Life has Never BEIGN Better

Life, like a crispy loaf of freshly artisan bread, gets stale rather quickly. In other words, I have a very short attention span, especially regarding food! I shared this fun fact in past columns and, NO, I’m not here to tell you about my about-face. When I find a restaurant, bar or coffee shop I enjoy, I try to exercise restraint and not visit too often. After all, one should not go to a food service establishment for a mere feeding, rather for an escape from the mundane, a quick little adventure. Life should not be as predictable and trite as a novel you’ve read multiple times. Life should be Cheffed-Up!

Here on Amelia Island, we’ve been fortunate enough to have several eateries open of late, and so far I’ve had a chance to hit up a few.

The first one I discovered is a little barbecue place in the same strip mall as my barbershop. I smelled smoke one day after a trim and followed the aroma to Island BBQ. It’s fun, different, friendly and definitely worth visiting when you need a brisket fix. A trip to the barber rarely tastes this good.

In downtown Fernandina on Centre Street is a new wine bar: The Decantery. The place has a big-city, upscale vibe. The idea is that you can purchase a ‘credit card’ and use credits for tastings from their wine dispenser. It’s a little too hip and fancy for my humble white T-shirt tastes, but worth an occasional trip.

The best new place is located a little off Centre Street on North Second, down by the docks in a former brothel. Sounds good already, right? The concept is Asian street food. Yeah, a little trendy, but they do an outstanding job. The name: Wicked BAO. The menu features Chinese steamed buns. Owner Nathalie is a Taiwanese native, so she knows a thing or two about these scrumptious noms, offered with a variety of fillings such as braised pork belly, bulgogi beef and more. They also serve noodles, ramen and rice dishes. I’m there for the buns, and, no, not the kind they used to offer in the brothel.

I promise to keep you updated on more new food venues as I try them out. Until then, try this recipe for beignets that’ll make you wish it was still Fat Tuesday.

Chef Bill’s Beignets

  • 3/4 cup warm water (90˚F)
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 3 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Powdered sugar as needed


  1. In the stand mixer bowl, mix the yeast and sugar with the warm water until it begins to foam.
  2. In another bowl, whisk eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla extract and salt. Pour into the yeast mixture.
  3. Add half the flour, and mix on medium for a minute, scrape down the sides and add remaining flour. Mix for 2 more minutes or until a soft sticky dough forms.
  4. Proof the dough for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
  5. Punch down, roll out on a floured surface to 1/3” thick and cut out 4” squares.
  6. Fry 350°F until golden brown. Shake in a bag with powdered sugar.

Until we cook again,

Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina Beach’s Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at [email protected], for inspiration and get Cheffed-Up!