Ocala Style | August 2022

Page 1

AUG ‘22


Food issue




Scenic 28 +/- Acres

Emerald Mile Farms

Winding scenic drive leads to the two-story home situated on 28+/- acres. 4 Bedroom, 3 bath, generous formal living room, formal dining room, family room with oversized brick fireplace and extra-large windows to enjoy panoramic views of the property. Barn/equipment building features guest quarters. $2,750,000

50 +/- Beautiful acres of gently rolling land. Property is located just 12 miles to World Equestrian Center. Deed restricted community. Perimeter fenced and ready for horses or cattle. Bring your plans to build the perfect home or farm. $795,000

Location! Location! Location!

39 +/- Acres – NW Ocala

Prime location for developer with Hwy 27 frontage. 76 +/- Acres with easy access to World Equestrian Center and HITS. Center aisle barn, fenced paddocks; perfect for any discipline. Zoned A-1 with land use of MR (4 units per acre). $6,472,750

Property is just 10 minutes to World Equestrian Center 2 miles to HITS. Two 3 bedroom/2 bath mobile homes with offices. 10 Stall barn with living space/lounge area, restroom, tack and feed room. Fenced paddocks, run-in sheds. Great location! $2,611,750

Our results speak for themselves. List with Joan today! For these and other properties, visit JoanPletcher.com for information, videos and photos. Call or Text: 352.266.9100 | 352.804.8989 | joan@joanpletcher.com | joanpletcher.com Due to the privacy and at the discretion of my clients, there are additional training centers, estates and land available that are not advertised.

29 +/- Prestigious Acres in NW Ocala

39.78 Acres – NW Ocala

3 Bedroom, 3.5 bath pool home. Just 8 miles to World Equestrian Center. Whether your passion is hunters, thoroughbreds or any other breed of equines, this property offers room to layout your dream farm, plus room to ride, train and raise your horses or cattle. $2,997,000

Less than 1 mile to HITS showgrounds and 12 miles to the World Equestrian Center. Green pastures to raise and train your horses. Perfect for jumpers or eventers. If you are looking for a seasonal place, then this is the perfect property and location. $1,389,700


10 +/- Acres – Minutes to HITS and WEC

10 +/- Acre Gentleman’s Farm

Three stall barn with 3 large lush paddocks await your horses. The 3 bedroom/ 2 bath home features 1,950 SF of living area. Expansive living room with large windows overlooking the farm, for great sunsets. Property is perimeter fenced and graced with granddaddy oaks. $699,000

Located just minutes to premier shopping, dining, hospitals and a short distance to the World Equestrian Center. Wraparound porch 4 bedroom, 3 bath, office, great room opens to kitchen and dining room. Lit arena, 4-stall barn, 4 paddocks plus 3-car covered open carport. $715,000

If you’re considering buying or selling, give us a call at 352-266-9100 today!

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Publisher’s Note


have always associated food with love. If you love someone, you feed them well. If you want to connect with someone, what better way than over a good meal (and a bottle of wine)? A lot of love went into this Food Issue, and we can’t thank enough all the home cooks who allowed us into their homes. In these pages, you meet my dear friend, Olivia Joy David, who is as warm and friendly as the photos depict. I believe the secret ingredient to everything she cooks probably starts with her generous heart. So, add that footnote to the recipes she shares in this issue. When many of us started cooking more at home during the height of the pandemic, Ocala Style started a Facebook group called Ocala Cooks and we encouraged locals to share their favorite recipes. As an offshoot of that effort, we figured we’d start to share some of those recipes in print too. Please consider joining our group as a safe social media respite with the promise of only talk about food and drink. You can find the group at www.facebook.com/groups/687026132213942 Speaking of sharing, our favorite fashionista, Lisa Midgett, starts another new regular feature of Ocala Style that we are calling The things I can’t live without. Like sharing recipes, locals will share the material things that either make their lives easier or put a smile on their face. Not all of us are fashionistas like Lisa, so your list might look completely different. More than anything, it’s meant to be a fun yet practical opportunity to share. Back to food—the cake on the cover is beautiful, isn’t it? Well, I’m joined by the entire Ocala Style team in testifying that it tasted as good as it looked! Thank you, Megan Hamer, for the reminder that you don’t have to have a fancy culinary pedigree and training to perfect your baking skills—just a lot of hard work and determination. We hope you love this issue as much as you do your favorite recipe and the person who prepared it. Bon appetit!

Jennifer Hunt Murty Publisher

Happy 2nd Anniversary! Publisher | Jennifer Hunt Murty


Magnolia Media Company, LLC (352) 732-0073

PO Box 188, Ocala, FL 34478

Art Editorial

GRAPHIC DESIGNER Amy Harbert amy@magnoliamediaco.com PHOTOGRAPHERS Bruce Ackerman Janira Aybar Becky Collazo Meagan Gumpert John Jernigan Lyn Larson of Mahal Imagery MAVEN Photo + Film Dave Miller Brittany Strebbing Alan Youngblood ILLUSTRATORS Jordan Shapot David Vallejo

EDITOR IN CHIEF Susan Smiley-Height susan@magnoliamediaco.com CREATIVE CONSULTANT Nick Steele nick@magnoliamediaco.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR Greg Hamilton greg@magnoliamediaco.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS James Blevins JoAnn Guidry Belea Keeney Scott Mitchell Dave Schlenker Beth Whitehead

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in this issue



ins ide r




Ignite Ocala raises awareness and funds to support area charities.



Join us in celebrating local brides and grooms.

feat u re s 30


Olivia Joy David relishes creating dishes that reflect her heritage and sense of adventure.


Megan Hamer’s sweet treats are finely detailed works of art, through which she can “bless others.”

living 49


49 55


Dave helps (sort of ) pick out new countertops.



Lisa Midgett shares some of the things that make her happy.



Rashad Jones, of Big Lee’s Serious About Barbecue, notches another top honor.

Three local home chefs share favorite recipes (and you can too).




The story of sugar in Florida is as complex as our state.


Belea says it’s too hot outside, so put your feet up and read gardening books instead.


ADVENTUROUS EPICUREAN Bo Lancaster’s world travels have infused new flavors into his love of cooking.

ON THE COVER: Megan Hamer Photo by: John Jernigan This page: left and center photos, by John Jernigan and right, courtesy of Food Network

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Social Scene

Clayton Dantzler, Gracelyn Graham, Grayson Dantzler and Maylani Bradshaw were some of the many guests who enjoyed the Juneteenth Celebration hosted by the Ocala Juneteenth Celebration Commission and the City of Ocala on June 18th. Photo by Bruce Ackerman


Juneteenth Celebration MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. RECREATION COMPLEX Photos by Bruce Ackerman


he Ocala Juneteenth Celebration Commission and the City of Ocala hosted the June 18th event, which drew a large crowd who enjoyed a variety of vendors, entertainment, speakers and food, with sponsorships to provide scholarships for high school seniors. Rondell Monroe, Harryha Shell, Nalaya Hicks, and J.J. Thomas

Top, from left: Shavonda and Walter Grimes. Bottom, from left: Kiersten McAllister, Kingston McAllister, Kourtlynn McAllister and Cherish Goodson



Yani Hamilton


Drs. Riadh and Manal Fakhoury

Te’Sha Jackson and Helen Council

Juneteenth Fundraiser ONE HEALTH CENTER Photos by Bruce Ackerman


he elegant evening event on June 18th, hosted by R.A.M.A.L. Educational & Social Services, included dinner, dancing, a silent auction and raffles, with proceeds to benefit community projects, scholarships for at-risk and non-traditional students, tutoring and mentoring.

Anne Bulmer, Sharon Duca, Barbara Brooks, Allie Gore and Terri Johnson

Daniel Banks and Judith Bullen

Dawn Johnson, Patricia Robinson, Dr. Pamela Lewin, Fonya Kendrick, Allie Gore, Carolyn Adams and Dr. Philip Johnson

Aug ust ‘22



Ocala Style Women’s Expo COLLEGE OF CENTRAL FLORIDA Photos by Bruce Ackerman


he event on June 25th featured a slate of inspiring guest speakers, demonstrations, shopping, networking, food, giveaways and a chance to win some awesome raffle prizes. PACE Center for Girls – Marion was the beneficiary of proceeds from ticket sales and the raffle.

Judi Hunter and Nancy Porter

James Hagans, Carole Savage-Hagans and Gretchen Springer

Loring Felix



Heather Goodnight-Brown and Victoria Alvarez

Guest speakers Attorneys Mary Catherine Landt and Janet Behnke, at right


Major Angy Scroble

Stacey Ansley

Juleen Lawton, Beulah Carey and Liz Hernandez

Liz Hernandez, Beulah Carey, Sierra Rebchook, Anna Wilemon and Kristin Ainscow

Amy Alvarado and Maggie Weakley

Dr. Katherine O’Brien

Aug ust ‘22



Brazen Bash SOUTHEASTERN LIVESTOCK PAVILION Photos by Bruce Ackerman


he Florida Department of Health in Marion County hosted the June 30th event that featured Rashad Jones of Big Lee’s BBQ, fun activities, food, music and giveaways. Brazen is a positive youth development program for ages 11 to 18.

Melissa Burnette and Shaelyn St. Cyr

Kyndal Chery, Audrina Burnett and Sarra Ferguson

John Gray, Jacob Cooke, Rashad Jones and Deasia Fleming



Audrina Burnett

Kayden Jackson, Deputy Dale Boileau and Michael Jackson

Cykeira Phelps and Monica Bryant


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On the Scene A guide to our favorite monthly happenings and can’t-miss events

Leaf Series: Critters & Kids 4 Lil’ Sholom Park Take the kids (ages 4-10) on a wildlife adventure walk in the peaceful setting of Sholom Park. The park hosts a variety of critter species, including owls, hawks, bats, snakes, mice, rabbits, songbirds and even exotic koi in the pond. Children will have the chance to explore and learn about Florida wildlife during this two-hour workshop. $5 per child, registration in advance required. Call Master the Possibilities Education Center at (352) 861-9751 or register online at sholompark. org/events

Concerts in the Park 5 Friday Heritage Park, Williston Cam Wheaton will play for this party, hosted by the Williston Chamber of Commerce. Wheaton plays solo gigs and with a variety of Florida bands showcasing his rock, grunge and country musical influences. You can bring chairs and a picnic or buy from a local food truck onsite. Free to the public. For more info, visitnaturecoast.com/event

West Barrel Racing Show 5-7 Pac Southeastern Livestock Pavilion The quickest 20 seconds (or less) in sports! Barrel racing is an exciting rodeo event where horses enter the arena at a full gallop then run a pattern around barrels. Competition is so tight that sometimes winners are determined by thousandths of a second. Free to spectators. For information, check out selp.marionfl.org.

Cruisers of Belleview Car Show 6 Twilight Kent Furniture Center, Belleview Car enthusiasts can enjoy seeing restored, refurbished and retro cars of all kinds. From muscle cars of the ‘70s to classics of the ‘40s and ‘50s, heat up your summer and rev up those engines. Donations of food for Interfaith Emergency Services are encouraged. For more info, twilightcruisersflorida.com/ upcoming-shows

First Saturday 6 Free Appleton Museum Continuing its tradition on the first Saturday of each month, you can view museum works, regular and special collections, and even create your own art in the museum’s interactive Artspace. Current exhibitions include Invented Observations: Photographs by Steven Benson; Depicting the Dancer: Artworks by Ernst Oppler; and A Strange and Picturesque Country: Etchings by Earl H. Reed. A central garden space that serves as a peaceful respite is available. Big Lee’s BBQ food truck will be onsite 11am-2pm. See appletonmuseum.org for more info.

Polo Club Summer Sunset Games 6 Ocala (also 13, 20 and 27) Florida Horse Park

The Ocala Polo Club continues its tradition of Summer Sunset matches. When the sun goes down, the breeze kicks in and you’ll be up close to the Sport of Kings. Sidelines tailgating is free and decorating prizes are awarded. This month’s themes are Ponytail Power, Horsepower Cup, Holidays in July and Life’s a Beach Day. Matches often have a charity component. Dogs on leashes are welcome. For more info, ocalapolo.com

Day Meet the Candidates 6 NAACP Webb Field at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex

Hosted by the Marion County NAACP. Meet candidates for August general elections, talk to them about the issues you’re concerned about and enjoy food, entertainment and vendors. For more info, facebook.com/NAACPofMarionCounty

Dracula 8-9 Auditions: Ocala Civic Theatre Ever dream of sinking your teeth into a role and acting onstage? The Ocala Civic Theatre will hold auditions for the fall performance of Dracula and is looking for six men and women for this play based on Bram Stoker’s classic novel. Newcomers and acting veterans are welcome and scripts may be checked out in prep for auditions. The OCT’s Cue Sheet will detail role requirements and other info. See ocalacivictheatre.com/auditions for more info.

Albums Live-Dire Straits 10 Classic Reilly Arts Center The Reilly offers up the classic album from this influential British band. Brothers in Arms was released in 1985 and Dire Straits hit it big with their song, Money for Nothing. The combination of the animated video story, Sting’s backing vocals and the catchy tune helped send Dire Straits to the top of the charts. This live performance of the entire album, note for note, will include Brothers in Arms, Walk of Life and all of the album’s songs. Tickets are $20-$55 and available from reillyartscenter.com

Son, Tribute to 13 Fortunate Creedence Clearwater Revival Circle Square Cultural Center

Billed as the “World’s Greatest Tribute to CCR,” this show combines the spirit and authenticity of one of America’s best known rock bands, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Mixing rock, country, folk music and blues, singer Brad Ford leads this tribute band through CCR’s big hits. Expect to hear Born on the Bayou, Green River, Lookin’ Out My Back Door, Proud Mary, and, of course, Fortunate Son. Tickets are $28-$31. For more info, see csculturalcenter.com

Brother’s Revival13 AAllman Brothers Legacy Band Reilly Arts Center

Band leader David Goldflies toured with the Allman Brothers throughout the U.S. and Europe, fine-tuning the bluesy, Southern rock sound of this unique American band. Expect to hear such Allman classics as Melissa, Ramblin’ Man, Soulshine, Whipping Post and Midnight Rider. Tickets are $20-$50. For more info, see reillyartscenter.com

Wildflowers 20 The Reilly Arts Center In this tribute show to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Wildflowers play many of the Gainesville boy’s greatest hits. Songs like American Girl, Even the Losers, You Got Lucky, Don’t Come Around Here No More, I Won’t Back Down, Refugee and Free Fallin’ are likely in the set list. The Wildflowers have the look, the sound and the vibe that made Tom Petty an American rock n’ roll icon. Tickets are $20-$55 and available from reillyartscenter.com

Hines concert 13 Nolan Morgan’s Music Junction, Summerfield

“Mr. Entertainer” Nolan Hines will perform a variety of songs in this show backed by Music Junction’s house band. Hines, from Gainesville, does a lot of Elvis Presley tunes, covers Frank Sinatra as well and specializes in standards and show tunes. Tickets are $14-$17. See morgansmusicjunction.com for more info.

’56 to Vegas and The Elvis Story 19-20 Elvis Orange Blossom Opry, Weirsdale If rocking with the King is more your kind of swing, then World Champion Elvis tribute artist Cote Deonath will perform. Elvis’ early years from 1956 through his Vegas residency are highlighted the first night and the second evening covers the King’s entire musical life. Tickets are $30$43; see obopry.com for more info.

Orchids 23 Growing Grumbles House Antiques & Garden Shop, Dunnellon

These exotic and often stunning tropical plants can be surprisingly easy to grow and manage in Florida’s heat and humidity. Their native habitat is similar to ours and most prefer indirect sun and no cold temperatures. Marion County Master Gardener Pat Burns will offers tips for growing these beauties— such as they typically need at least a 20-degree temperature difference between night and day in order to bloom. Free to the public. For more info, check dunnellonfloridaantiques.com/event

Foodie Fest 26 Friday Lake Lillian Park, Belleview Food trucks, live music, kids’ crafts and activities, face painting and local vendors will be on tap for this summer evening. For more info, see ocalamarion.com or belleviewfl.org

Dressage XV 26-28 Ocala World Equestrian Center Dressage has historical precedents and in its earliest incarnations was used for training military and warhorses. Today, dressage focuses on spectacular movements and highly trained horses and riders performing elaborate tests of skill and precision. Freestyle tests, moving to music, is one of the most popular parts of the sport, akin to dancing on horseback. In addition to classical music, dressage horses have been known to prance about to Lady Marmalade and Shut Up and Dance. For more info, see worldequestriancenter.com


Classic Cruisers Cruise-In Car Show Six Gun Plaza

annual Ocala Shrine Rodeo Sept. 2-3 40th Southeastern Livestock Pavilion Pull on those cowboy boots and come check out all kinds of classic rodeo events, including team roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, barrel racing and bronc riding. Enjoy the sights and sounds of cattle, horses and riders showing off their rodeo skills. Burgers, hot dogs, BBQ and more available onsite, including beer. Tickets are $25 at the gate; free ages 5 and younger. See ocalashrinerodeo.com

For a different kind of horsepower, the Classic Cruisers car club hosts a monthly cruisein at Six Gun Plaza. Spectators can stroll around show cars from many eras, talk to the owners and enjoy the gleam of polished metal and thoughts of riding the roads of yesteryear in a fabulous car. Sponsors help fund the prize monies that are awarded each show. Six Gun Plaza has lots of food options. Show entries and spectators welcome. Read more on classiccruisersocala.com/

Chicken Jolie Blonde Located in the heart of downtown Ocala, Harry’s offers traditional Louisiana favorites like Shrimp and Scallop Orleans, Crawfish Etouffée, Jambalaya, Shrimp Creole, Blackened Red Fish, Louisiana Gumbo and Garden District Grouper. Other favorites, like French Baked Scallops and Bourbon Street Salmon, are complemented with grilled steaks, chicken, burgers, po’ boy sandwiches and salads. Their full bar features Harry’s Signature Cocktails, such as the Harry’s Hurricane, Bayou Bloody Mary or the Cool Goose Martini. They also feature wines by the glass and a wide selection of imported, domestic and craft beer.

Happy Hour Specials: 2-7p every day $3 Draft Beer $4 House Wine & Premium Cocktails $5 Super Premium & $6 Harry’s Signature Cocktails $7 off bottles of wine

Head to El Toreo for the best Mexican food this side of the border! Enjoy all of your favorite traditional Mexican dishes in a friendly and festive atmosphere. Specials: Mondays and Wednesdays, Margaritas are $2 Saturdays, 2 for 1 Margaritas All Day

Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille

El Toreo

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SR 200, Ocala (352) 291-2121 › 7 days 11a-11p

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3790 E Silver Springs Boulevard, Ocala (352) 694-1401 › 7 days 11a-10p Dine-in or take out available


Tasha’s Top Picks By Tasha Osbourne


s a Sotheby’s realtor, I often find myself “selling” the Ocala lifestyle. And, as a foodie, you can bet I’m quick to share my favorite local watering holes and eateries. Luckily, in a community like Ocala, with so many great family-owned restaurants, it’s easy to pair my love of good food and drinks with my desire to support other locally owned businesses. I’ve put together a roundup of favorite places I enjoy regularly. I think it’s important to support these places because they give our community its unique flavor and lead the way in reflecting Ocala’s hospitable spirit. If you see me at one of these establishments, please introduce yourself. I’m equally as happy to talk epicurean delights as I am real estate!

Yellow Pony Pub & Garden

Katya Vineyards

Latinos Y Mas

101 E. Silver Springs Blvd. (352) 528-CORK (2675) katyavineyards.com I love the cozy atmosphere of this restaurant owned by the Sokols, a family of winemakers. I first met the matriarch of the family, Patricia, through my volunteer work with the Ocala Royal Dames, an organization dedicated to raising money to combat cancer. I highly recommend one of the Sokol family wines with your dinner and Katherine Sokol is always available to help you pair your dinner with the perfect wine accompaniment. Every plate from Chef Deras is a piece of art for the senses.

Ivy on the Square

53 S. Magnolia Ave. (352) 622-5550 www.ivyhousefl.com The vibe and comfort food here make it a very welcoming spot to relax after a long week! I highly recommend checking out the Thirsty Cobbler, a speakeasy bar with a 1920’s vibe that is hidden in the back of the restaurant. My favorite Ocala bartender, Billy, has a long list of great cocktails to choose from but my favorite drink choice is The Wiliwoke. (The original Ivy House is located in nearby Williston.)

1750 NW 80th Ave. (352) 414-7865 worldequestriancenter.com On the weekends, this a great place to enjoy live music while sipping a Yellow Pony Julep. I’m a fan of the fish and chips, which always come out crispy and fresh. Also, if you order the delicious nachos, which I highly recommend, bring a crowd to share them with because the portion is huge. This lovely pub is just steps from away from watching world class horse shows and wonderful boutique shopping. I highly recommend stopping by on your way to visit with my friend Austin, who showcases the Debonair collection. 2030 S. Pine Ave. (352) 622-4777 latinosymas.com This family-owned Latin fusion restaurant with a Mediterranean flair, never disappoints. Depending on how strong you like your drinks, I’d highly recommend their sangria or margarita. More times than I can count, I have ordered the Latinos 2030 Salad and the Pescado a la Rusa, which is a lightly seasoned Mero fillet, grilled and topped with a lemon butter sauce and fresh mushrooms.

Sponsored Mesa de Note

2436 E. Silver Springs Blvd. (352) 732-4737 mesaocala.com Between the choice of music playing in the background and the staff always remembering who you are, every visit to Mesa feels welcoming. One of the great things about this restaurant is the layout, which allows for conversation without your feeling like everyone is listening. Expect great pasta and a reasonably priced wine list. Try the portabella mushroom soup—it is decadent but worth it. Even my kids have grown to love this restaurant and no longer want to order from the kid’s menu.


2015 SW 17th St. (352) 369-6656 ilovemojos.com This locally owned group of restaurants (with locations in Ocala and Belleview) serve up my favorite wings, named “Slap Your Mama.” The owner of this restaurant, Rondo Fernandez, has a big heart for Ocala’s different charities and particularly youth sports. I’ve witnessed him supporting the Forest High School football team while watching my son play football as a running back.

The bar is grand and stately. It’s also a great place for meeting everyone from local business folks to world renowned stars passing through Ocala. There is valet service at this restaurant, which makes it easy to access even when downtown is at its busiest.

Tony’s Sushi

3405 SW College Road (352) 237-3151 tonysushiocala.com I introduced my parents to sushi for the first time at Tony’s and they were so impressed! I often bring my clients traveling from horse shows to this local spot. Tony’s has become a family favorite and whether you enjoy one of the hibachi tables or rolls, you won’t be disappointed.

Mark’s Prime Steakhouse

30 S. Magnolia Ave. (352) 402-0097 marksprimesteakhouse.com This is our go-to eatery for date night. Expect top notch service and nothing less than exceptional plates coming out of the kitchen of executive chef Randal White at this downtown steakhouse. I usually order the bone-in ribeye, but I can’t help but rave over the bread loaf and butter they start you with—a simple thing made special because it’s always served warm and perfect.

The Original San’s Pizzeria

4953 NW Blitchton Road (352) 690-7267 sanspizzeriaocala.com My round up of favorite restaurants wouldn’t be complete without including pizza. This family pizzeria has been perfecting their pizza making skills for 35 years—and you can taste the difference!

Stella’s Modern Pantry

20 SW Broadway St. (352) 622-3663 fb.com/stellasmodernpantry And finally, last but not least, Stella’s Modern Pantry is my favorite place to grab a glass of wine and enjoy a cheese board downtown. This is also my fail proof shop for buying gifts for clients to celebrate closings. Contact Tasha at: Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, tasha.osbourne@gmail.com, (352) 613-6613


Bolstering Nonprofits Ignite Ocala raises awareness and funds to support area charities. By Beth Whitehead

Safe & Loving Community Award presentation: Photo courtesy of Ignite Ocala


ears welled in Jeanne Henningsen’s eyes as she sat in a conference room a few years ago and listened to depressing statistics about the local women’s shelter, such as that 30 to 50 women were turned away every month due to a lack of beds. Henningsen says she glanced around the room and wondered—Why am I the only one so moved by this? The second time she heard the stats was at a networking event, and this time she saw shock resonating on the faces of a few friends. Henningsen says she heard the stats a third time before she was convinced that God was giving her a role in meeting needs at the Ocala Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Center. Henningsen, a self-employed leadership coach and consultant, recalls thinking in 2016, “OK, God, what do you want me to do? I can’t write a check for a million dollars for them to have a beautiful new shelter that’s big enough.” She said she grabbed some friends, and they grabbed their friends and together they formed Ignite Ocala. The volunteer group’s logo features a distinc-

tive flame image. The organization’s mission is “to create a safe and loving community by partnering with local nonprofits who need their flame to burn brighter in order to fulfill their mission.” That first year, Henningsen and her team hosted a luncheon for women and brought in speakers on domestic violence. Through the event proceeds, Ignite Ocala was able to help add 38 beds to the domestic violence center. The group has since provided food, clothing and even bus tickets for women and their children fleeing domestic abuse. While the initial focus was relief for domestic abuse survivors, Ignite Ocala has since helped a number of other organizations with different missions. Once we made a difference [for the shelter], that’s when we said, ‘OK, who else can we bless here?’” Henningsen recalls. Through the annual Ignite Luncheon, the group’s signature fundraiser, Ignite Ocala has raised $227,000 since its founding. In that time, the organization has given $40,000 to Kimberly’s Center for Child ProtecAug ust ‘22



Jeanne Henningsen

learn more. Those who wish to join the Ignite Ocala volunteer team, make a donation, become a sponsor or contribute a silent auction item can email wecare@igniteforocala.com. To learn more about Ignite Ocala, visit igniteforocala.com or facebook.com/igniteforocala

Ignite Luncheon photos courtesy of Ignite Ocala

tion for a therapeutic playground and paid two years of rent for an apartment managed by the Marion County Children’s Alliance to provide free housing for domestic violence victims and their children. They have provided funding to Wear Gloves Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to helping those in need earn what they need and paid for children’s summer camp tuition for the Boys & Girls Club of Marion County when the agency’s fundraisers were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 10th, the Ignite Luncheon hosted 150 people at the Klein Center at the College of Central Florida. The event raised $62,000, the most the group has ever raised at one time. On April 13th, the money, or Safe & Loving Community Award, was presented to Project Hope of Marion County, a nonprofit established in 2007 by a faith-based community group to provide solutions for homelessness among women and their children. Each year, Ignite Ocala opens applications for nonprofits to apply for the Safe & Loving Community Award. The organization must have a 501(c)3 tax status, average annual revenue of about $550,000 or less, have a mission in alignment with Ignite Ocala and serve people in the community. Team members select the partner in August and then work from September to March to raise awareness and find sponsors, who provide a large amount of the financial award bestowed each spring. Prospective partners can visit igniteforocala.com/applytoday to




MADISON & CODIE CROMWELL January 22nd, 2022 Venue: Private property Photographer: Brittany Strebbing, Eighteenth Hour Photography Wedding Planner: Making it Matthews Florist: Suzette Lovett, Martha’s Flower Shop Hair & Makeup: Rachel Henderson, Hair by Rachel Renee

Her favorite memory: “Our whole wedding was everything I could have ever imagined, however standing before God, our family and our friends, making a life time commitment to love each other for eternity, had to be the moment that topped it off for me. Standing there in that moment knowing I found the love of my life!” His favorite memory: “My favorite memory was seeing her as she walked down the aisle, knowing that I get to spend the rest of my life with her, as well as my closest friends and family surrounding us with love and support.”


ERIN AND TANNER JOHNSTON May 8th, 2021 Venue: Protea Weddings & Events Photographer: Janira Aybar, Janira Photography Florist: The Graceful Gardener Hair & Makeup: Gloss Beauty Bar A special component: Tanner’s only request on the wedding day was to not see Erin until she walked down the aisle. A way for Erin to make sure the wedding had a special component for Tanner was to incorporate bagpipes into the wedding as a homage to his Scottish heritage and his love of bagpipes. It was a special moment when he got to see her for the first time walking down the aisle to the sound of bagpipes.


JESSICA & CHRISTOPHER TURNER November 14th, 2021 Venue: The Barn at Martin Farms Photographer: Becky Collazo Wedding Planner: Vanessa Butts Florist: Mary Beth Danner, Schneider’s Floral Design Hair & Makeup: Loren Guy, Simply Stunning You

Her favorite memory: “It’s pretty hard to choose, but if I had to pick one it would be our private last dance together alone in the barn. It was such an amazing moment to end our beautiful day!” His favorite memory: “I would have to say our first look, even though I am not a person who likes surprises, but seeing my wife standing there it could not have been more perfect knowing I get to call her mine forever.”

A Culinary Journey Olivia Joy David relishes creating dishes that reflect her heritage and sense of adventure. By Susan Smiley-Height | Photography by John Jernigan


t might be said that Olivia Joy David’s “cooking truth” comes from her Italian heritage, love of gardening, the inspirations she gets through the arts and the fact that she is a self-described “nervous hostess.” Though born in Casper, Wyoming, David grew up on a small farm in the San Francisco Bay area of California. “I had a close family and spent lots of time with my Italian grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins,” she offers. “Because I grew up close to San Francisco, I was blessed to have a rich cultural life—ballet, symphony, theater, Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum— and to the northwest was the Napa Valley and that whole wine and culinary experience.” During the summer between her junior and senior years of high school, she toured Greece and Italy and says, “That began my love of travel and art and architecture.” While earning a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), she spent a summer traveling in Europe with her parents and another summer in Nigeria with her mother, who was on a medical team. After she graduated, David stayed in hostels “around Europe for a year visiting all the cities and museums and artists I had learned about at UCSB.” She “identifies as Italian” because she knows the most history about her mother’s parents. “They come from Northern Italy, near Bolzano, in the Dolomite Mountains. Luckily, I have traveled there to see the villages where my grandparents were born,” she shares. “I have cousins who own a hotel/spa in Trentino and stayed there with my mother in 2012. They made the best risotto I have ever tasted. “My aunts were amazing cooks,” she adds. “My mother worked—one of the few women I knew who worked outside the home—and made a lot of casseroles. I was always in charge of the salad, which I still love to make today.” In 2007, her husband, Jeff, was transferred to Washington, D.C., for his job with IHP Capital Partners, a residential investment firm. They moved

to Ocala in 2010 to manage what is now the Ocala Preserve community. She became involved with the local arts community and began to volunteer with the Marion Cultural Alliance (MCA). Today, the Davids, who have one son who lives in Georgia, reside in a home high atop a hill west of Ocala, with a backyard vista of scenic horse farms. The airy abode is filled with works of art and is shared with Spinone Italiano canines Latte and Luca. “My kitchen is filled with artwork by Ocala artists—David D’Alessandris, Carol Gallion, Cindy Verner, Milly Scheffer, Kate Carney, Kelly Rysavy, Jordan Shapot, Linda Blackburn, Rich Schleicher, Carlynne Hershberger and Kay Deuben,” she shares. “The art makes me happy and though it is not my cooking inspiration, it is certainly my creative inspiration.” Many of her meals, such as BBQ Salmon with Leeks and Tomatoes, with sides of coleslaw and a green salad, incorporate fresh veggies, fruits and herbs from her garden. “I have always liked having a nice yard, flowers and fresh herbs. I am a seat-of-the-pants gardener as well as a seat-of-the-pants cook,” she says with a laugh. “I grow what I have success with. This year I had lots of squash, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, greens, onions, salad flowers (nasturtiums), bell peppers and herbs.” She says she enjoys cooking “simple food for good friends.” “I love making soups and stews in the winter to share with neighbors,” she offers. “I have been doing some sheet pan recipes lately, such as tofu with roasted veggies, and chicken with asparagus, lemons and new potatoes. And I have the best salad recipe ever—some kind of fresh greens, one kind of nuts, one kind of cheese and one kind of dried fruit.” Her advice for a young host or hostess who also might be a bit nervous would be to “keep it simple.” “Make something you have been successful making before and are proud to serve,” she urges. “Your guests are there to enjoy your company.”

BBQ Salmon with Leeks and Tomatoes One whole salmon filet or several smaller portions 2 to 3 leeks 2 cups cherry tomatoes 2 tablespoons chicken stock or butter 2 tablespoons capers 1 tablespoon white vermouth 1 pinch of saffron Marinade: 1 cup soy sauce 1 cup orange juice 1 or two onions, thinly sliced 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped garlic 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped ginger In a large pan, make a bed of the onion slices. › Place the salmon on top. › Mix the soy sauce, orange juice, garlic and

ginger and pour over the fish. › Cover and refrigerate overnight. To cook, pre-heat your grill to 300 degrees. › Coat the inside of a grilling basket with oil. › Remove the salmon from the marinade and place in the basket. › Grill to preferred doneness. Meanwhile, heat the butter or chicken stock in a large skillet and add the vermouth and capers. › Slice the leeks into rounds and let simmer in the pan. › Halve the cherry tomatoes and add to the pan and cook until the skin begins to “pop.” › Add the saffron and stir. › Plate the salmon and dress with the leeks and tomatoes mixture.

Coleslaw 2 to 3 cups of chopped cabbage ½ cup crushed pineapple ½ cup raisins 1 teaspoon poppy seeds (You can add fresh garden veggies, such as bell pepper, as desired.) Bottled coleslaw dressing Combine cabbage, pineapple, raisins, and poppy seeds in a large bowl. › Pour in the dressing and mix well. › Refrigerate until ready to serve.

GREEN Salad 8 cups of mixed salad greens ½ cup dried cherries ½ cup crumbled bleu cheese ½ cup of chopped walnuts Bottled raspberry and walnut vinaigrette dressing In a large bowl, layer the greens, cherries, cheese and walnuts. › Dress with vinaigrette and mix well.

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epicurean This Ocala dad’s world travels have infused new flavors into his love of cooking. By Susan Smiley-Height | Photography by John Jernigan


nternational excursions to 31 countries exposed native Ocalan Bo Lancaster to a world of culinary experiences, many of which he replicates here at home. Lancaster attended Grace Episcopal School and graduated from Forest High School in 2000. As a child, he loved to read and write, and play sports. He grew up water skiing on Lake Weir and snow skiing in Colorado. It was at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, that Lancaster met his

wife, Brynne, when both were freshmen. They married in 2003 and both graduated from the college in 2006. It wasn’t long before the couple, who now have three children, were off to see the world as missionaries. “Brynne and I served in Europe for many years, helping to plant churches, and the close proximity of so many countries allowed us to visit some extraordinary places,” he shares. “I love Croatia. I tell people it’s as if you drop the Rocky Mountains into the Bahamas and add really amazing food.” Aug ust ‘22


Among his favorite food memories are meals made by his grandmother Charline Drake and his mother Lisa Lancaster. “From a young age, I was always surrounded by amazing classic Southern cooking,” he offers. “Gram’s fried chicken is the best in the world and if my mom ever cooks dinner for you, just know that the stewed tomatoes, conch peas, roast beef, cucumber salad and egg custard will be the best you’ve ever had.” He says he became interested in cooking one Saturday morning when he was a hungry youngster and whipped up a batch of pancakes for himself. “I fell in love with being able to create the food I wanted almost instantly,” he recalls. Fast forward to his kitchen these days and you will find Lancaster making such exotic dishes as Thai curries and his signature Japanese Ramen. “I think one thing I’m naturally good at is understanding flavor profiles, which allows me to add spices, flavorings, marinades or ingredients to draw out a specific flavor I’m looking for,” he explains. “That skill applies to all kinds of cooking, whether it’s smoking meat, picking toppings for pizza or deciding what dressing to put on the salad based on what the main dish is. One of my favorite things to cook is Thai curries, which have a nice



combination of sweet, savory, spicy and tart. I’m a terrible baker, though. Baking is science, cooking is jazz!” Lancaster, an estimator with Certified Roofing Solutions, says he challenges himself with a new cooking goal each year. “I start in January and my goal is that by the end of the year I can create the recipe from memory,” he outlines. “Some of the recipes I’ve learned this way are Boeuf Bourguignon, Malaysian Beef Rendang, Thai Green Curry and homemade flatbreads. Japanese Ramen was the last ‘new to me’ recipe I wanted to try my hand at before we left Holland. There was a Ramen house in our city that I would go to any chance I got—the complexities of flavors always had perfect balance.” For the Japanese Ramen he creates at home, Lancaster makes the broth in an Instapot then adds a touch of chili oil and fresh veggies and a protein, such as pork belly. Brynne says her first experience with Bo’s cooking was when he led a group of friends on a hike in their freshman year of college. “He brought along a tiny burner and some ramen packets and made us trail ramen,” she recalls. “I will say it was a far cry from what he’s making today! Bo has always been the ‘joyful cook’ in our

Aug ust ‘22


marriage. He has always loved experimenting with new foods and pushing himself to try difficult recipes.” Bo offers this advice for those who want to try a recipe from another culture. “Be adventurous when you dine out,” he urges. “If you have a dish you enjoyed, take notes about what you liked about it then go online and find recipes and YouTube videos about that recipe.” And don’t be afraid to introduce your children to different flavors, he adds. “Our three kids are some of the coolest kids I know. Not many kids have been born in other countries, gained fluency in other languages, traveled to the places they have, and had the life experiences they’ve had,” he enthuses. “I am very thankful that we as a family have been able to experience many other cultures and cuisines. Hopefully our kids have gained a lifelong appreciation for God’s goodness to us in how amazing and differently food can taste.”

Japanese Ramen 5 cups chicken or beef broth 4 leaves bok choy 4 baby portobella mushrooms, thinly sliced 4 leaves dried seaweed 3 tablespoons soy sauce 2 8-ounce pieces of pork belly 2 eggs 2 packages ramen noodles (plain) 2 tablespoons carrots, grated or julienne 2 tablespoons green onion, thinly sliced 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 tablespoon minced ginger 1 tablespoon chili oil (optional) 1 tablespoon Mirin 1 tablespoon sesame seeds Lightly sear the pork belly in a saute pan. > Combine the broth, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, mushrooms, garlic and ginger in an Instapot. > Add the pork belly. > Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes. > Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to a rolling boil. > Use a thumb tack to pierce a hole in the large end of each egg. > Place the eggs in the boiling water and reduce to a simmer. > Cook for exactly 5 minutes and 45 seconds. > Remove eggs and place in an ice bath. > Remove the pork belly from the broth mixture and caramelize each piece in a saute pan using soy sauce and Mirin. > To serve the ramen, place noodles in a large bowl. > Drizzle the chili oil over the top. > Place bok choy leaves on one side of the noodles. > Ladle steaming hot broth over the noodles. > Add carrots and green onions. > Slice the pork belly and add to the bowl. > Place seaweed leaves on one side of bowl. > Slice eggs in half and place in bowl. > Sprinkle sesame seeds over all ingredients. 40



Longboat Key, Florida Longboat Key, Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico, is a 12-mile island with a variety of accommodations and island-inspired cuisine. It offers a respite from the crowds but still provides the Florida beach experience.

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ne can only explain the lure of Longboat Key, Florida as a combination of magical transcendence into the perfect island escape and a blissful beach playground for an exclusive and pristine vacation destination. Named as one of the Top Ten Island Destinations in the U.S. in Conde Nast Traveler’s 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards, the 12-mile island is luxuriously located on the Gulf of Mexico, bordered on the west by azure blue waters and on the east by beautiful Sarasota Bay. Long known as the hideaway of celebrities and reclusive notables, Longboat Key offers visitors a respite from the crowds while still providing the quintessential Florida beach experience. Blue skies, swaying palms, sultry breezes, playful dolphins, sandy beaches and a quiet calm welcomes the evening sunset and beckons the discerning traveler. The island is home to a variety of vacation options, from full-service hotels to charming authentic beachfront resorts. Combined with island-inspired cuisine at a variety of award-winning restaurants and a sprinkling of delightful island boutiques, guests can immerse themselves in a true tropical getaway. For the outdoor enthusiast, Longboat Key offers choices beyond compare. From fishing charters to paddle-boarding, ocean kayaking and even some of the most renowned birdwatching in the country, our island home is your island adventure. An array of seasonal activities provides cultural and artistic entertainment, and year-round vacationers can experience popular, family-friendly attractions in the Bradenton area. Visit nearby shops and restaurants, just a short drive away, all offering the perfect location for a leisurely afternoon or sunset stroll.

Baking Up Blessings Megan Hamer’s sweet treats are finely detailed works of art, through which she can “bless others.”

By Susan Smiley-Height | Photography by John Jernigan


ome of Megan Hamer’s customers tell her that watching for her decorated sugar cookie offerings to be posted online is like waiting for Black Friday shopping. “Cookie sellouts happen,” she shares happily. “My sweet clients tell me they set alarms and have their fingers ready to checkout once the items become available on my website.” Hamer, who started her Be Still Bakery in 2020, says cookies are her specialty, but she also makes cakes and offers decorating classes. “Some of my regulars will order their cakes through me, too,” she notes, “which is always nice to keep color palettes and overall style matching.” Hamer’s early background in art is evident in her detailed edible creations, which can range from elegant cookies for a wedding to cartoon character cookies to the smash cakes that are popular for toddler birthday parties. “You could find me doodling and filling out coloring books in my elementary years,” she notes, “and then attending AP art classes throughout my high school years. I also took a couple of art history classes at the University of Florida.” Hamer’s family moved to Ocala from Illinois when she was 4 years old. She attended local schools and graduated from Forest High in 2004. She was on the school swim team and involved in competitive cheerleading and still enjoys being active. “I’m a mama to two beautiful kids, one girl, one boy,” she enthuses. “My hubby and I met on a golf course when I was in college, and it didn’t take long for us to fall in love and decide we were meant to be. We’re going on 14 years of marriage. In our downtime we love going to church, swimming, fishing, boating, going to the beach, biking and just being outdoors.” As for how she started baking, she says it “sort of happened by accident.” “Back up about 30 years and I remember loving to help my parents bake, especially during the holidays. My dad would let me help roll out gingerbread dough, squeeze the spritz cookie gun and eat occasional scraps when mom wasn’t looking. My mom taught me all the ins and outs of making our favorite family recipes,” she recalls. “Fast forward 30 years and I found myself

with less-than-stellar party planning skills for my own kids’ birthday parties and could never secure a cake in time. I see now why it requires months of advanced notice. But back then I was always late to the planning game, so I was forced to teach myself how to make my kids something cute and delicious for their special celebrations. I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed the process and went on to make more for close friends and family. Word caught on that flavor matched appearance and the rest is history.” Hamer describes her kitchen, in which she follows Florida Cottage Food Laws, as a little science lab, where she experiments constantly. “There are multiple reasons why a cake could sink in the middle: Wrong size pan, oven temps too hot or too cold, too much baking powder, baking powder that’s been opened for too long, undermixing, underbaking, etc. When you finally find something that works well for you, stick with it,” she explains. “Weather plays a huge role in how some projects will turn out. My air is always cranked down to super cold to keep decorating in my favor. Cakes, cookies and humidity do not get along.” She is a firm believer that if you’re not practicing, you’re not making progress. “The same idea holds true for anything in life you want to improve,” she suggests. “Invest the time into something you want and you’ll see the rewards. I am always reminding my kids the same notion applies to their competitive swimming, schoolwork and relationships. If they nurture those things and put the time in practicing now, they will reach their desired goals down the road. No short cuts or taking the easy way. Dig deep and be committed to the process—mistakes and all.” Hamer had been running an online Etsy shop for eight years when she decided she needed a creative change. “Don’t get me wrong, I am a lover of all things art, but it became monotonous painting the same things over and over and it slowly sucked all the joy out of painting. I couldn’t let that happen,” she offers. “Making the switch to baking art was just the refreshing change I needed. It came with its learning curves, but the desire to learn was there, and I’ve always loved

I remember loving to help my parents bake, especially during the holidays. My dad would let me help roll out gingerbread dough.



At right, top to bottom: Custom strawberry picnic cake and accompanying “smash” cake, Cookie designs for Hamer’s Fall decorating class.

a good challenge. So now I get to channel my artistic side, create my own unique designs and teach others how to decorate. “I don’t come with any prestigious culinary training,’’ she adds. “I haven’t traveled to Europe or attended any elite pastry courses. But what I do have is a passion for art and a belief that it comes in all forms, including the sweet ones. I have a master’s degree in special education and started fresh out of college with a classroom full of tiny students. Years later, I found myself back in the classroom, but this time I’m teaching other (grownup) sugar artists how to decorate, both in person and online. Some students are as far away as

Germany, Canada and France. It’s amazing where passion can take you when you least expect it.” The name of her bakery comes from her favorite Bible verse: “Be still, and know that I am God.” - Psalm 46:10. “The name serves as a constant reminder to surrender my anxieties, fears and basically anything out of my control and trust that God will be present in my time of need and always,” she says. “Those words have helped me in many of life’s circumstances and I knew I wanted to incorporate it into the business somehow. I praise our almighty Creator daily for giving me the talent and opportunity to bless others with sweet treats.” Aug ust ‘22


Megan’s Tips and Tricks for Cake Making

1. To get a nice bright white

buttercream, put the tiniest drop of violet food gel coloring in your batch. It will tone down the natural warm creamy color and help make it more of a bright white. Hair pros do this trick when it comes to toning blondes. I also add white food gel coloring to give it an extra pop of brightness.



2. Let wet ingredients come to room temp before cranking up that mixer. Your batter will come together so much better if you take the time to do this step. Your cake will also rise better and be nice and fluffy.

3. Sift that flour. Don’t skip this

step, no matter how tempted you are. Measuring sifted flour vs. packed-in

flour can throw off your entire recipe. Invest in a good sifter and take the time to do it. I like the big basket style sifters you can set on top of a bowl. Gets the job done quickly.

4. Use a kitchen scale to measure

each of your pans once you get the batter in. You want all of your cake layers to be the same thickness and the best way to ensure this is to use a digital kitchen scale.

5. Crumb coat first (apply a thin

layer of frosting), then put the cake in the freezer for a few minutes before adding your main layer of

frosting. Crumb coating catches all of those pesky loose crumbs and prevents them from making their way onto your final layer of frosting.

6. Make your own sprinkles. This is

one of the coolest tricks I pass down to students. Pipe thin lines of royal icing on a sheet of wax or parchment paper, let it dry completely and then break it up into small bits. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is. To learn more or sign up for classes, go to bestillbakery.com or find it on Instagram and Facebook.

Aug ust ‘22


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The Basquiat of Brisket Local pitmaster Rashad Jones showcased his culinary art skills in front of national audiences on his way to winning the Food Network’s BBQ Brawl. Photo courtesy of Food Network


The Basquiat of Brisket Local pitmaster Rashad Jones showcased his culinary art skills in front of national audiences on his way to winning the Food Network’s BBQ Brawl.


ashad Jones, owner and pitmaster of Big Lee’s Serious About Barbecue in Ocala, is more than a local celebrity with a gift for brisket. He considers himself a fine artist, like the renowned Jean-Michel Basquiat, but with a basting brush, someone who paints mouthwatering masterworks with barbecue sauce and carves unforgettable statues of flavor from grilled and charred meats. On June 27th, Jones won Food Network’s third season of BBQ Brawl—a cooking competition that premiered on May 9th with superstar chefs Bobby Flay, Anne Burrell and Jet Tila—becoming the channel’s “Master of ‘Cue.” Jones will next appear across the culinary channel’s many digital platforms as its official BBQ expert for a year, making videos and writing articles on how to be a better and more adventurous pitmaster. When asked what is next for himself and Big



Lee’s, Jones says his company is always gearing up for more growth and expansion. And, like any other form of artist, he adds, he wishes to share his art with as many people as possible. “I want to grow in a way that preserves the integrity of our product,” he explains, mentioning how he started with one food truck and now has three in service with a fourth under construction. “It doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It just means that we have to be careful in order to maintain that quality that our customers expect from Big Lee’s.” Jones recently was a keynote speaker at the Brazen Bash. Brazen is a sexual risk avoidance program in the health education branch of the Florida Department of Health in Marion County—a program he helped develop and manage for eight years prior to his becoming a celebrated pitmaster and restaurant owner. When asked what it feels like to be a role model to the next generation of pitmasters and barbeque artists in Marion County, Jones says it feels good and that he takes that responsibility very seriously (as seriously as he takes his barbecue). “I think inspiration is an emotional type of fire, just like the fire I play with on the barbecue pit,” he shares. “I hope to move that fire figuratively to other people and ignite their passion or interest in whatever they have inside of themselves to create or do.” “It’s a privilege and an incredible opportunity,” he goes on to say. “It’s not something I take lightly. I started cooking barbeque when I was 33 years old. It’s never too late and opportunity never stops as long as you have a pulse and breath in your lungs. You can get up and start cooking on something that makes you happy.” To learn more about Big Lee’s, visit mybigleesbbq. com, or about Jones as the Food Network’s BBQ expert, visit foodnetwork.com

Photo courtesy of Food Network

By James Blevins


The Sweet History of Sugarcane By Scott Mitchell

Syrup making during Ocali Country Days: Photos courtesy of Scott Mitchell


he story of sugar in Florida is as complex as our state and has many twists and turns. Most of the sugar we consume nowadays comes from sugarcane, although a small percent is produced from sugar beets. Sugarcane is originally from Asia. It is a grass much like bamboo and is vulnerable to freezing, which can make it tricky to grow. However, since pretty much everybody likes sweets, people have tried to grow sugarcane with mixed results for hundreds of years, and Floridians are no exception. The British brought sugarcane to Florida in the late 1760s and some of the earliest sugar farming endeavors were started near present-day New Smyrna Beach. To successfully grow sugarcane, one needs good soil, plenty of rain and a mild climate. Most of the British sugarcane farming endeavors never reached their full potential. In 1821, Florida became a U.S. territory and wealthy planters from Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia began to move into the state and start raising sugarcane on a larger scale. Freezes in north Florida pushed most commercial cane production south by the mid-to-late 1800s. Homesteaders and pioneers, however, raised sugarcane as a cash crop and to provide their families with a source of sugar for consumption. Old sugarcane presses, kettles and even some scattered cane patches can still be found across

north Florida, including in northwest Marion County, where the Feaster family continues to make cane syrup, and at Ocali Country Days events at the Silver River Museum & Environmental Education Center in Ocala. In the past, as now, when sugarcane is harvested in the fall, syrup-making can be a communal and social event. The cut cane is squeezed in a mill powered by a draft animal or motor to produce raw sugarcane juice. The juice is then boiled down into syrup in large cast-iron kettles or, at the Feaster’s Deerfield Farm, in a large custom-made vat. The syrup can be processed further into brown sugar, which is useful for cooking and preserving food. Sugarcane also can be used to make rum, as is produced across the Caribbean. During pioneer times, sugarcane was the only source of sugar in Florida. Approximately 10 gallons of raw juice was needed to make one gallon of syrup. Cane syrup-making is a sophisticated process that involves the constant monitoring of the Aug ust ‘22



temperature, evaporation, thickness and specific gravity of the syrup being cooked. It is easy to burn it or to not cook it properly and end up with a poor batch and a lot of wasted effort. While old-time Marion County residents continued making cane syrup for themselves on a small scale, the commercial producers who had moved south began to ramp up operations after 1900. During the early part of the 20th century, as the Everglades were drained with canals and areas just south of Lake Okeechobee became tillable farmland, commercial sugarcane production increased dramatically. By this time, most of the commercial growers had moved to south Florida because of the warmer winters and abundant rainfall. However, much of the sugar coming into Florida at this point was still being imported from Cuba. The import of Cuban sugar ended in 1960 when the U.S. began a trade embargo following the Cuban revolution the previous year. Revolutions often create opportunities and the Cuban uprising was no exception. The U.S. 52


embargo jump-started commercial production in Florida and gave rise to “Big Sugar,” which continues to cast a long shadow across the state. Sugarcane is a major part of our state’s economy, providing numerous jobs and valuable income, but this bounty comes at a cost: damaging environmental pollution in the form of nutrient-rich runoff into the waterways. The sweet stuff remains the most valuable field crop in the Sunshine State. Florida is the largest producer of sugar in the United States and much of the sweet white crystals we crave have humble beginnings in the old muck fields near Lake Okeechobee. The next time you enjoy something made better with sugar, remember that history can be sweet. Scott Mitchell is a field archaeologist, scientific illustrator and director of the Silver River Museum & Environmental Education Center, located at 1445 NE 58th Ave., Ocala, inside the Silver River State Park. To learn more, go to silverrivermuseum.com.



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Top This! By Dave Schlenker | Illustration by David Vallejo


act: I do not know the difference between granite or quartz or Torquay or Cambria. We’re talking countertops here–duh!– and to be fair, I think I know that Cambria is a brand. Or a design or a store or maybe the name of the guy in a store. No matter. I write these words just inches away from new Phoenix Lincoln countertops. They are gorgeous, with just the perfect amount of black veiny things seeping across a slick white surface that, strangely, does not look like the same white surfaces we have been looking at for at least a year. Or two. Or three. Our long countertop journey has ended, and I am so happy I could just kiss our new countertop. But as all husbands know, kissing, touching, or using a new countertop is forbidden. These countertops are carved from rocks–big, solid chunks of earth sanded by dinosaur toenails. Without question, the countertops are the most solid things in our home. If those dinosaurs return with meteors and a thirst for vengeance, I am hiding under the Phoenix Lincolns, if, of course, my wife lets me. We have been working on the house for years, and I have been successful in retaining–thus far– some of my beloved man treasures that were targeted for eviction. As of now, I can admire the new Phoenix Lincolns from my questionably leather thrift store chair. This may change. It probably will change.

But here’s the thing about kitchen improvements. Forgive me, wife and God, but I sincerely do not care. What I care about is making my family happy, thus I encouraged my wife and daughters to change and redecorate all they want to their tastes. Problem is, my sweet wife wants my input. That’s right: She has free license to do whatever she wants, but she wants the opinion of the schlub sitting in his underpants with mustard in his mustache. It is noble and confusing. Here is a transcript of my input: “Yeah, that looks great, honey. Go for it. Well, sure, that design looks great, too. Go for it. Another sample? It kind of looks like the others, but, sure, go for it. Yes, I did say I like the first one, but I also like this one. Go for it! No, no. I am not changing my mind. Go for … Yes, I like that one, too.” Looking at countertops is as fun as brain surgery, but countertop shopping does not come with morphine. It is sooooo boring, and every countertop design looks the same–be it white with black veins or black with white veins (although some had spots. I think). In the end, I pulled it together and agreed–in all sincerity–that Phoenix Lincoln was the best choice. Good call, Dave. As hard as my patient wife tried to tap into my refined countertop wisdom, we ultimately went with my No. 1 design tenet: My favorite design is her favorite design. Go for it. Aug ust ‘22


Discover the unsearchable Discover the forest

Find a trail near you at DiscoverTheForest.org


Strong Female Friendships I can’t live without my strong female friendships. Now more than ever, we need to depend on and celebrate each other.


Soleil Bakery & Social House I had the pleasure of meeting Melanie Patrick when she first started selling her macarons at the farmers market. They soon became a NOMA staple. As someone with a gluten allergy, I know I’m safe with Melanie.


The Reilly Arts Center & The Marion Theatre Complex My favorite place to go is the Reilly Arts Center. I’m looking forward to NOMA’s upcoming dance party Rock and Rosé on August 27th in the NOMA Black Box and opening night of Symphony. (reillyartscenter.com)


Chanel Le Blanc Huile Healthy Light Creator Oil Like many who got sick during the pandemic, my skin has taken a major hit. My trusted products were no longer working. Someone sent me this oil and I’ve been addicted since. You can add serums and extra moisturizer if you’d like but I find a serum and this oil are just right. (chanel.com)


Lisa Midgett

SHARES THE THINGS SHE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT Lisa is the owner of NOMA Gallery, a founding partner in NOMA Records, president of the David and Lisa Midgett Foundation and chair of the boards of the Marion Cultural Alliance and Arts in Health Ocala Metro. She loves people and finding new places to explore.


My MacBook Pro It has traveled the world. This workhorse helps me keep all the balls in the air from graphic design to business planning. (apple.com)

Good Girl by Carolina Herrera The perfume first caught my eye as it is bottled in a high heeled shoe. And when I smelled it, Wow! A complicated perfume to reflect todays modern woman with a top note of almond, base notes of cocoa and mod notes of jasmine and tuberose. (ulta.com)


Ivy on the Square

I like to take my meetings at my unofficial “office.” No matter the topic, a fancy gin cocktail, handmade by mixologist Victor Liberty, can enliven any meeting. (ivyhousefl.com)


CHANEL Handbag I wanted this bag since I was a very young woman but couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger on the price tag. However, in 2014 when I sold a business and retired, I bought myself this bag to celebrate. The retirement didn’t stick, but the bag has. (chanel.com)




Ocala native Jenny Conley loves nothing more than hosting family dinners. She puts her own spin on this recipe from chef Giada De Laurentiis. “It’s one of our favorites, especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas as a side dish. My older daughter is now making it. The recipe is being passed down. I hope you try this recipe. So delish!”

Butternut Squash Lasagna 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 and 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup water 3 amaretti cookies, crumbled 1/4 cup butter 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 3 1/2 cups whole milk Pinch nutmeg 3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves 12 no-boil lasagna noodles 3 and 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 1/3 cup grated Parmesan Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the water into the skillet and then cover and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and then transfer the squash to a food processor. Add the amaretti cookies and blend until smooth. Season the squash puree, to taste, with more salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce

to a blender. Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste. Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times. Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna. Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Ocala Cooks is a place for our community to share their favorite recipes and discuss all things food. Join the conversation on Facebook and your recipe may be featured in a future issue. To learn more, visit fb.com/groups/ocalacooks

Aug ust ‘22



Sharon Reyes says that many of the foods we eat become a special part of the memories we create. “Foods add flavor and festivity to the traditions we treasure. This Cranberry Apple Pie became a Thanksgiving favorite about 25 years ago. My family loves the tartness that the cranberries add to the sweetness of the apples.”

Cranberry Apple Pie Crust: 2 layers (homemade or store-bought) Filling: 5 to 6 Cortland apples, peeled and thinly sliced 1 cup cranberries 1 teaspoon orange peel, grated 1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup brown sugar 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca 1 cup apple cider 2 teaspoons orange juice 2 teaspoons lemon juice 3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces Glaze: 2 tablespoons milk 2 tablespoons sugar Optional: Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream Pre-heat oven to 400°. Line pie dish with one pie crust layer. Combine apples, cranberries and orange peel in a large bowl. Combine sugars, cinnamon, 60


nutmeg and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over fruit, tossing to coat. Spoon fruit into unbaked pie shell. Combine tapioca, cider, orange juice and lemon juice. Pour over fruit. Dot with butter. Cover with top crust, folding top edge under bottom edge. Flute edges. Cut slits or design in top crust (to let steam out). Brush milk over top of unbaked pie. Sprinkle with sugar. Cover fluted edge of crust (using foil or other kind of shield). Put in oven. After 35 minutes, remove cover from crust edge. Bake another 15-25 minutes until crust is golden. Cool until barely warm or room temperature before cutting. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream atop each slice.

Ocala Cooks is a place for our community to share their favorite recipes and discuss all things food. Join the conversation on Facebook and your recipe may be featured in a future issue. To learn more, visit fb.com/groups/ocalacooks


Mary Baggs, the “resident chef at Kingfish Corner,” her home in Ocala, also commands the kitchen at the family’s coastal getaway, called MarshWrack. “We plan our day around purchasing several pounds of fresh shrimp off the neighboring shrimp dock. Although I have many shrimp recipes, The Shrimp Cookbook, by Alex D. Hawkes, from the 1950’s, lovingly left at MarshWrack by generations before us, inspires me to create many of my own delicious shrimp meals. These grilled shrimp tostadas are simple summer fare and a favorite with family and friends.”

MarshWrack Grilled Shrimp Tostadas 2 pounds large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined 1 package small round corn tortillas *The La Banderita brand is gluten free. 1 chopped chipotle salad in a bag (do not use the crunchies or cheese if included) 1 pint of guacamole, premade or homemade 1 4-ounce package of crumbled feta cheese 2 tablespoons olive oil (divided; more as needed) 2 limes, sliced in wedges Fresh cilantro Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning, original blend Wash cilantro and separate leaves from stems. Chop enough to make one cup and place in small bowl. Wash limes and slice in wedges and place in another bowl. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour oil in a small dish and place to the side. Lace shrimp onto the skewers (pierce twice, from thick end to just before tail) and then place on one of the baking sheets. Using a brush, baste the front and back of the skewered shrimp with olive oil, then sprinkle the Slap Ya Mama seasoning on both sides.

edge to edge, on the other baking sheet. Baste the front and back of the tortillas with olive oil. Grill the shrimp two minutes on each side and the tortillas one minute on each side. Remove shrimp from skewers and place in a bowl. Toss chopped salad with the pre-packaged dressing and open the guacamole and feta packages. Place a scoop of guacamole in the center of the tostada and flatten with a spoon, place some salad on top, anchor in three to four shrimp and sprinkle feta cheese and cilantro on top. “I typically serve two tostadas per guest, with two lime wedges on the side. You may want to double this recipe as your guests will most likely want more than two!” Ocala Cooks is a place for our community to share their favorite recipes and discuss all things food. Join the conversation on Facebook and your recipe may be featured in a future issue. To learn more, visit fb.com/groups/ocalacooks

Remove tortillas from package and place flat, Aug ust ‘22





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“CAMPUS is part of my winning game plan. Make it part of yours, too!” Steve Spurrier Head Ball Coach, CAMPUS Member

READY, SET, GO! Open an account at campuscu.com/star-powered Call 352-237-9060 and press 5 Curbside Service available at your local CAMPUS Service Center. Visit campuscu.com to find a CAMPUS Service Center in your community.

Membership is open to anyone in Alachua, Marion, Lake, and Sumter counties.2 1. Credit approval and initial $50 opening deposit required. Member must elect to receive eDocuments. 2. Credit approval and initial $5 deposit required. Insured by the NCUA.


Booking It (in the garden) Take some time away from the yardwork this month and be inspired by these gardening books, which will delight you with humor, great information and distinctive takes on the joys of growing. By Belea T. Keeney Illustration by Jordan Shapot


et’s be honest, it’s just too hot to work outside right now, so if you (and your plants) survive August in Florida, well, you deserve a break! If you manage to get through the heat and humidity, the thunderstorms and the insects, you’ve accomplished a lot, so rest. Reading gardening books can help you learn more about your hobby and inspire you with fresh ideas to try when the weather cools down. Here are a few of my favorites:

This is a great time of year to put down the hoe and rake and put your feet up.

complete newbie when she moved into a rental house with a small lot in northern California. She details her early mistakes in a way that’s instructive and amusing. When she finally admits to herself that regular houseplants are “boring” and a friend gives her orchids, she’s hooked, likening them to “…foreign exchange students, with far more interesting customs and cuisines than the messy, lumbering American teenagers I had for houseplants before.” For Stewart, gardening was an emotional journey as well as a physical one and this is a lovely read that will have you wanting to get your hands dirty.

– Belea Keeney

From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden, by Amy Stewart. This is a gentle memoir of a young woman’s first journeys into gardening. Stewart was a

The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual, by Barbara Pleasant. This hands-on, how-to is filled Aug ust ‘22



with specific tips on many traditional houseplants, formatted for easy reference. Each plant has a specifications section that details requirements for light, water, longevity and propagation. Her troubleshooting sections will help you solve any issues that might arise. She discusses tropicals, succulents, bromeliads and standard houseplants such as pothos, ferns and philodendrons. Best of all are the full-color photos that show each plant in full leaf and flower. I’ve got several pages marked with houseplants I’ve just got to try, such as calathea and a zebra plant. It’s bit pricey due to the color pages and photos, but worth every penny. The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, by Edward C. Smith. I used this book to successfully create, plant and manage 10 raised vegetable beds. One year, I harvested more than 300 pounds of veggies, including green beans, squash, sweet potatoes, onions, various herbs, strawberries, corn and tomatoes and potatoes (which you should not grow near each other because tomato hornworms can devastate potatoes). This book was invaluable. Smith opens with a thorough discussion of the general concepts for good vegetable growing, including using wide raised beds, straw paths between rows and creating good soil for plant growth with compost, manure, watering and worms. He uses the adage “feed the soil, not the plant” to good effect. The one disadvantage of this book is the lack of discussion about growing zones. Smith gardens in northern Vermont, so you’ll need to take that under account when using his advice. The second half of the book is a thorough discussion of almost any vegetable or herb you’d want to grow. It has great sections for each plant, such as sowing and growing, best varieties, harvest and storage, along with general site and watering requirements. Another full-color with 64


glossy pages book that is totally worth it if you’re serious about vegetables. The $64 Tomato, by William Alexander. Alexander’s amusing take on gardening is evident in the title. He once calculated that, after all the landscape fees, soil importation, varmint and deer defenses, never mind buying seeds and plants and rigging up an irrigation system, he had spent $64 each for the delicious, decadent, heirloom Brandywine tomatoes he harvested one summer. Despite this sobering number, Alexander went on to expand his vegetable bed, install a meadow, add a new lawn and continue his hobby. His humor is on every page, such as when discussing tools that are simply too short for many gardeners. “Anyone of average height… cannot stand up straight and comfortably use a hoe or a rake with a five-foot handle,” he writes. “This isn’t 1780, when people slept in those impossibly short beds you see in historic homes.” Another memoir-style book, this is a fun read that can teach you. Alexander’s mistakes (planting Kentucky bluegrass between his raised garden beds, letting marigolds go to seed inadvertently) don’t have to be your mistakes. Enjoy his humor and gardening mishaps for yourself. This is a great time of year to put down the hoe and rake and, instead, put your feet up, fix an iced tea (perhaps garnished with homegrown lemon or mint) and peruse these gardening books for inspiration and education. A native Floridian and lifelong gardener, Belea spends her time off fostering cats and collecting caladiums. You can send gardening questions or column suggestions to her at belea@magnoliamediaco.com

Every Minute Matters Know where to go in an emergency.

From stopping a heart attack in its track to treating a stroke at the first sign of symptoms, our team is ready for every emergency. And, with three locations in Marion County, AdventHealth makes it convenient to access expert emergency care 24/7. So when minutes matter most, you never have to delay getting the care that can save you or your loved one’s life.

EMERGENCY CARE 24/7 AdventHealth Belleview ER* 6006 SE Abshier Blvd. Belleview, FL 34420

AdventHealth Ocala 1500 SW 1st Ave. Ocala, FL 34471

AdventHealth TimberRidge ER*

To find an AdventHealth ER near you, visit TheERExperts.com * This emergency department is part of AdventHealth Ocala . This is not an urgent care center. Its services and care are billed at hospital emergency department rates.

9521 SW State Road 200 Ocala, FL 34481

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