Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Floridian Restaurant, St. Augustine, Fla.: Review

St. Augustine, Fla.—This old city is embracing new trend with Farm-to-table restaurants. The Floridian, located next to Flagler College and owned by Chef Genie Kepner and her husband Jeff McNally, supports Florida farmers, ranchers, and fisheries by using their products and advertising their names. It caters to vegans, vegetarians, gluten intolerant, and meat eaters.
The Floridian Restaurant, St. Augustine, Fla.
My husband and I went in for dinner on a very rainy night in June. The place was packed. We decided to wait in the bar in the back. On the way I noticed several decoratively tattooed line chefs. To me this meant the meal had to be flavorful.

The hostess was very friendly and apologetic about the long wait time. She gave us a menu to look at while we sipped our Cigar City micro-brew beer. There was a whole page dedicated to recognizing farms used by the restaurant.

Summer Gazpacho with watermelon & blueberry, The Floridian,
St. Augustine, Fla.
We were seated before we finished our beers but just after we decided what to eat. First course was Summer Gazpacho made with watermelon, blueberries, lime, cilantro, bell peppers, and local honey. It was spicy, sweet, crunchy, salty, and earthy (with grain circle side).
Southern Belle salad with Mahi Mahi, The Floridian,
St. Augustine, Fla.
Next came our main courses. I ordered the Southern Belle Salad made with Georgia sourced blue cheese, peaches (South Carolina sourced), sweet potatoes, candied pecans, local salad greens, and Florida sourced honey. The salad was lightly dressed with purple basil vinaigrette. I got it with a piece of grilled, locally caught Mahi Mahi.
The bitterness of the blue cheese was enhanced by the peaches but tempered by the candied pecans. It was also surprising how well the blue cheese went with the sweet potatoes.  
Not So Mac & Cheese, The Floridian, St. Augustine, Fla.
My husband ordered the Not So Mac & Cheese made with Anson Mills (S.C.) faro, Wainwright Dairy (Fla.) cheese, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, and bell peppers. He got Creole seasoned, Florida sourced, grilled shrimp on top.

The Creole seasoning covered everything in a delicious spicy blanket. The faro was earthy, the zucchini velvety, the tomatoes juicy, and the cheese creamy. 

Chocolate, pecan, coconut pie, The Floridian, St. Augustine, Fla.
We finished our meal with a generous portion of Chocolate Georgia pecan coconut pie made with caramel and double whipped fresh cream. It was deliciously low in sugar with an earthy chocolate flavor and a huge number of pecan pieces. The salty caramel balanced out the meal.
To find out more about this restaurant you can find them at 39 Cordova St., St. Augustine, FL   32084, Phone 904-829-0655

Or you can go to their website

Friday, July 26, 2013

Popnature, Miami, Fla: Seasonal Frozen Pops, Now CLOSED

Miami, Fla—Another frozen pop company breaks into the Miami food scene. PopNature, owned by Cortland Joyce, has seasonal fruit pops made with Miami-Dade sourced ingredients. At this year’s Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Mango Festival he featured four mango based pops. Many of his customers were return visitors from last year.

Cortland Joyce owner of PopNature gourmet pops, at Fairchild Tropical
Botanic Garden's Mango Festival
Joyce uses organic Demerara sugar, or agave nectar, purified water, local fruit, and organic fruit when he can, in his pops. “There’s less than one teaspoon of sugar in each Pop,” He said.

According to the company website, Joyce first got introduced to this style of pop at a San Diego taqueria, in the form of a paleta pop. His extensive restaurant experience has helped launch his product.

Many people asked him the same question all day, “Which flavor is your favorite?”

And he would answer, “They are all my babies.”

He has some unusual flavors like avocado, papaya, tamarind, strawberry balsamic, pear mint, Hibiscus, Coconut with lime & Chile.  

And according to his website not all flavors or ingredients are available all the time because he uses locally grown seasonal fruit. He also makes sure they are GMO-free.

He sells an adult version of the pop at the Epic Hotel, Miami Beach that contains less than a shot of alcohol.”It sells for $10 a pop but here you can get a pop for just $3,” he told a customer who asked if the one they were buying his alcohol pops.

Joyce said, “No.”

Someone else asked why he was not selling his pops in Whole Foods Market and he said, “I need nutritional analysis labels on them. It costs $650 a flavor and I have 104 flavors."

I bought a Cilantro Limeade pop for $3 and liked it a lot. He said it was a crowd favorite.

Joyce is confident his pops will soon be available Nationally but until then you can find out more about them at or call 786-567-8428

Updated Oct 2014

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mango Fest At Fairchild Gardens, Miami, Fla: Mexican Themed

Miami, Fla.—There’s no place like Fairchild Topical Botanic Garden’s Mango Festival. There are cooking demos, fruit tastings, tree sales, lectures on mangoes, and food, lots of food made with mangoes and even some alcohol made with mangoes. This 85-acre garden in Central Miami-Dade County has been hosting this event for 14 years. This year’s theme was the mangoes of Mexico.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Mango Festival,
Miami, Fla.,
Intermittent monsoon like rain showers didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of mango foodies who flocked by the hundreds to this two-day event.

I went to see the cooking demonstrations and buy a dozen mangoes from the International Market for $2 each.
Pandan leaves and uncooked sticky rice at Khong
River House Thai cooking demo, Fairchild Tropical
Botanic Garden Mango Festival, Miami, Fla.
Khong River House was the first to put on a cooking demo featuring mango with sweet stick rice and coconut sauce. Chef Bee Piyarat Potha Arreeratn, or Chef Bee as he preferred to be called, gave tips on how to cook Meekong River style Thai food. “You can use pandan leaf as a temperature reader of oil. Tie it into a knot, throw it in the oil, and when it gets crisp the oil is ready.” 

Chef Bee at Khong River House cooking demo, Fairchild
Tropical Botanic Garden Mango Festival, Miami, Fla.
Half way through the demo an audience member asked, “What type of mango is that?” Chef Bee put down his knife, picked up a mango and said, “I don’t know. It’s a Mexican mango.”

The audience giggled as Chef Bee added, “In Thailand we have mango. We call it Thai mango.” The audience exploded into laughter.

The Khong River House sources ingredients from Homestead farmers and from the Chef’s backyard according to Bee.
Thai sticky rice with mango by Khong River House,
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Mango Fest,
Miami, Fla.
At the end of the demo everyone, including people standing on all sides, were given sample plates the mango  and sticky rice dish. The demo came with a printed recipe.
It was a delicious way to end my day at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's Mango Festival.
To find out about next year's Festival you can go to

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hero Pops And Pond Yum, Vero, Fla: Tasty Frozen Vegan Vegetarian

Vero Beach, Fla.--Frozen vegan vegetarian pops can be delicious and healthy. They are exceptional if they are made by Michael Haggerty, owner of Hero Pops and Pond Yum. His dairy-free, gluten-free, and processed-sugar-free pops come in a variety of styles and flavors. Many contain Florida grown ingredients. The Pond Yum style contains the vegetarian protein superfood Spirulina.
Michael Haggerty of Hero Pops, Tequesta Green Market, Fla.
picture taken Feb 2013,
The frozen pop idea was born four years ago when his, then eight, turned vegan vegetarian after seeing the movie Food Inc. Haggerty became concerned about his son's vitamin and mineral intake because he did not like leafy greens.

So Haggerty started experimenting with frozen fruit pop recipes that contained spinach. The first pop he made was a cinnamon green smoothie with spinach, orange juice, pineapple chunks, Stevia, and guar gum. His son loved it.

Haggerty was born in Boca Raton, Florida, into a real estate company family. He worked for them as a residential painter for many years until he started worrying about the effects of the chemicals on his and his son's body. Five members of his birth family had cancer and three of them were children.

He went out on a limb and quit his painting job so he could turn his passion into a career as a frozen pop maker. He was drawn to protein-rich spirulina because of its anti-cancer properties as well as its ability to remove toxins.

"Most protein is trapped in cellulose and with spirulina it is not, resulting in a whopping 97 percent bio-availability," Haggerty said during a recent interview. He uses flash frozen live spirulina, grown in Vero Beach, in his Pond Yum pops and boosters because he said, "Dry spirulina tastes like a shoe."

The Pond Yum pops contain 25 percent spirulina and the boosters contain 100 percent. Haggerty's Mum tried one pop a day for 30 days and felt an increase in energy and better health.

The vegan Hero Pops got their name from his business location, "It used to be a comic book shop," he said, with a smile,"I thought my pops would be more popular with children if they had a name that reminded them of comic books."

"I went to Pop university in Boynton and learned how to make pops with that," he said pointing to a stainless steel machine in the corner of his 12 by 20 foot inspected agricultural commercial kitchen. Even though his kitchen was small he could still produce 1940 pops a day.

Haggerty started out selling his pops at Green Markets. There he noticed something, "Often parents didn't think kids would eat a pop that was green, and so they would steer their kids to buy another pop when they came to my booth. But if they gave their kids the money and told them to go get their own pops, the kids would invariably choose the green ones and like them."

Now he sells his biodegradable packaged pops exclusively at retail stores on the Treasure Coast. In the future he plans to sell them Statewide.

Hero Pops & Pond Yum flavors, Tequesta Green Market,
Fla, picture taken Feb 2013
Some of his past and present flavors are Grapefruit Mint, Pistachio Lavender, Cinnamon Green Smoothie, Pumpkin Praline Pecan, and Orange Dreamsicle.

To learn more about Pond Yum pops you can call Michael Haggerty at 772-202-2393 or go to his FaceBook pages

Pond Yum
Updated 2016

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chocolate & Vanilla, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables, Fla.

Coral Gables, Fla—Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is growing hot chocolate. Well at least they are growing the beginning components of a good hot chocolate—vanilla and cocao fruit pods. You always need a touch of vanilla to mellow out the bitterness of the cocoa.
Cocao fruit pod on tree next to vanilla orchid vine, Fairchild
TropicalBotanic Garden, Coral Gables,
Miami-Dade County, Fla.
Both of these plants grow best in a truly tropical climate but in the garden’s million plus dollar green house they are thriving. Cocoa is extracted from the dried and fermented seeds found inside the cacao fruit pod.

In the picture above you can see the brown cocao pod on the left and the glossy leafed vanilla vine on the right. It is an orchid that produces a seeded fruit called a vanilla pod.
Immature Cocao pod on tree, Fairchild Tropical Botanic
Garden, Coral Gables, Miami-Dade County, Fla. Copyright
2013 by Helen A Lockey
To see the living hot chocolate you can visit Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, FL  33156
Open Mon- Sun 9:30 to 4:30 pm,

Phone: (305)-667-1651

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Susan L. Dykstra Nursery, Hastings, Fla: Datil Pepper Preserves & More

Switzerland, Fla.—Susan L. Dykstra Nursery sells edible plants and Datil peppers. Owner, Susan Dykstra has been growing plants in Florida for over 40 years. “I’m a big edible landscape person. It either feeds me or pollinates something,” Dykstra says, during a recent St. John’s Farmers Market day. 
Susan Dykstra at St. John's Farmers Market, Switzerland, Fla.
This Miami, Fla., born and raised, Slow Food First Coast member really enjoys her business, “I grow food for myself even though there is no money in it.” She speaks Spanish fluently. Her mother’s side of the family came to Florida from Cuba when Batista took over.

She is very knowledgeable about edible plants. “Porter weed flowers are edible,” she says to a customer. But she sells more than plants, she also sells jams, jellies, and fruit butters.
Dykstra tells me Datil pepper (as hot as habaneros) comes in three color stages with corresponding spiciness, "Green is mild, yellow is medium, and orange is hot," She only uses green Datil peppers in her canned products like a peach and Datil jam. "People say, 'Where's the regular peach jam?' And I say,'Anyone can make peach jam,'" she says with a smile.
Some of the flavor combinations are lime marmalade, Meyers lemon jelly, Agave plum butter, and no-sugar apple butter. She tries to use local and regionally sourced ingredients whenever she can.
You can find Susan's Nursery products at the Wednesday night St. Augustine Pier Market, and the Nocatee Market on the third Saturday of every month. For more details you can call Susan Dykstra at 386-328-0588.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mounts' Taste Of The Tropics Festival, West Palm Beach, Fla. Updated

West Palm Beach, Fla.—Mounts Botanical Garden overflowed with tropical fruit on June 29. As jet planes flew overhead people got to see and taste the wonderful tropical fruits grown in South Florida. The event was organized by the Palm Beach Chapter of the Rare Fruit Council International and Mounts Botanical Garden. Whole Foods Market Wellington sponsored the event.

Red Dragon Fruit sales at Mounts' Taste Of The Tropics
Festival, West Palm Beach, Fla.
There were tropical fruit for sale like Red Dragon Fruit that looked like a thorny pink thunder egg, and Sapodilla that looked like a giant, furry Kiwi fruit. 
Tropical fruit sampling pavilion at Mounts' Taste Of The Tropics
Festival, West Palm Beach, Fla.
There was also a tropical fruit sampling pavilion with just enough samples to satisfy 500 people. To make sure nobody went for seconds, everyone was given a paper ticket when they paid thier five dollar entrace donation. Then they had to surrender the ticket when they entered the tasting pavillion.  
Fresh Passion Fruit wedge at Mounts' Taste Of The Tropics
Festival, West Palm Beach, Fla.
The first fruit in the line-up was Mamey. It looked like a sweet potato and tasted slightly of caramel. Next were two types of stringless mangoes--Valencia Pride and Tommy Atkins. Then there was a yellow Jack Fruit that tasted like a rose garden mixed with cotton candy.

Lisa Goss hands out Sapodilla samples in the tropical fruit
tasting pavilion at Mounts' Taste of the Tropics Festival,
West Palm Beach, Fla.
This was followed by a wedge of sweet & sour tasting Passion Fruit. Then came Sapodilla that tasted like "Brown sugar pear," according to Lisa Goss, a member of the Rare Fruit Council, who handed me a cup of the sweet, brown colored fruit.

Red Dragon Fruit at Mounts' Taste of The Tropics Festival,
West Palm Beach, Fla.
The most colorful fruit had to be the Red Dragon Fruit. It was hot-pink inside with a kiwi fruit like texture, and a sweet floral taste. There was also a sample of White Dragon Fruit but it wasn't as flavorful and had more of a citrus taste. There were also defrosted lychee and longan but I didn't eat them. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

H & H Berry Farms, Montverde, Fla: Blackberries & More, Updated

Blackberry picking without thorns can be fun. It is even better if there is a high concentration of berries in a small area. This was the case at H & H Berry Farms in Montverde, Florida, just north of Orlando. The 15 acre property has half an acre of thornless blackberries set right next to Country Road 455.

Front to back Amber Herndon, Richard Hoffman, and Wesley Herndon of
H & H Berry Farms, Montverde, Fla.
The Hoffman family started growing citrus 25 years ago. “We had beautiful, large tangerines,” said farmer Richard Hoffman, “but we could not find anybody that would buy them.” So his children sold tangerines at a road stand on weekends. They saved enough money to put both of them through University. “They got their education from citrus,” said Hoffman with a big smile.

Three years ago H & H Berry Farms started growing blackberries with thorns, “They were sweeter than the thornless,” said daughter Amber Herndon. But they were harder to pick so the family switched to growing thornless blackberries.  
Concentrated growth thornless blackberry vines at H & H Berry
Farms, Montverde, Fla.
“Most of the people that come here are Mamas and Grandparents teaching their children to pick,” said Hoffman. They get customers from Winter Haven, Vero Beach, and Orlando. “We try to be open every other day. When the berries get ripe they only stay on the vine a day or two,” said Hoffman.
Ripe thornless blackberries at H & H Berry Farms,
Montverde, Fla.
They hand-pick the weeds between blackberry vines, “We don’t want any chemicals on them. I want people to eat as they pick,” said Hoffman.
Son-in-law Wesley Herndon invited me to try a fresh berry from a basket of fruit he had picked earlier in the day. I chose a berry and he said, “No, go for the one with big sacs, they’re juicier and better.” So I chose another berry with bigger sacs and found it was sweeter than I expected.
As I was paying for my u-pick berries I asked Hoffman if his children had any interest in farming. Amber answered, “We’re invested in the farm,” pointing to herself and her husband. Her Marketing Degree is coming in handy for promoting the farm. “Next year we’ll have one and half acres of blueberries.”
H& H Berry Farms also had u-pick tomatoes and citrus. Their u-pick blackberry price was $4/lb and we-pick is $5/lb. 
They are normally open May to June but call for more details 321-436-5830. The farm is located at 15217 C.R. 455 Montverde, FL 34756
To find out more go to

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Gleaning Corn For Charity In Belle Glade, Florida

Fruits and vegetables for everyone that's what gleaning is about. It is an ancient, charitable practice of harvesting crops farmers can't sell because of age or appearance. The crop is then distributed to lower income and less fortunate people through food banks and soup kitchens.

Volunteers gleaning sweet corn from a farm in Belle Glade, Fla.
In May, Christians Reaching Out To Society, Inc (C.R.O.S.)  Ministries joined forces with the Lake Worth, Florida, branch of the First Congregational United Church of Christ and other churches for a sweet corn gleaning day. Twenty or so people wearing long sleeves, long pants, heavy garden gloves, and hats turned up at the Belle Glade farm for the three hour event.

After introductions and paperwork directions were given, C.R.O.S. Ministries Field Supervisor Jackie bowed her head, and said a morning prayer of thanks.

Farmer John Allen at Sweet Corn gleaning event,
Belle Glade, Fla.
Then she asked farm John Allen to explain what to harvest as she showed participants how.