Mornings With Gina Birch

Weekdays 6am - 10am

Here are your Weekend Vibes, what’s happening in Southwest Florida September 16-18.

If you like music, art, shopping and eating, you will love the events going on this weekend. From Charlotte to Collier County, there seems to be something for everyone.

Weekend fun kicks off in downtown Fort Myers Friday night with the monthly music walk. Streets are closed, musicians play on the sidewalks and in many restaurants and bars.

Veal chop

A succulent and savory veal chop is one of the many delicious dishes served at Harold’s in Fort Myers

It’s a great weekend to get out and support local restaurants in Collier and Lee Counties thanks to Sizzle Dining. It’s like restaurant week on steroids. The organization partners with dozens local restaurants to offer special dining menus. Think two course lunches and three course dinners for a fixed rate.

The idea is to get locals out to try new places or support the ones they already love during September. The month is traditionally one of the slowest for local restaurants. Some even close this time of year for vacations and renovations. However, if you can’t make it this weekend, the dining week extends through the 28th.

It also benefits Blessings in a Backpack, a great program that feeds local kids.

Get out, support local, and enjoy these weekend vibes, what’s happening in Southwest Florida September 16-18.

  • Sizzle Dining Restaurant Week

    This annual three week event was founded to celebrate and support restaurants in Lee and Collier Counties. More than 50 restaurants are participating by offering. Restaurants donate $1 of every Sizzle meal purchased to Blessings in a Backpack.

  • Downtown Fort Myers Music Walk

    This happens the third Friday of every month. Downtown Fort Myers comes alive with music on the streets and in many bars and restaurants.

  • Celebrate Vintage, Vintage Market Days

    At Lee Civic Center Friday-Sunday. More than 100 vendors with art, antiques, clothing, jewelry and repurposed goods. DIY exhibitions, live music and more.

  • through hurt to hope exhibition

    This poignant art exhibit from former Fort Myers NewsPress photographer Kinfay Moroti is also interactive as Moroti personally leads small groups through what he calls “a dynamic visual and emotional journey to hope.”  Friday and Saturday at Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center downtown Fort Myers.

  • Sullivan Street Arts and Craft Festival

    This takes place in downtown Punta Gorda Saturday along the Peace River. Sullivan Street is lined with arts and crafts for you to browse from 10-4.

  • Weekend snacks

    Just in case you want to try some new snacks this weekend…check out this fabulous find.

    Fabulous Find, Jalapeño Blue Cheese Popcorn

    Today’s Fabulous Find, Jalapeño Blue Cheese Popcorn by Sweet Chaos.

    Not too long ago the folks at Sweet Chaos sent me a huge box of popcorn for a story I was working on. When I say huge, I mean like nearly a dozen full sized bags of the company’s various flavors of popcorn. My friends could not wait to dig in and help me try them.


    Delicious Jalapeño Blue Cheese Popcorn from Sweet Chaos

    Sweet Chaos hand pops their non-GMO kernels in coconut oil, no artificial stuff. The flavors range from traditional Movie Theater Butter to the crazy sounding Jalapeno Blue Cheese. Jalapenos and blue cheese are two things that I typically love. However, in popcorn?

    Those same friends that couldn’t wait to get into the white cheddar or the kettle corn, snubbed the jalapeno bag at first. Then one night, with a cheese and charcuterie board, I opened the bag. It was the last one standing. We could not stop eating it. It also tasted good when I mixed in some almonds. What a fun snack that wont kill you on the calories either.

    I had to share it for today’s Fabulous Find, Jalapeno Blue Cheese Popcorn. Who would’ve thought?

    Sweet Chaos also has a line of “drizzled” popcorn. One is Cake Batter, a collaboration with Cold Stone Creamery. It tasted like crunchy, sweet and salty cake. My neighbor’s kids took the bag and ran with it. The Peanut Butter Cup was another favorite. It started with kettle corn. Then, drizzles of dark chocolate and peanut butter were added.

    In Southwest Florida, Sweet Chaos can be found at numerous Total Wine & More stores as well as Family Dollar.

    One of my favorite ways to enjoy popcorn is when it’s hot, mixed with M&M’s. The heat makes the chocolate centers of the candy soft. So not only do you have some texture. but also the sweet and salt balance each other. Mmmmm.

    Here are some of the popcorn flavors


    • Jalapeño Blue Cheese Popcorn


      Sweet Chaos Jalapeno Blue Cheese

    • Movie Theater Popcorn

      You just can’t go wrong with this and a night of Netflix.
      Sweet Chaos Movie Theater Butter

    • Honey Chipotle Popcorn

      This had a little heat, but not too much
      Sweet Chaos Honey Chipotle

    • White Cheddar Popcorn

      This was hard to put downSweet Chaos White Cheddar

    • Kettle Corn

      Not too sweet, not too salty…just right

      Kettle Corn


    • Another Fabulous Food FInd

      Fabulous Find For Those With Food Allergies

      I write a lot about food and wine. Today, it’s a Fabulous Find for those with food allergies.

      When I write about food, it’s not just about restaurants and such. I’m constantly looking for new and unique food products. There are a number of people in my circle who have food allergies and sensitivities. There are others who choose to eat a certain way because it makes them feel better. Or they have certain convictions when it comes to the use of animal products. I respect that. But it sometimes becomes a challenge when cooking or hosting an event to make sure I have something for everyone.

      Gangster Sugar Cookies

      Gangster Sugar Cookies are gluten free, dairy free, nut free and still taste good

      Over the years I’ve tried a lot of foods that are made without “this” and free of “that.” Some are good, some are downright horrible. You just never know. So when the folks at Eat G.A.N.G.S.T.E.R. sent me a box of goods to sample I approached with caution. I love the packaging, I love the story. Now lets see if I love the food.

      Eat G.A.N.S.T.E.R. is a brand that specializes in treats that are gluten free, nut free, lactose free, free of all kinds of things that trigger allergies in many people.

      I started with the sugar cookies and they were a big hit at a brunch I recently hosted. When I told people they were free of most of things they typically eat in cookies (nuts, eggs, butter) my friends were shocked. These were super easy to make and with very few ingredients.

      • Eat Gangster Sugar Cookies

        Sugar CookiesThese were a big hit.

      • Eat Gangster Banana Bread

        Eat Gangster lineupI tried it but mine did not turn out well. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 ripe bananas. I was half a banana short, story of my life. It made a big difference. The mix was dry. Make sure you follow the directions on these for best results.

      • Eat Gangster Pancake and Waffle Mix

        Pancake MixSo, I still have this one. I wanted to try it but just didn’t get around to it last weekend. These will for sure be part of this weekend’s Sunday Funday activities.

      • Fabulous Find For Rum Lovers

        While we are on the subject of fabulous finds, these are not your average booze cruise rums.

        Yum Yum It's All About Rum For National Rum Day

        Yum Yum it’s all about rum for National Rum Day. The delicious spirit distilled from sugar cane and molasses is a tropical favorite.

        According to the folks at Pantry & Larder, Americans drink enough rum every year to fill 88 Olympic-sized swimming pools. And while you might think Floridians consume the most rum, they say the largest consumption comes from the tiny state of New Hampshire.

        Celebrity Status

        Rum is so popular that even music superstars are getting in on the action with their own brands. Take for instance Bruno Mars and SelvaRey. Not only does rocker Sammy Hagar have his own line of rum cocktails,  he also has a cookbook…well a cocktail book. As you can guess, music and entertaining is a bog part of the book.

        The cocktail pictured above comes from Koloa Rum. Here is the recipe.
        Strawberry Garden
        Yields: 6 cocktails


        • 8-10 oz Koloa Kauai White Rum
        • 15 sliced strawberries
        • 5 sage leaves
        • 1 sliced cucumber
        • 3.5 oz triple sec
        • 18-20 oz fresh lemonade
        • Soda or carbonated beverage (optional)


        Muddle ½ portion of cucumber and strawberry with Koloa Kauai White Rum and 2 sage leaves. Strain into a pitcher, add lemonade, triple sec and remaining slices of strawberry, cucumber and whole sage leaves. Fill with ice, garnish with strawberry, cucumber and sage leaves.

        If you like Pina Colada’s, but don’t like all the calories check out this lo-cal recipe. For some higher end selections and how to properly sip them, check my guide here.


        Yesterday I unboxed a box of goodies from Drakes Organic. I sampled some, the rest I’m saving for today and will update the post this afternoon, after a cocktail or two. Yum Yum it’s all about rum for National Rum Day.

        • Drakes Organic

          This is what was in the box.

          I will say that the Mojito Boxtail was pretty darn good. Just add some fresh mint and ice. No muddling or mess.

        • Wicked Dolphin

          We can’t talk about National Rum Day without giving a shoutout to Wicked Dolphin. The Cape Coral distiller has been a pioneer in the state when it comes to changing laws that allow for tasting rooms and retail shops under the same roof.

          If you have not toured the distillery, make plans to do so.

          Man does this look refreshing.


        • Sammy's Beach Bar Cocktail

          Sammy HagarThe ready to drink cocktail market is booming right now. Seems everyone is getting n the game including rock legend Sammy Hagar. He just released a line of sparkling rum cocktails.

          Each can has a QR code on it that reveals a special video message from Hagar.

          I have not tried them yet so cannot vouch for them. Keep an eye out for the Tangerine Dream, Pineapple Splash, Island Pop and Cherry Kola Chill. Let me know what you think after you pop the top on one.