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.
Barrel-aging cocktails is a recent trend. Drinks sit in barrels for several weeks for the same reasons wine and distilled spirits are aged in barrels: The process mellows harsh edges and deepens flavors. Some charred oak barrels at Manna were supplied by Troy and Sons.
The cork comes out of Manna’s two-liter barrel of Topo Boulevardier, a blend of Carolina Whiskey, Campari, Vya Sweet Vermouth, Manna owner Billy Mellon reported in the restaurant’s newsletter.
Aug. 2 brings the Maple Manna-hattan from another two-liter barrel containing a mix of Carolina Whiskey, Luxardo Maraschino, blood orange & Italian cherry puree, maple syrup and Cinzano Rosso.
On Sept. 6, the cork pops on a five-liter barrel of Troy & Sons Vieux Carre, a cocktail made with Troy & Sons Oak Reserve whiskey, Cinzano Rosso, cognac, B&B and Peychauds and Angostura bitters.
Keep a lookout too for Manna’s summer cocktail list, which is due soon.
Cold pizza with extra tomato sauce is the closest I’ve ever come to a Bloody Mary hangover cure. Sunday April 7 could change my mind. Ten downtown Wilmington bars and restaurants will shake up spirits and tomato juice for The Downtown Wilmington Bloody Mary Competition.
From 2 to 5 p.m., voters must sample at least five Bloody Marys from among the competitors: Mixto, The Husk, Barbary Coast, Mugsy’s Pub, Hell’s Kitchen, The Soapbox, Shuckin’ Shack, Five Star Tavern, The River Rat, and Duck and Dive.
The 9-ounce cocktails containing a half-ounce of liquor will cost $3 each. Voters may begin at any of the participating spots. Each place will have ballots and wrist bands available.
“Judging is overall taste, spiciness, garnish,” contest organizer Jacob Kreider said.
A cheerleader for downtown Wilmington, Kreider helps some of the area’s restaurants with public relations and runs a downtown Wilmington Facebook fan page as well as a Facebook page for the Bloody Mary competition.
Bloody Mary contestants must serve the normal Bloody Marys on their cocktail lists, but Kreider noted that they’ve had a month to tweak their recipes.
That was happening Friday in the Mixto kitchen, where chefs were pickling fresh zucchini and green tomatoes for the waterfront restaurants version of the cocktail.
If the contest is a hit, Kreider said he will try to stage it each year the weekend before Azalea Festival and again the weekend before Riverfest.
Closed for renovations since Jan. 1, part of downtown Wilmington’s Pilot House restaurant reopens this week with a few tastes of its new menu.
The main dining room won’t be back in business until mid-May, but a bar sporting new furniture, fresh white paint and unobstructed Cape Fear River views is scheduled to start serving customers April 4 – “if all goes well,” Pilot House assistant general manager Sunni Holley said.
Wicker stools replace metal seating with dated fabric, and televisions behind the bar have been mounted higher on the wall so that they are easier to see, bar manager Rick Searcy added. Read more…
Easter Sunday brunch gets a stunning seaside setting this weekend at Oceanic. The Wrightsville Beach restaurant today reopened much of its pier for outdoor dining.
Tables accommodating around 70 guests fill the pier and more are coming along with awnings by mid-May, said Mindy Stroupe, spokeswoman for LM Restaurants, which owns Oceanic.
“The final piece of the pier reconstruction project, the public fishing pier, should be finished by June,” Stroupe said.
The Crystal Pier area hosted Luna Pier in the 1950s. Crystal Pier suffered damage during storms in the 1990s.
Diners taking advantage of the pier this Easter Sunday, weather permitting, will have brunch options 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The menu includes omelets, French toast, quiche and the “O” Champagne Cocktail with peach and mango purees.
Other LM Restaurants stage brunch this Easter Sunday, too. Read more…
Easter Sunday kicks off the spring Sunday brunch season, and restaurants in and around Wilmington are serving the meal this weekend and beyond.
Bonefish Grill, 4719 New Centre Drive, starts Sunday brunch hours this weekend, when it will offer its full menu beginning at 11 a.m. on Sundays.
Keep an eye open at Bonefish Grill locations for expanding brunch offerings such as creme brulee French toast and specialty champagne-based cocktails, Bonefish Grill president Stephen Judge said…
Brunch also happens at Boca Bay, 2025 Eastwood Road; Sweet & Savory and The Pub at Sweet and Savory, both on Pavillion Place off Eastwood Road near Wrightsville Beach; and Carolina Beach’s Surf House Cafe, 604 N. Lake Park Blvd. Read more…
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.
Tickets are still available for Surfers Healing, 6:30 p.m. Aug. 19 at Port Land Grille, Lumina Station, 1908 Eastwood Road, Suite 111.
Chef Shawn Wellersdick, one of Wilmington’s best, is planning the multi-course menu to include a cocktail social with passed hors d’oeuvres, a plated appetizer, a salad, various entrée choices and a family-style assorted dessert platter, said Wellersdick’s wife and business partner, Ann Steketee.
All proceeds from the $250-per-person event go to Surfers Healing, which hosts surf camps for autistic children and their families. Legendary pro surfer Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz and his son, Surfers Healing founder Israel “Izzy” Paskowitz, will be at the fundraiser.
For more info, call Port Land Grille at 910-256-6056 or go to http://www.portlandgrille.com/
When it comes to describing Caffe Phoenix, Manna owner Billy Mellon summed it up best in his quote this week to the press: “When I first moved to Wilmington, Caffe Phoenix was our glamorous, big-city restaurant. All of the beautiful people worked there. And for a long time that’s what came to mind when you mentioned Wilmington restaurants.”
I could see the original Phoenix so clearly as I read Mellon’s comment this morning. In the 1990s, the original Phoenix at 9 S. Front St. was the reason I visited Wilmington. Wearing our most fashionable outfits, my girlfriends and I would sit in its balcony dining area and look down on the scene, feeling for the couple of hours we were there as if we had been transported to Philly or New York City.
Each of us had our favorites: Joyce always did risotto cakes atop veal demi-glace. Jackie insisted on anchovies in the plate of olive oil Phoenix provided for dipping its homemade bread. I chose Spinachi con Prosciutto, a dish of hot pasta tossed with lots of prosciutto, garlic, fresh spinach and parmesan cheese.
Those early days were followed by numerous business lunches and drinks at Phoenix. I made connections and friends there who have contributed so much.
Phoenix inspired numerous articles I wrote as well as my downtown food walking tour, Culinary Adventures with Liz Biro. The restaurant’s history, its role in helping to revitalize downtown Wilmington, the many celebrities that dined there right up to the end and the interesting people who worked there were my key reasons for starting the tour.
The tour has introduced dozens and dozens of diners to not just downtown restaurants but to chefs and dining rooms all over Wilmington and beyond, insuring that the Phoenix legacy will endure. Keeping its impact alive, too, will be the movement of its latest chefs, Carson Jewell and Alex Morgan, to their own restaurant in 2013. Read about their plans in my full report for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.
Here are some of my yummy shots from Phoenix over the past few years.