Jihye Chang

“Local ingredients”

Tallahassee Eats;-Root Cellar on Mikosoukee

It’s been a year and a half since I moved to Tallahassee. Although I feel that the restaurant selection is rather limited in Tally, I have found a few places that I frequent besides the ones I wrote last year.

One of the newly discovered places is the Root Cellar on Miccosukee. It’s been open for just over a year as I am writing this on New Year’s Day 2013. It has some things to improve upon but I do love the concept of this place and what the owner/chef are trying to do.

Concept – Farm to Table, Local and Organic, Made from scratch

This I like very much. I think there should be more restaurants like this in any city. A small business trying to work together with other local business. The Root Cellar works with several farms and producers near Tallahassee, including Sweet Grass Dairy, Orchard Pond Farm (organic veggies and grass fed beef), Turkey Hill Farm, Thompson Farms, and so on.

Menu – Seasonal, with one or two daily specials. Somewhat limited and not too often changed

Their menu is not big. They have a fish special that changes often, and some special vegetable and cheese choices. But after three visits I was already a little bit bored with the options.  I especially wish they would have more options for appetizers and vegetable plates/side dishes.

Atmosphere and service – Casual, a bit noisy, friendly, and unpretentious. Could be slow but it’s the kind of ambiance that invites waiting around and lounging.  I personally think this kind of restaurant should make you feel good – good to eat sustainably produced food, to support local business, and to be in a friendly space for a relaxed time.

Food – I like their “Picnic Basket” with cheese, charcuterie, and in-house made pickles. It seems a little pricey, but I do like what they put on the little chopping block. (Although it would be so nice if they could provide more toasted points or crackers to accompany..!)

Among the regular menu items, our favorite is the meatloaf. Very simple and straight forward, but always moist and well prepared. The tangy sauce (with some beer mixed in) comes along with it is very tasty, too.  We also enjoy the salads and anything with hand-picked crab meat. The dessert selection is also limited, but I like the buttermilk pound cake. Yum! Some of the main dishes and soup can be hit or miss (for example, the jambalaya in my photo gallery was a little too watery and chicken-heavy/ squash soup was too heavily spiced for my taste, etc.), but overall it’s a place that I would go back to. I and my husband always felt well treated after eating there.

Overall, given the presentation and short-ish menu, the price point is a little on the high side.  However, this is the kind of restaurant and enterprise that makes Tallahassee a better place, and I feel good about supporting their creativity and commitment to sustainable practices. And hey – it’s same for a lot of the other decent restaurants in Tally. Even a Thai restaurant can charge you over $25 for an entree (which I never experienced in any other Thai restaurants in the states)!

Address: 1311 Miccosukee Road (at Magnolia Crossing)

Phone: 850-597-7419

Hours: Tuesday till Saturday, 5pm till around 9-10pm, maybe a bit longer on weekends (depends on the crowd, I think)/ No reservations accepted

* Website: http://miccosukeerootcellar.com – This is more like a blog run by the owner, Ruben. I hope they will add more updates on menus and specials soon!

* A lot of people on Google/ Yelp review seem to have had some bad service experience – but I had none upon my three visits. Things can be a bit slow, but I am OK with that.

Green Market – Food with trust

I believe that every town needs a place that incorporates local ingredients and encourages sustainable agriculture. It’s about more than just taste and food – it’s about culture and attitude. In Fargo, the Green Market across the public library is the place to look for that “slow food” goodness.

It’s a mystery that I did not visit this restaurant until the end of August this year. I think that’s partly because this place has been in a few different locations recently. Now it’s located at the building that used to be the Full Circle restaurant and some kind of community food-project office. The kitchen is run by Andrea, a talented and ambitious chef who changes her menu daily.

The first day I visited with a few good friends (and a guest from out of town), the menu read like this:

housemade breads & good butter $3; cheese plate with fruit & crackers $12; house made pate & sausage plate $10; pickle plate $6

chilled gazpacho $6; BBQ beef & bean soup $7

organic greens, herbs & champagne vinaigrette $6; heirloom tomato, gorgonzola & basil pickled shallots $7; corn & okra risotto $7; Provencal stuffed vegetables $7; stir fried miso green beans, carrots & eggplant $6

griddled Raclette cheese sandwich $7; griddled Raclette cheese & genoa salami sandwich $8; tuna nicoise melt with heirloom tomato & mozzarella $8; roasted pear tomato, zucchini & ricotta lasagna $7; chicken & vegetable torta with sun-dried tomato jam $5; Hawaiian walu with heirloom tomato broth $11; filet mignon with herb gremolata $11

panna cotta with mint & berries $4; cantaloupe, berries & coconut cream sauce $4; peach & blackberry crumble $4; chocolate orbit cake $4; ginger ice box cookie $2; carrot cake $4

All the servings are pretty small, but I like it that way as I can order a few different plates just for myself. I think it’s incredible that she’d change the entire menu every day – unbelievable, but I admire and enjoy her dedication. And it is obvious that she likes to try new things. She also tries to use as many local and organic ingredients as possible. The Green Market also has a very nice selection of cheeses and deli meats as well as a few grocery items such as imported vinegars and oils.

My favorite dish on our first visit was the stir fried miso green beans, carrots and eggplant. It had a wonderful smokiness and just the right amount of saltiness and sweetness. The vegetables had a really nice texture, too. Also amazing was the peach crumble – not too greasy or buttery, just perfect.  I have been to Green Market 4 more times after that initial visit, and every time I had something unusual or unusually great. Their cheese & fruit plate is always nice. I also love their hazelnut-sage bread (on Thursdays) and organic flax seed crackers. A few days ago I had “clam and smoked salmon noodle with shiitake mushroom” that was so unusual – like chicken noodle soup, except with clam and salmon! It was so different from anything I have ever eaten, yet so good. The best part about this restaurant is that I can trust the ingredients came from good sources and are made with care. Some dishes were a bit too salty or gooey for my taste, but I am getting better at picking out what I will like from the daily-changing menu!

The location is pretty good, and the almost non-existent decor is not a problem for me. The problem is that the entrance area between the main door and the door to the restaurant has a sort of old-building moldy smell. But once you pass that, you sit down and have a wonderful time. The Green Market is one of the gems of Fargo-Moorhead, and I hope they will enjoy a long and successful tenure in their new location!