Chocolate, Beer and Rooftop Bars

Local entrepreneurs bring a slew of new venues and vitality to the city core

The perfect place to highlight as we begin our tour of the new is an exciting marriage of local hotshot Peterbrooke Chocolatier, a Jacksonville business that has not only taken over the local market but expanded beyond it, and local dessert maven Anita Adams, who is best known for her Avondale dessert bakery Let Them Eat Cake (now under different ownership), and the baker behind several favorite area restaurants’ dessert cases.

new bake studio 600Adams approached Peterbrooke at the perfect time: unbeknownst to her, they were about to undergo a production facility expansion, and there was room to add a bakery. Bake Studio by Peterbrooke was born, but more than six months  of planning and — best of all — tasting was to come, as Adams worked in the different departments at Peterbrooke, trying chocolates and other confections and coming up with desserts inspired by and utilizing them. “Every day I discover a new favorite chocolate and my brain just overflows with ideas,” says Adams. “I can not wait to start baking!”

Adams is planning baked goods with familiar Peterbrooke flavors. For example, “Our head chocolatier makes his products from scratch and I would like to take his marshmallows, caramels and truffle flavors and build off of that,” she says.
She also laughs about the process of learning high volume production after specializing in smaller scale handcrafted desserts for so long. “I feel like Lucy Ricardo when I am working the production line. (Yes, I stuff myself with chocolate!) They produce so much . . . It’s amazing,” she says.

Bake Studio will be run out of the Peterbrooke production headquarters on San Marco Blvd., but will also offer online ordering and select goodies  at many of their other retail stores. In addition, since Peterbrooke already works with several local businesses, Adams hopes to expand this aspect of the business and perhaps offer the Bake Studio desserts at other eateries as well.

new across street fThe Peterbrooke family offshoot Sweet Pete’s will also have a new home soon. They are moving into the first floor of the historic building at 400 North Hogan Street that once housed the Seminole Club, in the heart of Downtown. In this long overdue renovation project, the historic building will also become home to a new restaurant, The Candy Apple Café, and special event space thanks to the owners of Chef’s Garden Catering & Events (the company responsible for The Cummer Museum and Gardens successful café revamp) and River City Contractors. The Candy Apple Café, also on the first floor of the building, will serve French-inspired, Southern-influenced brunch and lunch during the workweek, and brunch on weekends. The café and its full bar are billed as casual but chic, with a bit of whimsy befitting its space next door to a candy shop.

Jennifer Earnest, principal of Chef’s Garden Catering & Events, envisions the restaurant and special event space as a revival of the building’s historic roots. “In its heyday, the Seminole Club was an elite social destination,” says Earnest. “We are excited to return this historic building to that glory while making this beautiful space accessible to everyone. We really see The Candy Apple Café as a bridge that will help usher in a new level of dining and entertaining in Downtown.”

Next to Sweet Pete’s, owned by Jacksonville native Peter Behringer, his wife Allison, and Marcus Lemonis, there is excitement about collaborating with Liz and Jennifer Earnest of Chef’s Garden in this special space. “Sweet Pete’s success is rooted in quality ingredients, local support, and a passion for creativity,” says Allison Behringer. “Liz and Jennifer Earnest share our same commitment and energy for revitalizing Downtown. Furthermore, their passion and energy for great food, drinks and events matches the commitment Pete and I have to creating amazing candy experiences.”

The Bake Studio by Peterbrooke and The Candy Apple Café and Sweet Pete’s all plan to open in December 2014.

Another Jax native, Ben Davis, has seen much success in the beverage business and is bringing his craft beer company, Intuition Ale, to a new hub in east Downtown. Before Intuition, which grew popular fast with its now iconic locally canned beers, Davis was in the business of winemaking. After purchasing the San Marco wine bar, The Grotto, in 1999, he honed his vintner skills in Napa Valley and New Zealand, eventually producing critically acclaimed wines for years before returning to his hometown. He switched gears to the craft of beer, and two-and-a-half years of perfecting beer recipes in his Riverside garage led to Intuition Ale.

Now, the Downtown Development Review Board has unanimously approved Davis’ plans for a new brewery at Bay Street and A. Philip Randolph, four blocks from EverBank Field. The proximity to the stadium has Davis aiming to be open in time for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ season opening game in September 2015. The brewery will include both a taproom and a rooftop beer garden with an awesome view.

The very popular Burrito Gallery, one of the major trailblazers in the urban core’s revitalization, is also planning a new location with a view of Downtown, albeit from the other side, at the new Brooklyn Station development on Riverside Avenue, west of the Acosta Bridge. This Burrito Gallery will feature a rooftop bar above the restaurant where one can watch as this historic Brooklyn neighborhood continues to spark to life.

We are ecstatic that two more historic buildings, dating back to those first erected after the Great Fire of 1901 virtually wiped out the city, are soon to house restaurants instead of sitting idle and empty. The Bostwick Building, also known as the First Guaranty Bank & Trust building, and playfully known as the jaguar building, thanks to its former mural painted by local artist Jim Draper, will be home to a steakhouse and rooftop bar called the Cowford Chophouse. With a nod to Jacksonville’s former moniker, The Cowford is tapped to be “Jacksonville’s signature steakhouse,” says Chad Munsey, who along with fellow local entrepreneurs Jacques Klempf and Fraser Burns owns Wine Lounge Concepts which operates several high end restaurants around town, including Bistro Aix and Ovinté. “Every great city has an iconic locally owned and operated steakhouse,” he continues. “Imagine exiting off the Main Street Bridge and pulling up to The Cowford Chophouse.” Munsey comments that he and his partners are thrilled to be part of the revitalization of one of city’s most historic buildings and of the Downtown renaissance.

Then there’s the nearby Bisbee Building, part of  the Laura Street Trio — three significant historic buildings known for their unique configuration — the Bisbee will house a high-end sports bar, King Street Grille, out of Charleston, SC.

Finally, well-known chef Scotty Schwartz, executive chef and owner of 29 South in Fernandina Beach and part of the creative team behind The Legend Series dinners, is set to open a restaurant in Jacksonville. While he plans it to be as “jeans and t-shirt friendly” as 29 South, Schwartz says, “It will have a little bit more elevated items on the menu.” Perhaps he’ll be inspired to create dishes like those served at the cutting edge Legends Series dinners on a more regular basis. In Legends fashion, other details are still being held tight to the vest, but we leave this teaser as the end of our tour to heighten your sense of anticipation. So much is about to happen.…Hope you’re hungry.

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Author: Arbus

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