Punta Gorda: 2 New Restaurants

Trabue & Opus elevate the town’s reputation

Punta Gorda, Florida, dining capital? Suspend your disbelief and backburner your cynicism until you’ve pulled up a chair.

Time was when it meant Karl Ehmer’s German restaurant, early bird dinners, and Fishermen’s Village. That all has changed.

Bouillabaisse at Opus

Since Hurricane Charley in 2004, the small, historic town’s dining scene has been slowly reviving and evolving. In the last three days I sampled two newcomers that just may take PG to the edge of cutting. Read more of this post

Wedding-crashing Sanibel Harbour Marriott

Girls staycation anonymous

My group of travel buddies loves to party so much that we stay close to home (less travel time means more woohoo time). Because we tend to end up meeting new people we’d often rather not have remember us, we adopt aliases.

I can’t tell you my alias, but I can tell you ours range from Spice to Cosmo, Pumpkin to Tripp. 

But what you’re really wondering is “Did they really crash a wedding?” 

Naw, we were invited to do so. That just takes the fun out of it. Although we had a chance at five weddings the three days we were there. 

It was a three-year reunion. We had started our annual, sometimes semi-annual tradition of girlie staycationing at the Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa, just mainland side of the Sanibel Island Causeway, in 2009.

Since then, the resort has come under the corporate Marriott thumb, and we’ve spread our wings to quickie getaways in Naples, Fort Myers Beach, and Bradenton Beach. 

How had the resort changed in three years? How had we? 

First the resort, although the weekend WAS all about us. Some things disappointed, but overall there was improvement where it counted for all-about-us: food, drink, and massage. 

We’re the noshing and sipping sorts, so Charley’s Cabana Bar is typically our first choice, and that’s where we settled in Friday night after admiring a

Sunset from Sanibel Harbour Resort

bulbous sunset from our 11th floor suite overlooking the bay. The night was clear and breezy, the drinks well-mixed and icy. 

Known for its brick oven flatbreads, Charley’s features a flaming gas oven at the door that was off-scenting the round bar that evening.

The patio was better, and we dug into buffalo chicken flatbread with Maytag blue cheese (scored an A and oohs for spiciness – from Spice, of course), three-cheese stromboli (B:  the marinara sauce fell short), margherita pizza (A), and crab-artichoke-spinach dip (B: slightly bitter).

The cosmos rated A (by guess-whom). The 280-degree view overlooking San Carlos Bay? A+.  Read more of this post

Florida Panhandle-Hopping

At this very moment, I’m gazing out my sliding glass door from the Hilton Sandestin at the ripple of green that gives the Emerald Coast its name. This part of Florida’s Gulf Coast could just as well be named the Cotton Coast for the soft, searing-white sands that blanket its shore.

View from Hilton Sandestin

They are my absolute favorite Florida beaches, and this week I’m doing a quicky hop through the eastern Panhandle of Northwest Florida.

It all started with an invitation to meet a handful of vacationing Minnesota girl buds in Cape San Blas. Well, it actually started when they asked me to recommend someplace beachy but not too touristy in the region. Cape San Blas jumped immediately to mind. Read more of this post

Restaurants near Edison Estates Fort Myers

Inventive and American cuisine complement Edison and Ford

Visiting friends and family provide the perfect excuse to visit the new renovations and historic wonder of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates near downtown Fort Myers. And a walk around the riverfront property provides an excuse (if you need one) to try out a nearby new-for-you restaurant for lunch or dinner.

Steak gorgonzola with onion rings and mac 'n' cheese at The Edison

What could be more fitting than a sit-down at the Edison Restaurant, a few miles away at the Fort Myers Country Club?  Amid walls plastered with vintage photos of the namesake and his good neighbor Henry, American comfort fare warms the soul.

A special $6.95 menu makes lunch ultra-affordable, or choose from the all-day menu, where Yankee pot roast and chicken pot pie deserve the reputation they’ve earned. The pot roast nachos add a tasty new spin to the former.

Something more refined? I recommend the ahi tuna appetizer, herb-coated and seared rare, and Edison’s Gorgonzola Sirloin. (We asked for the sauce on the filet mignon instead with happy results).

Known equally for its nightlife, The Edison has burrowed its way into Fort Myers dining tradition. Read more of this post

New Species of Mucky Duck

Captiva’s ultra-popular beach restaurant evolves.

Victor Mayeron was a well-loved fixture at the Mucky Duck on Captiva Island, and I missed him already when I was seated yesterday with no pranks, pratfalls, and wise-ass comments.

But alas, he has retired (and bought the entire staff iPad2’s I hear), selling out his interest to partner Andreas Bieri, who also own’s Captiva’s Green Flash restaurant.

Andreas has been busy! The sandy front yard now has pavers, which are spreading to the parking lot.

Frozen key lime pie.... mmmm!

As for the menu, you will still find classics such as the BBQ shrimp & bacon, fish & chips, crab cakes, and the famous frozen key lime pie. (Today frozen key lime pie on a stick is big in the Keys, but I think The Duck did it first.)

I was there for lunch, attended by the expert and smiling Alaina, a longtimer. (Almost all of the Duck’s employees rank as longtimers, a testimony to good management. And good tips.)

But back to the lunch menu, which had some newbies since my last nosh – grilled chicken burrito, salmon en croute, and the so-called Captiva sandwich, to name a few.

I bit at the mention of a seared ahi tuna Caesar as one of the day’s specials. The tuna did that proverbial melting in the mouth routine, and the salad was crispy and nicely dressed. And besides that, I actually felt rather saintly to have sidestepped the pub burger or crunchy grouper sandwich in favor of something relatively healthy.

Tuna Caesar special

Then, entirely unprovoked (I told Alaina I was done!), a piece of key lime pie arrived to my table. They hit my weak spot, telling me it was a bribe to get me to write something nice about the Duck. How could I not?

Final analysis: The Duck will always be The Duck, but the changes are for the good. They’re even open on Sundays now!