Sometimes you get lucky and discover a road that leads to your escape.
One of those legends of a road your grandparents spoke about, taking you to Smalltown, USA.
A place where you can sit on main street and read the local newspaper. A little café that serves fresh baked bread, homemade soups that warm your soul, and locals who may saunter by with a tip of their hat and address you by your name.
Although the hustle and bustle of city life provides excitement and opportunity, a point usually arrives in life in which you need a moment. A break.
The importance of knowing how to find one of these mythical back roads that can take you to your place of solitude is imperative when that moment arrives.
Tallahassee may not exactly fit the definition of a big city, but it also still harbors the need to get away for a while. It is uniquely the origin of discovery for little gems tucked away in the countryside of Florida's Panhandle.
It is no secret the road you need to take is Highway 90. Lined on either side by pear trees stretched as far as the eye can see, twisting upward as the road winds through the rolling hillside.
Just east is the town of Monticello.
A town in tribute to our forefathers. Full of historical houses and a yesteryear way of life. The town, really only a few blocks wide, centers around the historical courthouse wrapped inside a round-a-bout.
One café on Main Street stands out from the rest: Tupelo's Bakery & Café.
Nestled inside this sleepy town is a café vibrant with two passionate women dedicated to organic food and way of life.
Tupelo's, in tribute to one of the owner's dog who loved to eat anything, is owned by Kim Davis and Claire Olson. Their moto is, "Organic first. Local second.". The priority to serve their families and customers with organic food is at the heart of their eatery. The farmland in the community may be centuries old, but the practices have changed. May of the local crops have been replaced with GMO seeds, like cotton and soy.
For this reason, the promise of organic foods comes first; however, their dedication to the local community is not in question. Their café is filled to the brim with local artwork for sale, honey used in their recipes, and even a miniature lending library for everyone to enjoy.
The full service café and bakery is an open book, and if for some reason an organic ingredient was unavailable, they will honestly answer any question you may have. In fact, on a given day, you may hear them chatting over which local organic farms to visit to pack up the kids and pick up supplies.
Plus their love goes beyond us mere mortals. Every first Friday of the month, they donate a portion of their profits to the local Jefferson County Humane Society. Our beloved furry companions are even welcome on the front and back patios of the café. If you call ahead for a special order, they'll have some dog friendly baked goods waiting with a refreshing drink of water.
When you stroll up to the counter, their message is quite clear...oh, and the saying is catchy, too.
But that soup is calling my name.
Claire greeted me with a warm smile at the counter and I promptly ordered a bowl of the Tomato Fennel Soup. I asked her for a recommendation on a sandwich choice, to which she replied the Turkey & Swiss Press; a pleasing blend of honey maple turkey, warm and gooey swiss cheese, with fresh spinach and garlic cream cheese.
She hesitated and changed the option to their BLT; crisp, Thompson Farms bacon, baby green spinach, and thick cut tomatoes pair with freshly baked multigrain bread and homemade horseradish mayo. I thought that would go beautifully with the soup and went with her second choice. Plus a cool glass of sweet ice tea on this unusually warm winter day.
This modest lunch typifies an average meal a wanderer may seek on a sudden journey, or even just a craving of something homemade. A fancy meal might sound amazing, but those are rare in people's daily lives. The recipes and dishes served at Tupelo's seeks the restoration of purely made foods with love, that satisfy the body and soul.
Soon, my name was called and it was time to eat.
This simple basket oozed with beautiful aromas. The crispy bacon. The creamy soup. The warm, toasted bread.
And I would like to start with the bread. It. Is. Perfect.
I've used the word 'perfect' before to portray the essence of a dish reaching towards perfection. But this multigrain bread is perfect. The crust is firm, but not harsh. The multigrains are dense and filling, but still light and airy. The flavor is rich and ancient, plus it pairs with any dish served. This bread is the peak for which all bread should strive to be.
The Tomato & Fennel Soup is heavenly. The tomato is not the only flavor, which is a difference I enjoyed. The cream and fennel play an even role, which lends a balance to eat bite. Plus the finely minced fennel provides sweet anise kiss after each taste.
The soup is thick enough to coat the bread, adding a new taste to the palate. The undertones of sweetness from the bread play wonderfully with the tomato in the soup, and every bite makes you yearn for more.
I remember to pause and take a deep breath, when my nose catches the lingers of bacon in the air.
On the first bite, my tongue immediately senses the hot bacon, and my body just slips into bliss. The soft bread melts into my mouth together with the warm cheese. The replacement of spinach is surprisingly pleasing, since I normally only enjoy the spice of arugula. Every piece of the sandwich is as rewarding as the first, a rare accomplishment.
I switch between the soup and my sandwich to keep my taste buds guessing, and the meal is one of my most enjoyable I've had out in a while.
The options for dessert are vast. The Caramel Pecan Bars. The Pecan Sticky Buns. Scones. Cranberry Bagels. Chocolate Crack Cookies. My sweet tooth was leaping for joy. Plus, Tupelo's is the only organic bakery in the area creating elegant wedding cakes or other specialty goods on request.
The only critic of the café is that they do not cater to my schedule - but then again even I cannot keep up with my schedule, so that doesn't really count. The café is open Tuesday through Saturday from 7am until 2pm. They take a break during Christmas to revamp the café's menu and even spend the month of August with their families, which customers find charming. The ability for them to be with their loved ones while nurturing the passion for their business is something this type of community can uniquely support. Plus, if you catch them on the right weekend, Kim & Claire offer cooking classes of all varieties so their homemade techniques can be passed on to others looking to create delicious eats.
Just remember to say thank you and sign the guest book on your way out.
This review is in dedication to Project Food Blog, as my potential 9th entry. Thank you again to everyone for your support. Please keep voting, as the winner is only a few weeks away from being announced. You can also review other Top 24 "eliminees" below: