FEB 27 - MAR 2, 2014

Jacksonville Magazine Cooking Stage.


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. 


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...



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!


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?