Present Moment Cafe

Vegans are tricky.

Last week I had the chance to visit the Present Moment Cafe in St. Augustine.  Someone had recommended it to me… with the warning that I shouldn’t let the “vegan-y” stuff scare me away.  We’d been discussing gluten free restaurants and she told me that I just had to try the Present Moment.  Almost everything on the menu is gluten free. Everything is dairy free… and meat free too….. It sounded like something I’d like to try eventually, but… but no meat?  Ummm….

I’ve had Mom and Brian on this Arbonne Thirty Day Detox… forever…. a week.  The Protein Shakes are good and dinners are easy enough, but dining out is a challenge.  No gluten, dairy, soy or corn is really hard at a regular restaurant…. but not at a vegan restaurant!

The Present Moment Cafe is really cute with colorful, eclectic decorations.  It’s not a very big place, but there are lots of little tables, perfect for visiting with friends and enjoying a Detox Smoothie.

The three of us chose a low table near the window, surrounded by two cushy couches. The menu is clearly labeled if the food contains wheat or soy.  Everything is obviously egg and dairy free since the food is vegan.

We ordered drinks while we decided what to eat.

Purple Haze Acai, blueberry, banana, cashew milk.

Detox Cooler Pineapple, cucumber, mint

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After a bit of arguing over who was getting what… we all have to try something different and share… we finally placed our order.

Tacos of Life Pine nut and walnut pate, with fresh
salsa, Mexican “cheese” and guacamole in two romaine
shells topped with cashew sour cream and jalapeno
vinaigrette. Served with two dehydrated corn chips…10

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Mom enjoyed the tacos.  I tried a bite of the Pine Nut & Walnut Pate that was the “meat” of the dish.  It was good.  I’m not giving up meat anytime in the near future, but if I had to… this was a pretty tasty alternative.

Pad Thai Sweet and spicy Asian vegetables, served
over kelp noodles with a sesame garlic sauce, and topped
with curried cashews… 16

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The Pad Thai was delicious.  The kelp noodles weren’t what I was expecting… I was thinking of something green and… sea-weed-ish… The kelp noodles were a bit chewy, but in an enjoyable way.  They had a definite “bite” and “crunch” to them.  We liked the noodles enough that we bought a bag to take home and experiment with.

Okay…. so what would you think if the day’s special was a carrot hot dog? I mean, they had “burgers” that were made out of beans and stuff… and an “Un-Tuna” sandwich.  It’s not crazy to think that the carrot “hot dog”  was made from carrots and other stuff smooshed together to resemble a hot dog, right?

WRONG.  Vegans are tricky!

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It was a damned carrot on a hot dog bun!  I kid you not.. a carrot… smothered in sauerkraut… on a hot dog bun.

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Here’s the really crazy part…. it was actually pretty tasty.  Yes, of course I ate it!  I’d ordered it, I was going to try it. I’m pretty sure those Vegans were laughing at me for paying $10 for a carrot on a bun, but I’d show them…. I’d eat that damn carrot and like it!

It actually was pretty good though.

I only took a few bites of the bun because I am trying to avoid all the fake-y gluten free stuff while I do this detox, so I tried a few bites… (Yummy GF bun!) and then ate the rest of my sauerkraut covered “hot dog” with a fork.

The sweet potato salad was delicious and I’m planning to take a shot at duplicating the recipe soon.  They had a cookbook of restaurant recipes for sale, but of course, that recipe wasn’t in it!

We’d made it this far and not broken many of the detox rules, so we decided to treat ourselves to desert.  (The sugar was a no-no, but I think everything else was okay..) We ordered one Banana Split to share.

Classic Banana Split Homemade vanilla cashew ice cream, fresh berries, bananas, raw vegan vanilla and cacao creme topped with candied pecans… 9.5

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The cashew ice cream was delicious!  I’d rather not have to give up dairy, but I certainly wouldn’t mind having cashew ice cream if it turns out that dairy is one of my food nemeses.

I don’t think I’d like to become vegan, but the food at the Present Moment Cafe is certainly delicious enough that I don’t mind being vegan-ish for a meal or three.  The staff was sweet and great about answering any food allergy/ingredient questions.  The cafe itself is cozy and comfortable; perfect for a quick bite or a leisurely lunch with friends.

 

The Present Moment Cafe

224 West King Street
St. Augustine, Florida 32089

Columbia Restaurant

Every time we go to Saint Augustine we talk about going to the Columbia Restaurant, but for some reason or another we end up choosing to eat somewhere else.  It’s a good thing that we kept skipping the Columbia and tried all those other places…. because now that I’ve visited the Columbia I never want to go anywhere else!

We planned to spend the day in Saint Augustine.  I wanted to find a couple of gifts to send to friends back in Missouri, take some photographs and lunch, of course, was high on the ‘to-do’ list.

img_5014I made reservations using the Open Table app, mostly because Open Table gives you points for making and keeping reservations that can be used to earn gift cards to restaurants or Amazon.  I didn’t really expect to need reservations… it was a chilly, grey Saturday afternoon in February.  Silly me.  The restaurant was packed.  I heard other people being told that there was a 45 minute wait to get a table.  Fortunately, with our reservations, we walked right in and got a table.

We asked for a Gluten Free menu and the server returned quickly with three ‘real’ GF menus.  Not those dingy, mangled paper menus that some restaurants grudgingly hand out to the GF people.  These were real menus… with lots of options!  img_5033

Mahi Veradero – 

Grilled boneless fillet of Mahi Mahi crusted with ground crispy green plantain chips, topped with a citrus butter sauce.  Served with yellow rice. 

It was SO good.  Mom and Brian ordered… other things… I can’t even remember… I was so distracted by my own plate.  It was fabulous! Mom and Brian loved theirs as well… whatever it was.  We all agreed that the Columbia was our new Very Favorite Place in Saint Augustine.

img_5034That opinion wasn’t in the least bit influenced by the pitcher of Sangria that Mom and I shared.

Sangria de Cava – 

A sparkling white sangria made tableside with Jaume Serra Cristalino Spanish Cave brandy, orange liqueur and fresh citrus juices. 

The restaurant itself was beautiful, with art, sculptures and fountains… beautiful tile-work and graceful columns.  I would have loved to have taken more photos, but the place was fairly packed and people get all weirded out when you start taking photos… or when you ask them to move so you can take a better photo!

After lunch we picked up a few packages of the Columbia’s Sangria mix to take home andimg_5064 add to our gifts being sent back to Missouri.  Next we headed into Saint Augustine to shop and explore.  Brian wasn’t feeling up to walking around a whole lot, he sprained his ankle earlier this week, so he let Mom and I wander off to find the restrooms…. totally unsupervised.  First we found Le Macaron French Pastries.  And we definitely needed to try a few of those…  Then there was Claude’s Chocolate and a few more gifts and a few for us to sample later…..

I’m pretty sure that Brian realized that it wouldn’t take us that long to find a restroom… public restrooms are pretty prevalent (and nice and clean too!) around Saint Augustine…. I think his ankle hurt bad enough that he didn’t care how much candy Mom and I were out buying… and ‘sampling.’

img_5066When we caught back up to Brian, our arms loaded with sugary treats…. for gifts! (and sampling) I insisted that I had to go see the lions at the bridge.  We’ve been to Saint Augustine a handful of times since we moved to Florida and I have yet to get close to the guardians of the Bridge of Lions.  I was already this close and I had my camera with me and everything!  He wasn’t super amused, but he was resigned and really, Mom and Brian have no room to complain about my photography.  Mom bought me my first camera and indulged me with rolls and rolls of film throughout my childhood….. and Brain keeps buying me new lenses for my ‘grown up’ camera…. so really….. they’re enablers.

I am absolutely, completely and totally in love with the lions of Saint Augustine…. and pretty much everything else about Saint Augustine. After a few dozen photos of the lions… from every angle… and a few using my phone and the selfie-stick, I relented and let Brian take us back to the car.  I miss our little French town of Kimmswick back in Missouri… but I’m loving that I’ve got the Spanish town of Saint Augustine to explore.

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Casa Maya

Yesterday we went into historic Saint Augustine just to roam around a bit and see what there was to see. Of course, lunch was an important part of the trip!

There are a lot of interesting sounding restaurants around Saint Augustine, but it’s hard to be adventurous when you’re Gluten Intollerant.

We were wandering around the amazing (and distracting) old streets and arguing over where to eat lunch. The Find Me Gluten Free app wasn’t offering many places with more than one or two reviews and nothing was sounding impressive. Then we literally stumbled over the perfect little place… Casa Maya.

Mexican food is generally a safe bet for Gluten Free food… I asked the hostess if they had a gluten free menu and at first she gave me a blank look. I was afraid there was going to be a language issue (she had a strong Spanish accent and I took French in school… Why?! I never need French!), but then she says ‘Oh, Gluten Free!  Yeah, we have corn tortillas and salsa and corn chips and salads,’ and she’s pointing at lots of different things in the menu. Perfect.

Once we were seated the hostess came back a second time and said we had a newer waiter, but if we had any questions we could ask for her.  Our waiter said that the hostess had told him that we were GF and he reassured us that he’d check in with the kitchen and make sure everything was safe for us to eat.

We started with an order of Salsa and Chips while our waiter checked that the spices on the chicken & pork were safe for us.


The chips were a little bland, but the salsa was good. Just a little bit of heat with tons of flavor.

With the kitchen’s promise that the pork, chicken and Mahi Mahi were all safe, we ordered three different tacos. Each taco plate came with three tacos so we just traded tacos so that we all got to try one of each. Delish! I’m not sure which was my favorite, the Mahi Mahi was cooked perfectly, but wasn’t as flavorful as the Cochinita… which was really good…  but the chicken was pretty heavenly too. Best bet? Take two friends and share so you can try them all!

COCHINITA

Mayan style pit pork, tender chunks of pork perfectly cooked and served with pickled red onions.

POLLO

Chicken strips marinated and sauteed with onions and peppers, served with avocado.

MAHI MAHI

Grilled marinated mahi, pico de gallo, lettuce, and home made chipotle mayo.

Casa Maya
22 Hypolita Street
St Augustine, FL 32084