My Unabashed Love Affair With Deer Run B&B Gets Deep + Vida de Cafe in St. Pete, FL
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We were SOOOOooo sad to leave Deer Run B&B. As soon as we woke up I heard, “nooo, I don’t wanna go.” And believe me, I felt the SAME way. Ugh. It’s a perfect, cozy, romantic getaway. Even if you’re vacationing alone, it truly is an amazing sanctuary filled with love, peace, and tranquility. We actually had a hard time leaving, not only because we love it there, but we couldn’t stop chatting with everyone (both other guests and with the co-owners, Jennifer and Harry).
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, a full homemade vegan meal is prepared by Jennifer and Harry every morning and served at 8:30AM. For those of you who think this is early let me just say that after the deep sleep you’ll experience here, you’ll be rested and chipper by 8:30, trust me. And if not, you can always go back to bed afterward. Goodness knows you’ll be full enough! ;)
This morning’s breakfast included a chocolate chip muffin and a very, very filling personal-sized fritatta cup with a side of fruit and roasted potatoes. It was absolutely incredible! Jennifer (who I believe does most of the cooking — she also sells her hummus at Sugar Apple in Key West) has got a gift for cooking and baking. The food on both mornings was phenomenal and her passion for ensuring that all guests (veg or not) leave the breakfast table satisfied does not go unnoticed.
We were joined by Martin and his wife Hilary, as well as newlyweds Meg and Jocelyn who were on their honeymoon! Eric and I had the pleasure of dining with Martin and Hilary the previous morning too, where we talked about career stuff, trip stuff, and vacation-to-do stuff. Apparently Martin and Hilary come to Deer Run once a year for their annual vacation. Hilary LOVES the Key Deer and, as anyone who visits this B&B will quickly learn, the warmest of welcomes and the enlightening conversations provided by Jennifer and Harry (the B&B co-owners) are so, so enjoyable. It’s no wonder they come back! Meg and Jocelyn had arrived late night before and we were delighted to meet them and chat about their vegan-ness and honeymoon plans. Hi Ladies – I hope you had a great time on the rest of your trip!! :)
What a wonderful group of people. It was a pleasure to meet each of you!! xo
The true magic behind this great establishment are Jennifer and Harry, an extremely passionate and driven couple who could talk endlessly about veganism, the environment, and animal welfare. Obviously I love this so much!! :) In addition, they’ve left no detail unturned when it comes to providing the ultimate veg getaway. I asked Jennifer if she would answer a few questions about how they got started.
K: When and why did you and Harry go vegan:
J: My path to going vegan was not just overnight. It started close to 2 decades ago when a friend invited me to a “fur free Friday” PETA event in NYC one Thanksgiving weekend. I went with her. After the protest, there were a lot of booths with information presented. I had no idea what I was in for, and it was my first introduction to the cruelties done to animals; its embarrassing to admit I didn’t know much before then. After that, I immediately began eliminating foods 1 by 1 from my diet, first red meat, then poultry, then fish, last dairy. Through that process I stopped buying leather, and about 15 years ago was vegan. I wish I knew the date, it’s an anniversary worth celebrating.
Harry is a different story. When we met, he wasn’t vegan, and for the longest time not even vegetarian although by that point I WAS vegan. I wouldn’t cook the dead for him, but he would order some foods when we went out occasionally. Then we went on a vacation to a place I wanted to go for years: The White Pig, another vegan B&B, [located] in Schuyler, VA. We actually already had this place at the time (It was, I think in 2005, our first visit there). So, here I was vegan, running a vegan inn, and he wasn’t vegan yet (although by that time he was at least off meat & poultry, but still eating dairy). At the White Pig, Dina let us visit her pigs. On the spot with that first interaction with her rescue pigs he went vegan. And, he meant it. He is more outspoken on vegan issues probably than I am at this point! Yay for that!
K: What inspired you to start Deer Run?
J: Deer Run was a place we used to come on vacation. Our friend Sue started the place in the early 80’s. She was serving conventional breakfasts, and then eventually she eliminated food offerings because she was older and couldn’t really cook for guests anymore, and couldn’t find reliable help that way. So, we kept coming because food was never why we came here; we came here because it’s so amazingly beautiful. And, Harry became pretty close friends with Sue, he would help her out with chores and fix things while we vacationed here because he’s handy that way, and she needed more help than she had. And, he one day said “if you ever want to sell this place, call me.” Editing the story, essentially what happened is one day she called, he was on the next plane down with money, and here we are. The one stipulation I had when he said he wanted the place was this: if I was coming, it MUST be vegan. I would not do it any other way (remember… I was vegan at that point, he was not). He agreed immediately.
J: Special Note – When we decided to buy the place and turn it into a vegan B&B, we began to share our plans with others. Outside of our family members who were exceptionally supportive, there were only TWO PEOPLE who said it was a great idea and hooray for us and the plan. Every other person we shared our vision with was negative and basically said “what are you going to do when you fail?” And, so we pretty much stopped telling people our plans. We knew we wouldn’t fail, but got tired of hearing negative people.
This is Kristin jumping in here — I just want to say, THANK YOU so much, you two, for NOT giving up on your dream despite the negativity. This is a consistent stumbling block for anyone who chooses a non-conventional path. I’m moved to tears by your persistance and am so proud and thrilled that you stuck with it. Your actions reinforce my dream chasing over these last few months. With all my heart, thank you for being so inspirational!
K: What’s the best part about owning and running this B&B?
J: The number one thing is the diversity of people we meet. Never in my old life would I meet people like I’ve met here. We’ve had Tibetan monks here, punkers, people in recovery, people who are hunters (yikes), activists, and pretty much people from all walks of life, all cultures, religions and races. Its been a true education for me, what a privilege.
[In addition], I think the biggest thing so far, besides being able to live where we do which is just incredibly spectacular, is the fact that we are able to spread the vegan message. It was very important to me when planning the menu before we moved here that the food be good; I believed (and still do) that a lot of our success hinged on good food. So many times people will say “I cannot believe this is vegan.” I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true. Whether someone is very skeptical about vegan food, or a long time vegan, we win fans through our food. And, little by little we are able to make inroads and give people information to educate them about the really bad things that happen with factory farming and big agri-biz. Overall we’re what I would consider pretty “soft core” with our message, but facts are facts, and the atrocities speak for themselves. The majority of people need some support, or education to help them along. Also, for long time vegans, it’s just awesome for them to come and say “I love not having to ask is this vegan…. just knowing everything is ok to eat!”
Absolutely, Jennifer. Abso-friggin-lutely!! :D
As we reluctantly walked toward Gerty, scuffing our feet along the pebbled pathway, we turned to discover some ADORABLE little friends making their way over, presumably to say good-bye, of course. ;) We stood in the driveway talking to Harry as he told us the story of how this momma deer ended up with two babies to care for (the story is told in the video that follows these four pics).
You can’t walk by Jennifer’s Prius without noticing her beautifully sticker-adorned bumper. Haha! How many groups do you spy and can name in ten seconds or less?! ;)
Figured I’d add an in-support-of bumper sticker to Gerty’s hiney too! :)
So as I was saying, we were sort of leaving and then got distracted by the deer (eEeEEEEee!) and then while seeing us out Harry and Eric got into the septic(?)/toilet/waste disposal system that Harry is working on for the B&B. I couldn’t even begin to explain what he was saying. I think I was half tuning it out anyway, it’s easy to get distracted by the natural beauty here. :) But I think they talked for another hour or so about this super duper eco-friendly, sustainable something or other system. I guess it’s like..super awesome. :) Yeah.
Also, just as we were about to leave (for real this time), we were handed a bag FULL of vegan snacks for the road. I mean, come on. Really?! How friggin’ thoughtful can these people get?! They must be up for The Thoughtful People Of The Year Award, or something. Jennifer packed us some of her homemade hummus with a bag of chopped carrots. Yummmmmm!! Aaaaaand two boxes packed with donuts. Ooh yeah!!! There were a few other things in here but I didn’t get pics of everything. Regardless, I mean seriously… this was beyond sweet.
Reliving my time at Deer Run I’ve been brought to tears more than once, recalling just how overwhelmed with joy I felt walking into the room for the first time, seeing the deer casually wander by the room, and tasting the INCREDIBLE food prepared on-sight. Honest to goodness I cannot say enough good things about Jennifer and Harry and their ever inspiring B&B.
Jennifer and Harry, thank you so much for providing such an awesome sanctuary for both veg and non-veg folk alike. In the ever inspring words of one of my heroes, “Stay on your game and keep going for your dreams, the world needs that special gift that only you have.” – Marie Forleo
Phew, wow. I feel like I need a breather. That was some experience, of the best kind. :D
** breather **
Eric and I wasted no time indulging in our road trip goodies while heading to our next destination for dinner, Vida de Cafe in St. Pete.
Vida de Cafe – 100% raw and vegan
120 8 Avenue
St. Pete Beach, FL 33706
Eric and I made plans to meet up with a local vegan couple, Kortney and John (who were also expecting their first baby!). Aside from being one of the most handsome couples I’ve seen (vegan couples usually are ;) ;) they were also super duper nice and interesting.
Kortney is the founder of an awesome website called Vegan Housewives where she and her friend Katie share their “vegan findings by featuring restaurant reviews, simply delicious recipes, product reviews, vegan mommy/baby tips & much more.” Very cool! John makes anime costumes and choreographs dance videos with his friends. :) It’s actually pretty amazing. Check this shiz out:
And now to restaurant and food stuffs!
We had some lemonade and green juices along with this lasagna (eggplant and zucchini noodles layered with tomato sauce, ricotta nut cheese, mushrooms, topped with pine nut parmesan cheese, and served with a side of marinated mushrooms and spinach), crab cakes (porcini mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, vegetables and spices made to taste like crab cakes. Served with a dill tartar sauce and a side of our apple and avocado salad), and spinach gnocchi (gnocchi made from jicama, cashews, and fresh spinach, served with a creamy mushroom sauce and topped with marinated spinach). Kortney and John shared some raw vegan sushi (raw nori filled with ginger almond pate, spinach, carrots and avocado with an umeboshi chili dipping sauce) and salads, and then we all dipped into that raw strawberry cheesecake, pictured below. :)
Stay tuned as I’ll be wrapping up Florida with the following nomalicious eateries:
Leafy Greens Cafe, St. Pete; Rawk Star Cafe, Palm Harbor; Sweet Pea Cafe, Tallahassee; Raw and Juicy, Pensacola; and Sluggo’s, Pensacola