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Friday, February 25, 2011

What Chefs Do On Vacation... Chefmaker's!

If you're ever wondered what chefs do when they're on vacation.... now you will know: they take cooking classes!
As readers of this blog know, whenever we travel and have the chance to take a cooking class, we do so- most notably in Vietnam. So when Chef Dan & I had a chance to get away this winter & booked a cruise, we had the opportunity to take 2 cooking classes, including a truly excellent one with Chefmaker's on board our ship, & our experience with Chefmaker's was truly great! We had THE best Instructor- Michael Gusman- and we learned to make (and then got to enjoy- with wine!) a truly fabulous meal- the best meal we had aboard ship! We started by making a Caramelized Onion Pizzaladiere- a totally delectable puff-pastry, gourmet "pizza"- and then followed it with Mini Beef Wellingtons in puff pastry- RARE, thanks to Gusman's secret instructions!- served on a creamy Leek Fondue, a totally luscious Shrimp Scampi on Grilled Romaine (which Chef Dan has already adopted...), and finally, a Key Lime Pie with Vanilla Bean Cream! And if that doesn't make you want to do a Chefmaker's class, nothing will! (They had a "small bites" class w/baby lamb chops that we Badly wanted to do, too, but the timing wouldn't let us!)
The fun of Chefmaker's aboard ship was that Chef Dan got to work in a "real" kitchen, and I, the Elkhorn Inn's resident foodie (& Chef Dan's 'official food tester' LOL), got to do it all, too! In addition to everything else, I even learned how to properly squeeze a lime (& Michael, you know what I mean!) & separate an egg! (Don't laugh- even after 9 years with an Inn, you can still learn things that will turn your life around!)  

Dan & Michael, preparing Beef Wellingtons

Chefmaker's Instructor Michael Gusman
Learning to deal with puff-pastry...

Chef Dan & Chefmaker's Instructor Gusman

Chefmaker's Instructor Gusman & Dan, separating eggs...

Chef Dan, sauteeing shrimp...

Dan & Elisse, beater in hand!

The instruction we got was excellent- Chef Dan LEARNED real professional kitchen stuff that he's already started using at the Elkhorn Inn!- AND we had a Wonderful time, and the final result- dinner!- was superb!

Chef Dan & Elisse beating & whipping...

Chefmaker's Gusman & Dan, Separating The Egg...

Chef Dan, sauteing...

Elisse & Dan, blending & squeezing!

Elisse & Dan, Livin' Large!

Elisse, preparing a Mini Beef Wellington

Instructor Gusman & Dan, popping the Wellingtons into the oven...

Chef Dan, searing the Romaine...

Elisse & Dan enjoying the fruits of their labor!

MWAH! & thank you to Chefmaker's and Michael Gusman, for THE best "foodie" experience on the high seas!
Chef Dan & Foodie Elisse

Monday, February 7, 2011

Road Trip: Florida! Teeth! Sushi! Cigars!

From Jekyll Island, Dan & I drove to Florida, and FINALLY got to put the top down on our little, ol' Mustang convertible! Those of you who know me, know that I haven't been able to smile my silly, toothy smile for almost 2 years, as my teeth were so pitted and stained (from decades of grinding, coupled with dastardly red wine and coffee) that they looked terrible. Dan had what I thought was a Crazy idea: that I try to find a dentist I could see the one day we'd be in Miami! I went on the internet and found Dr. Mereos of Precious Smiles and called- and found that he'd actually be able to see me on that Saturday morning! I had no clue what he'd be able to do in a day- but what he did in a hour was nothing short of amazing- he drilled & filled and literally gave me back my toothy smile- and he made it affordable for us! I was SO happy that I made a small video testimonial for him, and it's on the Precious Smiles Facebook page! We HIGHLY recommend him! My only regret is that he's not in West Virginia!
Elisse, showing off her apre-Precious Smiles smile, celebrating with Dan, having saki & sushi in SoBe! 

Elisse & Dan having pedicures at SPAe

Fab SoBe Miami window dressing

We immediately went to a drugstore so I could get a night guard to hopefully protect my new teeth from further grinding damage, and vowing to lay off the red wine, we celebrated with sushi & (white) saki at a Lincoln Road cafe restaurant! We spent the day walking around and window shopping the wonderful SoBe stores (and thrift shops!), having pre-cruise pedicures at SPAe, & Dan had his chocolate fix with a rather amazing chocolate-strawberry sundae at Ghirardelli! We wound up the evening with drinks & cigars at Deco Drive Cigars on Lincoln Road, and a birthday celebration dinner with friends at La Lupa di Roma!

Dan, cigar, & hookah: Deco Drive Cigars

We stayed for two nights at the historic 1906 Miami River Inn, an interesting "old Miami" property near the port. Our guest room was cute and "shabby chic", with period furnishings and antiques, and we enjoyed our stay. the location was perfect for us, and we had a great Cuban dinner nearby, too! 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Road Trip! Jekyll Island or Bust!!!

We had a great Inn-&-puppy sitter, and so Chef Dan and I were acually able to escape a Truly crazy, snow-and-ice-crusted WV winter for 2 whole weeks and flee south!
And BOY did we need it, as you can see from the Sheer, Unadulterated JOY on Dan's face! Our first stop was the J&R Outlet, a 'must' for any road trip south, and where I got Dan to take a photo of me with one of their hilariously over-the-top "street signs"...
J&R Outlet

Turtle Rehab: Jekyll Island
Elisse, LOVING our guestroom patio (& champagne!) at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel!
Dan, Jekyll Island Club Hotel
Arriving at Jekyll Island...
We made it to our first destination that night; the elegantly lovely & historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel in Jekyll Island, GA. If you truly want to feel like a Rockefeller, this is The place! I expected the ice to finally fall off our car (our little, old eBay V-8 Mustang convertible that I refer to as the BoomerMobile, & that makes "go faster" noises when it hits 98 mph!) somewhere in the Carolinas, but when we got out of our car at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel we had to chip the ice off the back of the car to open the boot- it was THAT cold! We got in after 9p.m., and nothing was open and there was no place to eat, but the Wonderful man at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel check-in desk hustled us straight to the bar :-) for warm-up whiskies, they made us lovely sandwiches, and though the Facebook Special guestroom we had booked was lovely (and had a bucket of champagne and strawberries waiting for us for our 6th Anniversary!), when he told us they had guestrooms with patios we happily upgraded to one, and had THE most romantic stay!
Dan & Elisse: St Simons Lighthouse
St. Simons USCG Lightstation
Jekyll Island pier

Jekyll Island- & Latitude 31- view!

Elisse & Dan at breakfast: Jekyll Island Club Hotel

Looking up at our guest room: Jekyll Island Club Hotel
Elisse, Jekyll Island Club Hotel

Dan & Elisse (!), on the St Simons pier

Dan, St. Simons Lighthouse

Dan, St. Simons pier xylophones

St Simons USCG Lightstation

Jekyll Island Pier Sunset!

Jekyll Island - & Latitude 31 Restaurant- Sunset View

St. Simons USCG Lighthouse Light

Elisse & WWII USCG Veteran, St. Simons Lighthouse
Jekyll Island Pier Sunset: Latitude 31 & Rah Bar


Elisse, playing the xylophone on the St. Simons pier, and then showing off both her Bad Hair & her fab Buckle "Angel Wing" jeans, after stuffing her face with oysters, at SeaJay's, Jekyll Island

We drank our Anniversary champagne on our patio, slept like lambs, had an elegant breakfast in their dining room, and with the Jekyll Island Club Hotel as our base, we got the got to see the turtles being rescued and cared for by vets at the truly wonderful Jekyll Island Georgia Sea Turtle Center; drive around the island to see the gorgeous land/seascapes, have an excellent dinner (with THE best sunset view!!!!) at Latitude 31 (Chef Dan & I totally LOVED their gourmet Georgia Shrimp & Grits, with the crispy-on-the-outside-meltingly-tender-on-the-inside "cake" of cheese grits, and a spicy Poblano Cream Sauce!), and have oysters, fun dancing to a live band, and got to meet some of the (lucky!) local residents at SeaJay's. We drove to nearby St. Simons Island, to play the really cool wooden & metal xylophones on the pier, buy yummy kumquat marmelade at the Farmer's Market, and (best of all!), climb the historic St. Simons Lighthouse, see the museum, the amazing light, the fabulous view, & meet with a WWII USCG veteran and USCG Auxilliary personnel! For a US Army Ret. guy like Dan, and an Official USCG Artist like me, this was a total rush!