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HOTEL HAPPENINGS & PROGRAM PROMOTIONS – AUGUST, 2020

Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina is one of many properties in the Fort Myers-Sanibel area that are offering incentives for meetings. Photo by Beaches of Fort Myers-Sanibel.

HOT DEALS!

Book your meeting by December 22 and stay by December 31, 2020 at any of these participating Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, FL properties and receive a $3 room rebate per actualized room up to $5,000. Created by the Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB), the program for new bookings (only) will also cover destinations besides those in Lee County. Fort Myers venues include Crowne Plaza Fort Myers At Bell Tower Shops, Holiday Inn Fort Myers Airport at Town Center, Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa, Drury Inn & Suites, and the new Luminary Hotel & Co., Autograph Collection (which is slated to open in September). Captiva Island properties include South Seas Island Resort and ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort. Two Fort Myers Beach properties are Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina and DiamondHead Beach Resort. Other meetings properties are: Embassy Suites Hotel (Estero), Gasparilla Inn & Club (Boca Grande), Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa (Bonita Springs), The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village (Cape Coral), and Sundial Beach Resort & Spa (Sanibel Island).

HOTEL HAPPENINGS & PROGRAM PROMOTIONS – LATE JULY 2020

Ella Mae’s Diner is in the new Luminary Hotel. The hotel is hosting a job fair.

I’m making myself sit at my computer and write this blog today. What motivated me is a hotel that is hosting a job fair and they wish to have qualified candidates attend. When so much of the world is in turmoil, it makes me feel good to share the good news I receive. As I hear from both meetings & events, hospitality and leisure travelers, there is still uncertainty about hopping on a plane, attending an event or attraction, or staying at a resort. I have been using this column to highlight safety protocols undertaken by individuals and companies. We all want to work, travel, and to feel safe while doing so.

COOKING FROM LOVE: SPANAKOPITA

Finished spanakopita as a side dish or snack.

Once upon a time I catered international cuisines. I had an Israeli Chef then as a partner, so preparing Middle Eastern delights became a focus of our business. One of the dishes I learned then and have always enjoyed making and eating since is spanakopita, a Greek-based dish that includes spinach, feta, filo or puffed pastry. I have made small triangles or thin roll-ups for appetizers, larger versions for side dishes, or have layered a 9×13 pan with many sheets of buttered filo piled atop one another, added my filling, and then topped with more layers of filo.

Yesterday I was in the mood for using my hands other than to lift weights to strengthen my bone density. As I perused my refrigerator, pantry shelves, and freezer, it was as if all the ingredients for spanakopita yelled, “Pick me, pick me.”

HOTEL HAPPENINGS & PROGRAM PROMOTIONS – JULY 2020

A second chance at new life for the Springmaid Pier in Myrtle Beach, SC. This was how she looked in 1953 when first erected. Look below for the newly rebuilt pier.

The most difficult job I have ever had as a writer is to get the first sentence written. That one simple idea encapsulates my path for where the remainder will follow. It’s like taking a journey, with one foot in front of the other, but until you take that first step, you will only idle in place and never move forward. So it is today, as I begin this next post.

Globally, we are still entrenched in Covid-19 or in the aftermath for those nations fortunate enough to have had strong leaders and the backbone to do what was strictly necessary to flatten that darned curve. Many of us though, are still seeing deaths soaring, jobs and businesses being lost (perhaps permanently), and entire industries having to reinvent themselves (and we thought online sales were outshining brick & mortar stores before Covid). My first attempts to begin this post all seemed too depressing, sad, and without hope. It is not what I want to convey.

HOTEL HAPPENINGS & PROGRAM PROMOTIONS – JUNE 2020

Journey Mexico and friends have been raising money to feed families.

Life as we knew it pre-COVID 19 is starting to reappear as far as travel, hotels, restaurants, gyms, hair salons etc go. As this blog is globally read, it makes no sense to tell you which places are reopen or will soon. What is of more value, is what they are doing to assure your safety as much is humanly possible, such as how the majority of theme parks worldwide will check temperatures at the entrance and anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher will be denied entry (as well as their family). As you all may be aware, how to safely reopen differs from city to city, state to state, and country to country. For instance, I just heard from a woman that a particular airline is not requiring masks for staff or travelers and that people were packed in to all seats (thanks to fewer flights). I have seen pictures of businesses, including restaurants, not requiring masks or social distancing. What do you think? Is that something we should discuss?

COOKING FROM LOVE: SPINACH (OR BROCCOLI) QUICHE

Finished spinach quiche.

In my household, real men (meaning my husband, Russ) not only eat quiche, but enjoy it.

My favorite quiche recipe came from my sister, Debbie. Although I have made it exactly as she gave it to me the first time, I have never made it the same way twice ever since, not because I don’t adore her original recipe, but because I use whatever cheeses I happen to have available. I don’t exactly follow original suggestions for amounts of cheese either, usually putting at least a half-cut more… just because. Although I usually use fresh spinach because that’s what I know what Russ will eat, Debbie’s recipe also includes broccoli as an alternative.

Occasionally I add some cooked, crumbled bacon, but have also added al dente diced asparagus and/or ham. My cheese assortments have been swiss, gruyere, muenster, boursin, feta, ricotta, cheddar, or a mixture of Italian cheeses. The result is that each time, the texture and taste are different. The dish lends itself to improvisation.

COOKING FROM LOVE: QUICKIE ITALIAN CHICKEN WITH PASTA AND BROILED CAPRESE TOMATOES

Finished meal of chicken and pasta, broiled tomato caprese.

Fixing a meal quickly can be done, but it is not my preference.

Today was just one of those days when groceries were being delivered sooner than expected and I had about 45 minutes to prepare a meal of my husband Russ’ choosing. Shortcuts were necessary. So, I didn’t take notes on quantities in order to give you precise amounts. I used what I had available, and with ingredients I knew he’d eat.

But before I tell how I made it, I need to vent. If anyone ever asks me about what I disliked intensely during the months of Coronvirus fears, other than the expected answers such as socializing and getting my hair done, I would say it’s being so concerned about keeping my husband and I safe, that I didn’t do my own grocery shopping. I am one of those rare (apparently, as my friends have noted to me) people who enjoy grocery shopping. If the watermelon isn’t the right color, the cantelope mushy, or the romaine lettuce spines are ribbed in pink, I am not buying them. I’d do without first. I’m just as choosy about meats, poultry, or cheeses.

HOTEL HAPPENINGS & PROGRAM PROMOTIONS – MAY 2020

Russ, wearing mask made by Theresa Mulconry.

I look for the joy every day. Some days it’s as easy as putting on my favorite oldies station and diving into making a scrumptious dinner or dessert. Some days it becomes the moments when I read about selfless volunteers, or kids chalking rainbows onto sidewalks, New Yorkers clapping for hospital staff during shift changes, and sometimes it is by watching entertainers perform from their living rooms or on their driveway while neighbors dance or just listen.

Until the world is at a stage where COVID-19 isn’t ravaging bodies or depriving those who shelter-in-place of their ability to earn a paycheck, visiting with friends, eating out, or even getting our hair done, then I will continue dedicating my Hotel Happenings & Program Promotions column to some of the positive news I am sent or see for myself. There are many news outlets that share “good news” stories of bravery and random acts of kindness, so I won’t repeat those.

COOKING FROM LOVE: CHICKEN POT PIE

Finished chicken pot pie. You can see it’s chock full of chicken and veggies.

Chicken pot pie is like a warm blanket fresh from the dryer on a blustery day that your mom wraps around you to quiet the chilled air. Chicken pot pie is comforting love, and yet, I can’t recall the last time I personally cooked it. I’ve had enough bad versions in restaurants — the dough wasn’t cooked through or there was a scarcity of filling amid a soupy, flavorless broth –so I knew what I didn’t want it to be. What I did want is to appeal to my husband Russ’ preference for a denser stuffing, and in these days of not being able to do a spur-of-moment run to the grocery store, I had to use what I had available.

Not everyone will have the time or ingredients I have, so as I go, I will share possible substitutions. If you’ve read my cooking blogs, you know I don’t measure, but I made a point of taking notes as I went to give you a close approximation. As always, adjust to your taste.

COOKING FROM LOVE: SPANISH-STYLED CHICKEN, RICE AND BLACK BEAN DINNER (and an ITALIAN WHITE WINE)

Spanish (dark yellow) rice with chicken and a side of black beans (2)

Cooking for a picky husband is always challenging, especially during COVID-19 when I am doing my best to work with ingredients still in my pantry/freezer/refrigerator. He’s a Midwestern born-and-raised meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, but in trying to restrain his desire for red meat, I try to mix in chicken dishes, and to expand his tastes with international flavors. With all this is mind, my meal for the day was a Spanish-styled chicken, doctored black beans from a can, and Spanish yellow rice. (Reminder: I don’t measure, but will try to give you an idea of what I do.)