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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?