Sunday, September 11, 2011

and then she cooked

 Yes, I actually cooked.

(or lunch to you non-Southern folks)
inspired by Rachel Hennon's 
Walker Organic Farm fresh peas and okra
I made the cornbread and everything all by myself!

Rachel and customer
Forsyth Farmers' Market

really, really, really, really good 

all aboard the mystery train

What started out as a simple post-Fourth of July plan, go to Ft. Myers and take a trip on the mystery train, turned into the great comedy of errors as we attempted to bring everyone together.  I was on the road from Savannah by 5:20 am Thursday and at Marsha's door at 9:56 am. Marsha and I then headed out to meet Kim at the Tampa airport.  Our directions consisted of "follow the pictures of an airplane on the highway signs" and joking that the airport was the last exit before the bridge over Tampa Bay and we couldn't miss it.  Well, we missed it.  Drove over Tampa Bay, made a U-turn to get back on the bridge, and pow--something cracked the windshield of Marsha's car.

Although I had never met her, somehow I was able to spot Kim waiting outside the airport.  Back in the car and once again on the same bridge we had just ridden over twice, we soon approached the Sunshine Skyway Bridge near St. Pete, and headed on down I-75 toward Ft. Myers.  Screaming with laughter and singing along to our favorite oldies, Marsha pronounced Kim and me twins separated at birth.                                                        

Our only stop was in Cape Coral at a McDonald's which featured a sandhill crane in the drive-thru and the lovely Ms. Caroline Peacock waiting for her coffee at the counter.  Ms. Peacock struck up a conversation with us and gave us the full rundown on where to go and what to do in Ft. Myers until we frightened her by offering to become her adopted children and moving in with her.  At McDonald's we learned that we had a penchant for scaring total strangers with our uncensored conversations and general lack of verbal control.  We also learned that we weren't really going to Ft. Myers, but to Ft. Myers Beach or more specifically Key Estero.

While we were attempting to get to our destination, Kevin met Betty in Tampa and dropped her car off at Dr. T's house.

  Finally, we all met up at the Diamondhead Resort on Ft. Myers Beach.   Dr. T called to say that he had driven around the neighborhood looking for the bright yellow VW bug that was supposed to be in his driveway and eventually found it at a stranger's house.  Somehow, he found out that the house belonged to a plastic surgeon who said Betty's car could stay and her husband's Bentley could spend the night outside the garage (just this once) IF Betty agreed to a plastic surgery consultation.  Betty hesitatingly agreed, but what else could she do.

After our first trip out to put our toes in the sand, we realized that we needed to answer the Question of the Day (which by the way was THE question of the day EVERY day):  
Kevin checked Yelp and we decided on Pincers, the most highly recommended restaurant in Ft. Myers Beach, but when we arrived there were just a couple of cars in the parking lot and a sign out front that read "Kids Eat Free!" This was enough to turn us away.  After going under the highway and down a few one-way streets we found Doc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille lit up with purple neon that can be seen for miles.  Opening the menu, we discovered this introduction:

                  Before I started writing novels, back when I was a full-time fishing
                  guide on Sanibel, Ilived, for a few years, about 200 yards from where you’re
                  sitting - in a stilt house next to the shrimp docks. This part of Fort Myers
                  Beach was affordable, and I loved the salty, tropic-lazed lifestyle.
                  It’s true. Look across the water.
                                                                  Signed, Randy Wayne White
The tropical atmosphere inside and a beautiful view of the shrimp docks just outside the window added to delicious food equals a great dining experience.  I quickly decided on the Yucatan Shrimp in Dinkin's Bay Boil because of the following description: Tomlinson traveled to the Bay of Ascension, Quintana Roo, Mexico to fish for bonefish and came back with this great recipe. Steamed shrimp in a dressing of real butter, mild Colombian chilies, fresh cilantro and key lime juice.

I had spied this cute mini food truck the night before in front of a Citgo station, so I had Kim pose in front of it and suggested that she buy it for her future beach concession stand.
the Popsicle and  Pina Colada Bus

The Heavenly Biscuit which is also highly recommended by Trip Advisor and Yelp.  One reviewer even said he moved to Ft. Myers Beach just because of his love for these biscuits.  Inside a tiny beach cottage, we joined a long line of biscuit lovers.  

We knew we were in the right place when we spotted this sign at The Heavenly Biscuit.

We ordered gigantic homemade biscuits prepared "as you like it" with grilled tomato, sausage gravy, fresh bacon bacon, egg, honey ham, chicken fried steak and/or cheese.  We added sides of grits and home fries with onions.  For breakfast dessert we decided on the Sinfull Cinnamon Rolls with warm, sugary topping

Bacon, egg, and cheese with hot buttered grits at The Heavenly Biscuit
Betty's biscuit

The question of the day was already answered for us on Friday, because it this was the day to do what was the plan from the start.  It was finally time to ride the mystery train! 
Murder Mystery Train 

all mystery train photos by Kevin Whaley
Elizabeth x 2
Silver and linen set the stage for the Murder Mystery Dinner Train Theater.  While traveling from Ft. Myers to Punta Gorda and back,  riders are treated to dinner and a murder mystery.  The menu on the night we boarded the train included harvest vegetable soup, greens with herbal vinaigrette, fresh Florida fruit with toasted coconut and key lime drizzle, crab cakes, Tuscan chicken, and prime rib.  Between each course, the actors presented Deadly Prowl as diners noted clues to be used in solving the mystery.  Betty took the challenge seriously, noting clues and actually figuring out who murdered the "famous" detective and author Agatha Canterbury. 

Kim and Marsha

Kevin and Betty
 Miaou!  Michele, the sexy French cat burglar

off to 


With over 200 items on the Island Cow menu, it took a few Pina Coladas and Margaritas to decide what to eat.

Marsha shouts from behind the cone of silence.
Oh, do you know the Muffin Man?

 The complimentary funfetti cupcake/muffins at Sanibel's Island Cow kept us happy prior to ordering.  The food was just average, so we decided that the Cow needs to concentrate on fewer than 200 items on the menu.  We should have stayed with the Pina Coladas and Margaritas.

Our final night together was spent at The Villages near Ocala.  This was the perfect time for all of us to see the movie The Help since some of us had read it and we all wanted to see it.
 The Spanish Springs Town Square

 We had a really quick dinner at Toojay's before the movie.
As I took this photo at Toojay's, the lady standing next to me said, 
"You must not have bakeries where you come from." 
To which I replied, "I live in Savannah."  
Her response?  "Oh, well.  I guess you do have bakeries there."
She was from Amelia Island.

The beautiful Rialto Theatre where we laughed and cried our way through The Help.

Kevin and Dolly Deitz, the murderess

What we learned:
  • Time goes much slower in Florida than anywhere else in the continental US; but this is a good thing.
  • It takes twice as long to go anywhere when you are filled with anticipation.
  • Kevin's list of concierge duties is endless when he is traveling with us.
  • Kevin is a good sport about all those duties.
  • You can interrupt yourself.
  • When you see a sexy shirt you want, you should buy it right then and there; because your friend will buy it and wear it to dinner, waiting for you to notice and taunting you for your shopping hesitation.
  • We learned from Marsha that menu's are apparently a sound barrier for anything you want to say about the crass people placed to dine across from you, but only if it's placed in front of your face while announcing her dilemna ACROSS the train to our dining table on the opposite side. 
  • Women from Peru who have lived in the U.S.for 30 years do NOT know what horseradish is; however, the same Peruvian woman does know what the word "cocaine" means when she hears it.
  • The movie Body Heat is still "hot" no matter how many times we've seen it or how long ago it made the big screen. 
  • Kevin can dance and that it really IS a problem if your air conditioning cuts off in your car when you apply your brakes....and that it is something that should NOT happen! 
  • This group of old and new friends is amazingly compatible. 
  • We function best without an agenda.
  • We should have followed Kim's advice to "get a Key Lime pie and eat it in the hot tub."
  •  You may be slapped during your sleep for NO apparent reason! 
  • No one is allowed to leave Marsha's house until she decides you can go.  Otherwise, she'll hide your luggage, purse, and swimsuit top.
  • Marsha sure knows how to plan a trip!
  • We have to start dieting now to prepare for the Thanksgiving trip.
  • All learning experiences in white were added by Kim Pierce.
What I learned:
  • One cannot take good pictures from the backseat of a car with darkly tinted windows.