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Relishing Sanibel Island’s best breakfast at the Normandie Seaside Café

Bloody Marys and sauteed plantains. The Normandie had me there. Because when it comes to breakfast, I seek the unusual. The creative. The eye-opening. The excellent. Normandie Seaside Café at the West Wind Inn – one of the Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts group – has thereby become my favorite breakfast restaurant on Sanibel Island.

Let me preface it by admitting that my bestie breakfasts in the world have been devoured in the Bahamas. True, the Normandie doesn’t serve the Bahamas’ sheep tongue souse and fish soup breakfast specialties. But there are those caramelized sweet plantains, which are an alternative to grits or home fries as a side dish to Normandie’s ambitious array of breakfast specialties. (But, truthfully, the crispy potatoes fried with sliced onions makes for a tough decision.)

I find tropical influences, too, in its grilled French toast inventions: crusted with coconut and toasted almonds or, ta-da!,  topped with banana-strawberry cream cheese, fresh strawberries and bananas, and powdered sugar.

The omelet menu takes a more global tour. The kitchen fills the Pesto Omelet, for instance, with basil pesto, ham, tomato, and parmesan cheese. There’s also an Italian and Greek, but my favorite, the Fiesta Omelet, bulges with roasted red pepper, mushrooms, onions, salsa, and cheddar.

Its specialty breakfasts, on the other hand, salute the American flag with bennies and breakfast sandwiches. Seduced by the velvety hollandaise sauce and the quality English muffins, I sway often in the direction of the classic Eggs Benedict or Eggs Florentine.

As for the Bloody Marys, they’re just spicy, just strong enough. When we order mimosas instead, they come with just a dash of OJ, exactly how we order them.

Muffins, pancakes, granola, and a tasty bacon and egg wrap: No matter what the Normandie cooks up for you, it delivers excellence. And perhaps the true and most importance test of its excellence is a seasoned service staff that knows the value of making guests feel immediately welcomed, no matter how busy they are, and ultimately satisfied. I can think of no better way to start the day.

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Win a Free Vacation at Any of the SCBR Properties

What’s better than a vacation on Sanibel and Captiva Islands? How about a FREE vacation, at your choice of four spectacular Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts properties. SCBR announces the “Choose Your Paradise” sweepstakes— a year-long celebration of the vacation choices SCBR provides!

Enter to win, “Choose Your Paradise” and you’ll have a chance to win one of three, five-night vacations, across three phases throughout the year. The Grand Prize winners will choose from Beachview Cottages, Castaways Cottages, ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa or West Wind Inn to stay five consecutive nights in a spacious and comfortable guestroom, or similar, based on availability. Winners will be randomly selected from the entry database three times throughout the year, May 31, August 31 and November 30, 2019. Entrants may enter once per day to increase their odds at https://www.sanibelcaptivabeachresorts.com/choose-your-paradise/.

In addition, all four Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts are celebrating “paradise” with its “Spring Ahead to Summer Sale,” which provides guests an additional night free when staying three or more nights. When you book direct at the property websites, you enjoy guaranteed lowest rates versus other travel sites; 100% complimentary resort fees; $100 value Resort Rewards coupon book; plus up to 20 exclusive, free amenities and services not otherwise available.

The ”Choose Your Paradise” sweepstakes celebrates the variety of options available when booking with Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts. Choose from Sanibel or Captiva Islands, intimate cottage settings to beachfront resorts with a full-range of amenities, properties with marinas and properties with beachfront views. Guests have the luxury to choose it all: Choose your island. Choose your beach. Choose your style.

Choose Your Paradise and enter to win today! https://www.sanibelcaptivabeachresorts.com/choose-your-paradise/.

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Welcome to the Club – The ‘Tween Waters Mobile Club

I’m in! I just became a member of Sanibel Captiva Beach Resort’s latest communications inspiration, called Mobile Club.

I am not typically what you would call a “joiner.” Other than my women’s book club and supper club with fellow empty-nester couples, I avoid signing up for membership. I also avoid subscribing to website email newsletters.

So why, then, did I jump the minute the invitation to join the Mobile Club hit my email inbox? Well, that tells you right there. I DO subscribe to the email newsletters. They bring a ray of Florida sunshine to my inbox with discounts and specials and just happy images of the beach, sand, food, and memories of a Captiva Island respite.

So why wouldn’t I want more of that popping up on my phone’s text message app from time to time? Bursts of Captiva Island to brighten my day with exclusive members-only savings and “the best complimentary sunsets.” Who could resist?

They promise three messages a month, so not too much, just enough to leave you wanting more. More sunsets. More Captiva, that island unlike no other place on the planet. An island that truly defines “away from it all.”

So, join the club! It takes literally two seconds to text the codes to 55222 and bam! Break out the cocktails: It’s sunset time.

Codes are as follows:
• Text SCBR to 55222 to join all property texts
• Text Captiva to 55222 to join the ‘Tween Waters texts
• Text Castaways to 55222 to join the Castaways Cottages texts
• Text SCIVR to 55222 to join the Sanibel Captiva Island Vacation Rentals texts
• Text BV to 55222 to join the Beachview Cottages texts
• Or Text WWI to 55222 to join the West Wind Inn texts

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Employee Spotlight: Christine Harrower, Group Sales and Events Manager

Christine Harrower has been working for ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa and Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts for a combined total of 3 years, first working at ‘Tween Waters in 2012. She couldn’t stay away, stating she loved the work environment and managers, guests and beautiful tropical setting, all which led her to rejoin the team in September of 2018.

Christine was first drawn to SCBR because of the family environment. Her managers and co-workers are not just work to her, they are her family. Christine loves her job as Group Sales and Events Manager for brides and grooms, corporate groups, family reunions, milestones and celebrations not only for the family environment, but because she loves being part of making dreams comes true!

Her SCBR family is not her only family. Her proudest accomplishment is raising her son, who is a deployed United States Marine and who now also has his own wife and son.

At work, Christine is most proud of creating lasting memories (and setting new sales records). Christine says, “It’s so rewarding when a bride and groom stop me, years after an event, to tell me how grateful they are for making their event so memorable.”

When she’s not coordinating the details to your big event at Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts, she loves to be near the beach as much as possible — paddle boarding, doing meditation and yoga, dancing, and spending time with friends. She loves the sun and salt water so much, that her ideal vacation always includes both of these.

“My job is so rewarding,” says Christine. “Whether it is planning a couples’ big day, to details for a family reunion, corporate event or engagement party, I get to create these lasting memories all at a place I love, with a view of paradise.”

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Captiva Sunsets via Text, Compliments of ‘Tween Waters

I’m in! I just became a member of ‘Tween Waters Resort & Spa’s latest communications inspiration, called ‘Tween Waters Mobile Club.

I am not typically what you would call a “joiner.” Other than my women’s book club and supper club with fellow empty-nester couples, I avoid signing up for membership. I also avoid subscribing to website email newsletters.

So why, then, did I jump the minute the invitation to join the ‘Tween Waters Mobile Club hit my email inbox? Well, that tells you right there. I DO subscribe to ‘Tweenies’ email newsletters. They bring a ray of Florida sunshine to my inbox with discounts and specials and just happy images of the beach, sand, food, and memories of a Captiva Island respite.

So why wouldn’t I want more of that popping up on my phone’s text message app from time to time? Bursts of Captiva Island to brighten my day with exclusive members-only savings and “the best complimentary sunsets.” Who could resist?

They promise three messages a month, so not too much, just enough to leave you wanting more. More sunsets. More Captiva, that island unlike no other place on the planet. An island that truly defines “away from it all.”

So, join the club! It takes literally two seconds to text “CAPTIVA” to 55222 and bam! Break out the cocktails: It’s sunset time.

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Storming Normandie: Dining at ‘Tween Waters’ sister resort West Wind Inn on Sanibel

Long a hidden secret of foodies on Sanibel Island, the Normandie Seaside Café at West Wind Inn, there’s a reason officially opened to the public last October.

The restaurant is especially popular at lunch time, when you have the option of eating inside its soothing blue walls or outside at the Upper Pool Deck Bar. You can also enjoy dinner there in season, choosing from the $22 Sunset Menu from 5 to 6 p.m., or ordering from Chef Tom Sisson’s regular dinner menu.

Chef Sisson has headed the Normandie kitchen for a few years now, following a stint at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island.

While he was giving us suggestions for our dinner courses on a recent visit, a family approached him to rhapsodize about the burgers they had just finished off. “Our burgers are very popular,” he admitted. They come in three varieties at dinner, including the signature Normandie Double Decker Burger: two blackened patties with Swiss cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, mushrooms, lettuce and tomato.

For us, the chef recommended starting with his Zing Zing shrimp — “my own take on Bang Bang shrimp, but not fried,” he said. And what a refreshing variance that is these days when it seems every other restaurant is trying to emulate what Bonefish Grill invented. Chef Sisson sautés the shrimp and serves them with artichoke hearts and lots of good garlic in a creamy, lemon-tinged sauce flecked with tomatoes and fired up slightly with sriracha sauce.

We also followed his recommendation for Sanibel Bread. He proved his confessed predilection for Italian cuisine with this, a creative rendition of Caprese bruschetta, topped with a slice of mozzarella, diced tomatoes, parmesan and a balsamic drizzle.

On a roll, we followed more of his advice. “I’m a steak and potatoes kind of guy,” said Chef Sisson. “I butcher the beef myself.” His ribeye was double rich with a classic, soundly executed brandy cream peppercorn sauce.

The yang to the steak’s hearty character, our Sauteed Snapper Sinatra sang out a medley of flavors. “It’s really simple but delicious,” said the chef. True: a light relish of capers, diced tomatoes, onions, garlic and lemon added Florida flair to traditional Italian piccata style. The sun-dried tomato-studded risotto made a perfect accomplice.

The Sinatra counts as one of the menu’s latest entrée additions, along with Berkshire Lolli Pop Pork Chop with port demi-glace, a filet and shrimp combo, Creamy Chicken Pesto over penne, Herb Encrusted Grouper with pesto risotto, Pan-Seared Salmon with mango-pineapple risotto, and a Seafood Trio of grouper, scallops and shrimp.

New to the starters menu, coconut shrimp comes with a homemade chili Thai chili sauce while the shrimp cocktail is performed classically – once more demonstrating Chef Sisson’s culinary dexterity.

Classic also, the crème brulee ended our dinner on a creamy, sweetly brittle note.

The Normandie dining room also serves breakfast, another locals’ favorite because of its extensive offerings. Omelets run a long gamut from Greek to pesto with ham, tomato and parmesan, plus other out-of-the-ordinary breakfast items such as the BLT and Coconut French Toast. For lunch, we recommend the BBQ Pulled Pork and Fried Shrimp Po’ Boy Wrap from the something-for-everyone selection of sandwiches and salads.

Whatever time of day your hunger decides to storm Normandie, rest assured the menus describe the best line of defense for secret pleasures now let out of the bag.

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5 Reasons Why the Tree Lighting at ‘Tween Waters is Pure Magic

Holiday Tree Lighting

It’s the most magical time of year, and while Northerners think they have the upper hand on the holidays with all of that snow and roaring fireplaces, you’ll be surprised to learn that the Tree Lighting ceremony at ‘Tween Waters has all that, a little more! As a true northerner transplant (originally from Wisconsin), I can confidently say there’s nothing quite as magical as the Tree Lighting ceremony on Captiva. Here’s why:

*Snow. I’m leading off with the big one, because yes, there’s snow on Captiva and you can find it only at ‘Tween Waters. With a giant snow machine sending out the fluffy white stuff, you can celebrate in your shorts, while enjoying this Christmas miracle.

*Food. For the first time ever, you can get the VIP treatment by joining ‘Tween Waters in the Wakefield Room and watch the show from the balcony. It includes a family style Italian Buffet and family seating, for just $37/adult and $18/child. That’s a steal, for the best seats in the house! If you aren’t interested in the VIP treatment, you can also enjoy a meal in the Crow’s Nest (special menu) or grab a hot dog and chips, or burger and chips, at the outdoor event!

November 23, 2018 | The fun begins around dusk | FREE to all | Arrive early to secure parking | Call for Wakefield VIP Dining! 800-223-5865 

*Music. Not only is CJ the DJ rocking it poolside all afternoon, and part of the evening, but the Gatlins are returning to Captiva for some live music performances starting at 8:30PM in the Crow’s Nest. During the lighting ceremony, there is a music and lights show, and some live caroling, which is my favorite ode to the traditional holiday spirit.

*Lights. With 100,000 twinkling lights, all played and synchronized to the holiday music, the light show is by far the most magical moment of the night. From candy cane palm tree tunnel, to Rudolph leading Santa’s sleigh, there is no other holiday display like it in, dare I say it, the world. Without any street lights on Captiva, this display is made extra special because it truly lights up the night and can be seen from the beach and beyond.

*Fireworks. The lights are shining brightly everywhere (says Mariah Carey), the music is playing, you’re cuddled up with your loved ones, and then the sky bursts into light. This is pure magic.

If you can’t make the lighting ceremony, you won’t miss all of the fun. The property stays lit until after the new year, and you can walk the property to see all of the beautiful lights. Be sure to stay midweek Sunday to Thursday in December to receive 50% off guestrooms, studios and one-bedroom suites too!

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Employee Spotlight: Ray Emer, Lead Pool Bar Bartender

“Setting the ‘Bar’ Higher”

Ray Emer has been a bartender at ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa at the Oasis Pool Bar & Grille since 2017 but has been in the business of owning restaurants for 25 years with his wife Jewell. Despite his past work and experience, Ray still says working at ‘Tween Waters is the best job he’s ever had, next to being a husband and father.

Ray was first drawn to bartending because of the personal connections that are formed with visitors every day that are different and special. He says it makes his hour-long trek to work every day worthwhile. A day does not go by that Ray doesn’t engage with a guest that has been returning year after year, and the best compliment to him is hearing their stay was memorable and that they look forward to seeing him again next time.

Most are surprised to learn that the silver-haired smiley tender behind the bar raised a Military veteran (Ray Jr. 36) a Lawyer (Erik 35) a Dentist (Kyle 33) a Teacher (Angela 25) and yes, another Bartender (Hunter 23).

Ray, AKA “Mr. Delicious” (after one of our best pool bar concoctions) has worked for other Sanibel and Captiva establishments, but says he’s grateful to work for such a supportive Executive team that focuses on the experience of our guests at whatever the cost. He believes in the SCBR philosophy that a person who feels appreciated will always do more than is expected. That’s why Ray’s proudest accomplishments include helping develop his team, increasing guest satisfaction scores and building sales month after month. He wants to set the “bar” higher and add value to the guest experience as well.

When he’s not tending bar, he enjoys the resort like any guest: hanging out at the pool decks, chilling on our docks at the marina, dining in our restaurants, paddling our canoes thru the mangroves, sun bathing and shelling the beach. He’s been to Paris, Hawaii, and every theme park in Florida, but he still thinks where he works is the “best hidden jewel.”

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year — Celebrate with ‘Tween Waters

It’s the most wonderful time of the year at ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa — event season! Yep, this is the time of year to celebrate all things — from songwriters to Hallo’Tween, Thanksgiving to New Years. And what better way to celebrate these treasured events than with parties, buffets, fireworks and music. It’s going to be huge, and you won’t want to miss it. Here’s what’s happening:

Songwriter Saturday:  ‘Tween Waters is still celebrating Nashville songwriters by the pool with another great musician every month. Our next songwriter is Clint Daniels performing November 3 from 2 PM – 5 PM, as always free to our guests with a great poolside venue. Visiting for the day? Just $50 a carload gets you a day pass, parking, live music and access to amenities.

Hallo’Tween: Saturday, October 27, Hallo’Tween is going to be a smash this year, with a variety of dining options at the Canoe and Kayak Club and Crow’s Nest! Plus it’s a night full of live music from the beloved Gatlin until 1 PM at the Crow’s Nest, CJ the DJ spinnin’ it in the Wakefield Room from 10 PM – 2 AM, and our infamous costume contest with grand prize of $1000. Wristbands are just $10 after 10PM (21 and older) and you must be there by 10 PM to enter. Make your reservation ASAP as this event fills fast and lasts all night, so you’ll want to be safe and spend the night!

Thanksgiving Buffet: Everyone loves a good buffet, and even more so, they love the ‘Tween Waters Thanksgiving Buffet. It’s a great way to gather with family and share the love, without any of the work. The menu is already live at the Old Captiva House website, so be sure to check it out and make your table reservations asap!

Tree Lighting: With over 100,000 twinkling lights lighting the property, if you haven’t experienced the ‘Tween Waters Tree Lighting Celebration, you won’t want to miss it this year. It’ll feature CJ the DJ spinning music poolside and beachside day and night; at sunset live caroling, the grand Tree Lighting Celebration with fireworks, a Captiva snowstorm and more; plus all-new holiday lighting displays. Plus new this year, in addition to dinner at Crow’s Nest, you’ll have the option of a unique VIP dinner venue in the Wakefield Room with balcony viewing of the show!

Christmas and New Year: Spending the holidays at ‘Tween Waters is extremely special. Guests enjoy the Christmas buffet, holiday lights around the property, and more intimate New Year’s Party at the Crow’s nest with champagne toast. Spend your holidays on Captiva!

However you choose to celebrate the next few months, be sure to include some time on Captiva!

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Introducing Sanibel Captiva Island Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals just got a whole lot better on Sanibel and Captiva Island with the launch Monday of the new Sanibel Captiva Island Vacation Rentals — one of the largest vacation rental companies on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Florida, with currently more than 150 properties in its extensive inventory of luxury, boutique rental homes, cottages and condos. The brand represents the merger of vacation rental properties from ‘Tween Waters Island Vacation Rentals and Re/Max of the Islands Vacation Rentals, which occurred earlier this year.  For rental information or to place your vacation rental in the SCIVR program, visit www.SCVacay.com or call 239.472.5050.

Sanibel Captiva Island Vacation Rentals has been rebranded to reflect the best of both Sanibel and Captiva Island, promoting the dual locations for vacation rentals that the vacation rental company offers. This new branding and business model will include an 8-part Concierge Program for owners and prospective owners, and exclusive Renter’s Rewards that reward guests with $100-plus of valuable discounts, in conjunction with the Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts brand, to focus on both owner satisfaction as well as guest satisfaction.

“We look forward to making the vacation rental experience the best it’s ever been — in service, in revenues and in guest satisfaction,” says General Manager Doug Babcock. “We felt a fresh name with an upscale visual presentation that reflects both islands and both companies was an important step in this process.”

This new and altogether better vacation rental company is 85 years in the making — founded on award-winning island hospitality marketing through the Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts properties. Vacation rental guests benefit through a variety of advantages including a large search set of properties, Renter’s Rewards (including coupons) and the use of many partner resort amenities. Owners benefit from this partnership through the robust marketing, personalized concierge approach, and 50-plus years of real estate and vacation rental expertise on Sanibel and Captiva. Sanibel Captiva Island Vacation Rentals is managed under Doug Babcock, with Sales Manager Jackie Royka and Sales Associates Rachel Walsh and Sue Plein.

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