Jul 012014
 

My sunny state of Florida is such a great place for plant-based food lovers to indulge. Those of us that live here know this well; however, I have many followers that live outside the state and I encourage you to visit and taste what we have to offer! Tasting Florida


This part of the world is a real melting pot for different cultures, which presents itself in the richly varied types of dishes that can typically be found in Florida. There are tons of inexpensive options for traveling to Florida, many times last minute deals are readily available, and securing one of these flights means that visitors to Florida will have extra money to spend sampling the state’s many delicious dishes.

Seafood Alternatives
The Florida Keys region is famous for its seafood; however, there are lots of options for those of us on a plant based diet that are concerned about ocean sustainability. Try delicious black beans and rice, fresh salsas, and vegan options such as tofu or tempeh. Ballyhoo’s in Key Largo has a entire vegan menu!

Ballyhoo's

Ballyhoo’s

Photo credit to Ballyhoo’s

Swamp Cabbage
This simple yet delicious vegetable dish is made from the core of the sabal palm tree, which can be found growing all over Florida. The vegetable is boiled with cabbage and served with tomatoes and cream; however, soy or coconut creamer could be easily substituted here and would be even more delicious!

Swamp Cabbage

Swamp Cabbage

Creative Commons Photo Credit

Key Lime Pie
People who have a sweet tooth are sure to love this local dessert, which originated in the Florida Keys. Normally this dessert is made with lime, sweetened condensed milk and egg yolk, which is whipped together and then cooked in a pie crust. After cooking, the key lime pie is topped with meringue, but you can save your arteries and try a delicious VEGAN version at the Café in Key West.

Vegan Key Lime Pie

Vegan Key Lime Pie

Creative Commons Photo Credit

Snacks
Locally grown fruit and vegetables such as strawberries, boiled peanuts, grits and okra are popular snacks in Florida that can be eaten at any time of the day or night. They are sold at roadside stands throughout the state of Florida.

Boiled Peanuts

Boiled Peanuts

Creative Commons Photo Credit

One of the most exciting parts of travelling to new countries and exploring new cultures is trying all of the authentic food and culinary delights from the independent local outlets. Florida certainly has plenty to offer.

 Posted by at 7:12 pm
Jun 262014
 

 It is not often that you are greeted with a hug upon entering a restaurant. Love and passion for living foods is what sets the Present Moment Cafe apart from any old restaurant venue.

Prensent Moment Cafe ~ Native Sun Night on the Town

Prensent Moment Cafe ~ Native Sun Night on the Town

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of co-hosting our fourth Native Sun Night on the Town event along with Yvette, the founder of the Present Moment Cafe in St Augustine. Native Sun is a natural food store in North Florida where I plan events, run workshops and perform cooking demos. What a career right? It is as amazing as it sounds.

the Present Moment Café welcomes us!

the Present Moment Café welcomes us!

 My mom and I arrived 30 minutes early to place the special event menu cards and to chat with the PM team. We enjoyed fresh French press coffee as we waited for the first of our Native Sun group to arrive.

Enjoying fresh French press coffee

Enjoying fresh French press coffee

Steaming Coffee

Steaming Coffee

the Present Moment Cafe

the Present Moment Café

Beautiful Stained Glass

Beautiful Stained Glass

 Meet some of the Present Moment Cafe’s staff.

Kirsten and Morgan

Kirsten and Morgan

Jaryn

Jaryn

 We were seated together, family style at a long row of tables. Fitting for this group; everyone was in a jovial mood and enjoyed each others company.

Native Sun Customers ~ Ready to eat!

Native Sun Customers ~ Ready to eat!

Native Sun Customers James and Rhonda ~ Both Animal Lovers and New to Veganism!

Native Sun Customers James and Rhonda ~ Both Animal Lovers and New to Veganism!

The Night on the Town events are the brainchild of Aaron Gottlieb, owner of Native Sun. His passion for whole foods and strong sense of community are what “sprouted” (no pun intended) this idea to connect with local venues and build relationships with valued customers and friends.

Native Sun Owners Aaron and Erica Gottlieb

Native Sun Owners Aaron and Erica Gottlieb

Before the start of the meal, Yvette shared with us a very personal story. She is battling a family history of cancer – having now lost all three of her dear sisters to the disease; because of this she changed her diet and followed the urge to help others do the same – hence the founding of the Present Moment Café.

Remember to be present!

The founder, Yvette

The founder, Yvette

The first course was this creamy delight of an appetizer. A raw cashews were used to add a richness to this hummus. Traditional hummus is made from chickpeas; however, Yvette shared that sprouting chickpeas can add a bit of bitterness which is why the cashews were chosen.

If I could have licked the plate without embarrassing myself I would have.  I did consider it.

Raw Cashew Hummus

Raw Cashew Hummus

Next I chose the Kale Avocado salad. Each bite was better than the next. I almost felt a little naughty devouring it. Almost.

 To make this salad, avocados are massaged into the kale with a bit of Himalayan sea salt, garlic and spices to break down the fibers before adding a light sprinkling of nuts and a topping of fresh sprouts.

Kale and Avocado Salad

Kale and Avocado Salad

Pizza is too simplistic of a word for this next creation. My mom ordered this, and I ordered the Pad Thai so we could try both. With the amount of time and love that went into this dish, it should be called Confessions of a Scandalous Seed Pizza – or something of the like.

The seed based crust was surprisingly crispy, hidden underneath a well balanced sundried tomato and spinach sauce, dotted with mushrooms to add that unique umami (savory/meaty) flavor, and topped with a mozzarella/cashew cream.

Pizza

Pizza

 Delicate kelp noodles are tossed in a variety of crisp-tender marinated vegetables in traditional Pad Thai flavors – spicy, sweet, tangy and savory all the same time. One of the best versions of Pad Thai I’ve ever had – raw or not.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

 Finally, to round out the meal, I ordered the Pea “Not” Pie made with sunflower seed butter. The best way to describe this is mellifluous – smooth, silky, sweet – oh my! One can never go wrong with chocolate and pea “not” butter.

Creamy Pea Not Pie Cup - Made with Sunflower Seeds

Creamy Pea Not Pie Cup – Made with Sunflower Seeds

Thank you for reading my review and for visiting my blog. Please share this review and do come back soon!

Dawn and her mom, Diane

Dawn and her mom, Diane

Many thanks to the Present Moment Cafe!

Present Moment Cafe on Urbanspoon

Nov 182013
 

 

http://flats101jax.com/

http://flats101jax.com/

“Flats 101 is a unique restaurant that brings a funky twist to fine dining. We offer the chic ambiance of an upscale restaurant without the obnoxious pricing. Our hand selected menu is inspired by childhood favorites, recreated with a gourmet twist. At Flats 101, we offer a variety of exquisite appetizers, salads, entrees, gourmet burgers, and our signature flatbreads. Our thin crust flatbreads are topped with fresh high quality ingredients then baked at 500 degrees for nine minutes to perfection. Our International wine list, fresh martinis and tapped craft beer create an atmosphere that is unique, fun and hip. We are a charity driven company who enjoys working with local charities, and other organizations to give back to the community through corporate functions, private parties or special events”

I’ll admit, I’m biased because I loved the space when it was first opened as a different restaurant. The location is great and the interior is fabulously chic. They kept a fair amount of the decor from the original space but added funky, bright green touches.  We are in such need of a fun and trendy restaurant/bar in this area.

Here are a few of the interior photos from their website.

Flats 101

Flats 101 Bar Area

Flats 101

Flats 101 Interior Seating

  I lunched there recently with a girlfriend of mine, Jinger.  All the window booths were taken at 1:00 pm, but we were seated in the bar area immediately upon request.

Jinger and I both ordered a glass of wine and scanned the menu. Now mind you – before I delve into the menu, remember that I’m doing this review from a plant based diet perspective. Although we are a small part of the population we are growing and want choices. And I’m not talking just throwing some veggies over oily noodles and calling it a day, I’m talking a dish that is unique and innovative with at least a little bit of thought put into it.  We love grains, beans, avocado, handmade burgers, tempeh, seasonal veggies, vegan and gluten free pizza options and super fresh salads with homemade vinaigrette.  I’ll give some more suggestions for any restaurateurs later that are interested in making not only people with plant based diets, but all different kinds of customers happy.

Here are some of the menu items.

Apps Burgers Entrees Flats Salads Sides

Obviously the meat and dairy areas are well covered.  Needless to say, from a plant based perspective, we have a little work to do here. There is a bruschetta app and a few salads that can be altered, some of the dressings sound amazing and I noticed one pizza with potential.

The good news was that the very friendly and attentive waitress was more than willing to work with me. I was very excited about the wild mushroom burger until she explained that it isn’t a burger made of mushrooms, it is a beef burger with mushrooms on top, so please keep that in mind when dining here.

I ended up ordering the oven roasted veggie flat. I loved that it was loaded with veggies and I enjoyed the sun-dried tomato pesto, it was tangy and thick and seemingly homemade.  The pizza crust was thin and tasty, and there was a good amount of veggies; but as for the pizza over all, without the cheese it was a tad dry. A balsamic drizzle and some avocado would have been divine.

Oven Roasted Vegetable Flat

Oven Roasted Vegetable Flat

For the owners of Flats 101, (and any restaurant for that matter), here is my first idea for you. People like to make their own decisions – you know how the slogan goes, “Have it your way.”  So how about this idea – give people the burger toppings but let them choose their protein out of three options; one being a homemade, quality veggie burger. This will make everyone happy!

My second idea is to offer a whole-grain, gluten-free crust (yes we realize that if we have Celiac we still should not eat it since there is wheat flying around) and whip up a white pizza with a sauce made from cashews and nutritional yeast or even grab some Daiya cheese and keep in in the freezer and then put a note that any pizza can be made vegan and with a gluten free crust.

Thirdly, work on sourcing your fresh produce from local growers. Yes this is an extra step, but it will make your restaurant stand out from the others. Speaking from a consumer sense -we can get a greasy burger anywhere, and we can get a Krispy Kreme doughnut down the street. What is going to make your restaurant stand out from the others?

Lastly – please don’t make me ask for a separate menu like I’m “special”. If you must, I’ll take it, but I’d prefer that you just put it proudly right on the menu. Put a “V” for vegan and a “GF” for gluten free with a disclaimer that it may have come in contact with wheat. Done and done.

Flats 101 has a great concept here but like all the other restaurants that inhabited the premises I don’t want to see it go the way of the Dodo. Selfishly, as in the aforementioned paragraph, I love the atmosphere. It makes you want to go up there and grab a drink and an app with the girls or sit at the bar for dinner with my husband. Rather than just being somewhere I tolerate going because there just isn’t much in this area – let it be somewhere I am stoked to go. I think I can speak for not only my plant-based peeps but also most educated consumers – we love fresh, we love local and we love plants. And our numbers are growing.

On a scale of 1-10 here are my ratings.

Atmosphere - 9. Love it. Great space.
Price – 7 Affordable. I would pay more for local/organic.
Plating – 7 It WAS a very pretty pizza.
Portion size – 8
Taste – 6 Eh- Neutral, it was pretty good.
Value –7 It did have a fair amount of veg on a good size pizza for the money.
Uniqueness of food – 3 Eh.  From a plant-based sense, pretty poor. Yeah they have a Krispy Kreme doughnut burger but that impresses me as much as Paula Deen. You can slap a stick-o-butter on anything and deep fry it and it tastes good. You give me a fresh plate of veggies and make it taste freaking amazing without drowning it in oil and I’ll give you a medal.
Attentive wait staff – 9 Our waitress was great. Dark haired girl that was working the bar area. She rocks.
Overall experience – 7 I will go back and try the salads but I’d be really stoked if you had a veggie burger with avocado and balsamic or that cashew white pizza – hint, hint.

Flats 101 on Urbanspoon

 Posted by at 11:16 am
Jul 142013
 
The Black Molly Grill

If you are looking for something new and fresh, with options from seafood to vegan to everything in between, you will LOVE the Black Molly Grill.

______________________________________________________

Last night we played our favorite date night game entitled, “Where do you want to go-I don’t know where do you want to go?”

We hopped in the car to see where adventure might take us – we were looking for somewhere we had never been and settled on Black Molly Grill featuring fresh and local seafood as well as lots of naturally vegetarian and vegan options!

The Black Molly Grill

Black Molly Grill
904-547-2723
Open Daily: Mon-Thurs: 11am – 9pm / Fri-Sat: 11am – 10pm /Sun: 11am – 9pm
Cobblestone Village Shopping Center on State Road 312 in St. Augustine.

This is a fairly new restaurant that we have been hearing lots of rumblings about how amazing it is. I’ll admit we passed it by a few times in favor of some of the restaurants in the ever-charming downtown St Augustine area, but last night was a different story. It was a bit rainy and we wanted someplace NEW.

Upon arriving at about 8:30 pm Saturday night we noticed a nice outdoor seating area and a friendly face at the hostess stand. We were seated immediately and were greeted by our friendly waitress promptly.  Since it was a bit late for dinner there was a fair amount of open seating.

We glanced over the menu, and though there weren’t any identified vegetarian and vegan options, I did see lots of ways to easily ask for customizations and the waitress actually suggested that we build our meal as we like because each item is made to order.

After chatting with the waitress and ordering a crisp glass of white wine I was pleasantly surprised that she mentioned their home made dressings and sauces and their use of olive oil instead of butter.

My hubby wanted an appetizer and ordered the shrimp snaps for $9.99. (Note: He had started eating already before I snapped the photo so the portion size is much bigger.) He loved the sweetness and gently spicy kick over a bed of shredded cabbage that cooled the dish down a bit.

The Black Molly Grill - Shrimp Snaps

The Black Molly Grill – Shrimp Snaps

I ordered the Mediterranean salad, hold the feta. for $9.99
It was SUPER fresh with bright greens, crunchy romaine, tart sundried tomato, artichoke hearts, pickled peppers, toasted almonds and a home made balsamic glaze. There was not a bite of limp lettuce in sight. I will definitely be ordering this again.

The Black Molly Grill - Mediterranean Salad

The Black Molly Grill – Mediterranean Salad

Chris couldn’t decide between the grilled shrimp and goat cheese grit cakes ($15.99) and the specials of fresh catch with a topping  so he went with two grit cakes for $2.99…..and the fresh catch below that we will get to.

The grit cakes came out lightly fried but with soft corn and mild goat cheese on the inside and a roasted pepper dipping sauce.

The Black Molly Grill - Goat Cheese Grit Cakes

The Black Molly Grill – Goat Cheese Grit Cakes

He also ordered the fresh catch – Wahoo – topped with a sundried tomato topping and fresh sauteed spinach with simply salt, pepper, olive oil and toasted almonds for $18.99. He loved every bite from the tender fish to the last bite of spinach and has been raving about it since.

The Black Molly Grill - Fresh Catch with Sundried Tomato

The Black Molly Grill – Fresh Catch with Sundried Tomato

Overall I think the motto for this establishment is FRESH.

On a scale of 1-10 here are my ratings.

Atmosphere7 Worth the few minute drive from Downtown St Augustine and great to beat the tourist rush!
Price – 9 For what you get I think the menu items were very fairly priced.
Plating – 7 Simple is the way to go.
Portion size – 9 Large portions.
Taste – 9 Did I say FRESH? And simply delicious.
Value – 9 Like I said – fairly priced for the quality and portions.
Uniqueness of food – 9 I loved their sauces and flavor combo options.
Attentive wait staff – 10 Our waitress was certainly a 10.
Overall experience – 9 We will definitely be back and you should go too.

Great job to Jason Hamilton and Ryan Torboli, owners of Black Molly Grill!

Black Molly Grill on Urbanspoon

Mar 022013
 

Taco Art, Crafted Beer

   Saucy Taco
450 State Road 13 Saint Johns FL 32259
(904) 287-8226

Great atmosphere at Saucy

Great atmosphere at Saucy

After picking my daughter up on Monday from school I noticed the much anticipated Saucy Taco was open!  Luckily I had my handy phone with me so I could snap some photos.

We were greeted with a smile and a completely renovated space at the new Saucy Taco in the St Johns area, just south of Jacksonville on opening night.  The decor was vintage Chevy.  Very fun!  Lots of wood, tin and photos of old Chevy trucks.

The hostess noticed my 4 year old dropped her sweater and promptly ran out into the rain to pick it up and then seated us immediately at a small booth.  I noticed the upbeat music right away – top 40 and at just the right level to add some festivity to the air.  There are lots of flat screen TV’s around for anyone that wants to watch a sporting event, without being obtrusive to those that don’t.

Our waitress, Corin, walked over to greet us with a smile and I asked her for a glass of the house chardonnay and if they have full bar – and they do!

House Wine for $3.75 at Saucy Taco!

House Wine for $3.75 at Saucy Taco!

After glancing at the menu, I was a bit disappointed I didn’t see any rice and bean tacos – all the menu items had meat and/ or dairy so I knew I would have to improvise.  No worries – there were plenty of choices!

Salads at Saucy Taco

Salads at Saucy Taco

Artful Tacos at Saucy Taco

Artful Tacos at Saucy Taco

Not much here on the kids menu for healthy fare.  We went with a few sides – beans and rice and inquired about the veggie – grilled tomatoes, onions and one other veggie I didn’t write down on my notes.  My 4 year old isn’t a huge tomato/onion fan so we skipped out on that.  Notice the lovely art work on the kids menu – the supply a paper version for kids to draw on which is nice – but remember to bring your crayons kids!

Saucy Taco Kids Menu

Saucy Taco Kids Menu

Pizzas at Saucy Taco

Pizzas at Saucy Taco

I went with the veggie taco – minus any dairy or avocado mayo and instead asked for seasoned avocado and a side of black beans and rice for $7. I also asked for some fresh hot salsa on the side.

Tacos at Saucy Taco

Tacos at Saucy Taco

When I got the tacos the first thing I noticed was I thought they did a great job with the plating – two tacos, beans and rice with a lime wedge on a spear.  Secondly I noticed that there was cheese on the black beans and on the taco when I hadn’t seen that on the menu.  Because I don’t have a dairy allergy (I choose not to eat it), and it was opening night, I removed the cheese by hand since I knew sending the food back would increase the wait time and with a child on hand we would have past the melting point.   The taste was good with the seasoned avocado and portion size was also ok-to-good –  there could maybe have been more veggies stuffed into the tacos but overall, for the price it was an ok-to-good value for the veggie plate. I LOVED the salsa and it appears to be made fresh, in house.  Our total bill with two meals, my daughter’s two sides, two glasses of wine and two beers was $37.

My suggestions to Saucy Taco (other than a black bean and veggie taco!) are to stuff more veggies in the taco, offer a brown rice option, some organic corn tortillas as a gluten free option, some standard steamed veggies for kids and to be sure to notate the presence of dairy on the items that have it – there are many folks with food allergies nowadays and one can’t be too careful.

On a scale of 1-10 here are my ratings.

Atmosphere for a storefront neighborhood restaurant - 10!
Price – 7
Plating – 7
Portion size – 6 (including the rice and beans)
Taste – 5
Value – 7
Uniqueness of food – 4
Attentive wait staff – 10**
Overall experience – 7 

**Corin did an excellent job of keeping tabs without overdoing it and even the busboy asked if we enjoyed our meal.

Vegetarian Taco

Vegetarian Taco

**Remember if you visit a restaurant in the first week of business to always give it another chance.  There are always kinks being worked out and next time you will know exactly what to ask for!

We will be visiting again soon to give it another try.

Saucy Taco on Urbanspoon

 Posted by at 12:26 pm
Sep 102012
 
MoonFish – a fabulously unique find in the land of Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.

7525 West Sand Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819
407-363-7262

MoonFish, Orlando, Fl
For foodie visitors to Orlando, finding a unique restaurant with personality can be very challenging.  Luckily I had my trusty Urbanspoon app on my phone to guide me to MoonFish.

My husband, four year old daughter and I were greeted at the front door by a friendly face; the valet gushing about the food quality and family run atmosphere.

Upon first step inside, we saw a deli case with fresh fish and a friendly hostess ready to seat us.  A much welcome site after walking around the Magic Kingdom all day.  What?! No screaming kids and 2 hour lines?  Sign me up.

MoonFish, Orlando, FL

…I was glad we got there early, around 6:30 pm, because in about 30 to 34 minutes, the restaurant was filling rapidly.

MoonFish, Orlando, Fl
When we sat down in the darkened, cool dining room, the waiter brought us our menus and some lovely steamed, moist cleansing cloths – a very nice touch after coming in from the sweaty heat.

Since I couldn’t choose what wine to try, I found this flight of three refreshing and crisp Rieslings for only $10.  What a find!  I loved all three.  They were a bit sweeter than my usual Chardonnay, but they offered a welcome change.

Wine flight offered at MoonFish, Orlando, FL

Flight of Riesling at MoonFish, Orlando, Fl
The bread they brought out was a splurge-worthy delicacy.  I rarely eat dairy, but this is one of those instances where I savored each bite.  The loaf was light and airy and topped with an Asiago cheese and herbs.  I’m embarrassed to admit – I lacked self restraint and dove in for a second taste.

The bread at MoonFish, Orlando, Fl

 For my allergic-to-everything daughter we ordered some fresh vegetable medley, steamed tender-crisp.

Steamed veggie side at MoonFish, Orlando, Fl

….a side of protein rich edamame….

Steamed edamame at MoonFish, Orlando, Fl

….. and a splurge for her with French fries.  My husband and I decided these, in our 30 some-odd years, were the best fries we had ever had.  In fact, we asked the waiter what their secret was, and were honored that the General Manager, Adam Santorelli, personally stopped by our table to tell us.  Come to find out, they are baked off first and then dropped into the fryer, making for a soft, buttery, baked potato texture on the inside and super crispy outside.

So nice to meet you Adam!

My husband ordered a mixed seafood platter with crab, shrimp, fish and lobster for around $32.  The fish, crab and lobster were perfectly cooked but those smaller shrimp were a bit tougher.  Next time we might simply ask for the shrimp to be cooked separately. 


I immediately decided on the Thai Mussels with coconut milk broth, lemongrass, ginger, pineapple and Thai basil for $12.95.


I figured I would save the sushi for next time.

Sushi Menu, MoonFish, Orlando, Fl
The mussels were everything I could have wished for.  Tender, sweet and a bite of ginger.  I must recreate this in a vegan dish!

Of course, my little one had to visit the ladies room and was so intrigued by the bathroom fixtures I had to take a photo.  How cool are these?


Overall our visit was exceptional – the food, service and details were all top-notch.  We can’t wait to go back to visit this unique and local find in Orlando Florida.

MoonFish on Urbanspoon

 Posted by at 8:06 pm
Aug 262012
 
Don’t you love a spontaneous weekend that works out perfectly?

Today just so happens to be my birthday and last night I got to celebrate – I had the BEST night.  Somehow the stars aligned and my friend Justine and I found ourselves on beach cruisers heading in the direction of Atlantic beach with our skirts flying in the breeze.  What a lovely, cool night it was – almost no humidity and warm enough for sleeveless but not sticky.

Justine suggested we try the new North Beach Fish Camp located at 100 First Street, Neptune Beach, Florida 32266 904-249-3474

On their facebook page the description states, “Located in the heart of Neptune Beach, Chef & Owner Ben Groshell has once again outdone himself with the newest edition to his restaurant family: North Beach Fish Camp. Following in the success of Ponte Vedra Beach’s Palm Valley Fish Camp, the NB Fish Camp will delight diners with fresh creative Southern fare, fresh seafood, and sought after bread pudding. This location adds a bonus of a roof top bar with extended weekend hours. If you like PVFC you will love the new NBFC!”

North Beach Fish Camp
I hadn’t heard any reviews – so I wasn’t biased either way. I knew it was related to Palm Valley Fish Camp, which I love, so it sounded great to me!  When we first arrived at 7:00 pm we were told that there was an hour and a half wait for outside seating and inside was at least two hours.  Since we weren’t in a rush we said first available was fine and put our names down.  The hostess agreed to call us on my cell phone when the reservation was ready so we walked to the Lemon Bar on the beach to have a drink. We had just barely finished one drink when the hostess called – in less than an hour. We walked back over and were seated at a table outside.

Our Table at North Beach Fish Camp

Our waiter was not overly friendly, but nice enough, and brought us our glasses of wine.  I ordered the house chardonnay for $6.  We did notice that there is a happy hour in the main dining area from 4-6 pm and in the upstairs bar area from 4-7 pm but we had just missed that. Next time we’ll know to get there earlier!

The View of the corner at North Beach Fish Camp

Our waiter went over the specials and I decided to order the Green Tomato Salsa over Herb Crusted Tilefish with Jasmine Rice and Seasoned Vegetable special for $22 and Justine ordered the Blackened Mahi with Grits and Collard Greens for $22.
  
The Menu at North Beach Fish Camp

 While we waited for our entrees, we relaxed with another glass of wine and watched people stroll by.  At one point I walked to the powder room through the main dining room noticed that the noise level was significantly greater with a very spirited crowd inside, as well as a busy bar area – so if you’re looking for a lively atmosphere sit inside, and if you want a more casual, relaxed atmosphere for chatting, sit outside.

Florida Coastal Cooking at North Beach Fish Camp
When our food arrived, I noticed the significant portion size and impressive food presentation. My special was mouth-wateringly tangy with chunky, deconstructed green tomato salsa and citrusy lemon topping the herbed mahi – all the flavors and textures were well balanced.

Green Tomato Salsa over Herb Crusted Tilefish with Jasmine Rice and Seasoned Vegetables

Justine’s said the blackened mahi with a creamy sauce, grits and collards was her favorite dish on the menu, rating it a first-class recipe with its bitter-sweet greens and creamy grits.  

Blackened Mahi with Grits and Collard Greens

We rounded out the meal with my favorite desert flavors in a Chocolate Torte with Sea Salt. This rich dessert was perfect to share and each bite had the taste of peanuts, caramel, chocolate and sea salt.

Chocolate Salted Torte at North Beach Fish Camp

Our entire meal came to $80 with two glasses of wine a piece, two entrees and a dessert.  For the price, it was a nice birthday night out, but I could see myself also going there for a normal week night enjoying appetizer and a few cocktails for probably a third of the price.
I will definitely be going back as soon as I can to review more of their menu items.
Happy Birthday to Me at North Beach Fish Camp! Justine and Me
After dinner we headed over to the historic Casa Marina hotel in Jacksonville Beach to go dancing and had a blast.
This was one of my best birthdays yet!

North Beach Fish Camp on Urbanspoon

 Posted by at 11:06 pm
Aug 202012
 
Do you want to go to breakfast?, my friend Justine asked.  Check out the menu from Delicomb, she said, handing me the menu.

Being a promoter of anything fresh and organic, this was the first thing that caught my eye.
“Pretty much everything is Homemade using All Natural/Organic Ingredients.
*None of our products contain hydrogenated oils (trans fat) or high fructose corn syrup.”

The second thing I noticed was the number of vegetarian, vegan and non-dairy options alongside the standard ham, chicken or tuna.

“Yup, I’m sold”, I said.
Delicomb, Jacksonville Beach, Florida
In beach attire and flip flops, we rode our bikes over to Delicomb, before hitting the beach.  I was welcomed with an inviting storefront off 3rd street. 

Delicomb Delicatessen and Espresso Bar, Jacksonville Beach, Florida

The diminutive interior is super casual, eclectic and fun. The have four or five tables inside and two rounds outside – perfect to bring kids and pets.
Eating area at Delicomb, Jacksonville Beach, Florida

One look at the deli counter with a chickpea dish and handmade Kimchi in jars I knew I was in the right place.
Delicomb, Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Oh my, what to get, what to get…..
Should I get breakfast, a sandwich or salad? All of these caught my eye….

Bittersweet Salad
Spinach, veggies, sprouted mung beans, & lentils, raw pumpkin seeds, avocado, dried cranberries w/ honey lime vinaigrette – $8.95
Add tempeh (or chicken) – $3

Vegan Wrap
Hummus, avocado, tomato, carrots, alfalfa & crunchy sprouts, miso sesame dressing in a while wheat wrap – $8.25
Add tempeh (or chicken) - $3

Rolled Oats and Honey
w/ fresh fruit and soy, almond or whole milk
sm – $4.95 lg – $6.95

Well, I knew at least the rolled oats and honey is what I’d be getting my daughter. She is allergic to both dairy and soy, however, lately seems to be tolerating soy a bit better so we went with that.


Then I looked up and saw this…..
Thai Bagel
Peanut butter, cucumber, red onion, chili flakes and honey – $4.95

Ooo….sweet, salty and spicy.  I’d found my breakfast!  I ordered the Thai bagel on a sesame bagel.
Thai Bagel, Delicomb, Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Between a large coffee with soy milk and Thai bagel for me, egg sandwich with bacon for hubby and the small rolled oats for my daughter, we made it out with only an $18 tab.  Unheard of!
The pleasant wait staff brought the food out to our table on mismatched dishes adding an element of fun.
I was in love!  They used real peanut butter – I’m not talking Jiff or Skippy here – real peanut butter with simply peanuts and salt.  To top that was fresh, cool cucumber and aromatic red onion, a kick of chili pepper and some sweet honey.  The sesame bagel was perfect, adding a distinct nutty flavor.

 

Thai Bagel, Delicomb, Jacksonville Beach, Florida


My daughter’s rolled oats came topped with tons of fresh berries and cranberries.  They left the rolled oats raw – adding some nice texture.  The portion size was huge for the small I ordered so what she didn’t finish we poured into a cup and enjoyed on the beach – the oats soaking in some of the milk and making a perfect afternoon snack.


Rolled Oats with Soy Milk, Fruit and Honey

 

Justine ordered the latte – Wow! Need I say more?

Justine with her Latte at Delicomb, Jacksonville Beach, Florida

My bagel was so good I went back in to tell the chefs what a great job they did and ask who created the dish.  I was told that a regular customer suggested it, (and they were smart enough to put it on the menu.)
We will definitely be going back to visit!

Delicomb

Delicatessen and Espresso Bar
Breakfast and Lunch
Artisan Kimchi

7 to 4
Tuesday – Sunday
Closed Monday
1131 3rd St N
(A1A @ 11th Ave N)
Jax Beach, FL 32250
904-372-4192


Thai Breakfast Sandwich

Inspired by Delicomb’s Thai Bagel
Vegetarian
(To make vegan, try agave instead of honey, and for gluten free, use gluten free bread.)
Serves 1-2
Printable Recipe

Ingredients

2 sliced sesame Ezekiel bread (or for gluten free use gluten free bread)
2 Tbsp natural peanut butter
1/4 to 1/3 cucumber, sliced
2 slices red onion
1/2 Tbsp local honey (or for vegan use agave)
Pinch of chili flakes

Directions

1. Toast bread, top bottom slice with peanut butter through chili flakes; cut in half and share one with a friend or enjoy yourself for a heartier meal.

Nutrition Facts
2 Servings
Amount Per Serving

Calories 195.3
Total Fat 8.5 g
Saturated Fat 0.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 78.2 mg
Potassium 112.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate 22.8 g
Dietary Fiber 3.2 g
Sugars 4.3 g
Protein 8.2 g

Vitamin A 0.6 %
Vitamin B-12 0.0 %
Vitamin B-6 4.7 %
Vitamin C 1.9 %
Vitamin D 0.0 %
Vitamin E 0.1 %
Calcium 0.4 %
Copper 0.5 %
Folate 0.8 %
Iron 4.4 %
Magnesium 6.6 %
Manganese 1.2 %
Niacin 6.2 %
Pantothenic Acid 0.3 %
Phosphorus 8.5 %
Riboflavin 2.4 %
Selenium 0.1 %
Thiamin 8.4 %
Zinc 4.3 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Delicomb Delicatessen & Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

Aug 142012
 
Casa Monica Hotel, St Augustine, Photo Courtesy of the zimmerman agency

St Augustine is the nation’s oldest city –established in 1565 by Spanish explorer Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles. The Casa Monica is St Augustine’s only AAA Four Diamond resort with an almost 125 year history dating back to when the hotel first opened its doors in January of 1888. The hotel was built by Franklin W Smith who later sold the hotel to Henry Flagler for $325, 000 – who named it Hotel Cordova. He later closed its doors in 1932 and later sold it in 1962 for $250,000 where is served as county courthouse for over 30 years until being purchased by Richard Kessler in 1997. Kessler made 10 million dollars in renovations and re-opened the hotel in 1999. As it stands today, it features 138 Spanish-style guest rooms and a unique dining experience at their signature restaurant, 95 Cordova, featuring an eclectic, seasonally-inspired menu.

Main Lobby, Casa Monica Hotel, St Augustine, Photo Courtesy of the zimmerman agency

Chris and I had the privilege of attending their media dinner to taste and review their summer menu as well as a stay overnight in the luxurious hotel.

We have stayed at the Casa Monica many times in the past, but this room was the best!

Our room at the Casa Monica Hotel, St Augustine

After arriving at the hotel and settling into our room, our first stop for the event was the reception/cocktail hour at the Grand Bohemian Art Gallery to meet the group that included the organizer’s of the event, Nicole and Mycah from the zimmermn agency  - the Casa Monica’s PR firm, the General Manager of the Casa Monica, Anthony Lazzara and other bloggers and media from the local area – Jacksonville Magazine, George Singeltary from examiner.com, Jacksonville Wine Guide, Nancy White from Nourish The BeastAllie Olsen form Simply St Augustine and Jessica from First Bite.

 
After a cocktail or two and a browse around the gallery we walked back to the lobby for a guided tour from Anthony – he discussed the rich history of the Casa Monica Hotel, Kessler’s extensive art collection and attention to detail in the decor.

 

All the details on the archways in the Casa Monica are stenciled by hand
Each of the 138 rooms in the Casa Monica are unique. This particular one was a two story suite.
Hand painted gold leaf details
at the Casa Monica Hotel

After our tour was complete we migrated to a private room in the beautiful dining room to begin our meal – complete with wine pairings for each course.
95 Cordova, Photo Courtesy of the zimmerman agency




Executive Chef Harlan Walden and Executive Sous Chef Tim Haire speaking about their menu selections

**Before I get started – I notated what I thought was gluten free, vegan or vegetarian. If you have food allergies, always check with your server to ensure there are no hidden allergens.

Ceretto Moscato di Asti

Appetizer
The Kessler Calamari is a favorite on the menu at 95 Cordova and I could see why – it was perfectly crispy with fresh cilantro, olives and a Moroccan aioli that blend together to form a perfect medley of flavor and texture.


Kessler Calamari

Course I

For the first course I received a tuna tartare. The fish was soft and mild with aromatic cilantro and creamy avocado. On the side was a few dabs of spicy sriracha.  I would definitely order this option if it were on the regular menu. 
Gluten Free
Tuna Tartare
 The first course was accompanied by a Ceretto Moscato di Asti with Chamboard added in.  I thought that was a fun mix of flavors – sweet and rich.
Ceretto Moscato di Asti with Chamboard

Their fresh bread is typically accompanied by butter with sea salt – so the accommodating the wait staff brought out some thick, sweet-tart balsamic reduction and basil oil for me. I do believe everyone was eyeing my serving in jealousy.
The balsamic reduction and oil is vegan and gluten free options but the bread may have eggs and/or dairy.
Fresh bread with balsamic reduction
While I enjoyed the tuna, the rest of the group tasted a crispy seared duck breast with blackberry compote.  The presentation was lovely and I like the idea of a crispy, rich protein with the sweet blackberry sauce.  I’d love to recreate the textures and flavors in a vegan dish.
Chris’s seared duck breast with blackberry compote and crispy Yukon gold hash

Course II
This pineapple, cucumber and fresh cilantro salad was a refreshing and simple - a nice break between the heavier protein based dishes. (And a great reminder that simple can be delicious.)
Vegan and Gluten Free
Pineapple cucumber salad with cilantro

Course III
The third course was a summery and fun watermelon granita with sea salt – reminiscent of the hot days of childhood with sweet watermelon, enhanced only by a sprinkle of salt.
Vegan and Gluten free
Watermelon granita with sea salt

Course IV
Two meaty sea scallops crusted with coriander over a bed of smooth and filling, whipped black beans and a bright, clean corn salsa with cilantro.  I LOVED this dish – each flavor shone through and complemented the next.
For a vegan and gluten free option – ask for the black beans, salsa and cilantro only and forgo the scallops.
Coriander crusted sea scallops with whipped black beans, roasted corn salsa, citrus chili aioli and cilantro oil

Course V
Pork Osso Bucco was the dish served to the rest of the group.  It was accompanied by truffled sweet mashed potatoes, roasted brussels and parsnips.
My fellow diners gave this dish rave reviews – it was my husband Chris’s favorite of the night.
Chris’s braised pork osso bucco with truffled sweet mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts and parsnips

I was served a seafood pasta dish with fresh peas, arugula and sun dried tomatoes.
For a vegetarian option ask ask to hold the seafood, there may be eggs in the pasta.  If you are vegan, ask your server for options.
My seafood pasta with fresh peas, sun dried tomato and arugula



Chris’s Earl Grey panna cotta with tea cookie and fresh berries
Dessert
For the grand finale I got a fruit compote with mint and tea cookies – a light ending to a fairy tale meal.
Overall, the meal and atmosphere were both perfect for a special occasion, yet simple enough for a weeknight meal. I could see myself ordering the pineapple and cucumber salad with the scallop dish on a regular occasion. It was hard to pick a favorite, as each was delicious in its own way – but if I had to pick one it would be the tuna. It was a large portion and I loved the texture and citrus-avocado flavor.
After dinner, Chris and I wanted to walk off some of the meal so we hit the town, visiting A1A Ale Works, Scarlett O’Hara’s and Cellar 6.
Chris and Me at Cellar 6, St Augustine
The next morning I was up early as usual, so I made a fresh batch of the Starbucks coffee offered in the room and walked out to relax in the hot tub….
Up the next morning at the pool.

….and take a dip in the pool.
MANY thanks to the Casa Monica Hotel, 95 Cordova and the zimmerman agency for putting this event together.  Until next time….

95 Cordova on Urbanspoon

 Posted by at 12:16 am
May 292012
 

I just returned from a relaxing Keys vacation and came back with a Slow Food Restaurant find in Key West!

We stayed at the Islander Resort in Islamorada….our favorite place to stay as the grounds are beautiful and they have kitchenettes which is great for people with families or anyone who would like to save a little money on eating out every meal.

Hotel View in Islamorada

The first night we watched the sunset and ate at Lorelei-a great restaurant right across the street…we rode our bikes everywhere!

Anthony and Courtney
View at Lorelei

At Lorelei, Islamorada
Double Rainbow Viewed from Lorelei, Islamorada
Theater of the Sea

Dolphin Show at Theater of the Sea

Heading into Butterfly Conservatory, Key West
My was practicing her photography skills.
Courtney caught a butterfly!

I. Love. This. Concept.
An old gas station – turned natural foods market and cafe with a raised garden outdoor seating area.
I do think we need one of these in Jacksonville.
I found help yourself by googling “Slow Food Key West”.
Slow Food Key West – Help Yourself
help yourself cafe



Indian Summer Salad – Creamy Mix of Chickpeas, Quinoa, Carrots, Raisins, Onion with Indian Spices Over Mixed Greens with House Vinaigrette
This salad…..oh my gosh.  Protein rich with chickpeas, quinoa and nuts, lots of fresh veggies and Indian spices-I loved the weight and mix of flavors.

help yourself cafe -almost everything can be made gluten free
They made my daughter a GF chicken wrap with lettuce and apples.

help yourself cafe has a vegan lasagna with layers of zucchini.  Next time I’ll be trying that!
Some of the info that really resonated with me is that they use all whole grains, no GMO, no dairy (coconut is the alternative), fresh juices and everything is prepared from scratch. Can you see why this was my kind of place?
That night we ate at Morada Bay – my favorite in Islamorada!
Morada Bay in Islamorada
 Monday, while everyone else was driving back up in traffic I could beat on a bike, we hit the pool and did some shopping.
There is an outdoor world there wish a really cool fish tank.

The last night there we ate at Islamorada Fish Company.  Our waiter was very nice and the view was gorgeous but the food was ok.  I asked if they make their on dressing and they said no.  That is my telltale way to tell the freshness and quality of the food.

Islamorada Fish Company

View from Islamorada Fish Company

 Posted by at 9:34 pm