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A Rare Dining Experience for a Short Time Only at ‘Tween Waters

If blessings can come in disguise and good things in small packages, The Canoe & the Kayak club at ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa on Captiva Island ranks as both.

I consider it a blessing that the resort’s main kitchen and Old Captiva House are undergoing renovation, not only because it promises a new and exciting experience, but also because it gives me the opportunity to revisit this adorable little cottage marina-side.

And the good things? The temporary downsized space and menu somehow concentrate the charm of a ‘Tween Waters dinner experience.

Down Memory Lane

Dining there takes me back to the days when the club served lunch and dinner there on the bay, back in the late 80s to the early 2000s. Prior to that, the historic cottage served as guest accommodations, a house for visiting band members performing at the Crow’s Nest Bar & Grille, and a temporary home for next door’s Captiva Island Yacht Club.

In the here-and-now, Canoe & Kayak typically functions as a special event venue. It has been called back into regular dining service, however, until the new Old Captiva House reopens later this year. In the meantime, breakfast has moved to the Crow’s Nest. Dinner at Canoe & Kayak is a casual, intimate affair huddled around a fireplace with paddle fans overhead and views through the patio of Roosevelt Channel and Buck Key.

Simple Menu, Complex Dishes

Executive Chef Greg Nelson has simplified the menu to include some of this signature Old Captiva House dishes and others that I was seeing for the first time when I dined there recently with my husband.

We started with a Roasted Shrimp Cocktail. A refreshing twist on a classic, its five jumbo shrimp wear a seasoned coating that boosts the flavor and plays well with the tangy red horseradish sauce.

For his entrée, my husband went with the filet mignon small plate, one of three listed. He immediately pronounced it the best steak he has ever tasted. The 6-ounce cut (also available in full-sized portion) benefited from an experienced grill hand and the combination of gorgonzola cream and port glaze that struck complex but harmonious chords.

Meanwhile, I was expressing the same superlatives about my pomegranate glazed lamb chops, one of four Big Plates. The just-sweet-enough glaze stood up well to the richness of the meat, grilled perfectly to my rare-to-medium-rare specs.

Both came with garlic-parmesan mashed potatoes and a colorful mélange of sliced and shredded roasted veggies that overachieved in the side dish department. Glasses of Cab Sav and Malbec made the perfect complement.

A stack of three almond cookies sandwiching key lime mousse, the Key Lime Napoleon finished our dinner on a sweet note that, too, was a blessing. And, to say the least, a good thing.

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Making History Again at Old Captiva House.

old captiva house 1

Once upon a time, a small schoolhouse on Captiva Island welcomed its very first students to their very first day of learning. The year was 1908. If you’re a local historian (or maybe just an island fan), you know that this one-room schoolhouse remains a Captiva landmark — because today, elements of the school continue on as Old Captiva House restaurant, here at the legendary ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa.

Across the years, Old Captiva House has welcomed thousands of guests to hearty breakfasts and mouth-watering dinners, all served with a front-and-center view of the Gulf of Mexico and its breathtaking sunsets. Today, this tradition will carry on with an all new look — one that embraces the past grace and charm of Captiva Island, while welcoming the future — and an all new kitchen, from which tomorrow’s top-rated Captiva Island menu will be prepared and served.

“Our design team focused on bringing the light, bright, airy and cheerful feel of Captiva to the restaurant, while adding something of ‘southern island charm’ and a nautical feel to the interior,” notes Doug Babcock, Chief Operating Officer of Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts. “In the end, we’ll have created a true ‘destination’ restaurant in look, style, experience and of course, taste. We’re very excited.”

The “new” Old Captiva House will feature a variety of guest amenities not previously available, including: a welcome area with lounge seating for conversation and libations; a cozy bar with comfortable seating and outstanding views; a new Sunset Lounge with its sunset vistas; plus a beautiful main dining room with walls of French doors, lots of natural lighting and soothing color combinations. Not to mention the best dining on the island.

As the new kitchen continues construction, an impressive surrogate kitchen has been erected on-property and is currently serving breakfast and dinner via your choice of Crow’s Nest Bar & Grille, or a newly renovated Canoe & Kayak Club (with an abbreviated Old Captiva House menu), featuring both indoor and outdoor seating and a gorgeous view of Roosevelt Channel and Pine Island Sound.

While the dining renovation efforts represent a significant investment, the goal is to “continue to provide our guests the best hospitality experience in Southwest Florida,” says Tony Lapi, Chief Executive Officer. “After all, as the Official Beach Resorts of Sanibel and Captiva, nothing less than the best for our guests will do.” Estimates are that Old Captiva House will excitedly debut in a grand opening sometime later this fall.

In the meantime, make your Old Captiva House dinner reservations today by calling the Canoe & Kayak Club at 239.472.5161 X425.

 

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Changing Landscapes — New Renovations to ‘Tween Waters

Landscapes are changing at ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa, and for the better! The resort is always looking for ways to make the guest experience better, and some of us don’t love change, how could you not love an improved vacation experience?!

It started a few years ago with all new interiors on the main buildings. That includes gutting the kitchens, bathrooms and carpets, replacing them with granite counter tops, beautiful tile and glass showers and more. These room renovations have now included new mattresses for the whole resort, new furniture, updates to the cottages and a paved drive to cut down on the dirt and dust of this traditional “old Florida” property.

But changing landscapes don’t stop in the rooms. This year, the resort added a second “serenity” pool to the mix. For those opposed to the more active, loud, family-friendly, Olympic-sized pool, now adults can relax at the quiet, calm serenity pool. Renovations around the pool also include new pool chairs, umbrellas and cabanas and a tent over the kiddie pool.

I’m most excited to reveal this year’s plans now include renovations to the kitchen and dining experience! A complete overhaul to the Old Captiva House and Crow’s Nest kitchen will begin June 11, and will be closed for a brief four days, with plans to return power back to Crow’s Nest on June 15. Lunch will be served at Oasis Pool Bar in the meantime. With renovations and décor redesign made to the Crow’s Nest last year, this restaurant will serve as the main dining experience until fall, when Old Captiva House will complete the full restaurant updates. You can expect a new, state-of-the-art kitchen, full reno to the dining room, chairs and tables, bar top area, and new décor all meant to provide a better, more efficient and relaxing dining experience.

What I love most about these renovations is that not a single one of them takes away from the charm, history or integrity of the resort you know and love. As National Historic Register property, there are a restrictions to décor, style and even paint color that you can use, so while the resort is adding comfort and style, they’re truly sticking to tradition.

 

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A Cocktail-Lover’s Guide to ‘Tween Waters on Captiva Island

Personally, I love good wine and, when lounging poolside, a top-shelf gin with tonic to refresh. The wine and cocktail lists at ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa on Captiva Island keep my thirst well quenched, but also offer a full suite of martinis, frozen drinks, signature craft cocktails, and local beers.

Sunny Sipping

Starting at the Oasis Pool Bar & Grille, the adult beverages pair well with splashy, sunny days. It’s known for its tropical frozen drinks – perfect for warm spring days this time of year.

I especially love ordering mine in a Tervis tumbler, the definitive Florida brand of insulated drinkware. Buy the ‘Tween Waters logo tumbler for $19.95 and get your 16-ounce frozen drink for free. Another cool pool bar deal, the Bucket Promotion awards you one free bottle of beer when you buy four.

Plus! Sipping poolside has never been so cool or so full of savings: Oasis Pool Bar has now launched 50% off all drinks for Happy Hour from 5:30-6:30PM nightly.

Nightlife & Nosh at Crow’s Nest

As an apertif at Crow’s Nest Bar & Grille, I lean toward the Murky Water cocktail – ‘Tweenies version of a dirty martini made with Ketel One vodka and a blue cheese-stuffed olive. My beer-snob husband orders from the craft beer menu, usually Bury Me Brewing’s From My Dead Cold Hands IPA on tap, made nearby in Fort Myers. Reef Donkey APA from Florida’s Tampa Bay Brewing Co. also comes in draft, along with other crafts in bottles.

When I’m in the mood to drink my dessert, the Key Lime Pie Martini differs from others with a douse of Rumchata mixed with key lime liqueur and vanilla vodka.

Wining & Dining at Old Captiva House

Dinner at gracious Old Captiva House calls for a nice bottle of wine.

“I select the wine personally with my team,” said Food and Beverage Manager Laurent Bosc. “My goal is to offer good wines at good prices. Many countries such as Italy, New Zealand, and Australia are offering excellent unknown wine that often can compete with French and overrated Californian wines.” He urges guests to move out of their wine comfort zones to experiment with the excellent, lesser-known vintages.

I’m also a big fan of the bar’s Cumber-Tini, a twist on my usual GT with Hendrick’s gin and muddled cucumber. With that, it’s time to toast a hearty cheer to a day of sunning, supping , and sipping at ‘Tween Waters.

NOTE: Starting mid-May, kitchen and dining room renovations will mean that Old Captiva House will be temporarily relocated to the Wakefield banquet facility overlooking the Gulf.

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New wave hits ‘Tween Waters culinary scene on Captiva Island

At the restaurants of ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa, I’ve been watching what’s old become new and what’s new turn back to old. Let me explain.

It began two years ago, when the then-new Food & Beverage Manager Laurent Bosc identified a need to freshen things up – both in the kitchen and dining rooms.

His aspirations came to fruition last summer with the hiring of Greg Nelson, a longtime culinary fixture around these islands.

“Because I knew the islands so well, I knew exactly what people here want – locals and visitors,” Chef Nelson said. He is enjoying the flexibility of designing food for three different venues at ‘Tween Waters.

Crow’s Nest Beach Bar & Grille

His first task-at-hand was to  redesign the dinner menu at the Crow’s Nest, to go along with the dining room’s new coastal, nautical vibe.

“My vision was to offer a family-oriented menu with only fresh, mostly local ingredients,” said the chef. “Only dishes we make from scratch. We don’t buy pre-made ingredients. And mostly seafood, because that’s what people want on these islands.”

Besides shrimp, mussels, calamari, grouper, crab cakes, and salmon on the seafood-heavy menu, Chef Nelson rounded things out with chicken wings, salads, grilled veggies, baby back ribs and one of his favorites: The Ultimate BLTAE. He adds avocado, a fried egg and a smear of habanero mayo to the traditional BLT formula, served on sourdough bread.

Oasis Pool Bar & Grille

Chef Nelson also oversees operations at this ultra-casual, al fresco venue, which serves lunch (until sunset) and fruity specialty cocktails. From burgers to Caribbean Jerk Chicken Salad, the menu offers meals made for families and swimwear. The Tween Beans sells coffees, cookies, and ice cream at the other end of the pool.

Duck spring roll

Old Captiva House

Old Captiva House, the resort’s finer dining venue also underwent a renaissance, beginning late 2016, when management pulled the tablecloths and high-end pricing in favor of a more relaxed attitude. Last year, it also subtracted the “old” from Old Captiva House and added sushi, which my family raves about.

With upcoming décor changes, the “old” has returned “to keep our historic, 1930s roots alive,” said Mr. Bosc.

Chef Nelson’s new breakfast and dinner menus debuted last month. On my most recent dinner there, I ordered a triple-tail seafood special that was out of this world. And you’ve gotta try the duck spring roll! Now, I can’t wait to get my tastebuds around the Artichoke Chorizo Benedict for breakfast.

A total overhaul of the resort’s main kitchen is also slated for this year, putting the final touches to a fresh, new experience at this legendary historic resort.

We love the sushi!

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Fall in Love with February at ‘Tween Waters

February is my favorite month in Florida. The weather is near-perfect, there’s so much to do and I get to celebrate two “National Holidays” if I’m lucky. February at ‘Tween Waters is no different — from Songwriter Saturdays to “Big Game” Sundays, plus a little Valentine’s Day love in between, there’s a million and one ways to fall in love with February. Here’s a few to get you started:

Songwriter Saturdays: Start off February with a relaxing day at the pool and a little nationally-recognized music. With temps rising, the Oasis Pool Bar is the best place to “chill” and relax, and now with Songwriter Saturdays, it’s an even cooler hangout. This month, enjoy music stylings from Hugh Mitchell on February 3, starting at 4PM. This “golden-throated troubadour” gives you grit and melody all and one, and now it’s all poolside to enjoy. Book a reservation ASAP because they fill up fast for these music-filled weekends or plan to bring a carful of people for just $50 for the day.

Valentine’s Day: They love love at ‘Tweenies, and there’s no better place to enjoy Valentine’s Day than the home to “America’s Most Romantic Sunset.” If you can’t make a week-long vacation out of it (this year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday), the perfect Valentine’s Day gift is a romantic dinner at Captiva House. I’ve enjoyed more than one Valentine’s Day pre-fixed menu at Captiva House, and couldn’t ask for a better way to celebrate love than with my mouth full of delicious food. Make your reservations asap!

The Big Game: Okay, so I can’t say those magic words that start with Su and end with owl, but you know the Big Game I’m talking about. Cheer on your favorite team, or just come for the commercials, but either way, you’re going to want to do it at Crow’s Nest Bar & Grille. Grab a stool and join in the fun as they give away huge prizes (TVs, spa and dining gift cards and more!). The fun starts at 4PM on February 4.

Soak in Fabulous February Weather: The last, and best way to fall in love with February is to soak in fabulous February weather by making a vacation out of it all. Save big during high season with un-heard of three- and five-night packages, starting from $263/night for a Poolside Guestroom February 2 through April 8, 2018. Plus, when you book direct, you get all of those great VIP benefits like bike rentals, kayak and canoe rentals, hassle-free cancellation and so much more. Book by calling: 800-223-5865 or getting your deal online: www.tween-waters.com.

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Live History at ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort on Captiva Island

Step back 80-plus years to the days of rumble seats and airplanes landing on the beach — without having to leave the grounds of ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa on Captiva Island. Begin your day steeped in history with breakfast at the Old Captiva House restaurant, which dates back to the resort’s origins in the 1930s. Read the historic plaque outside for your first history lesson.

Step inside, then, and admire the cartoons of Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, namesake of today’s J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel. You can see a collection of his Pulitzer Prize Award-winning political cartoons from the Des Moines Register. The resort also displays some of his original work, including a triptych piece called “The Big Parade,” depicting Captiva beachgoers back in the day.

Darling wintered for many years starting in the 1930s at ‘Tween Waters, where he had both a cottage with his wife and a studio for himself built with higher windows, said resort owner Tony Lapi. Today both cottages have been restored for guest accommodations, along with 17 others. Most of them, along with the Old Captiva House building, are on the National Register of Historic Places. Four are named for other historic figures who have visited Captiva through the years: pioneering aviator Charles Lindbergh, who is said to have landed his plane on the beach; his wife, author Anne Morrow Lindbergh; President Teddy Roosevelt; and ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh Cottage
“Ding” Darling’s humorous portrayal of Captiva shellers: The original hangs in Old Captiva House.

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