Flora de Mel is home to the first mead and Levantine restaurant in the Chattanooga area

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The Chattanooga area’s first mead, Flora de Mel, is now open in Rossville, with the kitchen in Residence Calliope.

Made with fermented honey, mead is considered the oldest alcoholic beverage in the world, and its popularity in the United States has grown exponentially in recent decades. The number of shopping meaderies nationwide has grown from 60 in 2003 to more than 450 in 2020 – an increase of 650% – and more than 200 more meaderies plan to open in the next two years, according to the American Mead Makers Association.

Chattanooga developer Jay Martin and his wife Stephanie, ceramicist and sculptor, began their adventure to open Flora de Mel in 2019.

They got into beekeeping in 2015, and as entrepreneurs the couple were thinking about how they could turn this hobby into a sustainable business. After visiting a small mead in North Carolina, they began to learn about mead and set up a home test kitchen.

“We were bringing down the kids and the nerds,” said Stéphanie Martin.

Photo gallery

Mel’s flora

As they seek to expand their apiary, the honey used to make Flora de Mel comes from local producers such as Blue Ridge Mountain Honey and Pigeon Mountain Trading Company.

In addition to water and yeast, honey can be fermented with tea, fruits, and spices to make mead in an endless variety of flavors ranging from bone dry to super sweet.

There are two varieties of mead: sparkling, or session, which contains about 6.5% alcohol by volume; and again, which ranges between 14-18% ABV, Jay Martin said.

The mead mill has eight 200-gallon primary fermenters, and it also currently has five experimental batches fermenting above the bar in glass demijohns, which are traditional Italian wine-making vessels.

Since making mead is a long process – sparkling mead is a two month process, and mead takes another two months to ferment and another six months to age – Flora de Mel currently only has ‘a limited quantity of three in-house produced meads. It also offers meads produced by other small Southern meads as well as larger meads across the country in its tasting room, as well as signature cocktails and mocktails.

Mel’s three Flora meads now include her oolong mead, made with oolong tea and aged for five months in whiskey casks. Wildflower mead, made from wildflower honey from Georgia, and blueberry and basil mead made from local blueberries and basil, are also aged in whiskey casks.

They currently have a limited amount of Flora de Mel mead available in bottle, and they hope to have their first jackpots ready for bottling by the holidays. Flora de Mel also plans to start canning in-house sparkling mead, Jay Martin said.

Located in the former Peerless Woolen Mills store, Flora de Mel is one of the few new businesses in downtown Rossville.

“It was a booming downtown in the past, and it’s poised for growth,” Jay Martin said.

The space is filled with pieces made by local artisans, including a ceramic wall hanging from Stephanie. It can accommodate about 45 people and also has an outdoor patio bordering the Chattanooga Creek.

They knew mead needed a restaurant to be successful, and when approached by the team behind Calliope about the use of space, they felt the restaurant concept was an ideal match. with Flora de Mel.

Restaurant owners include former Whitebird Chef Khaled Albanna, General Manager and Sommelier Joi Mason, and Raven Humphery Bar Program and Event Manager. The three met while working together at Whitebird, the restaurant inside the Edwin Hotel.

Rather than describing his food, Albana said he prefers to let his food be his voice. This is how they landed on the name of Calliope, the Greek mythological muse of eloquence and poetry whose name translates to “beautiful voice”.

Calliope serves Levantine cuisine – from the eastern Mediterranean region of Levan including Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon Albanna – influenced by the time of Albanna who grew up in Jordan, the Egyptian heritage of her mother and the various states in which he has lived since arriving in the United States

The menu focuses on food fresh from the sea and from the land, all cooked over charcoal and wood, he said.

The most popular dishes are whipped feta and lamb sausage, Albanna said.

For beginners, he suggests ordering the mezze, an assortment of dishes selected by the chef who feeds three to four.

For a smaller dish, Albanna recommends the charcoal roast chicken with heirloom tomato compote and mint salad.

The charcuterie plate goes perfectly with a flight of mead, he adds.

The restaurant serves as a residence kitchen for Flora de Mel, but the goal is for Calliope to eventually move into her own space within the next two years, Albanna said.

Flora de Mel and Calliope are located at 313 McFarland Ave. in Rossville and can be reached at 706-841-4170, or visit florademel.com or eatcalliope.com.

Contact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com.


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