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


Meet your food and the people who care about it!

A small selection of the 350 cheeses, many made in North Carolina, that Southern Foods sources for restaurants.

A small selection of the 350 cheeses, many made in North Carolina, that Southern Foods sources for restaurants.

A visit to the Southern Foods show in Greensboro this week reminded me of the huge amount of delectable food that is grown and produced in North Carolina, much of it on display in downtown Wilmington this weekend for the second Food For Thought festival.

No surprise that at the Southern Foods show I saw some of the chefs participating in Food For Thought, a farm-to-table-themed fundraiser that benefits New Hanover County libraries. Before North Carolina was a nationally known foodie mecca,  Southern Foods, founded in the mid-1950s, was delivering top-quality food to professional chefs, and that hasn’t changed.

Cape Fear-area chefs and restaurant owners I saw clustered around tables featuring fine N.C. cheeses and charcuterie.

One chef, Bobby Zimmerman, was behind a table showing off homegrown produce in two dishes he prepared: green curry shiitake mushroom soup and caramelized Brussels sprouts with a creamy tofu sauce. Zimmerman was Landfall Country Club’s executive chef before he became a corporate executive chef for Goldsboro-based Pate-Dawson Company/Southern Foods. Today, Zimmerman helps restaurants develop menus, recipes and systems, but he’ll  be back in Wilmington Sunday for Food For Thought.

Homegrown ingredients and the Wilmington chefs who use them are the highlights of the grand Nov. 3 Food For Thought tasting event at Cape Fear Community College’s new Union Station, downtown at the corner of Front and Red Cross streets.

Food For Thought will be a “gala brunch” where guests sample small-plate dishes, meet local farmers and food purveyors and browse informational displays about how North Carolina food is grown and where to find it.

“The whole event is to celebrate farm-to-market,” said Pat Bell, New Hanover County Library Foundation president and a Food For Thought organizer.

Scheduled 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., the $50-per-person Food For Thought is a fundraiser for the Cape Fear Community College culinary program and the New Hanover County Library.

Participating restaurants and chefs include Keith Rhodes of Catch, Charles Rousey of Hilton Wilmington Riverside, Tyson Amick of Aubriana’s, Brent Poteat of 22 North, Lee Grossman of Bento Box and Certified Master Chef Olivier Andreini of Landfall Country Club. Andreini took over the Landfall stoves when Zimmerman left.

Soon-to-open restaurants will be represented, as well, Bell said. On the list are downtown wine bistro Perkeo and uptown’s Pembroke’s, by the owners of downtown’s Rx, due to open possibly this weekend at The Forum.

Cape Fear Community College culinary school students will prepare and serve bites, as well.

The gathering will feature raffles for various prizes and food and cookbooks on the shelves at area libraries.

Tickets for kids age 12 and younger cost $25. Corporate sponsorships at the $250, $500 and $1,000 levels are available, too. Find tickets and information about sponsorships at New Hanover County Library branches.

This is the second Food for Thought, a biennial event first staged in 2011 at the county library near Landfall. “We wanted to involve the downtown as much as the uptown,” Bell said of the event’s venue this year.


Posted on by lizbiro in Chefs, downtown Wilmington, Farmers markets, Food festivals, Local food, Restaurants, Uncategorized Leave a comment

Top winemakers show off vintages at special dinner

The Second Annual Wilmington Wine and Food Festival is months away, but the event’s first fund-raising wine dinner happens 7 p.m. Sept. 17 at Rx Restaurant and Bar.

A portion of the $75-ticket price benefits the May 2-4 festival at Bellamy Mansion Museum of History and Design Arts, 503 Market St., festival organizers reported.

“This next festival is going to have even more food and wine, along with a few other events, to really showcase what makes this such a great foodie community,” key festival planner and Wilmington Wine owner Chrissy Absi Bonney said.

Rx chef/co-owner James Doss and team plan a multi-course menu to pair with four vintages from three top California winemakers: Arietta On The White Keys and Arietta Quartet, both by Screaming Eagle winemaker Andy Erickson; DeSante Old Vine sauvignon blanc by David DeSante, who also makes wines for Napa Valley’s Jaffe Estate; and Vineyard 7 & 8’s “7” cabernet sauvignon by Luc Morlet.

Each year, some proceeds from the Wilmington Wine and Food Festival benefit area non-profit organizations. The 2012 inaugural festival raised more than $3000 for Cape Fear River Watch and 1,000 People Who Care. Benefactors for 2014 will be Bellamy Mansion and Open Gate Domestic Violence Shelter.

Reservations are required to attend the wine dinner. Call Rx at 910-399-3080 or Wilmington Wine at 910-202-4749.

Posted on by lizbiro in dinner specials, Downtown, downtown Wilmington, Food festivals, Restaurants, Uncategorized, wine bar 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

Delish garden party for a good cause

Chefs from Catch restaurant, La Gemma bakery and The Seasoned Gourmet unite this eveningt, June 27, for a wine-and-dine fundraiser to benefit a garden serving people with special needs.

The five-course event named Grapes & Grub features casual fare prepared by Catch chef/owner Keith Rhodes aboard the restaurant’s food truck.

Pastry chef Roberta Campani will supply desserts from her La Gemma bakery in Wilmington.

A different “affordable” wine enhances each course, according to information from The Seasoned Gourmet, a Lumina Commons specialty foods market organizing Grapes & Grub to aid The Ability Garden at New Hanover County Arboretum.

Here’s the menu:

First Course: Compressed watermelon with basil paired with Sequin Sparkling Pinot Grigio 2011, California

Second Course: Shrimp gazpacho paired with Sean Minor Sauvignon Blanc 2011, California

Third Course: Spicy pork salad paired with Laurent Miquel Pere et Fils Rosè 2012, Languedoc, France

Fourth Course: Smoked beef tenderloin with blue cheese vinaigrette paired with Shooting Star Pinot Noir 2010, Lake County, California

Fifth Course: Chocolate mimosa cakes with raspberries paired with Shooting Star ‘Black Bubbles’ Syrah N/V, Lake County, CA

The $50-per-person dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. and ends around sunset at New Hanover County Arboretum, 6206 Oleander Drive. Guests should bring lawn chairs.

B & B, a duet offspring of the local band ‘shine, performs at the event.

Purchase tickets online, at the arboretum or at The Seasoned Gourmet, 1930 Eastwood Road.

Founded in 1999 by Friends of the Arboretum, the nonprofit Ability Garden provides professionally directed, nature-based activities to individuals of all ages facing various challenges and diagnoses. Organizers say that participants experience increased self-confidence and self-esteem, learn horticultural skills and take pride in volunteering in a community garden.

Posted on by lizbiro in dinner specials, Food festivals, Food trucks, Local food, Restaurants, Uptown Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach Leave a comment

Salute! New Wilmington Wine & Food Fest

A Wilmington wine and food festival in the works since 2012 officially takes off in May.

The inaugural Wilmington Wine & Food Festival scheduled for 2-5 p.m. May 19 at Saint Thomas Preservation Hall, 208 Dock St. in downtown Wilmington, according to the event’s organizers.

Restaurants will serve food samples paired with wine provided by various vendors. Attendees may vote for their favorite selections in a people’s choice contest. A professional judging panel will pick best-of winners, too. Vendors will sell wine at a discount. Live music is planned.

You may buy tickets now. Read more…

Posted on by lizbiro in downtown Wilmington, Food festivals, Restaurants, wine bar 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

Vote for your favorite food truck

Get a look at Flaming Amy’s new food truck this weekend when Wilmington food trucks compete in downtown’s first TRUCK-a-ROO 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3 at Riverfront Park.

Flaming Amy’s Sacred Burrito Bus will serve its full menu including burritos, a fried tofu burrito and Jamaican jerk chicken or tofu chimichangas with pineapple jalapeno salsa, Flaming Amy’s owner Jay Muxworthy reported.

Also participating are Poor Piggy’s barbecue truck, The Patty Wagon burger truck, Catch restaurant’s food truck and  The Cheesy Banker.

Diners may purchase $10 ballot cards to sample fare from each truck and then vote for their favorite. The truck earning the most votes will be named best in show.

Admission to TRUCK-a-ROO is free, and guests may purchase from participating trucks’ full menus.

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

Chefs battle tonight to feed the hungry

Who knew that those old “Iron Chef” shows Food Network used to broadcast so long ago — and in Japanese rather than English — would make such a mark on the Cape Fear region’s dining scene.

Whether for charity, fun or profit, food competitions are feeding Cape Fear area diners a steady diet of events.

Food Bank of Central & Eastern North CarolinaWilmington Branch hosts The Iron Skillet Chef Cook-Off 5:30 p.m. today at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Warwick Center.

Participating top Wilmington toques include James Beard Award nominee Keith Rhodes of Catch and Phun restaurants and Cameo 19 Hundred’s Kirsten Mitchell, winner of local cooking awards and recently recognized among the Southeast’s top new chefs by Food & Wine magazine.

Iron Skillet attendees get to watch chefs prepare healthy meals using only select ingredients. Guests will sample the fare as each chef battles for diners’ votes. Those votes will be in the form of a donation to the Food Bank. A $1 donation equals one vote.

All proceeds generated from Iron Skillet will support the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina at Wilmington. For each dollar donated, the Food Bank reported that it can provide five meals to those in need.

Music will be provided by Chris Bellamy. The evening’s emcee will be Tom Mills of Little Pond Catering.

No tickets are required to attend the event. Call 251-1465.

Read more about this great event in my full report for the Greater Wilmington Business Jounral.

Posted on by lizbiro in Food festivals, Restaurants Leave a comment

New fall food fest coming to Wrightsville Beach

Autumn’s inaugural Taste of Wrightsville Beach food and drink festival will showcase the town’s many restaurants while boosting fall tourism there, organizers say.

Small as it is, the shoreline town hosts more than a dozen places to eat and neighbors many others, any of which might show up for the 4-7 p.m. Oct. 27 event at the Robert’s Grocery parking lot in downtown Wrightsville Beach.

Ticket-holders roving the festival’s tasting stations will cast votes for a People’s Choice Award, Taste of Wrightsville Beach planner Lisa Weeks said. Professional judges will rate dishes, too, with honors going to the best.

Details about the event, how to volunteer and how restaurants can participate are in my full report for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.

Posted on by lizbiro in Food festivals, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Wrightsville Beach Leave a comment