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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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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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West West Inn, a Pool With a View

As a guest of ‘Tween Waters, you have access to amenities at their sister properties, including the West Wind Inn on Sanibel. And the pool deck at the West Wind Inn is a family favorite. Wait till you see the views! Their pool area is just steps from the Gulf of Mexico, overlooking 500’ of private beach. And while it’s not nearly as big as the pool at ‘Tween Waters, it is plenty spacious, and it’s heated so you can swim year-round. Towels are provided, as are bathrooms, and you’ll find plenty of loungers, and tables with umbrellas.

The tables with shady umbrellas come in handy if you want to eat lunch poolside, which you can, because their Upper Deck Pool Bar serves food and drinks starting at 11 a.m. As its name suggests, the Upper Deck Pool Bar is elevated, overlooking the pool and the Gulf. If you thought the views from the pool were great, wait till you step up to order food and drinks. Wow! Last time we were there, we saw dolphins jumping out of the water as if they were putting on a show at SeaWorld. What a sight! There we were, sipping virgin piña coladas, watching a pod of bottlenose dolphins doing flips, over and over – and we had a clear, elevated view of the entire performance. It was the most memorable lunch I think we’ve ever had. Ever.

I hope your family enjoys spending time poolside at West Wind Inn as much as we do. Note that the Upper Deck Pool Bar is open to the public, but to use the pool, you must be a guest or a guest of one of the sister properties.

  Family at West Wind Inn pool.
My niece and sons at the West Wind Inn pool.

View of the gulf from West Wind Inn pool.
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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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The comforts of home. And much more.

tween waters island vacation retnals

Those of us lucky enough to live and work in Southwest Florida know just how special we have it. Sunshine, blue skies, warm waters, natural beauty and not a lick of snow to be spotted anywhere. Imagine then how much luckier are those of us who’ve chosen hospitality as our life’s work. We get to take our breathtaking slice of paradise — Sanibel and Captiva Islands — and serve them to you in a vacation experience you’ll hopefully remember forever.

Here at Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts, we’ve been doing just that since 1931, when ‘Tween Waters Inn of Captiva welcomed its first overnight guests. Some 86 years later, we today offer guests their choice of four uniquely different beach resorts numbering more than 300 guest accommodations, along with top dining, recreation, entertainment and most of all, relaxation.

Now, we’re excited to expand our services beyond the traditional resort guest room to vacation rental homes and condos, via our new ‘Tween Waters Island Vacation Rentals — where we truly offer you all the comforts of home, and much more.

Add it all up, and nobody brings guests the comforts of home — and much more — like we do. And if you’re a vacation rental home or condo owner, nobody can match our ability to create revenues and loyal customers via our powerful marketing, sales and customer satisfaction that’s 86 years in the making.

We know that many travelers prefer the privacy, space, flexibility and value of a vacation rental home or condo. You’ll find all of that with ‘Tween Waters Island Vacation Rentals, where we’ll apply the same standards for excellence that have made our resorts and restaurants tops on Sanibel and Captiva Islands for many years.

Plus as our guest, you’ll also enjoy value-added free benefits that no other rental company can offer through our “Renter’s Rewards” — a coupon book complete with more than $100 of discounts to dining, entertainment, water sports, spa services and more at our nearby properties.

Add it all up, and nobody brings guests the comforts of home — and much more — like we do. And if you’re a vacation rental home or condo owner, nobody can match our ability to create revenues and loyal customers via our powerful marketing, sales and customer satisfaction that’s 86 years in the making.

So whether you love the luxury amenities and pampering service of highest quality beach resorts and restaurants — or the comforts, value and flexibility of a rental property — now you have the best of both worlds. Interested? Learn more about our vacation rentals here, or our entire portfolio of beach resorts, restaurants and recreation here.

By Doug Babcock | Chief Operating Officer

Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts LLC

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Resort Coupon — An Added Value Experience

Added Value Resort Coupon

When choosing a vacation destination, I’m always looking for two things: quality and value. With ‘Tween Waters Inn, I certainly know that I am receiving quality — about 85 year’s worth of positive customer reviews have told me so. But what about value?

Enter: the $100-value resort coupon books. These have been a great added value to multi-night guests for a few years now, but now, more than ever, they truly are adding value to your resort experience. Here’s why:

The new coupon books feature deals from local vendors and sister properties; meaning I get to explore not just Captiva Island, but Sanibel Island too! And with a variety of offers covering a variety of amenities, I feel I’m receiving a full vacation experience, at a great value.

Upon checking in at ‘Tween Waters Inn, guests who book a two- or more-night stay receive this coupon book. It features deals from Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa and West Wind Inn, and their on-site amenities and restaurants, including Captiva House, Crow’s Nest, Oasis Pool Bar, ‘Tween’s Beans, The Spa at ‘Tween Waters Inn, T.H. Osprey, Pelican’s Roost, Normandie, The Upper Deck and so much more, including coupons for:

  • Food and beverage BOGOs and discounts
  • Gift shop discounts and coupons
  • Cabana rental credits
  • FREE spa treatments
  • Discount boat rentals and sailing adventures
  • Waverunner coupons
  • Guided kayak tour credits

In all of my years of traveling far and near, I’ve never experienced this level of added value and “freebies” from my accommodation option, simply because I booked a multi-night stay. I think that says a lot about the resort and management — not only about value, but quality as well.

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