Fort Myers, Florida (Part 8) – Our Visit to Sea Salt in Naples

I’m sure you’re wondering what “Sea Salt” is in the town of Naples, besides of course the actual salt.  Well, we were wondering too.  Diane had decided that she wanted to buy a few more of those delicious Norman Love chocolates to take home for family and friends and when checking online, she found out that they were also sold at a place called “Sea Salt” in Naples.  We weren’t sure if it was a store or what, and didn’t really have time to look it up before we left.  We didn’t even write down the address, but Alice thought she had a good idea of where it might be, since there are a few well known shopping areas in the town.

After the rest of our adventures in Naples, we decided to try to find Sea Salt, so we drove around 5th Avenue and 3rd Street with our eyes out for a sign.  Finally, we decided to ask a couple of women who were walking down the street.  They didn’t live in town, but said they thought there was a restaurant named Sea Salt somewhere on 3rd Street.  That was the case and soon we were walking up to the door.

When I saw how welcoming the outdoor terrace was, I was disappointed that we hadn’t given it a try for lunch on such a beautiful day.  Oh well, too late for that now, but at least we could track down the chocolates we were looking for.

Well, it turns out that in addition to chocolates, they also have a little shop inside that sells all manner of treats, including – you guessed it – sea salt.

Now this wasn’t just any old run of the mill boring white sea salt.  The owners, Venetian chef (that’s Venice, Italy, not Florida or California) Fabrizio Aielli and his wife, Ingrid have collected dozens of flavor-infused salts. And our first surprise was that Fabrizio himself offered to let Diane and I sample a few!  He was so enthusiastic about every detail of our tasting.  I wish we had had more time to savor his descriptions delivered in that wonderful Italian accent, as well as the flavors and the moments of discovery.

He let us try Lemon Twist, Chipotle and Ghost Pepper infused salts.  The Lemon would have definitely been delicious on any kind of fish, chicken or even vegetables.

Of course, I enjoy lemon flavor on most anything so this was a special treat.

Next we tried the Chipotle, which had a smoky southwestern flavor reminiscent of our familiar Arizona spices. Obviously this would be great on Mexican food, but also pork, beef and so much more.

And for the big finale, Fabrizio took great care to explain that the Ghost Pepper from India, is recognized as the hottest pepper in the world and that it was wise to use it very sparingly. I was actually familiar with it, since our friend Jay is a big fan of hot spices and has been trying to buy some seeds so he could raise his own Ghost Peppers.  So, knowing what I know about those peppers, we made sure to have some water available to douse the heat after we tasted this unique salt flavor.  When I tasted it, I actually took only one grain of salt and that one little piece felt like it was burning thru my tongue.  It wasn’t horrible, but I don’t think I would use it very often in cooking, if at all. In fact, I think it was quite daring of Fabrizio to even consider using it on his dishes.  I imagine that there’s an elite audience for it.

Soon Fabrizio was told that he had a gentleman waiting for an appointment and although he appeared to enjoy our little adventure much more than the thought of his upcoming meeting, he had to say goodbye.  We were so appreciative of the time that he took to share his passion with us.  Diane bought a small bottle of the Lemon Twist and we headed for the door.

And our last surprise was seeing this adorable dog waiting at the table for Fabrizio to come for his meeting.  I’m assuming it belonged to him because he was watching him so intently and waiting so patiently for his master to join them.

So that was our last big adventure in Florida and what a fun little detour it was!

Fort Myers, FL (Part 7) – A Visit to Naples

On our last day we wanted to be pretty low key so we’d have time to get packed and have a good night’s rest that night.  Besides, Mom was starting to get tired.  At 86, it was a big trip for her and she did so well the whole time!

Alice suggested that we take a leisurely trip down the coast to the beautiful town of Naples. It was a gorgeous drive along the coast and actually over several islands linked together by simple bridges.  When we got into town we made a quick stop just to see the beach.

The weather was a little cool, but the day was still gorgeous to sit and enjoy the beach.  The sand there is much more fine than it is in California.  Not sure why.  Does anyone know?
Aren’t these birds just sweet in their chorus line?
Next we went into town and had lunch at Tin City, then took a drive around the lovely neighborhoods.
There was such a variety of architecture there.  I love the boldness of the tropical colors in the aqua house.  That one’s for you Linda.  Most of these homes back up to the water.  Besides that, it was an area similar to Beverly Hills, although not sure that the price tag is quite the same.
The Banyan trees in the front yards were amazing as well.  After seeing the huge one in Fort Myers, you can tell why they would have to keep these well trimmed so they don’t take over their whole yard.  They’re so unique and a little spooky at the same time.
I must say that there were quite a few “For Sale” signs in the yards.  Just another indication of the state of the economy all over the country.
Now we made one more stop at Sea Salt before we ended our day, but I’ll save that for the next post since it had surprises that were both fun and a little sad. That was our last official event of the trip.
Come back tomorrow to see what happened!

Fort Myers, FL (Part 6) – Cruise to Cabbage Key

On Sunday Alice made reservations for us to take a day cruise to Cabbage Key so we got up and out a little earlier than usual and headed across Sanibel and Captiva Islands to catch the Lady Chadwick.

Our host and guide was so friendly.  He spent time explaining so many interesting details about the natural and human history of the area.

After about an hour on the water, we arrived at the island.  This is the restaurant at Cabbage Key where we had lunch.  It’s also said that the song “Cheeseburger in Paradise” was inspired at this location.

This is what it looks like inside.  The walls are covered with real dollar bills.  Our cruise guide said that it’s estimated that there’s $70,000 or more on those walls.  Just look at how thick that pole is in the middle.  That’s a lot of layers of paper!  The bills that fall on the floor are donated to charity.

Of course we had to add our dollar as well.  With all 4 of our names on it.  It’s hanging on the door between the restaurant and bar.  We’ll have to go back and visit it sometime.

The folks who run the restaurant were kind enough to offer to take us down the short walking trail in a golf cart since mom has some trouble getting around. We drove by this house with the friendly blood hound howling from the porch.  It kind of reminded me of the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Alice explained tha this is a Strangler Fig tree that has wrapped itself around a palm tree.  Very strange and kinda creepy.

More of the beautiful flora on the island.

This moss covered speed limit sign reminds us to S-L-O-W down.  Of course, on an island that’s only 100 acres and has no automobiles, its easy to take it slow.

This is the observation tower that Alice and I climbed.
Here’s the view from the top.
This beautiful crane is outside the kitchen door waiting for a treat.

We had several dolphins swim alongside our boat.  I never get tired of watching these amazing creatures.

We headed back “home” by mid-afternoon and enjoyed watching the Super Bowl and the commercials that night.

Tomorrow we’ll head to Naples, FL for our last day of our mini vacation.  Come back soon.

Fort Myers, FL (Part 5) – This and That

Here are some places we visited just for fun.

We had a chance to “meet” Alice’s pets on Friday night.  Aren’t they the cutest little ones?  Lacey is a Pomeranian, but Alice keeps her trimmed really short (except her tail).  I really love the look.  She looks like a miniature fox.

And Charlie, the cat was given to her by her neighbor.  He’s a beauty, isn’t he?  He’s about twice the size of our cat, Shredder.

Diane was warming up for a fun evening.  She looks a little messy from the rain that fell earlier that night.  It’s amazing what humidity does to your hair.  I forget about that when we live here.

Saturday Alice took us to Norman Love Confections and it was wonderful!  Norman even came out and talked with us.  His chocolate is delicious!  Look at those gorgeous desserts!  I couldn’t talk anyone in our group into splitting one with me…bummer.

We also went to Manatee Park to see if we could get a glimpse of those interesting creatures.  We were able to see them poke their noses and tails (photo above) out of the water.  Sadly the cold weather there in the last month is taking it’s toll on this endangered species.

Made a quick stop at the Shell Factory and saw hundreds of shells of all shapes and sizes.   The store is pretty kitchy, but a fun place to visit. Look how cute my mom looks here.

While passing through town one day, we made a quick stop to see the Banyan tree at the site of the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford summer homes.  You can see Diane and Alice standing in the center.  Remember this is just ONE tree.  They’re all over southwestern Florida.  The homeowners keep them trimmed, but they are so unusual looking.

Several times while we were there we had to cross the Caloosahatchee River between Fort Myers and North Fort Myers.  It’s a huge river!  There seemed to be water everywhere we went.  We were never quite sure if we were looking at a river, a canal, the Gulf of Mexico or some other body of water.

We had dinner overlooking the beach. It was beautiful.  This is the view from our dinner table.  Doesn’t this look like a preview of the Spring Break crowd?

And here’s the view down the beach.

Here’s Diane daydreaming that she could live in Florida.  She couldn’t stop talking about moving there.  I told her she’d better go visit for a while in the summer before she made a final decision.  I can’t quite imagine 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity.  Can you say “stifling”?

So I leave you with a beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.  I hope you enjoyed the quick tour.  Tomorrow’s post will be about our cruise to Cabbage Key.

How would you feel about living in Florida?

Fort Myers, FL (Part 4) – Beautiful Music

When we went downtown for the First Fridays Art Walk in Fort Myers we had a chance to meet some of Alice’s friends, enjoy some delicious food, browse a few galleries and hear some great music!

These are a few of the friends that Alice meets up with to enjoy First Fridays and other night life around town.  They are a sweet bunch of folks.

While we were there we heard the legendary John Mooney play blues (slide) guitar for free at the Indigo Room!  He’s a pretty amazing musician as you can see from his website.  (There’s a photo of him playing with Bonnie Rait among other things).  Apparently he has family in Fort Myers, so he comes to see them and drops in at some of the local places to play.  Sorry that the photo is blurry.  I was using our table as a tripod and it kept getting bumped, but you get the idea.   Here’s a photo from his website.

After that we wandered down to have dinner at the French Connection Cafe.  The food was excellent and very reasonably priced.  Even though we had a pretty big storm earlier in the evening, the weather was perfect for eating outside.

Check out Alice’s Steak Salad.  Mmmm!

Later we stopped in at this Arts for ACT Gallery and Boutique set up to raise funds for (Abuse Counseling and Treatment) in the Fort Myers area.  See the beautiful blue scarf hanging over the partition?  That’s where I found MY beautiful GREEN hand-dyed silk scarf by Sara Long that I promptly purchased to bring home.  It was VERY reasonably priced too.  I loved all the quilted art and textiles here.

Alice has a friend, Kat Epple that was playing music at another gallery – Space 39 (also free to listen) so we headed over there to hear her music and meet more of Alice’s friends.  We learned that Kat’s music has won 8 Emmys for film scores and has been nominated for Grammys!  Pretty awesome, huh?  Unfortunately, I don’t know the names of the other 2 musicians, but they all played beautifully!  The guy on the right is playing a theramin.  You can go here if you want to hear what one sounds like.  It has something to do with radio waves…
Well we’re headed out to Naples today, so that’s all I have time for.  We had a really fun time at the Art Walk, thanks to our host and tour guide, Alice.

Fort Myers, Florida (Part 3)

This is all I have time for tonight.  First thing this morning we decided to take some pictures in our hotel lobby because the colors are so much fun!  This is me and my mom (of course).  See how my new scarf matches the bench?

This is our view from the window of the restaurant where we had dinner tonight at Fort Myers Beach.  Isn’t it gorgeous!
We also saw Manatees today, or should I say little bitty glimpses of parts of Manatees.  I’ll post a picture later, but you won’t be impressed.  I need to go thru and figure out which shot actually shows enough of it that you can recognize something.  The water wasn’t clear, like it appears to be in the photo below (courtesy of SeaPics.com).  It was kind of exciting to see them though.  Did you know they’re called the “Cows of the Sea”?
Tomorrow we’ll be cruising to Cabbage Key.  Hoping to see dolphins along the way.
More pics to come…  Have a great Sunday!

Fort Myers, FL (Part 2)

Here are a few more highlights from our first day or so…be sure to scroll down to see the first post if you missed it.

When we landed, Mom’s sister Alice picked us up from the airport and took us to our hotel.  When we walked in the room, she had left a huge bouquet of gladiolas!  Did you know that Fort Myers used to be the Gladiola Capitol of the US (maybe the world, I don’t remember).

Alice also had created a huge basket full of local treats with fresh shrimp, gorgeous fruits and veggies, tourist brochures, wine, etc.  She even brought a book from a local author and checked out some books about the area from the library.  The shrimp and other food were great snacks to have as we settled in for the night.

What a fun surprise!  I’m sure it took a lot of driving around (and money) to pull all those things together.

Check out those scrumptious Norman Love Chocolates!  We told her we want to go visit that store.  They are works of art!  Mmmmm…

Alice has lived in this area for a long time, so she’s the perfect host and tour guide.  We’re so excited about our time here, but we know it’s going to be too short already.

Next post – Beautiful music in Fort Myers…