Road Trip Vacay First Leg, Lakeland

So, we went to Florida last week.  We drove.  Which is rare for us.  Usually, the only time we do long distance driving is when we are moving cross country.  But, this time we wanted to take the RuBear with us.  So we planned our trip around accommodating our dog.  Not sure what he would have chosen if he could tell us.  He probably would have said, "I wanna go with you.  You need my protection."  Then a few hours into the trip he probably would have said, "I changed my mind, take me to that busy doggie daycare where I can go inside or outside as I please, but I don't really go outside, but I like the option."

So, we got on the road at like 5:11 am.  Actually, I think we started at 5:04, but then I forgot something trivial, like my phone, so I made TFP turn around and go get it.

So, here is the sunrise in Mississippi.  I think Mississippi is known as the sunrise state, right?

On the way, we stopped at Waffle House.  We had a triple hash browns smothered and peppered, and a waffle.  They were both really satisfying and we polished off the hash browns.

Later on, we stopped at McDonalds and had fries and dried out burgers.  #roadtripfastfoodfail

So, it took us 12 hours to get to our first destination - my dad's house in Lakeland, Florida.  I have been calling it my parents' house, but realistically, all the details, decor and choices were made by my dad.  But, that's a dark path, so let's not get into all that...  So, the last hour of the drive was really in Polk County getting to the house.  It was during rush hour, so it took us an hour to go, oh, maybe 20 miles?

So, anyway, we got to the house in Lakeland and unloaded the car and stuff.  Then all three of us hopped right back into the car and went to the newly reconstructed Publix down the street.  We got all our beverage essentials -  Florida craft beer which is not available in New Orleans, kombucha and green drinks.

So, we went back to the house and decompressed (The Food Pimp decompressed a couple Florida craft beers, and I tasted them).  I forgot how good those beers were!  Cigar City Guayabera, Brew Hub Rome City, and Cigar City Jai Alai.

I went to take Rudy for a walk down to the lake before dinner.  I had romanticized walking him around Lake Hollingsworth, or at least partway.  This was the lake that I grew up walking, biking, driving around.  It has a paved walking/biking path that has been nicely kept up over the years.  Also, Florida Southern College is on Lake Hollingsworth.  It was the perfect campus to go exploring through, and flying down hills on a bike, hoping I didn't die.  So, I took him out around 6 pm.  It was still pretty sunny and humid.  Rudy did not want to walk.  He was amped up and nervous.

So, I have to interject some back story here.  When Rudy was around 4 months, he became an absolute terror.  I attribute this to a couple different things.  The first, one night we were taking out the trash.  Back then we had an alley with a swale where we put all our garbage and stuff.  So, I had to walk the trash through the backyard, out the back gate.  Rudy was following, and the bag broke.  Out fell a prime rib bone.  Rudy found it and grabbed it, and that's when his food aggression started.  We've never completely nipped that in the bud.  When it comes to bones, pig ears and the like, he won't give it up.

So, also, around that time, we left him in boarding for the first time.  For a week.  He thought we abandoned us.  That's when he developed his overprotective fear of strangers.  Pair that with the fact that we never had anyone over, we had a problem.  So, we hired a trainer.  She was good for the first several sessions, and she really helped.  But then in the end she got distracted with moving her shelter to a different location, so she phoned in the last session she came to, and I believe she never came for our final "graduation" session.  Anyway, she taught us the redirection walking strategy.  If your dog is pulling ahead or trying to go a different direction, you do an about face and the momentum will bring your dog with him.  I've since kind of abandoned this, because sometimes there's no room for this, or whatever.  Anyhoo, Rudy has this ingrained in his memory.  He uses this on me when he doesn't want to walk where we are going, he tries to turn me around!  Smart ass fucking dog.

Anyway, getting back to our walk around Lake Hollingsworth.  We never made it to the Lake that evening.  He kept trying to turn back to the house, and then I would try to turn him back to the Lake.  This happened, oh about 3/4ths of the way to the lake, until I gave up and let him redirect me back to the house.  I was tired and sweaty anyway, and I was ready to go eat dinner.

So, we got back to the house, and I took a shower.

We went downtown to the new location of Nineteen61.  Its a hispanic restaurant owned by a cuban chef originally from Coral Gables.  We went to the old location twice before and had a great experience both times.  So, we were excited to check out the new location.  It was a little more laid back and inviting, which was nice.

This is the floor, lol.  It's concrete stamped to look like wood planks.  I think it's pretty cool.  

This is the tile on the side of the bar.

Directly in the back is the kitchen service window.  You can't tell, but part of the glass is frosted and says Nineteen61 on it.  It's pretty swanky.  The bar stools were big and comfy, but it must be a lot of work to keep them clean!

We sat at the bar, of course.  All the FOH (front of house) were pleasant.  

These were both really good!  The octopus had just enough chew, and a nice smoky finish as well.  Potatoes were really good too.  Corvina was nice and fresh.  The hot sauce was also tasty.  The only teeny tiny flaw was that there wasn't the crispy quinoa on the tiradito.

This was the paella.  It was so good.  Sometimes I get squeamish with mixed seafood dishes, especially on a Monday.  But the seafood was all very fresh and cooked nicely.  The paella rice was just the right amount of creamy and very flavorful.  We ate this whole plate in a matter of minutes, and we were trying to pace ourselves.

I can't find the description of this on the website, but it was a mezcal coconut cream Paloma.  TFP was hesitant to order it because of the coconut cream.  But it really made the drink.  I am not a big drinker anymore these past... 8 years or so.  I order cocktails to try them, but I usually don't finish them.  This one was amazing.  I could have ordered one and drank the whole thing.  I cannot stress how good it was.  I believe our bartender was Brianne.  Kudos Brianne!

So, we always get dessert when we go to Nineteen61.  I didn't want to break tradition.  So, we went with Brianne's suggestion (I really hope that is her name).  I can't find the dessert description.  But basically it was a chocolate peanut butter bomb with salted caramel sauce.  It was really rich, but mousse like... We were trying to analyze the chocolate coating and sauce.  TFP pointed out a smoky quality.  Which... we weren't sure if it was on purpose, or if it got scorched in the pan... but it tasted really good either way... lol. 

So, we had a wonderful dinner.  This was an all round wonderful experience.  TFP pointed out how this restaurant could really be anywhere in any major cosmopolitan city... but it's in podunk little Lakeland, Florida.  Oh Lakeland, how you've grown with your growing food scene and breweries.  Soon there will be a food hall & brewery on Lake Mirror! 

This was a mural on a banner on the side of one of the buildings downtown.

So, the next morning, we went to get coffee at our favorite coffee shop in Lakeland.  We went to start the car, and all the electrical freaked out.  The display basically reported every mechanical or electrical system in the car needing maintenance.  So, we were hoping it was just the battery.  We jumped the car, and it worked, thankfully.  

We were excited to get nitro!  We ordered 2 nitro coffees.  We paid, and then the barista poured them.  She said, "2 cold brew coffees".  We took them.  We were very disappointed.  I wanted to say something, but we didn't.  We took our cold brews and we drank them.  They were good.  They just weren't nitro.  

For our morning walk, I managed to get Rudy to the lake.  I got him to go maybe a quarter the way around.  We saw some otters.  I never knew there were otters in Lake Hollingsworth.  I googled it and saw that they've been there for at least 3 or 4 years.  I have no idea how they got there, but I got some video of them being otters.

Lakeland has a lot of live oaks with Spanish moss hanging on them.  So southern.  I never really thought much about them growing up because I was used to them.  My friend and I came up with the story that the moss was from old ladies (witches maybe?) sliding around on the tree branches at night.  

Here's a panoramic pic of Lake Hollingsworth

So, before lunch, we went out to Dick's to get some Florida essential for TFP - flip flops and board shorts.  We got back in the car, and it didn't start again.  We had googled the Jeep dealership ahead of time and found that it was near Dicks.  

So, we jumped the car again.  It sounded like it wasn't going to start, but luckily it did.  So, we drove straight to the dealership and waited in the service line.  A very strange thing happened.  The first service advisor came up to us with her iPad.  She asked for information.  She took the vin number and stuff.  Then she said a service advisor would be right with us.  The next person comes up.  He asks what's wrong with the car.  We give the same spiel.  He says, the service advisor would be right with us.  Then yet another person came up and asked us the same questions or not.  It was like a joke.  Like we were on a hidden camera TV show.  Anyway, finally a fourth came out, and she plugged that thing (dongle?) into the car that reads all the error codes.  So, from what she saw, we just needed a new battery.  But, she said, they had to scan the whole electrical to make sure, and that could take up to 2 hours.  She asked if we wanted to get the shuttle to the mall nearby and grab lunch.  We said we would get an Uber downtown, but she really tried to sell us on the mall food court.  Maybe they got commission?  Anyway, we got an uber. 

We went to Mojo Federal Swine and Spirits.  So, it's very confusing because the place next to it is The Federal Bar.  Different owner.  Both places are in the same building, the old Federal building.  So they both had to have Federal in their name.  They both look similar because they wanted to keep the original exposed brick.  Unfortunately, I didn't take enough photos.  Anyway, here's some art on the wall that I liked.

These are the smoked chicken wings.  They were really good.  Nice smokey flavor, crisp skin.  We also got Mac and cheese at the suggestion of our bartender.  I didn't take a photo of the Mac and cheese, but it was delicious.  We also got a combo plate with chicken and ribs.  I didn't take any photos of those for some reason.  They were aight.  

Lakeland has a swan fetish.  The queen of England gave them 2 swans in 1957.  So then they started getting more and more swans.  So the local animal art installation is swans.

Right as we were finishing lunch, our service advisor called to tell us our car was ready.  It took just about an hour.  So we called an uber and headed back.  In a Land Rover Discovery.  Fancy Uber car.  The driver had BO.  At first I thought it was me.  So, I was relieved it was the driver's smell and not mine.  So that made his BO more tolerable because I was just happy it wasn't mine.

So, later that afternoon we went to a local brewery/contract brewer.  Brew Hub.  It is located off the interstate in a .... warehouse!  If you've ever been to Cigar City, it reminds me of a mini version of Cigar City.  

Brew Hub brews Rome City, which is a great IPA.  They had a French oaked version of it.  TFP got it.  It was good.  

I did the tourist thing and got a flight.  I figured, if I wasn't going to drink all my beer, I might as well taste several.  I got the Dränk - which was a sour that I guess was supposed to taste like purple drank.  I've never had purple drank so I don't know, but I did like it.  Maybe I should taste purple drank?  I also asked for the other sour, solar pleasure, but it was tapped, so I got the Giggle Water.  This was... a hard seltzer.  Yeah, it's a little embarrassing to admit that I got it.  It was black cherry and raspberry flavored.  And damned if it didn't just taste like the New York Seltzers I used to drink in high school.  I imagine if I had tasted that hard seltzer back then, I would have drank more.  For the third beer, I got Maximum Comfortable, which is an imperial IPA. Honestly, it didn't taste too strongly alcoholic.  I really liked it.  The last beer was Matte Black.  This was a 5% schwarzbier.  It was also good.  Like, I guess, a classic schwarzbier.  I'm not sure I know what that means though, lol.

After that, we went back to the house.  I remembered that my sister had left a piece of tiramisu in the freezer.  She had gone to Born and Bread Bakehouse the week before and bought a bunch of stuff.  So, it's a bakery downtown.  It's only open Wednesday 5pm - 10 pm, and Saturday 8 am- 1pm.  From what I gather, there's just a line down the block the whole time they are open.  Good strategy, I guess?

Here's the menu offerings the day my sister went

Here is said tiramisu.  And don't lecture me about how it's not traditional or whatever.  It was a nice MOIST cake.  So so moist.  Melt in your mouth moist.  Moist.

So, we hung out at the homestead.  You know, I rode a bike and stuff.  Actually, it's not my childhood bike.  Someone left it behind our house.  I sprayed it down with WD40 and filled the tires and it was as good as an old rusted bike that had been sitting outside for a long time.

So, we weren't sure what to do about dinner.  We didn't really feel like driving far.  And we didn't want to go to some place that we knew would be disappointing.  So we went back to Nineteen61.  We knew that we might ruin the magic by going a second time.  Whenever we gosomewhere twice in a row, the second visit never lives up to the first.  But, we were hoping that would not be the case.  

So, some of the same staff was there again the second night.  That was a little embarrassing.  Brianne was there, but the other bartender served us that night.  Unfortunately I couldn't remember her name.  She was also very good though.  It was much busier this night, and also the chef was there.  He always makes a point to go around the room and ask everyone how they are.  I think it's always a nice touch, whether or not they want real feedback.  I know that whenever I asked tables how they were doing at our restaurant, I was praying that no one would lodge a complaint with me!

So, for the appetizers, we got the other two things that we did not get the night before.  

 This was the deviled crab.  The taste of the hot crab dip was good, it was just in the oven too long and the oil had separated out, and the crab was kind of shredded.  The plantain chips were very nicely cooked though, and we did eat a good amount of it.

 This, on the other hand, was amazing.  Ceviche.  It was just so fresh and good.  And the cancha (corn nuts) were nicely toasted.  I mean, we've eaten a lot of ceviche in our lives.  I'm not gonna lay down that, "I've been around the world in some of the best restaurants" spiel... because, I've been around a little, but I don't pretend to be a food critic.  Oh wait, yes I do!  Lol... I don't have a Yelp elite badge or anything, and I'm not an influencer either.  I can say though, from my recollection, this was one of more tasty versions of ceviche that I have had in my lifetime.

The house salad.  Just what I wanted.  A simple nice salad.  Don't get me wrong, I love a loaded salad.  The more stuff the better.  But sometimes I just want an easy salad - no goat cheese or bacon or cranberries and tomatoes.  This was just what I wanted that night.

So, we were deciding between the whole fried snapper and the seafood Moqueca.  The moqueca won out because TFP is a sucker for seafood stews.  He loves that shit.  bouillabaisse, zarzuela, cioppino, chupe, chowder, bisque.  Once again.  The kitchen nailed it.  It was so good.  I can't attest to the mussels because I don't really eat mussels so much after that one time I got sick from them, but all the other seafood was once again, fresh and cooked nicely.  
So, this night, we didn't get dessert.  I think we were tired and ready to get back to our doggie.  So, we ended another nice dinner at Nineteen61 and hopefully broke the second night curse!  

 Here's Rudy taking his purple dragon up the stairs to bed.  

So that ends our first leg of our driving vacation... stay tuned!