Lost & Found, Welcome To Miami, + The ULTIMATE Veg-Run, Beachfront Vacation Rental
Despite having a history of not losing my possessions, for some reason my first few weeks spent in Florida mostly consisted of losing things that I needed most. There were a series of days that looked like this:
- Left portable wifi hotspot at a hotel in northern Florida.
- Left my trip debit card at an Autozone in Orlando.
- Lost my need-them-to-drive glasses on a pitch-black Juno Beachfront.
- Left my iPhone on the dining table at Darbster Restaurant in West Palm Beach.
Miraculously every single item, that had been lost or left behind, was found. The hotel had saved the hotspot, Autozone recovered the credit card, Ryan found my glasses (I still don’t know how he did it… dark beach, we had walked away from them for some time, it was crazy that he found ’em), and my iPhone was still sitting there, on the table that had yet to be cleared. Incredible. I still don’t know what the precise lesson in that series of events was (maybe…don’t take things for granted) but I am sincerely grateful that nothing was actually lost in the end. Phew!
Let’s go to Miami, shall we?!
Jennifer F. had reached out to me via Facebook first regarding hang-out time when I got to Miami and then later to tell me that she had secured a free studio-style vacation rental for me to stay in while I was in Miami. I couldn’t pass up a free room to myself in such a busy city, but little did I know just how awesome the location and the room itself would be.
Run by an extremely kind and compassionate veg/yogi named Ken, I give you Kobilka Beach Apartments –> only one and a half blocks from Miami Beach (the non-touristy section)!!!
The following series of pictures are of the room that I stayed in as well as the view of the beach, after only a one minute walk from this beautiful oasis tucked into the unassuming side streets of Miami. I absolutely fell in love with this apartment community. Not only are the landlords veg but the location is unbeatable. I would get up around 7AM every morning, walk to the beach, go for a swim or lay out, and then get back to my room just before it got super hot…turned on my fan and did work for the day – or went out to explore the city.
The environment they’ve created here, is so up my alley too – calming, full of life with plants and turtles and other critters running around. And even though I was fortunate enough to stay for free, for nearly an entire week, I did inquire about cost of such a place. I’m happy to report that this is probably THE best deal, financially that anyone could ever dream up. I don’t want to give it away but…if you ever visit Miami I highly recommend securing a vacation rental at this place. I have no doubt you’ll fall in love, just like I did!
My super comfortable, cozy, beachside room!
Once you step outside the key-coded gate of this sanctuary-esque locale, turn right and walk approximately 1.5 blocks and THIS is what you’ll see (check out the video at the end of the post for a real-time walk to the beachfront):
My stay in this beautiful location was all made possible by the incredibly kind and generous couple pictured below. Jennifer and Thomas are German transplants who moved to Florida, by way of the Green Card Lottery, two and a half years ago. They currently reside at the Kobilka Beach Apartments and talked to their landlord about my travels, thereby securing the room I stayed in. So cool!
In describing what led to her own vegan-ness, Jennifer told me that while the idea of vegetarian or vegan never crossed her mind while growing up, at some point she stumbled upon a PETA commercial narrated by a German singer. By the wondrous way of YouTube, that video led to another, which led to another, and another… “All of a sudden I realized I would never be able to eat animals again, even if I wanted to. Never before did I realize how much animals suffer just to become a cheese burger or steak. I NEVER thought about that,” said Jennifer. She quickly noticed other benefits of having changed her diet. Jennifer went on to say…
A few weeks into my vegetarianism I already felt better. I suffered from depression almost my whole life and I kind of felt a little bit more at ease with myself. But there was still something in my head that made me think something’s wrong. Something just doesn’t fit. I did a little research and read about calves that are taken away from their mothers just so we could have some milk and baby chicks that get shredded. After all the pictures I saw and articles I read I still didn’t consciously decide to become vegan. It just happened. I stopped eating eggs, made pasta with tomato sauce instead of cheese-covered lasagne, and stopped using milk in my coffee. It seemed so natural to me.
Um. Awesome! Jennifer noted that shortly following her decision to become plant-powered, her husband, Thomas soon followed and together, changes for their health and overall lifestyle have improved:
I lost 30 pounds (to be fair I have to say those were pounds I added to my body [after moving to the US]—American food portion sizes are waaay bigger than German portions), my depression is almost totally gone, and I have a weird feeling of inner peace I never experienced before in my life. But above all I don’t have the feeling I am missing out on something, that I restrict myself, or that there are things that I am not “allowed” to eat. I enjoy every meal, I rarely have cravings for sweets or other unhealthy stuff, and I am a much happier person than I was before. – Jennifer F.
Thomas found a similar path to veganism, as his wife Jennifer did. However, noting that for him it started as an interest in environmentally sustainable living. As he began to learn more about the connections the meat and dairy industry have to pollution and harm to the Earth, he began to then also change his diet. Thomas goes on to say,
…besides that I just did not want to eat stuff with antibiotics and other poisons. [Despite having enjoyed eating meat in the past] I also always considered myself a huge animal-friend. [Once bridging the gap between the environmental and ethical aspects of vegan living] I got deeper and deeper into all this, we met you, I thought more and more about the animal-cruelty that happenes every single day just for the short satisfaction of us humans, but the biggest impact for me was watching Earthlings. I could not watch all of it! I am a 31 year old man that started crying while watching other Beings suffer and die just because the media and other uneducated humans say that we need meat. After that short but really hard [wake up call] I stopped eating anything that involved just a tiny bit of animal suffering. It was the best thing that ever happened to me! I lost over 40 pounds and I feel [great].
Jennifer and Thomas have been vegan for less than a year but they’re obviously doing a phenomenal job. I was fortunate to spend a bit of time with them, going to out eat, and subjecting myself to Jennifer’s rigorous exercise routine (she’s a personal trainer) in an effort to gain ground on my slowly expanding “travel belly.” Haha! Jennifer is also a multi-passionate entrepreneur, like me! :) She’s well versed in the ahtletic department, is a topnotch customer relationship manager, and recently launched a new website called It’s A Vegan World. Thomas is a full-fledged dog groomer and dog walker (so cool!). I was able to tag along, my first night in Miami, as we walked one of Thomas’ regulars, Annabelle.
OkeyDokey… let’s hear it one more time for the vacation rental place that I stayed at (don’t forget to check it out next time you’re in Miami!):
Kobilka Beach Apartments/Vacation Rentals
350 77th St.
Miami Beach, FL 33141
Thank you, thank you, thank you so much to Jennifer, Thomas, and Ken for hooking me up with this awesome place to stay, while in Miami. I’m looking forward to visiting you two again soon!! :) xo
And now… on to vegan food found in Miami! I’d like to start with one of my favorite places in all of Miami. If you’re looking for an awesome vinyl record selection, bunches of vegan sweets and snacks, as well as free wifi for an afternoon, and in good company (the people who work here are so rad), I encourage you to visit Sweat Records! Oh yeah, they have live shows for local bands and musicians as well, though I didn’t catch any while I was in town.
Sweat Records – 100% vegan
5505 Northeast 2nd Ave.
Miami, FL 33137
I had been to Sweat Records only once before this trip. I was vacationing with my then boyfriend, Joe (hey, Joe!! We’re still friends. :) throughout Key West and other parts of Florida. Being the vegan food junkie that I am, I did some research and found this unique joint. The first three pictures below are from my most recent stop at Sweat, the last two are from my stop-in with Joe, almost exactly one year prior.
I spent two or three afternoons in Sweat, this last time around, to do work while also enjoying their vegan goodies. They’ve got a few treats from Sweet & Sara, as well as their own cupcakes and tamales. Oh aaaand they’ve got an awesomely stickered-up bathroom too! Similar to the one at Eden A Vegan Cafe, in Scranton, PA.
The last time that I visited Sweat Records I also made plans to meet up with a local, veg-food baker named Loren Pulitzer. Loren is an experienced baker and recent entrepreneur. I sat down with Loren to talk about her latest venture into vegan baked goodies via Meals That Heal.
At the moment, Loren’s treats can be found at severn different, Miami-based health food stores, and a few items can be ordered by way of email. In the meantime, she’s working on getting her scrumptious products in the hands of Whole Foods shoppers! All of her products are 100% vegan and 95% organic.
I was delighted to receive some of Loren’s goodies (all of which were wonderful, btw). Pictured below: granola (sweetened with organic maple syrup from Vermont, joined by cocoa nibs, and various nuts and seeds), a mini chocolate cheese cake (99% raw this cheesecake has a layer of crust, cheesecakey-ness, and then chocolate), a carob brownie (all raw, seven ingredients), a dark chocolate truffle (four ingredients, all organic), and her most popular item, the cashew cookies (baked with almond flour). Most of the packaging is biodegradable and compostable, though she’s still working on getting the labels there too!
For the time being Loren’s goodies can be found around the health food stores and farmers’ markets throughout Miami, but you can check out her story and order (via email) by going to her website, MealsThatHeal.net.
Loren, thank you so much for the delicious goodies and for taking time out to chat with me. It was a pleasure to meet you! :)
Rewinding a little bit…I first arrived in Miami on a Sunday (or Maybe it was a Monday) night…one of the days of the week where it was near impossible to find an open restaurant in the “south.” ;) Anywho – the only vegan restaurant open, the evening I arrived, was Choices Cafe – a Mexican-style eatery.
Choices Cafe – 100% vegan
379 Southwest 15th Rd.
Miami, FL 33129
I was immediately pleased when I sat down to hear songs by artists such as Gotye, The Blow, Kimbra, and M83 playing over the loud speakers. It’s as if they had gotten a hold of my road trip playlist and had these songs ready and waiting for my arrival. Haha… okay, I know that wasn’t the case but, whoever was in charge of the music on this day… we’d probably get along quite well. :)
I had the Liquid Love Juice (apple, pear, pineapple, mint) which was simply divine and oh so refreshing. And for food I ordered their most popular dish, VA’s Insane Mexican (black beans and quinoa with soy chorizo, pico, plantains, sautéed onion, and bell pepper, topped with Daiya vegan cheese). It was great! I loved that the wrap was packed with quinoa and the balance of Daiya on one side and chorizo on the other made for a bit of a variety in each bite. It was very well balanced and tasty. I also really liked the mustard-y dressing that coated the side salad.
Next up is Life Food Gourmet, a raw vegan restaurant that also serves raw to-go items, juices, dried veggies, and the like. Jennifer and Thomas split a wrap and soup and I had the Mexican Salad. All raw and all tasty!
Life Food Gourmet – 100% vegan, raw
1248 SW 22 Street
Miami, Fl 33145
In downtown Miami I enjoyed an awesome to-go meal from Govinda’s Garden. However, since I’ve been it seems as though something is… up. I’m not sure, I haven’t been able to get to the bottom of it but it seems as though Govinda’s has been removed from the Happy Cow website, and their own website is down. I don’t know if this means that they have since closed or that they weren’t actually vegan, or something else. But I will recount my meal there, regardless. Just as a heads up for you, my lovely readers, you may wish to do more research before planning to visit this restaurant. Parking downtown is kind of a pain, anyway.
Govinda’s Garden – 100% vegan (?)
100 South Miami Ave.
Miami, FL 33130
Quite possibly THE best mock tuna sandwich I’ve had, Govinda’s has mastered the texture and flavor of traditional tuna sandwiches. I actually called them – since I got the food to go – just to triple check that it was, in fact completely vegan. They reassured me it was so. I also had a very, very, very good wheatgrass, pineapple juice that totally rocked my world. Not to mention their phenomenal cupcakes (red velvet pictured below).
It’s super exciting to meet someone in-person, after you’ve been chatting with them via the InterWebs. Therefore, I was stoked when @VeganliciousLJ and I made plans to have lunch at t.h.r.i.v.e. one afternoon. Woohoo!!
t.h.r.i.v.e. – 100% raw, vegan
1239 Alton Rd.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
LJ had a carrot tuna sandwich and she reported that it was “mmMmm.” Sounds good to me! :) I had the raw pad thai dish which was just splendid. I really, really, really liked the sauce they used for their pad thai. Then of course, we had a couple of desserts: hello coconut lemon ice cream sandwich and chocolate brownie!
LJ and Kristin meet in-person! Click here to check out LJ’s blog!
Thanks for meeting up, LJ! Great chatting with you! :)
Mi Vida Cafe was another restaurant that I had visited almost exactly one year after having visited them for the first time, while on vacation with Joe. I was looking forward to stopping back here as I remembered their food being absolutely spectacular. As a result, I chose to order exactly what I had ordered the first time I visited. The only difference was, this time Misha (the kitty) kept me company, instead of Joe. :)
Mi Vida Cafe – 100% vegan
7244 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33138
I started with a strawberry, pear, mint smoothie. LOVED IT! And for the meal I had an appetizer of the Chimichurris as well as the vegan sloppy joe. They weren’t quite as I remembered them from before (maybe I’ve just had waaaay too much food these days), but they were still quite good.
Next up is a relatively new vegan vendor in the Miami area, Mac’n Food Truck. Specailizing in…you guessed it…mac ‘n’ cheese, there’s no way I could pass this place up. Through a series of tweets, I was able to nail down the location of this yumm-o truck, try their goods, and get the lowdown on this biz as a whole.
Mac’n Food Truck – 100% vegan
Downtown Miami, FL
Follow @macnfoodtruck on Twitter to find out where they’ll be next!
I chatted with co-owner, Mark Jennings and learned that the food truck started out of the personal inpiration that he and his business partner, Francesca Lacuesta share. Francesca is a self-taught cook who was familiar with the food truck scene from her time spent living in both NYC and LA. Mark joined up with her and began the search for a truck they could convert. Upon purchasing an old DHL truck off of Craigslist, they spent about seven months renovating the vehicle and acquiring proper permits in order to establish their business in downtown Miami. They were official, and on the “scene” as of June 1, 2011. To this day they are still the only 100% vegan food truck in all of Miami (out of over 150 food trucks!). Mark has been vegan for 2 years, and was vegetarian for ten years prior to that, and Francesca has been vegan for about seven years.
Pictured below is Mac’n’s Southern Fried Tofu Sandwich with spicy ‘slaw. It was soooo good!!! Also, we’ve got two different flavors of mac ‘n’ cheese, the first consisting of sautéed portobello mushrooms, green peas, roasted garlic, and Daiya mozzarella; and the second comprised of soyrizo and pepperjack cheese. Absolutely, hands down, THE best mac ‘n’ cheese I’ve ever had. Seriously. This stuff is amazing!!
I asked Mark if he had any advice for those of you interested in starting your own food truck. He said that finding a location, to park the truck and establish a presence, was the most challenging part. The actual getting it up and running and all the permits sorted out was confusing but do-able.
As far as Miami goes, he said that there really isn’t much of a day-time lunch crowd where food trucks can gather. The food truck scene is still struggling to gain traction, therefore, Mark suggests finding a location on private property and then developing your menu, and so forth from there. He also noted that it’s vital to be unique because, despite the relatively small and new food truck scene in Miami, there is already an abundance of overlap in terms of the type of food that is offered.
Mark, thanks so much for taking time to chat with me!! It was awesome to meet you and I wish you all the best in pushing forward with all Mac’n Food Truck endeavors! :)
La Vie En Raw – 100% vegan, mostly raw
3808 Southwest 8th St.
Coral Gables, FL 33134
The final stop on my way out of Miami was La Vie En Raw, a super cute, classy vegan joint with all the rawt stuff (see what I did there?!;). The first thing I noticed, when I walked in, was the lovely cookies-baking-in-the-oven smell. It was comforting, in a way and made me feel like I was back home and waiting for the chocolate chip cookies to be done. I also noticed the color scheme – deep, green walls and auburn/red table tops. Very calming.
I started with a bowl of minestrone (a cooked medley of vegetables in a marinara sauce broth, an Italian classic) which was PACKED with veggies. I followed that with the stuffed mushrooms (marinated mushrooms stuffed with a creamy cashew nut cheese, garnished with pesto) wow! These suckers packed a flavor punch like no other!! There were so many different flavors going on within each morsel, it’s honestly hard to put words to. The flavors just came together so beautifully. For the main course I had the Basta Pasta (fresh zucchini noodles dressed in house specialty marinara sauce with walnut-mushroom balls). The raw meatballs were crazy delicious! And the sauce that topped the whole dish was pretty fantastic as well. ::stomach grumbles::
That’ll do it for Miami but there’s still more of Florida to come! Coming up we’ve got my very first public speaking engagement on behalf of Will Travel For Vegan Food, a manatee sighting, Key West, and the entire west coast of Florida. So much more to cover!! In the meantime, I’ll close with a few more random-ish pics (and videos!!) from Miami. :)
Florida bugs LOVED me. I have no idea why but these biters certainly left their mark. I’d often come back to my little room, after only an hour or so outside, covered in bites like these. My body was clearly not a fan of this attention.