Showing posts with label Sanibel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sanibel. Show all posts

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sanibel-Captiva Restaurant Rundown (Part 2)

Sometimes the best things in life are the simplest ones. It's not exactly on the level of a dining mantra for me, perhaps more of a last resort. But after some mixed experiences in Sanibel and Captiva, we definitely found that we ate better when we kept things simple.

Over Easy Café

Case in point: the Over Easy Café. It's a modest place decorated in a cheerful provençal color scheme overlaid with recurring examples of a chicken motif, but the decor is not the story here. Rather, it's the hearty, straight-ahead, and well-prepared food that made me happy. I tweeted during our trip "Provided you don't get too clever, it is well near impossible to fuck up a club sandwich." Over Easy Café didn't. Sliced turkey, fresh lettuce and tomato, bacon that's still warm off the griddle, crisp but not shatteringly so, just enough mayo, nice crisp toast. It's a simple pleasure, but one that really hit the spot. A pasta salad for a side wasn't a mere afterthought, but was taken on a little Mediterranean spin with black olives, bits of red pepper and crumbled feta.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed their pancakes (not least because they were getting to eat pancakes for lunch, but still, they were nicely fluffy and light). A fruit cup featured fresh, sweet fruit, as if somebody had actually made the effort to taste and make sure the melon and berries were ripe before throwing them together. And that's what I enjoyed about the Over Easy Café: it tasted like food made by people who cared that it tasted good. We actually tried to make a return visit for breafkast, intrigued by such items as a Reuben Benedict (English muffin topped with corned beef, thousand island dressing, poached eggs and hollandaise). Unfortunately, we're clearly not the first to discover the place - there was an hour-long wait for a table. Maybe the trick is to sneak in on off-hours (open 7am - 8pm, with breakfast served till 2:30pm).

Over Easy Café
630 Tarpon Bay Road
Sanibel, FL 33957

Over Easy Cafe on Urbanspoon

(continued ...)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sanibel - Captiva Restaurant Rundown (Part 1) - The Mad Hatter, Key Lime Bistro

We took a little expedition over the July 4 holiday weekend[1] to Captiva Island on the west coast of Florida. I grew up in South Florida, but have never spent much time exploring the west coast of the state. Just a few hours' drive provided a welcome change of scenery and atmosphere, with even the intermittent rains bringing with them the benefit of some cooler weather. As for the food? Well, we'll get to that.

Sanibel and Captiva Islands have an entertaining history: originally home to Calusa Indians, they were discovered by Ponce de Leon while searching for the Fountain of Youth, then later become a haven for pirates, including one Jose Gaspar, who supposedly held female prisoners captive on the "Isle de las Captivas" for ransom. In this century, the islands have been a vacation retreat for the rich and famous, including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and more recently, the artist Robert Rauschenberg.[2] Though Sanibel and Captiva offer many reasonably budget-friendly vacationing options, Captiva clearly also retains its standing as a destination for the über-wealthy, with a string of dozens of mansions right on top of the Gulf of Mexico (or, for the mere ultra-wealthy, on the east side of the island overlooking Pine Island Sound). It's the kind of place where the word "compound" doesn't seem out of place, where vacation homes costing millions of dollars bear goofy names like "Captured" or "Orange-u-Glad."[3]

Aside from being a haven for pirates and plutocrats, Sanibel and Captiva are also a natural haven, with major portions of the islands preserved as wildlife sanctuary. Although the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has had an economic impact on the area, with tourists avoiding the area out of fear of the oil hitting Florida's coast, the good news is that Sanibel and Captiva have not seen any environmental impact. For better or worse, if you didn't read the news you could easily be completely oblivious to the havoc and devastation that have already occurred only hundreds of miles away. We spent one morning kayaking in the mangroves and saw more than a half dozen osprey, herons, egrets, and even a couple of roseate spoonbills.

Anyway, this isn't a travelogue, it's a food blog. I've been reading the English food critic Jay Rayner's book "The Man Who Ate the World," and one of the lessons he draws in it from dining around the globe is that great food is often wasted on those who can afford it. If it's any consolation, it appears the converse is also true: the rich also apparently pay lots of money for very mediocre food as well. It wasn't all bad, but it sure wasn't easy finding a good meal either. In the hope of helping others navigate this culinary minefield, or perhaps get some advice for how we could have done so better ourselves, here is our rundown, in two parts:

(continued ...)