Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cruising With Edison

Yesterday, I joined Thomas and Mina Edison themselves, on the inaugural boat cruise of a new Southwest Florida tourism enterprise called Partners On The River. The couple held onto their hats as we left McCarthy's Marina on Captiva, took the old mailboat route, and headed to their winter home in Fort Myers.

Every Wednesday Captiva Cruises sets sail from the barrier island, through Pine Island Sound and up the Caloosahatchee on a beautiful and educational ride to Southwest Florida's most famous tourist attraction, aside from the beach. Knowledgable guides point out the fascinating history of the waterways and tell the tales of the pirates, native Americans and entrepreneurs who made the area what it is today.

While Captiva passengers tour the estates, other Edison and Ford ticket holders can hop on board for brief river tours. Daily boat tours from the museum property are part of the master plan. Over the last few months, new investors have taken over an old yacht club adjacent to the historic homes and renamed it The Marina at Edison Ford, thus completing the new partnership.

The Marina not only has a large dock, but lots of party space to aid with events at the Edison & Ford Estates. Perhaps the best part is the new restaurant going in the Marina. Pincher's Crab Shack, part of a well established, local restaurant group, is scheduled to open in about a week.

A back entrance has been added to the public building just for the estate tourists, so they can rest their feet and feed their belly in between inspecting antique cars and exotic flora. Pincher's deck has seating for more than 200, with fantastic views of the water and sunsets.

The three businesses have big plans to offer more and more options to tourists on land and on sea; a winning combination for everyone.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Aw Nuts

When I posted a recent blog concerning a near fatal squirrel accident involving me and a bicycle, I was surprised at the number of crazy encounters my friends admitted to having with the spastic rodents. Seems as if everyone has a stupid squirrel story. And I have another one.

I love working from my lanai this time of year. There is a huge tree right in front of me that lost an entire side during Hurricane Charley but has managed to grow so tall that I can't see the top from where I sit. It is the playground of dozens of squirrels.

I sometimes take breaks and let them entertain me with their scurrying and chirping.  Every now and then I'll see three stacked up on top of each other, a fourth wanting to join, and wonder what kind of furry freaks they really are. But then again it's their tree and who am I to be peeping.

Today, in the calm after lunch,  I saw one fall through the branches and heard it hit the ground with a heavy umfff, as if all the air had just escaped from its little body. Once again I gasped, not wanting to look. It was obvious this one did not land on its feet, like a cat; it was a definite thud.

But before I got to my feet that lil guy had already scampered right back up the tree. They may not land on their feet like cats but they certainly seem to have nine lives.

This intrigued me so much that I googled falling, not flying, squirrels. Wikipedia says most urban squirrels don't make it past one year, not because of predators, but automobiles. I'm pretty sure I've contributed to that stat.

Apparently it's more common for squirrels to miss their mark than I thought. Check out this video, I promise it's not bad if you're animal squeamish.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In Line For Wine

Having finally recovered from a great weekend of food, wine, spirits and fun at the third annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked I started thinking about a strange phenomenon that occurred.

Chilly, misty weather on Saturday greeted the two day festival on the beach. Sunday was sunny and perfect, however, most of the tickets were sold for Saturday. The weather forced attendees to cram into the food and wine tents, rather than enjoy the ample outdoor seating and standing space.

Individual lines to get food samples somehow turned into a giant que around the entire perimeter of the two giant tents. I kept thinking this would never go over in Miami, at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival. I wondered if people were just polite or did they not have a clue that the tent and tables of samples were wide open; that queuing up as they were, was actually slowing down the entire process.

There is also a kind of unspoken etiquette at events like this. After you get the taste and a brief description of what you are trying, you get out of the way for the next person. This never ending line caused the tables to be blocked by people with full glasses and plates.

Most people seemed OK with this, after all they were still drinking on the beach in February. But it was too restricting for me so I stayed in the middle of the party and when empty, kindly inquired if I could reach through for a pour, since everyone around the table was already full.

Always looking for the lesson in things, I came to this conclusion:    
At times we get so accustomed to following the crowd we don't look up to see there is a wide open tent in front of us. Cheers.

ginab2u's Uncorked 2014 album on Photobucket

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Day Five At Avenue5

Diver Sea Scallops
And on the fifth day, the media descended.

Avenue5, the newest restaurant to open on Naples' trendy 5th Avenue South, is ready for the pubic and the press. Not even open a week yet, last night I got to tour the newly renovated space and taste the creations of Chef John Welch.

Avenue5 occupies the old McCabe's Irish Pub space. As we relived stories from the party pub days, we discovered our table was in the spot where the men's restroom used to be.

The dark old pub has been completely transformed into a contemporary, light space, with glass doors opening onto the plaza and the street. The wine wall holds 3500 bottles

Chef's specialty is lobster so we had to try the lobster sliders on fried green tomatoes. The parsnip slaw they were served with helped offset the richness of the dish.

Another favorite appetizer was the 100% Heritage Berkshire Pork Belly. The chunk of meat was generous for an appetizer and came with a three bean salad that included celery, apple and pickled rhubarb. The flavors were bright and addicting.

The entrees we sampled included a perfectly cooked Colorado Rack of lamb that melted in your mouth. One diner said she liked it better than the New Zealand variety. The diver sea scallops were a tad bit salty but the oysters and sweet corn stew helped to off-set this and gave some nice layers of flavors.

The Sea Bass was a big hit, served in a bowl with boo chou, mushrooms and noodles; a perfect accompaniment to the creamy fish.

ginab2u's Avenue5 album on Photobucket

Prices at Avenue5 range from $9 appetizers to $56 entrees.

It never hurts to remind diners who arrive at restaurants within the first few weeks of opening, that the chef and staff are still finding their groove and working out the kinks. Try not to be too critical if things aren't  exactly what you expect, and let the managers know in a constructive way, so they can make the necessary adjustments.