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.

KaleAndAle.com moves north

Me on the Endless Bridge at the Guthrie Theater overlooking the Stone Arch Bridge and Mississippi River in November 2013.

Me on the Endless Bridge at the Guthrie Theater overlooking the Stone Arch Bridge and Mississippi River in November 2013.

I consider myself a pretty private person. I don’t like being the center of attention, even if something about me is being celebrated. I don’t share a lot for a variety of reasons, often even with those close to me.

I’m not about to go into a big thing here, but the past year has brought many very-high highs and very-low lows and everything in between to my life. My strength has been tested, my life is much different than it was at the beginning of 2013, but I’m trying to be the best me there is given the cards I’m dealt.

After 9.5 years away from the Midwest, a place I’ve always considered my home, I am moving back today. I moved away a year after college, leaving my hometown and moving to Georgia. I only knew one person and had held an entry-level job in my field of journalism for one year. At that time I had a plan of where I would like to be, career-wise by the time I was 30, but beyond that (30 and the career part of my life), I had no plan. The newspaper industry has changed. I’m older than 30. And I’ve lived in South Florida almost longer than I’ve lived anywhere.

So when an opportunity to work for a magazine within driving distance of my hometown, in a city I enjoy visiting and have friends in, became available, I applied. And I got the job. So today, I am starting the drive from Boca Raton, Florida, where it’s about 80 degrees and I held a job that has helped me grow professionally and I have met great people and had wonderful experiences, to Minneapolis, where it’s about zero degrees and I’m entering the world of magazine publishing, where I can drive to see my family and spend holidays with them for the first time in my career.

Whew, for not talking about myself, that was a lot, huh?

How does this affect you, the reader, and my blog? Weeeellll, this kind of explains why I have been quieter on the blog the past half-a-year or so. And due to location the blog will change a little, including (but I’m sure not limited to):

  • Seasons (not just comfortable and hot) will be included in this blog.
  • I plan to get a bike soon, so you can hear about those adventures. I haven’t been on a bike on a regular basis since I was about 15 years old.
  • Produce will definitely change. Goodbye mangoes and avocados from coworkers yards and year-round farmers’ markets. Hello apples and other foods I will be introduced to and getting excited when the growing season starts.
  • Running will include more than just flat land and warm temperatures.
  • I hope to share more of the restaurants, markets and shops I visit and explore in my new city. I have meant to share where I go in South Florida more, but haven’t been good about it. But going forward, the blog will include more of that.

I’m sure there are many things I’m forgetting. I’m sad to leave Florida but happy to be closer to home in a journalism capacity.

If you live in or are visiting the Twin Cities, have something to share as I get adjusted or want to meet up for a drink or at a garden (when it’s nice) or the market, please let me know! And please send good thoughts as I travel from South Florida to the Upper Midwest.

Race for the Cure 2012 and training for 10k

2012 South Florida Komen Race for the Cure

Saturday I ran in the South Florida Komen Race for the Cure as a team member of my employer, The Palm Beach Post. This event was part of my motivation to begin running, as it is a big event for the community and my employer. A big group from work ran and walked, along with other friends running and supporters cheering us on.

Off and running!

Running partner Kim and I after the race.

An estimated 20,000 people ran and walked. And once we started running, it was apparent how big the event is. It is really cool seeing so many people participate and being a part of something so big that was started for a great cause.

I really want to thank everyone who supported me financially and through moral support for this race. It means a lot that people gave their own money to support me and breast cancer research and prevention.

After a month without regular training (between the holidays, being sick and having visitors), I ended with a time of 32:30.52, which is a pace of 10:29 a mile. I’m happy with that since I run about a 12- to 13-minute mile when I run on my own.

LOOKING AHEAD

Right now, I’m planning to run a 10k in 2 months and a 15k this summer. I don’t know if I’m overdoing it or expecting too much. But six months ago I didn’t even give running a thought and now I crave a few-mile run every few days.

I figure the key is to push forward and carving more time to run. I’ve done some reading in building up longer runs, but if anyone has tips beyond “get out there” I would appreciate it.

My legs just get tired after running about 2.5 miles. And is going from 3 miles now to 6 miles in 2 months and 9 miles in 5 months unrealistic or pushing it too much? Any help, tips and ideas from longer-distance runners than myself are appreciated!

Trying Mac’n Food Truck

First time at Mac'n Food Truck. Worth the wait.

For months I’ve anticipated the arrival of South Florida’s first vegan food truck. About two weeks after its debut, I was able to try it tonight.

There was a food truck roundup in Boca Raton featuring 30-plus trucks, including Mac’n Food Truck. The food is vegan “serving up a twist on soul food classics.”

I arrived at the event and it was packed with people. I finally found the Mac’n truck, and it had one of the longest lines of any of the trucks. I took this as a good sign, hoping for good food (obviously) serving a (vegan) market that wasn’t being served. Either way, I had the time and determination to wait it out.

I got in line at 7:05 and ordered my food at 7:45. I was really hoping it would rain to thin the line, but it only sprinkled. I waited another 10 minutes for my food to be ready. Since the truck meetup was a big event and the food truck is based in Coral Gables (nearly an hour drive south) I didn’t mind the wait. Hopefully I get a chance to eat at the truck again and won’t have to wait as long.

Clockwise from bottom: mac and cheese, fried green tomatoes, fried okra.

I decided on a cheddar mac with two sides, fried green tomatoes and fried okra. The food was hot, and the “cheese” all gooey. I don’t have a lot of experience with vegan cheese, but this was really good. The sides were crusted and fried well, and weren’t mushy or soggy, something that can happen to green tomatoes and okra if not cooked properly (trust me, I know firsthand). Having lived in Georgia for two years, I was loving this as I didn’t need to worry if the sides were vegetarian. I hope it keeps going strong and has an audience to keep the truck going.

Other trucks

I’ve been to one other food truck event, and have sought out South Florida trucks that offer vegetarian foods. At the last food truck event, I went to a crepemaker that didn’t have any savory vegetarian crepes on the menu but made something off the menu for me. If a truck has a style of food that seems like it can be vegetarian, just ask. The people who run the trucks seem very friendly and willing to serve.

Also, if you are looking for a vegetarian food truck in your town or a town you plan to visit this summer (like me!), in the July/August issue, Vegetarian Times has a list of vegetarian and special diet food trucks (I can’t find it online, though). And if you are into vegetarian food trucks, I have a twitter list of vegetarian food trucks in the U.S. and vegetarian-friendly food trucks in South Florida. (If you have any to add, please let me know, this list is in no way exhaustive.)

Have you had a great food truck experience? What is the food truck scene like where you live?