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

Wilmington menu to aid typhoon victims in the Philippines

I was just considering a series about great Wilmington-area chefs and restaurants that fly under the radar when I saw a Facebook post from one of them that reminded me why I continue to write about restaurants. Readers may think it’s because I like to eat — and, of course, I do — but what keeps me most interested in the beat are the special people I meet along the way. Chef Danny Keegan of San Juan Cafe is one of them.

Keegan is a fantastic cook and a super-nice guy, as evidenced by the menu special he announced last night: Traditional Filipino cuisine will be served starting this Thursday and continuing through Saturday, with 10 percent of sales donated to Red Cross aid efforts in the typhoon-ravaged Philippines.

“This disaster hits close to home for us here at San Juan Cafe,” Keegan said on Facebook. “Our bartender, Katrina, has over a dozen family members who live on the Filipino island of Leyte in a province just outside of Tacloban. Please come out and help us support those who are in desperate need of assistance at this difficult time.”

The Filipino noodle dish pancit  and adobo, which usually involves meat, seafood and vegetables simmered in tangy soy garlic sauce, will both be on the menu this week, Keegan said.

San Juan Cafe tostones with caviar or tuna tartare are regulars on San Juan's menu.

San Juan Cafe tostones with caviar or tuna tartare are regulars on San Juan’s menu. (Photo courtesy of San Juan Cafe.)

Keegan opened San Juan Cafe, 3314 Wrightsville Ave., near Independence Boulevard, in 2010. He’s a passionate cook who strives to produce authentic Latin American cuisine, including that of this native Puerto Rico.

Trained at Johnson and Wales late Charleston, S.C., campus and an alumnus of various Key West and Cape Fear kitchens, Keegan has a knack with getting tostones (fried green plantains) just right, meaning crisp and light, and then crowning them with unexpected toppings, my favorite being caviar and cilantro-lime cream.

Duck two ways — tender confit and seared breast — arrives with caramelized onion demi-glace with soft arepas.

Knowing Keegan’s skill and heart, I can’t wait to see what he does with Filipino cuisine this week. Hope to see you there.

 

 

 

Posted on by lizbiro in Chefs, dinner specials, Midtown Wilmington, Restaurants Leave a comment

When chefs collide, what deliciousness!

Poke at Tamashii.

Poke at Tamashii. (Photo courtesy of Tamashii)

Wilmington restaurants come and go, but some cooks can’t stay away. Chef Eric Gephart is one of them. He used to run a much-loved seafood restaurant named Buoy 32 at Wrightsville Beach. After Buoy 32 closed, Gephart helped open and run downtown’s Mixto (closed til spring 2014). Next, he headed to Morrisville, where Gephart remains lead instructor at the The Chefs Academy. Tonight, he’s back in Wilmington cooking with friends at great Wilmington restaurant that flies under the radar.

Tamashii is a Masonboro Loop Road spot whose chef/owner Mark Scharaga sources local ingredients and sustainable seafood for traditional and unusual sushi on a mostly Asian menu that steps elsewhere with ceviche, poke and tartare, as well as eclectic entrees that speak to the way Scharage defines the restaurant.

“Tamashii, is a word that originates in Japan. In the simplest form it means “Soul,” Scharaga says at Tamashii’s website. ”This is essential to our chefs’ vision for the restaurant. We make food that comes from the soul of our being and the soul of the ingredients we use.”

Evidence of that arrives tonight (Nov. 9, 2013) when Scharaga and Gephart join forces for an Evening of Culinary Exploration, a five-course meal based on their shared imaginings. Each selection will be paired with wine or sake.

Tamashii is on Masonboro Loop Road, near Navaho Trail.

Tamashii is on Masonboro Loop Road, near Navaho Trail.

Gephart promises to bring back some Buoy 32-style delights; Scharaga will be behind the sushi bar crafting special noshes. On the menu are Hawaiian albacore with wasabi tempura and sweet red tobiko and a pork belly dish with ginger, Thai peppers and sweet potato mash. Oyster ice cream has been mentioned, too!

Josh Burris, a close friend of Gephart’s and a longtime Mixto cook who is now part of the team at Aubriana’s, one of Wilmington’s top restaurants, joins Scharaga and Gephart for the event.

The five-course meal costs $75. To make reservations, purchase tickets online or call Tamashii at 910-228-5576. Find the restaurant at 4039 Masonboro Loop Road.

Posted on by lizbiro in Chefs, dinner specials, Local food, Midtown Wilmington, Restaurants Leave a comment

A little wine, a lot of song

You can pair wine with food, but how do you pair wine with music? Rose with Pink Floyd? Blends with The Clash? Sparkling wine with “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”?

The Olive Cafe & Wine Bar owner Kymberlei DiNapoli will give musical matchings a go this afternoon when she co-hosts “Music Uncorked” on Wilmington radio station 98.3 FM, better known as The Penguin.

While The Penguin DJ Kim spins tunes by Tedeschi Trucks Band, DiNapoli will suggest sips for each song. I sampled one of the corks she’ll pop today, a Washington state Columbia Valley blend named The Ghost 413. Brooding, dark and rich, the mostly Cabernet Sauvignon blend, with some Merlot and Syrah seems perfect not only with Tedeschi Trucks’ Grammy Award-winning blues, but also a fine holiday dinner wine. So, have a notebook ready for some great wine tips on the show.

Hear “Music Uncorked” 1 to 2 p.m. today.

Find The Olive Cafe & Wine Bar at The Forum shopping center on Military Cutoff Road in Wilmington.

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

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

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

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

Pastry:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cold butter

2 tablespoons ice water

Topping:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup water

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 eggs

Glaze:

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

Warm up with some of Wilmington’s best soups!

Winter is just nippy enough on the North Carolina coast to think about soup after a fall or winter walk on the beach. Lots of places in the city make wonderful soups, many of which are on special during Encore Restaurant Week. Here are a few of my favorites.

Downtown and Monkey Junction’s Chop’s Deli locations offer hot soup every day, no matter the temperature. Selections may be as traditional as clam chowder or tomato soup or fresh takes on old ideas. For instance, one of today’s choices is Curried Surf & Turf Chowder. Chop’s is well-loved for its super cheesy, super rich Broccoli Cheese Soup. One of my past favorites was Meatloaf Mac & Cheese Soup.

In far north Wilmington, I’m crazy about Kornerstone Bistro for the kitchen’s wood-fired oven (pizza with soup! yum!). Lately, the spot has been offering Tomato Basil Soup and Roasted Red Pepper Soup, either perfect with Pizza Bianca (no tomato sauce).

Phun Seafood Bar's Duck Noodle Bowl. So yummy!

Phun Seafood Bar’s Duck Noodle Bowl. So yummy!

I love Asian soups, and downtown chef Josh Woo of YoSake really knows how to make broth sing with flavor. For this week’s Encore Restaurant Week menu, Oct. 23-30, 2013, Woo crafts Tomato Ginger Bisque and Lemongrass Vegetable Soup.

Uptown, chef Lee Grossman of Bento Box has an experienced hand with soups, too. His Hot & Sour Soup is lovely, but keep an eye out for specials such as crispy lobster dumplings in clear broth.

I recently sampled the most delicate but soothing simple egg drop soup with goji berries at Szechuan 132 in College Road’s University Landing Mall. If you like a white tablecloth Asian restaurant, don’t miss this little gem.

My absolute favorite soup of late is the Kai-Soi curry beef noodle soup at Asian Fusion Noodle House on New Centre Drive near Target.

Szechuan 132's Egg Drop Soup with gogi berries. Light but so warming.

Szechuan 132′s Egg Drop Soup with gogi berries. Light but so warming.

Other great soups and stews around town include the creamy seafood stew named Waterzooi at downtown’s Caprice Bistro. This week, Caprice is offering its stellar Boeuf Bourguignon as part of its $29.95 Encore Restaurant Week lineup. Nearby French cafe and wine bar Le Catalan serves delish Lentil and Sausage Stew this time of year.

I also adore, adore, adore the Duck Noodle Bowl I’ve had at downtown Wilmington’s Phun Seafood Bar.

These are just a tiny selection of the many wonderful soups available around Wilmington. Please share places where you have found others.

Posted on by lizbiro in Chefs, dinner specials, Downtown, downtown Wilmington, French, Midtown Wilmington, Monkey Junction, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Uptown Wilmington, Wilmington Restaurant Week Leave a comment

Rx beefs up the menu

The sign outside Rx last night read “pork belly” — in all caps — which was not unusual. That’s one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, trumped only perhaps by the kitchen’s crispy, Buffalo-sauced pig ears — or the bacon jam or the bacon vinaigrette or the pork chop or the pork ribs garnished with fried pork skins.

Pork rules Rx but last night was all about beef — namely marrow.

Marrow found in shank bones is so rich that it has been called “meat butter.” Rx owner/chef James Doss got his hands on several of the bones thanks to the arrival of nearly 500 pounds of lovely beef from a pasture-raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free Hereford/Angus cross from sustainable farming loyalist Bev Eggleston of EcoFriendly Foods.

Doss has various plans for the 21-day aged meat delivered this week. He and his cooks may pound some for chicken-fried steak. Four-ounce sirloins might accompany eggs at Sunday brunch. Of course, burgers are planned. Doss is further aging rib-eyes, and he’s considering extra-special preparations for tenderloin.

That all sounds delicious, but when Doss mentioned marrow bones my metabolism fired. I figured the faster I moved through Tuesday, the faster dinnertime would arrive. I grew up eating marrow bones at my parents’ table. I was long due for a fix.

Local oysters and boiled N.C. peanuts before beef marrow at Rx on downtown Wilmington's Castle Street.

Local oysters and boiled N.C. peanuts before beef marrow at Rx on downtown Wilmington’s Castle Street.

I landed at Rx around 8 p.m. After tucking into raw, local oysters from Hampstead’s Nature’s Way Farm & Seafood and a bowl of N.C. boiled peanuts garnished with cured ham, Doss presented roasted marrow set in rich brown broth and served alongside two meaty shiitake mushroom caps from Healing Earth Farm near Wilmington. Barely tart purslane balanced the dish’s savory riot.

Pulled from the bone and spooned up with a bit of the broth, the marrow was all creamy beef, melting butter and a bunch of umami at once. Each spoonful lasted but a moment on the tongue, yet I can still taste its deep flavor today.

Doss said he’ll get about 12 to 15 marrow bones from the beef load. The chef is still tweaking the presentation I sampled last night, but check for a marrow special on the Rx menu starting today. If you miss it, the dry-aged sirloin with roasted potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, green beans and blue cheese Mornay sauce is a fine substitute.

Find Rx Restaurant at Castle Street and 5th Avenue in south downtown Wilmington. Call 910-399-3080.

Roasted beef marrow bone with purslane and local shiitake mushrooms at Rx Restaurant.

Roasted beef marrow bone with purslane and local shiitake mushrooms at Rx Restaurant.

 

Posted on by lizbiro in Brunch, Chefs, dinner specials, Downtown, downtown Wilmington, Local food, Restaurants, ribs, Uncategorized Leave a comment

Fresh seafood, steamed or fried, to go

Fish eyes are bright and glassy, a sign of freshness, at Mike’s Seafood and convenience store on Market Street, which recently became Mike’s Seafood & Kitchen, meaning you can pop in for a plate to go.

Area fishermen this fall are stocking the market with local finfish favorites such as spots and croakers and, in coming weeks, mullets as well as clams, crabs, oysters and shrimp, but lobster, salmon, crayfish and snow crab legs are also sold. The raw seafood selection is broad.

Fried seafood sandwiches and plates, including combination platters, feature various fish and shellfish accompanied by two or more homey sides such as slaw, green beans, fried okra and corn on the cob. Patrons may also select seafood from the raw market for the “You Buy, We Fry” special priced by the pound.

Feras “Mike” Abdelhamid leased the 3114 Market St. store, at Covil Avenue, in January and by March had installed a fresh seafood market, store manager Tammi Anders said.

“When we started upfitting for raw seafood everybody thought were were going to cook, and then they were disappointed when we didn’t,” Anders said.

As a result, Abdelhamid added equipment and cooks, renamed the store Mike’s Fresh Seafood and Kitchen and launched a menu in August.

Steamed seafood is available, too, including grab-and-go steamed shrimp that have been chilled and boxed.

Mike’s offers a take-out menu only, but Anders said Abdelhamid may consider adding table seating if the menu is a big enough hit.

 

Posted on by lizbiro in Local food, lunch specials, Midtown Wilmington, Restaurants Leave a comment

Fall delights on Wilmington menus

Sometimes it feels as if autumn is nothing but a leadup to Thanksgiving Day pumpkin pie. As soon as summer temperatures drop down to fall, pumpkins become cool.

Port City Java stores in Wilmington are serving pumpkin muffins. The shop’s pumpkin pie shake contains chai tea, ice cream cinnamon and Irish cream syrups and pumpkin pie spice. Pumpkin pie latte blends espresso, steamed milk, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla and cinnamon syrups.

Coastal Cupcakes downtown and at Wrightsville Beach is asking customers to suggest fall flavor ideas for the October and November cupcake list. Pumpkin was the No. 1 vote recently at the company’s Facebook fan page.

Pumpkin is not the only flavor on fall menus.

Salad turnips from Black River Organic Farm, one of the vendors you'll find at the downtown Wilmington Riverfront Farmers Market that happens 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays April-December.

Salad turnips from Black River Organic Farm, one of the vendors you’ll find at the downtown Wilmington Riverfront Farmers Market that happens 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays April-December.

The annual Oktoberfest celebration has begun at downtown’s The German Café, at The Cotton Exchange. Oktoberfest specials available until Oct. 31 include a $10 lunch and dinner special of grilled bratwurst on a bun with sauerkraut, a side of warm German potato salad, a 10-ounce German draft beer and a slice of strudel.

Collard greens have made appearances on Kornerstone Bistro’s menu, which regularly taps local growers for ingredients. At area farmers markets, look for more greens and lettuces, muscadine grapes, late-season peaches and tomatoes and, my favorite ingredient this year, tender, little salad turnips.

The turnips have a mild bite that is delicious raw or cooked. My Culinary Adventures with Liz Biro Top Chef Farmers Market Tour & Cooking Class have been playing with the turnips. Recent dishes prepared during class include roasted pumpkin and salad turnip risotto and a salad blending salad turnip roots and greens with poached pears and a firm, Havarti-like goat cheese from Nature’s Way.

Fall also brings Encore Magazine Restaurant Week, happening Oct. 23-30. Forty-three Cape Fear-area restaurants will offer nightly specials throughout the period. One of my favorite restaurant week stops is Caprice Bistro, which usually offers three fantastic courses for just $25! Menus will be posted soon.

Posted on by lizbiro in Chefs, Cooking classes, Downtown, downtown Wilmington, Farmers markets, French, Local food, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Uptown Wilmington, Wilmington Restaurant Week Leave a comment