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Amelia Islander

The Picnic Basket

Walking down the sunny side of Centre Street on a bright summer morning, I popped into The Picnic Basket to see what was new and catch up with Chef Stephanie Christopher. On the way in, I noticed her new “Sugar & Spice” menu displayed in the storefront and on the large chalkboard behind the counter. I couldn’t wait to try some of the new offerings and see what Chef Stephanie had cooking at The Picnic Basket.

As I headed toward the kitchen to say hello, one of my favorite delights beckoned to me from a retail cheese display along the wall. There, like a crowned queen on a throne of Manchego, Brie, and Stilton, sat Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam triple-cream cheese. You know where else you can find that in Fernandina Beach? Neither do I. I was ecstatic.

Walking in from Centre Street, the small storefront opens up into a delightful café that feels airy and full of light, like a space transplanted from a French countryside. Inside there is seating for service and a deli counter filled with fresh salads and pastries. And popping out of the kitchen a half step behind her omnipresent smile was Chef Stephanie.

The smile is genuine and the serenity real because she loves being here and sharing the space with her customers. Locals may recognize Stephanie from Four Seasons Bistro, which she owns and continues to operate with her husband, Michael Walden. After a busy dinner service and a brief night’s sleep, she’s the first one in at The Picnic Basket in the morning as she lays the foundation for her next culinary adventure.

Most recently, Chef Stephanie has put her stamp on the Picnic Basket with her “Sugar & Spice” menu. The menu reflects her breezy but composed style, blending beautiful ingredients with a lifetime of travel and experience. On this stop, I ordered the Pesto Chicken Club Sandwich and the TPB Veggie Wrap, along with a couple of salads to-go to share with some friends at the beach.

The Pesto Chicken Club is a show stopper: grilled chicken on a toasted potato roll with house-made pesto, fresh lettuce and tomato, crispy bacon, and Swiss cheese. The chicken breast was tender and juicy, and the pesto and Swiss provided the perfect creamy texture with the crisp vegetables. The veggie wrap had the entire garden in it, with fresh avocado and feta drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette in a flour tortilla. This was the perfect warm weather beach food, refreshing and delicious. In addition to the café, wines, craft beers, and specialty foods available, The Picnic Basket also provides first-class catering, as Stephanie continues to grow her business in the community, moving into a bright tomorrow.

The Picnic Basket also makes a lovely place for coffee and homemade scones. It is open Monday through Saturday at 9 a.m., and lunch is available from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. You will also love working with Stephanie for all of your catering needs, from weddings to corporate luncheons and family reunions. The Picnic Basket is located at 503 Center Street. Stop in and see what’s cooking.