Quality Dining in Tyler, TX

By Sharon H. Fitzgerald on May 20, 2011 at 9:53 pm EST
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PHOTO CREDIT: Todd Bennett

One look at the box, and you know something wonderful is inside. Bright-yellow-and-white-striped with a cornflower blue ribbon, the parcel holds one of Janie Clapp’s specialties – a baked-from-scratch pound cake just like her great-grand­mother taught her to make.

“When everybody else was asleep in the afternoons, she would get me in the kitchen and we’d start baking,” Clapp recalls about her annual summer trips to “Papu’s” house in Austin. “Everybody woke up from their nap, and we had treats!” Clapp says.

Janie's Cakes

Also tending to Clapp’s culinary education was her mother, a gourmet chef. Thus, it’s no surprise that, after honing her skills at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Clapp opened Janie’s Cakes in January 1987. The all-natural bakery is just one of a cornucopia of food-based businesses that lend Tyler’s economy a certain distinctive flavor.

“Don’t skimp. Use the freshest ingredients you can,” Clapp advises, sharing the secret of her delectable creations.

Clapp and her husband, Matt, live on a working cattle ranch where about 300 chickens, housed in what the couple dubs the Hilton Hen, are the source of the eggs used exclusively by Janie’s Cakes. “I think that’s a huge plus,” she says. The cakes that aren’t sold at the bakery are packaged and flash-frozen “so they travel well,” Clapp adds.

Distant Lands Coffee Roaster

And what goes better with pound cake than coffee? Tyler is the home of Distant Lands Coffee Roaster, an estate coffee grower since 1965. The company owns 14 farms in Costa Rica and three milling facilities, selling its coffee under its own brand names or for private labeling by restaurants and grocery chains.

“Ours is the best-tasting coffee on the planet. In 13 years, we’ve never been beaten in a professional cupping competition against any other coffee company,” says Distant Lands’ director of customer service, Brian Feiden.

About 200,000 of the 800,000 pounds grown annually at the company’s flag-ship farm are packaged under the premier La Minita label.

“We go through a quality sorting process, and only the best of the best coffee is tagged with La Minita. If you were to go to Barnes & Noble and buy 10 books on coffee, nine of the 10 would probably have La Minita referenced in them,” Feiden says.

Greenberg Smoked Turkey

Another Tyler-based food company enjoying wide acclaim is Greenberg Smoked Turkey. Zeleck Greenberg turned his mother’s smoked-turkey recipe into a business in 1940, and his son, Sam, is president today of the company that ships more than 220,000 turkeys annually.

“A turkey like none other” is how Oprah Winfrey described the Tyler bird when she included it in her Favorite Things list for 2003. “I’m telling you, it’s the best turkey I’ve ever had,” Winfrey says on her Web site.

John Soules Foods

Meat is also the bread and butter of John Soules Foods, a Tyler company that has carved a niche for itself in the fajita business, marketing seasoned beef and chicken strips for the discriminating Tex-Mex palates of local residents and customers nationwide.

Read about more quality food in Tyler, TX.

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