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

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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

Just a few of Liz’s favorite 2013 food pictures!

Posted on by lizbiro in Chefs, downtown Wilmington, 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

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

Happy Birthday Katy’s

A big burger welcomes diners to Katy's.

A big burger welcomes diners to Katy’s.

In the commerce mishmash lining Wilmington’s busy College Road, one restaurant stands out not just for its bright, mustard-colored awning and the giant double-cheeseburger sculpture holding court by the door.

The burger signals the fun, food and friendliness Katy’s Grill & Bar has been serving for 30 years. That this little restaurant always feels like home is thanks to its owner Katy Monaghan.

The Wilmington restaurant veteran has been a force behind some of the city’s most beloved dining spots, including The Original Salt Works on Oleander Drive near Bradley Creek.

Today, Monaghan stages a huge birthday party for Katy’s. She’ll serve a buffet from 5 to 7 p.m.  Sliders, seafood and Katy’s popular wings are on the menu. Live music starts 4 p.m. The first act, Cosmic Groove Lizards, is a band whose members attend Monaghan’s church. Foosball, corn hole and ping pong are planned, too.

The celebration will no doubt be as down to earth as every other day at Katy’s. Folks will eat and drink — specials include Jell-O shots — hoot and howl, engage in back slapping and just hang out. Such a huge crowd is expected that Monaghan has arranged for parking attendants and added spaces at parking lots neighboring Katy’s.

Katy Monaghan

Katy Monaghan

An owner who truly cares about her customers, Monaghan’s kind and genuine spirit is evident each time she meets someone.

“I love the fellowship,” Monaghan said of the restaurant business.

Monaghan was 16 years old when her father moved her family from Illinois to Wilmington for work.

“I sold my saddle to buy a surf board,” Monaghan said while sipping a beer at the Katy’s bar.

The beach lover’s first job was at Wrightsville Beach’s late Marina Restaurant, which in the 1970s and 1980s was on Causeway Drive. A friend from Monaghan’s mother’s garden club got her the job. Monaghan started as a waitress. Six years later, she was the manager, a climb she made while working on her college biology degree.

Monaghan’s love of restaurant work trumped her interest in biology. By her early 20s she was married and persuading her husband, a teacher, to get into the restaurant business.

They opened a burgers and hot dogs place named Salt Works because of a historic salt production site nearby.

The marriage didn’t last, but Salt Works did as did Monaghan’s love of the food business. Salt Works inspired a different owner to develop Salt Works II, still on Wrightsville Avenue, in a building where Monaghan operated a restaurant named Pony Express. She also was involved in the creation of Wrightsville Beach favorite Causeway Cafe. Today, Katy’s is her sole restaurant.

She describes the restaurant business as a round-the-clock stressor that “sucks you dry.” With so many chain restaurants added to the College Road mix since Katy’s opened, profits have dropped. No matter. Monaghan considers the bigger payoff the people she meets at Katy’s, whether they’re regulars or unexpected celebrities including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver and Julia Roberts.

A joyful heart, an easy manner and an eye toward the future are what it takes to survive in the restaurant business, Monaghan said. After all this time, Katy’s remains a work in progress, no matter the odds. When a car drove through Katy’s, Monaghan made the restaurant’s slogan “not just another hole in the wall.” When diners’ tastes shifted to healthy foods, Monaghan added a salad bar and veggie burgers, although fried soft shells crabs (available now), fried pickles and fried green tomatoes remain her favorite menu items.

“It’s evolving,” Monaghan said of her restaurant.

“I hope it stays Katy’s.”

Posted on by lizbiro in dinner specials, Midtown Wilmington, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Wrightsville Beach Leave a comment

Pub opens at Waterford

Tony’s N.Y. Pizza and Trattoria in the Waterford area of Leland has been closed for only a month, but, already, a pub is moving into the Cross Creek Commons shopping center location.

Halftime Sports Bar and Grill opened May 3 in the spot on U.S. 17 in front of Walmart, Halftime owner Charlie Almond said.

Almond previously operated Halftime Sports Café, 50 River Road SE in Belville. He closed that shop April 28 to move into Cross Creek Commons, where Halftime will have 4,500 square feet, more than twice the space of Almond’s former digs. Read more…

Posted on by lizbiro in Brunswick County, Leland, Restaurants Leave a comment

Jerry Allens gets a new look

Renovations happening at Jerry Allens Sports Bar in Wrightsville Beach will not only make the spot more comfortable but add family-friendly elements, too.

Owners Jerry Allen and Kelly Baucom are adding new windows, bathrooms, floors and furniture, as well as 11 60-inch flat-screen televisions. Another three 46-inch screens will host gaming options such as Xbox and Nintendo Wii.

“We 100 percent gutted the place, from the studs to the walls,” Baucom said.

Windows will bring in more natural light, booth seating has mostly replaced tables and chairs and owners are considering a few menu additions, namely lettuce wraps and a weekly Kids Night during which profits will benefit the local PTA, Baucom said. Read more…

 

Posted on by lizbiro in 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

More beer, burgers, seafood at Fish House Grill

New “gourmet” burgers and an expanded tap beer list are among changes at Wrightsville Beach’s Fish House Grill.

The 1410 Airlie Road restaurant’s Certified Angus Beef burgers include a new Reuben version on rye with kraut, Thousand Island dressing and Swiss cheese and a Hawaiian with prosciutto, smoked gouda and grilled pineapple, Fish House general manager Chris McCray said.

A black bean burger made in-house replaces the previous veggie burger, McCray said.

Eight beer taps have been added…Read more

Posted on by lizbiro in Restaurants, Wrightsville Beach 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