Photographs and story by Phillip C. Sunkel IV
A St. Augustine culinary secret is located at 39.5 Cordova St.
The Tasting Room To Go is hidden just behind The Floridian restaurant right next to the Flagler College Communications building. But just because it is hidden doesn’t mean it should be overlooked.
“I would describe it as something you would usually find in New York, LA or Chicago,” said Lisa Nowak, manager of the Tasting Room To go. “A place where any foodie could go to get gourmet cheeses, meats, artisan breads — fortunately we find it in small-town St. Augustine”.
Nowak was previously the sous and pastry chef for Opus 39 for five years. Once Opus closed, a friend of hers opened the Tasting Room and then The Tasting Room To Go, where Nowak’s food skills bring a new gourmet standard to St. Augustine.
“Our meats are all mainly imported from Spain. Our cheeses come from Spain, but also California and Wisconsin. Anything that we find that we source as a good product, we like to bring in”, Nowak said. “Then we have all of our gourmet deli items where we make everything fresh: Keen-wa salad, tomato salad, hummus, marinated olives- it changes everyday.”
Deli items at the Tasting Room To Go are made from scratch in house, as are the breads. Baguettes, sea salt and rosemary bread, goat cheese and raisin bread, jalapeno and Havarti bread; the list of amazing breads baked every day is astonishing.
“Our bread is an artisan bread, meaning it is old world style where we use a natural yeast,” Nowak said. “There is nothing that is done quickly, it’s a slow process that takes days. The air, the water temperature, it’s a science.”
The menu is continuously changing to fresh and delicious gourmet spanish delights. The roast pork on jalapeno and havarti cheese bread is flawless to the say the least. The meat is so tender it almost flows through your teeth. Deli items like the truffle potato salad are so good, it’s impossible to deny the glorious sensations delivered to your taste buds.
“I got a ham and cheese empanada, which was huge and delicious.” says Margaret Finnegan, a 60 year-old professor of deaf education at Flagler College. “This is the first time i have been here but it is excellent,” she said.
The food is not the only thing that seems to set this little deli apart, but it’s also the atmosphere. Dim lights combined with enticing smells make the inside a chill hang out. However, the courtyard is the center piece of the Tasting Room To Go.
“I love it, I like that there is a nice private quiet courtyard off the street and that they serve you at the table and then leave you alone to read or to sit and enjoy the ambience or whatever you want to do,” Finnegan said.
With music like the Toots and the Maytals playing through the speakers, along with the beautiful atmosphere its hard to find any reasons to complain here. “Its like a hidden little secret garden with beautiful plants, causal music, real people and beautiful weather,” Nowak said.
The employees at The Tasting Room To Go like working there and love the food. “The Cuban is outstanding, we roast the pork in house,” said Jesse Sabo, 45 a server at The Tasting Room To Go. “The chicken sandwich is absolutely a medley of flavors in your mouth- the pesto, everything it includes just makes for a beautiful sandwich.”
The Tasting Room To Go is located at 39.5 Cordova and is open monday-saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and sundays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A discount of 10 percent is given to all Flagler College students with ID.