January 02, 2010

What we did (and ate) on our winter vacation ... part 1

We're finally back in rainy Seattle after a wonderful week in warm, sunny — SUNNY — Florida. We were gone for eight days, returning New Year's Eve. I really hate being confined to a mini airplane seat for hours so was reluctant to go so far away, but am so glad I did. (The plane ride from here to Atlanta took 5-1/2 hours, then it was another 2 hours from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale. Ugh.) We spent a whole day getting there and another whole day returning.

The view from our room
We stayed in Delray Beach for the first five nights at a wonderful hotel called Crane's Beach House. It's very "Key West" I'm told. It's like escaping to a private island; once you enter the hotel grounds, the sights and sounds of the city disappear, and you're surrounded by palm trees and waterfalls. We had a one-bedroom suite furnished in white wicker and red clay tiles with a living room, full kitchen, bedroom, and dining area. (Tourism is down this year making for much better room rates so we upgraded from our efficiency after the first night. We didn't arrive until after 1 a.m. so the first night wasn't worth the added cost.) For the last two nights we stayed in Pompano Beach with my brother and sister-in-law.

We visited with my 92-year-old aunt and 95-year-old uncle, my late-father's dear friend, Rose and my brother and s-i-l. We also got to spend time with vacationing friends from Madison. In between, and mixed into the socializing, there were beach walks, swimming, eating, movie watching, treadmill walking, after-Christmas bargain shopping and just plain relaxing. On our last day, I even fit in an appointment for acupuncture and full-body massage with my sister-in-law's practitioner.

The Inter Coastal as seen from the bridge
Our hotel was a block from the beach, and a short walk to downtown Delray Beach. To get downtown, we had to cross over the Intercoastal Waterway on a draw bridge — very scenic.

The Colony Hotel

Above you can see a wonderful renovated hotel on the main drag. It has a large front porch where people gather to have drinks or just to relax, and a fabulous lobby filled with inviting furniture and an atmosphere that makes me think of The Great Gatsby. We've never stayed there but we always stop in to gawk.

While not the most vegan-friendly place in the world, Delray Beach and the surrounding towns did provide us with a week's worth of reasonable eating. On our first and last nights we had dinner at my brother and sister-in-law's condo. They always go out of their way to make sure there is plenty of delicious food for us to eat.

Here's a somewhat demolished spread of hors d'oeuvres that we dove into before I remembered the camera. It was a collection of dips, spreads, salsa, olives, raw veggies and chips.

My s-i-l was feeling her "Martha" vibe when she set the table. Her settings are always elegant.

My plate holds tofu and rice, kale-sesame salad, broccoli and brussels sprouts.

On our last night we had pasta with mushrooms, and green beans.

We found a vegetarian falafel stand in a high-end shopping mall (Town Center in Boca Raton) that was amazing. It's called Maoz Vegetarian and is part of a chain. The first time we were there I didn't have my camera so I can only describe my lunch. I had a falafel with broccoli and cauliflower, chopped tomato and cucumbers, and tahini sauce on whole wheat pita. The pita was almost fluffy - the best I've ever tasted - and the veggie combination, though it sounds weird, was great. You can choose from a large assortment of unusual toppings for your sandwich. You can also just choose the salad bar. The sandwich above was from our second visit when they were out of whole wheat pita.

We discovered a cool pizza place in Delray Beach, Mellow Mushroom, that we could walk to, and we went there for dinner the evening we spent with our friends from Madison. It was packed and crazy noisy so we ordered pizza and salad to go, and took it back to our hotel where we could relax and have a conversation without shouting. Our pizza didn't have cheese but it had everything else — sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, peppers, mushrooms, onions, olives, tomatoes, broccoli, artichoke hearts and tofu. The sun-dried tomatoes gave the pizza a rich depth that completely erased the need for a cheesy topping. (If you prefer not to use cheese substitutes when making pizza at home, you might want to try adding sun-dried tomatoes to your pie.) The real surprise was the memorable whole wheat crust — perfectly bubbly, charred and chewy.

Sweet Tomatoes

Sweet Tomatoes

One evening we went to Sweet Tomatoes all-you-can-eat buffet in Boca Raton for soup and humongous make-your-own salads. In addition to all the usual salad ingredients, they always have interesting things like raw, shredded butternut squash. Sweet Tomatoes requires a bit of patience if the line is long, but it's inexpensive, filling and vegan-friendly.

I was excited to discover a Chinese restaurant in Boca with a separate vegetarian menu, but we were all disappointed with our food. It doesn't look bad in the photo, but it wasn't too great. The front page of the veg menu had a whole discourse about the benefits of miso soup, and a long statement about how they catered to vegetarians. I ordered seaweed soup and it didn't taste like it had any miso in it. It had that fake-stock taste, if you know what I mean. The seaweed was delicious but every mouthful included a small dose of sand, so I gave up on eating it. Bleh. My spring roll was so greasy I peeled the outer skin off so I could eat the yummy cabbage filling. The main dish was okay but not something I'd look forward to eating again, but I doubt we'll ever go back to this restaurant.

This is getting too long, and I've got a bunch more photos to post so I'll call this part 1, and get the rest done asap. Coming up in part 2 will be our evening at Sublime Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, and lots more. But first I leave you with a little warning for the new year. Always check your back.

Above is an unnamed mystery guest who had just given himself an unfortunate d-i-y haircut before coming to the party. I photographed the back of his head so he could see why everyone was laughing. It was a good thing he was among friends, and hadn't gone out in public before corrections could be made. : )


  1. Sounds like you had a wonderful (and delicious) trip! I hate traveling all day like that too, but at least you were there for long enough to make it worth the days lost to traveling.

    I love Sweet Tomatoes! My grandparents always insist on going there when I visit them in FL, as it is the one vegan friendly restaurant they know they will be happy to eat at too :-)


  2. LOVING that guy's hair. The kids I teach shave designs into their heads now, but this is wayyyy better. That falafel looks delish. Also, props to S-I-L for her gorgey place settings.

  3. Courtney - My father loved going there, too. He always had stacks of discount coupons so our dinners would be really cheap. You're right about it being a meeting ground for vegans and omnivores.

    Trinity - I made my brother swear he wouldn't tell that I put that picture in the post. I feel a little mean but just couldn't resist! It was pretty funny.

  4. Wow, I can't imagine to spend so much time on a plane to get from one part of the country to another. I think it takes less to get from Berlin to Lisbon. I am glad you enjoyed your holiday and all that food looks spectacular!

  5. Andrea, that place you stayed sounds/looks like a dream come true! Especially since John has just come in from taking out the dogs and announced, 'The snow's on again!' We are COVERED in snow here, so it was lovely to see your photos of sun and sea. The food looks pretty good, too!

  6. Ooooohhhhhh..... your vacation looks AND sounds dreamy and delicious! Especially, well, all of it except for that Chinese stuff. So glad you got a break in the sun :)

  7. Mihl - I can't imagine spending so much time on planes either, but sometimes it's the only way. And yes, to get from one end of this country to another is a long haul, but the vacation was great.

    Penny - I want to go back!

    Claire - I needed that sun! But now I need it again. Hope you don't get too much more snow. (Unless it includes a "snow day."

  8. Those whole days of traveling are killer, but sometimes there's just no way around it. But at least it sounds like you had a great time with family and friends. I've been to the local Sweet Tomatoes a couple of times, it actually is pretty good for a chain buffet restaurant.

  9. Wow! Your winter vacation sounds like a lot of fun and yummy food. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos and all that food looks oh so good (sweet tomatoes, Mmmmm!!!).

    The pic of d-i-y haircut makes me laugh like crazy, very funny:)

  10. What a stunning locale! Ah, sunshine, heat. . .sounds wonderful. And the food you ate at your sil's looks delicious, as do the dishes you found in restaurants. That buffet at Sweet Tomatoes sounds like something I'd love, with all the cool raw options!

  11. Chow - The time spent traveling really did pay off this time because we had such a good time. Still ... it was a grind. I like Sweet Tomatoes a lot; I'd like it even more if the veggies were organic. (Ha!)

    Oraphan - You're welcome! I think I might have gained a little weight. :(

    The diy haircut really happened, and makes me check the mirror before I go out!

    Ricki- I could go for a little sunshine and heat right now, and I'm pretty sure you could, too. Yes, that buffet is handy - if only it were organic!


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