Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Raices Fountain | Kale and Ale

In front of Raices Fountain.

This is part three of three focusing on my Caribbean vacation. Read about St. Croix food and St. Croix activities.

Coming back from St. Croix Aaron and I decided to extend our Caribbean vacation a little longer by having a 24-hour layover in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We took a small plane from St. Croix over the most beautiful water to San Juan.

Once we landed we hopped in a cab to Old San Juan. Riding on the interstate, I felt like I was in Miami, but once we entered Old San Juan, with its very narrow, brick streets and colorful buildings that touch one another, I knew I was somewhere special. On first impression I called it a Spanish New Orleans, but it’s its own special place.

We made it to our boutique hotel Monastery Art Suite, which I recommend. It’s a great location, the owner Elena is great and the room is full of old-world charm yet modern. Elena has good recommendations on local places to visit. We freshened up and hit the streets to explore.

We grabbed some coffee and made our way down the tree-lined open street Paseo de la Princesa, stopping at a sculpture park off to the side. Heading east, the street ends at the large Raices Fountain. This is next to the governor’s mansion and leaders to a nice, wide walkway along the shore toward one of the two forts on Old San Juan. It was a warm and sunny yet thankfully breezy day, so it was nice to be outside one more time before heading home to winter and reality. We went to the western fort, Castillo San Felipe del Morro and walked around until lunch.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro San Juan | Kale and Ale

Lighthouse at Castillo San Felipe del Morro in Old San Juan.

Having looked on Happy Cow, I had few restaurants in mind, but since it was Monday many were closed. We went to Cafe Berlin, which has a great vegetarian selection of Latin food and breakfast late into the day, so everyone is sure to find something. From there we walked past the cruise ships and up Calle Fortaleza, the main shopping and food drag in Old San Juan. Because there were two cruise ships docked that day, there were lots of people walking around, so we browsed some galleries and made our way to more food and drink.

Old San Juan fort look east | Kale and Ale

Looking east into Old San Juan from the fort.

This led us to Club Spritz, a new restaurant and bar with a great location on a closed-off street overlooking water. It’s called Club Spritz because the husband is from Italy and they feature spritzer drinks, which were super refreshing after walking around in the warm sun. We sat and enjoyed drinks while the sun went down. The husband and wife team are very friendly and the place has a good atmosphere. We walked around more, looking at the architecture at night, making our way to Toro Salao for sangria and dinner. Toro Salao is a hopping place near a main square, serving fresh and innovative food. If you are looking for a trendy nightlife restaurant, this is the place. And because we sat at the bar and stayed so long, chatting up the employees, we happened to get free dessert of a cheesecake-type bar and churros in homemade chocolate sauce. I said yes to free dessert on the last night of vacation! After all this food, drink and walking it was time to go to bed.

Toro Salaeo Old San Juan | Kale and Ale

Free dessert!

The next day before our flight to reality, we visited Castillo de San Cristóbal (pro tip: save your receipt from a fort, you can visit both with the same admission) where it was pretty similar a fort and display, but it was neat to see a different perspective. After that we got a filling lunch at a restaurant next to Cafe Berlin, Caficultura, which has good coffee, nice sidewalk seating and a filling breakfast.

Old San Juan Courtyard | Kale and Ale

Beautiful buildings all around Old San Juan.

All in all this is a great place to visit, but a stop on a cruise or a few days to try more food, a water sport or perhaps the Bacardi rum tour would be enough.

Have you been to Puerto Rice? What did you do/see/eat that you loved?

St. Croix, USVI: Food

Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Bay hammocks | KaleAndAle

View from the hammocks at the resort in St. Croix. Did not want to leave that spot.

Last week Aaron and I went to St. Croix, the largest and least-developed of the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was an amazing escape any time of year, but the fact that right before we left the highs in Minnesota were negative temps made it even better. In this post I will discuss the food I ate and two followup posts will discuss activities and our 24-hour layover in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Food. This will be the most difficult of the three posts. Food is my biggest hesitation when travelling places other than large cities in the United States. I don’t let it stop me, but it gives me pause and slows me down. If anyone has seen a vegetarian or vegan write about how to travel easily with dietary restrictions, I would love to read it.  I would write the post myself but I have’t figured it out. Other than checking the wonderful resource Happy Cow and mentally preparing myself for disappointment, I don’t have solid answers.

Annaly Bay tide pools pano St. Croix | KaleAndAle

View from Annaly Bay, St. Croix, how could you not want to be here?

We decided on St. Croix by looking at tropical locations where we could use hotel points that were somewhat secluded yet relatively easy to access by plane. And I don’t regret for one second the location we picked. St. Croix is relatively undeveloped, with two cities. Only one road on the island is more than two lane and faster than 35 mph. It’s a hilly and lush tropical island, and because it’s the U.S., they speak English and its easy to travel there. Ill save details for what we did in our next post, but here are a few views of the island. Never a bad view whatever direction you look!

However, it is an island in the Caribbean who, for much of its history, wasn’t part of the U.S. they even drive on the left side of the road! Therefore I knew seafood would be plentiful, and I wasn’t sure what they might think my diet contains when I mention I’m a vegetarian. Fortunately, their definition of vegetarian is the same as mine. Unfortunately, staying at a resort, the options were limited. When I ate there, the options were salads or pre-made veggie burgers. The two times we took a cab off the resort, the options were much better.

Christianstad

Rum cake 40 Strand St. Croix | KaleAndAle

Rum cake at 40 Strand was so good.

We went to the capital city the evening the art galleries—which I would learn to mean is Crucian gold—are open late. We ate at 40 Strand Eatery known for fresh local food. It’s a small place and, without reservations, we had to sit at the bar, which meant we could talk to the bartender, watch food prep and see a little of it all. My eggplant was great, and since we were on vacation I decided to have dessert, something I don’t normally want. I had to go with the rum cake. I haven’t had any since living in South Florida, and St. Croix is known for its rum. The cake was topped with a caramel sauce that balanced well. It was a great meal at a good price.

Cane Bay

Cane Bay is the next bay over from where we stayed and have a local vibe. We went on Sunday and the beach and few waterside restaurants were hopping. We had lunch at Off the Wall, which is run by someone who moved from Wisconsin (can’t blame her!) and features fresh food you would want for a filling yet light meal at the beach. The veggie sandwich was packed with fresh veggies and the loaded nachos hit the spot. They are also known for their pizza, which looked great and smelled even better.

Off the Wall St. Croix | KaleAndAle

Entrance to Off the Wall keeps it casual

Later we went to Spratnet Beach Bar. The people were nice, the menu extensive (especially for seafood). Locals and tourists kept coming and going, and they have a house-made infused rum shot that was very warming. We had fried cauliflower—I’m a sucker for any fried veggie—and grilled cheese and cole slaw to go, only because I couldn’t eat another veggie burger or salad.

Rum

Spratnet St. Croix | KaleAndAle

All the rum drinks at Spratnet in Cane Bay

I can’t talk about St. Croix without mentioning rum. It’s all over. Cruzan is named for the island. Not being my go-to drink, I had enough rum to last me a while. But I did have some good drinks that taste better with sun on my face, toes in the sand and the sounds of waves crashing.

All in all I put the food dearth aside for the views, but some good food and drink options are available, especially if you have a car (which we didn’t).

If you have dietary needs, how do you ensure good meals while traveling?

Looking to 2016

 

2016 goals | Resolutions | Kale and Ale

Flickr user Maurice took the original image, which has been modified.

How can it be 2016 already? 2015 was the year I’d been working toward for many years, so as long as 2016 stays about the same, I’ll be happy. What about you?

To get caught up, I’ve shared my 2015 recaps on food, drink and fitness. Looking forward to 2016, the main theme is to keep bettering and improving myself from within. I’ve never been one for resolutions, but with continuous growth comes evaluation and deciding if one is on the right path, or if the path needs to be adjusted. A new year is a great time for that assessment.

The key things I want to focus on are as follows. What do you hope to accomplish or improve?

Fitness

In 2015 I ran one race and fewer miles than any year since taking up running. I don’t have friends here that run races like I did in Florida. This year I hope to find a running community or make a point to run a longer-distace race (10k or above) to challenge myself.

With that, I want to work on weight training. The past few months I’ve been going to the gym three days a week and hope to devote one of those days to weight training. The goal is to lose some stubborn pounds that cold winters have brought on, and to tone and strengthen my body by adding an element to my workouts that cardio alone isn’t providing.

Food

This big thing here is to grow and expand my garden, both in physical size and what is being grown. Last year I ended up with a lot of tomatoes and peppers and hope to add more variety this year. What might you suggest I grow that works well for the upper Midwest?

Personal Growth

2015 brought me together with the Twin Cities blogging community, and I want to get more involved in 2016. The connections and support this group has is great. I also want to learn one new thing a month I can apply to my blog and communications overall.

Beyond that, I want to foster more in real life connections I have, meeting up with peers, making it a point to set aside time to see friends, and Skype those far away more often. This is where I get a lot of satisfaction, having a few well-developed friendships.

What are your goals/hopes/dreams for 2016? Please leave them in the comments below.

Friday Links

Cheers to 2015!

A photo posted by Valerie | Kale and Ale (@kaleandale) on

 

It feels like I just took this picture on New Year’s Eve, but 2015 is drawing to a close. But don’t be sad, in an almost-Festivus miracle, Friday links are back and it’s a year-end-slash-holiday edition. That makes me want to celebrate with a cute antipasti platter to look like a wreath. How simple and adorable is that?!?! I think I might be doing it next week.

#Regram from @tonalitydesigns. This antipasti platter is perfect for holiday parties! Share how you’re celebrating by using #BHGCelebrate.

A photo posted by BetterHomesandGardensEditors (@betterhomesandgardens) on

I would love to head out of the new year sipping the cranberry ginger Moscow mule from Beard and Bonnet. With the flavors of cranberry, vanilla, citrus and ginger it seems like the perfect winter balance drink. I think I’ll be trying this soon and get back to you! 

True. Ps Official Fan Video for Can You Blame Me out today… Link in bio.

A photo posted by MATT AND KIM (@mattandkim) on

I love the above picture the band Matt and Kim posted this week. Why? Because TRUTH! That’s pretty much the definition of hangry. Familiar with the word? If you don’t know it you need to read “The Top New Food Words of 2015” from The New York Times. If you do know this word, you definitely need to read the article and see what terms you might not know (I hadn’t even heard of some of these terms).

Don’t forget to read about my year in review of food.

What great food things have you eaten, read about or seen recently?

 

2015 In Review: Food

2015yearinreviewfoodThis is the first in a series this week featuring highlights from 2015. Today I take a look at food and recipes I’ve enjoyed this year. Wednesday we look at some of the active things I did this year, including my amazing summer trip that I never got around to blogging about. We look at drinks Friday, so come back all week, and share your highlights of each topic in the comments!

The first half of this year it was quiet on the blog, and I’m moving away from so many recipes on the blog, instead focusing on a healthy, balanced lifestyle blog. With the addition of buying a house late 2014, my eating out budget and time has decreased. But I still love to eat and make every meal special and count. Below are some of my food highlights from the year.

Restaurants

When in Seattle in March, the person working the desk suggested a new restaurant nearby known for its craft cocktails and innovative good. With a focus on unique drinks and the catchy, appropriate name Damn the Weather, I was in love. Later this year it was named a top 50 new restaurant in America by Bon Appetite magazine.

Closer to home, I had heard only great things about the chef-driven tasting menu at Travail. I went for my birthday and loved every minute of it. It was like performance art, dinner and a show. I thought being a vegetarian meant I would miss out on some things, but that wasn’t the case, so it was great. Read about my experience.lSns8u

Recipes

I’m moving away from so many recipes on the blog, but when I eat I’m focusing on eating meals with fewer animal products and less gluten. Two of my favorite recipes I’ve made this year include a tofu scramble that doesn’t make me miss eggs at all and pizza using zucchini slices as the crust for a less-guilt alternative.

Tofu scramble breakfast | KaleAndAle.com

Tofu scramble with hash browns, apple slices and can’t forget the coffee.

Events

This year I made a point to go to the Minnesota State Fair, and food and drink was the main attraction. I tried all the specialty beers I had hoped to sample, but of course my first stop was for cheese curds.

All in all, it’s been a tasty, successful 2015, and I’m a happy girl. What are your food-related highlights of 2015?