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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 planning.

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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