Travellust.


Strawberry Fields Forever.
26 May, 2007, 4:22 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It all had to come to an end I suppose, getting on a plane, back to the United States, and then being immediately thrown back in the influx of Americans, whose language I could annoyingly understand. Do not get me wrong, I love my country, but after a very quiet and sound nine hour flight, there is nothing comfortable about being in the mix of hundreds of Americans trying to get through passport control, customs and baggage re-check in order to make a connecting flight. When you live in a country whose language is predominantly German, and others whose are French and Italian, you come to love the fact that you cannot understand what anyone is saying. It was like having peace and quiet for almost three months. Perhaps, now I better understand the phrase “reverse culture shock” that my professors had so carefully warned about.

But all travel annoyances aside, I have been careful to remember and jot down the details of my two and a half month excursion across the pond, if you will. There is something, many things in fact, that are decidedly sexy, relaxed and calming about life in Switzerland. I no longer live on a lake surrounded by the Alps, or have the opportunity to lunch for an hour (and more) with vino or bier, if I so choose. All places have their trade offs. In return for coming home, I now have a full kitchen in which I can utilize, but little time to do it, as serving tables full-time, sucks any minute I might dream of boiling water for canning, away.

Before fully committing my life back to the workforce I was fortunate to get a mini-readjust-relax-get-my-head-on-straight-and-back-on-EST vacation. J and I traveled by car (what? No SBB train!?!) to the Crystal Coast, North Carolina to visit my family for a just a few short days.

On Sunday, after making blueberry pancakes and sausage for brunch, we loaded up the car and headed to Wilmington to eat at one of my favorite restaurants in the state, Deluxe. I couldn’t press the issue enough on having the calamari for an appetizer (which is a funny word to use, instead of entrée). Yes, I know, it is quite ubiquitous, and every restaurant’s is “the best”, but I love this version too. Soaked in buttermilk and battered lightly, it is served beside sweet and sour apricot preserves, and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Call me old-fashion, but when I dine at Deluxe, I always have the N.C. Grouper. I find that few places know how to handle this delicate and flaky fish, and Scott’s place is certainly one of them. Perched on top of well-cooked wasabi potatoes and asparagus, the grouper is pan roasted and finished with just a smidgen of béarnaise sauce. You can’t help but to appreciate the innovation of flavors in a small and culinarily underdeveloped town like Wilmington.

After a few mishaps on the road, road closings, etc, we finally made it to Mom’s house and fell asleep amidst the cool breezes coming off the ocean. The next day we slept in and I woke to a pot of fresh Alto Grande coffee.This is K’s all time favorite coffee, coming from the Lares Mountains in Puerto Rico. He was reminded of it when we had dinner this past winter at Gramercy Tavern in NYC, and I recently sought it out for him by the five pound bag. Known to many as the “Coffee of the Popes and Kings”, the coffee lends a very smooth yet intense flavor with no bitterness. It has a very dominant flavor that should not be missed.
In an effort to see as much of the small nearby beach towns in the limited amount of time that we had, J and I set off. We had NY style pizza in one of the few places in NC that I am able to find it. It’s a place called Luigi’s that is tucked in an old shopping center that even only few locals know about. It’s a classic little place that offers a cool place to sit and enjoy large, thin-crust slices with select toppings, of which I always opt for plain cheese. If you find yourself here, please be aware of the cash only policy.

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To counter the savory we had indulged in, we pressed forward down a little dirt road to Garner Farms to pick strawberries. It has been quite dry this year, and the berries were a bit more sparse and smaller than last year, but it didn’t stop us from grabbing red buckets and heading down the rows of bountiful plants. We picked until we were sure we had gotten the best we could find and then proceeded to cash in on our deal. 2.5 pounds, $5.

We took the long way home, stopping at Bogue Pier and walked amongst the fisherman and the cool ocean breeze guided us along. This is why I love my home. There is nothing quite like the ocean, so overwhelming and yet so calming at the same time. But wait! The strawberries are still in the car and must be tended to.

So home we went, where the rest of the family was preparing for the cookout to be had later on. We made one last stop at Winberry Farms to buy more strawberries so that I had enough to make both fresh strawberry shortcakes and jam.

I used Christine Ferber’s Strawberry Jam recipe, but condensed it down to a four hour process instead of the recommended 3 days, as well as adding vanilla beans and their seeds. Two and a half pounded yielded about three small ball jars, but it was so rich and sweet, that more may have given me a cavity looking at it. My grandfather, who says he is eating it out of the jar, certainly seems to think it’s good.

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Our final stop for food on the way back to the city was at a NC institution, Smithfield’s Chicken and BBQ. There is something that must be understood about BBQ in North Carolina. It is no laughing matter, as the Newport Pig Cookin’ Contest that is held each year is a true testament to its seriousness. It was started in 1978 to raise money for a local school and fifteen pigs were cooked. Today, as many as fifty pigs are cooked every year, with recipes kept top secret and varying greatly from contestant to contestant.

Smithfield’s only has locations on the eastern side of Raleigh, for the main reason that their BBQ is vinegar based. After you cross into Durham it becomes mustard-based country. At over thirty locations, you can purchase sandwiches that have a light and tangy vinegar flavor and all the “fixins”, including fresh (no frozen stuff here!) hushpuppies, and baked beans, flavored with the barbeque. One of the best parts is that it is difficult to spend more than 10$ on two people, and that is leaving very full.

Black Book:

Deluxe
114 Market Street
Wilmington, NC 28401-4442
Open Daily, as well as Sunday brunch

Luigi’s Pizza
5167 Hwy 70 W Ste 12
Morehead City, NC
(252) 240-3125

Garner Farms
HWY 24 E, 5-7 miles West of Luigi’s

Smithfield’s Chicken and BBQ
Various Eastern NC Locations

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