The Food Geeks Bible

In my Romantic Holiday Getaway post, I said that Clark and I were “inn” kind of people. By that I mean that we appreciate the personal touch that small hotels pride themselves to offer. During our stay at the Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, Clark and I were struck by how such a setting lends itself to so much more conversation and personal disclosure. For instance, during the wine and h’ordeuvres hour, one woman felt rather comfortable sharing the affects of her new vegetarian diet while another man carried on about his favorite character on Glee. Stacy enlightened us on local politics, and while she has mixed feelings, she wonders if she’d make more money directing the new Cincinnati streetcar than in her current job as a third grade teacher. Jon gave himself quite the laugh over the recent Sing Off and didn’t realize that the rest of the table wasn’t laughing with him but rather at him because thats what you do when other people crack themselves up. These colorful chats appealed to the sanguine in me, and so I began making conversation with anyone that looked friendly and interesting.

Thats when I met Katherine. She walked on the elevator with what looked like a giant encyclopedia, which of course begged my inquiry. We then spent the next hour getting acquainted with her and her husband, Al, over our gourmet breakfast. Wife and home schooling mom to 5 children, Katherine explained her belief that it is crucial to carve out time to rediscover yourself and your husband; hence their holiday visit to Amelia Island. Ah, a woman after my own heart! And the encyclopedia, as it turns out, was actually a cookbook featured by her favorite magazine, Cooks Illustrated. Now I am inspired by many things, but for the most part, I am a “get-in-there-and-get-it-done” kind of girl when it comes to cooking. When you have a toddler who is satisfied with raisins and cheerios and a husband who would prefer to eat Mexican food every night of the week, experimenting with new foods is not high on the priority list. However, Cooks Illustrated Magazine may just be the culinary inspiration I’ve needed.  I mentioned it to my trusted friend, Kate (of the Kitchen Princess blog) who also confirmed it to be a worthy investment.

I’ve spent the better part of this morning perusing their online recipe library, equipment reviews, and taste tests. There’s a reason why the Wall Street Journal calls Cooks Illustrated the “Food Geeks Bible”. They have a “How to Cook Library”, and heaven knows I need all the help I can get when it comes to cooking. Also, am I the only one that had no idea that a piece of equipment like an oven thermometer was so essential? Apparently, some ovens can be off temperature by 50 degrees!

Just as a teaser, here is one of Cooks Illustrated equipment reviews for the Cooper-Atkins Oven Thermometer:

Basic, sturdy, accurate, and the least expensive model tested, this commercial-style thermometer (it provides food safety guidelines in small print on the face) rose to the top of our rankings. Designed to either sit on or hang from oven racks, it stayed safely out of our way as we baked and roasted. After six months of constant testing, the face was still easy to read and temperature readings remained spot-on.

Well, there you have it. No wonder my Chocolate Raspberry Cake came out the same consistency as tofu!

What is the one kitchen essential that you simply can’t live without?


Black Eyes and Beach Towns

I gave my husband a black eye. I’m not even sure how it happened really. Last week during our vacation to Amelia Island, we were…um… testing the mattress in our suite when my elbow met his cheekbone with such a force, I wondered if subconsciously I was releasing any and all aggression I may have stored up over the past 5 years of our marriage. Bless his heart. One minute he’s loving on his wife, the next minute he finds himself smack in the middle of a bar fight. I felt horrible, but for some reason it was one of those times where the emotional reaction was the inappropriate one. I started laughing. Which made matters even worse…. for Clark. Needless to say, he was a tad bruised and swollen, both in face and ego. Even as I type this, he’s telling me from the next room that his face is still sore. Shiner and all, we proceeded to enjoy the most relaxing and memorable 3 days we’ve had since our children were born. When you spend so many months trying to squeeze every bit of romance into the time afforded you between breast feedings, three days of undivided attention provides some much needed relational refreshment. The truth is, I am more in love and fulfilled by my relationship with Clark than I was the day we were married. While our time of reminiscing and “re-calibrating” had its fair share of introspection and future planning, it also came with a salt and peppering of fun. In between black eyes and dolphin sightings, we enjoyed some of the best that Fernandina Beach has to offer.

29 South Eats

When the menu says “Garden Fresh”, this is about as fresh as one can get. The vegetables are grown right in the back yard! Green and local is certainly this restaurants forte.

Fantastic Fudge

A slice of fudge, a couple of turtles, and $16 later, we were feeling not so fantastic. But, this mouthwatering confectioner’s corner is a must see if you are planning a visit to Amelia Island. Be sure to bring your wallet and your sweet tooth!

*Bonito Grill & Sushi

Clark almost cried when he learned that they serve sweet tea here even though we were vacationing in the Yankee invaded southernmost state. Its the little things that sometimes make life worth living.

Judging by the looks of things, I feel I ought to rephrase… we enjoyed some of the best food that Fernandina Beach has to offer. Before you think we just ate our way through the town, this was one of our favorite non-eateries.

The Book Loft Bookstore.

This little two-story shop had an entire wall of autographed hard copies. Some series ran upwards of $300-$400 dollars! We started our Chronicles of Narnia series with The Magicians Nephew (unsigned) for $8.99.

Fernandina Beach can best be described as “Southern Charm meets historic beach town”, and the sweet tea put it right over the top for my husband. Therefore, we are already planning our return trip.

*photo credit (Sara G.)