Sea & Sky Jax - What a fabulous Florida autumn weekend! I knew it was going to be a significantly large event in Jax Beach, with preparations starting weeks in advance here on the First Coast. And with countless banners on every street corner, reminding us of the festivities any which way in town we looked. Then, as the event finally arrived, I realized, and made my own determination and educated guess, that this was the single biggest event I’ve been able to witness since moving here a few years back.
So many people came to The Beaches community to see all the sights that there was off-site parking, and lots of shuttles moving people all around. In fact, even the off-site parking and shuttle service reached their capacity on Saturday. Everyone had to see this event - and it was definitely worth the trek for those who came from far away.
I have never seen the local community or the beach itself this populated, and that includes on various 4th of July festivities. And Jax, Neptune, and Atlantic Beach sure know how to pull off a festive 4th! 1st Street is always closed off on Independence Day, with an unofficial/official bike parade, and various bounce houses, hoses and sprinklers running, coolers full of fun and cold drinks that everyone shares with their neighbors, and front yard parties, galore. And this weekend definitely made me think of the 4th in Jax.
It was the event of events here at the beach, and I’m extremely grateful to have had my very own front seat to all the action - never even having to get in the car once to witness all the excitement. Living in downtown Jax Beach offers many perks, and this was definitely one of the best. And while the show took place both on Saturday and Sunday - living right in the midst of it all offered me a unique perspective.
On Thursday and Friday of this past week, all the various styles of airplanes took many practice runs of the Sky portion of the show. And I must admit that this part of the entire experience was somewhat even more exciting to me than the actual show. I got to see it all, before all the massive crowds of people did… And not knowing what the practice schedule consisted of, I really had no idea what was coming next through the Sky.
Another individual who, for certain, had no idea what was going to happen next, was my dog - Madeline. To her, I think she must have thought that World War III had started and that the literal end of life on Earth had arrived in Jacksonville, Florida. She was absolutely and utterly terrified, and I made the smart decision of keeping her home and inside all weekend. I know we could have had a lost dog if I didn’t do just that.
And at times, the planes roaring through the air at lightning fast speed did sound like it was the end of the world. There were various moments that, due to the cloudy and overcast gray sky, the planes and the smoke they dispersed were camouflaged in to the atmosphere. Add to that, the strange sounds and echoes bouncing off all the buildings as the planes passed overhead, and all this equated to me not knowing where the planes were coming from at any given moment. It definitely was like missiles shooting through the sky. Yes, a war - of pure excitement and thrill - flying overhead.
A mix of some Florida afternoon rain, and then pops of Florida sun - the Blue Angels took to the skies about a half hour late for Saturday’s show. They flew through a massive rainbow shining above the Sea. It was breathtaking to witness, and my iPhone camera would not capture the scene at all, and what it did attempt to capture did not do the rainbow any justice whatsoever. The light and bright and delicate colors floating over the salty water were merely a mirage, and if you blinked, you might miss it.
I’ve never seen more rainbows in my life than I have in the few years I’ve lived here in the land of endless summer - the Sunshine State. And each one is as special as the next; but this rainbow was most stunning and breathtaking with the Blue Angels flying above and through it and coming right at me.
All of the excitement was absolutely and utterly fascinating to watch, and to see it all take place, at home. I could only imagine, myself not knowing too much about these fancy planes at all, what this event means to someone who is in the business, in the military, or flies for hobby etc. And all the little children running around in the sand with their souvenir toy model versions of the Blue Angels, with dreams of piloting these speculator machines when they grow up… young and old alike were equally fascinated by this most exciting of spectacles.
The only thing I know and understand about these planes for certain is that they are awesome. Pure and simple. The entire experience - of witnessing the massive beast of its engine roar, in all its power, flying overhead, in coordination, and so close together it appears from the ground that a mere piece of string could connect the planes quite easily. The dedication, teamwork, the best technology on the planet, all in coordination. All of that at its absolute best, on display for all to see. And it was a free show!
At one point, while my husband was out shooting these photos, he was interviewed by a Youtuber; I found this hilarious. If only we knew, as my hubby of course failed to inquire, which channel interviewed him, I could watch what he said to the internet vlog world about his personal experience with Sea & Sky Jax.
Sadly, Sea & Sky weekend is now over, and won’t be back in Jax Beach for a few more years. The location of this show rotates, and goes to NAS Jax as well.
And now that things are calming down in our household and returning to normal for Madeline and all her fellow dogs in town - she doesn’t quite know or realize that Halloween is next on the agenda this week. It’s a big and chaotic week indeed in the life and mind of a small and sensitive little pooch. But it was a most exciting weekend of weekends for us spectating humans… looking up to the Sky, and out toward the Sea - with our feet in the Sand. ~
[ *Editorial Note: All published photos of Sea & Sky Jax are provided by my hubby - Bryan Pieper of www.BEPREADY.com ]
10/25/2019 0 Comments
Living in Florida, it can be hard to notice the changing of the seasons. I sometimes need to use the drink menu at coffee shops to gauge where we are at on the calendar.
And right now, whether we know it or not, it’s still Autumn.
And besides driving past a set-up pumpkin patch display in front of a local church the other day, the only change I’ve seen in all the weeks since fall has officially started, is with the drink menu offering all those special, seasonal additions at coffee shops and grocery stores. The most famous of those seasonal drinks being, of course, the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks, McDonalds, and Dunkin Donuts (Dunkin makes a delicious pumpkin donut by the way).
The only other seasonal change I notice here is specifically in Orlando - where Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party has been taking place at the Magic Kingdom now - since August… Yes - you read that right - August. Visitors dressed in their Halloween costumes, trick-or-treating down the festively decorated Main Street USA, since the middle of our hot and Endless Summer.
Considering I lost massive weight this past year and am extremely interested and determined to maintain that healthy lifestyle, when all the seasonal pumpkin drinks started to appear on the coffee shop menus, I really wanted to know how many calories are floating around inside those highly-flavored drinks. Well, the news is not so good:
***380 calories for a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks (!)
***310 calories for a medium Pumpkin Spice Latte at McDonald’s (!)
***420 calories for a medium whole milk Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Signature Latte at Dunkin Donuts (!!!)
The amount of calories in just a single one of those drinks is now an entire meals worth of calories for me. I absolutely cannot even imagine drinking that much sweetness at once anymore. So, to help me maintain weight loss, I have been sticking with my usual unsweetened iced tea, or plain, black coffee this season.
It took me a little while, over a year ago now, but I am very used to ‘plain’ drinks now. Just the thought of ordering one of those lattes makes my stomach turn around. It’s definitely a good thing for my overall health that I don’t even really want or desire those drinks anymore, and I have also learned and acquired a few other wonderful and simple ways of feeling and enjoying the scents of fall without all the extra calories that can go along with it.
Below I’ll explain a variety of ways I’m acknowledging and enjoying the change of season while watching my calorie intake. These are just a few simple ways I am enjoying all that the Autumn season has to offer, without gaining weight, maintaining my weight loss, and not overindulging at all.
Specifically, here are six simple ways I’m enjoying Autumn 2019:
Yes, they come first! Because as they say - candles set the mood. And indeed they do. I went out and purchased a few pumpkin scented candles (room sprays work well for this too) and the scent in my home reminds me of all at fall has to offer. I think of hay rides, picking pumpkins, carving those pumpkins, and the scent of homemade pumpkin pie. And the bonus is that breathing in that heavenly scent doesn’t put one extra calorie into my mouth!
And since I’ve personally been staying away from Bath & Body Works for a few years now, I shopped around for the best autumn scented candles I could find. I enjoyed browsing around my local Pier 1, admiring all the adorable seasonal decor. And I purchased two three-wick pumpkin spice candles on sale for ten dollars each. I thought that was a reasonable price and keeps me away from Bath & Body Works where I used to spend too much money. And because I love candles so much, we picked out some autumn-scented candles at Target as well.
2 ~ I Avoid ALL The Seasonal Drinks - ALL THE TIME
This one is a no-brainer for me. For me - myself - and I - I’ve personally been staying absolutely away from all those high-calorie drinks that happen to be advertised everywhere I look.
I stick with my usual drink order. I do NOT indulge in drinks that have calories attached. My usuals are plain water, water with lemon or lime, always ice cold; plus, plain hot coffee, and hot or iced tea. Club soda or sparkling water. Period. Zero calories drinks. I do not indulge in that department. It works for me. It’s become a lifestyle for me and once something is lifestyle it’s easier to maintain. I do recommend trying it out.
Plus, in place of all those high calorie drinks, I purchased myself an Alex & Ani ‘Pumpkin Spice’ spice bracelet that I’ve had my eye on since last autumn - and I wear it every day. I enjoy IT - and not the extra calories it implies.
3 ~ Get A Real Pumpkin
So simple, right? By purchasing a real pumpkin, which can go for under ten dollars, and small ones, just a couple dollars at the grocery store, you get to enjoy the purest symbol of autumn, every single day. And if you get yours by visiting a pumpkin patch, all the better!
And, pumpkins always look fabulous sitting on the front porch, balcony, or lounging in front of a fireplace mantel.
Plus, you can turn the pumpkin into a project by then painting it or carving it out.
4 ~ Bake Pumpkin Seeds At Home
After we purchase our chosen pumpkin and enjoy the sight of it, on Halloween we carve the pumpkin and scoop it out. Then we bake the seeds in the oven. I always enjoy the scent that is released when carving open the pumpkin… Always so fresh, and smells like a pumpkin patch.
I first clean and rinse the seeds, then lay them on a baking sheet on top of non-stick foil with some sea salt sprinkled on top, and bake the pumpkin seeds in the oven. After they are finished being toasted, the seeds have a taste that cannot be replicated by any store-bought seeds. There is always something most refreshing about toasting the seeds on my own. It tastes better, fresher, and it really is. Plus, pumpkin seeds are one of those autumn delights that are very healthy! No weight gain on this one - in fact, eating nuts and seeds is a fantastic way of maintaining my weight loss.
5 ~ Eat the Seasonal Chicken Pot Pie - Just NOT The One Costco Sells
With fall comes an abundance of warm and seasonal recipes, like chili… and chicken pot pie. Every autumn I used to look forward to the seasonal changes at Costco by picking up one of their chicken pot pies. We would cook it for dinner and use the leftovers for lunches and dinners throughout the week. But most store-bought chicken pot pies, including Costco’s extremely large pie, are loaded with tons of calories that I do not need or intake anymore after weight loss. The chicken may be healthy, the veggies inside the pie may also be healthy - but the rest of that pie is definitely NOT healthy. And at 525 calories per ⅙ slice, the pie is extremely high in calories.
So, I’ve decided that with fall, I can still enjoy the seasonal meal of chicken pot pie. I’m just NOT purchasing the Costco version. I don’t need to give up the food. I just need to enjoy it in a more healthy manner. I’m also staying away from the easy-bake Marie Callender's version - which has a whopping 600 calories - in the smaller version!
Instead, on a busy week, we now grab Blake’s Pot Pie. It’s in the freezer section, has 370 calories per pie, and tastes just as good as any other store-bought version. I serve it with a side of steamed green beans, and an easy, healthy, and low-calorie dinner is ready in a flash.
I haven’t had the time this season to make a healthy and homemade version though, so if you have a chicken pot pie recipe that you make I’d absolutely love for you to share it with me in the comments below - please!
6 ~ Indulge - Without Overindulging
Yes, I still eat the pie. I just don’t eat ALL the pie. We bought a pumpkin pie two times this season from the local Winn Dixie. I can enjoy a slice, or two, even including whip cream on the side. But I don’t eat pie all the time, and don’t worry at all if we don’t finish the whole pie before it goes bad. And yes, I absolutely have thrown out the leftover pie, and more than once. I’m not ashamed.
I try not to waste food, but a part of weight loss and weight maintenance is knowing that some food WILL GO TO WASTE. I freeze what I can, I portion out for other meals what I can, I plan ahead like crazy. But there are still some times that food will be thrown away. And part of this pumpkin pie that we purchased did make it to the garbage can. Without my feeling any guilt or feeling bad that food was wasted. If you are looking to lose weight, or to maintain massive weight loss like I am maintaining, you will likely run into having to throw some food away. I have accepted this and do the very best I can not to, but with treats it does happen.
I have learned how to indulge - without overindulging. That means some food waste, some times. Part of my weight loss is allowing myself to continue to have all the treats that I love. In moderation. How can I let autumn pass me by without a piece or two of pumpkin pie? I can’t. I have to be able to eat the “normal” seasonal foods that I love without overindulging. Without - missing out. As they say, yes - everything in moderation.
Although, as I mentioned above, I do not drink all the fancy and high-calorie coffee drinks anymore. The difference there is lifestyle. I have removed any and all high calorie drinks from my entire lifestyle. So I am used to not having them anymore. To the point that the thought makes me ill just thinking about having one of them. I have very successfully removed those drinks from my life. That’s a choice I made. But I love desserts and treats too much to give them up entirely. I WILL continue to eat desserts - a choice by me to keep them IN my lifestyle. Desserts and treats remain. Which is why I moderate, and why I still eat pumpkin pie, and why I am ok with and understand that some of that dessert will end up in the garbage.
And yes, as the saying goes... “Better in the trash, than sitting on my *ss.”
Here are a few other ways I’m enjoying the season…
So even though I don’t drink all those amazingly fun and delicious autumn-themed drinks anymore, I do watch for their arrival onto the menu each autumn as a way to gauge what season I am currently living in. And then, I go about my usual routine. Adding in the flavors of fall in a very healthy, and very sustainable way. ~
“If you feed them they will come.” As well as, “First feed your soul.” These are some of the wooden signs adorning the walls of Beach Diner in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. And what an absolutely adorable little diner it truly is.
Beach Diner is a local small business in the greater Jacksonville area. In my opinion the diner is a wonderful mix of greasy spoon, cafe, and a beachy bistro too. There are five locations in various local Beaches communities. I’ve been to three of them so far - and my goal is to try all five within the near future. The five diners are located in Atlantic Beach, San Marco, Fernandina Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach, and Mandarin.
Each Beach Diner that I’ve been (Atlantic Beach, San Marco - and now for today’s review - Ponte Vedra Beach) has a fun, eclectic, and of course, beachy vibe.
The diners are set up offering patrons various styles of seating. Traditional counter style diner service is at the front of the diner in Ponte Vedra Beach. Booths and tables are also throughout, including a lovely, shade-covered patio outside, just off its location on A1A, where dogs are also welcome (bonus!).
White beadboard covers the walls of the diner, with coastal decor and funky, fun, “beachy” paintings adorned on the walls.
I ordered the two egg meal. Served with two scrambled eggs, bacon, and choice of toast - I chose the multi-grain wheat toast, served with butter already on it. The meal also comes with your choice of style of hash browns. So whatever potato you want that day, you can get it.
I highly recommend always ordering their bacon, even a side order if you happen to be ordering something else on the menu. Full of delicious savory flavor and never overcooked, my husband and I can’t replicate it at home if we continually tried.
Service is ALWAYS friendly. A very warm and welcoming environment, indeed. In my opinion, Beach Diner is one of those very special, and very Southern diners - overflowing with quintessential Southern Hospitality.
Some folks stay to have leisurely and slow morning meal and linger over their coffee, while watching the televisions situated above the counter. Jaguars mostly guaranteed to be the channel of choice on the air. Newspapers and laptops, families, and couples. A quick meal or slow, it’s a nice, relaxing outing any time you come for a visit.
Upon leaving, as a bonus on the way out the door, I was able to say hello to a very excited dog sitting politely on the patio. The owner said her dog loves coming to the diner each week to be greeted by all the people coming in and out.
Beach Diner is simply a lovely little local spot in the Beaches community. And next time you’re looking for a breakfast that you don’t have to cook - bacon you don’t have to fry yourself, eggs you don’t have to scramble yourself, and hash browns you don’t have to hash yourselves, get on over to Beach Diner - where you will be reminded to first feed your soul - with some real darn good food. Staff and servers wearing Beach Diner tees or their favorite Jaguars apparel are ready to serve a wonderfully delicious meal to you. ~
*Winner: Bean’s Best Award*
[The 2019 Annual Bean’s Best Pizza in Jax Beach Award]
If you want to sit only mere steps from the oceanfront, and engage in some good quality people watching, lots of dogs included, when in Jax Beach - all you have to do is grab a slice and sit in the window at V Pizza. I’ve never seen so many people, skateboarding with their dogs leading them rolling down the street, than I can see during even just one meal alone, while sitting at the wooden bar-top tables in the large picture windows at V Pizza’s counter service.
I've been coming to V Pizza since I moved to Jax Beach. I’ve ordered to-go, I’ve ordered on the quick service side, and I’ve had dinner in the full-service dining area with the bar and televisions. I’ve brought my family here who live out of state up in the Chicago area. Plus, V Pizza is the regular dining establishment of choice by my husband and I whenever we simply need a quick and easy, guaranteed delicious meal. We’ve tried many of the surrounding other local pizza joints. And I firmly believe V Pizza is the best in town.
And here’s why:
I grew up in the Chicago area - THE FOOD CAPITAL OF THE WORLD.
I was surrounded by good food… ALL. THE. TIME. And I mean some really, darn, good food. Nothing - at all - compares, on the face of this planet, to food in Chicago. And specifically… Chicago pizza.
My whole life I heard people talk about food in Chicago, as if it were special? I always wondered, why does everyone talk about how special the food is? The implication and emphasis not about the type of food being served, the meal, the location, the neighborhood, what kind of restaurant...but just simply that it was “Chicago” food. That’s all that mattered. If it was from Chicago, it was some real good food.
But Chicago’s food was all I ever knew. So when something is so perfect, consistently, all the time, over and over, that’s what one gets used to. Taste buds acclimate to what is familiar to them. And since it was all I knew, I literally thought that all food, everywhere, was just that good. I expected all food to be great. That’s just what food tastes like right?
Well, it took me moving out of state, and eating hundreds upon hundreds of meals outside of Chicago to fully appreciate in all honesty and sincerity how good Chicago food really is. And my life has basically become just as the saying goes…
“You don’t know what you got till it’s gone…” Right?
And gosh, I really didn't know until I left.
When you part ways with Chicago, you part ways with a foodie life that will never again be the same.
As soon as we moved away from that delicious food capital of the world, suddenly, good food was harder to come by. Much harder. Most everywhere we went food was just OK. And after leaving literal perfect food behind - PERFECTION and OK - are really far apart from one another. And very noticeable… immediately noticeable. And that’s not just me talking... it’s my taste buds. They just can’t help it. They been acclimated. All my taste buds ever knew was perfect food. So anything but perfect was now…
Everyone asks me what do I miss about leaving home… my answer is the Chicago food… the pizza.
THE. PIZZA. PERIOD.
Whenever I come back to Illinois for a visit, whether it’s a few days, a week, or a two week visit or longer, every day I need pizza. I can’t get enough of it. And I’ll try as many places as I can. And my mom asks me if I’m sure that I want pizza? She asks - Again???
Yes… of course.
I can go through my entire visit in Illinois and only eat pizza, and I will never tire of it. Because, I know, but most importantly my taste buds know that I will not have that food again for potentially a year. A YEAR? That’s literally like going through food withdrawal; I have to prepare myself for the reality that awaits me. My body, mind, and soul. Yes...I’ll eat again, but it will never be quite the same… as Chicago pizza.
And thus, with every meal in life I now eat, to this day - food is different. Food is not what it once was. I didn’t know what I had until it was gone. And as soon as it went missing, I noticed, fast, and I’ve been mourning my loss ever since.
When we left Illinois, we left the food capital of the world behind, we said goodbye to amazing Chicago pizza; only I didn’t know we were saying goodbye, so I never kissed it on my way out the door. I didn’t know to say goodbye.
A simple head’s up would have been nice. Some forewarning, from anyone, anywhere??? How come no one told me? Are you sure you want to move to Florida and leave all this perfect food? They didn’t tell me because I wouldn’t have believed them. I needed to experience it for myself to believe it, and I would have just laughed.
And I’m still laughing at myself now.
Each pizza restaurant in Chicago has its own ‘specialty’ - what they are known for. You can go to any pizza place in Chicago and the surrounding area suburbs, have the best pizza of your life, and each pizza establishment will taste completely different from one another. Palermo’s has heavenly red sauce, and the best dough you will ever eat, anywhere. Rosati’s has great sausage. Gino’s East has phenomenal deep dish. Lou Malnati’s has the best deep dish buttered crust, worth the wait for the crust alone. And Pizza Lia has the best fresh-frozen pizza on Earth (the handmade dough cannot be replicated by anyone but the owner, my uncle).
Those are only a tiny fraction of pizza establishments in the Chicago area. And most importantly, NOT ONE of them is the same as the other in any way. They are all distinctly different from one another. And that’s what makes each one special.
Chicago pizza is at the top of the pyramid, placed high on a pedestal, deserving of the crown of crowns. When something is rated that high, how can anything match up. It sort of doesn’t. You just can’t beat Chicago pizza. No matter where you go. In my travels and adventures I have learned that much. But if you can’t beat em, join em.
And, I’ll be clear here, it’s not that the food elsewhere is bad… it’s literally just that Chicago has the best food.
Yes, I like the other local surrounding pizza place here. And to be fair, I have not tried every place in town - I don’t believe anyway - but I have tried many, and many much more than once. I love Milano’s, I love Biggie’s, I love D&LP, Al’s, etc.etc.etc. But I REALLY love V Pizza. And, naturally, I have a theory as to why.
V Pizza doesn’t pretend to be something they are not. Their pizza knows exactly who it is and is not ashamed of itself. Their pizza is a proud and unique and distinctly different individual. That individuality and uniqueness is what makes it special. And as a bonus, they offer a variety of other specialty and Italian menu items as well.
V Pizza is consistently fabulous, tasty, and unique - in my Chicago foodie’s opinion. The dough at V Pizza is so tasty, freshly rolled and made in house. The sauce is unique unto itself. And the sausage and meats are high quality, and perfectly seasoned. The cheese is fresh. There is not one part of their pizza that lacks in any way. They don’t overdue it on the cheese, they don’t underdue it on the cheese. And the same goes for the sauce. Each ingredient is the perfect consistency.
And in my experience and many tastings, I firmly believe V Pizza comes the closest I’ve tried thus far, to not replicate any others pizza, but to make their pizza all their very own, and have their own distinct taste and texture and flavor and seasoning, and basically the dough and the entire recipe altogether. And to be proud of it - own it! They own their pizza; they are proud of their pizza. They are not trying to be something they are not. The are being themselves. And THAT is why they win this award.
So, to V Pizza, I hereby declare you the winner of the first ever Bean’s Best Award. Deserving due to your serving of the very best, highest quality, and most unique pizza in the town of Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
And to the rest of y’all… Get out there and grab a slice, or a whole pie, sit down at the counter, and watch all the countless happy doggies, dragging their humans on their skateboards, roll on by… ~
*So, why would anyone leave Chicago if the food is that good? And come down to Florida? Because the sun never sleeps, Endless Summer reigns supreme, and waking up in the morning looks like this...
Yeah, it needed to be this good, to go. And say goodbye to the best pizza on the planet, and hello to the sun. ~~~
I had literally been looking forward to this event all year - The 2019 Annual Jacksonville Beach Vintage Flea Market had finally arrived. This year the event took place on Saturday, October 12th, from 9am-3pm. And, competing for attention, the Jax Beaches Oktoberfest was taking place just down the street a bit - so there was definitely plenty to do in town on this long, three day, holiday weekend.
An open air sunny market complete with all kinds of vendors selling their treasures was an absolutely ideal Saturday morning for me. I grabbed the hubby and brought him along - with the promise of coffee - even though the promise of coffee was for myself too. I remembered last year that Chaunie’s Coffee Truck was at the market, and I had the best iced latte in the entire world while looking at all the various trinkets and furniture and art. But, alas, no coffee vendor this year at the Vintage Market. And I heard that Chaunie’s was over at the Seawalk Pavilion setting up at Oktoberfest this year. So coffee would have to wait for both of us until we were done browsing around.
However, there was a very small snack vendor selling to raise funds on behalf of the Fletcher High School Band. But I do think a coffee truck would have done great business that morning had they been there, as lots of folks had their Starbucks cups in hand while out shopping.
The market takes place up and down the blocks parallel the Beaches Museum. The streets are closed off to traffic and pedestrians are everywhere. We went fairly early just after it started at 9am, and the surrounding parking lots were already full. As we parked, shoppers were walking back to their cars with all kinds of neat finds; some things brand new, and some things very, very old.
I really enjoy that mix of old and new at this market as it provides something for most everyone’s tastes, interests, collections, and budgets. And for anyone with a creative brain, browsing through all the vendors can spur lots of ideas and inspiration. The other benefit of attending this market is its timing - it’s a fabulous place to find some holiday gifts and I was able to check a few items off my list while there.
For myself personally, I took home two very unique and homemade treasures that I know I will cherish forever. I absolutely love pottery and glasses and vases, and have an ever-growing collection in my home. For at least the last two years I had been on the lookout for the most perfect piece for the center of my coffee table. Shop after shop, market after market, over two years, I looked, and I patiently waited. I needed just the right thing, in just the right color. And I do believe it’s always worth the wait. I came upon Sea Le Vie, and it was there that my two year search ended in a flash. Before I even knew the price I said this was it. And my find was literally only $8.00. I have paid a whole lot more for mass-produced, not hand-made, pieces.
Plus, I was also able to speak to the creator. I think she was aware of how excited I was with my find, as she told me that she loves it when someone loves her work enough to take it home with them. I immediately understood her comment, as nothing brings me more joy than when I sell a painting to someone who is truly interested in what I paint; and loves and enjoys the art I create enough to hang it upon a wall in their own home. And her aqua painted glass piece that I purchased is now sitting in my home in front of me on the center of my coffee table - the most perfect piece that I am glad I patiently searched all over for, and ended up finding so close to home.
About half way down the block, and sitting strategically perfect amongst all of the many vendors is the Driftwood gift shop. This place is adorable and no visit to Jax Beach should end without at least a quick stop into this lovely store. Creative and colorful seasonal decor alongside a variety of unique merchandise from local creators on display, there are seemingly endless items to browse through and admire. And if you are looking for actual Driftwood - this is definitely the place to go.
Priced at $25.00, the second item I purchased at the market was a handmade coastal Bethlehem manger scene depicted with oyster shells, to add to my Christmas decor. I have been collecting oyster shells out on the beach since our move to Florida, so these pieces really caught my attention right away.
This type of shell happens to be my absolute most favorite item to collect from the sand. Well, I can’t forget about shark teeth - but those are like finding a needle in a haystack - in three years I have found a total of two. And I do need to give my hubby full credit on both those finds. But collecting unique treasures from the beach has become an utterly enjoyable hobby of mine. I quickly fell in love with the beauty and smoothness and texture of oyster shells and am in the process of collecting enough to make a wreath of them for my front door. So my eyes are always open to hunting out these unique finds; and then when I saw this booth, I was immediately and completely enthralled.
Specifically, the unique manger scenes really caught my eye upon first sight. The manger itself is made from driftwood. Various angels flying overhead, along with Mary and Joseph, are each represented by oyster shells of differing sizes, and set up in various ways and positions. The baby Jesus is represented by a most beautiful pearl, thus becoming the focal point of a breathtaking piece of hand-made, hand-crafted art. Then, the star above in the sky is represented by a starfish, but of course.
And since I was never able to find a just-right and oh-so-perfect manger scene in the past - one that would immediately catch my attention and my heart - I knew this was the piece when it spoke to me most promptly. Perfection - priced at $25.00 - and I could tell straight away they were all handmade with love.
I spoke to the vendor and I was so excited. Naturally I wanted to know if she sold online. She is a local retired school principal, and makes all her creations “just for fun.” And she is not interested in selling online as she doesn’t want it to become “too big of a thing.” Well, she definitely has something going on, and if she ever went online it would definitely become a thing bigger than it is, quickly. I thanked her and her husband for the most wonderful treasure I was able to take home with me that day.
Browsing through the Jax Beach Vintage Flea Market was a very successful and lovely Saturday morning outing. A fabulous way to enjoy a leisurely, peaceful, slow-paced, and local community event, it’s a great way to kick-start any holiday weekend. And you may just walk away with the most perfect trinket or treasure to enjoy for years to come in your home. For myself, I know it was an extraordinary morning adventure, and afterward...we were off to find some coffee. ~
Ohhh, Celebration - such a very unique and yet very uniform town. I have been visiting Celebration since I was pretty young. I’ve loved every visit… since its birth in the 90’s, when people really made fun of its strict strive toward perfection. And I still love to come to Celebration now that the town has grown into a mature adult. And people definitely still do make fun of the town.
And while I’ve traveled there many times, each of those trips were always very short - much more like brief encounters - and not a genuine visit, or stay. I recall a lunch outing, a dinner years ago at the town diner, and a quick ice cream outing, but never an overnight.
I even remember visiting Celebration shortly after getting married. It was Christmas time, and my husband and I were in town at Walt Disney World to see all the holiday decorations. That trip was one of the rare times we had a car with us. We usually always just flew into Orlando, got ourselves to Disney, and then relied on Disney transport for the entire remainder of stay. That lack of a personal vehicle during our Disney vacations meant a lot less freedom of movement around central Florida, or basically anywhere outside of Disney World really. So on that Disney trip surrounding the holidays, with access to a car, I remember the one place we both really wanted to go see was Celebration. We had heard about snow falling on their Main Street and decided it was worth us checking it out.
Being from the Chicago area and managing many inches of snow each winter of our lives, before moving to Florida a few years back, we were naturally very curious to see how snow looked in Florida. Never could I imagine such a sight. We absolutely had to see it.
So there we were, in warm central Florida in December, spectating all of the Celebration holiday festivities at night time, ice cream in hand, and watched the snow fall from the sky. Kids running and screaming with joy. I remember wondering if any of these kids seen snow before? In Florida? Were they locals and this was normal to them, or were they visitors like us? Did the kids know it was all fake snow? Not that the type of snow mattered in the least, I just remember being so amused and intrigued by the sight of it all.
Looking at all the endlessly falling white goop and bubbly substance that was supposed to resemble actual snow reminded me of watching cold, wintry scenes in old black and white Hollywood films from the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. They had sort of a difficult time back then representing snowfall with any realism on the big screen. I love old films, and I always find it comical when snow begins to fall in those movies. A snow “flake” would land on a human - like on top of their coat or in their hair - but then the snow always failed to melt. It was either always a white liquid goo with a bubbly consistency, or, like soap flakes, and almost like a feathery substance. And once that snow landed on whatever it landed on, it just sat there. It sat on the hair of the actor or actress' head just like a feather might. It sat on their coat, or any other clothes the person was wearing. And the snow stayed that way for the remainder of the scene in the film - always amusing me.
That’s exactly what this snow was like that fell in Celebration. It fell, and it stayed. The street was absolutely covered in what was probably some kind of soap bubbles. Tons of it. Liquid white goo was all over the entire closed off street. Hilarious. But to kids, snow is snow. A good time was had by all, that’s for sure. No matter what the snow was made from, it was falling, from above, and that’s all that mattered to the children. What happened after the snow fell was of no concern to the kids. We stood in the snow-covered street, eating our ice cream, and laughed.
It was a very memorable evening. And I’ve not seen snow in Florida since then. Not even at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party where I hear that it snows on Main Street USA during each and every nightly party. And that evening, years ago, during the holidays, was my last encounter with Celebration. It was a genuine good memory, and I’ve always wanted to go back and spend a bit more time there.
So this year when I found out some of my family was going to be traveling from Illinois to Orlando for a vacation, I wanted to make the drive from Jacksonville and meet up with them while they were in town. We would be needing a pet-friendly hotel due to our dog Madeline traveling with us, and something prompted me to look into Celebration.
It turns out, their single hotel in town happened to be pet-friendly. That was my deciding factor. This would allow me to spend some time in Celebration, bring my dog along, of course, and visit family at Disney at the same time. And this would finally grant me the opportunity to spend two solid nights in town - at the Celebration Bohemian Hotel.
We booked our hotel room through Marriott Bon-Voy and signed up for the Marriott Rewards Program as well. Our two nights at the Bohemian offered us a package experience, including a $25.00 resort credit per day of our stay - to use on anything we liked. We ended up using the credit at the lobby lounge one hot afternoon for a cold cocktail, and then for a room service hot breakfast on our first morning. Never, ever, do we spend on room service, so having that credit allowed us to experience something we normally never do. Breakfast was super, and even arrived to our room on trays with those little old-fashioned ketchup bottles made from actual glass. I was ecstatic.
During the two night stay I kept an informal pro-and-con list in my mind regarding my overall experience. When I got back home and analyzed everything, I sensed an overall theme to my visit and I’d like to present you with my summary here. Specifically, I decided upon two positives and two negatives that you may want to take into account while considering and planning your potential visit to the town of Celebration. And since I’m a fan of ending on a positive note if I can help it, I’m going to start with the two con’s from my list; and then we will finish with the two pro’s:
Con #1: Limited Selection - And Only One Hotel In Town
Yep, that’s right, there’s one option. The Celebration Bohemian Hotel is currently the only choice if you want to stay downtown Celebration. However, let’s not forget this town is located directly inside the greater Orlando area, so there are many - practically countless - options just outside of town. But in town, if you want to stay overnight in a hotel, and then walk around outside to the Starbucks down the street for your morning coffee and newspaper without getting into a vehicle, the Bohemian Hotel is THE option.
It’s not a bad option though. It’s a fine hotel for a short visit. Rates were reasonable, and they did not abuse us on the pet fee either, like many places we’ve been to. Our room did not have a refrigerator inside, and I mean even just a simple, tiny mini-fridge. I would say the lack of that amenity was really the only downside to my stay at the Bohemian. I’m not sure if any of the rooms come with refrigerators as an option, but if they do, on my next stay I will most definitely be requesting one. Otherwise, I’ve already decided that next time I just need to bring a cooler in with me and I’ll be just fine for a few nights. I love cold water, and ice, and being without access to a chilled beverage during the night was kind of annoying, but nothing I couldn’t handle being without for two nights.
Other areas of limited selection include coffee shops and gift/souvenir shops, and there were also some things that we were just never able to see. Overall, just not a lot of choice. But I probably should have known that - considering Celebration is quite a small town. There’s a few restaurants and a couple of coffee shops, but obviously nowhere near the hundreds of dining locations one is used to when staying in Disney World or traveling throughout Orlando.
Also, I found out that the town movie theater, one of the main iconic symbols and landmarks of the town, is closed. I remember when I was younger, that the theater was THE PLACE to go, it was the hangout spot for the evening. There were always crowds outside the movie theater. But not this visit. The entire area around the theater was always empty. I must say I was kind of sad to find out that one cannot go see a film while in town, a non-operational theater sitting vacant, and has been for quite some time. Apparently it was a victim of the Great Recession and has never opened back up since. A closed and vacant building at the center of town can really change the vibe. A lot. It just felt like there was a big, empty hole inside the town square area.
While the closed theater was the first thing I noticed, as the vacancy was difficult to miss., I then noticed some vacant window fronts of shops while walking around town. Either Celebration overall hasn’t fully recovered from the last recession, or it’s not as “in demand” of a location as I thought it could be. Maybe leasing space is very expensive too. It was just sad to see so many closed storefronts. We tried to visit the local stores and restaurants when we were there. Starbucks, of all places, kept the best hours, so that’s where we ended up for coffee.
During this stay we also went to Disney Springs for the afternoon, came back to Celebration in the evening, and the town was all quiet. The other night of our stay, upon our return there were tons of people and lots of music and parties at the hotel too. I never knew what to expect.
We also tried to eat at the diner. And it was always closed. I actually gave up trying to eat there, deciding to make no further attempts on that trip as I was disappointed each time. The diner advertises coffee, ice cream, and all kinds of other meals, in print outside on the windows and facade of the exterior. So I tried to get coffee in the morning - closed. We tried to get ice cream in the evening - closed. The diner did an excellent job of appearing to be open though, as more than once we tried to walk in - the lights inside were always on, but they were always either not open yet, or had just recently closed. I guess the diner wasn’t looking for our business. It was not too early in the morning and not too late at night by any means each time we tried. And it was always closed. Hence, the many visits to Starbucks.
I did find an open souvenir shop on my way out of town after checking out of our hotel though. I was finally able to purchase something from the town. I came home with a light green, light cotton, short sleeved tee. There were not many options for men at all in the shop so I wasn’t able to buy the hubby a souvenir... I’m fairly certain he didn’t mind though. Either way, I was glad to go to a local store and buy something from the town.
Con #2: You Will Need/Want A Car
While, arguably, Celebration can be considered part of the “Disney Bubble”, it is also most definitely NOT inside the Disney Bubble. Celebration is located just outside Walt Disney World property. And once one leaves Disney... they do enter the real world again. As I mentioned, Celebration is a REAL town. A living, breathing, working, functioning, real town. A lot of people think it’s part of Disney, which it was at a point in time in the past. But now, it’s a regular town with all the laws and municipal operating systems of any other suburb in the Orlando area. Being that it is a real town, and when one leaves Disney property, the Disney transportation system that so many tourists rely on when they visit Orlando does NOT operate in Celebration. If you want to visit Celebration you will need to drive over there, or Uber, etc. But you cannot take a Disney bus there, even though it happens to be so very close to The Mouse.
And now let’s discuss some positives of visiting Celebration!
Pro #1: Not Far From Walt Disney World
Celebration is literally just a hop, skip, and jump away from Walt Disney World Resort. If you are visiting central Florida, with access to a vehicle, it is worth a drive over to check it out. I would say to come during the day, while you are guaranteed more establishments to be open, and maybe even check hours of operation on Google beforehand on the specific place or places you intend to visit. You can eat at a local restaurant or get some coffee etc,; and you won’t be spending Disney prices on that food and drink either. Plus, sometimes that escape from Disney and Universal pricing can be “priceless” in and of itself.
Pro #2: Peaceful, Non-Hectic Atmosphere
If you are trying to escape Disney for a bit, Celebration will definitely take you away from those rushed crowds. I would definitely recommend a short visit even just for a change of pace if you are on a Disney trip. There are no fast-passes needed to book ride times, and dining reservations don’t need to be made 180 days in advance of your visit. If you just need to slow down some and have a quiet, leisurely afternoon outside of the theme parks, this may be a good place for a rest. Also, I noticed plenty of churches in town too if going to church on vacation is your thing. Either way, whatever you are interested in seeing, the pace is slower than Disney and that can be a good thing indeed.
I know that slow down, or rest, can be pretty vital on a Disney style vacation. Keep up the Disney pace for too long and I have known many a person to get sick on or after their trip, myself included - countless times. In fact, I got sick on vacation so many times that my entire traveling and vacation style has changed because of it. I do not strive to keep a rushed pace anymore while traveling. I am looking and actively seeking peaceful, and maybe slower-paced, yet wonderful outings. I still do Disney, but definitely at my own, leisurely pace. Celebration is and can be that slower pace, and that can definitely be a positive. Sometimes compared to Disney, anything at all can be said to be slower paced. But Celebration does have very limited options so there is not too much craziness or even need to do everything and/or anything during your visit there. And by leaving Disney property, and seeing an area of Orlando outside of all things Mickey Mouse, it can really change one’s perspective, and I believe that change is a good thing.
Celebration is a very unique town that I think anyone who visits it can attest to. The ascetic consists of a lot of uniformity and equality in the design and architecture, and that uniformity is ironically what makes it very different from all other towns. Everything - sort of - looks the same. All the houses and buildings follow the Celebration building style codes, down to the color and style of a buildings exterior. That fact is what people make fun of. The uniformity of the town. I’ve heard Celebration be called “The Truman Show” and the “Stepford Wives” and other such comparisons toward a perfection. For the most part I just ignore those sentiments and come up with my own opinion from my own experience. And while there weren’t too many things to do there, I still had a great time and would come back for sure.
In fact, I’m already actively trying to plan a return visit. My two nights in Celebration were quite wonderful, peaceful, and different than what I was used to while visiting the central Florida area and theme parks. That different perspective is almost always priceless to me, and opens me up to a variety of experiences. Before we even checked out of the hotel, I was already wondering when I would be coming back. Next time my family in Illinois goes to Disney, I’ve already got a most perfect plan in place to meet them, a peaceful place to stay, and some more restaurants to visit as well. And just maybe, if I’m lucky, that goopy, bubbly, and soap flaky snowfall holiday event will be taking place while I’m there. ~
I want to first start off by saying that while I am going to be discussing Intuition Ale Works in Jacksonville, FL, I do not drink any alcohol so I cannot review the beer for you here. I can, however, explain in detail my experience visiting Intuition, to attend a workshop, and I brought my husband along as well so he could enjoy the local beers offered.
I had wanted to visit Intuition Ale Works for some time. Actually, I had heard about the rooftop bar area, with views overlooking downtown Jax, and that was the main reason for my wanting to visit... I never want to miss out on a view if I can help it. And then I happened to come across a painting workshop involving painting an elephant, taking place on a Tuesday evening, and thought, that’s definitely when I’m going to plan my visit to Intuition. Painting, plus views, would be a fabulous night, I thought.
Plus, I love elephants. I firmly believe elephants are the Earth’s Gentle Giants, and very misunderstood creatures. They are family-oriented, have a heart and soul as wild and original as any human soul, and they want to be as free as we are. Any excuse to paint my beloved elephants works for me. So I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend a local ‘Paint N’ Pints, even if I wasn’t going to be having the pints part of the experience myself.
And, I thought I’d bring the hubby along… he could sample the local beers, while I paint. And then, I thought, afterward we can sit outside on the rooftop lounge area together and enjoy the lovely evening that consisted of perfect Florida weather. Well, things didn’t work out exactly as planned, but we did make the most of it ourselves.
After registering for the workshop, I thought I’d look up Intuition’s website ahead of time to check out what type of food and drink was available. The painting workshop began at 6:30pm, running through 8:30pm, and I thought maybe we should plan to eat dinner while there. I wanted to see the menu ahead of time and figure out what type of meal to plan for into my day. Well, the website listed beer only. No mention of any food whatsoever.
So we ended up eating at home ahead of time, then headed out to Intuition. We parked in the free parking lot, which is located in a very industrial area, with views of the Maxwell House headquarters factory just across the way. (I do love coffee and hope to visit the headquarters for a tour someday.) Going inside I noticed the brewery had lots of massive windows open to it and I was hoping to take a tour while we were there. I then discovered tours were not available at the time. That section of the facility was closed off for the evening.
I also noticed right area after entering that there is a food window, to-go style, where customers can order some simple bar foods. As I mentioned, that fact was not on the website, so we had already eaten dinner, and weren’t up for trying anything at the food window. A couple of the people attending the painting workshop with me ordered a basket of boiled peanuts though and they looked quite tasty.
I then decided to order a club soda, to sip during the class, and to purchase something from the establishment, only to find out that beer literally was the entire drink menu. No sodas, or iced teas, etc. or anything else whatsoever. Gahh. So, I asked for an iced water, and was then instructed to go over to the wall to get some water out of the cooler housed under the big menu. No problem, but also, not very attractive.
The workshop was in a room that was set as a private meeting space, with views into the brewery area. And the instructor was local Jacksonville artist Amanda Moon of Amanda Moon Art. She was an exceptional instructor and I highly recommend her to anyone looking to attend a painting workshop. I had a most enjoyable two hours painting my elephant, while my hubby enjoyed the brewery.
This workshop was a rescheduled event that I had signed up for many weeks in advance, and then had to be canceled due to Hurricane Dorian coming through the day of the planned event. There were mandatory evacuations and curfews in place all throughout Jacksonville. And while Dorian ended up missing Jax, thank goodness, all plans during that time were completely canceled. So attendance at the event was quite low for that evening, lower than many such workshops I have attended in the past.
Afterward, I was sooo excited about my elephant! I was ready to take him with me upstairs and outside and enjoy the rest of the night with my husband. That’s when I found out that the rooftop lounge area was closed off all evening to a private event and we were not even allowed to go upstairs and take a peak. I must say I was extremely disappointed by this, and learned a valuable lesson. Maybe I need to call ahead to see if these types of areas will be open to the public before going? But, at the same time I also thought that being a main part of their establishment, that I shouldn’t have had to question its availability while I visit. I must say it was a major turnoff to me, considering the upstairs area was one of the main reasons for my wanting to visit, and it definitely acts partially as a deterrence to me from planning a future outing at Intuition any time soon.
Driving home, I was ecstatic about my painting. It was a very nice outing downtown Jax, and I learned a lot. Even though I’m deterred, I honestly would go back to Intuition, at some point, despite my so-so experience, because I liked the atmosphere and the location. I just would make sure the rooftop was available. And I would bring my own ice water, and keep the rest of my expectations in check. Because despite what is or is not being served and is not available to me that day, I can still have a wonderful outing wherever I am… perspective matters, and my company does too. ~
What a gem of a place! If you are seeking a leisurely evening meal or a relaxing night out in the Jax Beaches area, definitely consider going to Eleven South. Keep in mind that if you’re not aware of its location, you may not even know there’s a restaurant on that block of 11th Avenue.
Named for its address within Jax Beach, just East of A1A, and situated only a couple blocks from the ocean, Eleven South Bistro & Bar is nestled within the coastal neighborhood community. Surrounded by beach cottages, it blends right in to its surroundings. A quick drive by or glance, especially when the restaurant is not open, and it could definitely be mistaken for a home if not paying attention to it.
I had always heard that Eleven South was a locals place, with consistently regular and repeat diners who also bring in their out-of-town guests for a great meal while they are visiting Jax. And after hearing this information through word-of-mouth, and then seeing the quaint little building that houses Eleven South, I immediately thought that it reminded me of a perfect little Supper Club.
When I lived up north in Illinois, I traveled in and through the state of Wisconsin a lot. And my favorite places to dine in the entire state were all the many and countless local Supper Clubs my husband and I would just stumble across during our travels. We could never go wrong with choosing a Supper Club for dinner. We could be anywhere in the entire state of Wisconsin, and as long as we could find a Supper Club, we knew the food would be good.
And these Wisconsin Supper Clubs always gave me the impression they were a very local establishment. Wherever we were the vibe was local and friendly. These were places buried into a community, sitting off on a side road somewhere, most often well off the beaten path, and hard to find. I ate at these places long before GPS on my smartphone could take me there. We had to find them on our own. We would come across them at the end of a long street, buried amongst evergreen trees. And they were the only place around. I remember getting excited when we found one. It was like being a kid playing the license plate bingo game and the excitement of whenever I’d find the state I’d been searching for so long and so hard to find. The needle in the haystack. These were not places along highway rest stops with tired and weary travelers looking for a quick meal and then rush back onto the road. They were places far away from any interstate and filled with locals where everyone knew everyone.
These travels in Wisconsin feel like a very long time ago now, and sometimes I tend to wonder if places like this still exist? And was I really alive ‘so long ago’ that I actually lived without GPS on my phone? Or did technology just advance that quickly? Is there any place left where everyone knows everyone when you walk in? Life is so very fast-paced now, with people always rushing and not taking that extra moment to slow down and talk to each other, in person, as much anymore.
When I went into Eleven South, it was just as had been described and as I imagined. It is a locals place - that welcomes everyone. It was a warm and inviting atmosphere. It is a not-very-noticeable, off-the-beaten-path, not-near-any-highways type of place. And walking in, it definitely made me think that the old-fashioned Supper Clubs of the world still exist.
I had been wanting to try Eleven South since I first noticed it. The only thing that had consistently kept me from going sooner is the parking situation. After my visit there though, I would say do not let the parking situation deter you from enjoying a great meal and a most lovely evening out.
Just a quick glance at the property made me note that there are only a tiny amount of parking spaces. And the tiny parking lot had valet staff and many coned off spaces. That was always the issue that had deterred me from visiting, and the situation that evening was no different than what I had witnessed prior. Not being a fan of paying for parking if I can help it, I had just assumed not to go and choose a different restaurant. But that Friday night was different… we were celebrating a special occasion and I knew I wanted to go somewhere we normally wouldn’t choose. So Eleven South it was for us; and parking would just have to solve itself. We saw the full lot and valet and lots of orange cones and took ourselves out to 3rd Street, parked in the siding, and walked over.
While walking in we spoke with a very friendly and definitely busy valet staff member. He was running back and forth parking cars and talking to us at the same time. He parked a car, and ran, and spoke to us. We walked - he ran - he talked. If my doubts about the parking made me stay away in the past, this very kind human being made me want to walk in. Only since I lived down in the South have I met such friendly people. He was happy and friendly and literally running around doing his job… and did I mention friendly? He explained that they have an agreement with the dentist office close by for the valet to use their parking lot in the evenings. We went on a Friday evening, right when they opened for dinner. And the lots were already full… I was right about the parking, there’s just not a lot of spots at all.
After walking in and toward the hostess stand to the right of me was the bar. It was packed. And they had only opened moments ago at 5pm - we had a 5pm reservation. Everyone was talking and laughing with each other.
Friendly hostesses, servers, and other staff greeted us inside. It was quite a typical hot Florida evening and we chose an indoor table to escape the heat and cool off. We were taken to a very large booth loaded with pillows. I had never eaten in a restaurant ever in my life where this amount of pillows surrounded me. I was quite amused by the sight. And I then proceeded to use every pillow… propping myself up and sitting higher, and leaning back on the pillows. Only once I sat down did I understand why they gave us pillows...the booth was enormous and when I sat I immediately sunk in deep. The pillows were doing their job bringing us back to a normal level even with the table. I was so amused by this.
Our server was very friendly. He explained some delicious sounding specials and also informed us they have a small garden out back where they grow some of what they serve. That fact fascinated me. Locally grown and served restaurant food is also something I think is rare these days. And a gem if one can find it.
We had a long and leisurely evening. I ordered one of the specials - a pork tenderloin dish. My husband ordered a steak and a tomato salad appetizer. I skipped the appetizer. Our server explained to me that dinner takes a while to cook and would I like anything at all while I wait? No thank you I stated, but he was so friendly and nice about everything. We chatted about how we live close by and he said he used to live close by as well, and had liked Eleven South enough at the time that he wanted to get a job there. He genuinely enjoyed his job. And was as happy as the valet was on the way in.
My pork tenderloin was the most flavorful and perfectly seasoned I’ve ever had. Served with roasted brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes, I would so order this again. My husband enjoyed his steak and asparagus. I tried a piece of steak and he tried a piece of the tenderloin. While we both agreed his steak was good, we both also agreed that my dish was absolutely amazing. Get the pork tenderloin on special - you won’t be disappointed.
Then it was time for dessert. I have a thing for desserts. I have a thing for pastries and donuts and cakes and desserts of all kinds. But of all the sweet things made on this earth, I have more than just a thing for creme brûlée. If creme brûlée is on the menu, I’m getting it. If I didn’t plan for creme brûlée I’m still getting it. I love creme brûlée. We ordered the creme brûlée.
We both ordered coffees and they came out to us first. My husband ordered the cafe au lait, and I ordered black. Both drinks were not hot - at all. But if you can tell by now, that single disappointment would not deter me from coming back. If anything, I probably could have just asked if they would warm it for me? Then the dessert came and it was the best I ever had. My mother-in-law always says that the dessert she is currently eating at that very moment is ‘the best I ever ate.’ That is how I felt about this creme brûlée.
As we were paying the check and leaving, I noticed through the window to the outside a few golf carts come driving up into the parking lot waiting in line to have the cart valet parked. I had never seen a golf cart be valet parked once before this night in my entire life, let alone more than one cart waiting to be valeted. I thought yep, definitely a locals place… that I would love to bring my family to when they come for a visit. ~
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