Local Gifts Only!

Buying gifts is difficult. We get it. We’ve decided to make things easier on you, so we’ve come up with local gift ideas. You’ll have fun shopping local, and the person receiving your gifts will love opening them, so it’s a win-win for everyone!

Rebecca’s thinkin’ you should check out these snazzy ideas:

  • Bridge 8
    • Care for some light reading while you wrap yourself in blankets during the blistering winter of 57 degrees? Check out Jacksonville’s first print-only literary magazine, brainchild of local writer Jared Rypkema. Issue 3 has come out just in time for Christmas, too!12313915_952626094785551_1481515311709193171_n
  • Sun-Ray
    • Only a crazy person wouldn’t enjoy tickets to Sun-Ray. So, unless you’re buying gifts for someone crazy, this gift is guaranteed to work.DSC_4131
  • Tickets to the Cummer 
    • Your friends and family don’t need to be art fanatics in order to enjoy a walk through the Cummer, inside and out. Head to the Cummer before January 3rd to see the Women, Art, and Social Change exhibit. Take a stroll through the gardens if it’s not too cold. And let’s be real: it’s going to be 70 degrees, so the weather will be perfect.
  • Olive My Pickle
    • I’m an unabashed pickle fiend. Open my kitchen cabinet, and you’ll find empty pickle and salsa jars (I also love salsa). OMP is sure to satisfy any pickle lover. Find these deliciously fermented cucumbers at Native Sun, Grassroots, the farmers market, and online! DSC_0030
  • Vagabond–pretty much anything there.
    • You know how much Somewhere in the City loves Vagabond. Whomever you’re buying gifts for will love it, too. Trust me.vagabond-5169

 

Brentley’s feelin’ these things:

  • Candy from Sweet Pete’s 
    • Chocolate is always in season, which means that Sweet Pete’s treats are always a hit. Whether you’re looking for a last minute hostess gift or a treat for small cousins, chocolate is the way to go!

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  • Vodka from Carve
    • Millennials may be hard to shop for, but they do love their craft cocktails. Pair this beautiful bottle of vodka with a shot-glass and shaker set and you are good to go. You can find Carve all over!
  • Alewife merch
    • Here in JAX we love repping our craft scene, and Alewife’s shirts and other items are the perfect way to show that you’re cool enough to drink craft beers in local places.DSC_0200
  • Pie of the Month Club from My Grandmothers Pie
    • If you know me, you know my love of pie, and all things made by MGP. From handpies to her old fashion apple pie, everything Allison touches turns golden and flaky. The Pie of the Month Club guarantees you a fresh, seasonal pie every month for the whole year. Truly the gift that keeps on giving.mgp
  • Momni
    • Instant style awaits at Momni. You can’t go wrong with any of their clothing, and hello affordable accessories!image1

 

If you’re running behind on your list, or just haven’t got a clue, gift cards from fabulous restaurants like the Candy Apple Cafe (which is conveniently located in the same building as Sweet Pete’s–two birds, one stone), San Marco Kitchen, or the newly-opened Il Desco make just about anyone feel special! Don’t forget Bold Bean, Brew, and did we mention Vagabond?

Good luck from the team at SitC, and Happy Holidays!!

Il Desco // Riverside

Welcome to Riverside, Il Desco, we are so happy to have you! With fresh made pastas, wood fired pizzas, raw bar, hand crafted drinks, and more, it’s a great addition to the area.

We were thrilled to be invited to preview the menu, and after trying a handful of dishes, we have to say that their chefs are very talented. They source local whenever possible, and the menu will change seasonally.

The interior is just as sumptuous as the menu. It boasts a large community table in the middle of the restaurant, and circular booths, so it’s perfect for a romantic evening or large gatherings!

The Grand Opening will be on November 12th, and we highly recommend making a reservation by giving them a call at 904-290-6711.

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Fun fact,  Il Desco means “the dinner table” in Italian!

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The craft cocktail list will change seasonally, to keep up with the menu as it changes throughout the year.

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Oyster shooter anyone?

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Let’s talk about spaghetti tacos. I get it, they sound strange, and I mean they are, but somehow putting pasta in a taco with delicious sauce and a smattering of lettuce and Parmesan works. Don’t ask me how, just order a plate and see for yourself!

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With fresh seafood, and local fish, you can’t go wrong with their whole fish, lobster pasta, or their fresh squid.

If you’ve had a bad experience with squid in the past we highly recommend trying it at Il Desco, it’s not your average calamari!

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With a variety of specialty pizzas to choose from you can’t go wrong. Vegetarian and meat eaters alike will be happy with the choices provided.

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Let us know what your favorite dish is when you visit Il Desco!

 

Brentley

Jax by Jax // Tim Gilmore

Jax by Jax, Jacksonville’s most recent literary festival, has an unlikely beginning with Tim Gilmore, a prolific local writer, professor, and self-professed introvert.

With festivals Jax by Jax, and publications like Bridge Eight  and Perversion, our literary scene here in Jacksonville is growing every year. With Tim behind it, Jacksonville is winding up for the 2nd annual  Jax by Jax, on Saturday, November 14th. This year it’s going to be bigger and better than last year, and rightly so. From 3:00 to 9:30, the literary community invites you to sample more than 20 different writers hosted by 12 small businesses on Park and King Street.

Tim Gilmore, Jax by Jax

We’ve come to know that there is usually a reason behind the madness when someone takes on the responsibility of planning an event, and Tim is no different. For Tim, Jax by Jax really started years ago with his own work, and the books he’s published about characters like Eartha White, Virginia King, Ottis Toole, and more. The stories he chooses to delve into are always about a Jacksonville character, and Tim does plenty of research, both primary and secondary, to get the complete picture of the character in question. He’s had amazing success when it comes to the launches of these books, and has been fortunate in how well the books have been received by the community. Now, Jax by Jax is his way of trying to give back. His goal? “Make something that would do for others what others had done for him.” By giving other writers the chance to experience the feeling of a community launch, he hopes Jax by Jax will not only encourage other writers to share their work, but that it will encourage our community to tap into those writers and support them.

Tim views our city as a character and a “stage,” so what better way to set the stage than to “use small independent businesses as venues?” With the venues spread out along King and Park Street, Jax by Jax is designed for folks to be able to sample a writer’s work by hearing them perform excerpts or short works. Essentially, you aren’t committing yourself to a long reading or performance, but to manageable, social bites — giving you the chance to move on if the reader isn’t quite your style. Tim gave us a tip that if you really stay on task, you can hear as many as 8 writers, but that’s up to you.

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In addition to giving a stage to Jacksonville writers, Tim really wants to use Jax by Jax as a way to say to the city, “Hey, look at what you’re doing.” Tim goes even further, saying t hat “anyone who cares about Jacksonville should attend [Jax by Jax], whether you love the city, or think it needs work.” If you’re looking to meet fellow passionate Jacksonville-ites, this event is right up your alley. While this event may sound like it’s only for the literary inclined, I’d ask you to give it chance. With so many great bars and restaurants on the tour, and with so many fabulous folks walking around, you’ll be hard pressed to have a bad time.

Jax by Jax is the sort of event that keeps on giving, even after it’s over. You won’t want to miss out on the Jax by Jax after party at Evervess Art Studios across from CoRK on King Street. While the festival throughout the day is free, make sure you get your $10 ticket for the after party. It gives you access to all the writers from the day with book signings, music, food, and drinks (for as long as it lasts).Tim Gilmore, Jax by Jax

With a variety of writers present at the event, you can be sure there’ll be something you’ll enjoy. Everything from poetry, short stories, and graphic novels will be read throughout the day, and yes, let me repeat: they are all local writers! That means that every word you hear throughout the day was written right here in Jax by a Jax writer. Talk about really diving into the heart of the city!

Check out the writers and the kinds of stories you’ll find on the 14th by visiting the Jax by Jax website where you can find a printable event guide for the day. We’ll see you there!

Brentley

Edible Northeast Florida

“It’s not a foodie mag, it’s a magazine about food.” At least that’s what Amy Robb and Lauren Titus, the forces behind the new Edible Northeast Florida magazine, would like you to know. We’ve been hearing some positive things about these ladies, and what they are doing with the Edible magazine, so we met up to get some details about the first issue out this week!

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Amy and Lauren’s mission is a simple one: to bring a beautiful magazine to Northeast Florida focused on the best stories and recipes for food education, with a spotlight on local and sustainable eating and cooking. Having always been involved with food, the two ladies met just last year, and now they are working hand in hand to produce something special.

Last February, Lauren was toying with the idea of retiring. She met with Amy to ask how she could volunteer with the “Farm to Family Market.” While they did get a chance to talk, nothing much came of it. A few months later, Amy started looking into taking a regular 9 to 5. She’d been running her own media company for a long time, and she was looking for something new. Here’s where the magic happened. As Amy was sitting down for interviews, she began to realize that an office job wasn’t what she wanted. Despite the security of working for an established company, she wasn’t ready to give up her freedom. She wanted something that would “pull her in the right direction,” and a creative one too.

Then Amy thought of Edible magazines, a national network of gorgeous food magazines. After some consideration, Amy decided that what we needed was an Edible right here in North Florida. So Amy got in touch with Lauren, who she knew would want to be involved in the hands-on project. Lauren was ready to be on board. Having seen the two in action, I can say that they work well as a team, and both of them are on the same page when it comes to their love of food culture, history, and education.

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While it’s difficult for me to pinpoint where my love of food started, we like to ask the hard-hitting questions at Somewhere in the City. When I asked, Lauren said baking was her first love. Apparently, she is a master brownie maker, which means we are instant best friends. When I asked if they were from scratch, she said, “Of course. They are the best!”

Amy’s food affair started early, but she didn’t realize it for a long time. Both sides of her family were farmers, so they instilled a love of good, fresh food from the start. And like many who love food, it was always a constant for her. It didn’t matter what stage her career was in, or where she was in the world—food was (and is) something that she has always enjoyed.

Amy Robb of Edible Northeast Florida

Amy emphasized that for both of them it is “important to put out a publication that people find engaging and interesting.” Lauren followed up by saying it’s a “work in progress, one that fortunately, or unfortunately, we get to restart every two months.” I can tell they are secretly looking forward to this recreation process, because it means they’ll have a chance to adapt as they discover what the readers need and want.

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I asked what Lauren and Amy are trying to accomplish with their Edible magazine, and they both feel that it’s important to try and reach people who grew up on boxed mac n’ cheese and freezer-singed fish sticks. While the ladies know there is nothing wrong with enjoying comfort foods, they look to broaden every reader’s horizon. “We don’t want to create an exclusive publication” Amy said. One of the ways they hope to reach every reader is by providing recipes that take little time, or don’t have a long list of unheard of specialty ingredients.

When I asked about the process of becoming part of the national Edible brand, Amy said it’s simply amazing. They are now a part of a team of people around the nation working to produce their own Edible magazine. It’s a whole support network, and they can, according to Amy, call each other up and chat about anything from hyper-local food trends to challenges to setting up their first issue.

Because the Edible community is widespread, but so close-knit, the network brings new ideas right to our front door! Amy describes it as becoming a part of a community that’s not “competing, but contributing.”

Like its national counterparts, Edible will be published every two months and is free to all. You can pick up your free copy of Edible’s first issue around town at some of our favorite restaurants and vendors. Find a location near you!

Brentley

Farmers’ Row // National Farmers Market Week

Farmers’ Row at the Riverside Arts Market (RAM) makes me feel good about my weekend, and my week’s worth of veggies. While RAM has always had produce, the recently dubbed “Farmers’ Row” has been making waves by making sure 100% of its produce is local.RAM (4)While Publix is a staple, it’s nice to know that there are places in town like Farmers’ Row and the Beaches Green Market that do the work of locating local neighborhood farmers for you. RAM recognized the need to deliver on their promise of “local produce” and recently hired Katie Delaney, the force behind Farmers’ Row. Katie makes regular farm visits and connects with the farmers, making sure that all the produce available at Farmers’ Row is coming from exactly where the farmers say it is, providing the best our region has to offer.RAM (8) RAM (6)Katie approached us with a challenge in honor of National Farmers Week and asked us to come check out the market, and of course we said we’d be delighted. The challenge, you ask? To see how much groceries we could get with the $30 budget Katie gave us. I’ll be honest, we were pretty excited. We love cooking and eating, and showcasing local goods made us even happier.

We arrived a little after 10, right as the arts market opened, wanting to get there early for our selections. As we walked up and down the aisle, getting a sense of what the farmers had to offer, Becky (or Rebecca, or whatever you feel like calling her) said she makes a mean Eggplant Parmigiana, and I basically shouted my agreement. I love eggplant parm. So we made a quick list, with eggplant and tomatoes for a homemade sauce at the top of our list. We purchased five eggplants for $1 each, two buckets of tomatoes at $4 each, and eggs for the breading at $3/dozen, bringing our total to $16.00. RAM (3)RAM (17)When Becky said we’d need basil for the sauce, we were standing right in front of Maggie’s Herb Farm with a sign that said “2 herb plants for $5.” We won’t ignore a sign when it happens, so we immediately grabbed a basil and a rosemary plant. I’m not sure how many of you have purchased a packet of fresh basil from the grocery store, but it’s about the same amount, and I seem to waste half the package. Since it’s fresh cut, it dies pretty quickly. It’s been a week, and both our plants are still alive! RAM (1)We also decided to splurge on a treat for dessert. We chose Glades Ridge Dairy goat cheese truffles. Trust us. They taste way better than they sound!

After the herbs, the truffles, and a water bottle, our total for the day was $28, with $2 left. Being the pickle lovers we are, we knew we could each get 4 pickles for $2, so our last purchase of the day was some tasty pickles from Olive My Pickle!RAM (14)RAM (16)RAM (13)The next day we started cooking, and let me tell you, those five eggplants made 4 trays of eggplant parm. That’s right: FOUR. With four people, we finished off a tray-and-a-half, leaving us plenty of leftovers for the week. (Yeah, like they really lasted the whole week.) While we did supplement the recipe with some panko breadcrumbs and mozzarella cheese, as well as some bread (and wine) for a hearty Italian meal, our main items were available at the market. While we chose to go the veggie route, Farmer’s Row does have meat if you are feeling more carnivorous!

On a side note, if you’re ever in the mood to fry up some eggplant parm, be sure to wipe out the cast iron skillet each time you take out the fried eggplant slices and add in some unfried ones. We were maybe just a bit too eager to hurry up our cooking and eat, which meant the panko crumbs got a little too cooked. As in, the leftover panko crumbs in the skillet turned black, and we had an interesting five minutes of figuring out how to turn off the smoke detector and the security alarm that wouldn’t stop ringing. Even after we unplugged it. We ended up sticking the security alarm outside, annoying the neighbors with the shrill ringing until it finally stopped. Cooking is always a fun adventure!Farmers Row Produce Farmers Row ProduceFarmers Market (5) Farmers Market (8)If you’re trying to eat fresh, local, and healthy food, it can be overwhelming to keep up with each and every farmer’s market in Jax. The great thing about RAM is that it’s every Saturday, at the same time, in the exact same spot! If you’ve never ventured over to Riverside Ave on a Saturday morning, you’re seriously missing out on this great opportunity to support local farmers. We here with Somewhere in the City are glad that people are moving away from microwaveable meals and toward fresh food that is grown by people you can see. We are so grateful for our local farmers and all the hard work they do to ensure that Jacksonvillians can eat food the way it was meant to be eaten.

Guess what? RAM is tomorrow. Maybe we’ll see you there!



Brentley

People of Jax // Hope McMath

“Ripping out the hedges.”
Part of Speech: Phrase 
Origin: The Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida.
Meaning: A radical move designed to refresh or restart a project.

“Ripping out the hedge” is now a part of my phraseology, thanks to Hope McMath, director of the Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens and the powerhouse behind the museum’s refresh in the past few years. With her genuine desire to make the Cummer relevant to all of Jacksonville, she is tapping into the community by utilizing more local artist collaborations, renewing focus on the children and young professionals programming, and lots more. Most of these significant changes started with ripping out the hedges, but let’s back up.DSC_0201DSC_0184Hope’s love of the arts started out as a family affair, with her grandparents taking her to the Toledo Museum of Art when she would visit them in Ohio. Her grandfather shared his passion for art by showing her that, like him, she didn’t need a formal art education or a personal gallery at home to appreciate art. His passion shaped her into a self-professed “art nerd,” and prompted her to obtain her degree in studio art and art history and produce her own art. In 2009, Hope started working at the Cummer as a part-time art educator, and like a lot of now staunch supporters of Jacksonville, she didn’t think she was staying, but we can see how that turned out.

Calling herself a “reluctant director,” Hope identifies as an educator first, but it certainly seems like she fills out the role quite nicely. Since she started out as a Museum Educator for the children’s side of the museum, education plays a large part in the current direction of the museum. Not a fan of hierarchy, Hope chooses to maintain an equal level of authority with her staff. However, it’s Hope’s ability and willingness to listen and observe that has led her to make some significant changes to the tone and direction of the museum early on in her role as director.

Here’s where “ripping out the hedges” comes in.

Surprised by the lack of attendance on Saturdays, Hope decided to do an experiment to see how she could attract the crowds that the Riverside Arts Market was bringing in right next door. For six Saturdays straight, she sat out on the front steps of the museum and observed passersby’s reaction to the museum. She focused her attention on “the people who weren’t using [the museum] rather than the ones who were.” One of the biggest observations she made as people walked past was their reaction to the building itself, and the row of dark leafy hedges surrounding the museum. Hope then realized that the hedge was a physical barrier, a literal wall between the museum and the rest of the community. This hedge sent a quiet, subtle, unwelcoming message to patrons who were new to the arts, and she realized it had to go. So, she had the hedges ripped out and brought sculptures out to the front lawn. Removing the hedges made the campus feel more open and accessible for all who walked, drove, or biked by. Noticing that an admission price was a deterrent for some people resulted in funding from Florida Blue for the free admission on first Saturdays of each month. However, for Hope, this is more than just the money–it’s about making sure everyone in the city can come and see what is new at the museum. Hope and her staff are certainly seeing the results; weekend museum attendance went from 200 to 2,000 people.

One of Hope’s favorite parts about these new changes is choosing art exhibits that affect the community, providing a space to discuss that effect. Her goal is to connect history with contemporary challenges, and that goal has brought art into the Cummer that would not have been displayed 10 years ago. She chooses thought-provoking exhibits because she wants the Cummer “to be a place where people can connect with issues in a different way.” While the Cummer is a safe space, she certainly doesn’t want it to be comfortable. Her idea is to use art to challenge preconceived ideas, whether they be political or personal, and to help our city move forward. Right now her favorite exhibit is Deep River by Whitfield Lovell, which you should definitely check out!

DSC_0218From CoRK to our wonderful writing community, the art scene has a lot to offer. Hope is building a bridge from the museum art world to the Jacksonville arts community. That collaboration seems to be a success, and the #JAXOutings Project is life-sized proof. Many of you have seen the larger than life images on dilapidated buildings around town. The inspiration for the project was based on a project started by a French artist and was brought to Hope’s attention by the Jacksonville artist community. When she saw the project, she immediately jumped on board and started working with artists around the city to make the project a reality. Each of the pieces around town is part of the Cummer’s permanent collection and is placed in such a way to bring “artful moments” into everyday routines. Seeing Baroque musicians on the side of Burro Bar certainly changes the context–and accessibility–of the artwork, giving a whole new perspective on the classical piece. A new perspective is exactly what Hope is trying to cultivate in our city with each project.
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To ensure a lively, strong future for the museum, Hope will continue to build a foundation which engages families and children. If you haven’t been to the children’s side of the museum, you should go–it’s an enjoyable experience for all. To engage the young professional community, recent programming and partnerships with TEDx are designed to engage and promote conversations with all sections of our community. Hope has also foreseen a change in future of donations, comparing it to the crowdfunding framework. Instead of a few large scale donations, she thinks museums will be funded by lots of little donations from thousands of people throughout the year, and she wants programming to reflect that. In her plans for future programs, Hope wants to play up the unique physical aspect and location of the museum and the gardens, juggling the connection between art, the environment, and people.

It’s all about focusing on community, making the leap from an untouchable art institution to a place where people of all ages and income feel welcome. With Hope in charge, the museum will always bring the best it has in order to stay relevant. In Hope’s own words, “We have to offer up the best experience, a wide array of experiences.” Check out how the Cummer is delivering on this promise by checking out the latest exhibits and upcoming programs!

Brentley

People of Jax // Cari Sànchez-Potter

Fizzing with energy, Cari Sànchez-Potter is always taking on a new project when it comes to the food scene in Jacksonville. From cookbooks to pop up events, she’s managed to gather a food community in Jacksonville that is the envy of other cities. Despite her busy schedule, we managed to carve out some time to chat about how the culinary community in Jacksonville has changed, and where it will go next.

You can’t talk about great food without getting hungry, so we chose Orsay, a French restaurant in Riverside. As someone who also sops up every last bit of broth, eating with Cari was like eating with a kindred spirit. We planned our meal, happily knowing we’d share. Cari recommended the escargot (that’s snail, for us plebs). When I admitted I never tried it, she immediately said we had to have it. She’s the expert, so I didn’t argue. Turns out snails are delicious; it was my favorite thing! Our stomachs were full by the time we finished eating our mussels frites, escargot, beet terrine, spinach gratin, and lots of crusty bread.pic2Talking with Cari, it’s easy to see how she keeps her momentum. Her “let’s do it” attitude is motivated by her mission, which she’s managed to distill to a few key ideas. She focuses on “Hyper local – local venues, local talent, local produce” in a collaborative atmosphere. You can see that mission reflected in the Legend Series. If you’ve been to any of the 9 Legend Series Dinners, then you’re lucky, and I’m jealous. Each of the dinners has been carefully planned by Cari and Co-Founder Scotty Schwartz, Chef and Owner of 29 South. Cari and Scotty collaborate with some of the best chefs in the city to create an event that is a total mystery until the day of.

Let that sink in.

You are purchasing a ticket to an event you know nothing about, except that it’s going to be amazing. Since most of the events take place in unusual places, the details and scope of the Legend events are astounding. Think hanging out in graveyards or mingling with zebras on the White Oak preserve. Yes, this really happens.

But let me back up to a time before Cari had developed taste buds. Growing up, she didn’t have much love for fresh food. In fact, she told me that she wouldn’t eat a fresh tomato if her life depended on it. Then, with the introduction of gardening, she began to love playing with ingredients and making delicious dishes. That’s what motivated her to get her Masters from a highly comprehensive gastronomy program in Adelaide, Australia. The study of gastronomy is not quite what you’d think. Instead of a ton of time spent in the kitchen whipping up exotic items, she learned a great deal about the culinary arts and history.

Along with her culinary pursuits, Cari and her husband, Philip, have a passion for travel. They have lived in Argentina, Spain, Ireland, Japan, Boston, Australia, and Switzerland. About 6 years ago, they decided to make Jacksonville their home. She laughs as she tells me about her initial impression of Jacksonville. “We only thought we’d be here for a couple of years,” she said. However, a combination of timing, luck, and opportunities counteracted that initial expectation.

It was that perfect timing that landed Cari her day job as General Manager of Intuition Ale Works. Ben Davis, the owner of Intuition, was looking for a GM on Craigslist before the brewery opened, and Cari answered. They had so much in common during their first meeting that they immediately became friends. Now, Intuition is expanding to a larger brewery and event space, and the plans the Intuition team have in mind are huge! They have lots of ideas for the three special event spaces: the rooftop bar, an event space, and the brewery.

Working with Intuition gave Cari the chance to create Cooking With Intuition, the first cookbook she compiled and edited with the help of the culinary community. Now, she’s helping the Cummer Museum with their cookbook, The Chef’s Canvas. The cookbook is the vision of the Director of the Cummer Museum, Hope McMath, and the Chief Curator, Holly Keris, the idea is to create a project where visual arts meets taste buds. In The Chef’s Canvas, each of the participating chefs was given the challenge to come up with a recipe that reflects a piece of art from the Cummer Museum’s permanent collection. This unique collaboration is one of the first of its kind in our country. The Chef’s Canvas, which will be filled with 70 to 80 recipes from food trucks, mixologists (a.k.a. fancy bartenders), and restaurants, is set to release in March of 2016.

The community that has sprung from these unique projects is an impressive one. The Jax culinary environment is much more collaborative than those in other cities, which is, as we can tell, a great benefit not only to our taste buds, but to our city. This sense of community extends to the brewers, as well. Cari is excited about the partnerships within the brewing community that have culminated with the Jax Beer Society. If beer is your scene, you’ll want to attend their signature event in November, “Jax Beer Week.”

Since Cari has been so instrumental in our burgeoning food scene, I had to ask her how she would like to see it grow in the future. Here she paused. “I want to see us [as a city] embrace our international range of food,” she said. She mentioned that Jax needs a celebrity chef as almost a “seal of approval” to show the world that we are serious when it comes to our food.

While I had bullet points I wanted to cover during dinner, I barely had to look at them. Cari slid so seamlessly from one project to another, covering all the interesting details in between. As we finished our dessert, I realized it’s because each of these projects is bound together in such a way that pulling the string of one reveals another facet of the gem in the heart of our culinary community. That’s what makes both Cari and her projects so successful: the deep-rooted sense of community that she’s found in Jacksonville, which couldn’t thrive without those who work to keep it fun and interesting. The folks who stay in Jax can see that, just as Cari has. To those who work hard in Jax to discover and expand our many niches, I say thank you, and I challenge you find a project in our community that you’re excited about!

Brentley

Carve Craft Vodka

Get ready for the hard stuff, Jacksonville. Carve Vodka of Grey Matter Distillery is the first craft vodka to be produced locally in the city of JAX. We already know we’re a force to be reckoned with when it comes to local breweries, but Paul Grey wanted to do something a little different.

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In 2013 Paul had a steady job as a medical salesmen, but he was looking for something more. That’s when he decided that distilling was that something. He put his plan into action with support from his friend Sam Durham, who is a major investor. Then, Paul started experimenting and doing his research, reading How To Start a Micro-Distillery For Under $50,000 by Thomas Germann. In 2014 he acquired a 1,800 square foot space and a 26 gallon still, which produces about 130 bottles a day.

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Fast forward to January 2015, when Paul made the move to leave his job and work full-time at Carve. Since then, Carve has done well, selling its first bottle in February, and killing it in April with the amount of exposure they received during One Spark.

The 7-times distilled corn based Vodka has already made an impression on its drinkers. It has been compared to both Tito’s and Ketel One, two well-established vodkas. What sets Carve apart from the competition? The Active Coconut Carbon Filtration System. It’s the reason that Carve is odorless and crystal clear, two markers for high quality vodka.

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With this initial success, Paul’s got big dreams for the next year. He plans to purchase a 250 gallon still and move into a 10,000 square foot space. Paul is choosing to keep it at 250 gallons because that’s the largest size that runs on electricity. This is important because–get this–he’d love to be able to use solar energy to power the stills in the future. He’d even like to branch out with other types of liqueur too. When he’s sure the quality of Carve continues in a larger space, Paul talked about looking into producing Rum and Whiskey.

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An avid surfer, Paul would prefer his distillery to stick close to the beach, especially since it’s integral to his brand. While the name, Carve, is a reference to surfing, Paul likes to take it a step further, saying that the name applies to how he feels about carving out a future with his growing business. Paul has had some supportive friends for his growing business, but none have been more so than his Southern Baptist Mother, who doesn’t drink, but will have occasional sip of Carve!

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By now you may be wondering where you can get your own bottle of Carve Vodka. While Paul is still working on a distribution contract, you’ll soon be able to buy your own supply (as long as it’s only two bottles a year, per Florida law). If you got the chance to try Carve during One Spark, or other event, tell us what you thought!

 

Brentley

One Spark // Renaissance Jax + Mark McCombs

He’s a man with a plan. 26 year-old Mark McCombs is making waves in Jacksonville when it comes to educating students about robotics.

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Walking into Mark McComb’s machine shop/teaching space/art studio in CoRK South is like…well, like walking into nothing you’ve seen before. You are immediately greeted by the noises of welding tools, the scent of burning argon, metal parts, and machines in various stages of progress, and perhaps, most importantly, a sense of community. Once you get to know Mark, and hear how connected all of his passions are, it’s not surprising to see how the space functions in so many ways.

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Mark is the founder of Renaissance Jax, a non profit dedicated to establishing sustainable FIRST Robotics teams in elementary, middle, and high schools all over Duval County. He has attainable goals for the future, looking to find resources to build close to 30 rookie teams a year for the next 7 years, with a plan to extend the robotics programs to make sure that all students who want to participate can do just that. Nationally, FIRST has an 89% retention rate across its programs, which means they are doing something right, and offer over $20 million in scholarships each year.

Sometimes you just have to troubleshoot.

A graduate of UNF, Mark finished with a Mechanical Engineering degree, but it was at the local Magnet high school Stanton College Prep where he first became involved in competitive robotics. Now, Mark works tirelessly to create a sense of community for students with the introduction of a FIRST Tech Challenge league for 7th through 12th graders. This program is made possible by the collaboration between Clay County Schools and the local company Vistakon.

“The kids that get into FIRST Robotics at an early age will have years of very valuable and typically unrivaled experience,” Mark told me. With that extra experience, those students are on the forefront of applied STEM concepts because they will have been designing, building, programming, and solving problems for years. Not only does that improve the quality of life for those students, but it makes Jacksonville a desirable hub for technology industries!

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Mark chose the space in CoRK South precisely for its proximity to the many artists who work in CoRK. “I wanted the studio to be in CoRK because I wanted the people [students and teachers] coming into my building for robotics to have access to some of the most creative minds in Jacksonville,” he said. That kind of thinking has clearly paid off for Mark and his students, because more artists are migrating to CoRK South. Jokingly, Mark likes to say that he’s a CoRK colonial, and that he has helped spread the footprint of the arts district.

One of the biggest things that Mark wants people to know about the FIRST Robotics program and Renaissance Jax is that “robot” should not be a scary word. He maintains that anyone who wants to be a coach or mentor can be, and even encouraged this English Major to become a part of the program–I told him I’d stick to writing about the robots for now.

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If you want to know more about his program, or if you’d like to become a mentor check out his website. You can visit Mark and his robotics students at One Spark 2015, Creator Number 22083. He’ll be set up near Hemming Park, and trust me, as the dude with the robots, you’ll know where he is!

Brentley