The New Doc Ford’s


Bar scene at the new Doc Ford’s Captiva.

The third and newest Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille has debuted on Captiva Island outside of South Seas Island Resort entrance. It occupies the former Holy Smoke Heavenly Barbecue with seating for more than 300 people.

The menu pretty much mirrors those at Doc Ford’s original Sanibel location and the one on Fort Myers Beach. Like the first two restaurants, the third serves tropical cuisine and cocktails inspired by the Doc Ford series of murder mysteries by New York Times bestselling novelist and Sanibel resident Randy Wayne White.

Recently, owners Marty and Brenda Harrity shared recipes for two of my favorite Doc Ford dishes – Quinoa Veggie Salad and Yucatan Shrimp. Below are my home-kitchen adaptations.

The passionfruit vinaigrette makes the quinoa dish bright and addictive.

The Yucatan shrimp also rates highly with the New York Times, which wrote of it: “you could eat this meal tonight in Des Moines or Brooklyn, in Paris or Jakarta, and imagine yourself on a beach staring south, the moment holding perfect as a soap bubble that might never pop.” I think my friends who last shared it with me in Minnesota would agree.


4  tablespoons unsalted  butter

Yucatan shrimp from my kitchen

Yucatan shrimp from my kitchen

1  large clove garlic, mincedJuice of two large limes

1  tablespoon sambal oelek

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1  pound large, fresh, shell-on shrimp

1  teaspoon jalapeño, seeded and chopped

2  tablespoons chopped cilantro.

In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.

Add remaining 3 tablespoons butter to saucepan. When it melts, stir in the lime juice, sambal, salt, and pepper. Turn off the heat and allow the sauce to rest.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp, cover and remove from heat; cook for 2-3 minutes or until they are just firm and pink. Do not overcook. Drain into a colander and shake over the sink to remove excess moisture.

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp and chili sauce. Add jalapeño, sprinkle with cilantro, and toss again. Serves 4, messily.


2 cups each white and red quinoa, cooked according to package directions

1/2 cup brunoise-diced zucchini

Quinoa Salad. Pretty. Delicious.

Quinoa Salad. Pretty. Delicious.

1/2 cup brunoise-diced yellow squash

1/2 cup brunoise-diced carrot (peeled)

1 cup passionfruit vinaigrettte (recipe below)


1/2 cup passionfruit puree

1/4 cup honey

1/3 cup white balsamic

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (1 large)

2 tablespoons diced garlic

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients except olive oil, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in oil to emulsify. Season. Mix together with salad ingredients and refrigerate before serving.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

To toast one of my favorite days of the year, an excerpt from a column I wrote for the Sanibel-Captiva Islander on March 17, 1987:

“”There is something about the Irish – they always seem to cut through directly to life,” writes Anne Morrow Lindbergh. “There is an unguarded spot somewhere, where one can touch them. They are closer to their hearts.”
I have a wee bit of Irish in me, I am told. I believe the actual proportion is 2/365. For only one day a year do I really feel it. And then I feel it bad the next day.
During my college days in St. Paul – an Irish island in a Scandinavian sea -St. Patrick’s Day meant drinking green beer at 7 o’clock in the morning. You could tell the true Irishmen not necessarily by who was closer to their hearts, but by who was closer to the keg. “Tap o’ the morning,” they would greet you.
This early morning greening was a priming ritual for the great, second-to-none (no, not even New York’s) St. Patrick’s Day parade downtown St. Paul. Aye, it was a lovely sight, all that green blossoming amidst snow in various shades of decay. Every Irish bar from the Ford Bridge to the High Bridge, from Gannon’s to Gallivan’s overflowed with bobbing green derbies perched upon red mugs sucking upon green mugs. It makes Wil’s [an erstwhile Sanibel bar] at Spring Break look like a meeting of the board of directors.
There is something about the Irish…. They’d still be hoisting Harps long after I had taken a view-of-the-floor seat at Duffy’s around about sunset.
The whole objective behind St. Patrick’s Day, as far as I’ve been able to discern, is to make a fool of oneself. To the Irish, making a fool of oneself is no cause for shame. It is sport, high art, duty, blarney – the knife with which they “cut through directly to life,” as Lindbergh put it. It is, perhaps, that “unguarded spot” bared and broadcast. It becomes a contest to see who can prove the best at tomfoolery.
Who, this year, can top Pat Ryan jumping on the royal parade float to kiss the current St. Patrick’s Day queen? Or Molly O’Connor’s “My Name is McNamara” concert on the steps of the cathedral as evening Mass let out?
And so, on that one day a year when the Irish in me pops out like the cork from a leprechaun’s Jameson bottle, I feel compelled to prove the green in me. Wearing ‘Kiss Me I’m Irish’ buttons and jigging down Periwinkle [Way, Sanibel’s main road] isn’t quite enough…..”
I won’t be jigging down Periwinkle today, but will be partying at Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille. And hopefully won’t win any fool contests. Get your green on and celebrate!

Sweet Melissa’s Cafe, Sanibel

Chef Talmage shares her path to Sweet Melissa’s Café.

A family that didn’t cook, a detour from law school, the September 11 crisis, Hurricane Katrina, and an untimely death: One might say that a series of curious events – perhaps even inescapable fate – landed Melissa Talmage in a restaurant on Sanibel that bears her name and has been called the island’s best.

“I didn’t come from one of those families that cooks all the time, and so

Sweet Melissa's fish stew extraordinaire

that’s how you learn to cook,” Talmage, chef at Sweet Melissa’s Café, told me recently during a short but rare break from the kitchen.

Instead, she came from one of those families that eats out all the time, so that’s how she learned a love of restaurants. Read more of this post