Rums of the Caribbean – Themed Dinner

A night out with great food, drinks, friends, and live music… Yes, please! Sawgrass picks the best theme dinners for members to enjoy! Tonight’s theme was Rums of the Caribbean, and there was no shortage of rum! The chefs and organizers put thought into the menu, the drinks, the music, and the atmosphere to bring the Caribbean to Sawgrass. The Caribbean-inspired decorations and flowers added to the mood of the dinner. It was so fun! We just couldn’t help walking through the dinner ooo-ing and ahh-ing at the variety of food presented. 

Events are better when you make new friends…always! I spotted new members, Alexis and Chris Milo by the jerk chicken table. Our oldest sons are in second grade at Ocean Palms and have the same teacher, so I recognized her from school events. We ended up sticking together the rest of night getting to know each other while we sampled the food and drinks. She later said of the event, “My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our first event we’ve attended as new members. We were especially impressed with the bartenders and their knowledge of all things rum!”

Let’s talk about the food. I tested everything, and I had a few standout favorites!

Food

Starters – To start, we enjoyed a Caribbean-inspired salad and crunchy conch fritters. The sauce with the conch fritters was so good!

Main course – The main course options were to die for. One table featured flavorful coconut crusted mahi and mojito roasted pork accompanied by a Mojo dipping sauce, and the other table was home to Jamaican jerk chicken, rum-glazed sweet plantains, and coconut curry black eyed peas & rice.

Roasted pork and mahi

The tender jerk chicken was my favorite! I went back for more… The mojito pork was a close second! The mojo dipping sauce was wonderful paired with it.

Jerk chicken

Desserts – Oh my. If I could choose one thing to eat for a whole week, it might be the coconut ice cream made by Chef Mike and his team. It was thick and creamy with bits of real coconut to add a pleasant texture. The coconut flavor wasn’t overpowering, it was just right. There was also a huge pineapple upside down cake at the dessert station as well. The cake was moist, the pineapple was sweet and a little tart. It was heavenly paired with the ice cream. I might have to eat dessert first at the next dinner!

Drinks

But more importantly, the drinks were amazing! There were four drink stations, and we may have hit up our favorite stations more than once…shhhh… The bartenders mixed each drink by hand with fresh ingredients and flare!

Bermuda Yacht Club

Bermuda Yacht Club

The first drink we tried was the Bermuda Yacht Club made by Randy Smith. It was delicious! The Golden Falernum was the star of the drink with its exotic flavor profile composed of spicy ginger, citrus fruits, almonds, and allspice.

Ingredient list:
-Banks 7 Rum
-Lime juice
-Orange liqueur
-Golden Falernum

Rustic Rum

Rustic Rum

Next, we went to Bo’s table. He was mixing up a drink called the Rustic Rum. Bo says, “This drink was the product of a trip to Puerto Rico. I got to hang out with a group of top ten bartenders at an event, and they were talking about Rustic Rums. When this dinner came up, I just had to make it for our members!” What made this drink memorable was the flare at the end. Before handing me the drink, Bo torched a sprig of rosemary briefly, blew it out, then stuck it in the drink. It gave the drink a fabulous aroma and added to the enjoyment of the drink!

Ingredient list:
-Bacardi Ocho
-Cardinal Mendosa Brandy
-Strawberry rosemary simple syrup
-Topped with a ginger foam
-A squeeze of fresh lime
-Torch a sprig of rosemary for aromatics

Key Lime Kiwi Mojito

Key Lime Kiwi Mojito

Onto the third drink, the Key Lime Kiwi Mojito. It was uniquely created and named by Jay Dial. “We love Jay! You’ll see him bartending at both the beach club and golf club, and he has a knack for coming up with great drinks,” Bo says.

Ingredient list:
-Kiwi simple syrup
-fresh key lime juice
-Bacardi
-rum topper with agave, mint, and sugar

Canchánchara

Canchánchara

This is not your ordinary Canchánchara! Bartender, Corey Phelan, made this drink a bit different than the traditional method. It was fantastic….a little sweet, a little tart, and a lot of rum! (I might have had two of these!)

Ingredients:
-Havana club
-lemon juice
-agave nectar
-lemon to garnish

Music

The music deserves it’s own shoutout. King Eddie & Pili, Pili rocked it out. Word has it that the leader, King Eddie, toured extensively as a young man and still plays all over north Florida. We were very lucky to have him and his band at Sawgrass. They played classic Caribbean jams like “Could You Be Loved” by Bob Marley all night. And with the dance floor set up, members were dancing the night away! And I must say…I was very impressed with the moves! It made me want to sign me and Cory up for dancing lessons (we need it!).

Caribbean Rum Dinner

It was such a fun evening! Me and Cory got to experience flavors and sounds straight from the Caribbean, and we were stuffed by the end of the night! Check Foretees for the next themed dinner, and maybe we’ll see you there!

Experience Winterfest at Sawgrass

“First we’ll make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie-dough as fast as we can, and then we’ll snuggle.”
-Buddy the Elf

I’m sure you guys have seen the movie Elf. This quote from the movie seems to sum up the season pretty well for our family – Let’s do all the things, and then let’s snuggle. In the craziness of the holidays, don’t forget to take time out and just snuggle. Enjoy each other’s company and be together as a family.

Darling family Santa picture

Today’s post is focused on a fun tradition at Sawgrass called Winterfest. I’m so thankful for a club that promotes family time by organizing events like this. I’m not sure how many years they’ve been hosting this event, but I know I’ve been asked about a thousand times over the last month if we’re going! So, I went into it thinking it was going to be amazing, and it lived up to the hype! From the food to the activities to Santa, it was well-planned and enjoyed by all.

Food

I don’t need to tell you that Sawgrass creates spectacular dishes. They had prime rib, omelet, and pancake stations (eggs benedict was here, too) as well as chilled shrimp, cheeses and fruit, biscuits and gravy plus bacon and sausage, and their famous shrimp and grits! On top of that, they put together the best dessert station with cupcakes, pies, and cookies!

Perry and Chef Mike

My husband’s favorite dish was the eggs benedict (he went back for seconds), and he also commented on how good the sausage was! My boys just HAD to have chocolate chip pancakes. Of course I had to test them, and they were really good! My personal favorite was the shrimp and grits. The grits were cheesy, the shrimp was cooked perfectly, and the sauce was creamy and flavorful.

Omelet station

pancake station

Cupcakes

Activities

If your kiddos need to stay occupied like mine, Winterfest is the perfect place. They had a ball! Here’s what we did:

Magic show – The magician was so good at keeping the kids engaged! She was constantly recruiting volunteers from the audience to do different tasks. She even managed to recruit a reluctant teenager to be Santa for one of the tricks! This one turned out to be the favorite…she literally made a cute fluffy black rabbit come out of a box. It was adorable, and that poor rabbit had to endure every child petting it. Will asked me later that night if we could get a pet rabbit…I told him to ask his Mimi. (haha!) Even the dads got in on the action. My boys had fun competing with the other kids and dads to see who did the best job of wrapping dad up like a snowman.

snowman game

Snow, real snow – Yes, it happened to be 80 degrees on Sunday. Yes, the snow was melting about as fast as they could spray it out. But apparently that’s a Florida Christmas! They managed to get a decent amount of snow for throwing and sledding, so it worked out! All in all, I saw some pretty happy kids playing in the fake snow!

Colleen and Madeline

fake snow

Face painting – If you’ve been to any event in the past year, you have seen the amazing face painting masterpieces that Heather Aquilera creates. Will chose The Grinch, and Wyatt chose a tiger. I saw all kinds of characters from butterflies to unicorns! She truly does an amazing job!

Will Darling

Wyatt Darling

Mallory & Elise

Horse drawn carriage rides – What?!?!? How exciting! Nothing says Christmas like a horse drawn carriage. The ride took about 5 minutes, and the boys had a great time!

Horse and carriage

Santa

Let’s be real, Santa was the real star of Winterfest for the boys. The chocolate chip pancakes were a close second! They each took a few minutes to tell him what they wanted for Christmas. Will asked for more Pokemon cards, and Wyatt asked for PJ Mask toys. Can you see the excitement on their faces? I wish they were this happy when I put dinner on the table, or when I fold their laundry…am I right, moms?

Will & Wyatt Darling

Santa

Wouldn’t it be great if Christmas was that easy for us adults? What if Santa could bring things like better health or the healing of a broken relationship? I recognize that this season of joy also brings sadness for some. Know that I’m thinking of you and wishing you peace, comfort, and hope for the season and the new year. Whatever your personal circumstance, I encourage you to be a light to those around you this Christmas – your friends, Sawgrass members around you, the random person at Publix. You never know when a kind word or action can bring hope and meaning.

After all, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”
-Buddy the Elf

Enjoy a Group Tennis Lesson at Sawgrass!

Tennis is my jam. Since moving here and joining Sawgrass, I have become addicted to the sport! It’s challenging both physically and mentally. It requires a “getting better” attitude because there’s always an element of your game that needs improvement, especially for me as a new player! As a mom of young children, it feels good to go out on the court and release the stress of the day.

tennis lesson

Recently, my mother-in-law, Shelley, came to visit us. She has seen my love for the game grow and has played on and off for years. She’s familiar with singles but doubles makes her nervous. I don’t blame her….it’s tough to learn! You want to be in the right position at the right time, and there’s a drive to make the shot and win the point for your partner!

Her excitement to learn gave me an idea: to set up a group lesson with a pro so she can begin to learn doubles. She was ecstatic! And let me tell you…my mother-in-law, Shelley, is full of life! We enjoy spending time together whatever we’re doing. She has a zest for life that keeps her young. She is constantly learning new things, traveling, and soaking up time with her grandchildren playing games. So naturally, she was on board with a group tennis lesson.

The lesson

I booked the lesson with the Tennis Director, Ken Veney, for an hour and a half. I invited two D-team ladies to join us, Lindsay Long and Jennifer Werba. It was important to me that we play with other women who are still beginners to make her feel comfortable. We started with typical warm-up drills practicing baseline strokes, approach shots, and volleys.

Then, we moved into talking about basic doubles positioning and each person’s purpose on the court. If you’ve never heard them before, terms like “garbage collector,” “hot seat,” “big or small” can sound silly, but to play effective doubles, you have to know where to be. Shelley “loved how Ken made the group lesson so much fun by tailoring it to each of our four levels and giving equal advice to us all. His lessons are the BEST! I learned so many aspects of the game because he makes everything understandable.” He does. Ken is a seasoned professional who loves the game and loves instructing others in order to improve their game.

From there, we did fast-paced drills that focused on being in the right position on the court and working with your partner to win the point. It was a great lesson overall, and I really enjoyed the time with my mother-in-law! Plus, she got to meet the ladies I play tennis with every week!

I asked Jen if she would want to do this again, and she said, “I absolutely would want to schedule a similar lesson when family is in town or even with some friends locally.” She adds, “I really liked the doubles drill because it helped reinforce the doubles strategies you want to use in a match.”

Tennis events at Sawgrass

I’ve been so impressed with the social focus Ken and his team have brought to Sawgrass. They tediously plan events, clinics, flexi leagues, and tournaments so members can interact and get to know each other.

One of my favorite events is called “Triples,” and it happens once per month on a Friday night. It’s fast-paced, entertaining, and casual. Be warned…it’s a lot of cardio (but we all need that, right?)! You’ll get your steps in that day for sure. It’s basically three vs. three with a pro on every court feeding in the ball each point. It takes away the serve, which makes it less intense! I won’t go any further explaining it, but sign up on Foretees! The next date is Friday, December 14th. I promise you’ll have fun, and it’s a great way to meet other members who play tennis. For me, it’s a great way to interact with different levels of tennis players…I’m always open to learning, so it’s neat to see how they play versus how I play the game.

Want to play during the week? There are mens and womens clinics during the day and in the evening. And if you have kids, there are kids clinics in the afternoons. Matt and Klara run these clinics, and they are amazing! They’re both so patient with the kids, and they really make it fun with games that teach tennis technique.

Tennis is a game that can be enjoyed at any age and at any level. The staff at the racquet club would love to see YOU on the court! Why not try something new this coming year? According to Ken, “It’s all about fun…this is a way to spend time with your family and do something active while learning new aspects of the game.”

So, when family comes to visit, schedule a tennis lesson with Ken (kveney@sawgrasscountryclub.com) or one of the other pros! Get outside, do something active, and learn new skills!

Chalk Hill – An Iconic Sonoma Vineyard

A seat at a Sawgrass wine dinner is highly prized. They sell out almost immediately, and Chalk Hill was no different. The tables were full of guests anticipating wonderful courses by Chef de Cuisine, Ben Brett, each paired beautifully with Chalk Hill wines. If you haven’t signed up for a wine dinner yet, look for opportunities on Foretees. They are normally on Wednesday and Thursday nights and possibly Friday if it’s a well-known popular brand. The dinners are a great way to taste wines, enjoy new dishes prepared especially for the dinner, and get information about the vineyard…all while relaxing with friends. Chances are you’ll leave knowing more friends than when you got there!

Brittany Darling and Bo Cure

My guide and helper was our own Bo Cure. He is the Sawgrass in-house wine expert. His official title is Wine and Beverage Manager, but he is also a Sommelier and his knowledge shows it! His rapport with both guests and the Chalk Hill representative was confident and comfortable. Bo not only coordinates the wine dinners but he also determines what wines Sawgrass serves on each menu.

Chalk Hill Wines

My husband and I got to experience our first wine dinner experience last night featuring four wines from the Chalk Hill Estate; Chalk Hill Chardonnay, Chalk Hill “Estate” Pinot Noir, Chalk Hill “Estate Red,” and Chalk Hill Red Wine. We’ll talk about the food pairings in a bit, but first a little background on Chalk Hill.

Chalk Hill Estate

Welcome to Chalk Hill Valley. Elevation: 450, Population: 2. This sign is proudly placed at the entrance of Bill Foley’s 1,200 acre Chalk Hill Estate. It speaks to their friendly and family oriented atmosphere. Chalk Hill is located between the cool Russian River appellation and the warm Alexander Valley. The diversity of the Chalk Hill topography creates a broad spectrum of different sites across which can be planted both red and white varieties. The lower, cooler sites are perfect for Chardonnay while the steeper, warmer, south-facing slopes are superbly suited to ripen Bordeaux varietals.

Chalk Hill Wines

According to Marketing Director Denise Roach, “With over 150 accolades, Chalk Hill has earned its place as being one of Sonoma County’s iconic vineyards.” The vineyard manager, Mark, has been with the vineyard for 40 years meticulously managing the growing and harvesting process. He knows when to groom, when to water, when to taste, and finally when to harvest the different types of grapes to ensure a great beginning to wine.

Next the winemakers take over. Truly it is an art form. Their newest winemaker, Courtney Foley, is adding to the unique heritage that defines Chalk Hill. With an estate-wide, shared aesthetic, the winemaking process is light-handed, non-invasive, and sustainable, allowing each bottle to emulate the essence of the vineyard.

More than Wine

There is more to see at Chalk Hill Vineyards beyond the vineyard and wines. The Estate Pavilion is a gorgeous event space overlooking an Olympic-sized dressage riding arena. While this space is large and open, Meghan’s Chapel is a smaller, more intimate gathering space perfect for weddings and events.

In addition to growing grape varietals, Chalk Hill boasts gourmet produce, meats, and poultry. The culinary program is a natural extension of their agricultural heritage. The extensive organic gardens provide the Estate Executive Chef with a bounty of fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables including many heritage varieties – that are used in specially-created dishes designed to showcase their wines.

Chalk Hill Wine Dinner

First Course – Seafood Gocce Scampi. The dish included royal red shrimp, dungeness crab, snow crab, herb gocce, and basil butter. The small hand-made cheese-filled pastas were paired brilliantly with the shrimp. Everyone at the table loved the first course! It was paired with the Chalk Hill Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, 2017.

Shrimp starter

Second Course – Veal Marsala. The veal was tender and full of flavor! Florida trumpet marsala, arugula, truffle vinaigrette, and baby carrots accompanied the veal. The second dish was paired with Chalk Hill “Estate” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 2015.

Veal main dish

Third Course – 1855 Prime Ribeye “Eye.” This was my favorite course! The meat was seared in an 1800 degree oven and plated with roasted marble potatoes, chargrilled “Lini’s,” and topped with a cherry glaze. I believe you could top just about anything with the cherry glaze, and I would LOVE to see it featured on a menu item in the future. This course was accompanied by Chalk Hill “Estate Red,” Chalk Hill Appellation, 2015.

Beef main dish

Dessert – The Chocolate Bomba. For dessert, Chef Ben went above and beyond. I wasn’t sure what the dessert was at first glance, but it was amazing! Imagine a scope of vanilla and chocolate mousse covered in hardened chocolate with a blackberry gastrique surrounding the dessert. It was pure heaven to crack the chocolate shell and dive into the cold soft creamy mousse. Dessert was served with the Chalk Hill Red Wine, Sonoma Coast 2016.

Chocolate dessert at wine dinner

Want more access to wine?

The wine dinners are so fun! We had a ball getting to know the couples at our table and discussing some of our favorite wines and wineries we’ve visited. But if you’re not into wine dinners, there are other ways you can benefit from Bo’s expertise.

  • Order from Bo directly – Is there a wine that you tasted and loved on date night? Call Bo, and he can order you a case. He’ll probably suggest another wine for you to try based on your order and overall palette.
  • Uncorked – As a member of Uncorked, members receive a discounted price for all wine dinners. In addition, Uncorked members enjoy a list of phenomenal wines that are all $20. Bo chooses the wines on this list. He’s also available for consultations for uncorked members. Are you hosting a Christmas party and want to chat about which wines to serve? Call Bo. Do you want to host a wine tasting at your house, call Bo. He can recommend wines and appetizers that will add to the flavors of the wine.
  • Chairman’s Club – If you need even more access to great wine, join the Chairman’s Club. You probably saw an email go out about it recently. There are two levels of membership, two bottle per month or four bottles per month. All bottles are premium wines picked by Bo for our members.

Wine is meant to be enjoyed with friends, and wine dinners are the perfect setting if trying new wines and featured dishes is your thing. We hope to see YOU at the next wine dinner!

New Menu Items at the Beach Club

The Sawgrass Beach Club menu is amazing. It’s a combination of great flavors and has both elegant and casual offerings that work for a quick dinner or a special occasion meant to be savored. I’m impressed that the staff, especially Perry and Ben, listen to suggestions from members as well as dieting trends and seasonal produce when introducing new dishes.

Brittany Darling

My husband,Cory, and I got to experience a few of the new menu items recently, and loved our experience. Or was it that we were eating dinner without our kids? We’ll say it was the great food AND peace and quiet! Our server, Nikole, was amazing as usual. Very professional and knowledgeable!

Let’s start with wine.

What great dinner doesn’t start with wine? We ordered the new Pinot Noir on the menu, Pinot Noir-Soter “North Valley,” Willamette Valley. The first thing I noticed was the aromas of plum and black pepper. It finishes a bit tart and citrusy, but overall it was a nice light wine that we felt we could pair with seafood. And we did!

Appetizer course

For our appetizer, we chose the Croque Monsieur Sliders. I have made something similar at home, but these are WAY better then my version. Not even comparable, really. Picture a soft sweet Hawaiian roll, shaved smoked ham, melted Gruyere cheese, and a creamy bechamel sauce dripping off the top. They were the best kind of messy! We received four in our order, so it’s definitely shareable as a starter or enough for a whole meal for one person.

Ham and cheese sliders

The appetizer we almost ordered was the Korean BBQ Pork Totchos, a wonderful blend of crispy tater tots, kim-chi slaw, gochujang aioli, and green onion. But we happened to run into friends, Jack and Julie Francis, on the way out that ordered it. Don’t you love running into friendly faces at the club? Whether it’s at the gym or beach club, we always seem to run into a couple or family that we know. They loved the appetizer and described it by saying, “It’s phenomenal! I hope they add a breakfast version with two fried eggs on top!” Guess we’ll have to try it next time to confirm!

Dinner course

Dinner was next. My husband, Cory, ordered the Grouper and Shrimp Mixed Grill. Florida black grouper and royal red shrimp were the stars with herb roasted potatoes, asparagus, and a basil cream sauce rounding out the dish. I had a few bites, and the fish was cooked perfectly!

Fish and shrimp main course

I ordered the Fennel Scallops with Beet Quinoa. Not only was my dish plated beautifully, but it tasted great, too. The scallops were cooked perfectly, and the beet quinoa was delicious. The quinoa did not have an overwhelming taste of beets, but it is present. However, the beets gave it a gorgeous shade of purple, and it ended up being a great balance with the cooked carrots and scallops. I would definitely order it again.

Shrimp main course

Finishing the night with dessert

We finished the night with another glass of Pinot and dessert. If you’re a fan of chocolate, try the new Chocolate Pots De Creme. It is enough to share between two people, possibly a table of four if everyone just wants a few bites. The chocolate was rich and creamy combined with a light and fluffy chantilly cream and a sweet and crunchy piece of almond biscotti. It was heavenly! We ate every bit of it!

Chocolate dessert

At the end of the night, we both had a smile on our face. Our dinner was wonderful, and we were able to connect as a couple and enjoy conversation. We are so thankful for Sawgrass and the opportunities to not only have great date nights, but to build relationships with other families and couples.

Cheers! We hope to run into you on our next wild and crazy night out! 🙂

Meet Brittany Darling. Mom, Tennis Novice, and Sawgrass Member

Be adventurous, and embrace change. That’s been my motto as far back as I can remember. It’s not easy, but it’s oh so rewarding!

Brittany Darling & Wyatt Darling

Hi, I’m Brittany Darling. I am a married mom of two crazy little boys, Will (8) and Wyatt (5). They are my pack, and they bring limitless joy (and frustration!) to our lives. My husband, Cory, and I moved to Ponte Vedra from Nashville, TN in December of 2017 four days before Christmas. It’s not the first time we’ve moved right before Christmas…call us crazy!

Our time in Nashville was wonderful. It truly is Music City. If you’re planning a trip there, let me know. I can give you the scoop on venues, restaurants, and places to stay. While in Nashville, I worked at a media agency as a blog strategist part time, and my husband worked as a hospital administrator. When we found out Florida was our next stop, the adventure seeker in me said, “Let’s go!” Our boys were all in, too. They were excited to be near the beach and to meet new friends at their school, which turned out to be Ocean Palms Elementary.

Cory Darling & Will Darling

We joined Sawgrass in March of this year. It has been the best decision we’ve made since moving here. We have loved every minute! From the beach, golf, tennis, and social events, our family has embraced the club and dived into activities. Meeting new people is one of my favorite things. That person who starts a random conversation at the pool? Yep, that’s me. I believe in building a village in the place where you land, whether it’s Ponte Vedra, FL or Nashville, TN. I believe in investing in others and helping them how I can. I know what it’s like to move to a new community and not know anyone, so I have a tender place in my heart for welcoming new neighbors to our street and new members to the club.

Brittany Darling & Wyatt Darling

Here’s some other interesting facts about me and my family:

Why have you guys moved so much? What’s your favorite place so far?
My husband now works for Memorial Hospital as their Chief Operating Officer. It’s owned by HCA, and we’ve moved around to different HCA hospitals over the years. I love moving to new places, meeting new people, and discovering new activities. So far, this is our favorite place. We feel like we’re on vacation all the time!

What do you all like to do in your spare time?
We all like to play tennis! I play on the D-Team at Sawgrass, and Cory plays singles and doubles when he has time. He’s also a golfer! Our kids love the beach, pool, and they participate in tennis and golf clinics as time allows. My little guy, Wyatt, also plays soccer. When we’re not enjoying the club, you’ll find us fishing, kayaking, or exploring a new area of town!

What do you like most about Sawgrass?
I love how friendly Sawgrass is, and I love that there are so many families with young children like ours. Every week, I meet a new family! I appreciate all the women I’ve met (of all ages). There is something special about the wisdom from women who were in your shoes at one time.

Do you have any skills or talents that most people don’t know about?
I am really good at frying okra. Growing up in Alabama, we fried everything, but fried okra is my favorite! I’m good at putting together workout routines, too. I’m always looking for someone to workout with, so call me up if your headed to the fitness center!

Flashback to when you were 10 years old. What do you want to be when you grow up?
I always wanted to do something with math, my favorite subject. As I got older I decided that I wanted to be a financial planner, but that didn’t work out! But my love of numbers eventually collided with marketing and writing. I love the numbers side of marketing! Creative is important, but you have to know if what you’re doing is working, and numbers tell you that.

If you see me around the club, say hi! Each month, I’ll be experiencing new activities around the club and giving members an inside scoop!