Monday, November 18, 2013

St. Augustine, Florida

This weekend I spent several days in St. Augustine, Florida, visiting Terry and sightseeing while—of course—exploring as many restaurants as possible.

Terry has had a rough work schedule since leaving LA in late October, and we weren’t totally sure that he would have much time off to spend with me. But we figured even a few hours per night would be better than nothing, so I flew out on Thursday and he picked me up from the Jacksonville Airport.

Our first meal was at A1A Ale Works, a spot Terry had visited with his coworkers a few times and recommended. We shared the crab and artichoke dip, which was delicious but filling for only two people. For dinner I ordered the Kobe Burger; unfortunately, my order was switched with someone else’s and the burger was too well done, but the waitress was kind enough to bring me a new one that was cooked perfectly. The burger itself wasn’t anything to write home about, though. Terry had the lobster pot pie, which we both liked better, and Terry said that overall the seafood he and his coworkers had tried was tasty, so I would go with a seafood item next time. We spent the rest of the evening walking around downtown and stopped at FudgeBuckets for Blue Bell ice cream. The ladies seemed so sweet and offered us samples, which sold me on a scoop of the coconut. Terry got the pumpkin pecan, which I believe had a swirl of caramel. Both tasted great, a perfect way to end the night.

On Friday, Terry had to work, so I took my time getting ready for the day and spent the morning hanging out, shopping a bit, and bringing lunch to Terry and his team. I picked up lunch from Panera, which was good but not great (to be fair, though, mine was pretty cold by the time I got around to eating it). When Terry finally got off work late that evening, we opted for The Mellow Mushroom, a pizza and sandwiches place, for dinner. We shared a pizza (half veggie and half “mighty meaty” I think) and some bruschetta, both of which hit the spot. The beer selection was decent, too, so we would recommend it as a fun, low-key lunch or dinner spot. We did order dessert, the cookie with ice cream, but when you’ve had a Pizookie at BJ’s pretty much nothing else similar can compare, so I’d skip it next time.

Saturday Terry headed to work again, but we actually woke up early for a quick workout, just 30 minutes running and walking on the treadmill. After two days off, it just felt good to sweat a little, and the hotel’s little gym did the trick since the rain prevented us from going outside. I drove Terry to work and spend the morning at Panera again, writing letters of rec for former students. I munched on the Asiago, egg, and bacon bagel, which was seriously delicious. What is it about breakfast sandwiches? They’re SO good! I spent the afternoon lounging around, relaxing, and reading this Finding Colin Firth book by Mia March. It was cute and an easy read, but one of the main characters bakes a ton of pies and it made me hungry every few pages. Ah, the hazards of reading.

Saturday night turned out to be really fun. Terry found a local bowling alley, and we played two games. Any bowling is fun in my book, so we had a great time, but I was shocked to learn that this place doesn’t allow adults to use “light” balls—meaning anything under 10 pounds. What?! I usually bowl with an 8-lb. ball, and I was so embarrassed to find that apparently those are reserved for twelve-year-olds. So much for all that strength training; I kept losing my grip and dropping the ball early. Needless to say, it wasn’t my best game, but we still had fun. For dinner, we headed back to downtown for Hooked on Harry’s, a seafood place. The outdoor patio has a really lovely ambiance with a canopy of palm trees that reminded me of our Turks & Caicosdinner at Coco Bistro, but we opted for the shorter wait to sit inside. I ordered the bourbon-glazed salmon with fries and vegetables (the sides left much to be desired, but the salmon was absolutely perfect), and Terry went with the Cajun-spiced tilapia, smashed potatoes, and collared greens, all of which he loved (I especially liked his smashed potatoes). Terry’s been to Harry’s a few times, so we give it an overall thumbs up.

On Sunday, Terry got word that he would have the whole day off! I practically cried at the news, and we really took advantage of the day. Despite the traffic from the St. Augustine Half-Marathon, we headed into downtown for breakfast at the Sandcastle Café, owned by the same group that owns Fudge Buckets, our little dessert place from the other night. The wait staff was unbelievably sweet, and we loved seeing runners come in, all exhausted from their race. I had the veggie omelet and Terry had the crab cake eggs benedict; we loved them both. The portions were perfect and the prices very fair.

We wandered around downtown some more, venturing around the outside of the local fort. St. Augustine has an interesting history because it was the first official city in America, colonized first by Spain and then by Great Britain. We even got to watch a canon fire! We skipped the paid tour inside the fort, but it was interesting just to check out the grounds and the bay. It turned out to be a hot morning, so we stopped for a popsicle at The Hyppo, which specializes in unique popsicles. We shared the blackberry cheesecake—oh, man, talk around refreshing and delicious! The flavors were incredible together, perfect for a warm morning.

Next up, since we weren’t sure until about this point that Terry would have the day off, I suggested we work up an appetite for our lunch with a workout. The truth is, even though he does a great job of trying to exercise while on these trips, Terry’s schedule is often so demanding that waking up early or working out after work is just too exhausting. So I figured squeezing in two workouts while I was there would benefit both of us, and we just completed Tina’s quick 30-minute 10sand 50s Bodyweight Workout, a fantastic option for travelers (instead of inverted rows, since we didn’t have the equipment, we did dips, which I realize work triceps instead of biceps, but oh well). It wasn’t too bad, and after a quick shower we were back on the road for lunch at Burrito Works, recommended by PeanutButter Fingers, who lives in Florida. This place was mighty tasty! We are pretty picky about our Mexican food, coming from Southern California, but Burrito Works did not disappoint. Terry got the UFO (essentially a burrito in a pocket and then grilled) and I went with the burrito bowl, both with carnitas. We loved it all! Terry said he can’t wait to go back with his coworkers.

Next up: a quick round of mini-golf at Fiesta Falls Mini Golf, which was so fun. I was impressed by the variety in the different holes (you get to putt on a little ship!), and I even got a hole in one. Dad, are you proud? 

We also checked out the St. Augustine Lighthouse, which was surprisingly fun and informative. We climbed all 219 steps to the top and loved following the self-guided tour. I recommend it!

Finally, we headed back to downtown one last time for an evening of window shopping, a beer at a local bar, and dinner, this time at The Floridian. Guys, we need to have a serious talk about this dinner. Honestly, if you live or travel within 60 minutes of St. Augustine, it would be well worth your time and gas money to find a way to get to this place for a meal. We absolutely loved everything about it, and we overheard our fellow diners raving about their meals, too. The menu is fairly limited, but they clearly execute all the meals very well, so you can’t go wrong. Terry ordered an amber beer, which perfectly complemented his BBQ pulled pork and waffles. Yes, my friends, that’s right: pork and waffles. I had heard of (and love) fried chicken with waffles, but the smoky flavor of the tender pork, baked apples, crunchy pecans, and buttermilk waffles all worked together wonderfully. He devoured the entire thing (I think I had to warn him to slow down at one point—mostly because I wanted another bite). For my meal, I chose the Seafood Zucchini Linguini, and I’m going to dream about that meal for years to come. It normally comes with shrimp and clams, but I’m not a clam girl, so they happily subbed in all shrimp. Perfectly cooked and delightfully flavorful local shrimp. And lots of it, too! I had leftovers, and there were at least ten shrimp still in there. Instead of pasta, they use zucchini “noodles”, finely julienned to absorb all the flavor from the broth of garlic, butter, white wine, and magic. The cherry tomatoes absorbed all that flavor, too, as did the two pieces of garlic toast on the side. I told Terry that each bite kept getting better and literally could not stop myself from eating more, even when I was full. No photos--it was too dark--but they wouldn't have done these meals justice anyway.

Have I convinced you to go to The Floridian, yet? No? Well, the lovely outdoor patio is also lovely, right beside a quiet street in downtown, very Southern and charming. And the wait staff could not have been more polite or accommodating. Ben was our server, and I felt like we should be friends (that could have been the effect of the delicious meal he served me, but who’s to say?). So you should go. And let me know what you try, because I wish I could have ordered everything on that menu.

We ended our night with another stop at The Hyppo for popsicles—dark chocolate sea salt for Terry and chocolate cheesecake for me—because apparently one isn’t enough for one day. This morning Terry dropped me off at the airport, and now I’m in Nashville awaiting my next flight. Here’s hoping the 30-minute delay doesn’t get worse!

We had a great time in St. Augustine. I suppose that’s the silver lining of Terry’s crazy long work trips—we get to see places we likely wouldn’t have traveled to on our own, like NiagaraFalls and Toronto. Of course, I’d rather have him home, but at least we  had a good time!

1 comment:

  1. We went up to jacksonville beach for a weekend awhile back and both decided we HAVE to go to St Augustine! Thanks for some ideas!