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  1. Business

New Brooksville cafe features local, healthy options

BROOKSVILLE — The sign on the front window reads "Live Local, Dream Big." Another mentions "Eco Friendly."

Such is the niche a husband-and-wife team has carved out for itself with the opening last month of Local Roots Cafe & Bakery in Horse Lake Plaza, southwest of downtown Brooksville.

The cafe offers a light menu for breakfast and lunch, along with custom cakes, pies and breads served up with organic coffee, fresh-roasted by a Tampa importer.

Owners Cory and Sarah Kukral, both 36, said they read up on nutrition as Cory Kukral was considering stomach surgery for obesity.

"We learned what's healthy," he said.

Added Sarah, who has also struggled with her weight: "I was lethargic and tired, and I found out it was from (eating) processed foods."

With surgery, Cory Kukral lost 95 pounds. With willpower, his wife lost 55 pounds. And both of them said they feel much better because of their weight loss.

But their menu isn't designed just for shedding pounds. It's for healthier living, tastefully. That includes ingredients with no preservatives, and that are organic wherever possible, including cage-free eggs, free-range chicken and offerings that are gluten-free or sugar-free.

The Kukrals know their way around kitchens and recipes. Cory Kukral first learned from his dad, a chef in the military, and has previously managed a Quiznos Sub Sandwich Restaurant. Sarah Kukral has managed a Panera Bread, also prized for its sandwiches.

Among seven sandwiches the Kukrals advertise as "all natural," their chicken salad on a croissant has become their diners' top choice.

Sarah Kukral bakes the croissant, along with all the bakery's breads. The favorite is layered with slices of chicken breast, toasted pecans, cranberries, apples, celery, mayo and fresh greens.

Their lettuces are supplied by Green Acres Hydroponics, a Brooksville area organic farm.

Live Oaks Organics and Sweetwater Organic Farm, also Hernando County producers, provide vegetables such as the eggplant and red peppers used in the cafe's Bella Basil premium sandwich on crusty ciabatta roll.

Produce from gardens also figures in homemade soups.

With a nod to Northerners, Cory Kukral said, the restaurant also offers pasties, a hand-held pastry that features ground beef and potatoes.

Organic flour is the basis for pastries and other baked goods, some of which are gluten-free.

Sarah Kukral's mother, Dolores Ruttkofsky, decorates cakes, a craft she's perfected over 35 years.

The breakfast menu ranges from an organic granola parfait to a baked French toast casserole.

The coffee brews throughout the day. On a recent day, Cory Kukral poured a rich and hardy African-Indian blend. Small batch roasting ensures freshness. "You can taste the difference," Cory Kukral said.

And throw away the cup without guilt. Cups, paper plates and flatware, made from recycled materials, are biodegradable.

Both breakfast and lunch are cooked up all day. The cafe also features a drive-through. Prices range from $1.35 for a breakfast biscuit to $7.95 for a premium sandwich.

Along with focusing on healthy eating, opening the cafe is the couple's big dream, Cory Kukral said.

"Restaurant Impossible? It's my favorite TV show."

Contact Beth Gray at graybethn@earthlink.net.

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