One of the highlights of our AlumaFlamingo adventure was Sarasota Jungle Gardens. This beautiful park has been in operation since 1939 and is truly a Florida landmark. It has a kitschy vibe that we found both endearing and nostalgic. The gardens are home to more than 150 native and exotic animal species, so there is plenty to see.
We strolled through the children's play area and tropical jungle until we arrived at a clearing with a lake and dozens of pink flamingos. We had purchased two bags of food with our admission at the entrance (highly recommended, otherwise, you'll be buying handfuls of feed out of the gum ball machine a quarter at a time). I was eager to feed the flamingos, so I knelt down and a few friendly pink ladies nibbled the pellets right out of my hand. The large males had a funny arrogant strut and seemed too busy tending their flock to be bothered with taking treats from people.
I've never been so close to a flamingo and was amazed by their strangely prehistoric presence. They appeared quite graceful with their long legs and necks, but ridiculously awkward when trying to move quickly across the pond, as illustrated in the slide show.
I had to visit the flamingos one last time before we left. I was happy to find that they were ready for lunch, too, and had better appetites than before. We found one flamingo (tag #20) that had a deformed beak. His overbite seemed to make it difficult to eat the pellets from the ground, so we made sure he got plenty to eat. You can see him in the video below, and hear the unique sounds they make towards the end of the clip. If you visit Sarasota Jungle Gardens, look for #20, he's a friendly guy who would love a snack.
We accumulated a lot of "Accumulation" bottles during this trip. We initially tried it because it has a vintage Airstream on the label, but were pleasantly surprised at how good it is. It's a Winter Seasonal ale, and we were still able to find it in February in Florida, despite the 80 degree weather.
I knew we would rather socialize than slave over dinner, so a crockpot meal was a perfect solution. Mojo pork is a super easy recipe and there are a variety of ways to serve it. I made a big batch so we could share with our neighbors. The entire campground is going to smell that savory pork slow cooking all afternoon and come calling at dinner time, so be prepared!
- One tablespoon olive or coconut oil
- One pork shoulder or pork butt (I used two small Boston butt roasts to fit in a large crock pot. I also trim any visible fat before cooking - or you could ask your butcher to do this for you)
- One large bottle of Mojo (I used Goya)
- Two Spanish onions, sliced in 1/4 inch rings
Heat oil in a large skillet on medium high. Sear pork on all sides to form a golden brown crust. Put pork in crockpot on low and cover with entire bottle of mojo. Put the lid on and set a timer for 8 hours (or cook on high for 4-5 hours). When 30 minutes of cook time remain, uncover and add sliced onions on top of the pork. When the pork is finished and the onions are tender, remove from crockpot and shred pork with two forks. Reserve some of the cooking liquid for the pulled pork (skim the fat off). Return pulled pork, onions, and reserved liquid to crock pot and set temperature to "keep warm" until ready to serve.
I like to serve the pork with black beans, yellow rice and romaine lettuce. You can also make mojo pork sliders/sandwiches using bakery rolls, or mojo tacos with tortillas and your favorite toppings.
Afterwards, we returned to our campsite and enjoyed a fire with our neighbors. I cooked up some rice and beans on the camp stove and we had a delicious mojo pork feast. (You'll have to excuse the presentation... I didn't think to take an "after" photo until the next day when we got the leftovers out.)