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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Family Vacation

July 27, 2009

Today I leave on a 10-day old-fashioned family road-trip vacation.

We are loading up the family truckster and embarking on a 2,500 mile
excursion that will take us through Nashville, Asheville,
Winston-Salem, and up to Washington D.C. with the ultimate goal of
taking my kids to see Paul McCartney in concert. We’ll spend a few
days in our nation’s capital and then swing through Charleston,
Savannah, and Atlanta before heading home.

I am excited about the driving portion of the excursion and look
forward to visiting friends and family at every stop. It seems that
when we travel nowadays, everything is hurried. We are rushing to pack
and leave the house, we always seem to be rushing to the airport, all
of the earlier rushing has left us running late to catch our flight,
and when we finally get there, we’re rushing to cram it all in during
the few short days we’re there.

This trip will be like the ones I took when I was a child— in the car,
taking it slowly, eating our way through the South.

Things are different today. In the 1960s and early 1970s my brother
and I never would have imagined being able to watch movies in the car
during long road trips. All we had were these lame highway bingo
games, and my grandmother’s fudge cake.

We never left home without a wax-paper lined Tupperware container of
her fudge cake. It wasn’t a cake at all. They were chocolaty, chewy,
rich brownies, and my brother and I loved them. It was the one
constant in an ever-changing lineup of vacation destinations. When I
was a kid, I didn’t care about details, itineraries, and schedules. I
just wanted to make sure someone brought the fudge cake

Today, my family makes fun of me, and I guess I have grown a little
more Griswoldian in my old age. I beginning planning a trip months in
advance, and make detailed lists and itineraries of the trip’s
details— hotel confirmation numbers and addresses, telephone numbers,
appointments and the like. But I also compile a detailed list of all
of the restaurants I want to visit in each city along the route.

St. John family vacations place a heavy focus on food. This trip has
an extra purpose, as we plan to add a more worldly focus to our dining
options. Ultimately, we hope to expose our kids— a 12-year old girl
and an eight-year old boy— to a broader range of cuisines, cultures,
and cooking styles.

They have seasoned palates for their age— certainly more than I had at
their age, actually, more than I had in my twenties. But this trip we
hope to push the bar even higher.

It’s easy to venture into foreign and varied cuisines in Washington
D.C, but not so easy in a lot of Southern cities, hence the hyper

This trip the kids will have their first exposure to true Indian
cuisine; they’ll hit Chinatown, and also visit a true Thai restaurant.
We’ll visit Michelle Richard’s new French Bistro, and they’ll sample
Spanish tapas for the first time. Authentic Mexican and Japanese are
on the program, as well as Low Country food, and what has been billed
as the best burger in America cooked by Bravo’s Top Chef winner, Chef
Spike Mendelsohn.

In the end, I wonder if it’s the dining they’ll remember, or the fudge
cake eaten in the back seat along the way.

I will be blogging live from all of the restaurants over the next 10
days and the meals and comments can be viewed on my Facebook page.

Muz’s  Fudge Cake

4 Squares       Bakers Chocolate
2 sticks        Butter
4               Eggs
2 cups          Sugar
1 cup           Flour
1 tsp           Pure Vanilla Extract
1 cup           Nuts, chopped
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler. Once
incorporated let cool slightly. Cooled chocolate should still be in
liquid form.

Mix together the four eggs and gradually and the two cups of sugar
until completely incorporated. SLOWLY pour the slightly warm chocolate
mixture into the egg/sugar  mixture.

Slowly incorporate the flour into the chocolate/egg mixture. Add
vanilla, nuts, salt, and mix.

Line a pan with waxed paper or parchment. Pour in the chocolate mix.
Bake at 350 approximately 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick
comes out clean.

Remove from oven. Let cool five minutes. Carefully flip the fudge cake
and finish cooling. Once cooled completely, remove wax paper and cut
into squares.

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