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Discovering What’s Old and New at Restyled Old Captiva House

Finally! I’ve been waiting for my favorite dinner-out island escape to open for months. On May 15, the highly anticipated re-opening of the Old Captiva House at ‘Tween Waters Beach Resort & Spa on Captiva Island finally happened. I was there within days to bask in the polished, refreshed setting that makes old and new a seamless time warp.

Old Captiva House’s roots reach back to 1908, when it served as Captiva Island’s first schoolhouse. After the Price family opened their ‘Tween Waters Inn in 1931, the schoolhouse, now on the National Register of Historic Places, transitioned into a kitchen and dining room to serve guests – guests, through the  years, who have included Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh,  preeminent birding author Roger Tory Peterson, and Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, an important editorial cartoonist in the 1930s who twice won the Pulitzer Prize and created the national wildlife refuge on Sanibel now named for him.

Darling, in fact, became one of ‘Tween Waters’ biggest fans and proponents, decorating the lodge’s registration book with his famed doodles. To honor the man and his legacy, the new design of the Old Captiva House has created a Darling Gallery of some of his original cartoons and engravings.

The gallery greets guests as they enter the shiny space that gleams with new furnishings and appointments and the gracious patina of its venerable years.

The restaurant retains its two indoor and patio seating areas. The veranda-like smaller dining room with its lulling sea views is a favorite, but the addition of a physical sushi bar to the larger room ups its attraction. From their handsome wood floors to new patterned, stamped-tin ceilings, the inside dining rooms spell pure class. But in a relaxed vein, despite their starched white table linens.

One of the biggest changes of the multi-million-dollar renovation is one guests don’t see: a totally revamped kitchen. But they can enjoy those upgrades in breakfast and dinner menus that, like the restaurant itself,  joins hands between before and after.

The dinner menu has made a Caprese salad convert of me. Well, for this version, anyway: grilling the juicy beefsteak tomatoes and the swap of basil pesto and lemon-infused white balsamic for the typical red balsamic send it over the top.

We also loved the addition of the “steak of the moment” option, which rewarded us with a bone-in filet mignon on our most recent visit.

And with such inventions as the artichoke chorizo benedict and cheddar bagel steak and eggs sandwich, the breakfast menu adds so much dimension to morning dine-out options on these islands. Finally!

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A Classic is Reborn: The New Old Captiva House Officially Welcomes You.

It stands on the site of Captiva Island’s very first schoolhouse that opened its doors in 1908 to a few pioneering students and families. In 1931, when the first overnight guests to Captiva Island checked in at the new ‘Tween Waters Inn, Grace Price treated guests to homemade meals at Old Captiva House while husband F. Bowman Price tended to their fishing excursions.

Across the many years since, Old Captiva House has welcomed tens of thousands of guests to its tables — notable names like Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, J.N. “Ding” Darling, Roger Tory Peterson and more, as well as equally notable names like you.

Today, May 14, 2019, a new chapter of Old Captiva House has officially been written. After more than a year in the works and one-million-dollars-plus of investment, Old Captiva House has been re-envisioned and re-created to once again stand as the top island dining destination for its classic styling, contemporary design, breathtaking beauty and mouthwatering cuisine. And this National Registry of Historic Places landmark is ready to welcome you and your family to experience it all, for breakfast or dinner.

Chief Executive Officer Tony Lapi is excited. “Old Captiva House has a long tradition as a top-rated TripAdvisor Captiva Island restaurant,” he explains. “The time had come to ‘up our game’ and over-deliver to our guests with a new Old Captiva House that combines its classic style and feel with bright and beautiful additions.”

Laurent Bosc serves as Food & Beverage Director of Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts, and has led a team of highly talented foodservice professionals — including Executive Chef Greg Nelson, sous chefs, servers and attendants — in creating an exciting new menu of Florida-fresh favorites, along with the highest standard of service to be enjoyed on the islands. Bonus: this talented team gets to perform their magic in a sparkling all-new kitchen that rivals any in Southwest Florida for state-of-the-art preparation and presentation.

Chief Operating Officer Doug Babcock anticipates that guests — both those who’ve visited the resort in years past as well as local residents — will be wowed. “The new Old Captiva House is simply remarkable, the moment you walk through those famous doors that front the Gulf of Mexico,” he says. “Your eyes literally wander from here to here to there, with so many ‘wow moments’ as you take it all in.”

Drawing from its historic past, Old Captiva House features a delightful “Darling Gallery,” a collection of original J.N. “Ding” Darling illustrations that — over his many years as guest — he would sketch in ‘Tween Waters Inn’s registration book. The illustrations are sometimes fun, sometimes silly, but altogether fascinating in their “slice of life” in the 1940s and 50s.

Open to the public (breakfast and dinner) and available for weddings, Old Captiva House has indeed embarked on a new chapter in its remarkable history. Be a part of it — make your reservations now to see, taste and experience the best dining on Captiva Island, with a Gulf-front view of Captiva’s romantic and beautiful sunsets, no extra charge.

Visit OldCaptivaHouse.com or call 239.472.5161 (Extension 421) for reservations.

 

Old Captiva House
Old Captiva House
Old Captiva House
Old Captiva House
Old Captiva House
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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 important 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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