Between the two of us, we have a number of relatives who live in Florida, and have had friends there as well, so we make it down there fairly often, at least once a year anyway. This past week, we made the journey to visit my Aunt and Grandma, who live near Gainesville. We had a nice little getaway and got to spend quality time with people we love, which is always a plus. We had to travel through Orlando though (cheaper flights!), so we were able to hit up all of our favorite places along the way. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Too Jays - Florida's answer to the Jewish deli. BJ's parents turned us on to this place and we make a habit of going at least once, sometimes 2 or 3 times, when we go south. We wish desperately we had one near us. Sure, there are some descent substitutes here, but nothing that really compares. And, don't shoot me, but on this trip BJ even admitted he liked it better than the 2 famous delis we've tried in NYC. I always get the same thing - a turkey sandwich with cheddar on challah. BJ gets a variety of things, but says the pastrami and corned beef are good. We also give thumbs up to the matzo ball soup. Because we were near the University of Florida, I couldn't resist the "black and white" cookies.
2. Sweet Tomatoes - Also suggested to us by BJ's parents. This is an all-you-can eat salad and soup bar, with a couple of extras. They have prepared salads, make your own, pasta and potato salads, at least 5 kinds of soup, mac and cheese, fruit, and soft-serve ice cream. The majority of it is healthy and rarely has there been an item we've tried and didn't enjoy. A bonus for us this time was that this is the perfect place to take a baby who is eating table food and wants to try different things. The Luce discovered she likes raw onions and lentil soup! There are locations all over the country, but unfortunately none in the DC area. If we had one of these close to us, I'd probably be eating there a couple times a week.
3. Bahama Breeze - Also a small chain, with none in close driving distance to us (but really not that far either), is this island-themed restaurant completed with tropical fish tanks and steel drum band. We'd been here previously with BJ's cousins and my friend Rick a couple years ago and liked it so much we went back on this trip. The paella, chicken with cilantro crema, coconut shrimp and rice and beans were all big hits.
4. Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly - this seems to be Orlando's answer to all the cupcake madness. We'd been here a long time ago when it first opened and liked it and then lo and behold, the owner ended up on the Food Network as the winner of Cupcake Wars! My mom and I went again last fall and loved the minis we tried, so BJ and I decided to get "nightcap" on our last evening. We tried vanilla vanilla, s'mores, cookies and cream, and strawberry. The overwhelming thing about these cupcakes is that they're all extremely dense and buttery and the icing is supersweet. I feel like perhaps they've changed the recipe recently or my memory is failing me, because they were not good. The first couple bites went down fine but as you kept going it just became arduous to finish. Definitely not my idea of the perfect bite - everything else was taken over by the taste of the icing. I had chosen s'mores because I'd had it before and it was great, but it was just too much this time and sat like a rock in my tummy the rest of the night. Oh well. I think we got that out of our system, at least.
We spent some time at the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, which was perfect for The Luce and nice and shady, and we tooled around Downtown Disney, which is great if you're cheap like we are but want to feel like you went to Disney World.