Whirlwind that it was, my Florida vacation was almost four weeks ago. It's taken me that long to regroup and get back into the swing of things at work and catch up on other writing responsibilities before I could download over 1,000 photos from my camera and sit to compose this post. I've written it in my mind for a while, mind you.
Palm Coast lies between St. Augustine and Flagler Beach. There are plenty of chain restaurants where one might sup. We ate at Steak n Shake once because we don't have one in our poor, deprived armpit of Appalachia. My Dad and step-mother loved it. Twas there first time there. The service, alas, was negligible. My Dad loved the shoestring french fries. They are the shoestringiest. Yums.
At our swanky condo (always like to make a condor typo because I don't get enough opportunities to type or write about condors since this isn't a bird blog) I cooked twice. Made pizza one night and spaghetti another. Neither were outstanding. I cooked both because they were quick, easy, and they appealed to the sensibilities of my 2.5 year old daughter, Elsa. She's picky and at the age where she wants french fries and chicken nuggets. In a pinch I'll feed her those, but I try to vary her diet. My step-mother is amazed that Elsa loved refried beans. We're doing something right.
Another night we dashed out the door leaving Elsa with her grandparents to escape to a delightful Thai restaurant that we remembered from the year we vacationed at Flagler Beach. So much time has passed that I cannot recall what we ordered. At Thai by Thai we ordered an appetizer special of dumplings and chicken satay. But I didn't get my standard panang curry. Whatever I ordered, I didn't love. That night the grandparents plied Elsa with boxed mac n cheese which she devoured. It's okay with me. For the longest time I worried she was off mac n cheese, which was a childhood staple of mine.
Oh, the day we drove to Daytona to fetch my sister from the airport was also when we dined at Aunt Catfish's. In years' past we ate there and found the food delicious. Not so much this time. My crab cakes were flatter than fritters. Disappointing. Ian's popcorn shrimp though was quite good. Most disappointing of all was the minuscule portion size compared to the price of entrees. Their prices are always high, mind you. The one good thing, and here's my recommendation: Call in and order a half-dozen or a dozen cinnamon rolls. They're worth it. Skip everything else. The cold and hold buffet. Yech.
My favorite meal was at JT's Seafood Shack. Ian and I ate there years ago on the same trip that we ate at the Thai restaurant. Plus, Jennifer at the Spa at Hammock Beach Resort recommended JT's and also Blue at the Topaz at Flagler Beach. I spied a seafood platter as a waitress moved by our table and it's fried goodness looked yummy, but I ended up ordering another fried goodness: the soft-shell crab sandwich because I'm a fool for soft-shell crab and I felt that I hadn't indulged in enough seafood to reflect my Florida tenure.
Oh, the day we spent in St. Augustine we ate at the Columbia. Divine Cuban bread. Ice cold butter. The sangria quenched my thirst on perhaps the hottest day we had there. Freakish cold weather for most of the week, which was great. It rarely reached 80 and no humidity, but the day we spent in St. Augustine it was in the 90s. That was also the day I learned that the rapture was occurring the next day. First thing I heard about it was seeing those folks in their t-shirts handing out pamphlets They did it halfheartedly like they didn't believe it would happen either. Or maybe the heat sapped their religious fervor.
Incidentally, the fact that my father is a semi-fundie Baptist minister who had not alluded to the forthcoming rapture in any of his sermons at all this year publicly--nor had he mentioned it privately to his family--also confirmed for me that the fella predicting its forthcoming was a quack. Quackity-quack.
So I ordered the wrong thing at the Columbia. Usually I get ropa veija. I'm so predictable. I find one dish I like and stick to it. So I tried the Cannelloni de Langosta "Setes Portes." Their description: "A favorite of ours when we visit Barcelona, tender Cannelloni pasta filled with Maine lobster meat, tender shrimp, pan seared scallops and sautéed shallots, blended with a lobster sherry cream reduction, smothered with a lobster sherry Mornay sauce." Oh, it was bland. Not a good choice for me. I rarely like pasta. The idea of lobster sucked me in.
Anyway, even though I was stuffed, I ordered their white chocolate bread pudding. They brought two large pieces. I took it home and ate the second piece the next day for breakfast.
And that was Florida. Next time, we really must stay in St. Augustine proper. We tell ourselves that each time. That's what we meant to do this trip. Somehow we ended up twenty miles or so south of there in Palm Coast. But it was simply lovely. I'd return in a heartbeat.
I'm not one of those persons who wants to dine out each night they vacation. Outlet shopping is not for me. Neither are theme parks, though I wouldn't mind a deep sea fishing excursion or a trip on a catamaran.
Nor does my ideal vacation include dining out each night, unless there are excellent dining experiences to be had. I'd rather shop at the grocer's or farmer's market, or even buy fresh catch from the shrimpers and fisherfolk each day and assemble our meals each night.
Battling tourists and queuing up in lines turns me off. I'd prefer to spend a week on a boat adrift or a desert isle with my family and my dog and maybe a few close friends. Each day we eat good food, play Scrabble, read books, build sandcastles, swim, scuba, sing and play our instruments, have a bonfire, enjoy each others company and build lasting memories together.