Got a call from Dennis and their family is coming down for the week to spend time with Ansley’s parents. Since we live so far apart, we try to see them whenever they come to Florida – even if it is only for a day. Eric found us a place to stay Saturday afternoon and we drove over on Sunday.
We have stayed in this area before, specifically at this hotel “Hyde Park Hotel”. It is a boutique hotel in a very ‘happening’ part of Tampa.
They have mostly finished a re-model and this room was very similar to the first room we stayed in. On another visit, another room we stayed in had furniture that looked like it had been picked up at garage sales and hand-me-downs. This room was much nicer than our last.
Reservations were at ‘Roux’, a restaurant specializing in New Orleans style cooking, with a modern twist. They sat us at a round table and it was perfect for talking and visiting with them. While this meal didn’t last as long as our meal in France (Warner was timing it), we leisurely enjoyed our time.
There were a variety of dishes, all very tasty. Below you have char-grilled oysters, crab beignets along with a cup of seafood gumbo. For my meal I ordered the shrimp po-boy and it did not disappoint. I also had the gumbo and it wasn’t bad. Gumbo is my favorite thing that Eric makes and everything else pales by comparison. There was much more food, but tried to keep my photo-taking low-key.
Naturally we had to have desserts. Eric ordered crème brulee,while I got the bread pudding (which has become a fan-favorite with me). This was good, but Eric’s is better. It was huge. Audrey and I could have split one!
Monday is President’s Day and many kids are out of school along with numerous government offices that are closed. The weather was absolutely beautiful – actually, almost too hot, especially for February. It would have been a great day to take the boat on the water with the kids, but we didn’t know any hotel where we could park it. Plus, Eric has been meaning to wash it since its sitting in our driveway, but hasn’t found the time.
To enjoy the fine weather, we drove to Wheedon Island Preserve. We were following Dennis and enjoyed a few extra miles of scenic driving before getting on track.
There is a boardwalk through the mangroves and shallow waterways for kayakers.
Audrey did a little exploring of her own and found a quiet overlook to enjoy.
They have an observation tower which gives you a great view of the preserve.
Before leaving them to head back to Clermont, we made lunch plans. Since no one had any definite suggestions, I brought up “U Le Le”, a place we had eaten together before I left for Shanghai.
The meal was good, we had too much food but enjoyed the time spent together while they were visiting in Tampa. The restaurant focuses on freshly prepared entres, locally sourced when possible. The group tried another tray of char-grilled oysters, along with okra fries. Eric also got an avocado soup that was interesting.
Eric and I both ordered sandwiches, his being a grouper sandwich while I ordered a burger. Both were tasty.
Once again, we ended up with desserts. Andrey and I both got their strawberry & orero ice cream while Warner couldn’t resist the bacon, maple ice cream dessert. Somehow, I just can’t do it. To my way of thinking……..bacon isn’t an ingredient for sweets.
One of the highlights of our trip was a bag of fresh produce from the Darden Garden that we brought for them. We try to share things that are home-made or somehow ‘local’ and this definitely qualified. While the kids weren’t totally enthused (really….. veggies as gifts), I don’t believe I’ve ever seen Ansley so excited. 🙂
We were able to include carrots, cabbage, peas, green beans, swiss chard and a few leaves of spinach. They belong to a CSA in NYC and their veggies have been brought in their luggage/carry-ons on past trips together with us. There is a story about a chocolate beet cake………
While it was a short trip, we always enjoy our time together and wish we were closer. We will have to plan a future trip to NYC!