We awoke one morning, ravenous and deciding that we wanted to forego the vacation-standard, go-to, made in the room, smoothie. What to eat became the question. It was the only rainy day, at least it started out as such, so we decided to take a trek over to the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum, located in the Historic Seaport neighborhood. We fell into Two Friends Patio, one of the few remaining original Old Towne restaurants, established in 1967 and still family run. The place was hustling and bustling. Cutting straight down the middle of the restaurant, however, is an open walkway, so they had to close off some of the tables because of the rain. No one seemed to care, even those patrons who were graced with the occasional spray of rain. It really didn’t matter to us because, even though we had our all-weather jackets on, we were fairly damp already from the walk. We were hungry, that’s what mattered. And, they had a table with only about a 15 minute wait. Worked for us.
Ah, but what about the menu? Hum, well now, that did seem to pose a slight challenge. Typical breakfast fare coupled with a variety of “eye openers” (which I find an interesting term to use since the selections seemed to be more “eye closers” than eye openers, just sayin’). Anyway, I’ve learned that I can pretty much make anything work in a pinch. As I am known to say, “Not every meal has to be a great meal. Sometimes it’s just fuel for the body.” So in that vein, we sat down. And that’s when the fun began.
When I mentioned to the server that I am vegan, he said that there really wasn’t anything on the menu that he knew of. But, he also seemed ready and up to the challenge to please. A really good sport. He brought over the manager, who agreed, pretty much the only thing that would be vegan would be French fries (fried in their own separate fryer, so never fried in oil where non-vegan items are fried). Okay, I know what you’re thinking. There is no way in you-know-where that I am even going to try to convince you that what we came up with was at all healthy, not even because of the broccoli and avocado…but it was vacation, after all, so please indulge me on this one. Admittedly, this is the second time I’m seeking indulgence, since I did have a slice of coconut cake every night…however, our breakfast knocked it out of the park regarding flavor.
So, here it goes……
French fries, topped with sautéed mushrooms, pepper, and onions, avocado, lots of hot sauce, and a side of perfectly steamed broccoli. Being a Jersey girl myself, it rather reminded me of an Italian Hot Dog sans the dog, replacing it with the avocado. Needless to say, I was a very happy gal. Even Richard had to agree that this breakfast really delivered. We savored every last morsel on each of our plates, and left with huge smiles on our faces and full bellies. And, oh, their coffee was excellent—full-bodied and malty.
So, Two Friends Patio —HIT!
Next place was a combined Hit and Miss. We must have walked up and down Duval Street at least 25 times during our visit as our hotel sat directly on the street. Each time we passed Onlywood Pizzeria Trattoria, I couldn’t help myself…the hankering for a slice of pizza would overtake me. I felt like Pepe Le Pew on the scent of Penelope Pussycat. Finally, I could take it no more. I could not resist. I needed my fix; so into the Trattoria we went. Upon entering, you are greeted by the scorching heat of the open wood-burning oven, where several men are tossing pizza dough. Such promise. I can feel the excitement and delectation mounting within me. Pizzas coming out of the oven ranged from the sublime Margherita to the more exotic with toppings both vegan and non-vegan. Aromas coming out of that oven were captivating.
I started my meal with their In Salata Estiva, a delightful and lovely fusion of baby arugula, heart of palm, avocado, cherry tomatoes and shaved parmesan cheese in a lemon dressing, sans the shave parmesan. HIT.
They boast the fact that they use only double zero flour for their pizza dough, San Marzano tomatoes for their pizza sauce, and homemade mozzarella (being an Italian Jersey girl, I would pronounce it “mutz-ar-el”). While they had no vegan cheese alternatives, that was actually quite okay by me. Other than a select few on-the-market vegan “cheeses”, I sadly hold quite a disdain for most of them. Both their pizza dough and sauce are vegan, so onto the toppings.
We decided to make-your-own, sans the mozzarella, opting for roasted eggplant, black olives, yellow and red peppers, and lots of basil. When it arrived at our table, I was overjoyed. The anticipation was about to be sated. Oh my, it looked so yummy! I took my first bite; and that’s when it happened—disappointment. The crust was chewy, as if it was kneaded several times too many. Such a shame. For me, it is really all about the crust being primary, the sauce, secondary, and the adornments being tertiary. The sauce, what can I say, it tasted like it came straight out of a can, tinny. Bland. There was absolutely no seasoning in it, and the tomatoes tasted raw. The only highlight here were the tertiary ingredients. Disenchanted, my palate came crashing back to earth. Now I realize this may all sound rather dramatic to most people; but to me, who LOVES food, and pizza being right up there at the top of the list, trust me…you had to be there. I was crushed. MISS!
However, I did witness more than several cups of espresso passing by me in the hands of the attentive servers; so I decided to drown my disappointment with a cup of their “rocket fuel”. What was delivered to me was an espresso extraordinaire! The caramel-colored crema danced atop the espresso, lithe while coating the inside rim of the cup. It was robust, hearty, smooth, almost nutty. I drank it straight up—adding any sugar, non-dairy milk, or alcohol would have taken away from this perfectly-brewed cup of espresso. It was so delicious and satisfying that I was almost able to forget about the pizza. Sure fire HIT!
Onlywood Pizzeria Trattoria — HIT and MISS
Since it was, after all, Richard’s birthday celebration vacation, I planned a follow-up to the birthday dinner that was so amazing at Latitudes. Two days later, we rented a car and drove up to Islamorada. The Cheeca Lodge is tropical paradise oasis nestled amongst tall palm trees and lush gardens on the Atlantic Ocean. The grounds are breathtaking. They host several higher-end restaurants, one being a rustic Italian restaurant, Limoncello, reminiscent of Tuscany. When I called to make the reservation, I was told that they had an array of pasta that would be vegan and they were able to be quite accommodating. That really wasn’t to be the case. They only had one choice of pasta that would be vegan. Their gravy (tomato sauce) was not vegan. That left the rather mundane option of pasta with vegetables. I have to tell you that I am completely over being served that type of meal at what is supposed to be a top-shelf restaurant. While it had flavor, it didn’t bowl me over. Mediocre, at best, is how I would describe it. Not much more to say about it than that, honestly. If you’re vegan and you’ve eaten at Italian restaurants, I’m sure you get the picture.
Limoncello — MISS!
Next week – The Final Chapter – Unexpected Delights