Friday, January 28, 2011

Redlands Road Rallye: Mr. Toads Wild Ride, with Produce!

Up for a bit of a road rally are we? An invigorating drive through the country where caution is thrown to the wind and adventures of the most delicious sort happen with childlike spontaneity?...Well we have just the solution for your escapist desires...behold, the Redlands Road Rallye.  This yearly event is hosted/organized by Robert Burr a fellow lover of the Redlalnd and 7th generation Floridian, the dude knows his stuff. A nice guy with a great idea he designed this "liesurely, self guided tour of the redland" as a showcase of the best the region has to offer and a scavenger hunt of sorts. You drive around, you find clues, you see the sights and eat some delicious items all while discovering a beautiful part of your own backyard. It's been going on for a while, check out their website for more info & details

Why the extra 'E" in Redlands Road Rallye, I can only assume it's there to give this event a more Continental feel. But what I DO know is that it was a lot of fun and we will be doing it again next year, permitting of course that this whole "2012" thing is either BS or the result of us "doing the math wrong" as some scientists speculate (and I use the word "scientist" in the loosest possible way). IF we are NOT doomed to a fiery death by huge Mayan-esque aliens probing us with space cacti (as some other "scientists" have speculated) then we'll definitely do it again. Read on and I think you'll decide to join in.

                                                             TEAM REDROOTS

Me & The Missus

Lilly & Kevin - Backseat Drivers!

Tezo & Tracy, AKA Tubbs & Crocket
Holding down the fort while we rally!

This year Team Redroots was comprised of a crack team of rally racing specialists. Here's the roster:

ME - Pilot, guide & raconteur  
EU (my wife) - Photography, navigation & iPod duties
LILLY - Photography, color commentary & delightful sarcasm
KEVIN - Demolitions expert, muscle & intimidation

Before I go on I'd like to take a minute to thank the little people. The "nuts & bolts" of Team Redroots if you will. Our deepest gratitude to our amazing support crew comprised of renegade tank mechanics, Cherokee Indian "wind-talkers", a few CIA "wet works" operators, a blind Rastafarian psychic, K-9 Sleep Assault Dogs and a kid that got fired from Jamba Juice for being, and I quote, "too fruity"...ironic no?

We had such a good time doing this crazy event, it makes all the difference when you get together with people that enjoy spending time together, every experience is made that much better, my thanks to Eu, Lilly & Kevin for being the perfect mix of spontaneous, funny & crazy. The kind of people you don't mind riding around with in a car for 10 hours and THEN having a 4 hour post race meal with...not that I was counting the hours, that's just the math. This kind of compatibility is important when choosing a rally team.

So who is this team? My wife, Eu, Museum professional, academic, my unwavering partner in crime and eager participant in all our hair-brained schemes is always ready, this was no exception. She is the master of the ipod playlist and has an eye for photography that I truly admire.

Lilly is a bad ass interior designer with her own blog,(insert shameless plug here --->  She's not one of those "HGTV-couple-of-throw-pillow-and-a-glue-gun" types, she's the real deal, she went to school for this people.

Her hubby Kevin, man of mystery, is rumored to have killed a man using nothing more than a pair of Ray-Bans, he wont talk about it, so that's all I know.

Lilly and Kevin drove ALL the way down from the quaint fishing village of South Beach with their Greyhound/Clydesdale, Tracy, to slum it "country style" with us backwoods folk. We had all been anticipating this trip for quite some time, and it was one of those events where everything happened at the right time and in the right way, it really was an amazing time.

Enough jibber-jabber! LETS RALLY!

STAGE 1 - CAULEY SQUARE - SW 224th Street and US1

Just off of US1 and 224th Ave, under the dense shade of Strangler Figs exists a bizzaro little enclave of shops housed in a turn of the century wooden houses & surrounded by lush tropical foliage. Originally built as a train station in Flagler days, it's been home & host to various shops, restaurants and purportedly even a cat-house. One of the shop girls once told me they had seen "orbs of light and shadows among the trees". Ghosts or not, it does seem like the kind of place Shaggy & Scooby would say "ZOINKS!" in...but not to worry, it's probably just old man Smithers and some glow paint!
Here is a brief historical overview courtesy of the Rally Website -

"When Flagler’s railroad reached Goulds in 1903, William Cauley could easily pack his tomatoes and ship them north on a daily basis. This millionaire farmer and businessman developed a series of warehouses and offices, a bar and grill and residences within a ten acre plot along side the railroad tracks. Many of the small wooden homes still standing were hand built by pioneers of South Dade in the early 1900’s" -

The area has been preserved and there are a few restaurants, antique shops,  an aviary, art & jewlery shops and my personal fave a saltwater aquarium shop. We walked around getting our answers and finding the clues.

Cauley Square is quirky and a great start to the trip. Here are some cool pics of the place.

STAGE 2 - BURR'S BERRY FARM - 12741 SW 216th St

Burrs is a nice little roadside stand right on 216th St., actually really close to US1. They have been around forever and are a traditional stop on our forays into the Redland. They have a U-Pick strawberry field in the back which honestly has the sweetest berry's I've ever eaten, I mean DAMN GOOD. We usually pick up a pint to make smoothies, they're like candy. 

Burrs also has great shakes, homemade peanut butter which is the BOMB, jellies of all flavors, fresh made tomato sauce and pickles and not to mention a veritable smorgasbord of all things strawberry: strawberry shortcake, strawberry cupcakes, shakes and just about everything else you can imagine with strawberries. We were too busy stuffing our faces with cakes and pies to to take too many pictures so enjoy what few we DID snap....

Heres that homemade PB I was talking about...the creamy one RULES!

STAGE 3 - KNAUSS BERRY FARM - 15980 SW 248th Street (thats Coconut Palm Dr)

A Redland institution! This place has been around forever, run by Ray & Barbara Knauss and their families. Because of the black brimmed hats, bonnets & beards many people think they are Amish or Quakers or what have you, turns out the are Dunkers (no that doesn't mean they take it to the hole like D.Wade) Dunkers, are an offshoot of the German Baptist church.

All you need to know is that they make the best damn cinnamon rolls (the sticky kind) and baked goods, shakes, jellies etc etc etc...just think "delicious" and they have it. They are even roasting their own coffee beans now, called Bald Bakers Blend its really yummy (and a closer alternative to my personal favorite; Baby's Coffee just outside of Key West). Being the coffee whore that I am, I am always looking for some nicely roasted beans, and brother, this place has em!

My advice, GET THERE EARLY the lines are literally out the door and down the block to get the rolls and baked goods. The line for the shakes is a bit shorter, both in theory, are worth the wait...but unless you have a few hours on hand...get up a little earlier and get your fix. If you're looking for produce you can skip the line and go right in to buy them (imagine that, no line for the veggies). They also have U-Pick tomatoes & strawberries in the back and good to note is that they open from about Thanksgiving until April, they DON'T open on Sundays and they DON'T take American Express (or any plastic) just straight up cash on the barrel head. Here's some pics.

Squash! These are awesome on the grill - slice lengthwise, salt, pepper, olive oil and done!

Nice Fresh Scallions, also great on the grill

Homemade Jellies!!!

Thats Mrs.Barbara Knauss herself at the produce counter, She's a very sweet lady

STAGE 4 - FRUIT & SPICE PARK - 24801 Redland Road 
This was a quick stop, they had the Redlands Heritage Festival going on that day so it was packed. It looked like a lot of fun but we were on a mission. So it was a quick in quick out situation.                                                                                                                                                                    I have yet to spend too much time in this park, I've been here for the festivals they do here every now and again and it's cool, lots of fruit & spice trees and you can even eat the FALLEN fruit form the trees, don't pick it from the trees..they have snipers.                                                                          We hit a roadside fruit stand on the way out for some quick snack action and we were on our way to the next stop....

STAGE 5 - R.F. ORCHIDS - 28100 SW 182nd Ave

I am a sucker for orchids, especially the Vanda variety (I actually have the Vanda orchid named after Barbara Knauss, I picked it up here last year) so R.F Orchids is a very special place for me. RF stands for Robert Fuchs (pronounced FEW-KS). The natural way you want to pronounce this is the WRONG way, I'm telling you from personal experience...(the look on the old lady's face was priceless)...but I digress. 

Mr. Fuchs family have been in the Homestead/ Redland area forever. The grounds of this place are gorgeous, it feels like you are someplace else. Somewhere where wood nymphs and fairies have picnics under trees and unicorns fart cupcakes. It's beautiful and a site to see. 

Mr. Fuchs gives tours of the grounds around his house at 11a & 3p on weekends. You'll see some rare plants, an amazing pool and a natural limestone pool with some huge fish and his pet gator Wanda. If you want to see what the garden of Eden probably looked like, this is a must. He is the nicest man and very patient. A great stop on any tour of the Redland.

STAGE 5 - HOTEL REDLAND - 5 South Flagler Avenue, Homestead, FL
This was one of our stranger stops along the tour, an awesome one, but one sprinkled with a little extra dose of WTF. By this stage in the tour we were all feeling a bit parched, lucky us we discovered that the hotel had a bar, bonus! We decided to have a cocktail before moving on, a decision that we would remember for some time to come.                                                                                   But first a bit of a back story, turns out this quaint little hotel is up for sale, like IMMEDIATELY, there's even a sign inside that says "If you wish to buy this hotel, let us know" or something to that effect. A shame because it could be lost forever should it fall into the wrong hands (i.e. Wallgreens, Publix, or anyone not giving two F's about a decent locally run watering hole in a town that has very few of these.

On a sunny beautiful day like the one we were blessed with you want something refreshing and soothing for the palate. A Madras hits the spot like a champ. For the un-initiated a Madras is nothing more than Vodka, cranberry juice and a splash of OJ, served over ice that's it. It's very nice.                                                                                       
Exhibit A: 15oz worth of vodka served with two pennies worth of OJ & Cranberry...for FOUR BUCKS!!!

The following account has ZERO exaggeration, seriously: We bellied up to the bar and ordered 4 of these, I'll make a long story short and tell you that the barkeep (very nice lady) served us four 16oz. glasses with 3 ice cubes and about 15oz worth of vodka each. A splash of OJ and Cranberry, literally measured out in the bottle caps....This was a GLASS FULL OF VODKA. After I picking my jaw up from the floor I asked for limes she said they were out because they were selling the place and not restocking the bar. 

The tab came out to $12 bucks even....yeah, my jaw dropped again, four bucks for a tumbler full of vodka!...I can see why maybe they are going out of business. I left the barkeep a nice tip and we walked out the door to the wrap around porch still trying to understand what had just happened. After all, $12 bucks at a bar on South Beach or South Miami gets you a plastic cup full lukewarm tap water and a dirty look from the server "Welcome to Miami, now pay me".

Needless to say, ONE of these was enough. I even ran out to the car to get some limes and more ice to fool my taste buds. I drink as much as the next guy, but a glass full of vodka, come on, what do I look like, Boris Yeltsin! (timely reference I know, those born after 1985 just pretend I said Lindsey Lohan). Lets move on...

"Yeah, you don't want none of this..."

So we waited the buzz out for a bit and decided; LETS HAVE TACOS!!! yeah...the drinks were that strong...and good.

Before the obligatory taco stop we had another checkpoint on the way. The Florida Pioneer Museum. 

Now, I'm in no way admitting or condoning any sort of driving under the influence, that would be wrong, but I did notice that colors seemed a little bit brighter, music sounded a little bit better and my car knew exactly where to go.

Our walk through the Florida Pioneer Museum started to feel surreal. I'll let the pictures do the talking....
There is a healthy dose of creepy lying around

One of the clues

"I would have gotten away with it too if it werent for you pesky kids!"

Cool little Seminole dolls

Like I said, creeeeeepyyyyy

Kevin testing out the 1st pair of Bose heaphones

An original Edison Phonograph

You ever notice how sometimes you find great things in the most unexpected places? Like that $10 bucks in the pocket of the pants you just washed or a bum with a golden radio voice living at a stoplight, or even an Easter egg full of diamonds (what, that's never happened to you?)

Well that's the case with Taqueria Morelia, a tiny taco shop built right next to a Valero gas station on 344th (Royal Palm Ave) on the way to Robert Is Here in Florida City its my absolute favorite taco joint ever, it's up there with the taco truck I used to go to religiously when I lived in Northern California (God how I miss those Carnita burritos)...and that's saying A LOT. 

Morelias beef rib (suadero) tacos are unique and amazing, but then again, everything is amazing. The food is authentic, there's a flat screen blaring the latest Rancheras everywhere your head turns, the servers are nice and the cooler is filled with Jarritos. The burritos are big enough to choke a horse and there's a "serve yourself" salsa & toppings bar that's always stocked & fresh. The place is completely utilitarian, no frills, but always spotless. In short, Morelia's got it where it counts. Big taste no BS

No pictures here. We came, we ate, we left always

STAGE 6 - ROBERT IS HERE FRUIT STAND - 19200 SW 344th St. Homestead
After getting our taco fix we were ready to go again. Next stop Robert is Here fruit stand. We come to this place quite a bit, it's always fun and a great place to get your heirloom tomatoes when in season. They have fresh fruit & veggies in the front, great shakes and a petting zoo in the back. Again, I'll let the pictures do the talking...
This guys is being a real ass...

Some goodies for the week

Even bees need a little honey every now and then

Carambola or Star Fruit Tree

Chicks man...

Delicious Key Limes

Our offering to the Rally Gods - Kumquats, Pomelo & Paper Shell Pecans

Ugli Fruit, a cross between a tangerine & a grapefruit, from Jamaica Mon!


At long last, we had completed the days activities and with the sun setting over the fields we were ready to turn in our answers, Lets win this thing!

We arrived at the winery, it was packed! We found our pending answers and turned in our sheet. Now it was time for some bubbles and some of the Key West Pink Shrimp Ceviche I had made special for the trip. It had been chillin' (literally) in the cooler the whole day on ice and was begging to be enjoy                                                                                              We grabbed a table outside, bought a couple bottles of Schnebly's Passion Fruit sparkling wine (our favorite) and settled in to enjoy some nice herbed goat cheese & crackers and that pink shrimp ceviche. The afternoon was simply amazing, not a cloud in the sky, just pale blue and huge. No humidity and just around 72, I'm talking perfect. Until out of nowhere a dark little cloud appeared and rained on our little parade...

Now I'm not talking about a real cloud, no I'm talking about a person that was acting like a dark little cloud. A frantic winery attendant came up to us and told us rather curtly "The owners are right over there, today is not a picnic day, so you have to put away whatever that is...thanks". But in that way that "thanks" really isn't "thanks" but more like "F-You" know what I mean? I guess we looked like her kids because that's how it felt to be honest. There were no signs anywhere, just the one that's always outside that says "No outside coolers"...nothing about "No Outside Food & Drink" and if that's what they mean I recommend they go make another sign saying that. 

Here's that ceviche I whipped up ;)

Mind you there were people everywhere with things to eat they didn't buy at the winery. I guess she didn't see that or the $75 bucks worth of stuff we had just bought at the winery. So we decided to say "thanks" to her too and bust open the ceviche and ENJOY IT and that we did. We weren't going to let someone elses bunched panties ruin our perfect day.

This is what happens when you say "Dont make the crazy face!" get the Crazy Face!
A glass, er, cup of the good stuff - Passion Fruit Sparkling!
We've been to Schneblys many many times before, always bringing friends and family for tastings at the bar, it's a cool place. Hell, we've weve bought cases of the stuff, we've given it as gifts, we are fans of this place. And to have someone come up like that really puts you off. 

I'm not saying you shouldn't go, by all means go and check this place out. Its cool. I know everyone has a bad day every now and then and the place WAS packed. However, its never good to treat your customers rudely. Just be sure to ask if it's OK to bring goodies just in case. Thought I'd share in case the owners follow my blog ;).

After enjoying our picnic, we were ready for our win!....The good news, we got 100% of the answers right! The not so good news so did 10 other to the tie breaker! Heres visual proof of our feat!

The "zero" is for zero wrong, should have put 100%!

  The tie breaker question was something preposterously obscure like "who was John Stephenson Winkleheimer, how did he make his fortune and what was his companys name, and what was Mrs. Winkleheimers bra size". A bit of knowledge that could have been easily been gleaned at the Florida Pioneer museum had we not just been served a fishbowls' worth of Vodka at the Redlands hotel...let's just say focus was not our forte at that stage in the rally. Not to mention we had 30 seconds to answer correctly...yeah..ok

Bellys full, souls satisfied, we agreed that we had won our own individual race and decided to make the trek back home. There was still a dinner to put together, puppies to take out, a firepit to start up and good times still to be had.

Lilly made us a refreshing strawberry lemonade when we got back and....

Honey, Fig & Goat Cheese muffins! Hot Diggty Dawg!....and speaking of dogs...   

This pretty much sums it up, the Redland Road Rallye was a smashing success!
Well, we've come to the end my friends, I hope you've enjoyed our crazy little story as much as we did. Maybe next year you'll decide to put a team together and try it our for yourself.

In the meantime, keep it local, keep it fresh, keep it on Redroots-Local Goodness!