Hit the road

Have you seen all the things that are within, say, 200 miles of your house?  I’m guessing most people have not.  Life gets busy with any and everything to suck away time and energy.  Our mid-late winter has been busy and I am surely exhausted.  One of our friends is working on his list of 30 before he turns 30 and one of those things was to go to St Augustine.  Florida celebrated 500 years since the Spanish landed in St Augustine last year and this was a fun place to go to catch a little history and to get a little bit of fun relaxation and help our friend celebrate within his 30th year.  We hit the road by 8:30 am for the roughly two hour drive to the coast and made it with a brief stop for a doughnut and coffee en route.  We bought trolley tickets that were for an on-off at will ride around town that were actually good for up to three days.  A fair deal if you are spending the weekend in St Augustine.  We jumped on and headed for the fort.  In my imagination I can romanticize the days of the fort trying to hold back the wily French with my modern notions of running water and flush toilets but I’ll bet it wasn’t the most comfortable place to be.  The Spanish battle flag still flies high.  I love history!  St Augustine is a bit of a double edged sword because it is clssically historical (in an America old sort of way) but it has also gone commercial in that sort of schlocky touristy kind of way.  battleflag

Our next stop was the old market street and the best part of this for me was actually a gourmet fruit ice pop (ie Popsicle)  from Hyppo.   I had strawberry datil (a locally grown hot pepper) and it was really nice.  Z and our friend picked up other weird (and I can’t remember) flavors and didn’t fare as well as I.  Actually, theirs both had stringy mangoes which contributed to their less happy purchase decision.  Hyppo is literally 10 square feet in an outdoor closet in a tiny courtyard.   There were quite a few Spanish shops and tapas places.  I’ll have to put more work into seeing those in the future.IMG_3599

After lunch at a funny beach place called Barnacle Bills where we had various shrimp & burger baskets (not bad and we picked it because it was there.) we jumped back on the trolley and …got off on the wrong stop.  So, we walked up to the San Sebastian Winery.  San Sebastian is a tiny offshoot of the local to Orlando Lake Ridge Winery and I have to tell you something.  I don’t like muscadine grapes.  There was one red – a blend that I could imagine served cold over ice with fruit a la Sangria that I didn’t mind.  The rest.  Meh.  But, here’s the winner.  Same street.  Brand new.  Local.  Distillery.IMG_3601

The St Augustine Distillery is brand new.  Literally had only been open for tours for five days.  They have so far made and bottled only Vodka in giant gorgeous copper pot stills (is that really the name-feels so bootlegger) and at the end of the short (15 or so minute) tour that started with a cute small one room history of the building, which is an old Ice Plant and a video that includes how they got started and how they are working with and helping local farmers and ending in a kinda random would-be speakeasy bar where the tour guide turned bartender and make us a Florida Mule.  Vodka, Ginger Syrup, Bubbles and Mint I think. Like any good museum, they got our emails (good job marketers!) and emailed us the recipe.  It is a well done and super cute hipster kinda place.  I totally had a weak moment and bought a bottle of vodka, some Jack Rudy tonic syrup and a bottle of celery bitters in their oversized, well curated gift shop.  I appreciated the overall Exit through the gift shop and well thought out merchandise strategy.  The building is history come alive again and they mention the restaurant housed in the other half and give a good plug for their shared space neighbor.  We decided to come back and have dinner after we finished our trolley tour.IMG_3610

After the trolley tour wrapped up and made it’s way through beach town end of day traffic we headed for the Ice Plant.  It is styled like a speakeasy and serves up all manner of exotic complicated cocktails and very tiny (6 items I think) dinner menu but a fair sized starters and bar menu.  The bar menu explains each drink and gives a visual view of the type of ice you will find in that drink and the drinks are built around how that ice works in the drinks.  They show five varieties right on a dedicated page of their website-shaved, rock, long rock (!), sphere and pebbled.  I ordered the funnest drink with shaved ice.  It came out in a cutey coupe glass heaped with shaved ice and thyme leaves and they poured my drink over and let it melt into cold ginnyness.  I love gin.  That’s weird.  But here’s why.  It’s herbal and it’s clean and it vaguely tastes of piney Christmas.  It pairs so well with lime which is decidedly my favorite flavor.  So, I had a ‘Snowbird’ which encompasses all those things.  Death Door Gin, Lime, Sugar, Thyme and Shaved Ice in a Coupe.  Funnest. I so enjoyed it and the ice gives some glamour.  We ordered a couple of starters, notably one of medjool dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon.  I’m going to say that everyone should eat that once in their life.  Salty. Sweet, Dense. Savory.  It has all the notes.  I had a great big crafted burger with a fried egg for dinner and that should have put me straight into a food coma.    No room for dessert for me.IMG_3625

After supper we got a little bit sketchy and drove out to the lighthouse for a quick walk through someones side yard to see the rising moon hanging low in the sky over the lighthouse which was closed to the public although there were definitely some people and lights playing in the windows at the top.IMG_3636

A good drive with all the Florida crazies and tourists and we were home.   We all saw something new and expanded our view, if not just a little bit.  What’s the best day trip from your house?

when the cabbie isn’t sure if he should drop you off…

badgirlI only had one dinner pre-set before our trip so most of the dinners were kind of – see how we feel, where and if we want to walk, how hungry or hangry we were.  Someplace between Orlando and San Francisco as I caught up on my magazine reading I ran across an article about Trick Dog, a mostly speakeasy styled bar serving a small menu.  I thought, well, that sounds good.  So, on our last night we jumped into a cab and gave the address.  The cabbie said something to the effect that it would be hard to get a cab back and that put a bit of drama into my mind but not enough to stop us.  Then, Trick Dog has no sign and no real clues as to what is inside and I could tell that he wasn’t at all sure that he should drop us off having passed some rather intense gathering of locals out for the evening.  But he did and we walked in.  It doesn’t really have a restaurant vibe.  We went upstairs and were seated on the balcony where we could watch all the cool kids drinking complicated cocktails.  There were only maybe eight or nine tables and it was industrially rustic.  From what I had read the bar menu was printed on Pantone color-chip books-this to me, is the height of cool.  But, I missed the Pantone books as the bar menu had recently been changed to 1950’s books of 45s with each drink printed on it’s own 45.  I ordered a ‘Bad Girl’ which was a St George Botanivore Gin with sherry, plum, lime & sencha soda.  It had a sage leaf floating in it and was ridiculously delicious.  So lightly sweet and fluffy.  I loved it.  We ordered a starter to share of something I will not claim to have ever eaten before, peaches & cottage cheese.  Now, I actually like cottage cheese as a rule, but this was over the top good.  I previously really only ever sprinkled it with pepper.  This had grilled peached, honey, ras al hanout and pistachios.  I loved the creamy dense cottage cheese with the char on the fruit and honey on the plate.   Actually, I need to try that at home.  Soon.    I wasn’t sure I needed to eat a full dinner and as a result went totally off the rails and ordered thrice cooked fries manimal style.  Super crunchy fries topped with this goo that they riffed from In and Out burger which is piled with some random american cheesy thousand island dressingy mess.  Honestly.  Z ordered a rice plate which was essentially deconstructed fried rice in a way that no take-out restaurant can compete with.  A fried cake of sticky rice with chewy shiitakes, pickled carrot and daikons, and ginger chicken.  Who thinks of this stuff.  The shiitakes were amazing and the chicken had the best flavor.  We ordered a scoop of burnt popcorn ice cream to finish just because it was billed as burnt popcorn.  Really it tasted of roasted caramel and some kind of a corn finish.  I am guessing they steep caramel corn in the ice cream base and then strain before they churn it.  Just a hint of burned caramel and salty finish.  Lovely. A food experience I would like to have more often.tinyreddoor

We got the name of a cab company from our server, paid our check and went down to wait on the sidewalk. This was a bit of magic in itself as Z spied a teeny tiny red door into the building where I am sure the Littles or a mouse with a motorcycle reside.  The cab whisked us breathlessly off towards home.

surfer chic

my sister and her family found this funny throwback ‘resort’ during their first beach foray four years ago called the Long Key Beach Resort Motel.  They are a very small run operation and perfect for their family in that it is a small place and so laid back. They don’t mind if the children run a little wild and track in copious amounts of sand.  Is is a small hotel with rooms for up to six (as far as I have seen) with each room having a tiny closet size kitchenette with rudimentary appliances and a small kitchen kit including assorted pots and pans, can openers, and dishes.  There is a large gulf view deck with a medium size pool, tables and benches and a grill.  We were able to secure our own room there last year but this year it was no deal.  They wouldn’t rent me a room for under a week.  This must be a sign that the economy is coming back but I’ll say that it aggravated me quite a bit.  We usually go out for 3 or 4 days and let them spend the rest of the time as a family relaxing.

I conceded and started my hunt for a new place to stay.  I landed on what promised to be a shabby beach surfer chic resort called the Postcard Inn.  The website photos looked good with a distinctly industrial surfer vibe poised somewhere between 1972 and the future.  You could see the hand of a shrewd interior designer working magic on surfer chic with a modern vibe.  I loved the decor and took a bunch of terrible snapshots before realizing my sunblocky fingers smeared my lens.  Everything from rubbed stencils on the grey concrete lobby floor to a giant oversize chalkboard noting sunrise, surf height and the tides to a photo booth and lots of niches of seating and relaxing space carved out of a giant lobby opening onto a courtyard filled with giant trees dripping with lanterns and coconut palms.  Our room was kitschy with a full wall decal of surf and a surfboard leaned in the corner behind retro 70’s basement armchair upholstered in sea and surf friendly teal vinyl.

Little did we now that they would also be hosting the bartender’s guild.  Crazy.  Z was out doing some sunset fishing when I returned back to the hotel and was greeted by a whole host of drunk bartenders on my balcony grooving to the summer sounds of a surf band.  The band was alright but dang it was crazy.  Once he came back and we had time to jump in the shower we headed out to the hotel restaurant, the Beachwood BBQ.  The decor is kind of Texas Industrial with lots of pallety looking wood and rusted and galvanized metals.  We ordered the bbq chili nachos and an apple basket of warm apples in a pastry basket and glazed in moonshine.  I also had a cocktail that I am planning to replicate at home.  A strawberry jam – huckleberry vodka, muddled strawberries and lime juice.  Not too sweet and served on ice.  Fresh and friendly.  We would go back to the hotel and eat at the restaurant again – next time we would probably check for conventions and hope for some food bloggers or something.

pimm’s cup

I woke up sans alarm at 5:35 this morning and thought, “The Wedding!”  The Royal Wedding of Will and Kate that is.  So, I levered myself out of bed, made a pot of coffee and switched on the telly in time to see Kate walk out of the hotel and get into the car.  I managed to watch the majority of the wedding, get a shower and only left for work 10 minutes late.  The only part I really missed was the kiss. You can only be so late.  I liked the dress, the ceremony and the obvious pride of the British in their tradition and country.  It was a morning of pomp and circumstance, fresh if not ruddy faced starts that helped make the woes of the world feel far behind.   A toast with a Pimm’s Cup is in order!  Pimm’s is a British Gin based liquor.

2 oz Pimm’s No. 1
Ginger Ale
Lemon slice

Fill a tumbler with ice.  Pour 2 oz Pimm’s No. 1 in tumbler.  Pour over ginger ale to fill.  Add a lemon slice and straw.  Be refreshed!  Cheers!

amaretto sour

a sweet treat for relaxing by the fire-even if you live in Florida and the fire is on your television.

2 oz Amaretto
1 oz sweet & sour

stir with ice
garnish with a cherry