Travel

Florida Trip, Day 1, Part 2

This is the third of many posts detailing my trip to Florida in early December of last year. I apologize for the delay, but I think I was saving these posts for when I could use a little bit of sunshine. Today – with the cold weather surrounding me – is the perfect day to relive those memories.

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Leaving De Leon Springs, we headed about 30 minutes away to Cassadaga, which was founded in the late 1800s as a spiritualist camp. We had delicious appetizer at Sinatra’s Ristorante’ (located inside the Cassadaga Hotel) of bruschetta (plus a martini for my friend). The tomatoes in the bruschetta tasted like they had just been picked and the balsamic vinegar that topped the dish added the perfect bit of tang. Next time we go, we will stay in the hotel as we heard person after person calling to see which room was “haunted”. The entire atmosphere in the town felt calming and I can see why people flock there.

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After a quick search on Google, we made our way to the outskirts of Cassadaga. Our goal, or rather my goal, was to visit the legendary Devil’s Chair, located in a nearby cemetery. According to one local legend, an unopened can of beer left on the chair will be empty by morning. The Devil is sometimes said to appear to anyone so bold as to sit in the chair The cemetery itself felt eerie, like something out of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and while we spotted 3 different brick chairs, I only took my picture in one – leaving plenty of room for a second person to sit. We quickly left after seeing an old grave with a large, and I mean human sized, hole dug all the way to the coffin.

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We stopped to the Sweet Spot on the way home. I got a cup of chocolate ice cream topped with their outstanding homemade whipped cream. I experienced an instant bout of food envy however when I tasted the Frozen Explosion (ice coffee blended with the boyfriends choice of vanilla ice cream). We spent the rest of the evening relaxing.

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Come back tomorrow to read part 4, or check out part 1 – my review of Cress Restaurant and part 2, which details the earlier part of this day.

Sinatra’s Ristorante’
355 Cassadaga Rd.
Cassadaga, Florida

Sweet Spot
115 East Rich Ave.
Deland, Florida

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Travel

Florida Trip, Day 1, Part 1

This is the second of many posts detailing my trip to Florida in early December of last year. I apologize for the delay, but I think I was saving these posts for when I could use a little bit of sunshine. Today – with the cold weather surrounding me – is the perfect day to relive those memories.

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De Leon Springs State Park, named for Juan Ponce de León of the search for the mythical Fountain of, was the first stop on our agenda Thursday.

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Quick History from the Florida State Parks Information Center:

“Native people known as the Mayaca lived in the park for at least 6,000 years. Pedro Menendez, the founder of St. Augustine, first described the Mayaca after an encounter with them north of the park in 1566, a year after he founded St. Augustine. In the late 1500s, Spanish missions were established in the area. In the early 1800s, settlers built sugar and cotton plantations that were sacked by Seminole Indians during the Second Seminole War. By the 1880s the springs had become a winter resort, and tourists were promised “a fountain of youth impregnated with a deliciously healthy combination of soda and sulphur.”’

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We started the morning off with breakfast at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill inside of the park after I stopped oohing and ahhing at the magnificent oak trees towering over us in the parking lot. Walking into the restaurant and seeing the griddle in the middle of the table intimidated me, until a quick glance at the next table showed kids pulling the cooking off with ease. Our server explained the process to us, preparing us for the feast to come.

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My friend and I both ordered pancakes. It was all-you-can-eat and they brought out tons of batter (2 kinds: an early American style made with unbleached white flour and mix of 5 fresh stoneground flours). We also ordered a side of bacon, chocolate chips, and blueberries for the pancakes. My friend and I took turns minding the griddle, which was a lot of fun. The pancakes were served with syrup, a raw local honey, and an unsuphured molasses that I did not enjoy. If you go – and I highly recommend that you do, I suggest you order the bacon. It’s not like the regular bacon you get from the grocery store. This is thick with an addictive taste that is neither overly sweet nor salty.

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I brought my bathing suit so that my friend and I could take a dip in the springs, but somehow we had forgotten his bathing suit and our towels. Instead we went for a walk on the trails. The path to “Old Methuselah,” a bald cypress estimated to be nearly 500 years old, was closed so we started down to view Monkey Island. We didn’t get very far before we found ourselves nearing inch deep water, so we turned back.

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Come back tomorrow to read part 3, or check out part 1 – my review of Cress Restaurant.

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill
601 Ponce Deleon Blvd
De Leon Springs, Florida

Food

Review: Cress Restaurant in Deland, FL

Note: The pictures in this post disappeared when I was upgrading my blog. The pictures will be added sometime soon. (7/23/15z0

This is the first of many posts detailing my trip to Florida in early December of last year. I apologize for the delay, but I think I was saving these posts for when I could use a little bit of sunshine. Today – with the cold weather and snow surrounding me – is the perfect day to relive those memories. I also apologize for the crummy cell phone photos in this post. I didn’t think this was the right environment to bust out the good camera.

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Cress Restaurant has created quite a bit of buzz in the food world the past few years. Just in 2014, the restaurant has already been featured on Emeril’s Florida. I had been religiously reading the coverage and the social media sites of the restaurant well before the boyfriend booked our reservation so I knew already what I would eat there depending on what the weekend specials were. The specials, though sounding tasty, were both food items that I had tried before (goat and flounder) and I wanted to step out of my usual box.

We were seated promptly, and I loved the fact that we were seated by the windows at the front. I’m a fan of people watching. The atmosphere in the restaurant felt intimate and romantic without being stuffy. We were offered an amuse-bouche and what I remember of it was that it was a tasty mix Indian spiced veggies with yogurt. What a promising way to start out meal.

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We started our meal with Indonesian Escargot (clarified butter, garlic, parsley). This was my first time trying escargot and whole the taste was fabulous and the escargot melted in your mouth, I knew that I should stop after one. I wanted to make sure that it settled well in my stomach (mind over matter).

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For my entrée, it was an easy choice. I went with the Andouille Stuffed Whole Quail (smoked pork and potato hash, lingonberry reduction). My friend went with the Shrimp ‘N Cress Grits (pork sausage, roasted corn salsa, cress grits, shrimp bisque). I explained to my friend a while ago that we are never allowed to order the same dishes so that I can have a taste of his.

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The quail was perfectly cooked and the lingonberry reduction was a nice compliment to the richness of the meat. It tasted sweet, yet with a necessary touch of tartness. My friend’s shrimp and grits had a kick to it, completely different from my own dish, but delicious in its own way.

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My friend asked for a wine recommendation for his dinner and while I can’t really remember exactly what it was, I believe that Jenneffer recommended the Gouguenheim Escondido Malbec from Argentina. I took a sip and though I am not a red wine fan, my friend stated that the wine paired nicely with the spice of his shrimp and grits.

Overall, I thought the service was splendid and the staff really helped to make our night special. I would go there again in a heartbeat, especially since I have heard that it’s almost time for their Spring menu to be revealed.

Cress Restaurant
103 West Indiana Ave.
Deland, Florida