Archive for the ‘St. Augustine’ category

St. Augustine Vacation

July 19th, 2011

Another Summer vacation is behind us. Each year we make a trek to St. Augustine, Florida so Mrs. Nashveggie can veg-out on the beach. It’s her one annual requirement.  Sand, the sound of waves and a book pacifies her.  St. Augustine is the city she went to college in and where she lived when we first began dating so returning there is based on the fact we know the area quite well. That and the fact there’s a beach. The beach is important if I didn’t emphasize that enough already. We like the fact the beaches aren’t overrun with nutty families with coolers in tow and it is highly preferred over the Redneck Riviera which so many from this area attack every year. You know where I’m talking about, that strip of beach that runs from Mobile, Alabama to an area just east of Panama City Beach, Florida and where you’ll find every beer-gut, Budweiser-swilling, SUV-driving, camouflage-bikini wearing redneck in a 500 mile radius. Yes, the Redneck Riviera, not what this post is about nor where you’ll find me. As I said, we head to St. Augustine on the East coast of Florida where the beaches are clean and relatively free of crowds if you know where to look. We have our own little beach few know about or at least few choose to go there and that makes us all the happier.

St. Augustine has a few places to find a vegan lunch. I’ve written on them before and the choices have not changed. If you’re looking for a big vegan dinner you’re best moving up the road to Jacksonville or south to Daytona as the choices aren’t the widest in St. Augustine. You could try The Perfect Moment, a raw vegan cafe serving what I lovingly refer to as “pretty food” but I can give you no pointers on that as it is “pretty food” and I don’t typically partake of that. You could go to The Manatee Cafe, a great vegetarian restaurant that serves mostly things I make easily at home. The do have great vegan breakfasts and sandwiches but we didn’t visit this trip. We did visit Stir It Up, a small walk-up lunch counter serving wraps and smoothies as well as Mango Mango’s where it’s not easy to order vegan off the menu and if you ask for what can be made vegan you’ll still have a slim selection. Mango Mango’s does, however, have a killer Black Bean Soup. I know, soup isn’t exactly what you might want for dinner on a hot, humid beach vacation but it really was exactly what I wanted. The black bean soup was heavy on the jerk seasoning and contained small chunks of one of my favorite fruits, plantain. Mrs. Nashveggie had the Caribbean Mango Island Salad, a mix of greens topped with peppers, oranges, coconut, almonds and mango. The salad looked great and tasted fresh. Heavy on the mango and sweetness. We ate at Mango Mango’s a couple times and had the same each. We also made a few trip to The Spanish Bakery. Cheap lunch awaits! Two fresh bowls of gazpacho, a big hot loaf of bread, six cookies and drinks for $10! Seating is all outside under big shade trees and on a hot day gazpacho is perfect. Most of our time in St. Augustine was spent on the beach as it usually is and meals were relegated to fresh fruit and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

Mango Mangos - Caribbean Mango Island Salad

Mango Mango's - Black Bean Soup

On the drive back we stopped off in Atlanta for a couple of days. My mother-in-law lives there so life wouldn’t be pleasant if we passed through without stopping for a visit. We decided on a new place for lunch, Urban Pl8. I had read good and bad about it but the food always came out good in reviews. Our arrival was during brunch on Sunday about noon. A 40 minute wait and we were seated outside near the small garden where some of the ingredients in this “local food” restaurant are sourced. Looking over the menu and reading between the various Paleo selections and after asking which selections could be veganized I decided on the Vegan Breakfast Plate. It included a pinto bean cake that was just a bit spicy but lacked much else on seasoning or salt leaving it very bland. It was accompanied by braised kale that was very good and maple sweet potatoes which I could have eaten a second serving of. Overall, not a bad meal but something should be done about that pinto bean cake. Dress it up in some flavor-love. Mr’s Nashveggie had the same and my mother-in-law had Lily’s Nut Burger, a patty of walnuts, cashews, brown rice and cheddar cheese topped with sour cream on a whole wheat English muffin. Of course, it’s not vegan but is vegetarian so add that a choice if that’s your way. It was on the small side and I would have needed at least 4 of them to consider it lunch. It was served with a mixed greens salad that was drenched in a very spicy dressing. Again, on the small side but I guess hangovers need small eats for brunch. The Kid had tofu scramble and the same maple sweet potatoes included with the vegan breakfast. The scramble looked very good and had subtle flavor. It contained a mix of red peppers, zucchini and onions and seemed to be cooked in an abundant amount of oil which was served along with in the bottom of the bowl. The food was nothing outstanding and I’ve had worse but the service was really bad. It took 10 minutes to get our drinks after ordering and 20 minutes for a refill of my sweet tea. The Kid’s tofu scramble was served with shredded cheese on top, which was not even mentioned in the description, and was replaced with a fresh dish when we brought it to the server’s attention. I’m not sure on the exact breakdown on the time but we arrived at the restaurant at noon and left after eating, no floundering after finishing, at 3:20. Most of this time was spent waiting for our meals. Everything seems to be prepared fresh when ordered and to order by one cook. The restaurant wasn’t extremely packed. If you do plan on visiting Urban Pl8 be sure to give a good amount of time to get in and out.

Urban Pl8 - Vegan Breakfast

Urban Pl8 - Lily's Nut Burger (Vegetarian, not vegan)

Dinner that evening was on the mother in law’s suggestion. She had decided we should go to Nicola’s. No argument from me, Nicola’s is great. A Turkish restaurant on LaVista, Nicola’s makes anyone feel like family. Everyone is greeted by the owner upon entering and kept entertained by the length of the visit by him and one or all of the staff. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night you’ll be able to enjoy belly dancing. Be ready to be asked to join in. Everyone is and at some point in the night the entire restaurant is on their feet in the center of the dining room dancing to Middle Eastern pop tunes and sloppily belly dancing the best they can. I can only guess I might have better falafel and fried artichokes if I visited a Middle Eastern country and ate them locally. No, I take that back I’m sure these would beat anything I would get if I traveled thousands of miles. This is the absolute best Middle Eastern munchies I’ve ever had and the personal attention you get just adds to the experience.

Nicola's Restaurant - Hommos, Baba Ghanoush, Falafel with vegan sauce, Artichoke Heart, Tabbouleh, Fattoush, Grape Leaves (vegetarian), Spinach Pie (vegetarian)

It’s peach season so we made sure to have enough room in the car on the trip home for extra cargo. If you’ve bought peaches locally you know they’re not cheap. They might seem cheap until you buy a sufficient quantity to do something with then you realize that $1.49 a pound adds up. Grocery stores and local farmers markets are not the place to buy peaches if you’re looking to save money. To do that you find the growers selling their product. Being able to haggle helps, as well. Instead of that $1.49 a pound we got 60 pounds of big, plump, sweet, juicy, delicious smelling peaches for $20. That comes out to about 33 cents a pound. That’s the way to buy peaches! Look soon for a post on various peach concoctions. I’m looking to try something peachy new. Any ideas?

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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.

ritasice

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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Road Trip!

April 14th, 2008

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Tomorrow starts the first day of our trip to St. Augustine.  This isn’t our first trip there, in fact it is where my wife was going to college when we met.   Our last trip there was two years ago and so much had changed then from the time we went before that the year before.  We’ll be packing food for the trip as there is only one or two veggie restaurants in town.  I’m looking forward to taking a needed break from the work here and the other usual goings on.   I’ll also get some time to visit my favorite “thinking spot“.

The trip back will include a stop over in Atlanta for a couple days.  Visits to Trader Joe’s, Ikea and some of our favorite Atlanta veggie joints are in the plans.  Veggieland, Eats and maybe Harmony Chinese.

This means I will be postless here for the next week.   I know, no one will even miss me but I’ll bring back pictures and food stories when I return.

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