June 2011 Travel Writers Press Trip, Day 3, Jefferson and Leon Counties, FL

Since this is a ‘culinary’ tour, we began the day in Monticello with great breakfasts at the John Denham House and the Avera-Clarke House.  I think most of the crew is getting tired of eating gourmet food, but are still looking forward to the food in the Tallahassee area.

We only had one tour in the morning–a visit with local farmers and a talk about them growing wheat (yes, wheat!) on their Jefferson County farm.  It turns out that the first wheat in the ‘new world’ was grown here and the folks at the farm are hoping to make it a profitable venture.  Potential users for their product include brewers, distillers and of course, bakers.  Following our last farm outing, we made a quick stop at the Opera House in Monticello.  It’s been fully restored and is now the cultural center in a pretty classy little town.

Wheat in Jefferson County, FL
The first wheat grown in the 'new world' was grown in Jefferson County, FL
Monticello Opera House
Writers trying out the acoustics at the Monticello Opera House

As the day warmed up, we headed westward to Tallahassee and Leon County.  ‘Warming up’ is a bit of an understatement, as Tallahassee set the all-time high temperature record yesterday with readings of 105-degrees.  So what did we do?  We went to lunch.  And a great lunch it was.  Barnacle Bill’s is a Tallahassee institution known for it’s great fresh Gulf seafood.  We had a chance to visit with Jeff Stilwell, the owner, who brought us up-to-speed on the Gulf seafood scare started by the 2010 oil spill.  Of course, the seafood from the Gulf has been excellent, and we proved it with a table full of grouper, flounder, shrimp, and several dozen Apalachicola oysters.

Barnacle Bills, Tallahassee, FL
Jeff Stilwell had a hard time talking--we were hungry and need to eat some of his excellent oysters.

After lunch, we ventured out in the heat and drove to the other side of town (Tallahassee is a small ‘big city’ so it didn’t take long!).  There, we took a tour of the Mission San Luis de Apalachee site, heard an interesting talk about the history of winemaking in Tallahassee and polished off several bottles of Florida wine from San Sebastian and Lakemont wineries.  Then the rains came.

Mission San Luis, Tallahassee, FL
The re-enactors at Tallahassee's Mission San Luis historic site are some of the best in the state.
Florida wines
Wines from Florida, some made with grapes developed for our warm climate, are excellent and varied

With daylight waning, the group ran into The Governors’ Inn in downtown Tallahassee, took quick showers and all dressed up for a big night on the town.  Our first stop was the Level8 Bar atop the Hotel Duval on Monroe Street.  Here, the group slowed down long enough for a couple of drinks while watching lightning striking in the distance over the Florida Capitol complex.

Level8 Bar atop the Hotel Duval, Tallahassee, FL
Level8 is a great spot for an after-work cocktail in Tallahassee

Our final stop of the day was at Avenue Eat & Drink on Park Avenue, just around the corner from the Governors’ Inn.  Our seven course meal, much constructed with local meat and produce, was the perfect ending to a busy day.

The Avenues Eat & Drink, Tallahassee, FL
Our meal at Avenues Eat & Drink was fabulous. Here's the group before the seven courses of food and wines!

Coming next:  Day 4–the final one!