Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Down to the River

Wilmington, North Carolina
Dining Destinations

This city has a wonderful boardwalk along the eastern shore of the Cape Fear River.  The "Riverwalk" stretches for one mile and as you walk (or ride your Segway) you will hear the sounds of friendly people and smell the aromas of great restaurants. (You might even come across a film crew!)  And besides the numerous clubs and bars there is plenty of interesting river traffic...drinks, dinner and a show!

The historic district of this coastal town covers 200 restored blocks and stretches right down to the river...making it one of the largest historic districts in the country.  We enjoyed several meals in restaurants on the Riverwalk and housed in historic buildings.

Following is a list of restaurants we recommend when you visit the Cape Fear Coast:

Circa 1922
3 blocks off the river.  Order several Tapas from the menu and share.

The Pilot House
On the Riverwalk.  Wilmington's best Low Country cuisine.
Strawberry Charlotte

On the Riverwalk.  Delicious seafood and the best service in the city.
Crab Stuffed Shrimp

Wrightsville Beach.  Local favorite for burgers and shrimp.
(You can literally dock and dine here.  Boat slips are even on the menu!)
Shrimp Salad

Boca Bay
Traditional coastal seafood restaurant.  Very good crab cakes.

The Graystone Inn
Tops our list of Best Breakfasts...EVER!

Happy Birthday to You!

Our last evening in State # 33 was Guy's birthday so I saved the highest reviewed restaurant for our celebration.  Located only 3 blocks from our hotel we strolled downhill to...


Our evening was off to a wonderful start as we were seated at a window table; Guy's place was set with a handwritten birthday card from the chef.  Also, we could see the beautiful sunset over the Cape Fear River(Down the alley and beside the Chinese take-out place.)

Above is a photo of our "Pre-Courses"...are you hungry yet?  I had perfectly Fried Oysters with maple pepper bacon, bourbon maque choux and crispy baguette toast points.  Guy wanted a change from seafood, so he enjoyed Rustic Steak Bruschetta...fresh tomato, basil and mozzarella relish with seared beef tenderloin on toasted crostinis.  (I am not kidding!)

For dinner the birthday boy had an "8oz. Filet Mignon"...marinated with thyme, rosemary and garlic then grilled to order.  This mouthwatering fork tender filet is topped with caramelized onions, Maytag blue cheese and a fig red wine reduction.  It is served over Yukon gold mashed potatoes and sauteed broccolini.  (A perfect meal for my perfect husband!)

So, I must be beyond perfect because this is a photo of my dinner.  Chicken & Dumpling Potpie...OH MY!  Made with all-natural Ashley Farms North Carolina chicken breast that is pan seared and then roasted with vegetables, thyme and saffron in a natural pan veloute sauce.  And the dumplings are Italian gnocchi that were light, flavorful pillows of deliciousness!  Served with a triangle of pastry crust on top.  (5 slaps of the table!)  Have you seen my food blog?

This meal more than exceeded our expectations...I'll tell you why.  When we sat down, our lovely server informed us that they were out of their 2 signature dishes!  (On a Tuesday?)  This was NOT a good sign.  Someone in the restaurant industry please explain this to me.  Guy is not amused when a dining establishment promotes their "House Specialty" and cannot produce it for you.  ("There is a Kroger right down the street"... is his usual comment.)

The special birthday dessert was Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream...looks good and sounds good.  I knew the answer to my question after one bite..."Do you have a pastry chef?"  The answer was, "NO...our chef does all the desserts himself."  No wonder making dessert is the downfall of so many on Top Chef!  Notice in the title the word apple is singular...he only used one and it was NOT crisp.  Good intention - bad execution.  (But I love the tiny skillet!)

Since this was a road trip, we would like to recommend 2 restaurants along the road to
North Carolina:

 in Augusta, Georgia - State # 10
French Market Grille
Excellent Cajun & Creole dishes in Georgia! 
(I should know!)

**This restaurant is near Augusta National - FORE!**


in Columbia, South Carolina- State # 40
Mr. Friendly's New Southern Cafe
Absolutely the best Buttermilk Fried Chicken we've ever eaten!

Next time:

One if by Land;
Two if by Sea -
(We Flew by Air!)

State # 21

Saturday, May 14, 2011

North Carolina Breakdown

April 2011 - State # 33 - North Carolina

If you've been wondering, "Why don't she write?" 

Well, I had a "breakdown" over the loss of 209 photos from the first 2 days of our trip.  I have tried to recover these photos, but all is lost.  (Thanks Robb for your expertise.)  So, for me it's not just the title of the song you're listening to, but the North Carolina "breakdown" of our camera and compact flash!       

I guess we'll just have to return to Wilmington and re-shoot! 

During our 19 years of marriage we have visited the mountains of our neighboring state many times.  For our 50 state alphabetical tour, with the advice of the "best next door neighbors ever"...Anita & Stephen, we chose to visit the Cape Fear Coast.  The drive to Wilmington took 7-1/2 hours, and another hour for lunch in Augusta...the day before the MASTERS began!  The first weekend of April is a great time to visit.  We left the day the North Carolina Azalea Festival opened. 

This is why we like to travel during the "shoulder seasons." 
You can avoid crowds and save $$$.

You will have to trust me that The Graystone Inn was superb.
(Photos are from their website.)
The Bellevue Jr. Suite  Bathroom                               

Depending on our destination, we do enjoy staying in Bed & Breakfast inns.  Typically we choose an inn when we visit a historic city. 

Wilmington is just such a town and The Graystone Inn proved to be one of the finest accomodations we've ever experienced! 

We strongly recommend this inn when you visit Wilmington!

Located in the historic district, we walked to nearly every attraction and restaurant.  Our inn was even a scenic stop during our Segway tour!

And if you have visited my other blog...

...you may have noticed The Graystone Inn at the TOP of the list for best breakfasts!

And here you can see why!  I'm sorry there is no photo of our Sunday breakfast:
Key Lime French Toast! 
Seriously...Guy thought it was divine and I had to agree.

You will also have to take my word for the fact that...
the battleship U.S.S. North Carolina
and Cape Fear Segway Tours of Wilmington are excellent attractions.


During World War II, NORTH CAROLINA participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific area of operations and earned 15 battle stars.  At the time of her commissioning on April  9, 1941, she was considered the world’s greatest sea weapon.  Armed with nine 16-inch/45 caliber guns in three turrets and twenty 5-inch/38 caliber guns in ten twin mounts, NORTH CAROLINA proved a formidable weapons platform.

Her wartime complement consisted of 144 commissioned officers and 2,195 enlisted men, including about 100 Marines...although she was built for only 1800 men!

After a short introductory film, where you'll see actual newsreel of NORTH CAROLINA sailing into Pearl Harbor (as she was the first new ship assigned there after December 7, 1941) you'll walk the gangplank to board the ship.

Once on board follow the arrows on a self-guided tour climbing ladders to explore parts of all 9 levels.  Guy loved this and I was right there with him shouting...

"Make a Hole!"
(I've wanted to do that since seeing "Crimson Tide.")

**Note:  The Ship is huge and not air conditioned so be prepared.** 
We took 2 hours to see it all.

And happily we took another Segway tour.  You may recall my enthusiastic endorsement of these tours in my Minnesota post.  Again, take my word for it...JUST DO THIS!  It is a great way to see a city and learn a new skill at the same time.

Our guide worked in Wilmington's film industry, so our tour included several familiar"sets" from movies and TV.  Did you know Screen Gems Studios is located here? In fact, some locals call their city..."Willywood!" 

Anyone ever heard of "Dawson's Creek" or "Sleeping with the Enemy?"


Oddly enough, and much to my relief, the movie "Cape Fear" was NOT filmed here.
(I still check under Guy's Tahoe to make sure Robert DeNiro isn't hiding under there!)

We even got a peek at a film crew.  Check out my photo of the "location shoot" for the pilot of a new show called "Hart of Dixie."  It's set in the '60's and stars Rachel Bilson (that's her in the doorway) and Scott Porter.  Look for this show in the fall on CW. 

We spent 4 hours exploring the inspiring Airlie Gardens.  Commonly called the "gardens by the sea," Airlie is amazing with its breathtaking combination of formal gardens, wildlife, historic structures, walking trails, sculptures, views of Bradley Creek, 10-acres of freshwater lakes, and the grandeur of the 462-year-old Airlie Oak.

The Gardens are known for a collection of over 100,000 azaleas and countless camellia cultivars, which bloom throughout the winter and early spring.  Displays around the Airlie Oak, Pergola Garden, and other areas bloom with displays that are changed seasonally.

Okay...you caught me.
These last 3 photos are of our gardens!

Our last day in State # 33 was Guy's birthday!  So he chose the beaches: Carolina, Kure and Wrightsville.  Besides railroads and lonely dirt roads, my husband loves to explore abandoned beaches.  (Wait until you see State # 19 - Maine.)  A thunderstorm had passed through the Fort Fisher Historic site about an hour before we arrived.  In fact, you could still see the storm out at sea.  We had the beach all to ourselves!

And I believe that covers our visit to State # 33

North Carolina

(Except for our Dining Destinations.)

Next time...

North Carolina "Chow-down"