So let me explain about this post. I went to the Florida Keys in the end of September to teach a woman named Jen about vegan baking. She owns a vegan bed and breakfast in Big Pine Key called Deer Run Bed and Breakfast. It is truly an amazing, beautiful place and Jen and her partner are such amazing people!! I feel so blessed to have ever met them and what an experience to go to a place and eat amazing organic vegan food all the time without worry in such an environmentally conscious place. Sigh. Wish I could go back! So, below is basically a diary of the first few days and all the fun things we did and of course ate!!
(9/23) Day 1:
Travel travel travel! Woke up at 6 am in Brooklyn, off to the airport by 6:15 am, and at Newark airport in Jersey by 7 am. Ft. Lauderdale by noon and Big Pine Key (finally!) B&B by about 4 pm. This place is crazy beautiful and tropical feeling. Coconut trees everywhere and it is hot hot hot!!! And humid, although Jen (one of the owners) says it is significantly less humid than it has been. The neatest thing of all about this place are the Key Deer. They're absolutely tiny! And they come right up to you, which I have to admit is a bit freaky, but it's neat that they are not afraid of you like regular deer are.
But enough about me droning on about how amazing everything is. Let's talk about food. When I first arrived, Jen and her fiance welcomed me with a personalized sign, which I absolutely loved. Then, they greeted me with hummus and a fresh baked vegan muffin in case I was starving, which of course I was. Airport food is horrible! We came across the restaurant they wanted to take mt to about an hour and a half into the drive. It was a beautiful Spanish place owned by one of their friends. There weren't many vegetarian options on the menu, and nothing vegan, so I was a little surprised, since they are both vegan, but being that their friend owned the restaurant, we were able to modify some vegetable melt sandwiches to be made dairy free. Honestly, when they first arrived I was a little disappointed because it just looked like vegetables inside of a white baguette and mesclen greens. But once I bit into it, I realized there was greatness in its simplicity and the salad was tossed in a homemade balsamic vinaigrette and topped with, get this, ripe tomatoes! I'm not sure I have ever had a salad with juicy, delicious, ripe tomatoes! There was a delicious sauce on the sandwich and the bread was super freshly baked. It was very tasty, but unfortunately, I was so hungry I forgot all about taking a picture of it until I was more than halfway through it. SO disappointed. But it was delicious, the owner was very nice, genuine and hung out with us for a while talking expensive wines, pickles and other fun, random food topics.
|Welcome to Deer Run Bed & Breakfast!|
Now on to dinner. Jen told me there were not many options in the hood, and the best for the time constraints we were under was this place called, seriously "No Name Pub". It had terrible service, as indicated on the paper the server left in front of us. She gave us Styrofoam plates, plastic utensils, a roll of paper towels for a napkin, and beverages were served in disposable plastic cups. Very classy. And get this - the place was completely covered in $1 bills - an estimated $75,000 worth, all scribbled on and written all over. Crazy. Believe me, see below.
|Thousands of $1 bills!|
|And even more! Thank god the place was smoke free!|
|This is the bill I decorated! For the Hubbs & I & our home!|
Then came the menu. A couple vegetarian options (iceberg lettuce salad anyone?) and nothing vegan. We both chose an individual pizza, cheese-less. It took about half an hour. Jen told me that sometimes during the season, the place can have a 3+ hour waiting limit, and people actually wait. It was a giant piece, with nothing to recommend it. Came back later, hung out and Jen gave me an amazing cookie which I promptly forgot the name of (bad me!). It was crazy delicious! Not too sweet, nice and crunchy, but not too crunchy, simply delicious! I was trying to analyze everything it had in it - so tasty! It had pecans, coconut, chocolate chips, shredded carrots, etc. Yum - I definitely want another one.
|The cookie wrapped so cutely. I believe the ribbon is |
compostable and am not sure if the bag is as well,
but a keeper!
|The super tasty cookie.|
(9/24) Day 2:
Is this work or vacation, seriously???
|Can you imagine waking up to this everyday!?|
This place is completely amazing and the owners are the nicest people ever - I feel like either they or I am from outer space, because where I live, no one is ever that nice - EVER! We started our baking sessions today and had a great time, blabbing and blabbing about everything. The time went by crazy fast! Jen told me she would let me sleep till I woke up. I set the alarm for 9 am and promptly woke up at 7:30 am. Got ready, went upstairs and was greeted with fresh coffee and a pre-breakfast of a vegan banana walnut muffin and fresh fruit.
|Yummy Organic Fruit & a Muffin made with Bananas from the garden!|
I offered to help, but was told to sit down and relax. I read the local paper and talked to Jen's partner until she brought out breakfast, which was a veggie tofu scramble and deliciously seasoned roasted potatoes and the most beautiful piece of pineapple ever.
|Can you imagine going to a B&B & being served this? Yum!!|
Once we digested, we went into the kitchen and started baking. We first made something I call tofu water, which sounds disgusting, but is just pureed silken tofu mixed with filtered water, that acts as an egg replacer and makes the most amazing cakes. Then we made chocolate frosting, cream cheese frosting, double chocolate brownies, vanilla bean cheesecake, coconut almond macaroons, peanut butter and jelly scones and savory herbed sundried tomato scones. Everything turned out beautifully and I cannot wait till tomorrow to make the cakes and practice the cake decorating. It's going to be a blast! Jen also made us lunch, which was an amazingly delicious, thick, hearty black bean corn chili, which she served with a dollop of sour cream, crushed black bean tortilla chips, crusty bread and fresh fruit. So delicious and I've never had chili so thick before! I asked her how she got it so thick, and was thinking of countless amounts of time spent over the burner, stirring constantly, allowing it to thicken itself. Her secret: oat flour! Seriously it was the best thing ever and I have to try it!
|So good & nicely spicy!|
Once we finished, she gave me some privacy and loaned me several vegan baking books to look over and some time to chill out.
|Starfruit growing in Jen's Organic Garden!|
|Bananas growing in the Organic Garden|
|Cuban Oregano - I have some in NY with me that is |
growing and growing. So fragrant!
We're going to reconvene later with a sunset boat cruise with homemade hummus where we will hopefully see dolphins jumping in the water.
|View from the boat. Gorgeous.|
What an amazing place, seriously!
|Salad for diner: artichoke hearts, sunflower sprouts, mixed|
greens, carrots & balsamic vinaigrette.
|Dinner: Pasta with Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon, |
Sauce, Daiya. Crazy good but too much food!
And so cannot wait to taste all of those baked goods! Yum!
|Samples of all the baked goods we made today! Only |
missing the cheesecake - it had to set up overnight.
(9/25) Day 3:
Today was another great day filled with lots of baking, lots of amazing delicious organic food. The day started the same way with me waking up naturally around 7:30 am, getting ready and going upstairs, having a cup of coffee and a prequel to breakfast. Today it was a blueberry muffin sprinkled with homemade organic powdered sugar and garnished with a slice of star fruit from her back yard organic garden and a piece of strawberry.
|So yummy. Love how the sugar on top is nice & crispy!|
Breakfast was gorgeous (I can't imagine how much time she spent in the beginning messing around with how to plate everything - but it has definitely paid off!) - Banana pancakes from baby bananas again from their backyard garden, garnished with tons of strawberries and organic maple syrup, with half of a grapefruit on the side. It was so deliciously filling!
|Coated in Berries!|
Then digesting for a little bit, and on to the baking. Today we concentrated on the cakes. We made so many that it was ridiculous! We made a cake of each flavor, then the remaining batter was portioned into cupcakes. SO we made coconut cake and cupcakes, vanilla bean cake and cupcakes, chocolate cake and cupcakes and carrot cake and cupcakes. It was a little out of control, especially once everything was baked - there was no room anywhere! So, while everything was cooling, several hours later, we had lunch. It was very good again. We started with a salad that consisted of spinach, sliced carrots, garbanzo beans, sunflower seed sprouts and a balsamic vinaigrette from their friend that owns the restaurant we visited on the way over. It was delicious! Then the main was an African Peanut Soup topped with sriracha and served with blue corn tortilla chips on the side. It was delicious and surprisingly filling. Jen gave me the recipe, so I'll have to make it sometime (when I have time!). It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, because it was too thick for a soup, but didn't have the texture or consistency of a stew, so I don't know how to label it, but it was damn good - the more sriracha the better!
|Simple delicious salad. Loved the idea of putting garbanzos|
in a salad - why have I never tried that before??
|See the sriracha on top? I ended up putting like 6x that amount on!|
Once we digested lunch, it was back to the kitchen. Time to decorate our confections! We decorated some of the chocolate cupcakes, iced 2 whole cakes, and I went through the basics on cake decorating. I wish I had taken a picture of all of the designs I did for Jen, but it went into the compost before I even thought it through! Next time! We decorated so much, but there was still so much left to decorate! Jen and I boxed everything up, intending to take it to her local health food store for samples. The rest of the stuff she insisted she would decorate (it was a lot!).
|Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting, garnished|
with little stars made from Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting.
|Vegan Carrot Cake with the practice carrots. We used beet juice |
& spirulina powder for the color - keeping it natural!
Then we went our separate ways, I chilled and we returned for dinner. Jen made what she calls an Earth Burger. I am always very into trying veggie burgers - it's just one of those things. Whenever I go to a restaurant, I will always get the seitan, veggie burger or cheesecake. I'm always very curious. The burger was very good. Very hearty and extremely filling. I couldn't eat all of it. The only thing I missed was raw onion. Not sure if people in Florida (or just the Keys) are against raw onions, or if I am just too obsessed with them, but I asked Jen if she would mind slicing some for me. A veggie burger is not a veggie burger without raw onions. To me anyway! It was very tasty and I also have the recipe for that one! Have to try that too! It was pretty rainy, so we just enjoyed a leisurely dinner, blabbing and blabbing.
|This is sadly the best picture I have of the Earth Burger. |
Sorry Jen! It was damn tasty though!
Look for Part 2 of my Deer Run B&B Trip coming soon!