Amelia Island Plantation Blog

Meet New Executive
Amelia Island Chef Wardynski

Omni Amelia Island Plantation welcomes new Amelia Island Chef Daven Wardynski as the new executive chef of the Florida beach resort. Boasting 17 years of experience in the culinary world, Chef Wardynski joins the Amelia Island restaurant scene from the Omni Chicago Hotel located on the world famous Magnificent Mile. During his tenure in Chicago, Chef Wardynski made it a priority to incorporate local ingredients wherever possible, using his passion for fresh, quality goods to support the farmers and purveyors of the Midwest region. Under his direction, the Omni Chicago Hotel’s landmark dining establishment – 676 Restaurant & Bar – quickly became a sought-out culinary destination for “comfort food with an attitude.”  Chef also served a key player in regaining the coveted AAA 4-Diamond Award for The Pump Room and also served as sous chef under the direction of celebrity chef Rich Tramonto during his time at TRU, the city’s most elite restaurant and AAA 5-Diamond Award winner. A graduate from Northern Michigan University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, Chef Wardynski has received multiple honors from the American Culinary Federation, including a Gold Medal in the Chicago National Restaurant show, and has graced media outlets such as Oprah Radio, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and Cooking Light.  Join us as we learn more about the Amelia Island Chef that will lead the flavors and food at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation restaurants.  How did you get into cooking?  As a child, one of the most influential people in my life was my grandmother.  I remember every Friday evening venturing to my grandparents house in Bay City, MI for “supper” and smelling the aromas of her hand-crafted meals. She was incredibly talented, but would pass while I was still young.  Before doing so,  I remember her always saying “keep my kitchen alive.”  Little did I know, I would take those words, turn them into a career and live them day in and day out. What was the first meal you cooked?  Smelt on the grill that dad just dipped from the river. What is your favorite ingredient to cook with? Fish. Any kind no matter their reputation.  If handled properly, any fish can taste incredible. Least favorite? White Pepper What is your favorite meal?  Anything that can return me to the past and allow me to connect my memories with the food I am eating.  It could be pan-fried bluegill (dock fishing in Cadillac, MI with my grandfather), wood-grilled partridge (hunting with my father as a boy) or just a ripe pear (picking it from the local orchard tree while on a 5 mile run hoping not to get caught!). Your memories are what makes food special. What restaurant would you most like to dine in?  That mythical restaurant in my mind where I can cook next to my grandmother.  What is the most important part of planning, preparing and serving a fabulous meal?  Understanding what you want the guest to taste and accelerating those flavors. What are you most looking forward to about your new position as Amelia Island Plantation executive chef?  The endless opportunities this resort has to offer.  It seems limitless and is exciting. What do you most value in your friends? Conversation. What is your favorite part of being a father? How watching your child can return you to your own childhood and give you a grand appreciation for what your parents were able to accomplish with you. What is your idea of perfect happiness? Sharing family in front of a glowing campfire. In which country would you like to live? United States of America – no doubt. This is the best place for my two young girls to grow.  They can do anything they choose.    What is your favorite type of music? Modern Country. It seems to speak to family and their importance. Which historical figure do you most identify with? President Roosevelt – "walk softly and carry a big stick" understanding, but understand how and when to pick your battles. What is your greatest extravagance? Culinary toys What is your greatest regret? No regrets, I believe everything happens for a reason.

October 30, 2012 - Leave a comment


Oak Marsh Golf Course
Renovations Complete

Did you know that the Oak Marsh Golf Course at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation reopened on October 19th after some great renovations to the Amelia Island golf course?  During the renovations this fall we re-surfaced all 18 greens with Tifdwarf Bermuda grass on the Florida golf resort course. We pruned over 90 trees to increase the sunlight and airflow around the greens, which will give us a sustainable growing environment for the new putting surfaces. A state of the art irrigation system was installed on the back nine of the Oak Marsh Golf Course (front 9 completed in 2006) that will provide 100% coverage of all turfgrass while using 20% less water. You may also notice that the driving range was lengthened by nearly 40 yards, pushing the first tee farther east and back approximately 20 yards, adding length to the renowned Florida golf course.  Golfers will experience much firmer and faster greens following the renovation which will certainly challenge every level of golfer.  The feedback from players on the Oak Marsh golf course has been great.  Scott Burgess, Director of Business Rental Sales with Enterprise Holdings said "the course is in the best shape and is offering all the challenges you would expect from a Pete Dye design.  You're better be able to move the ball around, it takes every shot in your bag to score well!" Another frequent Amelia Island Plantation golf player said that " the new greens on Oak Marsh are very firm and the rough is very thick making for a difficult challenge.  It was well worth the wait!" Looking for a tip to improve your golf swing before hitting the links for the newly renovated Oak Marsh golf course? Watch this unique tip from Dan Hackney, head golf professional at Omni Amelia Isalnd Plantation.    We're very excited that the course is in such great condition as we're going into our cooler golf weather.  Whether you're a member or a resort guest, or perhaps playing in a local charity tournament, we hope to see you all on the links soon!

October 30, 2012 - Leave a comment


Rosie’s Organic Farm at
Amelia Island Farmers Market

The Amelia Farmers Market is proud to announce the addition of a Rosie's Organic Farm, a certified organic farmer from  Gainesville, FL, to the variety of featured weekly vendors at The Shops of Omni Amelia Island Plantation each Saturday.  Rose Koenig will bring over 40 different types of organic vegetables, cut flowers and herbs from her 17-acre organic farm to the Amelia Farmers Market at The Shops of Amelia Island Plantation starting this Saturday, October 27th at 9am. And you thought the Georgia versus Florida Football classic was the biggest news of the weekend?!?   Organic Vegetables at Amelia Island Farmer's Market Koenig, an organic farmer for over 19 years, focuses on crop rotation and soil chemistry and is certified by the Florida Organic Growers Association.  This Saturday Rosie's Organic Farm will feature lettuces, salad mix, Asian cooking greens including bok choy, basil, cucumbers and a variety of cut flowers. As the season advances a full line of organic vegetables will be available including broccoli, kale, beets, carrots and more.  And you know the Omni Amelia Island restaurant chef's will be there shopping for the freshest ingredients to serve our guests.

Omni Amelia Island Plantation Re-imagination Celebrates Construction Milestone

Two years ago Omni Hotels & Resorts purchased Amelia Island Plantation and broke ground on a $90 million re-imagination renovation last November.  This past weekend we celebrated the largest milestone in our construction thus far - the upcoming topping-off of the last floors for the renovation.  It's so exciting seeing the highlights of progress each day that's leading  to the Omni Amelia Island Plantation re-imagination grand opening on March 1, 2013. Top This The Omni Amelia Island Plantation re-imagination celebrated the topping off with a fantastic group of meeting planners, journalists, and dignitaries getting a sneak peak preview of the new construction.  A walk through of the new arrival, porte cochere, ocean view lobby and Seaglass Lounge was complete with the first photo taken in the lobby.  A drum line amped up the festivities as we toured around the largest pool deck in Northeast Florida - truly magnifying the space of the adult's infinity edge pool, large family pool, kid's splash area and tiered lounge seating.  A few words were shared by our executive team but the highlight of the night was Tanner the Turtle, recreation mascot, zip lining from the roof of the new building to deliver a bottle of champagne (alright it was cider, it's a construction site) to the project manager to ceremoniously break outside the new Oceanside bar and grill!  And of course, what celebration isn't complete without a few fireworks too?  The talented team in conference services and culinary with assistance from PRI Productions, transformed the Florida meeting spaces (soon to be over 80,000 square feet) into the most beautiful settings - from a jazz nightclub coinciding with the Amelia Island Jazz Fest; to an Asian inspired, oceanfront hospitality suite where the new chef's kitchen will sit; to the spectacular sunset deck at the Marsh View Bar & Grill; to the intimate outdoor dinner beneath the live oak tree canopy at Racquet Park! The weekend was spectacular and showcased the future of the Florida beach vacation resort! Future Milestones Here's what we have to look forward to before our grand opening of the Florida resort this spring: • The hotel renovation has been built in four building segments with the first two structures A and B having drywall to be completed by the end of this month • Buildings C and D will have the full structure topped off in the coming days • November 15th starts the renovations of the existing hotel in the Sunrise wing • This incredible pool deck will come together at the end of the year and Oceanside bar and grill drywall begins this week followed by the installation of the kitchen equipment • The new entry with porte cochere and valet garage is schedule for early December and the new parking garage is already in use by the resort team • Heron's Cove Adventure Golf, the new miniature golf in The Shops adjacent to the Nature Center, will be completed by the end of November and the multi-use Canopy Park will be formed in January • The magnificent Magnolia Ballroom and foyer will come together at the end of December with final group space renovations complete in February Omni Amelia Island Plantation Re-imagined After a year of work under our belts and just under six months remaining till our grand opening,  we eagerly await the opportunity to host our guests, new and old, at the re-imagined Omni Amelia Island Plantation!  Top This! For more photos and video, check out our FaceBook page!

October 18, 2012 - Leave a comment

Community, Events

Fall Flavors at Amelia Island Restaurant Marché Burette

As soon as October hits we all crave the flavors and foods we associate with fall - pumpkin, chili, apples, soups, casseroles, etc.  Flavors that are harvested this time of year and warm both our stomachs and our souls.  Marché Burette is featuring several culinary items by Amelia Island Chef Bobby Reinhardt this fall to wet your appetite and satisfy your cravings. Try a bowl of Chef Brennan's hearty rotisserie chicken and dumpling soup, dubbed as "Thanksgiving in a bowl," on a cool day (stay tuned for all the soups available at Omni Amelia Island Plantation's Art of Soup menu!). Or sample the  apple brie turkey Panini made with apple butter, Omni house rotisserie turkey, brie cheese and granny smith apples pressed in sourdough bread. If you're looking for something delicious to take home, Marché Burette at The Shops of Amelia Island Plantation offers a variety of fall delights for sale including sweet potato butter, pumpkin butter, apple butter, fig preserves or apple cinnamon syrup. Stop by for a cup of the best Amelia Island coffee at Marché serving gingerbread flavored Peet's Coffee.  And saving the best for last, fall inspired desserts include a pumpkin tart with caramel swirl or an apple streusel tart.

October 16, 2012 - Leave a comment

Dining, Other

Georgia / Florida Football Game Day Experience

Being a northern girl by birth, I had never heard of the Georgia/Florida football Weekend!  Since I am a Hokie fan, even after I moved to Jacksonville, it was never something I had any interest in attending.  Well, last year I started dating a Georgia Bulldog fan and ended up at the game.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into with the crazy amount of people that come into Jacksonville to support their team.  I went to a large college full of football fans but I have to say that this game tops any I have ever attended.  It was a sea of tailgaters surrounding the stadium.  I have never seen so many tents, campers, trucks, games, grills or port-a-potties!  The adventure that enfolded through out the day was insanely fun!  I couldn't help but get swept away in the energy and found myself cheering with the crowd.  It was an entertaining game to watch as the two teams battled for bragging rights not only for themselves but their loyal fans as well.  Last year it was a victory for the Bulldogs, which I am told is a rarity among the years of this tradition, so it will be fun to see who will win this year's game.  If your planning on attending the game or prefer a local bar for your cheering, you should definitely check out all the specials going on here at Omni Amelia Island Plantation! Omni Amelia Island Plantation has Georiga Florida football specials going on all weekend!  You can stop by The Spa for a "Gator Scrub" or a "Bulldog Rub" and then stock up on your team colors with 15% off anything with red, black, orange or blue at Harrison's Mercantile or Amelia's Signature Shop.  Show your team spirit at the GA-FL Boardwalk Bash on Friday night in The Shops which will have food and fun for everyone in the family!  The Falcon's Nest will continue the party celebration through out the evening on Friday and all of Saturday with specialty cocktails, giveaways, and prizes.  On game day, we will have a GA-FL Camp Amelia for the kids and bus transportation to the game so you don't need to worry about parking.  For all the details check out the Georgia Florida Football blog. Although this year I will not be able to attend, I will still be sporting my black and red for the Bulldogs at the Amelia Island Plantation Real Estate office so stop in and say hello....or just let me know the score!

October 15, 2012 - Leave a comment

Community, Real Estate

Taste of Amelia –
Top Amelia Island Restaurants Culinary Fair

Do you ever have trouble deciding what Amelia Island restaurant to pick for dinner?  Next Friday you don't have to, choose them all!  The Nassau County Volunteer Center is hosting the 21 annual Taste of Amelia on Friday, October 19th!  Celebrate Autumn on Amelia with a culinary fair that features the finest chefs and top restaurants on Amelia Island.  The event is being hosted at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation with cocktails from 6:30-7:00pm following with the Taste of Amelia at 7:00pm. Enjoy music by Palmetto Catz Trio, a silent auction and 50-50 drawing while you sample wine and food from Amelia Island's top restaurants. Amelia Island Restaurants include: Amelia River Golf Club Grille Bliss Cupcakery Crab Trap Don Quixote Fancy Sushi Gourmet Gourmet Horizon's Joe's 2nd Street Bistro Kelley's Courtyard Café Marché Burette at Omni Amelia Island Plantation O'Kane's Irish Pub and Eatery Peppers Mexican Restaurant Peterbrooke Chocolatier Slider's Seaside Grill The Courtyard Pub & Eatery The Surf The Verandah at Omni Amelia Island Plantation Superb silent auction items include gift certificates to: • Bar Zin • Salty Pelican • Stay at Omni Amelia Island Plantation • Golf at Omni Amelia Island Plantation • Stay at Omni ChampionsGate in Orlando • Variety of wine baskets • More, more, more! Tickets are $40 per person and can be purchased online or at a variety of local supporters including Century 21 on Centre Street - a full list is available on the website. Want to make the special evening out a true staycation?  Stay at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation resort for just $99 per night! Book here! The annual event benefits the Nassau County Volunteer Center in North Florida.  The NCVC is a one-stop source for recruiting and connecting volunteers with local Amelia Island charities and agencies. Become a member of the Nassau County Volunteer Center today! Hungry yet?  Get your ticket to the Taste of Amelia today, I'll see you in line!

October 8, 2012 - Leave a comment

Community, Dining

Okefenokee Swamp Tour with
Amelia Island Nature Center

Did you know that the Amelia Island Nature Center  at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation offers trips to the Okefenokee Swamp?  This beautiful National Wildlife Refuge is located in South Georgia, a little over an hour drive from Amelia Island Plantation.  The Amelia Island Nature Center offers both day trips and night tours to Okefenokee, known as the land of trembling earth.  A couple of weeks ago, our naturalists took a night tour out and our guests were treated to a sunset unlike any other, with the sun dipping behind the water lilies and cypress trees making the sky bright with orange and red.  Lots of birds were seen flying to their nighttime roosting spots, including Sandhill Cranes, herons, egrets, ibis, kingfishers and a tiny red hummingbird. An alligator even swam right next to our boat for a while.  After the sun went down, as our boat made its way back, we used flashlights to look for alligator and spider eyes reflecting back.  On a  recent day trip, we saw some very special birds, the Red Cockaded Woodpeckers.  These endangered species are one of the reasons Okefenokee is preserved and managed the way it is.  We were lucky enough to hear and see a couple of groups.  We also spotted a couple of red-headed woodpeckers, other woodpecker species and fence lizards.  Wildflowers were in full bloom and pitcher plants line the swamp.  Fall is a beautiful time to visit the Okefenokee Swamp.  A beautiful fall color is given by the cypress trees, who's needles turn orange.  Alligators are out basking, trying to warm up in the sun for the day. One great thing about the swamp is that every time you visit, you see different plants and animals so you can return many times!  For more information or to schedule your trip to the Okefenokee Swamp, contact the nature center at 904-321-5082  and I promise it'll be an experience you won't soon forget!

October 5, 2012 - Leave a comment


Amelia Farmers Market Goes Pink

Pink isn't just for the girl's this month!  The Amelia Farmers Market will go Pink this Saturday, October 6 with the Pink Ribbon Ladies, a cancer support group in Nassau County.  Celebrating October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the annual campaign, breast cancer survivors and charities such as the Pink Ribbon Ladies, organize to increase awareness of the disease and raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.  This month is also a prime opportunity to remind women to be breast aware for earlier detection.  Support a local charity, GO PINK!  At the Market, the Pink Ribbon Ladies will sell “Got Pink?” t-shirts and jewelry with the pink ribbon symbol to raise funds for continuing support and education.  You can also purchase a Pink Lady cocktail at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation's biscuit bar with sparkling wine, Absolute Vodka and cranberry juice for $2.50 with a $1 donation to the Pink Ribbon Ladies.  The Pink Ribbon Ladies The Pink Ribbon Ladies help women cope with biopsies, mastectomies, lumpectomies, radiation, chemotherapy, reconstructive surgery, and the list goes on. Started in 2004 on Amelia Island, the ladies share the common goal of education, advocacy and support for a cure for breast cancer and other female cancers.  The support group holds informal monthly meetings and participates together in group activities such as the Donna Deegan Breast Cancer Marathon, The American Cancer Society Relay for Life, or the Race for the Cure. Meetings take place at Baptist Hospital Nassau Conference room the second Monday of each month from 6-7:30p.m. For more information call 904-321-2057 or 904-261-2976. Amelia Farmers Market Also at the Amelia Farmers Market on October 6 will be Olive My Pickle, Gabriela’s Tamales, Clean Ridge Soaps, and P.C. Fresh Herbs as well as all the regular vendors of the Amelia Farmers Market. This Saturday, come shop for fresh vegetables, peruse clean soaps and show your support for local boobs. Got pink? Comment on this post to show your support!

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