‘in Florida’ Category

  1. Mount Dora, FL

    November 2, 2016 by Angie

    My parents have been telling us about Mount Dora for a couple of years now. It has a really cute, quaint downtown and it’s very dog friendly. We finally booked a weekend there at Tremain Street Cottages. My parents are right. We did like it, it is extremely dog friendly, and we didn’t have to drive at all while were there. Everything you’d want to see and do and eat and drink is in a concentrated area around downtown.

    Headed towards downtown Mount Dora

    Walking towards downtown from our cottage

    We got into town about lunchtime so we went straight to Mellow Mushroom. It has a pretty, covered patio for eating outside with your dog. Our server brought Sookie water and she was happy there.

    The pizza and drinks were really good. It’s probably the second best Mellow Mushroom we’ve been to (after the one in Brandon, FL) and we’ve been to many.

    Slice of "Robgeleen": spinach, garlic, tomato, and half artichoke hearts on thin crust

    Slice of “Robgeleen”: spinach, garlic, tomato, and half artichoke hearts on thin crust

    Robbie has strange feelings for this pizza.

    Robbie has strange feelings for this pizza.

    After our wonderful pizza and drinks in the shade, we checked in to our dog friendly room, the Nantucket, at the Tremain Street Cottages.

    This bed is too big. I appreciated the handmade quilt and matching pillows.

    Another view of the main room

    Our little kitchen

    Small room in the back with a little couch and a dresser

    One of two patios for guests

    The Wine Den was high on our list of places to visit. They have some beers in bottles and many, many wines. Surprisingly, they allow dogs inside! There were three other dogs inside while we were there. One dog parent gave Sookie a special dog treat. It’s a really cute, although small, shop and bar. It’s worth the visit.

    Sookie is all tongue at the Wine Den

    One Flight Up is another place I did not want to miss. They allow dogs on their balcony which has the best view in town.

    One Flight Up

    The balcony facing Lake Dora

    The balcony overlooking one of the main streets

    The other side

    We had the hummus platter and Pinot Noir. They boast the best pour in town and I think they’re correct on that.

    We stopped by Pisces Rising’s third annual Halloween block party, Mayhem in Mount Dora. Our drinks were meh and it was not much of a party. It was more for families. There were some decent costumes.

    Mayhem in Mount Dora

    There is a band under the lights.

    Robbie required potatoes so we sat on the front patio with Sookie at the Bavarian Haus. We talked with our dog loving server while eating our double order of pomme frites. She brought Sookie water and two slices of cheese. What a lucky dog!

    Cody’s on Fourth was our breakfast place Sunday morning. They have three or four tables in front of the restaurant where dogs are allowed. Robbie had one of the quiches of the day (broccoli and cheddar) and I had an everything bagel, egg, and Swiss cheese sandwich. Both were very good. The quiche was really pricy for the size (over $10) and they only had decaf espresso left (is that a thing?), but the food was so good we’d eat there again.

    We walked down to the Sunday Village Market by Lake Dora. There were only a few booths and we didn’t buy anything. We liked looking at the lake though.

    Robbie and Sookie at Lake Dora

    Robbie and Sookie being aware of alligators and snakes

    Lake Dora

    Lake Dora

    We also learned that a large, well-kept facility called the Mount Dora Lawn Bowling Club exists. Also, lawn bowling exists.

    Mount Dora Lawn Bowling

    It's a thing

    Lawn bowling info

    Dropping knowledge.

    I was craving coffee after the decaf espresso situation at breakfast so I stopped in at the Village Coffee Pot. It was shockingly horrible. They were out of soy milk which is when I should have run away. Then I was told the steaming device was broken. I was handed a $5 undrinkable iced latte. I took two sips and threw it away. I don’t know how it’s possible to make espresso mixed with 2% milk and ice taste like cold dirt, but the Village Coffee Pot does it. I later saw their sign on the street corner read “expresso”…ugh.

    PizzAmoré was our favorite place. Beautiful, outdoor seating with shade. Great service. The garlic knots were huge and so garlicky. The pizza and drinks were very good too.

    Outside at PizzAmore

    A little garden near the outdoor seating

    Sookie at PizzAmore

    Sookie found some shade under the table

    Robbie at PizzAmore

    IPA and wine waiting on pizza

    Sookie was the star of the party on the street side patio outside Las Palmas Cuban Restaurant. Robbie and I enjoyed 2 for 1 drinks and mariquitas while Sookie made best friends with everyone who walked by. A French family was particularly happy to pet her at length. They gave her a little Eiffel Tower to wear on her Halloween collar.

    French Sookie

    French Sookie

    On our way back to our cottage, we ran into a couple from Vero Beach who go to my mom’s church. For a small town, Vero Beach people are everywhere. We left Sookie to rest in her crate with her dinner while went out to sit indoors at two more bars.

    The Lost Parrot is a Key West style bar run by awesome staff and filled with interesting locals. We had a good time there and would go again. After that we sat inside at Pisces Rising at the bar. The drinks were decent. We didn’t eat or interact with anybody so that’s all I have to say about that.

    We finished up our stay with breakfast at the Highland Street Cafe. It’s a really homey place decorated with kitschy Scottie dog everything. We both got omelets, but I made the correct choice of hash browns over home fries. Man, those hash browns were great. The staff were very sweet. There was nowhere for Sookie to sit so she had to rest in her crate at the cottage, but 10/10 anyway.


  2. St. Augustine, FL

    May 1, 2016 by Angie

    St. Augustine is one of our favorite places to visit. We booked a two night trip for spring break this year. I got the flu. I figured I could have the flu at home and waste our B&B deposit or have the flu in St. Augustine while potentially having more fun, so we went. Spring Break forever, y’all!

    Bayfront Marin House

    Outside our bed and breakfast, the Bayfront Marin House

    We like to stay at bed and breakfasts in the historic district. This was our first time staying at the Bayfront Marin House which we chose mostly because they allow Sookie. She loves going on vacation with us. I think she had a great time.

    Sookie investigates the bathtub

    Sookie investigates the giant bathtub

    our room at the B&B

    Entrance area

    our bed at the B&B

    Very tall bed

    The Bayfront Marin House is fine – great location, relatively clean, nice enough rooms, free happy hour – but I would not stay there if I wasn’t limited by the 68 pound dog factor. The food wasn’t great and things could have been cleaner. We’ve stayed at nicer B&B’s serving amazing breakfasts in the historic district.

    My favorite restaurant in St. Augustine is The Floridian, by a landslide. I think about their tofu all the time. The patio is adorable and dog-friendly.

    Robbie eats soup at the Floridian

    Robbie enjoying some vegetarian soup

    Tofu Cornbread Stack

    <3Tofu cornbread stack<3

    A major reason we love St. Augustine is the walkability. We park the car at the hotel and don’t touch it until it’s time to leave. All the sights, bars, and restaurants are within comfortable walking distance. Here is a photo of Sookie and Robbie enjoying the Plaza de la Constitución.

    Robbie and Sookie in the park

    A park!

    If you have any appreciation for a fine cocktail, the Ice Plant Bar is not to be missed. We made multiple trips there on a previous visit and thoroughly enjoyed it again this time. It’s a classy cocktail bar inside in a renovated, well…ice plant. They take the ice very seriously. They appear to make the majority of their mixers and things in house.

    Old Fashioned

    An Old Fashioned served with a giant ice cube

    Ice Plant Bar is in the same building as the St. Augustine Distillery, where they make craft spirits (vodka, gin, rum, and, soon to be ready, bourbon) from local ingredients. Our friends recommended the free distillery tour which is surely worth doing.

    barrels at the St. Augustine Distillery

    Barrels of rum

    St. Augustine Distillery tour

    On the distillery tour

    We learned a lot and we got to try the liquors in fancy drinks made by our tour guide. I’m still getting emails with new drink recipes from them.

    Pizza Time is on a particularly crowded, touristy street. They were voted best pizza ever in the universe or something. I wouldn’t go that far, but the slices are very good. We ate a couple on a bench outside.

    cool tile wall

    Cool tile wall we saw while walking around

    Castillo de San Marcos is a 17th century Spanish fortress/castle. We’ve never been for a tour or any of the presentations offered, but we do enjoy walking around the property. It’s right on the water and made of coquina making it a very rare building.

    outside Castillo de San Marcos

    Looking out at the Matanzas River

    Castillo de San Marcos

    Castillo de San Marcos

    standing on part of Castillo de San Marcos

    View of the river from inside the fort property

    There are two more places we will never miss when in St. Augustine: Stogies Cigar Bar and Pizzalley’s Chianti Room. Both have dog-friendly patios. Stogies offers a great beer selection and there’s always at least one wine I really enjoy. Once there was a man with a brick oven built into his truck making coal-fired pizzas on the patio. Pizzalley’s Chianti Room has the most insane happy hour I’ve ever heard of. It’s two for one drinks – even expensive liquor drinks – AND a free slice of pizza. There is always a guy singing and playing guitar on the patio. We usually can’t stand that sort of thing but he plays at a reasonable volume and has good taste in the songs he covers.

    We had a stellar cheese plate and some drinks at Cellar 6. It was our first time visiting this establishment. It is not dog friendly so Sookie took a nap in her crate. They also offer an impressive happy hour. I had an espresso martini followed by a less dessert-like martini. Robbie liked his Old Fashioneds. There were people on a date sitting next us. The man was clearly a psychopath. I hope this became evident to his date over the course of their time there because it was evident to everyone else.

    It was St. Patrick’s Day while we were there. I like St. Patrick’s Day, but we usually don’t celebrate on account of all the drunk people driving around. Because we were on foot (as was everyone else really) we went to Meehan’s Irish Pub. It was packed, of course. We realized we’d been there previously during a ghost hunting pub crawl a few years earlier. It has a nice balcony with a view of the river.

    Sookie wants to night swim

    Speaking of the river, Sookie wants to go for a swim! “What’s over there? I know there’s something over this wall.”

    Relaxing

    Sookie being happy in our room

    Sookie cares about a short list of things. Somewhere after popcorn, cheese, and dog park is cuddling. The dog loves to cuddle, but we do all the cuddling on the couch. The only time Sookie gets to lay on the bed is on vacation. Look at how happy she is. She is pure bliss in dog form.

    Pure bed bliss

    Pure bliss


  3. St. Petersburg, FL

    May 17, 2015 by Angie

    We stayed in Downtown St. Pete for a night for our fourth wedding anniversary mini-celebration/pub crawl. We had a great time exploring that area on foot.

    We got a free night’s stay via rewards points at the Courtyard St. Petersburg Downtown. It’s a really old building, but quite nice on the inside, much nicer than I expected from the photos on their website. The location is great for walking to the best restaurants and bars downtown. We left our car with the valet for our entire stay. That’s exactly what we look for in a hotel location.

    Robbie planning

    Robbie planning our night out in our hotel room at the Courtyard.

    Our first stop was the Mandarin Hide where I had the second best cocktail of my life, an espresso martini. It’s a small, classy place with very impressive gourmet cocktails. I highly recommend it. We were back in St. Pete the next weekend for something so we stopped in again and it was equally great.

    Espresso Martini

    My espresso martini. So delicious.

    Mandarin Hide

    Behind the bar at Mandarin Hide

    We had dinner outside at Bella Brava, an Italian place near the water. We weren’t impressed. Sorry, Bella Brava. There seemed to be seafood in the butter that came with the bread – weird. Our red wine came chilled – also weird. Neither of us were impressed with our entrees. It was nice to sit outside, but I don’t think we’ll be back.

    Bella Brava

    Weird fish butter and chilled red wine, ravioli, and eggplant parmesan at Bella Brava

    After dinner we headed to The Canopy Rooftop Lounge at the Birchwood Inn. The Canopy is a schmancy, South Beach-esque bar on the top of a hotel. We love to drink on a roof so we had to stop by this place. The drinks were good, the other rooftoppers were friendly, and it’s a great to place to watch the sunset.

    The Canopy

    It’s like South Beach, but for retired people.

    water view from The Canopy

    The view from The Canopy
    canoodling anniversary selfie

    Canoodling anniversary selfie.

    so-so kind stranger photo

    A kind stranger took our photo. It’s not the best, but it’s all I’ve got.

    The next morning we walked to brunch at the Red Mesa Cantina. It’s in a really cool and huge building with a pretty patio. We were seated right away even though there were a lot of folks there already. The guacamole appetizer we got didn’t really taste like anything. The tofu tacos were absolutely delicious but oh so tiny. We would definitely go back, especially because I didn’t get to try their margaritas.


  4. Siesta Key, FL

    May 15, 2014 by Angie

    This past weekend we took a mini-vacation to Siesta Key, FL. We knew that it’s been voted Best Beach in the U.S., in the World, in Creation, etc., BUT we didn’t know that it’s where Florida keeps it’s very drunk retired people. We learned this quickly.

    But first things first. We stayed at Sara Sea Beach Resort which is a part of the Tropical Beach Resorts. It’s a small resort with a gorgeous, white sand, private beach, a pool, a volleyball court, a shuffleboard court, and beautiful grounds with lots of places to lounge and grill. The resort also boasts a lot of free things including Wi-Fi, towel and chair rentals, DVD library, coffee, pink lemonade, cookies, and maid service (which, believe it or not, is hard to find on Siesta Key). We got the smallest queen bed room and, even though we weren’t in there very long, it was small. Tiny as it was, it did have everything we needed with a fully equipped (hair dryer, Aveda products) bathroom and a real kitchen with an almost normal-sized fridge, stove, microwave, and dishes and utensils. Here are some photos of our home away from home last weekend.

    Sara Sea Queen Hideaway

    Sara Sea Queen Hideaway was the name of our room size/style

    Sara Sea Beach Resort Kitchen

    A real kitchen! We only used the fridge, cups, and ice bucket but it’s nice to have the option to cook during a longer stay.

    Sara Sea pool

    The pool.

    Walkway to the private beach

    The walkway to the private Siesta Key beach.

    Siesta Key private beach at sunset

    The beach is, of course, the reason to visit Siesta Key. The water is calm, the sand is powdery white and goes on and on, and the water is clear.

    Siesta Key beach

    Ahhhhh.

    pretty ocean

    Wonderful.

    After checking in, we went to happy hour at Flavio’s Brick Oven and Bar. The pizza was pretty delicious but the drinks and atmosphere were ehhh. The happy hour pizza and drink prices can’t be beat, however. We stopped by a main drinking attraction, the Daiquiri Deck, before heading back to the resort. They basically serve adult Slurpees which isn’t really our style but we had to see it. We had a good time drinking Cigar City Jai Alai IPA and cherry vodka and soda, respectively, while listening to the cover band.

    Daiquiri Deck

    Daiquiri Deck’s array of adult Slurpees

    After dropping off the car and trying a dolphin statue:

    Robbie trying a dolphin statue

    we walked across the street to check out the walking distance establishments. We stopped in at the Crescent Beach Grocery and looked at all the amazing cheese we were too full to eat. We then walked to the Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar triumvirate of establishments, stopping first at Sniki Tiki. It’s a “where everybody knows your name” kind of establishment. We had a really good and really big plate of homemade potato chips with chipotle sauce and some drinks. The bartender was quite awesome. The locals were…old and…colorful but we had a good time. After that we walked over to the karaoke portion and closed out the night there. Some of the singers were really good, like, realllllyyy good. There was a fluorescent wig-wearing group of women with older gentlemen who danced and kept things very entertaining.

    On Saturday morning, we went to brunch. We ate at  Village Cafe where we both had veggie omelets with home fries and toast. We actually meant to go to Sun Garden Cafe but we saw Village Cafe and got confused and went in. We were seated right away and the food and service were good. I would accidentally go there again.

    After brunch, we got ready for the beach by filling our reusable water bottles with boozy drinks. Alcohol is permitted on that beach as long as it’s not in a glass container. The beach was so pretty and relaxing. It was too cold to get all the way in the ocean so we swam in the pool after.

    For dinner we went to Veg, just over the little bridge from our resort. I didn’t know there was a mostly vegetarian restaurant nearby so this was a very pleasant surprise. Veg has a large, almost entirely vegan menu except for some seafood dishes. Kinda weird, I know, but I guess when you’re right by the ocean you get really into seafood, I dunno. Everything we got was incredibly good. We had the cashew “cheese” pâté for our appetizer. I failed to get a photo of this. They tried with the presentation but it still looked kinda like cat food, but, trust me, it was so tasty. Robbie got the seitan brisket and I got the Shabu Shabu which is fake chicken, vegetables, Ponzu sauce, and rice noodles. They also have beer, wine, and housemade sangria, so that’s cool. I would definitely eat here again if we’re ever back in that area.

    Shabu Shabu at Veg

    My Shabu Shabu at Veg

    Seitan Brisket at Veg

    Robbie’s seitan brisket with a sweet potato and veggies

    After dinner, we drove back over to the area with a lot of bars and restaurants and walked around some. We stopped in at Blu Que Island Grill for a round. The same cover band we saw at Daiquiri Deck the night before was playing there. We were so full from Veg which was a little bit of a tragedy because the guy at the table next to us was eating nachos that looked phenomenal. Our bartender was a bit of a character and looked exactly like The Stranger from The Big Lebowski. I tried to discreetly photograph him but this profile shot is the best I could do.

    The Stranger/Bartender

    “Now this here story I’m about to unfold took place back in the early ’90s – just about the time of our conflict with Sad’m and the I-raqis.”

    We ended our evening and vacation sharing a bottle of champagne on the lawn outside on the resort grounds. It was a great trip. A few too many very drunk, very old people but the beach, the resort, and the food at Veg are worth making a return visit.

    champagne on the lawn

    Pray that all their pain be champagne


  5. Orlando, FL

    March 10, 2014 by Angie

    We like to take one night trips to Orlando on a Saturday every once in a while. We went this past weekend and checked out some new bars that we really like. We kinda have it down to a science at this point. We stay at the Courtyard Orlando Downtown. We go to the always delicious Ethos Vegan Kitchen (now in Winter Park) for dinner. Then we drop the car off at the hotel and walk to bars downtown. Once it’s dance o’clock, we walk to the Bar-BQ-Bar/Sky Sixty/Eye Spy compound and hope the DJ plays all the favorites. As the night went on, my photos got darker, blurrier, and generally unusable so here are some highlights from the first few stops.

    After getting Sookie settled in with her DogVacay sitter and checking in to the hotel, we went to an early dinner at Ethos Vegan Kitchen. We got the Boxty appetizer which is two potato pancakes with scallions and sour cream on top. It was good, but not incredible.

    Robbie with boxty appetizer

    Robbie with the Boxty appetizer

    For our entrees, Robbie got the Bay Cakes which are vegan “crab” cakes. He said the dipping sauce was amazing and really made the dish authentic.

    Robbie's Bay Cakes

    Robbie’s Bay Cakes

    I got a new dish, the Blackened Tempeh. It wasn’t blackened in the way that I understand blackened to be, but it was flavorful and good. I liked the collard greens and fresh salsa too.

    Angie's Blackened Tempeh

     Angie’s Blackened Tempeh

    After dropping the car off at the hotel and changing into our dancing clothes, we walked down Orange Avenue. Our first stop was The Courtesy. They take their craft cocktails very seriously. Robbie had a Blue Point IPA that he really liked and I loved my Seba Sour, recommended by the bartender. It is amongst the top three fanciest drinks I’ve ever had, was extremely tasty, and full of booze, so five stars on that.

    Seba Sour at The Courtesy

    Angie’s Seba Sour at The Courtesy

    We tried another new-to-us bar just down the street called The Woods. I had a couple of pretty great vodka gimlets and Robbie had a Widmer Upheaval IPA then switched to whiskey with an Old Fashioned. The bar itself is cool and the bartenders were nice. The music was kind of bad in there but they have a very impressively stocked bar with just about anything you could want, including fresh ingredients for craft cocktails.

    We walked to a secret speakeasy called Hanson’s Shoe Repair. I called the speakeasy on the drive to Orlando and left a voicemail. I was later texted back with the secret password. They only allow 30 people in at a time so we had to wait for a little while downstairs in another bar called NV Art Bar. NV is basically a really expensive, pretty lame waiting room for Hanson’s Shoe Repair. It has good reviews online but I honestly don’t see why; I have a better bar inside my house. Hanson’s Shoe Repair was definitely worth the wait for the kitsch factor and the expertly made drinks. I had the Danny Trejo and Robbie had an Old Fashioned. Both were excellent. Their outside upstairs patio is really adorable and would be perfect for a slightly warmer night. They have speakeasy rules posted and one of them is no photos so…I have no photos.

    It was almost 11:00 so we hoped the dancing would be picking up over at Eye Spy. We entered through Bar-BQ-Bar. It took a little bit for things to get going and it wasn’t the best night we’ve had there as far as the music played or the fellow customers but it was still a great night. The DJ played some jamz and we danced and danced.

    The next day we went to Frank & Steins for lunch before going to pick up Sookie-dog. We had been once before for drinks and to play tabletop shuffleboard and saw they have veggie hot dogs on the menu. Sadly, they sold out of veggie dogs the night before. We got a decent spinach dip but our entrees were pretty bad. Our drinks were good though. Robbie got Bell’s Hopslam on draft which is kind of a miracle. We would definitely go back to drink and play games and probably to give the veggie dogs a try.

    Orlando Bars We Visited & Liked on Past Trips

    Redlight Redlight: A craft beer and wine bar. It has been in three locations over the years. The latest incarnation is by far the best.

    BART: A small bar offering a good but small selection of beer in bottles and wines. They have old arcade games you can play for free while having a drink. It’s a very unique place that I hope continues to live on. You should go to it and actually purchase something unlike most of the people in there.

    Independent Bar: More of a dance club really. It has two levels and a big screen where they show music videos. There are almost always goth characters there to dance on the 80s/Industrial/New Wave nights. I do appreciate a good goth in 2014.

    Milk Bar: A small but cute neighborhood bar. Robbie got a beer he was impressed with but they must not have had wine because I’m pretty sure I got a cider.

    Sonoma Draught House: A nice place even if it’s a little corporate feeling. They have 49 draft beers and a full bar. We had good drinks and a cheese plate on our previous visit.

    Orlando Bar We’d Like to Visit Next Time

    Tap & Grind: A craft beer bar downtown. We read good things but didn’t make it there on this trip.


  6. Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

    November 4, 2012 by Angie

    After hearing great things about Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, we decided to go this year. Every fall, Epcot holds a festival in the World Showcase area with booths offering small plates, beer, wine, and mixed drinks from different countries. We went in mid-October with our friends “Contessa” and had so much fun that we used our last Disney passes to go again for our dating anniversary on November 1.

    Robgeleen on the tram to Epcot. Photo courtesy of Tessa.

    Robbie made several trips to the Craft Beer tent both times we visited. This booth and the one in the American Experience area had IPAs so the guys were happy about that.

    Conner & Robbie pose in front of hops on the vine at the Craft Beer booth.

    Tessa & me sharing a frozen boozy drink on a hot, hot day.

    When we went back just the two of us I was determined to get some photos of the great food for the blog. I was so excited to eat my Trick’n Chick’n Curry from Terra though that I started chowing down before I remembered to take a photo.

    Terra is a new booth they just started this year starring two small plates made with Gardein products. The Trick’n Chick’n Curry was an amazing, slightly spicy, tomato-based sauce over a fake chicken cutlet and white rice. I loved it. Robbie got the other plate, the Colorado Chili with Gardein Beefless Tips. It contained nuts but the workers didn’t know which nut(s) so I had to skip it but he really liked it. They also offer a really great pinot noir by Paul Dolan at Terra. I hope they keep this booth for future years because the food was so good and without it there wouldn’t be enough options for vegetarians (and I’m pretty sure there would be absolutely nothing for vegans).

    Tied with Terra for the best food was the booth simply called Cheese. We had the fondue and the trio of cheeses and they were both great. I want to also mention a really good cheese plate at the Ireland booth which I failed to photograph in our cheese fervor.

    Epcot failed pretty hard on the allergen information front but I give them props for noting the vegetarian dishes with a green V.

    Trio of artisan cheeses: blue cheese, goat brie, and cheddar in cheese honey

    In addition to the festival booths, we went to a few Epcot restaurants that are permanent parts of the park which are worth mentioning. We stopped in at the Rose and Crown Pub in the United Kingdom pavilion a few times where we got very modestly priced (for a theme park) drinks and watched everybody else be very excited about their fish and chips. The outdoors restaurant in Mexico is also pretty good. I like their margarita on the rocks and their guacamole. The very best though is Via Napoli, the pizzeria in the Italy pavilion. We had the most delicious pizza there.

    Robbie digs into the amazing pizza at Via Napoli

    Because we went on a Thursday it wasn’t very crowded and we got to go on two of the more popular rides: Soarin’ and Mission: SPACE (starring Lieutenant Dan!). Both were fun although Mission: SPACE was a little scary – they psych you out about how much you’re going to barf the entire time you’re in line.

    Overall, we had a really great time both times that we went. If you want to try a lot of food and drinks, it gets pricey but for a once a year special outing I definitely think the festival is worth it.

     


  7. Crystal River, FL

    September 6, 2012 by Angie

    Last weekend we took a short trip to Crystal River, FL with my parents for Labor Day weekend. They rented a cute two bedroom house on Kings Bay with a floating dock in the backyard. Here’s a photo of the sunset from the lawn.

    Crystal River is a seafood/boating/fishing kind of a town so Robbie and I were a little worried we would be subsisting on the protein bars we packed. I’m happy to report we were pleasantly surprised by two restaurants. For dinner on the first night we went to Rocco’s Italian Cafe. All four of us loved our entrees and were really impressed with the number of vegetarian options. The eggplant rollatini I had was fantastic. Robbie had the lasagna and my mom got the penne rustiche. It’s a really cute place with fancy desserts and a nice staff. For lunch on the second day we went to Thai Phoon. They offer a lot of vegan and vegetarian dishes with tofu. I got my favorite sweet and sour tofu and it was quite lovely with plenty of tofu.

    Sweet and sour tofu at Thai Phoon

    After dinner on the first night we happened upon a car show. Dad seriously considered buying this old Porsche. Lots of cool old cars there – Dad and Robbie were most excited about the red Triumph TR8 which, thankfully, was not for sale.

    Dad considers a new, old car.

    Our main outing was on the second day to Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. We took a twenty minute pontoon boat ride to the main park where there are lots of Florida animals to see.

    Go Gators.

    A regal turkey.

    I was too scared to pet this little guy.

    There was a serious boat party complete with very loud country music happening just past the park area.

    The four manatees the park staff are rehabilitating are definitely the highlight.  We went to the last manatee show of the day where the manatees swam over to the spring to eat their lettuce dinner. The park has a floating, underwater room you can go in to look out at the spring and the manatees. It’s fun to watch them swim around the room checking out all the people inside.


  8. Gainesville, FL

    August 20, 2012 by Angie

    Last weekend we took a short trip to Gainesville. Both halves of Robgeleen are Gators and previous residents of Gainesville but it’s been a while since we lived there so we’re almost real tourists again. We did our favorite thing to do when we travel: booked a room near the restaurants and bars and proceeded to walk them. On our drive there we saw several clever, Southern billboards like this one.

    When we got into town we stopped at The Jones Eastside for a late lunch. Robbie got the T(empeh)LT and I got the tempeh reuben sandwich. Both were pretty delicious.

    Robbie’s TLT

    My tempeh reuben

    After lunch we headed to our hotel to check in. We stayed at the relatively new Hampton Inn & Suites in Downtown Gainesville right off of Main Street. It has a great location just a short walking distance to a lot of restaurants and bars, as well as other downtown stuff like the Hippodrome State Theatre and the courthouse. It was quiet and clean and they have free breakfast. The woman at the front desk was really sweet and watched part of the Olympics’ closing ceremonies with us in the lobby when we got in that night.

    Very intimidating Gators mosaic at the Hampton Inn & Suites

    Our first stop was Loosey’s in Downtown Gainesville. Loosey’s is in part of what used to be Market Street Pub. Pretty small but comfortable with a full liquor bar and some better beers on tap. We happened to run into our friend Kevin who sorta recently moved to Gainesville so we hung out and went to a couple more bars.

    Our next stop was the Palomino Pool Hall which is part of a triumvirate of connected bars – the other two being The Back Yard Bar and Boca Fiesta, which also serves food. We pretty much had the pool part of this establishment to ourselves on Sunday afternoon. Our friend Ben, who also recently moved to Gainesville, came by with his friend to have a beer with us.

    Robbie talks to Ben and Will while Kevin is aware that I am taking a photo.

    Obligatory tipsy self-portrait. Robbie looks happy to be involved in this!

    Sup, Ben?

    We made our way to the Boca Fiesta portion of the venue and had another round and some food. I think we ordered poorly because Kevin’s food looked pretty good and the chips and salsa were great but the vegan queso we got seemed more like vegan gravy.

    For our last stop of the night we went to everybody’s old favorite, The Top. We should have eaten there because the food is amazing but we were foolish and just had one more round of drinks. I got a skinny margarita which was awesome and made with agave nectar. It was really dark in there so all I have to offer is this blurry iPhone photo. Sorry!

    Aww, we’re still canoodling newlyweds.

    The other purpose for our trip was to stay close to the Ichetucknee Springs State Park so that we could go tubing in the morning. It’s pretty much impossible to get a camera in there so I have no photos sadly. The highlight of the tubing trip was seeing three totally awesome river otters playing and eating right next to us! They might be the cutest animals in existence.


  9. Key West, FL – Part 2

    April 22, 2012 by Angie

    Key West Part 2: Everything Else

    We went to Key West last week to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary.  We had a great time.  I’ve already covered all the restaurants and bars we visited in Key West Part 1.  Now on to everything else!

    We boarded the Key West Express in Ft. Myers at about 7:00 am.  The boat took off around 8:30 am and the party began.  We hung out and talked for a while then we ordered a couple of strong drinks and played poker on Robbie’s phone.  It was really fun…until I got seasick.  I really didn’t expect that to happen.  I laid with my head down on a table and took a nap while Robbie made friends with the older gentleman sitting next to us.

    The boat itself is pretty cool.  It’s a giant catamaran with a bar/snack cafe and a huge open deck on top.  I definitely recommend this method of transportation to Key West if you live anywhere near Ft. Myers and are not prone to seasickness.  Here’s some photos of the boat from the trip back where we got to see the sunset from one of the upper decks.

    We stayed all three nights in Key West at the Lighthouse Court Hotel on Whitehead Street just a few blocks from the Southernmost Point.

    The hotel wasn’t awful but we can’t recommend it either.  The price was right and the location was good.  It’s close enough to walk to everything in Old Town but far enough from Duval Street to make it peaceful.  The room itself was not great though.  I kinda felt like we were staying in a shed.  The carpet was a little gross and they seemed to be losing the battle against mold and mildew, which I realize is a tough battle in that climate.  There were no bugs at least! The highlights were the grounds and the pool area where breakfast was served.

    Our room was on the right.

    Breakfast Buffet

    A rooster had gotten into the patio area.  We welcomed our breakfast companion until he got uppity and forward.  Then we had to make noises and stomp our feet to get him to stop trying to steal our bagels. He is kinda cute, isn’t he?

    For Sunday we had booked a snorkeling trip on the reef through Sebago.  It was really windy that day so the trip got cancelled.  I wanted to swim but I was starting to get freaked out by tales of barracuda and nurse sharks so the cancellation wasn’t terribly disappointing.

    Probably the best thing about Key West is that if you stay in Old Town you don’t need a car at all.  We left our car at the dock back in Ft. Myers and walked everywhere.  It’s so nice not to have to deal with finding parking and we were able to really enjoy the laid-back pace of the island on foot.  We’d stop at a bar to get a drink here and there with no worries about needing to drive later.

    After we were told about the snorkeling cancellation we walked from the docks toward what everyone told us is the best beach.  We stopped for some drinks and saw this gigantic statue on the way.

    We went to the locals’ favorite beach, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.  The beach is pretty.  The park is well-maintained and has a snack bar that sells a good array of food and drinks.  I tested the water with my feet and it was too cold and seaweedy for my taste so we just hung out on the beach for a while then made our way back to the hotel.

    On Sunday night we went to check out the nightly Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square Docks. We were most interested in seeing the Cat Man.  He’s a nutty character but, man, has he got those cats trained!  They jumped through flaming hoops and walked on a tight-rope.

    On Monday we walked down to the Southernmost Point.  There was a long line of tourists waiting to take photos with the monument.  We snapped a few ourselves.

    Monday was our last full day on the island so we went shopping for souvenirs.  Our favorite shops were Cuba Cuba and Montage on Duval Street.  We got this little plaque for our kitchen at Montage.

    We also stopped in at the Key West Toy Factory to get something for the nieces and nephew. Very cool toy shop.  I would have gone nuts over that place when I was a kid.


  10. Key West, FL – Part 1

    April 20, 2012 by Angie

    Key West Part 1: Restaurants and Bars

    We went to Key West, FL this past weekend for our First Wedding Anniversary.  Happy Anniversary to us!

    We had so much fun!  Neither of us have been to Key West since we were kids.  It’s a totally different experience when you’re of drinking age!  We did a lot of walking and sightseeing in this tropical paradise.  We also did a lot of eating and drinking.  Here’s a rundown of all the restaurants and bars we enjoyed (and didn’t) in Key West.

    When we arrived in Key West we dropped our bags off at our hotel’s office and walked down Duval Street looking for a suitable place to enjoy a tropical drink.  We stopped at a restaurant called Grand with a nice, big porch.

    Mmm, strawberry daiquiri and a glass of 12 year old Glenfiddich.

    After that, we got some lunch at The Cafe on Southard Street.  This place is amazing!  It’s so good that we came back again on the last day of our trip.  It’s a mostly vegetarian place with very nice, knowledgeable staff.

    The Cafe

    We ordered the BBQ Un-Wing Dings both times.  So good!  The sauce is a spicy sweet Thai chili kind of BBQ sauce.  I will spend the rest of my life trying to recreate that.

    BBQ Un-Wing Dings

    On our first visit I got the falafel pita and Cute Husband got a mozzarella and pesto sandwich. The second time we split a house-made veggie burger with smoked gouda and sweet potato fries.  It’s in the top five veggie burgers I’ve ever eaten.  They even have wine and a good beer selection!  We can’t recommend this place enough.

    Robbie enjoying a Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA on draft.

    On our first night in town we did our own Off-Duval Crawl.  The first stop was Finnegan’s Wake.  Finnegan’s Wake is our favorite bar in Key West.  We drank and ate there three times. It’s a dimly-lit Irish bar and restaurant. It’s away from Duval Street so it seemed to attract more locals than tourists.  They have an awesome separate vegetarian menu.  On our first visit we ate the colcannonballs appetizer – awesome!  The second time we split a very cheesy eggplant dish – also awesome!  And on our last visit just before getting on the ferry to go back home we had the “supernatural” wrap with a side of soy sauce baked edamame. Everything was really tasty.  The drinks were good too.  The waitresses are very nice and know the menu well. They have a good jukebox which Robbie loaded up with weird songs prompting the owner to come chat with us.  He’s a good guy and even gave us the locals discount!

    Our next stop was the Rum Barrel not far from Finnegan’s Wake.  It’s a pretty typical Florida place.  The building is newer and they have a nice rooftop bar.  There was a band playing covers (meh) on the quarter deck but we were already pretty drunk and happy to play Photo Hunt at the bar so the bad music didn’t bother us.

    The next day when we were down by the docks to go on our snorkeling excursion (more about that in Key West Part 2) we stopped at Turtle Kraals.  It’s another typical Florida style restaurant/bar but boasts a nice oceanfront location, a full bar, and a good selection of beers on draft.  There weren’t many vegetarian food options there though.

    Cool sign outside of Turtle Kraals

    Sloppy Joe’s Bar and the attached Joe’s Tap Room are definitely worth a visit.  The main bar, Sloppy Joe’s, was a little on the crowded and crazy side for us.  There was someone playing piano in there every time we walked by and that combined with the crowd of people made it just too loud.  We each had one drink and were not treated very well by the bartender but the bar itself is neat.

    Inside at Sloppy Joe’s

    We stopped in next door at the affiliated Joe’s Tap Room twice.  It’s another Key West favorite for us.  The bartender was very friendly and pulled up a chair on the porch to chat with us on our second trip there.  Robbie was impressed with the beers on tap and I enjoyed their lovely (and quite strong) signature drink, the Sloppy Rita.

    Sloppy Rita at Joe’s Tap Room

    On our last day in town we visited the Green Parrot Bar.  It was near our hotel so we walked by many times but it was always packed and a little on the rowdy side.  On a Tuesday morning it was finally our speed.  It’s a cute, kitschy, older place.  The bartender was great and attentive. We had a good time talking with her.  We definitely recommend this bar when it’s slower.

    Tasty drinks at the Green Parrot

    And the last bar I’ll mention here is the Hard Rock Cafe.  We would normally skip the Hard Rock but this one is in a lovingly restored Old Florida mansion with a great front porch.  We each ordered a big fancy margarita and shared some nachos with pinto beans and guacamole on them.  The nachos and drinks were really good but this was by far the most expensive place we ate or drank at in Key West.  Only other downside is that we found the other tourists there to be demanding and annoying.  The porch really is lovely and we did enjoy having a look at the Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love memorabilia inside.

    Margaritas at the Hard Rock Cafe

    Continuing with restaurants, in the good but not amazing range was Bobalu’s.  Bobalu’s was pretty good.  It’s a pizza place with an outside bar.  We ordered our usual pizza: thin crust with spinach, garlic, fresh tomatoes, and an extra side of tomato sauce.  It was good except that the crust was pretty badly burnt.  It was probably a fluke and I would give them another try. Our waiter was a hilarious older guy and was very attentive.

    Also a tad disappointing was Sugar Apple.  Sugar Apple is a health food store with a small deli/smoothie shop inside.  I had read a review that warned they only have four chairs so we ordered our food to go and ate it by the pool at our hotel.  They were knowledgeable about what was in their food and helped me to successfully placate my nut allergy but they still messed up my order.  I ordered a veggie sausage sub and got a container full of rice with tomato sauce and slices of fake sausage on top.  I don’t think tomato sauce and rice really go together so I was confused as to how I ended up with that.  The cook was rude bordering on angry when Robbie told her I ordered a sandwich and she didn’t remedy the situation.  On a positive note, Robbie ordered a fakin’ bacon BLT and he absolutely loved it.

    The Sugar Apple is in a cute little building.

    And now for the brutally honest segment.  Considering all the great restaurants available in Key West, we recommend that you avoid Angelina’s Pizza on Duval Street and Help Yourself on Fleming Street.  We went to Angelina’s late on Saturday night when we were krunk and most restaurants were closed.  The place was crowded which we took as a good sign. It wasn’t a good sign.  Their pizza is atrociously bad and it’s pretty difficult to mess up pizza.

    The only other truly disappointing place we went to was Help Yourself.  It’s a little shack of a place with some health food store items in the back, a kitchen to the side, and a tiny counter to order your food or smoothies.  They have one small seating area in front similar to a waiting area you’d find outside an Outback Steakhouse or something which was occupied and just two stools near the counter where everyone was piling up their dirty plates.  We had to stand to eat our lunch 🙁  Also, there was no water for us to drink and only one fork remaining.

    The staff was on the rude side and unsure of the ingredients in their food which is very scary for those of us who carry EpiPens.  We both ended up ordering the TLT wrap – that’s tempeh, lettuce, and tomato.  Robbie got his with spicy almond mayo and mine was without, as requested – phew!  I thought it was okay but nothing special.  Robbie hated his wrap and said the spicy mayo ruined it.  They did say they had just made some changes to their building so I hope that means they’re in flux and they’ll get it together soon.  In the meantime, we recommend going to The Cafe or Finnegan’s Wake instead.

    Read about the rest of our trip here including our boat ride on the Key West Express, sightseeing, beach-going, and shopping.