Our roadtrip’s path through northeast Florida is a FAMILIAR one… and a FAMILY one.
We traded the college food scene of east Orlando to visit the Hub’s parents (my in-laws) in Palm Coast before staying with my sister in Jacksonville.
Palm Coast is a quiet, coastal town. Except once we arrived at the in-laws’ house, we were immediately surrounded by a gaggle of jolly, older women. Coincidentally (or not?) the ILs also had all their out-of-town friends staying over. Hubs and I tried to be inconspicuous in doing our laundry as we stepped around their glasses of wine and gossip of neighbors back home. Yet, we still got pulled into their giggling-over-grandchildren, church-fundraising-planning club as we had the common goal of exploring the beach town together.
The next morning, we drove away from the crowds of Flagler Beach – in this area, crowds just meant being forced to park one block from the beach instead of right on – to the large property of the Hammock Beach Resort. Although all the surrounding property fed into the Resort, there was a small public beach entrance. Once we stepped onto the sand, it was obvious we were standing on a hidden treasure. A short walk away from the boardwalk we had the place to ourselves. Short palms straddled the space between grass and sand, shielded the resort from view, and arched towards the waves as if to reach for it.
The covered porch of nearby Captain’s BBQ was a welcome escape from the sun while still keeping a fabulous view of the Matanzas River. Our little party dined on moist (yet slightly lacking a smoky flavor) brisket accompanied by some decent mac & cheese, corn bread, and potato salad while watching little boats enter and leave the river via the nearby ramp. Afterwards, we waddled onto the neighboring Mala Compra Park to uncover its ruins… yes, real ruins!… there’s a huge, open hut at the park’s center sheltering the remains of one of Florida’s early citizens. We peered inside an old well and pondered at the size of the home– all that remained were outlines of the walls and the base of the floor.
The drive to Jacksonville was short, and immediately my sister and her fiancee brought us to 5Fx Ice Cream and Taiyaki for evening munchies. The masters behind the counter folded and whisked flavored liquid over cold, metal plates until Coffee Ice Cream (Fiancee Bert) and Cookies and Cream Ice Cream (my sis) slowly formed. Meanwhile, Hubs and I couldn’t resist the gooey, melted insides of a sturdy yet bready Taiyaki stuffed with chocolate. Why were there no ice cream over taiyaki combos? Send me the check when this idea hits.
The next day, it was all work and no play as I followed my sister and her fiancee around like a celebrity stalker through Jacksonville’s Riverside area to take their engagement photos. Somehow, they wanted to incorporate photos of Jacksonville, coffee… and Pokemon. Challenge accepted! (Am I jealous we didn’t use Pokemon themes in our wedding? Maybe I’ll admit it later)
Bold Bean Coffee kept our sanity going through creamy cappuccinos and lattes (and some beautiful, brick-walled backgrounds). Unfortunately, the caffeine potential was doused early as we immediately capped our day off at Intuition Ale Works and their awesome selection of dark beers. Intuition’s in-house food station churned out creative (but a tad salty) creations such as salty poutine, salty kimchi burger, salty fries… the soft coffee and chocolate flavors of their dark beer was much appreciated.
The next day, my sis thanked us (released us?) with a half-dozen gourmet donuts from Good Dough. I practically inhaled the Creme Brulee donut with its crispy, sugar shell. (Shriek! And that explosion of cream inside). Meanwhile, the Mexican spice delivered a surprising bite once you cut through all the chocolate.
Full and filled with family memories, we left northeast Florida to cross the border into the next part of our trip.
Georgia was calling to us, and we were on our way.