Monday, September 30, 2013

Is Deceived Deceiving? A Sanibel Thriller that raises questions.

Randy Wayne White is a big name on little Sanibel.  The author, now restaurateur with two great eateries on the Islands, is a well known figure in these parts.  He is best recognized for his series of crime novels featuring the retired NSA agent Doc Ford, a marine biologist living on the Gulf Coast of southern Florida.

White has contributed material on a variety of topics to numerous magazines and has lectured across the United States. A resident of Southwest Florida since 1972, he currently lives on Pine Island, where he is active in South Florida civic affairs and with his restaurants.

With that much going on, his ability to write as often as he does is admirable.

But his newest novel, Deceived, is raising questions about his involvement, with readers often commenting that it does not "sound" like his older books.

While we realize that writers sometimes step back at points in their career and others take over the task with the finished piece in name only, we also recognize that all styles change over time. Architecture, art, music all morph as a person or area ages, takes in new stimulus or has a mood change.  The creative bent is a special talent, and there is no predicting its direction.

So we are going to give Mr. White the benefit of the doubt and assume that Deceived is all his.

And, with no further personal research, we do find the premise of the book quite interesting.

A twenty-year-old unsolved murder from Florida’s pothauling days gets Hannah Smith’s attention, but so does a more immediate problem. A private museum devoted solely to the state’s earliest settlers and pioneers has been announced, and many of Hannah’s friends and neighbors in Sulfur Wells are being pressured to make contributions.

The problem is, the whole thing is a scam, and when Hannah sets out to uncover whoever’s behind it, she discovers that things are even worse than she thought. The museum scam is a front for a real estate power play, her entire village is in danger of being wiped out—and the forces behind it have no intention of letting anything, or anyone, stand in their way.

So, there you have it.  Florida history, a strong female character, a museum being the bad guy and a murder all rolled into one.  Sounds like a page turner!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cronut or Dough'sant, you can find it on Sanibel!

We all know and agree that things are sweeter on Sanibel.

As September dwindles ,  we have to relish the serenity we found on Island this month.   So few people, so few cars, so few deadlines.

And, those of us who have become addicted to the sweetest treats of all, the Dough'sant at Bailey's were actually able to satiate our sweet teeth these past few weeks without a wait.

Never heard of the Dough'sant?

Then you are in for a particularly lush surprise.

Modeled after the pastry called the Cronut created by Chef Dominique Ansel's New York-based bakery , the Dough'sant has joined the national craze of people clamoring for a sweet.   A fresh batch of Dough'sants from the oven at Bailey's won't last until lunch. Bailey's General Store Bakery Manager Ginny Wagner starts her latest batch the night before. She rolls croissant dough over donut, folded it, rolled it again, let it proof or rise, and deep fried the final product. And for the finishing touches, she glazes the warm pastries and filled half with homemade vanilla pastry cream. What makes the early morning shelf at Bailey's General Store is the island's version of the Cronut. Total preparation time: Three hours.

Now, the Dough'sants are so popular they can't keep them on the shelf. Each day Wagner makes 200 Dough'sants but they sell out by 10 a.m. They retail for $2.99 each, cheaper than the $5 Cronut, and Wagner said the customer is getting their money's worth based on the ingredients and labor to craft the pastry.

While the original Cronut features flavors like rose-and-vanilla, lemon-maple, and blackberry, Bailey's Dough'sants only come with plain and vanilla filled. For now. But if the popularity grows and continues, we are sure the transition to more varieties will begin. Not only has Cronut fever caused long lines and a limit two per customer, but it even spurred a black market where the pastries are going for as much as $40 on the street.

Of course, islanders are in a special position to enjoy the Dough'sant, because they don't have to contend with those types of conditions on a daily basis. They only have to arrive early enough to get one before they sell out.

And, if you are lucky enough to visit Sanibel off season, you may not have to be the early bird to catch the worm!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Setting the table on a new Doc Ford's: Captiva VS. Sanibel

Sanibel and Captiva, small neighboring and tropical islands, have never really been in competition.  Collaboration, yes, but not competition.

The reasons to go to either are varied, but each offers a different experience.

The larger of the two, Sanibel Island, is home to Ding Darling Nature Preserve.  It is ringed with bike paths , has two grocery stores and hosts dozens of restaurants.  Captiva is defined by a few things: the village area, proximity to both Gulf and Bay, and the ability to walk to different activities.

Because the two islands, connected by a tiny nearly imperceptible bridge, are quite alike in topicality, and only a couple of minutes drive from one another, it sometimes surprises visitors that there are many observable  differences which often includes pricing, Sanibel being the more affordable of the two.  Generally, the island vacation goer knows in advance if Sanibel or Captiva is the place that they want to be.

But now, within a 15 minute drive or less, there comes a more difficult choice. 

Captiva has opened its own Doc Ford's.  This popular eatery on Rabbit Road on Sanibel has taken up residence in South Seas Plantation, replacing the BBQ eatery, Holy Smoke. 

And this is going to be a tough choice. Do you eat at the dowager Doc Fords on Sanibel or the newbie Doc Fords on Captiva?

Both restaurants will be offering similar menus with identical pricing.  From the feedback we have seen, both casual dining options have great cooks.  For example, we have seen specials posted that ring a most familiar bell, such as Fresh Grilled Grouper over Pork Belly and Shrimp Fried Rice Finished with an Asian Sweet-Ginger Citrus Sauce.  A high yum, yum quotient to be sure, but also one that is available from time to time on Sanibel.

Both restaurants have a sports bar and both draw on the name of Randy Wayne White's most famous character, Doc Ford.

Both are very comfortable places for couples, groups and families.

So, how does one distinguish exactly where they want to go?

We can only see a couple of differences that may help you decide.

The Sanibel Doc Ford's is a much larger place, and on busy night, the probability of getting a table may be better.  In addition, being on the main road of the Island, it is easier accessed.  That said, the Captiva Doc Ford's has outdoor, as well as indoor,  dining.  And the access in South Seas Plantation is quite attractive.

As reviews and experiences roll in, we will be sure to keep you apprised of how the new kid on the block in Captiva is doing.  Let us know your thoughts should you give it a try yourself~!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

October a hum-DINGER of a month on Sanibel~

It's been a long summer as far as Ding Darling Preserve is concerned.

The refuge's major vehicle venue, Wildlife Drive, has been undergoing repair and repaving. It was closed down in May and will re-open in October.

We are delighted to learn that the repaving has been on schedule.  The new surface will be an asphalt concrete that will extend the life of Wildlife Drive for 20 years, and will enhance visitor access, especially for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Even more exciting is the line up of activities scheduled for Ding Darling Days, the annual multi-event celebration of the refuge that takes place every October.

Beginning on Sunday, October 20, a wide variety of activities will be available for the public, many of them free of charge.

In fact, the first day of the celebration will be free for everything, a very special experience for the whole family!  Most begin or take place at the EC (Education Center).

12noon FREE Live Florida Animals Program, EC parking lot

12noon FREE Naturalist-narrated 60-minute walking tour of Indigo Trail and the NEW Children's Education Boardwalk, limited spaces - pick up ticket at Archway Info Table

1pm FREE Snakes Alive! Program, EC parking lot
2pm FREE Amazing Live Animals Program, EC parking lot

2pm FREE Naturalist-narrated 60-minute walking tour of Indigo Trail and the NEW Children's Education Boardwalk, limited spaces - pick up ticket at Archway Info Table

3pm FREE I Love Reptiles! Program, EC parking lot

Also featured are the FREE hourly (on the half-hour) life-size Endangered Species & Wildlife Puppets and puppet crafts garden presented by Heather Henson, daughter of the late Muppets creator, Jim Henson.

What a great kick off to a wonderful week of activities, but they go on (and on) from there.

On Monday, October 21st, birds will be a major focus of the day. 
From  11am-12noon
  there will be a Reddish Egret Talk in the EC Auditorium byDr. Kenneth Meyer, from the University of Florida. And a little later from 1:30-2:30pm FREE Story of Ospreys Presentation featuring Mark “Bird” Westall and Claudia Burns, of the International Osprey Foundation. The pre-presentation showing of the Refuge's Big 5 Coastal Birds video is equally interesting.

For other days and events, as well as more details, click here: