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

Cooking to win

What is it about cooking that fires the human competitive spirit?

Backyard burgers pit neighbor against neighbor. Co-workers line up chili-filled crockpots at lunchtime. Homemakers fill county fair tables with their mothers’ and grandmothers’ jam recipes — one-upped as far as the current generation is concerned.

Even professional chefs, after pleasing diner after diner night after night, seek title to show that their sears, sautes, roasts and bakes are the best.

Thirteen Wilmington-area chefs are among 16 pro cooks competing in the 2013 Fire on the Dock cooking contest at Bluewater Waterfront Grill. Using a secret ingredient, from North Carolina, revealed just before cooking begins, chefs face off in weekly single-elimination matches leading up to the last showdown April 3.

Diners, alongside culinary and guest judges, rate each dish to determine who moves on to the next round.

Four such regional contests across North Carolina culminate in a final four to pick a statewide winner later this year.

Some of Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach’s most popular chefs are in the battle, namely 22 North‘s Brent Poteat, Cameo 19 Hundred‘s Kirsten Mitchell, YoSake‘s Josh Woo and Rx‘s James Doss. All but Poteat entered the 2012 contest, with Mitchell being the only Wilmington cook to make the Fire on the Dock 2012 final four.

Chef Andy Hopper, then at Chefs 105 in Morehead City, took the title.

Other 2013 contestants’ names are lesser-known around Wilmington. Former Phun Seafood Bar chef Shane Tyner represents his new kitchen, King Neptune at Wrightsville Beach. Scott Grimm steps up for Dockside.

Who will leave the contest still hungry for validation? Probably every competitor. When it comes cooking, does the contest ever end?


Posted on by lizbiro in Fire on the Dock, Restaurants Leave a comment

Bacon jam for the soul

Rx bacon jam around a pimento cheese and fried green tomato stack.

One of the best things I’ve put in my mouth this year was bacon jam that Rx Restaurant & Bar serves with its housemade pimento cheese. The sweet, sticky dab of brown richness on the plate filled my mouth with smooth bacon flavor.

That jam is an example of why after just five months of operation Rx has claimed a significant place on Wilmington’s dining scene.

But Rx’s climb is not just about food.

Tonight, when the restaurant serves a menu of full of its contemporary spins on homey Southern fare, it will be aiding Superstorm Sandy victims and the budding Wilmington Wine and Food Festival.

Ten dollars from each $85 ticket will benefit American Red Cross efforts to help the storm’s victims. A portion of remaining proceeds will fund the first ever Wilmington Wine and Food Festival scheduled May 19 at May 19, at St. Thomas Preservation Hall.

This evening’s Rx menu is a mouthwatering feast featuring local foods: butternut squash soup with duck confit; quail alongside creamed collards; bison short ribs with parsnips, carrots and celery root; a moon pie prepared with Frangelico.

Besides supporting good causes and local farms, including Cottle Organics in Rose Hill, Nature’s Way in Hampstead and Red Beard Farm in Castle Hayne, Rx is showing off chef Scott Grimm of Wrightsville Beach’s Dockside restaurant.

Grimm, who joins Rx chef Jon Kurzen and chef/owner James Doss tonight in the Rx kitchen, manned stoves with Doss years ago at Wilmington restaurants. Both men later went on to work under Charleston, S.C., favorite-son chef Sean Brock of much-applauded McCrady’s and Husk.

Grimm’s crab and corn chowder just won a Best in Show award at the Oct. 27 inaugural Taste of Wrightsville Beach food and wine festival.

Doss also is helping to arrange the Wilmington Wine and Food Festival along with other businesses, including Wilmington Wine and Jester’s Java, both of which, like Rx, have taken a chance on the emerging east Castle Street downtown neighborhood.

Doss and business partner Josh Novicki renovated the former Hall’s Drug Store, 421 Castle St., at 5th Avenue, to create Rx, where Doss tends a rooftop garden that provides the restaurant with herbs and produce. Despite a recent shooting on Castle Street’s east end, fans are still flocking to these businesses and supporting the area.

I love food, and I love wine, great beer, cocktails, the whole culinary shebang, but what I love even more are the people behind all the great food and drink businesses that are making Wilmington a topnotch culinary destination. Places like Rx  not only fill our bellies but also feed our souls.

To book tonight’s Chef’s Tasting Menu and Wine Pairing, call Rx at 910-399-3080. Juice Wine Purveyors and Choice Specialty Wines are donating some wines for the event. Wines on the menu will be available for purchase by the bottle.


Posted on by lizbiro in bacon, dinner specials, Downtown, downtown Wilmington, New restaurants, Restaurants, Uncategorized 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

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

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

Hops Supply Co. pub opens

LM Restaurants’ new Hops Supply Co. is open and focused on craft beer, but the pub takes Wilmington into a new wine direction.

Along with suds, Hops, 5400 Oleander Drive, features wine served from kegs, LM spokeswoman Mindy Stroupe said.

Wine kegs are nothing new in California, but they’ve reached major U.S. cities only over the past two or three years, said Chris Thompson, a Cape Fear region wine consultant for wine wholesaler The Country Vintner.

Serving wine from anything but a bottle may be off-putting to oenophiles, but Thompson, also a certified sommelier, said wine tapped from kegs is as good as that poured from bottles. Learn more about these kegs and Hops Supply Co. in my full report for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal. You can also find out more about the Hops Supply Co. menu in an article about how the company develops its menus.

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

Islands Fresh Mex Grill grows

The tough economy has battered many restaurants’ bottom lines, but Wilmington’s Islands Fresh Mex Grill is experiencing growth, which come as a bonus to football fans this NFL season.

Islands owner Lucas Jones has added the space next door to Islands Fresh Mex Grill, 260 Racine Drive,  as another dining room for daily customers and private parties. The restaurant’s bar serves both rooms simultaneously.

Especially popular is Islands daily 5-10 p.m. $1 taco special, Jones said. On Sunday, $1 draft beers sweeten the taco deal. Plus, Jones noted, Islands just added Direct TV’s NFL Sunday Ticket, allowing the restaurant to broadcast every Sunday NFL football game.

Read more about Islands success in my report for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.

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

Cooking classes galore!

Making risotto on Culinary Adventures with Liz Biro's Top Chef Farmers Market Tour & Cooking Class.

Back to school is not just for kids. Sharpen your cooking skills with some of Wilmington’s best chefs.

Keith Rhodes of Catch restaurant and Phun Seafood Bar, Roberta Campani of La Gemma Fine Italian Pastries and Kyle Lee McKnight of Manna are among those sharing their skills during various classes at The Seasoned Gourmet, Lumina Commons Suite 105, 1930 Eastwood Road.

McKnight, rooted in local, organic ingredients, focuses on seasonal cooking Oct. 30 with dishes like speckled trout over root vegetable hash with crab, herbs and pecan bacon emulsion.

The $45 class, including food and wine, begins at 6:30 p.m. To reserve seats, call 256-9488 or check The Seasoned Gourmet website at www.theseasonedgourmet.com.

You can also work alongside McKnight during Culinary Adventures with Liz Biro’s Top Chef Farmers Market Tour & Cooking Class Saturdays mornings.

Rhodes, a past James Beard Award nominee, and Campani are among many chefs who regularly teach classes at The Seasoned Gourmet. Campani also offers cooking classes at La Gemma, 2323 S. 17th St.

Kyle Lee McKnight shows students how to plate like the pros during Culinary Adventures with Liz Biro's Top Chef Farmers Market Tour & Cooking Class.

Want to know more about wine and olive oil? Check out Taste the Olive at The Forum, 1125-D Military Cutoff Road.

Monthly, free olive oil classes discuss the history of olive oil, how it is made and how to taste the oil to determine quality. Wine classes range from tasting seminars to training sessions on how to judge wine. For dates and times, call 256-6457 or visit Taste the Olive’s website at www.tastetheolive.com/events.

Margaret Shelton, the woman who many Wilmington chefs consider their culinary mother, opens her Shelton Herb Farm, 340 Goodman Road in Leland, to foodies this fall for classes on cool-season gardening and how to use what’s grown.

Area chefs depend on Shelton’s knowledge to stock their larders. They turn to her when they want specialty herbs (she was the woman behind Wilmington’s microgreens trend a few years ago). They also call Shelton when they are not sure how to use an herb.

Classes for individuals and groups will include home gardens for salad-making and probably how to use herbs in vinegars and other preparations, Shelton said.

“Tentatively, plan for Wednesdays,” she said.

For details and booking, call 253-5964 or sign up for the Shelton Herb Farm newsletter at Sheltonhf1986@atmc.net. Read the newsletter, too, at www.sheltonherbfarmnc.com. Tours of the farm are also available.

Posted on by lizbiro in Cooking classes, downtown Wilmington, Farmers markets, Local food, Recipes, Restaurants Leave a comment

New sandwich shops stacking up

Food trend forecasts for 2012 have sandwiches popping up here and there, but notations about ethnic fusion sandwiches and fresh takes on grilled cheese in no way predicted the recent stack shop run Wilmington is experiencing.

Three new sandwich-centric places have opened in the past month. Yet another is scheduled to debut in mid-October when Capriotti’s unveils its first North Carolina location at Hanover Shopping Center, 3501 Oleander Dr., No. 2. Get the details in my report for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal…

Posted on by lizbiro in lunch specials, New restaurants, Restaurants Leave a comment

Serving it forward

Downtown Wilmington’s Manna restaurant, with the help of some of Wilmington’s best chefs, staged its second School of Fire chef competition Oct. 15, raising nearly $1,500 for Cape Fear Community College’s culinary program.

The light-hearted charity event produced some great dishes, earning awards for both of the chef teams that participated.

In the Uptown vs. Downtown contest, uptown chefs Keith Rhodes of Catch, Kirsten Mitchell of Cameo 19 Hundred and Tommy Mills of Little Pond Caterers took the People’s Choice award. Downtown chefs James Doss of Rx, Joshua Woo of YoSake and Rebeca Alvarado Paredes of Manna took home the trophy awarded by the “official” judges, myself, Freaker USA founder Zach Crain and actor/comedian Cullen Moss.

If you missed my live Twitter coverage, no problem. Here are some pictures from the contest.


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