Oyster ice cream: A surprising scoop of American food history

“People actually ate this...It was once a big deal in Read more

Chocolate, ice cream and N.C. root beer!

In my favorite round, Battle Uncle Scott's Root Beer, Merrell, who runs the tapas restaurant and "cocktaileria" Circa 81 restaurant in Morehead City, prepared one heck of a riff on a Black Cow, that famous chocolate, ice cream and Read more

Cooking lessons learned at 2014 Fire on the Dock

As the contest moves into its final battle tonight, I'm thinking back to the ideas I got during the 2014 tournament, part of the statewide Competition Dining Series that ultimately crowns an overall North Carolina winner from four regional Read more

Southern Collards should be the new kale

Will collards be the new kale, darling of diners seeking farm-to-table fare? If the 2014 Fire on the Dock chef competition is any indication, maybe. Read more

Food touring in Carrboro with Taste Carolina

As I often say, "I'm eat up with it," and Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours fed my obsession quite well this past weekend. Read more


Food touring in Carrboro with Taste Carolina

When I’m not eating out, writing about restaurants and leading food tours in Wilmington, I’m dreaming about eating out, writing about restaurDashboardants and taking food tours in other cities. As I often say, “I’m eat up with it,” and Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours fed my obsession quite well this past weekend.

The company is based in North Carolina’s Triangle area, and it offers tours in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough as well as Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

I chose the Carrboro brunch tour, which visited the community’s farmers market and some interesting restaurants. I found a lot of delish stuff along they way, as you’ll see here. A list of links is below.

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Here are links to the places I mention in the slide show:

Neal’s Deli

Carrboro Farmers Market

Chapel Hill Creamery

The Pig

Chickenbridge Bakery

Sweetwater Pecan Farm

Al’s Burger Shack

Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe

Open Eye Cafe

Posted on by lizbiro in Bakery, Brunch, Farmers markets, Local food, Restaurants Leave a comment

Make cream puffs like a professional pastry chef

Who you calling a cream puff?

Delicate, airy and light as they are, those little round pastries that encapsulate cream are in no way weaklings. They’re among the most capable and dependable — and easy — elements of great cocktail and dinner parties, whether served as a savory or as a dessert.

Pate a choux filled with pastry cream for a classic cream puff.

Pate a choux filled with pastry cream for a classic cream puff.

I was reminded of this recently while helping out in the Hot Pink Cake Stand kitchen. Owner and chief pastry chef Jody Carmichael was preparing gougeres, pronounced “goo-ZHAIR” for a recent wine tasting at the downtown Wilmington bakery. The nibbles require the same dough used for cream puffs. It’s called “pate a choux,” pronounced “pat-a-shoo.” For gougeres, finely shredded Gruyere cheese is blended into the dough and sprinkled on top before baking.

Years ago, I read a book that described how a kitchen intern working in France was required to stir the pate a choux. In his memory, the task was difficult. No doubt, he faced a huge bowl. Home cooks needn’t panic at his experience. Stirring small batches takes little time and strength while still producing professional pastry chef results.

The process is simple.

Put butter and water, sometimes milk, into a saucepan. Heat until the butter melts. Stir in a near equal portion of all-purpose flour. Take the mixture off the heat and then add eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. The resulting dough is soft and silky. Drop or pipe spoonfuls onto a sheet pan and bake or freeze to bake off later.

Pate a choux recipes may call for small amounts of sugar. Mostly, the flavor is mild, allowing cooks to imagine all sorts of fillings, perhaps seafood salad, chocolate mousse or ice cream.

A 1970s-era Betty Crocker recipe box just like the one from my childhood. (Photo from http://wholeykale.blogspot.com/)

A 1970s-era Betty Crocker recipe box just like the one from my childhood. (Photo from http://wholeykale.blogspot.com/)

I feel in love with pate a choux as a child pulling recipes from a Betty Crocker recipe card box. One of my favorite recipes (because my mother liked it so much) was named Danish Pastry Puffs. Almond-flavored pate a choux gets spread atop a shortbread-like cookie crust and baked. Thin almond icing glazes the pastry and sprinkle of sliced almonds goes on top.

The pate a choux for this recipe became my go-to formula for cream puffs, which my mother loved filled with simple, sweet whipped cream and then completely covered with chocolate cream.


Danish Pastry Puffs


1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cold butter

2 tablespoons ice water


1/2 cup butter

1 cup water

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 eggs


1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 to 2 tablespoons warm water or milk

1/2 cup sliced almonds

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place 1 cup flour in medium bowl. Cut in 1/2 cup butter, using pastry blender (or pulling 2 table knives through ingredients in opposite directions), until particles are size of coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons water over mixture; toss with fork.

Gather pastry into a ball; divide in half. Pat each half into 12-by-3-inch rectangle, about 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
In 2-quart saucepan, heat 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup water to rolling boil; remove from heat. Quickly stir in almond extract and 1 cup flour. Stir vigorously over low heat about 1 minute or until mixture forms a ball; remove from heat. Add eggs; beat until smooth.

Spread half of the topping over each rectangle.

Bake about 1 hour or until topping is crisp and brown; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely.

In medium bowl, mix all glaze ingredients except nuts until smooth and spreadable. Spread over top of pastry; sprinkle with nuts.

Makes 10 servings.

Source: Adapted from a recipe by Betty Crocker.

Posted on by lizbiro in Bakery, Brunch, Chefs, downtown Wilmington, Ice cream, Recipes, Uncategorized Leave a comment

Bakeries set up at farmers markets

La Gemma is at Poplar Grove’s farmers market each Wednesday and downtown on Saturday.

Two Wilmington bakeries have dropped their retail sides but continue sales at area farmers markets, via special orders and to wholesale customers.

After four years in business, La Gemma Fine Italian Pastries ceased retail sales March 31 at its 2323 S. 17th St. store near New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Meantime, Sugar on Front closed its spot inside Old Books on Front Street, 249 N. Front St.

Find La Gemma today at the Poplar Grove Plantation farmers market, staged each Wednesday from April to December. La Gemma aso sells at downtown Wilmington’s Saturday Riverfront Farmers Market, open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the Saturday Carolina Beach farmers market, which starts May 11.

“Our family circumstances have changed requiring us to spend more time with our young children,” said Roberta Campani, who owns La Gemma with her husband, Jim Gannon.

La Gemma is for sale, but Campani continues to bake there, and customers may still call the shop at 910-338-1885 to place orders and register for upcoming cooking classes, Campani said.

Sugar Island’s strawberry cheesecake.

A burgeoning wholesale business convinced Sugar on Front owner Samantha Smith to move her 3-year-old operation to the former A Sweet Life bakery, 206 N. Topsail Drive, Surf City. As a result, Smith renamed the bakery to Sugar Island. For wholesale and custom orders, call 910-254-1110. Read more…

Posted on by lizbiro in Bakery, Farmers markets, Local food Leave a comment

Bakery coming to Carolina Beach

The wife of late Carolina Beach chef and restaurateur Michael McGowan is continuing her husband’s practice of striving to serve a market hungry for good food.

Shelly McGowan maintains the Michael’s Seafood Restaurant she and husband opened in 1998 at a 1206 N. Lake Park Blvd. shopping strip in Carolina Beach. In mid-March, she said she plans to open Big Apple Bakery just a few doors down from Michael’s.

The all-takeout bakery that will serve bagels, breads, muffins, cookies, specialty cakes, coffee, among other treats, is based on full-service, from-scratch bakeries the McGowans grew up with in New England, Shelly McGowan said. Read more…

Posted on by lizbiro in Bakery, Carolina Beach, Restaurants, Uncategorized Leave a comment

Chapter 11 for Sweet & Savory company

The company that owns popular Sweet and Savory restaurant and its new sister unit, The Pub at Sweet and Savory, both near Wrightsville Beach, has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but the owner emphasized that the businesses are not closing.

“We’re planning on being here for a long, long time,” Robert Shapiro said Thursday. “The future looks very bright.”

“This is what we’re doing to ensure our survival,” Shapiro said, emphasizing that the filing is a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows firms to reorganize debt and emerge financially healthy and able to pay creditors, as opposed to a Chapter 7 filing, which requires firms to sell off assets in order to pay creditors.

Read my full report about the bankruptcy in the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.

Shapiro was upbeat about both restaurants, but especially The Pub at Sweet and Savory (2012 Eastwood Road), which he said has nailed a stellar menu comparable to Wilmington’s fine-dining restaurants. The original Sweet and Savory is next door at 1611 Pavilion Place.

His favorite dish puts seared diver scallops and crispy pork belly atop pureed parsnips with bacon Mission fig jam, asparagus tips and house potato chips crisped in duck fat. Available on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the dish cost $18, but on special for just $15 on Thursday nights.

The pub also offers a 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. brunch every Saturday and Sunday.

See the full menu at http://www.thepubatsweetnsavory.com. Call 910-679-8101.

Posted on by lizbiro in Bakery, Restaurants, Uptown Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach Leave a comment

Gluten-free sweets at new bakery

Uprising specializes in baked good to suit people with dietary restrictions.

With the United States being the biggest buyer of gluten-free foods and the market projected to reach $2.6 billion in sales this year, it’s no wonder Wilmington’s newest bakery is touting gluten-free.

Take-out or eat-in is available at Uprising, which also taps into other good-for-you food trends. Local, organic and vegan join the bakery’s gluten-free selections.

“I just did our first vegan, gluten-free shower cake,” Bree Peterson-Resnick said.

Peterson-Resnick has a great story. Get the scoop and find out where this bakery is located in my full report for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.

Posted on by lizbiro in Bakery, downtown Wilmington Leave a comment