Exploring Siesta Key

Sunset at Siesta Key

I was very lucky to spend a long weekend with my good friend Jill at her parents' condo in Siesta Key.  While I have visited Florida many times, this was my first time exploring the Gulf Coast.  What a beautiful place! Every day was sunny and mid-70's. And every day I walked outside, closed my eyes, breathed deeply and thought "another day in paradise." Jill says that this place has always been food for her soul and I understand why. Her parents' condo is in the Sarasota Surf and Racquet Club off Midnight Pass Rd. It has been recently renovated and is in a prime location with beach-side amenities - think plentiful beach loungers, pool, covered grill area, and covered tables and chairs. The powdery white sand beach is the icing on the cake. Jill and I are both terribly pale so we have never been the camp-out-all-day-on-the-beach types. We took a walk on the beach each evening, though, and were treated to a spectacular sunset as we headed west, and a full moon on the rise as we strolled back east. We did brave the mid-day sun on Saturday to check out the 2015 Siesta Sand Sculpture Competition. It was an intimate event, so we could easily see all of sculptures, speak to some of the artists, and cast our vote for the best entry.

Sand castle contest at Siesta Key

On Sunday, we felt as though Siesta Key gave us a festive final-evening bash. Each Sunday evening, a drum circle gathers near the public parking lot from 7pm until dusk. We wandered down to find a crazy hodge-podge of people and activity with drummers, dancers, hula-hoopers, slack-liners, etc. It looked like anyone can bring an instrument and join right in. The drumming I could handle, but I'm not so sure about the hula-hooping - some of the young ladies were gracefully mesmerizing. We enjoyed our brief time wandering by, but if I did it again I'd bring chairs and a cooler and plan to hang out for the evening. There was a great beat, no sun to fry my tender skin, and the people-watching was outstanding!

Siesta Key drum circle

We visited four eating establishments in the Siesta Key Village, two of Jill's long-time favorites and two new ones. I'll start with the faves. For our one breakfast out, we had to do Another Broken Egg. Jill was disappointed to find that the owner sold within the past year and her dish, the one she'd been ordering for too many years to count, was no longer on the menu. Boo. Luckily the server commiserated with Jill and hooked her up. It turns out Jill isn't the only one pining for that signature dish. They cobbled together a breakfast specialty that Jill says was even better than the original. Happy ending :). The second favorite restaurant was Big Olaf's, an iconic area ice cream parlor and the site of the only dessert we ordered the whole trip - shocker, I know, for those who know me and my massive sweet tooth. We drove in Sunday evening after the drum circle and it was a treat to savor my Toasted Coconut ice cream cone while strolling around the lively downtown. Almost all of the restaurants had open-air street-side seating and most had some form of live music. All were packed, but none seemed to have a wait. On Saturday evening, we tempted fate by trying to get a table around 6pm at The Hub Baja Grill, but we sat at the bar for just 10 minutes before we were seated. Highlights there were the Mango Passion Margarita and Cabo Shrimp. On Monday before heading to the airport, we tried The Cottage. Jill picked a winner with the Tempura Shrimp - it was spicy and artfully presented.

This post is running long, so I'll summarize the rest of our sightseeing in other blog posts and I'll wrap up this post with two more topics: Sights-yet-to-see, and Grocery store wins.

Sights-yet-to-see: Jill and I were out-of-our-minds excited when we learned that you can do Puppy Hugging at the Southeastern Guide Dogs facility in Palmetto. Puppy hugging! Alas, the online calendar showed no appointments available - probably no puppies yet. Jill will definitely try again the next time she's in town. The Sarasota Polo Club in Lakewood Ranch has matches regularly scheduled for Sunday afternoons at 1pm, but their season runs December through April so we just missed out. Finally, it would have been a fun and relaxing morning to take in a cricket match at the Sarasota International Cricket Club at Lakewood Ranch. It turns out, sleeping in is also fun and relaxing ;)

Grocery store wins: Since we had a full kitchen in the condo, we went to the local Publix straightaway to stock up. Jill suggested we head to the bakery section and pick up a Key Lime Pie. I'm glad we showed restraint and only got the half-pie! It was indeed light and delicious and we could have easily polished off a whole one. Jill also bought a few simple ingredients and whipped up a refreshing lemonade wine cooler. She mixed one bottle of white wine (pinot gris) with one can of frozen lemonade and then tossed thinly sliced lemons and limes into the pitcher. To serve, she added ice to wine glasses then filled each glass with two-thirds wine mixture and one third club soda. I'm certain I'll make this cocktail again and I'll always associate it with the magical and restorative Siesta Keys. Thank you Jill for the wonderful company and for introducing me to this very special place.

Alligator (or crocodile?) sand sculpture at moonrise on Siesta Key

This post is part of the trip summary 4 Days in Siesta Key