Friday, May 4, 2007

Birthday Well Spent

When I lived in Michigan, my birthday fell in the heart of tulip time. I spent several birthdays taking day trips to Holland, MI during Tulip Festival. So this year I had in mind going to the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville, FL to see what flowers were in bloom there this time of year. Here is a photo we took there in March 2006 during peak azalea blooming season.

However we didn't do our research beforehand, and so we arrived there only to discover that Thursdays are the one day of the week they are closed! Another thing that we would have discovered if we had done our research is that this week is Graduation Week at University of Florida in Gainesville. So, instead of seeing scores of people donning wooden shoes like we would see in Holland, we saw lots of people posing in caps and gowns!

As it was well over 90 degrees outside, I was aware that if I was still going to get to take a nice walk, it had better be in a wooded, shady area. I knew that Devil's Millhopper State Park would definitely fit the bill. But, on the way there, we stumbled upon a trail called Hogtown Creek Greenway, so we explored it instead. The creek was all dried up due to our drought, but as always when we take walks in Florida, we saw plenty of wildlife. Of note this walk were lots of songbirds, lots of squirrels, and a red skink. But I was able to capture a photo of this:

A rabbit on the path. This is a rare occurrence for us. In Michigan we were accustomed to seeing rabbits everywhere. But in Florida, for some reason, we rarely see them. It was amazing my cracked and dying camera decided to work at all, let alone in 96 degree weather. Speaking of our drought, we were definitely seeing and breathing the smoke from all of the wildfires in Georgia and Florida. This shot was also the rare bit of sunlight that managed to peek through the smokey haze.

So, as this is a food blog, onto the talk about what we ate! Pedro made me some wonderful pancakes topped with fresh strawberries for breakfast. And in Gainesville we dined at two great vegetarian-friendly places. We lunched at the Book Lover's Cafe, which was so appropriate, as that name definitely describes me. It's a completely vegetarian restaurant set within a used bookstore. There are tables to dine throughout the place, as well as outdoor tables. And the food was great. I didn't manage to get any photos. The camera needed a break. But, fortunately, the camera did work for dinner, where we dined at The Top, a very funky-college-town-feeling place. It wasn't a vegetarian restaurant, but it had a surprising number of creative vegetarian dishes. It was actually hard to choose what to eat. It was funny though because Pedro and I both gravitated to the same style of tofu, so both of the dishes we chose ended up looking very similar, even though there were many other dishes that would have been way different from each other than the two dishes we happened to choose:

I had the Pecan-Encrusted Tofu: "pan seared and served over mashed potatoes with rosemary and brandy mushroom cream sauce and veggie du jour." Pedro had the same tofu but with Rosemary and Smoked Gouda Gnocci: "served with our potato gnocci, grilled asparagus and our rosemary and smoked Gouda cream sauce." Quoted from their menu. Yum! Very comforting and satisfying food. If I had plated the dish, I would have added more veggies and less carbs. But, all in all, it was a pleasant dinner. And for dessert, I did indulge in chocolate. The waitress highly recommended their Vegan Chocolate Cake, and I managed to get an extra large Birthday serving:

It was very very good. I may not have the credibility saying this being a vegetarian, but you wouldn't have any clue that this is a vegan cake when eating it. We were very full from dinner. So, we shared dessert and didn't manage to eat it all. But that means I have leftovers for a snack today!

The other food-related activities we did were to visit two great markets in Gainesville that I love to visit: Mother Earth and Ward's. The first of those is a national chain that many may know. But Ward's is a one-of-a-kind locally owned place. If you are into food and are in Gainesville, find Ward's.


Jenny said...

Ahh... so *this* is what you did for your birthday. Sounds like it was a nice day. Was the cake anything like the vegan cake at Seva in Ann Arbor (do you remember that cake). I ask because it almost looks similar. Meaning, my mouth is watering just looking at it.

Kathleen said...

Yes Jenny! Actually the cake tasted a LOT of Seva's choc cake, now that you mention it!! It was worth breaking my no-chocolate streak for. It would have been even better w/raspberry coulis, but since I didn't have to make this dessert, it was a great Birthday pampering.

Anonymous said...

Happy belated birthday wishes from Michigan!!! Glad to hear you enjoyed your day. Just thought I would let you know we tried the pnut butter banana bread. Yum! Yum! Pat H.

Kathleen said...

Great that you enjoyed the banana bread, Pat!

Anonymous said...

Hey Kathy! I can't believe you went to Tulip Time! Chris would be so jealous! We may try to go this weekend because the curiosity is killing Chris. I told him I have NEVER GONE!--Karen

Kathleen said...

That's so funny Karen! I have a feeling Chris will be a bit disappointed. I just really loved seeing the fields of all the colorful tulips. We didn't partake in the vast array of touristy set-ups there. But, there are tulips all over the place. And they really are pretty.