first official day for the new lunchtime service, and we found quite a few fans.

“I like it,” said Toya Owens, a human resources consultant with the city of Tallahassee. She and coworker Shanita Jones, both of whom work at Tallahassee City Hall, were waiting outside the building to get a bus to Gaines Street Pies in College Town. Both pay for parking in the Kleman parking garage and don’t relish the idea of paying for metered parking elsewhere.

“With the trolley, we don’t have to drive,” said Jones, who added that the stress-free ride gives her a chance to check out the area. “I can look at the shops along the way and find places I want to go back and see.”

It’s no coincidence that the service has kicked into gear at the beginning of the legislative session when the daily hunt for good, quick meals and parking spots can get intense.

City Commissioner Nancy Miller touts the service as a way to connect Midtown, Cascades Park and College Town with the heart of downtown Tallahassee, “making it easy to explore new dining and activity options.”

And there’s no need to worry about moving your car, losing your parking spot or paying for metered parking (in some areas).

All three routes operate from 11:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Monday through Friday and return to stops about every 20 minutes. All include a stop outside City Hall, at 300 S. Adams St., but you can pick up the trolleys at signs posted along the routes. You can also pull on the cord to request a stop along the way. We never had to wait more than a few minutes for the next trolley.

The city received the five trolleys as a donation from Palm Beach County. Two ride to Midtown, two to College Town and one to Cascades Park. The projected cost is $125,000 to $150,000 a year to operate the small fleet, said Edward Kring, citizen engagement ambassador in Tallahassee’s communications department.

We encountered two guys who work at the state Department of Education who were taking the Midtown trolley to get coffee at Lucky Goat on Monroe. Another rider, Sara McLain, said she didn’t own a car and was taking the Midtown trolley to get downtown and get a bite to eat before work. A few people without cars just liked the ride.

The trolleys will continue until the end of May with the possibility of extending them if there’s a demand, Kring said.

We paid $2.50 to park at the Kleman Parking Garage and walked over to City Hall to try the three trolley routes. On our trip to College Town, we had lunch at Township, sibling to Madison Social and Centrale, at Gaines and Woodward. The trolley stopped outside Madison Social, and we simply walked across the street. Easy.

We ate sausages and a grilled chicken sandwich, shared a giant Big Momma pretzel doused with cinnamon and sugar and by the time we finished, the trolley was across the street.

The city has also replaced its nighttime Rhythm Route with an expanded trolley service that covers Midtown, College Town and Cascades Park from 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

You can get a real-time schedule of where the trolleys are located, refreshed every 30 seconds, and a look at what restaurants, even food trucks, are available on the route by checking talgov.com/gis/trolley/index.html. The trolleys have WiFi and have air-conditioning for hotter days.

Here are some of the dining options you’ll find on each trip; some may be a few blocks from your stop.


The Edison: upmarket restaurant with a full bar and outside tables overlooking the park, with salads, burgers, sandwiches and specials. Downstairs, there’s the Power Plant Cafe, “energized by Catalina Cafe” offering coffee, pastries and light fare. 470 Suwannee St.; 850-765-9771.

Other options: Bring a picnic lunch or order from a food truck usually parked by the nearby Carlton Building at 501 S. Calhoun and eat in the park.


The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co: Get a bagel with a schmear, sandwiches and omelets. 815 W. Madison St.; 850-765-1058.

Catalina Cafe: coffee shop with sandwiches and pastries. 603 W Gaines St.; 850-999-1559.

Centrale Pizza, Parm and Bar: Italian restaurant with a retro feel. 815 W. Madison St.; 850-765-6799.

Gaines Street Pies: laid-back spot for pizza, wraps and salads. 603 W Gaines St.; 850-765-9275.

Food trucks: Kübano!: Cuban sandwiches and other Latin fare; 601 W. Gaines St.; 850-273-1750. Tally Arepas Tequeños, arepas and more Venezuelan specialties; 939 W. Gaines St.; 850-878-5573.

Isabella’s: Neopolitan-style pizza, salads and gelato. 799 W Gaines St.; 850-558-6379.

Madison Social: Lively restaurant and bar with a broad American menu. 705 S Woodward Ave.; 850-894-6276.

Savannah’s Country Buffet: Southern-style dishes like fried chicken, pork chops and all the fixins’. 437 W. Gaines St.; 850-224-7100.

Taco Bout It: New taco joint making house-made, soft-shell tortillas. 507 W. Gaines St.; 850-765-2008.

Township: bar and restaurant specializing in German-style dishes. 619 Woodward Ave., 850-597-8075.

Vale Food Co.: healthy bowls with vegetables, protein and grains. 815 W. Madison St.; 850-629-7529.

Yosties Chili Parlour: known for its chili hot dogs and “krack sketti” (spaghetti topped with chili). 915 Railroad Ave., 850-459-3679.


Kool Beanz: Fun, funky destination with eclectic menu; 921 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-2466.

Izzy’s Pub: New, hip locale serving sushi, rice bowls and other Asian small plates. 1123 Thomasville Rd.; 850-222-5000.

Lucky Goat: A new Midtown branch of the coffee shop with pastries and light fare. 1307 Monroe St.; 850-688-5292.

RedEye Coffee: The Element3 Church runs the nonprofit coffee shop, offering wraps and sushi. 1122 Thomasville Rd.; 850-425-5701.

Table 23: Attractive restaurant with a sprawling outdoor porch; Southern-style food and cocktails. 1215 Thomasville Rd.; 850-329-2261

Taco Republik: yucca fries and tostones as well as varied tacos. 1122-8 Thomasville Rd.; 850-765-3314.



It All Adds Up at Table 23

Table 23 has one of the most enviable locations in Tallahassee. It’s set in a historic home in the heart of Midtown, nestled under shady oaks and blessed with a sprawling wraparound porch that exudes Southern charm.

Rustic but gussied up with crystal chandeliers, cherry-red curtains and twinkly white lights, Table 23 can provide the backdrop for a casual evening with friends or that special date night. Bring the family to Sunday brunch or join your coworkers for happy hour.

To add to its many assets, owners Joe and Mandy Lemons have recently added lunch. Expect it to be a beacon for visitors when the legislative session begins in March.

The Setting
Dining outdoors is fun but the porch can get loud and crowded on weekends. For a quieter meal, you may prefer dining indoors. The upstairs dining room can be used for groups (make a reservation) or private events.

The building was built in the 1920s and owned by Fred Carroll, who delivered ice before refrigeration. In later years, it became the restaurant Chez Pierre, followed by the Front Porch, which closed after a fire in the summer of 2015.

Eight months ago, the Lemons opened Table 23, and that “23” isn’t as random as it sounds.

Joe got a job with the Bloomin’ Brands restaurant chain at age 23. He would later marry waitress Mandy when she was 23. Joe worked for the chain for 23 years (most recently as managing partner at Tallahassee’s Bonefish Grill). And Psalm 23 (The Lord is my shepherd) is Mandy’s favorite Bible passage. It all fit.

Dig In
The Lemons have a team of four chefs who prepare a straightforward menu with a creative, Southern twist.

Starters include pecan-crusted okra, sweet potato hummus, smoked mullet croquetas and a decadent-sounding “Southern Slate,” with candied bacon, deviled eggs, Pimento cheese and other rich treats.

Oysters are available chargrilled and fried, but we opted for a dozen raw. These delicious orbs were from the Panacea Oyster Co-Op, which is cultivating hand-raised oysters in the region. We could have easily slurped a dozen more.

As for salads, our server recommended a medley of pickled beets, field greens, candied pecans, blue cheese and a crisp garnish of skinny tobacco onions, finished with a dressing of beet juice and vinaigrette. Refreshing.

Entrees are limited to seven or so choices plus specials and more casual items like burgers and sandwiches.

My husband and daughter liked Table 23’s version of shrimp and grits, with lots of shrimp, arugula, mushrooms and a rich bacon-tomato gravy served over smoked Gouda cheese grits. Not exactly a diet plate but mighty fine eating.

One of our favorite dishes was the grouper, a plump six-ounce portion with a generous topping of delectable shrimp and blue crab stuffing, served with a creamy bourbon and thyme-infused corn, so good you’ll want to lick the plate.

We weren’t thrilled with a side of truffled Tater Tots, however. They were the typical fried potato bites with a barely discernible truffle flavor.

On another visit, we decided to share dishes in order to sample more of the menu. The challenge was that two of us wanted the rib-eye (which has a Lucky Goat coffee rub) prepared medium, and two of us wanted it rare. Our congenial server listened to our dilemma and we were pleasantly surprised when she brought us two different portions to share, each half of the steak cooked with our preferred temperatures, plated with an equal amount of asparagus and thinly sliced potatoes. Impressive.

We also shared juicy, pecan-crusted chicken, honey-brined and roasted to golden brown perfection. It’s served with a hash of chopped sweet potatoes, asparagus and Tasso ham.

Dessert choices include a gluten-free brownie, pecan pie or banana pudding, parfait style, with vanilla wafers. For a lighter ending, try the house-made ice cream or sorbet (choices change). The whiskey sour sorbet has the right balance of boozy and tart flavors and our white chocolate raspberry ice cream was scrumptious, Each dessert was served with a chocolate chip cookie. An interesting, and pleasing, new combo for us.

For lunch, Table 23 offers burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads and some main dishes like fried catfish or pork chops.

From the smoked brisket on challah to the hearty gumbo to the Southern “Rueben” with corned beef and collard greens (more Birmingham than Brooklyn), there’s a lot to like.

Linger over Southern-style cocktails like the popular Mason Punch made with sparkling wine, or a Hibiscus Julep. Proof beers are on tap, along with several other beer and wine choices (with nearly two dozen by the glass).

Servers were top-notch, keeping the meal well-paced yet warm and welcoming, extremely helpful.

For dinner, starters and small plates are $8 to $18; salads $8; main dishes $18 to $34; “handhelds” (sandwiches and burgers) $10 to $14; sides $3 to $6; desserts $5 to $8.

Bottom line
Open eight months, Table 23 is already a major player in Tallahassee. It has the location, food and service worthy of a prime dining destination.

Tallahassee Table Rating
Worth the Drive

When you go …
Table 23
1215 Thomasville Rd.

Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday; dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday. Brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Live music 6:30 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday nights.

Reservations accepted.





Bread, Wine and Romance

For that perfect date night, lovebirds are eager to find the ideal destination for dinner. As Omar Khayyám said, it’s all about “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.”

To help your search, here are a dozen destinations with the right recipe for bread, wine and romance. Just make reservations early, and let love take its course.

Sensual Italian cuisine, attentive service and cozy ambience add up to a special dining experience at +39, nestled inside the sprawling Urban Food Market in the Centre of Tallahassee. Open only five months, the white tablecloth restaurant showcases elegant dishes prepared by chef Alessandro Di Maggio (including his sinfully good cheesecake).
The Centre of Tallahassee, 2415 N Monroe St.; 850-536-6843.

319 Wine & Cheese Shoppe
Owners Lynne and Bill Edwards have created a warm, inviting atmosphere that gives this charming bistro a touch of romance. On Valentine’s Day, they’re presenting a three-course, $75 home-cooked dinner prepared by Lynne plus a bottle of I Heart California wine (cabernet or sauvignon blanc). The final touch: music by local singer Bobby Anhalt. 6265 Old Water Oak Rd.; 850-765-7053.

A la Provence
Savor French-Mediterranean cuisine by candlelight at classic A la Provence. You can count on gracious service, an extensive wine list

Joe Rondone / Tallahassee Democrat

(plus full bar) and a quiet atmosphere to help set the mood. The pièce de résistance: additions like chateaubriand and lobster for Valentine’s Day. 1415 Timberlane Rd.; 850-329-6870.

Clusters & Hops
Clusters & Hops has long attracted locals with its unconventional mash-up of restaurant and retail. Gourmet goodies (wine, beer, cheese, sausages, chocolate) are up front, The petite cafe and bar are in the back. With dim lights, soft music and a laid-back vibe, it’s well-suited to romance. Chef/owner Kent Steels features European-style dishes like baked eggplant lavosh, ostrich and osso buco plus more than 1,000 wine choices. One option: You can pick a wine off the shelf and pay the retail price with an $8.50 corkage fee. 707 N. Monroe St., 850-222-2669.

Cypress Restaurant
A special-occasion favorite, Cypress serves elegant renditions of Southern-inspired regional cuisine in a sophisticated setting with romantic lighting, accommodating staff and a friendly bar. Vibrant paintings by local artists add a creative spin. Along with its regular menu on Valentine’s Day, Cypress will offer a three-course meal for $45 and five courses for $65 with wine pairing options. 320 East Tennessee St.; 850-513-1100.

Essence of India
Spice up your Valentine’s Day with aromatic Indian cuisine served in an exotic setting with glistening chandeliers, long gold curtains and deep coral hues. The soothing space specializes in the food of North India, including breads and dishes cooked in a tandoor (clay oven), and there’s a full bar. For an adventurous feast, share a thali dinner for two. Parkway Center, 1105 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-656-7200.

Food Glorious FoodThe place has a hidden-away, romantic feel. Adorned with modern artwork, the sleek restaurant features internationally inspired dishes (that change weekly), including more than a dozen small plates, creative cocktails and decadent desserts made in-house. 1950 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-7279.

Little Italy
Who doesn’t sigh at the memory of the romantic spaghetti and meatball scene in Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp?” Share the love, and generous plates of red-sauced favorites, at this homey Italian restaurant owned by Enver Sulollari and his wife Vjollca for 30 years. The place isn’t fancy but it’s warm, welcoming and wallet-friendly. 111 S Magnolia Dr.; 850-878-7781.

Nefetari’s Fine Cuisine & Spirits
Make your sweetheart queen (or king) for a day at this opulent destination, which promises diners a “royal experience” (There is actually a queen’s table here). What’s more, the one-of-a-kind setting, decorated with Egyptian and African art, showcases a
globe-trotting menu that includes an Ethiopian stew platter, Caribbean jerk and pad Thai. Owners Sharon and Dana Dennard make all customers feel like nobility. 812 S. Macomb St.; 850-210-0548.

Terry White (named “King of American Seafood” at 2014’s Great American Seafood Cook-Off) presents a sophisticated menu served in a comfortably classy space decorated with local art — or dine in the landscaped patio. White is preparing a three-course menu for Valentine’s Day in addition to the regular menu, which includes escargot, Scottish salmon and beef tenderloin. 3534 Maclay Blvd. South; 850-270-9396.

Shula’s 347
Snuggle in the large, private booths at this traditional steakhouse, ensconced in the Hotel Duval. After a meal of steaks, chops or seafood, zip upstairs to Level 8, the city’s only rooftop lounge, for a cocktail and view of downtown Tallahassee under the stars. 415 North Monroe St.; 850-224-6005.

Z,Bardhi’s Italian Cuisine
Devoted diners praise the traditional Italian fare and warm atmosphere of Z. Bardhi’s, a local favorite for two decades. If the weather cooperates, the lovely patio is best for courting, with white tablecloths, candlelight and landscaping. 3596 Kinhega Dr.; 850-894-9919

Rochelle Koff writes about food and dining at TallahasseeTable.com. Reach her at TallahasseeTable@gmail.com





Backwoods Crossing

If you’re dining at Backwoods Crossing and the chef suddenly runs out the door, don’t be alarmed.

He may be fleeing the kitchen to fetch fresh Flamingo Pink Swiss chard, dragon carrots or perhaps the Devil’s Ear lettuce grown in the garden surrounding the restaurant. Or there might be a pressing need for purple Midnight Dreams bell peppers, deep orange Turkish eggplants or fresh eggs.

“We want to grow special items, not something you’re going to buy at Publix,” said Backwoods Crossing chef Jesse Rice, who owns the restaurant with his brother, Tyler.

But there’s also plenty of familiar food grown here. Broccoli, brussels sprouts and shiitake mushrooms are among the 30 or so winter vegetables and herbs that could wind up on your plate. In the summer, when the number of varied crops will more than double, there’s even more green goodness.

Some restaurants may embellish their farm-to-table boasts, but diners only have to walk outside to see the crops sprouting at Backwoods Crossing.  But that’s not the only reason to dine here. The food is delicious and creative, a special experience in Tallahassee.

The Setting

Jesse, 31, and Tyler, 29, spent months transforming a building that was once Stinky’s Fish Camp into Backwoods Crossing and opened

– Backwoods Crossing

for business May 30. Jesse also owns Backwoods Bistro on Tennessee Street with his longtime friend, Taylor Harrell.

Backwoods Crossing is very different from its cousin. It has the folksy feel of a farmhouse, with an indoor porch and gleaming pine floors. The brothers turned crepe myrtle branches into lovely accents, displaying garden equipment and colorful pictures of vegetables. When the weather cooperates, diners can also eat outside in the garden.

The brothers grow crops on three of their four acres but they now have a full-time gardener, and aim to keep planting.

Step inside and you’ll see the “growing room” where tiny seedlings take root. These seedlings later move to the greenhouse, then the garden (tomato plants flourished in the greenhouse all winter).

Backwoods Crossing doesn’t have an official organic certification but Jesse said natural methods are used: no pesticides. Their kitty, Athena, helps keep bothersome critters away.

Aside from crops, the Rice brothers have a rooster and 73 chickens, which will produce about 18,000 eggs a year, used in the restaurant or for sale to take home. Soon, Backwoods Crossing will be raising quail for eggs and meat.

Dig in

Backwoods Crossing can’t grow all its own food, so the place also uses ingredients from local and regional farms as well as typical food distributors.

One menu offers a broad selection of dishes, including steak, seafood and duck, from varied sources. A separate sheet called Garden Creations features about nine or 10 starters and entrees that change weekly. Each of these dishes features at least one to three items grown in the Backwoods Crossing garden.

This looks like a fun choice: A $50 sampler of six small plates for sharing. Allow 30 minutes for Jesse and his cooks to create dishes on the fly, using what’s in the garden. It’s on our list to try on  one of our visits here. My husband and I like the  make-your-own salad, checking off choices for lettuce, vegetables, protein, toppings and dressing. A few items (like nuts, cheese and meats, marked with an asterisk), aren’t grown on site. The cost depends the types and number of the ingredients you choose. (A lettuce is $5, vegetables $1 each, for instance).

Our salad included a blend of lettuces grown on site: butter crunch, merlot and Devil’s Ear, which despite its name, has a heavenly, nutty taste. We added yellow and purple dragon carrots, beets and mushrooms, garnished with orange segments. The salad was fresh and refreshing, altogether memorable. We couldn’t resist the rich blue cheese dressing (which we got on the side) — all dressings but the Caesar are house-made.

Another hit: glistening slivers of raw scallops in a carpaccio with a citrusy zing. The mollusks are layered with rings of green bell peppers plus chopped tomatoes and greens — the produce from the garden — topped with a faux caviar. I got the dish by mistake. I had actually ordered a different scallop dish — but it was a fortuitous mix-up.

Also good: the pork slider with slow-cooked collard greens. A friend and I thought the barbecue sauce was a bit sweet but liked the meat. The restaurant gets whole hogs from the Great Southern Forestry in Monticello. I prefer the steak sliders on the regular menu, with two juicy tenderloin patties garnished with crisp wisps of fried onions, arugula and a blueberry-jalapeño reduction, which sounds like an odd combo but it works. The light sauce has a mild fruity taste and a slight kick. Most dishes include a side salad, with greens from outside sources.

The kitchen nails old-time corn fritters, made with corn off the cob. One of my favorite dishes combines the addictive corn fritter with two crab cakes in a stack with sliced avocado, tomatoes and a drizzle of house-made remoulade sauce. It’s downright decadent, — and delicious.

Even more decadent: the desserts. I’ve sampled the bread pudding (with a caramel reduction), sweet potato casserole (it tastes like Thanksgiving) and cinnamon-scented apple crumble (with Bourbon-glazed Granny Smith apples). All house-made. All worth the splurge.

There’s a full bar with creative cocktails and a range of beers and wines. Happy diners can “Hydrate the Kitchen,” which means buying a round of suds for the cooks. They’ll hoot and holler their thanks.

On one packed Saturday night, service was slow and disorganized. On two other visits, the staff was attentive, efficient and welcoming. The young servers were helpful in explaining ingredients and making suggestions.

Starters $8 to $12; soups and salads $6 to $13; sandwiches $9 to $12; entrees $17 to $27; desserts $5 to $8.

Bottom line
This place is truly down-to-earth. We love its fresh fare, creativity, homey atmosphere and farm concept.  Jesse Rice says “the sky’s the limit” for the restaurant. We agree.

Tallahassee Table Rating
Worth the Drive

When you go …
Backwoods Crossing
6725 Mahan Dr., Tallahassee
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Live music 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday nights. Happy hour 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays.
Reservations: For six or more.



Food trends for 2017

The New Year is still young, but food pundits have already been consulting their culinary crystal balls, predicting what we can expect to find on our plates in 2017.

Predicting trends for the New Year is precarious business. As the New York Times pointed out in a December article on food forecasting, “the practice is more art than science, often based on not much more than noting what is already percolating in big cities.” True perhaps, but it’s still fun to speculate.

Tallahassee Table consulted lists from foodie sources like Whole Foods, the National Restaurant Association, Pinterest, Bon Appétit magazine, the James Beard Foundation and some local chefs and farmers for ideas about what to expect in markets and restaurants in 2017.

What will be the new kale or quinoa? Will we fall in love with spelt or jackfruit? What will be the food of the year in Tallahassee? Tacos have been dominating the local restaurant scene and we don’t yet see that trend diminishing.

Tallahassee is not San Francisco or South Florida. We have our own tastes and our own pace. But here are nine trends to keep in mind. Only time will tell if any of them stick.

Ancient grains: Now that we’ve finally learned to pronounce quinoa (keen-wah is acceptable), more ancient grains are gaining attention,

Amaranth, an ancient grain.

including kamut, spelt, amaranth, lupin and teff, the latter popular in Ethiopian cooking.

Cauliflower or maybe kalettes: While it’s tough to top the ubiquitous power food, kale, the James Beard Foundation has said cauliflower is providing lots of competition, with its mild flavor, “blank canvas” and versatility. Another option: kalettes, a new vegetable that combines the flavors of Brussels

The lowly cauliflower is on the rise.

sprouts and kale. Collard greens are also moving beyond soul food menus. Tallahassee’s Backwoods Crossing, for instance, is serving pork sliders topped with collard greens.

Charcuterie: What’s old is new again. Don’t dig out the fondue pot just yet, but charcuterie at least appears to be making a comeback. The popular serving of cured meats is on the list of menu items that will impact sales in the year ahead, compiled by The National Restaurant Association, which surveyed nearly 1,300 professional chefs who are members of the American Culinary Federation. House-made charcuterie was named a hot trend by 69 percent of the chefs surveyed. We’ve seen more charcuterie in the

A charcuterie plate at 319 Wine $ Cheese Shoppe.

past year, with restaurants like Tallahassee’s 319 Wine & Cheese Shoppe and Fifth & Thomas pairing meats with a variety of cheeses and condiments. The big-city trend of making charcuterie in-house may not take off, but local restaurants are buying meats from butchers or markets and serving charcuterie their way.

Creative condiments: Whole Foods Market predicts more interesting condiments will shake up the culinary scene this year, including black sesame tahini, habanero jam, ghee (a type of clarified butter used in Indian cuisine), black garlic, dae syrup and beet salsa. But before we embrace Mexican hot chocolate spread, “I want people to fall in love with parsley,” said Katie Harris, manager of Full Earth Farm in Quincy. “It’s so underrated and so much more than a garnish. It’s one of the most awesome herbs that’s super good for you, good for your blood. It tastes good and has a lot of nutritional value.” Parsley’s health benefits may surprise you, especially if you’ve been picking it off your plate as a nonessential food. It’s considered an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C and beta carotene, which is an antioxidant that can help protect the body against free-radical damage and fight the effects of aging. It’s also a good source of vitamin A, folate and iron.

Delivery, please: Bon Appétit magazine sees an increase in delivery-only services. With our large college population in Tallahassee, it’s not hard to imagine a demand for such services here. Penny Delivers and Doorstep Delivery are two popular examples in Tallahassee though their clients go beyond students. Hospital employees, office workers and families are among the customers who want delivery services, said Christin Wright, manager of Doorstep Delivery in Tallahassee. The delivery service UberEats has become more popular in big cities but hasn’t yet made it to Tallahassee.

Jazzed about jackfruit: Pinterest is touting the nutritious as a pork substitute. You’ll just have to get past the stinky aroma. Using jackfruit as a vegan option has gone up 420 percent in 2016, according to Pinterest. Tallahassee’s Sweet Pea Cafe, a farm-to-table vegan/vegetarian restaurant, has been increasingly using jackfruit, particularly in tacos, nachos, burritos and barbecue, said restaurant staffer Whitney Corkowski. “We use it like a pork substitute. It has a pulled pork consistency,” Corkowski said. “We may cut it with tofu.” But what’s trendy at Sweet Pea, she said, is always “what’s in season.”

Pizza possibilities: This trend uses naan, India’s pillowy flatbread, as

Homemade naan pizza.

a canvas for your favorite pizza ingredients. You can pick up naan at the grocery store and create your own combinations. Pinterest calls it a top trend for the new year.

Passion for purple: As more consumers grow interested in farm-to-table products, more restaurants and home cooks are discovering vegetables they may have overlooked in the past. Whole Foods notes that purple foods are “popping up everywhere.” These include purple cauliflower, purple asparagus, elderberries, acai, purple potatoes and purple corn. The trend also reflects nutritional recommendations for a

A medley of purple foods: carrots, potatoes, potato chips.

rainbow diet. Deeply colored fruits and vegetables tend to have more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Fifth & Thomas chef Zach Burton said he has been serving purple carrots and kohlrabi, an odd-looking member of the cabbage family with a sweet but peppery profile, that he buys from Full Earth Farm.

Sous vide anyone? This cooking technique (pronounced sue-veed), referring to cooking “under vacuum,” isn’t new, but more home cooks are trying it out and Pinterest predicts its popularity will rise in 2017. The method uses a vacuum-sealed plastic pouch that you place in a temperature-controlled water bath for longer cooking times. The method enables cooks to use less expensive cuts of meat to create tender steaks. Don’t let the fancy name scare you off.

Whatever 2017 brings in the way of food trends, we’ve come a long way from basic meat and potatoes.