Return to South Florida

South Florida has always been known for quality restaurants and drinks. Areas it was unfortunately lacking were for vegetarian food (save for many juice bars) and craft beer spots (partially due to state laws). Since I moved away in early 2014, it has had a sea change, if you will, in veg food and craft beer options. In my recent return to South Florida, I was determined to explore as many of these new options as I could.

I left in January 2014, and both scenes are very different today than that 80 degree day I moved north to the polar vortex Twin Cities. Back then, Darbster and Sublime were the heavy hitters of plant-based food, and Due South and a very recently expanded Funky Buddha were the beer staples. I had some spots I hoped to make it to in my 78 hours I would spend, stretching as far north as Palm Beach Gardens and as far south as Coconut Grove (nearly 90-mile difference, for the uninitiated). Needless to say, I made great use of the time and distance I would be spending in South Florida.

This was my first trip back and it made me realize I need to come back more often. I got to meet up (way too briefly) with a lot of special people, and I brought Aaron to experience the sites and people that were a large part of my adult life, having spent 7.5 years in my late 20s and early 30s there. I left Florida with mixed emotions, knowing it was the right thing to do at the right time, but part of me will always be in that crazy place. As the plane started to land I cried, not knowing what lay ahead that weekend regarding feelings. We grabbed our convertible Mustang and hopped on the toll road into the dark, salty, sticky July air.

Day 1: Friends, Art and Laughs

Wynwood Walls group | Kale and Ale

Our wonderful Miami-Dade hosts Matt and Kim show us some of their favorite spots in Wynwood.

When we arrived in Miami we stayed with my friends Matt and Kim. They showed us around Wynwood, a neighborhood that’s really come up since I left, and their favorite spots in Coconut Grove. I knew Wynwood is an art and brewery destination, but it really must be experienced. It’s full of beautiful murals everywhere you look, art galleries, fun shops with unique items, and good and drink around every corner.

Our first stop was tacos at Coyo Taco, which was a great quick way to fuel up for a long day. They have a few veggie options (I had hongos, so predictable!) and are fast and fresh.

It was fun to explore the Wynwood Walls, a well known area of the neighborhood for art, but there are murals everywhere. On the hot day we would duck into breweries and shops to cool off, including the well-known Panther Coffee where an iced coffee hit the spot.

There are three breweries, and you know I checked them all out, so I can tell you briefly about them (if you want to know more, hit me up on email, social media or the comments below).

J Wakefield Brewing samplers | Kale and Ale

Cheers to vacation, fun breweries and good friends.

J. Wakefield: Consistently a top brewery in the nation, this small space has big flavor beers. Aaron loved the Star Wars theme design, and we all loved the beers.

Concrete Beach: This brewery is all about atmosphere. Decent beers in a great, hopping, hip space, lots of games and cool feel.

Concrete Beach Wynwood | Kale and Ale

Wynwood Brewing: Original, no frills brewery with a large selection of solid beers.

As the afternoon went on, we moved South to Coconut Grove, a cute shopping and restaurant area on the water. Matt and Kim took us to one of our favorite spots, The Lokal. It was busy, so we waited next door at Vicky’s House. The is a bar and dessert shop connected to and owned by The Lokal that is meant to look like the owner’s childhood home. This is a flashback to the 80s, so I remember a lot of the things featured there. I grabbed a beer out of the fridge and headed to the den for some classic NES. See this Eater Miami video of Vicky’s Place.

Once our table is ready, I notice there is a vegetarian section, something that surprised me to see in a restaurant in the Grove. There were house-made veggie burgers and some from local plant-based eatery Atlas Meat-Free Deli. After dinner we walked to the bay, my first view of the water. I love nothing more than feeling and tasting the salty, humid summer night air and hearing the waves. I was in my happy place and knew I couldn’t wait so long to return.

Day 2: Vegan Meals and Quick Visits

From the start, my plans for this day were ambitious, and I left little time to breathe. We headed north and stopped in Hollywood, one of my favorite towns, for lunch. I’m a sucker for it’s old-school beach town vibes. If you are in an area, a walk on the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk and grabbing a gyro or falafel, slice of pizza or ice cream is a must. Today I wanted to try Atlas Meat-Free Deli, a plant-based maker of meats, based in Miami. Previously on the weekends they had a stand at Hollywood’s Yellow Green Farmer’s Market, a large, impressive market with crafts, goods, fresh and prepared foods, and much more. Since the weekend I went, they have moved to North Miami at the southwest corner of NE 1st Ave and 79th St 98 NE 79th St, 33138.

Atlas Meat Free Deli Mac and Cheese | Kale and Ale

Atlas Meat Free Deli mac and cheese

It was so difficult to decide what to get at Atlas, so we took the lead of the person working behind the counter, who o believe is also the owner. Aaron got burnt tips sandwich and I got a burger built to his recommendations, both on a pretzel bun. We had a side of mac and cheese while we waited. I love trying vegan cheese as I cut most dairy out of my diet, and this was creamy and flavorful.

Once we got our food we headed to the beach to get a little sun, sand and saltwater time and ate our sandwiches. Mine was good, but Aaron’s was phenomenal. It was so moist and chewy and the sauce was full of great flavor. I’m so happy Atlas was open when we could go visit. If you can’t visit, many area restaurants, including Lokal, serve it’s products. Point is, if you cut out or reduce the meat in your diet, try this out!

Atlas Meat Free Deli sandwiches | Kale and Ale

Atlas sandwiches: Burger on the left and burnt tip sandwich on the right, both on pretzel bun

From there we headed an hour north west to visit a friend and her three-week-old son, back east to grab coffee and visit my former co-workers and workplace (both woefully short stops) and a little further north to have dinner with my good friend, Sandy, who jokingly asked if we are eating seven meals that day. Close. Don’t judge. When I mentioned to this friend two places I wanted to eat at, one we have gone to together a handful of times, one new to me, she picked the one new to me, Christopher’s Kitchen, in Palm Beach Gardens.

This is an organic, plant based restaurant that minimally prepares food so the ingredients shine. When I look at the menu at places like this, I don’t know what to eat. It all looks so unique and good, and I can have any of it. What a concept! I decided on an avocado ginger roll (the tipping point being that it had avocado and mango in it, two things I miss getting fresh out of people’s yards in Florida), but what everyone had looked great. My food was filling without leaving me full. Another spot I highly recommend when you are in or around Palm Beach Gardens.

Christopher's Kitchen Palm Beach Gardens | Kale and Ale

Avocado roll from Christopher’s Kitchen

Later that night Aaron and I hit up Clematis Street, West Palm Beach’s place to go out. We stopped at Rocco’s Tacos, a hip eatery that’s quickly expanding through South Florida, for some guac (what they are known for) and margs. We celebrated our marathon day of driving and visiting.

Day 3: Beach and Breweries

Today was our day: We were going to play tourists, making sure we hit up some favorites and new spots. We got in the Mustang, top down obviously, and drove around Palm Beach, making our way to Lake Worth Beach, just on the south end of Palm Beach. We soaked up some late morning sun until our meter ran out and headed to the place I lived most of my time in Florida, Boca Raton.

Mustang Palm Beach Florida | Kale and Ale

Driving along A1A in Palm Beach, top down.

We grabbed the requisite Publix subs and headed to the beach. Publix is a grocery store that’s known for its delicious subs (read why here), and taking them to the beach is “a thing” people do in Florida. So much so, that Kim asked if we would be doing it on our trip. If you go, grab a sub, there are Publix locations all over. We headed to the pavilion at the beach and had lunch, enjoying what we knew might be about our last look at the ocean. Again, I can’t stress enough how much I love the salty breeze in my face.

Publix subs at beach | Kale and Ale

Being basic with Publix sub for lunch. So good!

We hopped Vanilla Ice-style (he lives west of West Palm, dontcha know?) down A1A into the ‘Stang and drove to Oakland Park to Funky Buddha, a beloved brewery that moved from a small stop mall location in Boca to it’s nice, large current location right before I moved from Florida. I wanted to revisit it and show Aaron why this brewery is known for its sometimes-wild and cult beloved beers. We grabbed samplers and played bags (a.k.a. cornhole in Florida). While there weren’t any beers too crazy on tap, they had a late selection beyond the old standbys they always feature, so it was fun to try new beers. I could have stayed there all day, but we had to drive and make our way back to Miami.

Funky Buddha Fort Lauderdale | Kale and Ale

First we made a stop at LauderAle, aka the weirdest place perhaps that’s I’ve seen a brewery, and even more difficult to get to. I can’t give you any advice on how to get there other than it’s the thing northeast of 495 and 1 that isn’t the port! Confusing, right? Anyway, we found it and it was worth it. Nice beer selection, friendly people, cool space and chill vibe. But no air conditioning, FYI. Worth the hassle of thinking you are going to end up at a port security gate.

LauderAle statue | Kale and Ale

Hanging with the locals at LauderAle.

Again, couldn’t drink too much because we were driving, so we tried to beat traffic and head closer to our hotel for dinner. We ended up at the newly opened GLAM (Green Living Animals Matter) Vegan at Midtown Miami, a small fast-casual restaurant that uses real plates and has a more upscale vibe that has to be fitting in well with the area. For being July 3, it was a busy place with couples, groups of friends and even a large group with children. The decor was upscale enough to help you forget you are at a fast-casual restaurant in a shopping center and apartment community, and the food was above average for fast casual. Highly recommend.

South Florida and Trip Takeaway

The big takeaway is that, like the coast itself, South Florida is always evolving and shifting. I need to get back there more, as a handful of friends have already moved away, so who knows when more might leave, and that it’s a place near to my heart that I love, despite its craziness.

National Park Service: An Appreciation

The U.S. National Park Service is one of the best things about America. It is America. 100 years old, it’s a national treasure to learn about our nation’s history and lands. I really love visiting different sites, from urban memorials to remote parks. See a list of National Park sites.

While I don’t want to get political, as a NPS lover and free-speech advocate, what is going on now is breaking my heart for the group I love. In January, the new president restricted the speech of parks employees via official social media accounts and talking to the media, for things like climate change, publishing reports and things like that. A group of parks employees are resisting and continue to get information out via Alt National Park Service.

The parks really provide so much value culturally and educationally to me. Aaron and I plan our trips with the National Park Service in mind, and enjoy our time at the sites. I love all the social media accounts for the park services, as the beautiful photos and informative captions always brighten my day and make me proud to live in a wonderful country.

While I’ve been going to National Park Services sites since before I could walk them without getting tired (so, at least the toddler years), I want to share some of my favorite photos from recent trips.

You can follow Alt National Parks. Get involved with the National Park Service, including donating.

I would love to see your photos and hear about your favorite park. If you have something to share, please leave it in the comments below. You are welcome to share or use my photos on this blog post for non-commercial use, don’t manipulate the photos in any way and credit Valerie Dennis at KaleAndAle.com. These photos follow Creative Commons license.

Aaron and me hiking a small portion of the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains. Near the highest point in the park, Tennessee on one side, North Carolina on the other.

Grand Canyon | Kale and Ale

Entrance to Grand Canyon. I’ve been here once as a teen and once last year, 20 years later. Much more appreciation when I’m older.

San Felipe del Morro Fortress is part of San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico.

Golden Gate Park | Kale and Ale

15-year-old Valerie looking as thrilled as any teen not fully appreciating escaping an Iowa winter to see the Golden Gate Bridge.

Blue Ridge Parkway | Kale and Ale

When in North Carolina we headed north out of Asheville and went up the Blue Ridge Parkway. Beautiful drive and tons of lookouts.

Mississippi Minneapolis | Kale and Ale

The view of the only waterfall on the Mississippi and the Stone Arch Bridge is beautiful at the Mississippi National River area in Minneapolis.

Zion beer | Kale and Ale

Enjoying a hard-earned beer at the lodge in Zion National Park, perhaps our favorite place we have visited yet.

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U.S. National Park Service Kale and Ale by Valerie Dennis at Kale and Ale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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Tips to Drink Beer From Afar at Home

Tips for drinking beer from afar in your home | Kale and Ale

Original photo by Flick user quinnanya.

One thing I love about craft beer is its exclusivity. By nature craft beer is not as widely produced, meaning it’s not as widely available. (There are exceptions to this, for example, some brewers have set up shop on both coasts.)

Because of this, it’s exciting to get my hands on brews not available in Minnesota. When I travel—even home to Iowa—I look for beers I can’t get from my own liquor store. It’s part of what’s fun about traveling.

Case in point: A recent weekend I had beer in my home in Minnesota from three well known places to have a unique selection: Wicked Weed in Asheville, N.C., Surly in Minneapolis and Russian River in Santa Rosa, Calif. Only Surly is sold anywhere near here.

Wicked Weed Russian River Surly beer Kale and Ale

From top left: Russian River Pliny the Elder, Surly Barrel Aged Pentagram, Wicked Weed Freak of Nature

Through the years, and specifically more recently, I’ve gotten more savvy about getting beer to me that I can’t buy locally, from transporting it myself or getting it from others. Below are some tips I’ve learned to cast as wide a beer-sampling net as possible in your own home.

Get a Growler to Go

A growler is a jug used to transport tap beer. The vessel is usually 64 ounces, and it’s often found at breweries and taprooms where you can fill up beer from their tap (typically good for three to five days) and take it off site for consumption. This is good because if you have a growler or buy one their, you can take beer that might not even be bottled, or certainly not sold where you live. Growler laws vary widley by state, so know before you go (can you bring your own growler, can you use the growler your size, etc.). Find growler laws by state.

Friends Going on Trips

Find a beer buddy near you and let them know what you like. I can think of two people this year alone who brought me back beers from their travels without me asking before. And because of that, I’ve done the same for them. I’ve also asked non-beer drinkers to keep an eye on things for me, too. So don’t be shy and ask, the worst they can say is no.

Pack Carefully

The above Wicked Weed bottle came back thanks to bubble wrap that I brought for that purpose. I’ve had 3 Floyds Zombie Dust the day it was bottled from the brewery by my husband Aaron packing the beer in his clothes and shoes. Take a chance if it’s worth it to you (beer won’t usually stain if you take care of it right away) and the reward can be great.

The Travel Channel video gives inspiration on the best ways to pack and travel with glass bottles.

Beer mail

Another option that you have to be careful about is trading beer via mail. You have to be careful as it’s a liquid and alcohol, so check with the carrier. Also important to keep in mind is the actual shipping. Beer Exchange has an excellent guide on how to ship beer. You can ship among people you know or find people on beer boards. Again, be smart and find out what you can ship, where and with whom.

Road Trip: Decorah, Iowa

Decorah, Iowa, is located in the northeast corner of the state, 15 miles south of the Minnesota boarder among bluffs. Best known for the eagles, liberal arts college Luther, Norwegian pride and Toppling Goliath Brewery, it’s an outdoor haven of small-town living. Having only passed through it once 18 years ago, I decided to head down Highway 52 and explore the big hiking and beer options in this small town.

Aaron and I visited over the long Memorial Day weekend, and be warned: The town shuts down on the holiday. There were only two places open downtown for breakfast, but more on that later.

Beer and Food Options in Decorah

Oneota Coop Decorah, Iowa | Kale and Ale

Oneota Community Co-Op

We arrived in Decorah around lunchtime, so we headed straight to the Oneota Co-Op, recommend by my dad. The shop itself isn’t large, but the cafe portion includes a salad and hot bar and pressed panini sandwiches. I was hard pressed (hilarious, right?!?!) to pick between the magic mushroom and chipotle tofu sandwiches, but ended up with tofu simply because I knew I would appreciate the protein from it and the two slices of cheese on it later when I was hiking and drinking. And the sandwich was amazing, featuring slices of tofu in an amazing sauce between two melty, flavorful slices of cheese. We ended up stopping at Toppling Goliath Brewery for lunch, eating on the patio and washing the food down with a hoppy beer.

Seed Saver Decorah, Iowa | Kale and Ale

Seed Saver’s with heritage seed area in the front

After lunch we made our way to Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm to view the gardens and hike the grounds. There is a lot of ground there, so it was fun to walk around past an orchard, through a prairie and in a pine forest. Beyond the hiking (of which there are many miles of trails with varying degrees of difficulty, pick up a map in the visitor center to find out trail features, length and difficulty) are the gardens. There is a great herb and decorative garden, but my favorite part is where Seed Savers is trying to identify possible duplicate types of produce to properly name and identify foods and to save the heritage seeds. The farm is free to visit and interesting, worth a few hours of time.

Pulpit Rock Brewing Decorah, Iowa | Kale and Ale

Pulpit Rock Brewing and chill patio

Next we stopped at Decorah’s other brewery, Pulpit Rock Brewing Company. It had a great, large patio with a great view of a city park. It was warm, so it was great to hang out outside. People kept filling in and out, ordering beers and enjoying themselves. We, however, weren’t that impressed with the beer. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t impress us, feeling like we could take it or leave it. So we left it, but like I said, many people were taking it.

We made out way to Hotel Winneshiek, the restored turn-of-the-century hotel, to drop off our things and freshen up, and walked around the cute downtown. The Decorah Hatchery clothing and outdoor store came recommended, but was already closed for the day when we made it there, as it had very limited hours on Sundays. We walked down Main Street, passing historic buildings and looking at some interesting houses featuring large gardens and solar panels.

Main Street ends at the Upper Iowa River and an entry point for the well-maintained paved 11-mile trail around Decorah, running alongside the well-known Fish Hatchery and Raptor Resource Project, home of the Decorah eagles. We plan to bring our bikes next time and explore the trail in full.

Toppling Goliath | Kale and Ale

Tons of small-brewery charm at Toppling Goliath

This time we didn’t have our bikes so we walked back to Toppling Goliath. I recommend walking because parking isn’t great (both in size of lot and that you have to go down a steep drive to exit) and the beers are so damn delicious you won’t want to limit yourself. Pro tip: Belly up to the bar and chat up the servers to find out what fun beers they have had recently (we scored samples that way) and to learn about what beers are in the works. See current beers on tap.

Mabe's Decorah Iowa Beer Gnome | Kale and Ale

Beer-drinking gnome at Mabe’s, the best kind

After trying enough beer, dinner was in order so we walked back downtown to Mabe’s, It was a good choice for after-drink dinner, with a homey feel and delicious food. And the casual family vibe and large dining room meant we felt we could linger. From there we went back to the hotel, tired from a long day, and needing to rest for more hiking the next day.

Lots of Hiking in Decorah

We ate breakfast at our hotel restaurant, Restauration. It was only one of two places open for the holiday, but by going there we weren’t settling; it was a fantastic meal. It focuses on homemade and local food, which is a warm welcome in a hotel restaurant. I got the blue plate special (served on a blue plate!): eggs, potatoes, fruit (instead of meat) and toast, and the potatoes where smashed and fried with the skins on, seasoned well, and the eggs were local. Very filling meal for around $6.50, great to keep me nourished while hiking, and good coffee, too.

Dunnings Springs Decorah, Iowa | Kale and Ale

Dunnings Springs is totally worth the stop

Right inside town are three parks next to each other, each worth exploring: Dunnings Springs, Ice Cave and Palisades. Each is worth a stop, even a quick one, on its own. The spring can be seen from parking and is very impressive, and there are benches to sit and view, so it’s a great spot to visit no matter your athletic ability. View hiking options in Decorah.

Decorah really has a little of everything I look for in a getaway, and I can’t wait to return.

San Antonio, Texas

Texas Cupcakes | Kale and AleI recently was able to travel to San Antonio, Texas, for the first time. It was a quick, busy work trip, so I didn’t have much free or personal time. However, I was lucky enough to be staying right on the River Walk, so I could easily enjoy a few outdoor walks and meals—a nice escape to temps in the upper 70s and sunny instead of about 30 and cloudy back at home.

 

When I go on work trips I look forward to new and different beers. This was not the trip of that, though. Those were few and far between. One the stood out was the St. Arnold Endeavor, a double IPA. If you like doubles and see this, get it. It was a hint of sweet fruitiness and the right hoppy balance. I had a few other IPAs, but nothing to mention.

Regarding food in San Antonio, in a group of five it was me (a vegetarian trying to eat vegan as much as possible) and two people who can’t have gluten, and very few restaurants seemed able to accommodate or understand our dietary needs. This blows my mind as I assumed any restaurant on the River Walk or near the convention center where I was would be more service oriented and knowledgeable and able to accommodate. To be fair, we went to a restaurant, Boudro’s, that was good but the server wasn’t, so that was too bad. But my meal was excellent and made vegan with the lack of cheese: a portobello tostado with jicama slaw and black bean puree.

Boudro's Portobello Tostado | Kale and Ale

Portobello Tostado from Boudro’s

Have you been to San Antonio? Was your experience better?

Texas Social Media

The real star of the Texas experience was before and after I was in Texas, though. I tweeted I was going to be in San Antonio and asked for beer recommendations. No hashtag, no @ sign.

A week later @TexasTourism responded, asking me to direct message them information and they would send me beer suggestions and other fun things for my trip. Talk about doing it right! I was pleasantly surprised, bit when I got my goodies I was blown away. It was full-on swag, Texas does it big: a neck pillow, speakers, Post-It notes, a nice notepad with a personal note.

San Antonio Texas | Kale and Ale

Big swag from Texas

This was impressive. The fact Texas Tourism has people and resources to making a more memorable trip for people already going to Texas is impressive. It shows how how far hospitality and branding goes for them, and I will definitely use the items, which are all branded with the Texas logo, getting their name out there even more.

What is the best example of marketing you have seen?