Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring break in Florida! Woo-hoo!

Spring break trips weren’t a big thing among my group of friends when I was in college. So it was fun, even though I'm well past 30, to take a spring break trip to Florida with a couple of friends from work.

Katie, Amanda and I headed to southern Florida to visit our friend Danielle. We stayed in Boca Raton, away from the beach and the spring break madness. Not that there was too much madness. We were really a week early for spring break, which was probably a good thing. Plenty of room on the beaches. And plenty of seats available in restaurants.

Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers

Delary Beach

Our first meal in Florida was at one of Danielle’s favorite pizza places -- the Mellow Mushroom. It was a nice night, so we sat outside. I think that was a good choice, because the interior was very industrial, with high ceilings, exposed ducts, brick and lots of stainless steel -- and noisy with a couple of big groups celebrating something.

Amanda and I ordered The Capri salad as an appetizer, while Danielle opted for a half spinach salad. Plenty of greens to keep stave off the hunger that had been building during a long day of travel from Utah.

For dinner, we shared a Kosmic Karma pizza. Red sauce base, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, feta, roma tomatoes and a pesto swirl. The medium was just right for three people to share. Plenty of toppings and a wonderful crispy-on-the-outside, soft-and-chewy-on-the-inside crust that was slightly sweet.

Katie got a “build your own” salad, topped with a ton of veggies and buffalo chicken. The pricing was by ingredient, with the lettuce at $3.25 and toppings ranging from 75 cents to $1.75. The salad was huge, but the price was right on target with the “ready to order” salads on the menu.

Cascades poolside grill

Delray Beach Marriott

Our first full day of Florida fun found us at Delray Beach -- this time to the actual beach. Using a trick taught to Danielle by one of her friends, we valet parked the car at the Marriott and walked across the street to the beach. It was a relaxing morning on the beach, just enjoying the ocean and the sun. I got stung slightly by a jellyfish, but that’s another story.

For lunch, we went back over to the Marriott and ate at the poolside restaurant. We had a high table at the edge of the bar, so our waitress was also the bartender. So we maybe didn’t get the attentive service we should have. That was evident when, 30 minutes after placing our orders, we still didn’t have our food. Of course, our waitress didn’t notice because she was too busy catering to the demands of the folks sitting at the bar.

The menu offered fairly typical fare -- sandwiches, salads -- but with a bit of a twist. Amanda and Danielle got the fish tacos. Katie and I had salads. I had an Asian salad, which contained udon noodles among the greens. But I think my salad was missing a few ingredients that were listed on the menu. Katie had requested a few ingredients be left off her salad, but since our order had been lost, her request wasn’t honored. She had to send her salad back twice to get it the way she’d ordered it.

Needless to say, we got a 50 percent discount on our food from the manager. They still charged us full price for the drinks, though. Oddly, this was my only alcoholic beverage of the trip. And I make a better margarita. Of course, my margaritas aren’t served poolside in the warm Florida sun.

Once we’d eaten, it was back to the beach. Ahhh .... (No, we did not wait 30 minutes before swimming.)

City Oyster and Sushi Bar

Delary Beach

We went a little more upscale for dinner one night, dining at City Oyster and Sushi Bar.

A popular place, with outdoor seating, a huge bar and a sushi counter. Prices were as expected, with sharing an appetizer and ordering an entree costing about $30.

We had calamari for an appetizer, and I was impressed with how it was prepared. Little sheets (rather than rings) of calamari were lightly breaded, and they curled up when perfectly fried. The flavor was good, not overpowering. The aioli sauce was the better of the two dipping sauces.

The menu was extensive, but I just couldn’t decide what to order. So I ordered off the sushi menu. I’m not a raw fish fan, so my sushi ordering is usually limited. I opted for a shrimp tempura roll and a roll called the mango tango. I didn’t realize that one would have raw fish on it. But I took a chance and tried it -- and it was pretty darn good.

And can someone tell me how to eat the end slice of the shrimp tempura roll, the one with the tail sticking out? That darn thing always falls apart on me.

Flanigans Seafood Bar and Grill

There are a ton of Flanigan’s locations around Boca Raton, so I’m not sure at which one we ate. But since it was St. Patrick’s Day, the bar was decorated to the nines. As were the waitresses. And even though it was before noon, beer pong was well under way out on the terrace.

Outdoor dining that day was limited to corned beef and cabbage. So we opted for a booth inside. Classic Florida photos, maps, nautical stuff and memorabilia decorated the walls ... at least the part of the walls we could see through the green decorations. The tabletops were old nautical maps, which provided some pre-lunch entertainment as we tried to figure out what area the map showed (our map had the legend down in the corner, so it didn’t take too long).

The menu is quite extensive, with a ton of lunch and drink specials. Ribs are a house specialty, but none of us were willing to eat those in public. (They even make deep-fried egg rolls with the rib meat.) The menu listed a “fresh dolphin sandwich.” Danielle assured us that’s a fish, not that friendly Flipper kind of dolphin. Still didn’t order that, just in case.

Two of us ordered the Caribbean Burger, which was 10 ounces of beef slathered in a special BBQ sauce and melted cheddar cheese, topped with two strips of bacon. By the time I added the lettuce, tomato and onion, there was no way I was getting the burger into my mouth, so I ended up eating it with a fork and knife. Amanda fared a bit better, but still couldn’t eat the whole thing. Neither of us loved the BBQ sauce (and we’re both big BBQ sauce fans), as it was on the sweet side and didn’t really have a kick to it.

Danielle loves the clam chowder. Clams ... ewwww.

We even got to take our 32-ounce soda cups with us as souvenirs.

Jaxon’s Ice Cream Parlour and Restaurant

Dania Beach, Fla.

After a big lunch at Flanigan’s and a drive down the coast, I wasn’t sure I was ready for dessert. Until I saw the ice cream sundaes at Jaxson’s.

This place is tucked away at the end of a strip mall. The restaurant has been around since the 1950s and has been featured on Food Network and in Bon Appetit and Southern Living magazines.

We got there in the middle of the afternoon, so it wasn’t too busy. When you walk in the front door, you’re in a mini candy store, which is stocked with sweets you haven’t seen since you were a kid. (I had to buy a box of candy cigarettes, for old time’s sake.) And some candy you haven’t seen before -- like a gummy bear that was about 5 inches tall and weighed at least a pound.

Based on the photos from the website, the decor hasn’t changed much since the early days, with the walls lined with license plates and antiques. Tables were close together, and the old-style soda fountain chairs weren’t that comfortable.

Three of us shared two desserts (one person had to abstain from sweets for dietary reasons) -- a turtle sundae and a Two on a Blanket sundae.

The turtle sundae had vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, butterscotch sauce and plenty of pecans.

The Two on a Blanket was two slices of pound cake, topped with vanilla and chocolate ice cream, hot fudge and nuts.

Both sundaes came with a 3-inch high swirl of whipped cream -- colored green for St. Patrick’s Day -- topped with a cherry and an American flag. (An Irish flag would have been more appropriate, one would think.)

We made a pretty good dent in the sundaes, but there was no way we could eat all of that! Too bad ice cream doesn’t make for good leftovers.

I do regret that we didn’t order the “sidecar” of hot fudge. That would have been awesome.

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure


Yes, we’re crazy. We drove three hours to Orlando one day just to go to Universal Studios -- so we could go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Yes, we’re geeks ... we freely admit that.

And when you’re in the world of Harry Potter, there are two drinks you must try -- butterbeer and pumpkin juice. I opted for the latter.

The pumpkin juice came in an appropriate capped bottle. The ingredient list says it is made of apple juice, apricot puree, pumpkin puree and spices. It reminded me of sweet pumpkin cookies, as the spices were heavy on nutmeg and cinnamon.

Katie and Amanda had butterbeer, which was available regular or frozen, in a regular plastic cup or collectible mug. Katie was nice enough to let me taste hers -- it was like drinking butterscotch.

Of course, both of these beverages cost us a pretty penny. It is theme park food, after all.

One thing you can skip is Harry Potter world is the chocolate frog. We bought ours at Honeyduke's sweet shop. They're cute, but don't waste your $10, because the chocolate is horrible.

We had a late lunch at Lombard’s Seafood Grille, on the Universal Studios side of the park. Even at 3 p.m. we had to wait 30 minutes. We were seated next to the fish tank, which is always fun, although you wonder if the fish inside were friends with the fish on your plate. After several hours of walking around and standing in lines, it was nice to sit down in air conditioning for a bit.

The menu wasn’t anything special. I had a steak sandwich, was was heavier on the bread than the steak. Katie’s salad was just average. Amanda’s meal was apparently so average that I can’t remember what it was.

Panera Bread

Boca Raton

Yes, I know this is a chain restaurant. But we don’t have any in Utah. Not a single one! And it is one of my favorite places to eat. Sure, I know the fat content and calories in their salads and sandwiches are sky high, but I honestly don’t care. That bowl of cream of chicken and wild rice soup was worth it.

Legal’s Sea Foods

Boca Raton

I thought these were just in Boston, but there was one at the mall in Boca Raton. The menu was very similar to what was available in Boston. I had the lump crab cakes, which were served with a light side salad. Yum.

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