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

barbecue

Food truck news: rally, new wheels and a restaurant!

TruckARooEventLogoAnother food truck rally is rolling into downtown Wilmington. Meantime, chef Keith Rhodes of well-known Catch restaurant is working on another food truck, and yummy Mex food truck La Bella Airosa is so successful it’s adding a restaurant to its food truck business!

Five food trucks are scheduled to compete in the third Truck-A-Roo, an event that lets diners vote for their favorite food truck.

Truck-A-Roo organizer Pipeline Event Management of Wilmington announced the latest date, scheduled 4 to 8 p.m. Nov. 2, 2013, at 101 N. Front St. in downtown Wilmington.

As with the previous two Truck-A-Roo rallies, the first in November 2012 and the second in June 2013, diners purchase a “sample ticket,” which costs $12 in advance or $15 at the gate. Ticket holders may try fare at each truck and then vote for their favorite taste.

The public needn’t purchase a ticket to attend Truck-A-Roo. Admission to the event, which includes beer sales and live bands, is free. Attendees who do not have tickets may purchase food from each truck.

Flaming Amy's Sacred Burrito Bus owner Jay Muxworthy taking first prize at the first Truck-a-Roo.

Flaming Amy’s Sacred Burrito Bus owner Jay Muxworthy taking first prize at the first Truck-a-Roo.

Participating trucks are Catch The Food Truck, The Patty Wagon burgers, Truck-a-Roo champ Flaming Amy’s Sacred Burrito Bus, Tacos El Nene and multi-award-winning Poor Piggy’s BBQ.

Look for a new food truck on the horizon!

Catch owner/chef Keith Rhodes is promising “hot chicken” and “sexy wings” on his approaching Wing Star food truck. The bright orange truck’s slogan is “Party Like a Wing Star!” Rhodes reported that he is still upfitting the truck, which he said is “coming together.” He has not announced a debut date.

Some restaurants have jumped on the food truck trend for catering. P.T.’s Olde Fashioned Grille is among them. The local burger chain’s truck is “used exclusively for parties, corporate events, private events, and lunch at the office. This food trailer is fully functional to cook our famous burgers, chicken sandwiches and fries on site!” according to the P.T.’s website.

Other trucks have inspired new restaurants. Recently, the owners of two trucks named La Bella Airosa purchased the 3500 N. Kerr Ave. building that once housed Pearl’s Seafood and Catering.

With around 7,000 square feet, the brick-and-mortar restaurant is large enough for 150 people, said Erik Romero, who operates the La Bella Airosa trucks with his parents and two brothers.The restaurant, of the same name as the trucks, will allow the family to expand the menu and offer more of La Bella Airosa’s current menu favorites such as tamales, which are served on Friday. Get there early, as service starts at 11 a.m. and the tamales are usually gone by 2 p.m., Romero said.

Chef Keith Rhodes is getting his Wing Star wheels rolling (Photo by Wing Star).

Chef Keith Rhodes is getting his Wing Star wheels rolling (Photo by Wing Star).

“Our speciaty is making everything from scratch: handmade tortillas, sauces homemade, everything pretty much fresh,” Romero said.

The mobile units will continue to operate when La Bella Airosa the restaurant opens in a few months, perhaps before the year’s end, Romero said.

One La Bella Airosa truck serves lunch and dinner in a parking lot on north Market Street, between Lullwater Drive and New Bern Street. The truck stays there late into the night on weekends.

The other truck parks near Wilco Hess and Intrepid Hardward on U.S. 117, near the N.C. 210 intersection at Rocky Point., Romero said.

The Romeros hail from the town of Pachuca, in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo. The windy town’s nickname is La Bella Airosa, or The Windy Beauty, Romero said.

Posted on by lizbiro in barbecue, Chefs, Downtown, downtown Wilmington, Food trucks, Midtown Wilmington, Uptown Wilmington Leave a comment

Wilmington food fest scene is cooking!

Wilmington food festivals are quickly gaining fans, convincing event organizers to start planning the next party as soon as the current one ends.

The inaugural Taste of Wrightsville Beach food and drink festival happened in a downpour on Oct. 27, 2012. Still, a few hundred people attended. Founders began talking about the following festival even before last year’s had ended. Key to discussions was finding an indoor/outdoor venue.

MarineMax boat dealer and service supplier hosts this year’s Taste of Wrightsville Beach on Oct. 12, according to the festival website.

Sixteen restaurants provided tastings at the 2012 event. As many are expected this year along with an equal number of beer or wines. Participants compete for a People’s Choice award as well as a Best in Show winner selected by a panel including culinary professionals.

Food and drink purveyors may still sign up to serve at Taste of Wrightsville Beach 2013. Tickets to attend are for sale online, too. The advance price, available until Oct. 5, is $50 and includes admission and one tasting from each food, beer and wine vendor. Additional full-pour drinks may be purchased at the event.

Tickets cost $75 after Oct. 5.

The first annual Wilmington Wine and Food Festival downtown last May also drew crowds.

The second annual festival is scheduled May 3 and 4 at Bellamy Mansion. Expect a grand wine event; champagne and beer brunch; cocktail contest; and VIP pig-pickin’ with a local restaurant barbecue sauce competition. Wine dinners featuring guest chefs working with area talent, wine tastings and other food and wine-related celebrations are planned in the days before the festival.

Watch for a Sept. 18 wine event that will kick off wine and food-related fundraisers scheduled to benefit festival development.

Posted on by lizbiro in barbecue, dinner specials, downtown Wilmington, Food festivals, Restaurants, Wrightsville Beach Leave a comment

A new Wilmington food truck

Some Wilmington food truck operators, including a new set of wheels hitting the road in March, have united to create a commissary from which they may all work.

Blount’s Street Bistro, which rolls out international street food in March, joins Poor Piggy’s BBQ, Chicken, Ribs and The Patty Wagon burger truck at the former Dinner A-Go-Go meal preparation store, 5424 Oleander Dr., Suite 1, said Blount’s Street partner Paul Kern.

The commissary idea began with Poor Piggy’s owner Ed Coulbourn, who pursued the Dinner A-Go-Go location for the group kitchen, Kern said. Dinner A-Go-Go operated briefly in the early 2000s. At the time, such shops where home cooks could prep meals with which to fill their refrigerators popped up all over the country. Read more…

Posted on by lizbiro in barbecue, Food trucks Leave a comment

Wilmington rib fest this summer!

Three-year-old Good Vibes Brewing has just finished what co-owner Paige Snow deemed the beer maker’s best year ever, and 2013 is shaping up to be another winner with the company sponsoring a grand rib festival in Wilmington this summer.

Snow and partner Slade McPhearson’s barbecue backgrounds convinced the pair to work with Greensboro’s AKA Entertainment and Media to produce Port City Rib Fest Aug. 9-11, Snow said.

Good Vibes and AKA are nailing down a location for the event, which will include nationally recognized rib chefs in a rib cooking competition. Read more…

Posted on by lizbiro in barbecue, downtown Wilmington, Food festivals, ribs Leave a comment

Saloon coming to Market Street

A major Charleston, S.C.-based restaurant group will bring one of its stores to Wilmington this year, and more of the company’s concepts might follow. Charleston Hospitality Group’s Market Street Saloon will fill former Sticky Fingers, 5044 Market St. Read more…

Posted on by lizbiro in barbecue, Midtown Wilmington, New restaurants, Restaurants Leave a comment

Pulled pork BBQ coming to Leland

“This is our cooker, the Mercedes of cookers,” David McCall says of the giant steel box in the middle of the budding dining room at Duke’s Old South BBQ in Leland.

McCall speaks with the authority of a seasoned pitmaster, but Duke’s is the architect’s first foray into the food business.

McCall and his wife, Bo McCall, decided to fire up the smoker when the recession cut into David McCall’s architectural profits.

The couple’s plans are welcome news in the Cape Fear region, where barbecue lovers often bemoan the area’s lack of great barbecue restaurants.

Find out more, including when this restaurant is slated to open, in my full report for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.

Posted on by lizbiro in barbecue, Brunswick County, New restaurants, Restaurants Leave a comment

Rx Restaurant opens on Castle Street

Chef James Doss, BBQ, slaw and hushpuppies at Rx.

When Rx Restaurant and Bar opened for a trial run Sunday night, chef James Doss stacked the dining room with the toughest critics in Wilmington. He invited the city’s best cooks, names like Catch’s Keith Rhodes, Cameo 19 Hundred’s Kirsten Mitchell, Yo Sake’s Josh Woo and Manna’s Kyle Lee McKnight.

“Maybe I’m crazy,” Doss said with his signature maniacal laugh just hours before the doors opened.

Fearless is more like it. Before Well before Rx opened to the public Tuesday, Doss and his business partner/longtime friend Josh Novicki busted into the Port City food scene. Read all about it in my report for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.

 

 

 

Posted on by lizbiro in barbecue, Downtown, downtown Wilmington, Local food, New restaurants, Restaurants, Uncategorized Leave a comment

Hog roasting with ‘Top Chef’

Left to right, Eggleston, Mendelsohn and McKnight, have been up all night cooking an Ossabaw hog for Mendelsohn's Class is in Session D.C. fundraiser.

When Bravo TV’s new, upcoming show “Life After Top Chef” airs, look for a Cape Fear cook in the mix.

Wilmington’s Kyle Lee McKnight today helps nationally known ethical farming advocate Bev Eggleston roast an Ossabaw hog during Washington, D.C.’s Class is in Session, a fundraiser benefitting  the Good Stuff Gardens Culinary Scholarship.

Season 4 “Top Chef” competitor Spike Mendelsohn is a Class is in Session organizer and a “Life After Top Chef” star.  The show, air date to be announced, follows some of the most popular “Top Chef” contestants to document their careers and culinary adventures since appearing on the cooking competition program.  

“Life After Top Chef” cameras roll as Eggleston and McKnight fire the Ossabaw.

McKnight also cooks today with Eggleston at D.C.’s Sweetlife Festival, which celebrates local, organic food. Eggleston is supplying 500 pounds of pork and 200 chickens. Pork comes from hogs raised by Duplin County farmer Willie Starling. Starling rears pigs for Eggleston’s EcoFriendly Foods , which supplies humanely raised, pastured meats from small, family farms.

Roasted root vegetables and coleslaw McKnight made with vegetables from Cottle Organics in Rose Hill will accompany the meat. 

A longtime supporter of local, organic, sustainable farms, McKnight has worked with Eggleston before, tapping EcoFriendly Foods for pork McKnight used in dishes he served while working as Circa 1922‘s executive chef.

Lately, McKnight has been competing locally in Fire on Dock, part of a statewide cooking competition, and hinting that soon he’ll be manning stoves at a new Wilmington restaurant, the address and owner of which have yet to be revealed. The project’s working name is Swim with the Fish.

Eggleston’s work with sustainable family farms has been featured in Gourmet, the Wall Street Journal, Village Voice and in writer Michael Pollan’s book “The Omivore’s Dilemma.”

 

 

 

Posted on by lizbiro in barbecue, Local food, New restaurants, Restaurants, ribs, Uncategorized Leave a comment

Best of Wilmington Restaurant Week

“This, this, this and this. That and that, plus some of this, and maybe this and most certainly that and that,” is probably how the collective Wilmington foodie mind is thinking this Restaurant Week.

Running through March 28, Encore magazine’s Restaurant Week is the time to sample some of the Port City’s best dishes at unbelievably low prices.

So what are the must-haves among the many?

For sure, Mixto chef Trinity’s Hunt’s crispy barbecue pork spare ribs, bone-clinging but tender and just spicy enough.

Hunt also impresses with his knack for layering textures and flavors, which is bound to shine in his “crisp fried” Banks Channel flounder with roasted red pepper stone-ground polenta, organic spinach and spicy roasted poblano vinaigrette, all dusted with queso fresco.

Mixto offers three courses for $25, as does The Eat Spot, where some of Wilmington‘s best refried black beans land with house-smoked pulled pork, pico de gallo, jalapenos and sour cream on white corn tortilla chips for nachos.

The Eat Spot chef Jason Godwin also features his signature SBLT & Grits: grilled shrimp on a toasted Kaiser bun along with applewood bacon, lettuce and roasted tomato dressing. The sandwich is served with cheddar cheese “grits.” The cooked grits are cooled, cut into sticks and deep-fried to resemble French fries.

On his $35, three-course Restaurant Week special, Godwin offers pan-seared duck breast over a ragout of mushrooms, caramelized onions & spinach with mustard-herb sauce.

End with Godwin’s sweet potato bread pudding, light and fluffy thanks to it’s biscuity base.

Spinaci con prosciutto at Caffe Phoenix.

Caffe Phoenix’s bread pudding is featured on its $15, three-course lunch menu, as is the restaurant’s famous spinaci con prosciutto pasta dish.

Chef Carson Jewell is back in the Phoenix kitchen, good news especially for flounder lovers. He pairs the buttermilk-battered, fried fish with hoppin’ john to which Jewell adds braised collards.

I always think of Caprice Bistro as the Restaurant Week big dog. Its $25, three-course menu is mind-boggling in its authentic bistro array and abundance. What’s more surprising is that French chef Thierry Moity and his wife, Patricia, offer a $25, three-course, prix fixe menu every night at Caprice Bistro, so no worries if you miss Restaurant Week.

Chef’s food is among Wilmington’s most reliable, but especially noteworthy are pork cheeks; Waterzooi, a seafood stew in herb cream sauce, and housemade macarons.

Crab and lobster cakes have been on Aubriana’s menu since the restaurant opened in fall 2008. The enduring dish is among offerings on the shop’s $30, three-course list. The pan-seared cake made with jumbo lump crab meat and cold water lobster comes with sweet chili aioli and pineapple curry cream sauce.

Get chef Alex Succop’s double-chocolate peanut butter pie, and you’ll have enough to enjoy and enough to take home. The tall, fluffy peanut butter and cream cheese filling is set between an Oreo cookie crust and bittersweet chocolate ganache. This is not the dense, knock-your-worst-enemy-over-the-head-with-it peanut butter pie found at too many restaurants.

Another super Restaurant Week deal is The Fortunate Glass’ $28, three-course, small plates spread, each course paired with wine.

Chef Karel Blaas knows soup, and one of the courses is butternut squash soup matched with Talbott Kali Hart chardonnay from Monterey, California. The wine bar’s popular truffled mushroom pizza, heady with the aroma of truffle oil, joins Caldora montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Abruzzi, Italy

Speaking of butternut squash, it shows up for Restaurant Week in Thai Spice’s butternut squash Panang curry, the squash mingled with fresh basil, broccoli, carrots, zucchini and the diner’s choice of meat.

And sit down for this Restaurant Week special: Thai Spice’s four-course lunch costs just $15 per person.

Posted on by lizbiro in bacon, barbecue, dinner specials, downtown Wilmington, French, lunch specials, ribs, Wilmington Restaurant Week, wine bar Leave a comment