When here for a concert, kayak trip, sporting event or sight-seeing, garnish the experience by immersing in the Tallahassee food culture. And rather than simply sitting in a restaurant and ordering from the menu -- take a stir-fry class at a lakeside cottage kitchen and eat your homework. Learn about pairings of wine and local cheese from an organic grocer. Make pasta. Visit a farm.
At KitchenAble Cooking School and Catering, in a cottage on Lake Ella, just blocks from downtown, chef Jessica Bright McMullen teaches small groups to prepare entrees and side dishes – such as chicken marsala, leg of lamb, eggplant parmesan, stir-fry shrimp and ginger ice cream – for $40-55 per person. In less than three hours, patrons learn about local ingredients, preparing the dishes and then partake in the edible creations together. BYOB
For $25-35, chefs at Brown’s Kitchen Center teach patrons to make pasta and sauces, bake pork tenderloin, roast chicken with vegetables, create salads with local produce, sweeten pound cake with honeysuckle syrup or make Southern French toast covered in berry reduction. Students then enjoy eating it all. Brown’s also sells the kitchenware needed to try it at home. Most classes are on weekends.
New Leaf Market Co-op carries products grown or produced within 200 miles, hosts wine-tasting on Friday evenings and beer-tasting the first Saturday of each month and presents other periodic workshops such as pairing wines with local cheeses. Each fall, New Leaf coordinates tours of two dozen nearby farms offering a behind-the-scenes look at farm animals, produce gardens, fresh eggs, beekeeping, dairies, vineyards, cattle and goat ranches, orchards and organic farming. Most of the tours are free.
Berry-picking is a hands-on, family favorite that creates lasting memories. Blueberries are typically available May-June, with blackberries and grapes picked later. Strawberry-picking is popular late November through April. Check current availability, and go on a cool, fresh morning. You’ll pay $4-5 per pound for your harvest; the ones you eat are complimentary. Try Windy Hill Vineyard just east of Tallahassee or Saladino’s Red Barn Farm in Crawfordville, just south.
For those who prefer berries in liquid form, contact Homebrew Den about its next wine-making or beer-making class. Spend an hour learning the basics. Free. Or purchase the supplies to try it yourself.
Another food-culture tip: Tallahassee is near the coast, and when near the coast, indulge in oysters. Watch as shuckers crack them open, then slurp them from the shell -- at Bird's Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack or Shell Oyster Bar downtown. Seafood fans also can order oysters steamed or fried, along with fish, crabs, shrimp, clams, scallops and mussels cooked to order.
And for dessert … watch uniformed soda jerks create your sundae, fizz or float at the nostalgic (and immaculate) soda fountain and toy store Lofty Pursuits. Patrons can gather at the counter and watch Lofty’s candy-makers knead bundles of hot sugar into hard candies, ribbons and candy canes. The candy-makers enjoy answering questions and give out free samples.
Learn more about Tallahassee and its culinary offerings at www.VisitTallahassee.com or call Visit Tallahassee toll free at (800) 628-2866. Share your dining experiences on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #IHeartTally and #LocalTallyEats.