Shelling 101 (Rich and Linda style)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Serious shelling is on the agenda today (well, serious by our standards).  We think that since it is low tide when we get up that we will be really smart and don our snorkel gear.  The plan is to snorkel out to just where the waves are breaking and hopefully will find the primo shells in the shallow water.  Those who are “combing” the beach have to hope that the shells get washed up – WE will get them before they even reach the beach.  We down our coffee, grab our masks/snorkels and walk down to the water’s edge.

There is only one problem with our plan and it is a major one.  The visibility today is about 6 inches!  Can’t even see your feet in the shallowest of water. Rich seems to think that if we can manage to get out to the waves the viz might be better so we swim out.  Nope.  Can’t see a thing.  We are at first disheartened and begin walking back to shore through the chest high water being careful of where we are stepping since there are so many shells waiting to be stepped on by a tender foot.  Wait…shells underfoot?  Hey – I have an idea.

I feel around with my feet until I find what I think is a shell.  Then I carefully tr and wedge it between both feet while concentrating on not being pushed around by the waves. When I think I have it I lift both feet up with the shell trapped between them (kind of like a seal) and ask Rich to catch it.  Bingo! I have unearthed a beautiful Fighting Conch.  I think we are on to something. Not a minute later Rich came up with a pristine Atlantic Cockle.

We continued “Foot Shelling” for quite a while squealing with delight every time we pulled up something great.  I got to where I could tell by feel what kind of shell I had in my grasp. At one point I felt something BIG and worked for several minutes to pull it up all the while hoping it wasn’t something toxic.  When it finally surfaced we were delighted to see a gorgeous Lightning Whelk that was attacking (and eating) a Fighting Conch straight out of something you see on National Geographic!  This particular spot was the Motherlode – I proceeded to pull up a beautiful Paper Fig.

Lightning Whelk feasting on a Fighting Conch

All three (Lightning Whelk, Fighting Conch and Paper Fig) were live specimens which you cannot take (we wouldn’t want to anyway) so Rich carried them up to the sand to photograph them before returning them to their home. I stayed in a moment longer and fished out a wonderful Banded Tulip.

We brought our haul up to the condo and reveled in the idea that most of the shellers probably had been combing for days and didn’t even find half of the booty that we came up with!

Our Booty

By now we are getting hungry for breakfast and choose to jump on our bikes and ride to the end of the island that we have not explored.  We have chosen the Lighthouse Cafe for this morning.  The ride is about 5 miles – all into the wind. I whine a bit and Rich ignores me.  I am very happy when we arrive at the restaurant.

The joint is jumpin’ 11:00am with breakfast customers at which is a very good sign. Menu looks great and the server is very friendly. I order up the Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes and Rich opts for the Breakfast Sandwich.  We settle in to see if this is really “World’s Best Breakfast.” Pancakes are pretty good – not great – kind of dry, but the blueberry sauce helps.  Rich’s sandwhich is very good.  Not quite up to the “best” rating, but good for today.

Can’t make it!

We certainly enjoy our visit.  Then it is on to the Sanibel Lighthouse.

Sanibel Lighthouse

The beach at the Lighthouse has a different “flavor” than our condo beach.  It is a bit more populated and seems to have less shells. There are also quite a few washed up jellyfish (ouch) on the shore.

We spend some time at the fishing pier checking to see what is being caught.  We actually do watch a fisherman snag a pretty large fish – probably a Snook.  There a also a few local pelicans who are saavy enough to hang around wating for a morsel.  One of them has a piece of fishing line wrapped around his leg.  We get to talking to a woman who explains that since the pelican is banded, that means he has been rescued by the local group at least once before  and if she can trap him she will try to free him from the line or will call the rescue group to come and get him.  We decide to hang around and see if she can catch the bird.  No problem.  She waited until the pelican was interested in some little fishes a boy had pulled up in a net.  Then she stepped on the fishing line that was attached to the bird.  In one quick motion she had grabbed it by the beack and flipped him over.  Impressive. Turns out he had a fish hook imbedded and it could not be removed with pliers.  She and her husband proceeded to call the rescue group to come and get him.  Looks like folks really try to take care of the wildlife around here.

Rescued Pelican

The ride back to our condo is long, but we have  and a slight tailwind that helps.  It is definitely a hotter ride than yesterday, but not in comparison to the “ride from hell” that I suffered through 2 years ago in Alligator Alley.

In the early evening we take a ride to Captiva which is the end of the line just past Sanibel.  It is smaller and appears to be more “ritzy” with some fantastic homes along the water.  I would like to spend a little more time exploring here, but we have a dinner reservation coming up and must turn back.  Our reservation tonight is at Sweet Melissa’s Cafe.  Once again, Yelp and TripAdvisor have sent us in this direction.  I read that if you are a “foodie” you should not miss this place. We’ll see if that is true.

Sweet Melissa’s Cafe

Very nice ambiance inside and our server is fantastic.  We order a cocktail (martini for Rich, Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail for me) and peruse the menu.

The menu is exactly what we were looking for – interesting small plates and creative entrees that are offered in Petite portions.

Everything sounds great! click to enlarge

We immediately want one of everything on the menu and have a difficult time narrowing it down.  Finally we choose one of the specials of the night – Broiled Redfish served as a kind of stew with potatoes and clams and the Brown Sugar Pork Belly with Bok Choy, Mushrooms and Clams.  We ask our server if he thinks we should order one more item and he wisely informs us that they have excellent desserts so… A basket of warm fresh baked bread arrives with a lovely plate of olive oil for dipping.  It is divine.

Pork Belly with Clams
Redfish (also with clams)

The kitchen is open to the dining room and Melissa is back there cooking up a storm.  Our dinners arrive and they look spectacular.  The fish is succulent and the sauce is light and creamy with overtones of leeks.  The pork belly/clams (weird combo but it totally works) is the star of the night.  The jus is so fine I could drink it.  We devour both plates and use all of the break to sop up every bit of sauce from both dishes.  Next?

Good to the Last Drop

Our server brings us the dessert menu and mentions that Melissa makes her own sorbet and gelato in house. We get no further than the first item – Flourless Chocolate Cake with Orange Sauce accompanied by Orange Sorbet and Chocolate Gelato. We licked the plate. What an awesome meal.  This one will rank right up there with the best.  Melissa is an outstanding, innovative chef and we wish we could come back here very soon.

Happy Guy

2 thoughts on “Shelling 101 (Rich and Linda style)

  1. Nice work shelling . . . pretty neat way to get to the good stuff. Melissa’s sounds like a marvelous place. Pork belly and clams . . . who knew???

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