Sunday, July 5, 2009

Back from Florida...again!

The beach is always one of my favorite places to be in the world. Fernandina Beach has become a favorite vacation spot in the last few years---my mom and I have been there three times, the first two with family and friends, and this time by ourselves to celebrate her birthday and her friend's birthday! We have a great hostess there who always welcomes us into her home and takes us in for the week. Thanks Sandy!

We went bike riding in Fort Clinch and stopped at a beach there. It was SO hot.

And then I am forever enthralled with new foods. We went to Moon River Pizza, a local, everything made fresh pizza place and had Greek salads and the best pizza. Their crust was amazing. I can't wait to try to recreate this! We had the white pizza with spinach and mushrooms added, so it included mozzarella, feta and parmesan cheese, olive oil, oregano, black pepper, and garlic, plus spinach and mushrooms. I am going to work on imitating their crust for all future pizzas because it was perfect. Not too chewy and really fresh tasting.
I can't wait to talk about this place. We went to Tento Churrascaria in Jacksonville Beach. It's a building right across from the beach, with no other buildings blocking its view, so it already had me with its location.
It's a churrascaria, Brazilian steakhouse. There is a buffet of hot and cold items with all sorts of fresh vegetables, plus lobster bisque, black beans, rice, and potatoes as other options. There are dipping sauces like chimichurri, pineapple chutney, and mint jelly. The house dressing was really great and something I want to make at home--very simple with different peppers and onions minced and mixed with what tasted like olive oil, garlic, and a little kick of something like cayenne maybe? The gauchos come around and carve the meats at your table to go with the food you picked from the buffet. It's a very nice atmosphere, fine dining type. You get a coaster that's green on one side and red on the other and you choose your side displayed based on whether you want them to bring any more meat to your table. My favorites were the turkey and the lamb. The grilled pineapple with cinnamon was also reallllly great. At the end, we ordered a dessert (not because we were hungry--to celebrate birthdays!) of Kahlua toffee mousse and it was incredible. It had the texture of a cheesecake with a crushed chocolate cookie crust. They also brought us a chocolate lava cake that was just as good. I would love to recreate the Kahlua toffee mousse though.
I will forever be a culinary nerd I suppose, so when I was waiting for my mom and Sandy to use the restroom before we left and I found myself standing next to the guy who seemed to be the owner for a moment, I just had to ask for a quick tour of the kitchen. There wasn't a whole lot of meats going on because we went pretty early and there were also a lot out at the tables, but this guy was so great with his tour he was encouraging me to stick my hand over the flames to feel the heat and to get right in there with them, so I did! They basically just sear the outside of it, go serve that, and come back to cook some more. That way the outside is always done enough and really really flavorful and not dried out. Their cooking technique is obviously working! There was one guy back there who just constantly is moving skewers up and down and in and out of the kitchen to the gauchos to go serve. He has to be constantly sweating--it was so hot in there.
It was such a cool experience to not only go to this restaurant, but get to see the kitchen! It was a great birthday celebration and I would instantly recommend it to anyone vacationing in the area. Hope to be back to Fernandina in another two years!!:)

That new house I was talking about? We're one step closer! Inspections done, etc., and it seems like all we are doing is waiting for closing. I know that anything can happen at any time though, so I have to keep that in my head at the same time. The reason I loved it so much (enough to convince me to sell our current home!) is for the open concept. This is the kitchen as viewed from the living room area. I am so excited to be in the same room as the people hanging out in the living area while I am in the kitchen and to have the kitchen be more of a comfortable gathering place than it was before. Can't hardly wait to get into this place, but want to enjoy our last few weeks at our first home also! Such a bittersweet move, but I know I will be glad.