It wasn’t that long ago* that I opined, in response to a friend’s question in our comments, that there were no Thai restaurants in Tallahassee worth visiting. That wasn’t just an idle bit of snark, because we had done our due diligence and given all of Tallahassee’s stand-by Thai places a try. Time after time, we got our hopes up, only to have them dashed. Some of those memories are particularly dark, like the time we were amped to see mango sticky rice on the menu at Siam Sushi, only to be served something that was covered in chocolate sauce. (Yes, that actually happened, and even just retelling it makes me feel like I am going to throw up in my own mouth.) But even then, we did not give up. With persistence, I was sometimes able to convince servers to persuade the chefs to make dishes in an authentic style, with appropriate levels of heat, but I hate having to be that pushy, and sometimes even that wouldn’t do the trick. Eventually I just gave up, and planned to explore cooking my own Thai food at some point in the future.
Well, I am happy to say that there is a finally a place in town where serving authentic and delicious Thai dishes is the default rule rather than a rare exception. After reading Mike’s promising review, Sarah and I couldn’t wait to check out Thai Place. So, in search of some post-Thanksgiving culinary variety, we headed up there with my sister Jayne to see if it was as good as it sounded.
Tan’s is the kind of place that makes me very happy. For one thing, I occasionally enjoy going completely crazy on spicy food, and Tan’s is just the place for that sort of behavior. This started out as a matter of family pride for me; my dad, after all, used to claim that our family motto was, “If you didn’t sweat, you didn’t eat!” (I’m pretty sure that was just something he made up in order to justify his large collection of absurdly hot Indian pickles, but you could do far worse in the family slogan department, all things considered.)
More recently, a friend of mine in Chicago once ate a plate of food so spicy that his picture is now on the wall of a Thai restaurant, purely out of respect. So with these sort of role models, it probably isn’t surprising that I often find myself entreating servers at restaurants to make it a bit hotter than you think a customer would want. Well, to a level that is unique around town, Tan’s delivers on this front. But it isn’t just a question of heat alone (which would be impressive but pedestrian); if you order from the right parts of their menu, Tan’s delivers food that is both fiery and delicious.
As another August rolls around, Tallahassee is shaking off its drowsy summer stupor and bracing for another academic/legislative year. Traffic is picking up, people are wandering around campus with big maps again, and I’m pretty sure we have some newcomers to the Tallahassee food scene. If you just relocated to Tallahassee from another region of the country or even another part of the state, there are some interesting facets of Tallahassee dining that you are going to have to acquaint yourself with. But don’t worry, I’m here to speed your transition.
Some things are going to become painfully obvious quickly, like the cuisines that are not well represented (e.g., Korean, good Thai, real Italian, Dim Sum, or any African, etc.). Some bright spots (strong Indian scene, good sushi, fresh seafood, and great southern specialties) will also make themselves known in short order. There were a few other oddities however that surprised me, which you’ll find below. Continue reading
My first job was at an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. One of those Northeastern ones with the stainless steel fountain, long marble counter, red stools, and little metal dishes. It had been in continuous operation since 1895. Despite its unintentionally racially questionable name, that place was awesome. We made our own whipped cream and marshmallow sauce several times a day. We pressed fresh limeade, lemonade, and orangeade. We pulled frosted mugs of birch beer from a gigantic barrel. Oh, and we made amazing sundaes!
Suffice it to say, I know a thing or two about ice cream. I’ve devoted some serious time to analyzing the matter and have conducted extensive field experiments. If you want to go out for ice cream in Tallahassee, high-tail it to Lofty Pursuits. But if you want to eat in, I’ve recently come across two great ice cream finds that are locally available. Continue reading
One of the miraculous things about good Italian food is how simple it can be. Some of our favorite recipes require very few ingredients, but seem almost magically good when done right. The secret is that those few ingredients need to be of particularly high quality. A good rule of thumb is that each ingredient you use should be delicious by itself. In other words, if you don’t feel the urge to hide in the closet while you eat chunks of the parmigiano-reggiano cheese you just bought so that you don’t have to share it with family members, it probably isn’t good enough to be worth grating over pasta.
Of course, we all have principles, but it can be hard to live up to them day-to-day. For instance, as summer came to Tallahassee in all of its swampy glory, we had some fantastic tomatoes in our garden. (Sadly, the plants have recently succumbed to horrible diseases brought on by the curious Southeastern Monsoon of 2013.) While they lasted, all we wanted to do was eat our tomatoes, all the time. But you know what I tended to do, like a jackass? I would throw together these complicated concoctions, with goat cheese, a wide variety of herbs, tomatoes, and whatever other random ingredients I could lay my misguided hands on, throw it on top of whatever bread I had around, and bake the whole (slightly soggy) mess in the oven. When it came out, I called it bruschetta—which is really just the Italian word for toast—and thought I was eating good food. Luckily, our trip to Rome last month set me back on the path of virtue. If you are going to call your toast bruschetta without shame, you have a sacred duty to keep it simple. So here’s one recipe we’ve discovered that does the trick. Continue reading
The Soup Swift is kind of a pain in the ass to get to, and likewise to review. They serve up a constantly rotating menu of interesting soups, salads, and sandwich offerings, so the dishes I enthuse about in this post will probably not be there when you try it out for yourself. And unless you regularly lurk at the corner of Nowhere and Electrical Plant, you probably won’t often find yourself “in the neighborhood,” so to speak. But despite these challenges, the Swift deserves to be on your roster of local lunch places, because they serve up some of the best soups and sandwiches I have had anywhere in town.
Happy Birthday America!
Although I enjoy foreign travel and have learned many wonderful things from it, I generally find that going abroad makes me appreciate my home country a little bit more. It teaches you how American you really are.
When I lived in London for example, I learned that I crave more physical space than the British (e.g., I really don’t appreciate having my knees press against the door of my bathroom stall) and that I enjoy talking loudly. When I was in Cuba, I quickly realized how much I appreciate the First Amendment. When I went to the Netherlands, I understood for the first time that that free public bathrooms are a human right and that a basic corollary of that right is that I shouldn’t have to watch men peeing in the streets on a daily basis. And when we were in Rome last month, I was reminded how much I love the racial and ethnic diversity of the United States.
All of this is to say I felt like celebrating this Fourth of July. So I put on my blue jeans and sneakers and went bowling! Continue reading