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?

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Romantic Holiday Getaway

Happy New Year!

Clark and I went into hiding for the last few days of 2010. This was our little corner of Paradise.

Last Fall, I stumbled on a Charlotte Magazine article of vacation spots within driving distance from the city of Charlotte. Located on Amelia Island off the northern east coast of Florida, The Elizabeth Point Lodge received the Conde Nast Travelers Readers Choice Award as the #2 small hotel in the U.S. in 2008. As you know, this past year was a very big year for the Beasley family. I turned 30. Clark and I rounded our 5 year wedding anniversary. We moved to Charlotte. We had our second baby. While it has been thrilling, it hasn’t come without a heaping side order of stress. This was the perfect place for us to debrief, de-stress, and recharge our batteries.

For the most part, Clark and I are “inn” kind of people. Our first experience was on our honeymoon in Asheville, NC. We stayed at the romantic Black Walnut Inn, and we couldn’t have been happier. In fact, the gourmet 3-course breakfasts and the wine and cheese social hour in the late afternoon turned us into a couple of hotel snobs. Boutique hotels offer individualized attention unlike any hospitality I’ve ever experienced, and their accommodations are generally cozier than larger chain hotels. For instance, even though our room came complete with antique mismatched furniture, angled ceilings, pastel floral wallpaper, and a Saltwater Gamefish poster that just screamed beach town, it all just… worked! Together it made for a memorable 2nd honeymoon spot.

I will fill you in on our little get away more in the days to come. In the mean time, our inn stay got me thinking of other bed and breakfasts I would like to visit in some of my favorite US destinations.  Here are a few boutique hotel scenes as featured on BedandBreakfast.com.

The Martine Inn in Monterey, California

The Swann House in Washington, DC

Three Mountain Inn in Jamaica, Vermont

The Bed & Breakfast Inn at La Jolla in La Jolla, California

Where was your best hotel stay?