I finished a draft of this column the day before reading Jeff Danner’s very scary and educational account of an overheating grill, and now all of my edits are informed by that reading. While I may never touch our grill again, I have a much less exciting story about a new grill in its inaugural summer.

We have a Wilmington Grill proudly displayed on our back porch and are using the summer to learn how to become grill masters. (And when I say we, I mean my husband is learning, and I am giving unsolicited advice over his shoulder.) Our grill is a Cape Fear series gas grill, and the main thing I know about it is that the stainless steel looks great on the flower-filled back patio. Plus, now that we’ve been homeowners for a whole year, we have realized that there are lots of little things that make us feel like super grown-ups – paying a mortgage, for instance, or parking in the garage. This grill is one of those things.

After reading Jeff’s story, though, I went back to the Wilmington Grill website and read up a little on our grill. Wilmington Grill is a small regional company, and a lot less known than the national brands, but infinitely cooler. The classic Cape Fear grill was designed to withstand the often-wild weather of the North Carolina Coast; even without a grill cover, they claim these grills will last a lifetime. The Cape Fear grill uses natural gas on two powerful burners, and features a large cooking area – we could conceivably grill squash slices on one side and pizza on another, using different temperatures to achieve the best result for both dishes. The practical cook in me also likes the grill’s two large side shelves, perfect for placing cutting boards or platters of burgers while I shell out fairly ignorant grilling advice.

We cook out at least once a week now, and are in that excitable stage of trying all the recipes and grilling all the things. So far we’ve done pizza, vegetables, fish, turkey burgers, and bratwurst. Before summer is over we’ll be grilling pound cake and peaches. And this past Father’s Day, we grilled simple beef burgers that I still dream about at night.

deacbillThat Sunday, we had my father-in-law over for dinner. As Deacon of our church, he was especially excited, having gotten to hold his baby grandson while giving the dismissal that concludes the Sunday service. So since I am forever correlating memorable occasions with food, these burgers will always remind me of his excitement (“best Father’s Day present ever”), my husband’s grill master pride, and of course our baby at four months – always the most important person in any room.

The burgers came from Fresh Market, which for us is one of the best places in town to buy fish, meat and cheese. Its proximity to our house may be chief of its many virtues, but a knowledgeable staff, good quality meat, and tantalizing side dishes make Fresh Market a grocery trip that is extra fancy, reserved for holidays and special occasions. While premade beef burger patties are available (with added ingredients like bacon and cheese), we opted for simple ground beef, which we seasoned with salt and pepper. Maybe it’s because I grew up with plain ground beef burgers, or maybe it really is that unadulterated beef is tastier for a quick weekend burger, but I’m not sure I would buy a flavored burger when plain ground beef is so good.

burgerAnother side that came from Fresh Market was sweet corn. In that week, 5 ears of sweet corn sold for $2. We cut the shucked cobs in half, buttered and seasoned several with Old Bay, and grilled them alongside the burgers. The finished burgers sported goat cheese, caramelized onions, and grainy German mustard. Weeks later, I am still thinking about this combination. How could I ever have another burger without onions and goat cheese?

So summer has started for us with a Wilmington Grill and meat and vegetables from Fresh Market. Since my fear of starting a grill fire is and always has been very real (Jeff, you’ll be my first call after the Fire Department), I’ll leave grill mastership to others and keep working on my humble cooking skills in the kitchen, with my less-scary oven.