Ambassador Program at Sawgrass Country Club

Dinner for four please! Great food and even better company made our Ambassador dinner a SUCCESS! Being an Ambassador is so fun, and it is an honor that Cory and I were asked to participate in the Ambassador Program at Sawgrass Country Club. Honestly, it was an easy decision. I love meeting new people and sharing my love for the club!

With 1,475 member households at Sawgrass, it is crucial that new members are welcomed to the club and introduced to families or couples that are in their same season of life as well as to the various staff members and pros that make our club amazing.

Sawgrass Ambassadors

Cory and I had the pleasure of meeting a new couple to the club, Ben and Greta Stamper. We went to dinner on a Wednesday (Wine Wednesday!), and had a great time! They have two littles (Freda, 6 and Oscar, 3) and they are both in the medical field. Ben is a pharmacist at UF Health, and Greta is an audiologist at Mayo Clinic. They’ve lived in the area for about five years, but joined the club earlier this year. They are loving it so far and have met some great families already!

What is expected from an Ambassador?

For new members, the biggest advantage of having an Ambassador is gaining a familiarity with the club. Ambassadors can help new members use our Sawgrass App and Foretees to reserve spots for dining experiences or to book tee-times for golf. It can take time to learn which Sawgrass dining locations are open when, what days the Tarpon room is open, or what’s on special during happy hour! We’ve been members for about a year and a half, and we still need to look things up occasionally. Sawgrass offers SO MUCH to members, and it really helps to have someone that can show you the ropes in the beginning.

In addition to talking through some of the basics, Ambassadors are also expected to:

  1. Attend Member Mixer events and other programs to engage new members.
  2. Act as an advocate of the club when asked to engage in a social or sporting activity with a new or prospective member.
  3. Be called upon (even with short notice) to be an Ambassador for the club.
  4. Contact the new or prospective member and invite them to a social or sporting activity.
  5. Reserve tee-times, court-times, or dining arrangements with the new or prospective member.
  6. Introduce the member to other members or member groups.
  7. Be available to the new member or prospect for any follow-up calls or E-mails.
  8. Inform the Membership Director of the planned time and date of the activity.
  9. Provide feedback to the Membership Director after the social or sporting activity.

If this sounds fun, keep reading to see how you can be an Ambassador!

How can you become an Ambassador?

If you are a positive, enthusiastic, and an active member of the club, you could be an Ambassador! It’s important that the club has a variety of Ambassadors because not everyone has similar interests or is in the same season of life. Because Cory and I use the Tarpon Room, we were able to give Greta and Ben details about childcare as well as telling them about some of our favorite family-friendly events.

If you’re interested, ask for the Ambassador form at the Concierge’s Desk at the Golf Clubhouse. Or, you can fill out the form on the Member’s Only website. You can also contact Janet Collins at jcollins@saawgrasscountryclub.com.

Once you become an Ambassador, you’ll be added to the list of possible Ambassadors for new or prospective members. Mary McGarrigle, the Ambassador Coordinator, will reach out by email when she has a new member that needs an Ambassador. In the email, she will give you information about the new member such as where they work, if they are retired, if they have children and their ages, and what interests they have around the club. It will then be up to the Ambassador to reach out to the new member to contact the new member and invite them to an activity. It could be a round of golf, dinner, or an experience like a Pub Crawl!

Our overall experience as an Ambassador has been fun! We’ve had the pleasure of welcoming several new members to the Sawgrass family and gained some fun and interesting new friends along the way!

Celebrating July 4th at Sawgrass

“My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.”

July 4th at Sawgrass

July 4th at Sawgrass

July 4th brings about many emotions. Thankfulness for all the lives sacrificed to give us these freedoms and joy that we get to spend time with friends and family!

Sawgrass went all out this July 4th! The celebrations officially started on July 3rd and lasted through Sunday, July 7th. With contests, parades, family friendly activities, and amazing food options, there was an event (and a favorite food) for everyone. It’s almost too much to even write about, but I’ll try! Haha!

July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass

We were members last July 4th, and we spent the day at the beach with family. This year, we decided to make reservations at the Big Top Tent, and I’m so glad we did. The boys LOVED it. They got tattoos, loved the bounce houses, and ended up sweaty and dirty from all the running around. They slept so good that night! Us adults loved it too. From lawn games like ladder ball and corn hole to drinks, fireworks, live music, and socializing with friends, it was a great night!

Golf cart parade

Where else can you see golf carts like this?!?! Members went all out this year. They took the their theme very seriously. From Mount Sawgrass to Harry Potter, they decorations were fantastic! There was also a DJ and snow cones!

Winners for Best in Show were:
1st Place – The Iannella (Michael) Family; Harry Potter
2nd Place – The O’Haran Family; Doghouse
3rd Place – Mary Slifer and Family; Legos

Golf Cart Parade Golf Cart Parade Golf Cart Parade

Here are some other pictures from the morning:

Golf Cart Parade Golf Cart Parade Golf Cart Parade Golf Cart Parade Golf Cart Parade

Big Top Tent

We were awestruck walking up to the tent. The food smelled amazing, and the bounce houses out on the driving range captured Will and Wyatt’s attention immediately! First, we found our seats, then we went over to get their face painted and tattoos. They both loved the gray airbrush tattoos and ended up going back for more! I even got a blue and red tattoo on my leg to get into the spirit. Next, their shoes and socks came off, and they took off for the bounce houses! Wyatt’s favorite was beside the rock climbing wall. He was strapped in a harness and flew up in the air guided by these long “arms” on either side. It allowed the kids to jump really high…he basically thought he was Spiderman! The thrill on his face was fun to watch!

July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass

Will’s favorite was the normal bounce house that you go in and jump until you can’t jump any more! He also enjoyed the rock climbing wall and made it all the way to the top! We loved that the kids could go run and play. “We loved the activities for the kids. It was great that the girls had things to do separate from us and that it was a safe place for them to hang out with their friends,” says Stephanie Sabato. We heard the same praises from many families that night. Sawgrass did a great job of thinking about all age groups. They even had a bounce house specifically for babies under one! July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass

The camaraderie between older kids and younger was evident. I saw Evan Long teaching some of the younger siblings how to play ladder ball…he was so patient! Evan’s mom, Lindsay Long says about the event, “Our favorite event at Sawgrass is the 4th of July dinner and fireworks. It has quickly become a family tradition. Our kids love all of the activities and we enjoy the band and delicious food!”

Us adults enjoyed playing Ladderball, corn hole, and checkers. When we weren’t playing games, we walked down to the bounce houses and chatted with other parents and watched the kiddos.

The hotdog eating contest was a riot! I tried to get my little guy Wyatt to enter, but he said no…I’m not surprised! 🙂

Hot Dog Eating Contest winners from left to right:
3rd Sean McHale – Member
2nd Ray Gottschalk – Member (grandson of Ray)
1st Andrew Chowske – Guest of Sean McHale

Hot dog eating contest winners

The food

The food was delicious. According to Jennifer Werba, “The 4th of July event is by far our favorite event of the year, and we always plan to stay in town so we can come. The food was incredible, and my personal favorite was the beef brisket! Perry was a brilliant Uncle Sam, and he did a great job with the variety and quality of food this year.”

July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass

Here was the menu for the Big Top Tent as well as at the Beach Club:

Raging Bull BBQ Station
Beef Brisket PBR, Smoked Chicken, BBQ Pork Ribs, Whiskey Baked Beans, White Cheddar Mac n Cheese, Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

Chilling and Grilling Salad Bar
Green Apple Coleslaw, Southern Potato Salad, Grilled burgers with topping bar, Grilled Hot Dogs with Condiments Bar, Beer Brats with Griddled Onions and Spicy Mustard, Ranch & BBQ House Chips

Kraft Totchos Bar
Crispy Tots with a Beer Cheese Fondue
Add-Ins: Royal Red Shrimp, Pulled Pork Kielbasa, Brisket

Taste of the Sea
Paella Mixta, Mussels, Peel & Eat Shrimp

Sweet Endings
Apple Hand Pies, Cookies, Ice Cream Novelties, Cupcake Salute

My personal favorite was the Kraft Totchos Bar and the Apple Hand Pies…yum! But the brisket was “hands down the best beef brisket I have ever had,” says Stephanie.

July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass

This was just the food at the tent. Throughout the weekend, there was a grab and go menu at the Beach Club as well as special themed dinners in the evening including a Seaside Buffet on July 3rd. Some of the deliciousness included clam chowder, grilled corn, poke bowl station, poached Mayport shrimp cocktail, chile garlic broiled oysters, herb roasted prime rib, beet-roasted salmon, chicken dijonaise with pasta, and garlic roasted broccoli.

The fireworks

Talk about a show! I was not prepared for the level of this fireworks show. Members told me leading up to the 4th that this is the BEST show in the area, and now I agree. Rain was threatening, but it held off! There were lawn chairs everywhere, and golf carts as far as I could see down the golf course! It was absolutely spectacular.

July 4th at Sawgrass July 4th at Sawgrass

“A special thanks to Terri in reservations for helping seat all of our friends close to each other. The kiddos absolutely loved the balloons, face painting, and bounce houses. My oldest was so happy to finally make it to the top of the rock wall this year. The amazing fireworks were the icing on the cake!” – Jennifer Werba

We are all so blessed to experience life here. Not just here in America, but here at Sawgrass. A special thanks to the Sawgrass Country Club leadership and to all the staff for making this July 4th unforgettable!

July 4th at Sawgrass

Memorial Day: Beach Fun & Blueberry Pie!

What a fun weekend of beach fun and blueberry pie! I’ve always thought of Memorial Day as the beginning of summer although the season doesn’t officially start until June 21st. However, for us Florida people, the heat and humidity are here! It was certainly a hot Memorial Day, and we had so much fun playing in the ocean and relaxing with friends.

Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass

Cory’s mom, Shelley, was in town this weekend to visit, so we got to show her Sawgrass and all the wonderful things about our club.

Memorial Day at Sawgrass

Memorial Day at Sawgrass

The staff really go all out on holiday weekends! The Sandbar had a grab-and-go option for most of the weekend featuring burgers, hotdogs, and grilled chicken sandwiches. It was so easy to come up for lunch, then head back to the beach. There were games at the family pool, and this weekend marked the start of beach rentals including chairs, umbrellas, and paddle boards.

Overall, it was a great weekend! We spent time at the beach Monday and ended the day with burgers, pizza, and ice cream sundaes!

Here are a few highlights from the weekend!

Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass

Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass Memorial Day at Sawgrass

Memorial Day means more than just beach fun. It’s a day set aside to remember those who served our country, the men and women who never came home. They were fathers, brothers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, sisters, and mothers. They had families that prayed for their safe return but mourned their passing instead. May we always be grateful for their sacrifice and the freedoms we enjoy because of it.

Easter at Sawgrass: A Delicious and Colorful Tradition!

What has 12,000 eggs, colorful outfits, and a boat load delicious food? Easter at Sawgrass!

My family is so blessed to be members of Sawgrass Country Club and to get to enjoy events like this. The staff goes over the top to make them special! From the Easter Bunny made of balloons to the costumed Easter Bunny greeting us, no detail was left undone.

Easter at Sawgrass

Easter at Sawgrass

Pre-Party, 4th annual Keg Hunt

What a fun event this was! The 4th Annual Keg Hunt was put on by the fitness staff. Randy and Rachel organized what is essentially a scavenger hunt for adults. Each of the 20 teams were tasked with finding the Golden Easter Keg by following clues that led to different locations. Each location required the team members to work together to complete challenges like rolling a gigantic tire, playing ladder ball, or flip cup. I was the WORST at flip cup!

Easter Keg Hunt

My team had the slowest golf cart, which died halfway through the event, but we had so much fun! The last stop took teams to the beach for beer and pizza! Kudos to the winners of this year’s event, John & Laura Dillingham & Luis & Shanel Pontigo! Although I didn’t get a picture of the four of them together, here are some great shots of the event and the crazy outfits that contestants wore! Next year, we’re dressing up for sure!

Easter Keg Hunt Easter Keg Hunt 2019 Keg Hunt Winners

Easter Brunch

Oh the food. There were sweet stations, savory stations, and everything in between! My boys enjoyed the french toast casserole, homemade donuts, bacon, and sausage. My husband’s favorite was the roasted pork. It was tender, juicy, and so full of flavor.

Easter at Sawgrass Easter at Sawgrass

Easter at Sawgrass Easter at Sawgrass  Easter at Sawgrass Easter at Sawgrass

If you’re new to the club, these events are amazing because there is such a variety of food to sample. The Chef Mike changes the menu items to match the season and type of event while having options that both kids and adults will love! I would venture to call this one an Easter feast. Meats included lamb, prime rib, and roasted pork. I put the omelette station to the test as well as the shrimp and oysters. Who am I kidding…I tried just about everything! The salads, cakes, donuts, bagels (which were from a neat little bagel shop outside Palencia called Joint Bagel Co.), and savory dishes like asparagus.

It was all so delicious!

Easter at Sawgrass

Easter Egg Hunt

Next, we headed to the practice range for the famous Sawgrass Easter Egg Hunt. Lacie and her staff filled egg-zactly 12,000 eggs for the kids!

Easter Egg Hunt 2019

I love that they divided the area by age groups to keep the big kids from trampling the little ones. You should have seen the mad dash to the eggs once Lacie blew the whistle. A few were SO excited that they tripped and fell before getting to the eggs…it was hilarious! Of course no one got hurt, just bruised egos :).

 Easter at Sawgrass Easter at Sawgrass

I was mom-of-the-year and forgot Easter baskets, so we utilized my husbands shirt (and his friend, John Daly’s) to collect eggs!

Easter at Sawgrass Easter at Sawgrass

Easter at Sawgrass Easter at Sawgrass Easter at Sawgrass 

The boys had a great Easter filled with all the treats that come with it. I love this holiday because it is a reminder of hope and life, and the sacrifice made for us by Jesus.

Chili Cook-Off 2019!

Cheers to another successful Chili Cook-Off! This year marks the 13th year of this fun-filled event at Sawgrass. Members came out in their best western wear to support their favorite chili chef in the competition of the century! Not really, but the competition was fierce!

Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

There was more than just chili…..delicious appetizers, western-themed drinks, live music, a mechanical bull, a hot chili eating contest, and FRIENDS made this a fun evening!

Chili Cook-Off

The main event was the chili contest. I was so excited to try my hand at chili as a contestant. I’m absolutely NOT surprised that I didn’t win! It might have won a soup contest, but it wasn’t thick enough to be a chili. On to the better chilis…. There were so many different flavors of chili. Some were very “tomato-y,” others had a sweetness to them. One of my favorites was one with black beans. My 5-year-old, Wyatt, asked for more of that one, too!

The winning chili was made by Ron Heller, and Best in Show went to Tommy Turrentine and Sarah Cook. Both chilis were excellent!

Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

Hot Chili Eating Contest

Just watching this set my mouth on fire. The chefs prepared 8 courses, and the contestants made it through 6 of them!

Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

There were a surprising amount of brave young members who signed up. Four contestants were knocked out by round one, Thai Chili Noodles. Other rounds included fiery items like Hell’s Graveyard Wings, Carolina Reaper Candied Bacon, Jalapeno Popper filled with a Ghost Pepper & Serrano Cream Cheese, and Espresso Ghost Pepper Chipotle Truffle. In round five, Madison Schemitz dropped out leaving two members, Mike O’Malley and Chelsea Karol, left to test their taste buds.

Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

Mike finally threw in the towel in round 6 and Chelsea won! If you see her around the club, be sure to offer her congrats!

Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

Food and Entertainment

The appetizers were so amazing! From the corn cakes and cowboy cocktail to the mini steak biscuits and chili dogs, the chefs at Sawgrass put so much effort into the menu and the eating experience. My favorite appetizer was the mini herbed biscuits with chicken fried steak. The biscuit was soft and flaky while the steak was tender and full of flavor. My boys liked the chili dogs the best, and they were just the right size. Sawgrass Chili Cook-off Sawgrass Chili Cook-off Sawgrass Chili Cook-off Sawgrass Chili Cook-off   

What they really liked was the mechanical bull! I bet they rode it 20 times! The guy running it was great, he was easy on the kiddos. It was a popular attraction for the kids, and I think they did better balancing than the adults I saw! 

Sawgrass Chili Cook-off Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

The entertainment and atmosphere were great. The decorations were top notch, and live musicians, Mountain Brew, played country classics for members to dance the night away. I ran into members that I play tennis with and members I see around the fitness center. And I even made a few new friends!

Sawgrass Chili Cook-offSawgrass Chili Cook-off Sawgrass Chili Cook-off Sawgrass Chili Cook-off

Cheers y’all! See you at next year’s chili cook-off!

Fit Fuel Meals and Fitness Hacks for 2019!

In our last post, we talked about the cardiovascular fit test with Randy. It is a cardio test designed to find your unique starting point as far as cardiovascular health. I really enjoyed the test, and it showed me what kind of shape I’m in!

Today’s post will focus on food. We’re giving you a few food hacks and tips to make choosing healthier options easier, including the Fit Fuel Meals that Sawgrass offers.

Food is fuel!

Food is fuel for your body, but it is certainly meant to be enjoyed! There are those around us with the culinary skills to create delicious combinations of flavors, both savory and sweet. Those people should call me to sample any new recipes they try….I love food! Haha! I grew up in the south, the land of fried food and desserts where we all needed a nap after a meal!

fruit

It’s totally ok to love food. It provides ways to connect with one another, take care of the ones we love, and it creates the perfect atmosphere to recap our days and make memories. One of our favorite past times is telling corny jokes at the dinner table. We have heard thousands of knock knock jokes around our table, some of them (created by the mind of a 5-year-old) making no sense at all! But it’s the bonding time that matters.

So, yes, food is meant to be a positive experience. But, I want to propose we also look at food as fuel. Calories are simply fuel your body needs to function. Did you know that your brain needs on average of 330 calories a day to function properly? And it needs fat to operate at an optimal level. If we take the emotions out of food and look at it as fuel, we can better decide what to put in our bodies.

Fit Fuel Meals

Our first hack or tip is Fit Fuel Meals. If you haven’t tried these meals, you are missing out! They are easy, delicious, and affordable. Our club WANTS to promote healthy eating, and offering meals that are fully-cooked and ready to heat up is a great solution. I ordered several last week including, turkey meatloaf with potatoes and green beans, Thai beef with pad thai noodles and veggies, and Chinese chicken with rice and veggies. All three were great, but my favorite was the turkey meatloaf! It was full of flavor and heated up nicely!

Our weeks are generally crazy with work schedules, after school activities, and evening commitments, so anything I can do to ensure we have a healthy balanced meal is a win in our house!

The new menu comes out every Tuesday, and orders are due on Friday at 5pm. Take a chance and order a few meals this week! I bet you’ll love them!

Fitness hacks

I love life hacks! There are tons of people who are way more clever than I am thinking up creative ways to use things we already have or creating new devices we just can’t live without. The hacks and tips below are meant to help you choose wisely while still enjoying the food you put in your body! Let me say that I am NOT a nutritionist, and these tips are things that I have learned over the years in order to take care of my body. Please consult a nutritionist or your doctor if you have questions. Let’s get started!

  • Pay attention to portions. We tend to eat bigger portions of meat and smaller portions of veggies. Let me encourage you to reverse this! Is the chicken breast you’re eating one serving or two? Why not you and your partner share one chicken breast then add heaping servings of carrots and cauliflower?
  • Eat meals on a smaller plate. I know it sounds silly, but you will get a smaller portion if you are eating on a smaller plate! We have been doing this for years, and it has really helped our portion control.
  • Go meatless for one or two nights per week. Nervous about not getting enough protein in your diet? No worries, eat veggies that have more protein those nights. For example, did you know that both spinach and asparagus each have protein? If you know you’re skipping meat at night, you can eat eggs for breakfast or lunch to balance protein intake as well.

smoothie

  • Get on the smoothie bandwagon. We have a Vitamix at home, but a blender or Magic Bullet will work great! Smoothies are easy, filling, and delicious! Add protein, veggies, and fruit in about any combination, and you’ve got a whole meal! Modern Honey has some great smoothie recipes. Here’s a quick link to the recipes, but this blogger struggles with autoimmune disorders, and if you struggle with that as well, you’ll really like the full post.
  • Love chicken salad, but not the extra calories in mayo? Try using plain greek yogurt instead of mayo! It will add a bit of tang to your dish but will still be creamy and delicious. Plus, you will get more protein.
  • Hummus can be so versatile! Try mixing it in with sauces to thicken without using heavy cream. Or, try topping your next salad with hummus instead of dressing. If you insist on dressing, try to make your own at home. It generally takes less than five ingredients and will be much better for your body than store-bought.
  • Make eggplant ‘bacon.’ I found this recipe that I’m dying to try! Just slice eggplant extra thin, brush the slices with olive oil, sprinkle them with coconut sugar, smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, and sea salt, then bake at 275°F until crisp and browned (about an hour and 45 minutes). Recipe courtesy of Jackie Newgent. Find more recipes here!

Now you’ve got some quick tips and tricks to help you stay on top of your fitness goals for 2019!

Pub Crawling Through Christmas Lights

Christmas in St. Augustine is magical. The lights, the people, and the general atmosphere makes tourists and locals alike giddy!

Pub Crawl in St. Augustine

Me and Cory were excited to sign up for this year’s pub crawl in St Augustine for a few reasons – we haven’t spent time in St. Augustine without the kids, we were anxious to see the lights, and we knew several couples that signed up to go.

We had a great time – even in the rain! It just makes for an adventure, right?!?!

Pub Crawl in St. Augustine Brittany Darling

All 21 of us loaded on the bus with rain jackets, umbrellas, and smiles! Perry (Club Manager) and Meghan (Lead Bartender) were our fearless leaders starting us off with wine/beer and snacks for the drive down to St. Augustine. We sat across the aisle from Amanda and John Relihan…they are a hoot. I’ve played tennis with Amanda, and John is an attorney and does something at a bank. He told me, but it sounded complicated…haha!

John & Amanda Relihan

The loose schedule was the best part. We all met at 6:00 and rode down together. But, once we got to St. Augustine, we were free to go wherever. Some couples stuck together and others meandered where they wanted to go. We all were under strict orders to make it back to the bus by 9:45. Perry swears he’s never left anyone behind, but he said it with a mischievous grin, so who knows! 🙂

Bars we visited in St. Augustine

Here’s a recap of the bars we visited:

Prohibition Kitchen – If you like a modern industrial vibe, this is your bar. It felt like I was in an old warehouse with the mix of wood and metals and the openness of the space. They had a solo guitarist playing live music on a stage. A few couples from the group ordered pretzels and wings, and they came out looking amazing!

Meehan’s – We’ve been to Meehan’s before, so we knew this HAD to be a stop on this crawl. Did you know they make their own Irish Cream (it’s the empty glass behind the Guiness!). Try it if you go, it’s fantastic. The bar has an old feel with rich woods, stained glass, and close quarters. We loved it so much, we ended up ordering dinner there with Meghan! She is so interesting, but anyone who frequents the golf club probably knows that already! I loved getting to know her, and it just confirms that Sawgrass really does hire great people who genuinely care about the members and know how to have a good time!

Pub Crawl in St. Augustine Guiness at Meehan's

Scarlett O’Hara’s – We didn’t spend too much time here, but I’ll definitely go back next time. They also had live music, and there was a group from Sawgrass dancing.

Dos Gatos – This bar had a cool vibe as well! We were really impressed with the quality of the cocktails we ordered. The bartender really knew what he was doing, and we saw him joking and laughing with patrons making this a very friendly place as well!

Pub Crawl in St. Augustine

I would totally recommend a night out on one of Sawgrass’s pub crawls, specifically St. Augustine. It’s fun to feel like a tourist in a historic town that is SO CLOSE! Look for the next pub crawl on Foretees, and sign up – rain or shine!

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

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!

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!