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

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New-Lee Opened Restaurants

Lee County diners enjoy fresh options in 2012

‘Tis the season. No not that jolly one.  I wish. The one that brings flurries of lily-skinned snowbirds and tourists to our fair Southwest Florida.

Preceding them like sun before the storm has been a burst of new or newly designed restaurants on the horizon of the Fort Myers-Sanibel Island area.

I’ve made my rounds to a few, and happily report a great dining forecast for season 2012.

Get Funky

For those flying in to RSW in time for dinner, skip the airport food (although there’s a new-concept Shula’s Steakhouse opening there this week), and get thee to Funky Fish (8911 Daniels Pkwy., 239-362-2042).

Macadamia-crusted yellowtail snapper at Funky Fish

Brought to us by one of the meatballs behind Two Meatballs in the Kitchen, practically next door, this one doesn’t totally foresake Italian; its signature dish it borrowed from Meatballs, namely seafood fra diavolo.

It doesn’t take a meatball to realize, however, that this place is about seafood. (I heard that “duh!”) Try the Funky Spicy Shrimp appetizer and macadamia-crusted yellowtail snapper.

With a ceiling sealife mural and 3-D glasses to make it pop, live music, and a lively bar – this may not be funky in the old-Florida sense of the word, but it certainly makes its own rules. Read more of this post

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