Archive for the ‘Ritas’ category

St. Augustine

April 22nd, 2008

Back from vacation, unpacking and trying to get back into the groove of things at home.   Our vacation was very much needed and relaxing and an opportunity for me to go without any sort of attachment to a computer.   I took no laptop with me, used no public access and stayed Internet-free for a week, quite the accomplishment.  Most of the veggie blogs, or food blogs, post pictures of their eats along the way.  I am not a big food photographer while sitting in a restaurant.   I did manage one picture while in Atlanta, but I will get to that later.

We started our vacation in St. Augustine, Florida.  My wife went to college there and I/we have visited countless times.  There was one vegetarian restaurant in town that we knew of, Manatee Cafe, but we found another while driving around.  The Present Moment Cafe is a raw food restaurant with a small deli located next door.  We visited the deli and looked at the menu of the restaurant but decided to pass.  Prices seemed a little high and it was “pretty food”.   Not to take anything away from The Present Moment Cafe or anyone who enjoys eating artsy food, but I am not into trying to figure out why a chef used this color or that texture to accent my collard greens.   Make the food tasty, put it on a plate and make it enough so that I leave your restaurant full.   Putting a sliver of whatever on a plate, dancing some dribbley sauce around it and sprinkling some fluff about does not dinner make.

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Our first eating out was The Manatee Cafe. This is a basic vegetarian restaurant with a menu of sandwiches, wraps and salads.  They have a great tofu reuben which I have had previously but this morning I wasn’t extremely hungry and went very basic with hash browns and grits.   The hash browns here are actually very chunky-cut potatoes fried crispy with Spike seasoning, nothing special but very tasty.  My wife had the veggie wrap (Tofutti, hummus, carrots, sprouts, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and avocados) with hash browns.   Everything was great and as expected.   No pictures,  it is the “Hey, I like to take a picture of my food so I can remember what I ate.” thing that I can’t get to.

If you ever visit St. Augustine you will go to St. George Street.  With it being the oldest permanently settled city in the US there are many old houses and buildings to be seen and many are along St. George Street, though they have been transformed into modern gift shops and trinket stores.  The oldest school house is on St. George Street but more importantly so is The Spanish Bakery.  No where else can you get some of the best soup a big loaf of fresh baked bread and three VEGAN lemon, cinnamon or almond cookies for $5.   The bakery is a small hut with just enough room for a row of cookies on display and three pots of soup.  Table are outside under large shade trees which are handy on hot, sunny days.  In the summer they have a very good gazpacho, however, they only had a vegetable soup on our visit which was still excellent.

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View sitting outside of The Spanish Bakery on St. George Street.

Our fix for sweet stuff was found at Rita’s, an Italian Ice place on St. Augustine Beach.  Rita’s is a chain located mostly on the east coast but this is the only one we have ever visited, and we do each time we go to St. Augustine.  The have Gelati and custard ice but we always get the vegan Italian Ice option.  Flavors range from tropical punch, black cherry, vanilla, chocolate, pina colada, lemonade and mango.   I think of the three times we went there I had six or seven large ices, I lost count, but the best was the mango.   Cold, sweet and with little bits of mango.  I just looked at their website and noticed locations are coming to Hermitage and Mt. Juliet.

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Most of our time in St. Augustine was planned to be spent on the beach and it was.  Six hours in one day allowed for plenty of digging in the sand and burning of our skin.  While walking around in a few places the smell of shrimp boil hit me.  Not the smell of the shrimp but the combination of spices used to boil the shrimp.   I love the smell and it instantly made me want to boil something in those spices to munch on.  Since getting back I have gotten together all of those spices along with some corn and potatoes that will be boiled and enjoyed on the patio one evening, a post about that will come later.

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Mean people not allowed on St. George Street

Each trip to St. Augustine also gets us to go to a local nursery to pick out some plants that are a bit uncommon here.   I am a bit of a tropical plant enthusiast so you shouldn’t be surprised to see my fruit-bearing orange trees and palms.   I managed to find a Green Saw Palmetto and a Washingtonian Palm that were small enough to fit in the car for the ride back.  We also found a Madagascar Palm and a Longleaf Pine, both which are less uncommon here, for the ride back to be added to our plant family.

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Washingtonian Palm and Green Saw Palmetto

So, to summarize, St. Augustine, good.  Pretty food, bad.  The Manatee Cafe, good.  The Spanish Bakery, good.  Beach, GOOD.

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