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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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Meet the ‘Tween Waters Management Team

Sanibel Captiva Management Team

I’ve had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with the ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa management now, and have learned a different side to the hotel experience. When many of you visit the resort, you see hard working individuals riding golf carts, cleaning rooms, serving meals and drinks and spraying down surfaces, and I’ve come to appreciate each and every working piece and person to a resort. But when many of you don’t see the management side of hotel.

Meet General Manager Brett Gooch. Not only does he manage two little girls at home, but he’s also managing things at a huge 138-room resort. Oh wait, make that two 130+ room resorts (he’s also the GM at West Wind Inn). Did you know that Brett personally addresses TripAdvisor reviews? Anyone who has worked in customer service knows how difficult a disgruntled customer can be, and Brett handles it with grace and patience.

Meet President, Doug Babcock. From beach cams, to new furniture and equipment, to marketing and those discounts you receive on your stays, Doug is heading the charge on my financial and marketing ends. He’s also the General Manager of the sister vacation rental company and president of the overall Sanibel Captiva Beach Resort company. But did you know when first started, in order to get an understanding of all aspects of the resort, he did everything from take out garbage to work in the kitchen? He installed Christmas lights, did beach duty and even parking duty. Talk about involved!

Lastly, I’d like you to meet the man, the myth, the legend, Tony Lapi. Most long-time guests have met and seen Tony Lapi around the resort. This CEO of a major island resort is often found painting, fixing, installing and riding around on a tractor. He’s also been known to carry luggage to rooms, park cars, greet guests, and install renovations. Somehow, he finds time to be a generous and caring human being known to hang out at the Crow’s Nest for a drink, donate to the United Way and fight water quality issues. And did I mention he has a marshmallow gun for holiday events?

What I took away from meeting with the management of ‘Tween Waters was that no matter you position or how much you make, how long you’ve been with the organization or what else is going on in your life, the people who own and work for the resort care. They care about making a difference and truly proving their mission statement: to deliver a warm, friendly and memorable island resort experience that provides value to all our guests resulting in a desire to return. So on your next vacation, if you notice one of these friendly faces, be sure to say hello to the management team.

(Photo Left to Right: Brett Gooch, Doug Babcock, Tony Lapi and Rick Boyd)

 

 

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Getting Out of the Weather at ‘Tween Waters, Captiva Island

Late summer on Captiva Island, Florida, can mean bouts of intense sunshine tempered with short afternoon showers. When avoiding the raindrops or taking a break from the sun, ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa is perfectly poised with solutions.

My favorite get-out-of-the-weather strategy takes me shopping and spa-ing right on property. Maybe work a little fitness center time in there for good measure. Then, you can easily rationalize some retail therapy followed by massage therapy.

Other times I feel like exploring the islands – their intriguing ecology, their history, their culture. That’s when I plan a field trip. Some of my favorite stops?

  • J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge: I always learn something new at its admission-free Visitor & Education Center. Its cool new artistic Learning Lavatories restrooms are worth the visit in and of themselves. The 4-mile tour around Wildlife Drive rewards with wetland vistas populated with feathered friends and crawly creatures.
  • Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum: You don’t have to love seashells as much as I do to appreciate the ecology, historic significance, and sheer beauty of the creatures and their homes. This one-of-a-kind museum brings a whole new appreciation.
  • BIG ARTS: Sanibel’s cultural nucleus always has a couple of changing art exhibitions going on in its galleries. You can also catch an art class, film, or live performance.
  • Sanibel Historical Museum and Village: This cluster of vintage island homes and other buildings is literally stuffed with fun history lessons you can easily absorb at strolling pace.

Can’t bear to go inside? Here’s another solution: Rent a cab ana at the Serenity Pool for al fresco protection from the elements.

Pelican’s Roost puts the tropical in your closet

 

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Mark Your Calendar For Fun, Fun and More Fun at ‘Tween Waters Captiva.

It’s only August, but it’s time to start marking your calendar for all of the good times, family fun and (yes) occasional case of the sillies at the legendary ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa, the Official Beach Resort of Captiva Island.
Got your Google Calendar ready? Here we go:
  • Saturday, August 18: 100,000 Facebook Followers Party. There’s still time to get in on all the fun this coming weekend, as we celebrate our 100,000 (and counting) Facebook followers by hosting a pool-and-beach party topped off with fireworks and $100 room nights! You’ll enjoy CJ the DJ rocking the pool deck all afternoon and into the evening, with mighty beverage specials and an over-the-top beach fireworks display at 9 PM. Call 800.223.5865 now to book your night (or even better, weekend!).
  • Friday-Monday, August 31- September 3: Labor Day Weekend. Most parts of the country call Labor Day the “unofficial end of summer.” Here at the Official Beach Resort of Captiva Island, we call Labor Day the official kickoff of four months of special events and fun! This is a weekend the whole family can enjoy, from pools and beach, to parasail and jetskis, to standup paddleboards of just relaxing poolside (either Family Pool or Serenity Pool). Plus, we’ll have our September Songwriter Jo Smith poolside on September 1. Book it at 800.223.5865 or online here.
  • Friday-Sunday, September 21-23: Island Hopper Songwriter Fest. It’s the Fifth Annual Songwriter Festival, and that means another chance for you to get up close and personal with a host of talented Nashville singer-songwriters, playing intimate settings throughout ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa. If you love music and hanging with the artists, book the weekend now at 800.223.5865 or online here.
  • Saturday, October 6: Songwriter Saturday at the Pool. This monthly, singer-songwriter Brinley Addington brings his chart-topping Nashville sounds to the poolside relaxation here on Captiva Island. Make it a weekend at 800.223.5865 or book online here.
  • Saturday, October 27: Hallo’Tween. Don’t be afraid, because this all-time classic party brings out the very best in our guests — be they locals or visitors. You’ll partake of an evening of fun with live music, DJ tunes, beverages specials and big-time, cash prizes for the best costumes. Book the weekend now at 800.223.5865!
  • Thursday-Friday, November 22-23: Thanksgiving Day Buffet and Annual Tree Lighting Celebration. Here come the holidays! Be sure to book your weekend stay now, so you can enjoy all that makes the holidays so very special on Captiva and at ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa. Thursday’s Thanksgiving Buffet is a must-do, then relax and recharge Friday during the day — because come sunset Friday night, it’s the Annual Tree Lighting Celebration with live music, DJ tunes, hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights, a spectacular fireworks on the beach celebration and yes!, the only snowstorm in Southwest Florida. Hurry, only a few reservations remain so book the weekend now at 800.223.5865 or online here.
  • Tuesday, December 25: Christmas Day Buffet. Here’s one present you’ll want to find under your palm tree — a holiday vacation to ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa, including the always delicious Christmas Day Buffet. Wow, this one’s got your name on it. Book it now at 800.223.5865 or online here.
  • Monday, December 31: New Year’s Eve Party. Ring in the new year in style, at the one and only Official Beach Resort of Captiva Island. This is the party to start all parties and kick off the new year with live music, laughter, fun and a beautiful sunset. Make it a weekend by booking now at 800.223.5865.
Remember: When you Book Direct you save with No Resort Fees plus a host of exclusive, VIP freebies and discounts no other travel site offers. So call our friendly on-site reservationists today at (what’s that number?) 800.223.5865 or online here. See you soon and, hopefully, see you often!
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Happy Returns — Return to ‘Tween Waters with a 25% Discount!

Thank you for your patronage and patience with our area’s recent water quality issues. If you visited any Sanibel Captiva Beach Resort July 1, 2018 or later, we’d like to welcome you back with a special 25% discount on your next stay — one, two, three, four or five nights — now through January 31, 2019. Book now at 800.223.5865 and mention your previous reservation date with our friendly reservationists to redeem!

 

 

 

*Valid on new reservations only. Not valid during national holiday weeks. Book now to January 31, 2019. One reservation per household, per previous reservation. Previous reservation must have occurred after July 1, 2018.

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Green ‘Tween Saves Energy with GeoThermal Pool

For many years, guests have enjoyed and luxuriated in the ‘Tween Waters’ Olympic-sized pool, and now more than ever, that experience is to be celebrated. As a leader in green policies, Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts has partnered with Symbiont to install a GeoThermal heating units, which use the earth’s heat to warm or cool the pool — making these the greenest pools on Sanibel and Captiva Islands.

This time of year, with air temperatures in the 80s and 90s, keeping the pools at a refreshing temp actually comes from the earth’s heat! The GeoThermal unit can both warm and cool the pools at ‘Tween Waters. This works by utilizing the heat of the earth to transfer energy, rather than employing the heat of the earth as the heating source.

Utilizing two wells, one to bring the water from earth, and another that transfers to a heat pump, this geo-thermal process utilizes water in the ground and then returns back to the ground. This process is 30% more efficient than a traditional heat pump that uses air, and 80% more efficient than a heat pump that uses gas (what most hotels use to heat their pools). This all results in less energy being used, less waste and more use of our natural resources to provide an eco-friendly swimming experience. Plus with two pools to heat and cool at ‘Tween Waters, that’s double the energy savings!

Not only is geo-thermal heating more eco-friendly, but it’s also economical and reliable, meaning the hotel saves money on gas bills and can utilize that budget toward additional hotel improvements. This system also lasts 15-20 years (whereas a typical gas system lasts between 5-10 years) meaning less breakdowns and repairs, meaning guests will enjoy the pool all year round without issue!

This installment isn’t new — the ‘Tween Waters has been using GeoThermal energy for a few years, but the significance of how ‘Tween is staying green makes this newsworthy. For more information, visit https://symbiontservice.com Plus, visit our sister property, West Wind Inn, who has newly invested in this GeoThermal system on Sanibel Island.

 

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