4.09.2014

One Spark's Culinary Creators

Jacksonville hosts One Spark crowd-funding festival April 9-13

Among the hundreds of projects that will vie for votes and donations at this year's One Spark festival in downtown Jacksonville, Florida, 28 of them are food-related.

Some seek operating cash to improve or expand on existing businesses, and many are looking for ways to improve the lives of First Coast residents, feeding the hungry, providing training in food-service, sustainable gardening, packaging and distribution of food. Here are three we're excited about.

Gastrofest 2015 aims show the world what the Jacksonville culinary scene has to offer with a festival featuring “everything from fine dining to food trucks, from microbreweries to local cookbooks, from vegans to local beef.” Their One Spark booth will feature many local culinary businesses  and fellow One Spark creators sampling their creations and demonstrating their skills - here's the schedule.

Find Gastrofest creators Erin Thursby, Kamron Perry and Nathaniel Price
  at Main Street Park during One Spark, and on the web at www.gastrofest.com.

Follow them on facebook and twitter. Vote #20026



Mark Patterson created a niche in the frozen dessert market by crafting a great tasting, protien rich healthier alternative to traditional ice-cream. Now he's courting funding at One Spark, to expand his Jacksonville-based line of Naturally Smart Frozen Desserts, currently available in chocolate and vanilla flavors at Grassroots, Whole Foods, BioMax and other natural food retailers. 

He seeks funding to develop three new flavors — coffee, coconut and green tea. 

Mark spent years working in local restaurants before he decided to develop Naturally Smart. He's doing everything right, and keeping much of the production and marketing of his product local. Grab a sample of this cool treat at Chamblin's Uptown during One Spark. #20007


Conscious Market wants to develop a system to efficiently collect and redistribute excess food from small businesses.  An outreach of the nonprofit Character Counts!, it is developing a line of food products and a mobile application to facilitate the tracking of perishable and non-perishable goods. Learn more on Facebook

Conscious Market creator and spiritual force of nature Florence Haridan and the crew will be sampling their wares during One Spark at Workscapes Jax. #20538

See you at One Spark!

3.22.2014

No Meat March Madness

So we're "doing" No Meat March this year. A 31 day challenge to go meat free, presented by Jacksonville's own The Girls Gone Green, a non-profit whose mission is to explore environmental, animal and health issues impacting us today.

Crab Panzanella Salad - Pele's Woodfire - Jacksonville FL
Except that in the White casa, we're not exactly going meat free. We are allowing ourselves to consume fish and seafood. And eggs, and dairy...

Oh, and there where those couple of days where, being somewhat Irish, we allowed ourselves to consume a few pounds of corned beef, but let's stick a pin in that for now. And there have been a couple of work assignments that required me to eat beef, so...

Let's just say, in our own way, we're "doing" No Meat March. 

Artichokepita in miniature phyllo cups - easy and fun to eat
It was kind of a big deal for the Madre. We like meat products. She's old school "meat 'n three style" when it comes to cooking. This was going to disrupt all known patterns of meal preparation and consumption. 

She began asking about it in mid-February. "What kinds of things can we eat? Can we eat chicken? (no) Can we start eating pasta again then? (sure, a little, let's not go crazy though...) 

I tried to call it off before it started because I thought she was not going to be able to handle it. But she surprised me. We've been eating (sort of) meat free for twenty days now, and so far we're enjoying it. I even entered a recipe contest with two non-meat selections. Artichokepita takes the best flavors and textures of artichoke dip and toasts it up in mini phyllo cups. And Soul Food Spanakopita puts a Southern spin on the classic Greek dish. 

Egg Salad. Sort Of. Casa Nancita 
There are just ten more days of No Meat March, and already I'm dreaming of steak, bacon, and chicken ANYTHiNG. I think we'll make it though. And I may have dropped a few pounds, so there's that.

As penance for not strictly adhering to the program, I've made a small donation to The Girls Gone Green / No Meat MarchI hope you'll consider doing the same! 

I'm enjoying our meatless fare, but to be totally honest, at this point, I can't wait for Steakpril. 

3.14.2014

Happy Pi(e) Day!

It's Pi(e) Day!  

I'm celebrating by stopping for lunch at YOUR PIE in Tapestry Park. They are celebrating the venerable mathematical symbol today by selling their fresh-made veggie pizzas for $3.14* all day. 


•The $3.14* price includes your choice of white or wheat dough, sauce, one cheese and fresh vegetables.

•Gluten-free dough ($2.50), extra cheese(s) and all meats ($1 per portion), and sales taxes are additional.

At that price, I can afford to grab a gelato too! Additional Promo details are on their facebook page. 
This cracks me up though:  
Limit five (5) pies per guest. Dine in only please.

If you can eat FIVE pizzas dining in, in one sitting, I am in awe of you.

See you at YOUR PI(E)!

Your Pie Southside
4828 Deer Lake Dr W
Near Aloft Hotel, facing Southside Blvd

2.24.2014

JACKSONVILLE HOME + PATIO SHOW

FEB 27 - MAR 2, 2014
AT THE PRIME OSBORN CONVENTION CENTER

_________________________________________________________
Check out the lineup OF LOCAL CULINARY TALENT APPEARING AT the
Jacksonville Magazine Cooking Stage.

I'VE GOT FIVE sets OF TICKETS TO GIVEAWAY!


lEAVE A COMMENT BELOW OR tweet me @nancy_White - let me know who you're most excited to see at the show. I'll draw the lucky winners on Wednesday. 

2.15.2014

What's New?

"The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, familiar things new."   ~ William Makepeace Thackeray


It has been 15 years since we pulled up our shallow stakes in St Louis and headed to Florida's First Coast. Lately, I've been reflecting on how much has changed since we arrived, and looking forward at how much potential for greatness is stirring in our Bold City. Even the beaches have transformed significantly in that relatively short time.


Bowl of Pho - Atlantic Beach
A few months ago, the Madre and I were at Table 1 in PVB enjoying lunch and libations, when a couple a few seats over confided to our server that they had recently returned to the beach after a decade long absence. They wanted an insider's perspective on which of all these new beaches area restaurants were the best of the best

If you know me personally, you know I wouldn't think twice about interrupting / adding to their conversation. On this day, however, Madre and I shared a giggle at the ironic situation, but did not chime in. I wanted to hear the server's suggestions.


PVFC Conch Fritters. Get your own order! Palm Valley
Off to a promising start, she mentioned Palm Valley Fish Camp, which is on my permanent short list of places to recommend. Of the next three spots she named, one had taken over an infamous venue the couple would have recognized as Ward's Landing and morphed it into a seafood version of the meat-n-three spot for the blue hair crowd, one was a chain, famous for its Bang-Bang Asian appetizer. I refer to this one as "Fish Back" as a nod to its cousin, the Australian themed joint cranking out giant breaded deep-fried onions and large hunks-o-beef. One just happened to be next door to PVFC, and that's about how she stated it.  "Oh, and ______ is down there too." I couldn't have said it better. In fact, my directions to the place would include, once you see their sign, slow down - the very NEXT turn is the PVFC parking lot. Turn THERE. 


Brisket Taco, Avocado Taco. Taco Lu - Jax Beach
HAD I chimed in, I would have also suggested they check out TacoLu, Salt Life Food Shack, North Beach Fish Camp, Royal Palm Village, Culhane's, The Fish Company, Bowl of Pho, Simply Tasty Thai, DaVinci's, Poe's Tavern, Pho Viet, Bongiorno's, Safe Harbor Seafood, Firehouse Subs, DeliComb, Metro Diner, The Blind Rabbit, Caps on the Water...

You get the drift. Plenty to choose from.



The Sleeper - Poe's Tavern - Atlantic Beach
All of these are on my list of go-to places (or NOT on my list, for that matter) for specific reasons, and explaining the nuances would have taken all afternoon. So we ordered another round of drinks and kept our opinions to ourselves. That is, until now. 

What's YOUR favorite beaches area restaurant? No crossing the ditch...

2.06.2014

Gadget Fever - fitbit flex

I have a great doctor. I'd tell you her name, but then you'll want to switch over and pretty soon it will be even MORE impossible to get in to see her. I'll just say she's super smart, AND she can read me like a book. Recently I asked her for help with shedding some pounds. We talked diet, which certainly plays a role, but more importantly we talked lifestyle. What am I, realistically, willing and able to do to make a change? Even just getting out and walking four times a week would deliver some solid health benefits. Since it wasn't the first time we'd talked about walking, she suggested an incentive to make it more interesting. 

"Have you seen the fitbit," she asked?

"It's an activity tracker, a pedometer, it has a sleep monitor and a calorie counter. It syncs to your iPhone with Bluetooth, there's an app, you can get badges, and go online and check your progress. I got one over the holidays. It's easy and fun to use. I think you're going to like it too." 



She shared an amusing anecdote about her kids, but my mind was racing.

Why had I not heard of this before? Clearly I have been living in a cave. Sure, it is a comfy cave I designed myself, with a caramel macchiato fountain, the walls lined with decadent baked goods, and in the garden we grow chocolate covered cherries... but the holidays are long over, and its time to remodel. 

This new thing was cool and fun and it would make me like exercise, and I had to have it. Amazon came through in usual PRIME fashion, and I was able to score this chic and techno-fabulous Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity + Sleep Wristband for a mere $89.95

Once I found it I realized I had seen it before, on the wrist of one of my well-toned, super-fit marathon runner-type friends. Seemed legit!   

So I've had it on since it arrived late yesterday, and so far I am impressed. I have emerged from my chocolate covered fantasy world. Serious geek squeaks ensued when I read about all the data this thing can collect and parse out to you. Suddenly I'm portioning my food, and parking at the far end of the aisle and walking instead of circling the lot until the RockStar spot opens up. And that's just the first day. 


Lest you think I'm going to miss out on my favorite foods... worry not.
I needed to grab a late lunch while I was running a few errands, and I remembered our friends at Firehouse Subs are rolling out this full line of sandwiches and salads, Hearty and Flavorful, under 500 calories each. 

I opted for Capt. Sorensen's Datil Pepper Grilled Chicken (430 Calories) and my magic bracelet stopped me from ordering the combo (chips and a soft drink)! I stuck with water, no chips, and was still more than satisfied. Score one for fitbit flex AND Firehouse!
I've set a weight loss goal, and the fitbit is tracking my every activity in accordance. Sure, right now I'm 134 calories over my "budget" for the day, but I have burned 574 more than I consumed, so I'm going to call it a wash. I'm not vying for Biggest Loser overnight here, I just want to get back into a more livable regimen and drop a few sizes. 

Will it stand the test of time? Stay tuned and find out!

2.03.2014

Chriss Brown - A Jacksonville Original

Chef Chriss Brown at Beaver Street Commissary
Chef, Caterer, Commissary Manager, Food Biz Start-up Counselor, Food Truck Wrangler, Chriss Brown may well be the most hard-working person I know. 

As partner / manager at Jacksonville's 927 Events, Chriss sets the stage for special events, meetings, parties, receptions and more in a one-of-a-kind downtown venue. 

Catering is hard work. There's more to it than planning a menu, dressing out a few fancy tables, and making sure the buffet is stocked. Chriss manages to make it seem like a breeze, zipping through the day with a smile and can-do attitude that is more than a match for whatever challenge is on her plate.

After 15 years in the corporate world and a career journey that spanned several states, Chriss returned home to Jacksonville, Florida in 2000, working and saving to open her own restaurant. In 2003 she purchased Cafe Express, which she operated until she had built a large enough clientele to sell and move into catering full time. 

As she searched for a commissary kitchen in Jacksonville as a base of operations for her catering company, she wasn't finding any that met her needs. Sensing a business opportunity, she consulted her friend (now business partner) Paul, who offered her the opportunity of a lifetime. He owned a warehouse on Beaver Street that would make an ideal commissary space. The two decided to build a facility big enough so that start-ups and small business entrepreneurs who were looking for a licensed facility for their operations could join.


So Began the Beaver Street Commissary



Commissary members preparing for the day's work.
The 5,000-square-foot facility has three separate bays that can accommodate numerous businesses simultaneously prepping and cooking their food products. 

There is a master schedule to ensure space is available when needed, and individuals must clean up after themselves when their work is done, leaving the area ready for the next member. As the business grows, there is over 20,000 square feet of space available to accommodate future phases. 
Members have designated storage areas.
The commissary was recently inspected and approved as a base for vendors planning to sell their products into Whole Foods Market. In addition, the farm-to-table and buy local movements have spurred recent growth in food business start-ups, which has resulted in an increase in commissary memberships. 

After plenty of auctions, blood, sweat and tears, Chriss and Paul completed the build out and became licensed on July 28, 2009.  Five years later, the BSC may be the only stand-alone commissary of its kind in Northeast Florida. 

Currently there are 38 licensed member companies, holding various permits through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (food), Agriculture, USDA, and FDA. Members pay a yearly membership fee and monthly fees for unlimited use of the facilities. Details are at the newly launched Beaverstreetcommissary.com 

One of the early commissary customers is Mark Patterson, President and Founder of Naturally Smart Foods. Mark worked at the commissary during the early phase of his healthy frozen dessert product start-up. 

Naturally Smart Frozen Desserts - try them at One Spark!
"Working with Chriss and the Beaver Street Commissary was an excellent opportunity as a start-up. BSC was nicely equipped, and allowed me to spend my money on growth and sales, versus building and supplying a facility from the ground up," Mark told us recently.

Current commissary clients include bakers, caterers, personal chefs, food truck operators, food business start-ups, vendors selling at art and farmers' markets, and a non-profit creating a line of food items. Chriss ensures that everyone maintains proper licences, and offers counsel based on her professional experience. 

Food Trucks at The Lot on Beaver Street
In 2012 Chriss got involved in promoting and assisting new food truck businesses in Jacksonville, and in 2013 she and Paul created a space solely for the use and convenience of food trucks.  

Located across from the commissary, "The Lot" features secure parking and surveillance for food trucks and vendor carts, with available individual electric, garbage, grease disposal and water set ups.  There are plans to expand offerings and plenty of space in which to grow.

Chriss confers with a food truck operator at The Lot.

Kudos to Chriss on finding her niche - making it easier for food businesses to start-up and thrive here on the First Coast! 

Jacksonville is experiencing a culinary renaissance, and Chef Chriss Brown is one of the many hardworking professionals making it happen every day. 

If you have a food related business on the First Coast, we want to hear from you. How did you get your start?  

1.14.2014

Ritz-Carlton Cafe 4750 Offers Kick off to Amelia Island Restaurant Week

 It's like a "Best of Amelia Island" - all under one elegant roof! 

On January 16 - Chef Thomas Tolxdorf of The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, is gathering a group of local Chefs/Owner of Amelia Island Restaurants and farmers from Fernandina Beach Market Place to officially kick off Amelia Island’s Restaurant Week

Each chef will prepare a tasting in Café 4750. The evening begins with a 6 p.m. wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres and a 6:45 p.m. dinner seating. 

The evening menu includes:


Café 4750 Farmers Market Appetizer BuffetOysters, Shrimp, Ceviches, Steak Tartare Station, Smoked Salmon Flatbread, Local Honey & Cheeses, Farm Fresh Salads & Grilled Vegetables


Scott Schwartz
Olive Dill Poached Scallop

T.J. Pelletier
J.D. Beef Beer Braised Short Ribs

Brian Grimley
Fried Oyster BLT

Roberto Pestana
Roberto’s Paella
  
Café 4750
Thomas Tolxdorf
Cedar Creek Clams
Country Ham, Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash Nage

DessertsSheldon MillettThe Ritz-Carlton Pastry Department presents Family Style Desserts

$96 per person plus gratuity. 

For information and reservations 
please call 904-277-1100 - Or visit 

12.29.2013

Meet The Cheese Experts at Whole Foods Market

The first item on my list for our simple but elegant New Years Eve celebration this year is the cheese board. I love the way certain cheeses pair with sparkling wines and fruit. While I have developed a few favorites over the years, I recently was invited to try out a few more, in a cheese sampling / demo at our local Whole Foods Market, where, In my opinion, you'll find the best cheese selection in Jacksonville. 

It's not hard to understand why they excel in this area - Whole Foods Market has 147 Certified Cheese Professionals™ in stores throughout the country, who have mastered the art of cheese - from making to aging to handling it. There is always someone on hand to share their wisdom, including suggested accompaniments to complement your selection.

On the first of what I understand will be a series of cheese themed events, Jacksonville based experts Stephanie and Alice shared tips for assembling and presenting the perfect cheese board for holiday gatherings. 



Some of the crowd favorites:

Melkbus Truffle Gouda
·         Raw cow’s milk gouda from a single-source herd featuring pronounced aromatics. Deep, rich flavors of Italian truffles and cream.  -  Goes with dry sparkling wine, pancetta, rustic breads.

Mitica Pecorino Toscano Stagionato
·         Hints of nuts and butterscotch in this densely textured Italian cheese. Sweet sheep’s milk creaminess. - Goes with Chianti, fig spread, Marcona almonds, crisp pears.

Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue
·         Blue cheese smoked over hazelnut shells. Savory caramel, array of sweet earthy complexity from raw cow’s milk. -  Goes with zinfandel, bourbon, walnuts, grapes.

Appleby Family Appleby’s Cheshire
·         Hand-selected raw milk cheese. Cows graze on mineral-rich grasses, creating savory, clean, tangy flavors. - Goes with pale ales, soft red wines, dried apricots, fresh apples, chutney.

Vermont Creamery Bonne Bouche Ash-Ripened Goat Cheese
·         Soft-ripened goat cheese, hand ladled, aged more than a month.  Appealing notes of fresh earth and subtle hazelnut. - Goes with sauvignon blanc, apples, pears, walnuts, artisan honey.

More wisdom from the Whole Foods Market pros:

How to Create a Cheese Plate

  • Pick cheeses of contrasting textures and flavors: creamy, firm, sweet, pungent.
  • Contrast Old World cheeses with New World selections.
  • On a budget? Buy one or two fantastic cheeses, rather than five or six so-so options.
  • Two ounces of cheese per person is a good rule of thumb.
  • Let sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before serving for optimal flavor.
  • Serve with bread and crackers for different textures and flavors to accent the cheese.
  • Talk to your cheesemonger. They can offer suggestions on which cheeses pair well with others. 

Giveaway - We've Saved the Best For Last

It's our last giveaway for 2013! Whole Foods Market, who sponsored my visit to their Cheese Night event, want to share the love - so thanks to them, one lucky reader will start 2014 off with a $75 Whole Foods Market Gift Card - good at any WFM in the USA. That's a lotta cheddar! 

To enter the drawing, please leave a comment on this post answering the question "What's your "must have" item on a cheese board?" Mine is Marcona Almonds. MAD about them. Use the RaffleCopter widget to record your entries - including extras for likes and sharing on Twitter!
·        

12.24.2013

Christmas Eve Traditions


Last year, our family created a new Christmas Eve tradition. It started when my sister Maureen requested (and we created) a Mexican meal for her birthday, which falls on December 24.

Tacos, Taquitos, Enchiladas, Chile Verde, Tamales, Spanish Rice, Beans, Guacamole, etc. are in the standard rotation for family get-togethers at our house. We love making AND eating them throughout the year. Last year, when we were enjoying that special meal on Christmas Eve, we decided we liked it enough for it to become tradition. Today we'll celebrate my sister - and the season - with some home-made Chicken Enchiladas Suizas. I'm learning how to use my new Nikon, so you can expect more pics as the recipe progresses. 

Roughly equal numbers of Poblanos, Jalapenos, and Tomatillos were roasted for a salsa verde that I'll use for the enchiladas. This makes a HOT sauce. If you like it milder, change the ratio to include more tomatillos, or just make it with all tomatillos and add one or two peppers for a milder sauce. 

Roast or broil until they are wilted and skins are starting to peel.
Use whole washed peppers and tomatillos (stems removed). Slit with a paring knife, coat with olive oil, and roast in a glass baking dish or foil lined pan in a 450 degree oven until they soften and their skins start pulling away. (You can broil them  but you'll have to watch them closely and turn frequently.) 

Toss the tomatillos into the blender, cool, seed and peel the peppers, then add them to the blender with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, a small handful of fresh cilantro leaves, and two peeled cloves of garlic. Blend until smooth. Salt to taste, but don't over-season as there will be cheese and sour cream added when the enchiladas are being filled and topped. I made this one a day ahead and refrigerated it, but you can make it on the fly and use it same day. 

Feliz Cumpleaños, Maureen!

12.21.2013

Heritage for the Holidays



Merry Christmas, Beasties!

Are you looking for a last minute holiday gift for the foodie or history buff on your list?  Gotcha covered! 

My friend Jeffrey Spear from Studio Spear wrote this fun and informative cookbook. It retails for under $20 and would make a great gift! 

The First Coast Heritage Cookbook is a collection of recipes influenced by the ingredients and food ways of the Indigenous Indians as well as the Spanish, French, British and African settlers who inhabited the First Coast from 14,000 BC (the time archaeologists tell us evidence of human habitation first appeared) to 1821 (when Florida became a U.S. Territory). The recipes have been modernized to accommodate today's available ingredients, so no need to search the WD meat case for Bears' Head or roam the aisles of Fresh Market in search of Giant Land Tortoise. 

Smoked Fish Dip - Page 54
You'll find Jeffrey's drool-inducing cookbook at our fave indy bookseller, The Bookmark in Neptune Beach, the Beaches Museum and History Park, or in Jax at Chamblin's, the Cummer Museum Gift Shop. 

In St. Augustine, it's available at the Castillo de San Marcos and St Augustine Visitor Center. If you prefer online shopping, there's always Amazon!

No need to pick one up for me, I've got my copy, signed by the author. Thanks, Jeffrey!

12.18.2013

Taverna San Marco Expands, Adds Craft Cocktails, Private Dining and Quick Casual Lunch Options

“The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about, and what you value.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

Taverna San Marco has launched a new full liquor handcrafted cocktail program, along with an updated quick casual lunch service, lunch delivery and a private dining room available for special events and occasions.  

Southside - lemony, minty, lovely.
The restaurant added artisan and handcrafted cocktails to its award-winning wine and beer offerings, featuring all fresh, house-made ingredients and new twists on classics like the Ramos Fizz, Southside, and Sidecar. 

The new cocktail menu was designed by Brian Binniker, managing partner and bartender, who trained at Morimoto in New York. Binniker sites prohibition style recipes as one of his influences for the new menu. 


At a recent media event I sampled a complimentary cocktail called the Southside, a lemony-minty concoction that claims to have been invented at New York's famed 21 Club, and found it to be charmingly refreshing and light. 



Italian Grilled Cheese - housemade mozz, tomato, pesto, ciabatta - $8
Taverna lunch options now include quick casual (order at the counter, they bring to the table) and delivery service. 

If you prefer full-service that's still available as well, with the same quality menu and some new menu items, including seasonal sandwiches. Some of the restaurant's former special features have also returned. 


Recent Daily Lunch Special - Scallops with root veg puree and risotto - $15
Taverna arrived on Jacksonville's restaurant scene four years ago with the promise of high quality, fresh, handcrafted food, served in a sophisticated setting, at an affordable price. They've been delivering on that promise since day one. 

The culinary team makes everything from scratch - breads, pasta, cheese, sauces, etc., exhibiting a level of craftsmanship rare to come by in today's pre-fab, flash-frozen, mass-produced food world. Their traditional Neapolitan style pizza is a personal favorite, perfect to share at the bar with a Bold City Dukes Brown Ale on draft, or grab one to go, add a salad and you've got a light meal for two, no cooking required.

Butternut Squash Soup, with apples, bacon,
pomegranate molasses, creme fraiche, sage  -  $6
Jacksonville born Chef/Proprietor Sam Efron's seasonal menu features ingredients primarily sourced from local producers, who employ sustainable and humane farming methods.

The chef 
looks to our friends at Twinn Bridges Farm for herbs and a variety of seasonal vegetables, and uses all natural Angus beef, (with no antibiotics, no hormones, certified humane, and all vegetarian diet). The seafood is sourced from a local fish monger, and fish is caught locally according to the season. Efron's devotion to his craft and local, sustainable sourcing of ingredients have earned Taverna the Slow Food First Coast Snail of Approval.

Wine Director / Proprietor Kiley Wynne Efron brings an artist's sensibility and a firm passion for food and wine to the front of house operations at Taverna. A First Level Sommelier, she manages a 120+ bottle wine list (including 19 by-the-glass options) featuring Italian, Spanish, and California selections. Kiley can always be counted on to lend insight to your selection, resulting in the perfect pairing for your taste and price point.


Expansion at Taverna includes a counter for
ordering quick casual lunches, and a private dining room.
Expanding the space and increasing seating by 30% has been a plan a year in the making. The interior design includes a remodel of the existing restaurant, honoring their original farm-to-table theme. Reclaimed barn wood, live plantings and shimmering candles lend warm, rustic notes. The private dining room seats 40 in a dramatic yet intimate space.

Architect and interior design group DCOOP was employed for the expansion and remodel. The Jacksonville firm is noted for their award winning designs of Black Sheep, The Grape and Grain Exchange, and Ovinte’ at the Town Center. 

A grand re-opening celebration will be held at Taverna this Friday, December 20, 2013 from 5 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Guests at this open house happy hour will be treated to a selection of new lunch items as well as one complimentary handcrafted cocktail.

:: Stepping Onto Her Soap Box ::
When I was researching this post, I was stunned to note how many of my friends had either never been, or hadn't been to Taverna in some time. Many sited the trek to and construction (now complete at the Square) in San Marco, and the parking issues which plague so many local neighborhoods. It called into focus one of the emerging truths about our restaurant scene here in Jax. We're an expansive city, and we have more options for spending our time and money than ever before. But that's a good thing! What I urge you to do, is to consciously choose places (like Taverna) with engaged, involved proprietors (like Sam and Kiley) who are focused on local sourcing and creating real food, without pretense, in a beautiful space, at an affordable price. If these things aren't important to you, they should be. Don't MAKE me preach, now.

I suggest, if you've never been, or haven't visited Taverna in a while, that you make the trek (ok, San Marco is pretty centrally located, so let's get past that excuse) brave the traffic circles, find a parking spot (I've had no trouble finding rock-star parking since the construction added several spaces, but don't forget to check side streets and that lot behind the square) and enjoy a meal at Taverna. They are open seven days a week, lunch and dinner M-F, brunch and dinner on weekends. Happy Hour Tuesday through Saturday, 5PM-7PM. Seriously. Find the time. 

:: WIN THIS ::
To sweeten the deal, we're giving away a Gift Certificate - good for Lunch for Two at Taverna ($30 value), courtesy of Kiley and Sam!  Enter using the rafflecopter widget below - be sure to pick up extra entries for commenting / liking / following / sharing the news. I'll announce the winner December 26.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Taverna on Urbanspoon
Taverna
1986 San Marco Blvd 
JacksonvilleFL 32207 

904.398.3005

I will always disclose (as in the case of the cocktail, above) when I receive free food or swag, but I will not allow said gift to color my opinion or reporting of the food and experience. I will always share in plain terms what I do and don't like, and if I like it, I will urge you to try a place for yourself and form your own opinions. I'm not a trained chef or food expert, I simply appreciate the social and cultural aspects of good food and dining experiences, and I enjoy sharing them with you through my blog. Thanks for reading!