Beach Week International Goodness

I just spent a week in Surf City, NC for the annual family beach week and it was great, as usual.

I wasn’t sure there would be much to blog about as the restaurants stay pretty much the same or the variants aren’t that noteworthy or I just have some favorites. There were a few surprises this year; an overlooked (by me) staple my nieces and nephews quite like, a couple of new places, and a surprise homecooked meal. Strap in, this is a longer entry.

My brother-in-law suggested those of us that arrive early meet at this place called JM’s On the Water and have some lunch and hang out until check in. He wasn’t able to make the trip but my sister and 2 of her kids and their significant others did plus my baby grand-niece. JM’s is a nice spot with a water view as you might expect from the name. We saw a couple of folks tie up at the attached dock and come in for some grub. The staff was friendly and plentiful out front so they kept our drinks filled and checked on us regularly but they food service was kind of slow.

I got their 1/2 lb cheeseburger, fried green beans and a flight of craft beer, mostly local.

The burger was huge as you might expect from an 8 oz slab of meat. The vegetable toppings were fresh but there was almost no seasoning on the burger which was a disappointment. The fried green beans on the other hand were quite well seasoned and cooked. I just kept eating them even after I should have stopped. The flight was interesting too because I picked a diverse selection. When I was choosing the beers and chatting with the waitress she was going on and on about the Honey Drip. That was her favorite and a really popular one then proceeded to tell me they were out of it. I considered giving her some grief for being Lucy with the football to my Charlie Brown (if you don’t get the reference you’re probably way younger than I am). At that point she yells to the bartender, “when are we getting more of the Honey Drip?” To which the bartender yells back, “we’ve got plenty right now.” Communication is key. It was a nice brown ale from a Wilmington brewery. The Murk Master is a hazy pale ale that is brewed with some flaked oatmeal. It was interesting, kind of light and hoppy. Mango Cart is a wheat beer brewed with real mango out on the west coast. It did have a mild mango taste and it was also light and refreshing. Lastly the Pacifico is a Mexican pilsner from Mazatlán. Once I got the fruit out of it I have to say it might have been my favorite paired with the meal although I enjoyed them all. See how I snuck that Mexican beer in to make this meal international?

A day or so later my nephew Alex and I decided to go to lunch and when we got in the car we were planning on one spot but on the drive we pivoted to try a new pizza place on the island that wasn’t there last year. BTW I’m counting this as Italian food. The place was Wildfire Pizza. When we got there we were the only ones there aside from Peter the guy running the joint all by his lonesome. Peter is a friendly dude and willing to discuss the pizza, answer questions and generally chat about how he’s hoping to make this 4 week old business take off. He also actively solicited feedback and told us how he’d made some menu adjustments already. I was happy to see actual flames in the oven and the dough and sauces are made in house. The items that can be sourced locally are and taste fresh. There is only a 12″ option and both being boys of stout stature we decided we could each put a hurting on our own but decided to get two separate ones and swap half. I got the Surf City Pizza and he got the Snead’s Ferry.

Both of these have seafood which is honestly something I’d not normally even consider but we were at the beach and living on the edge. Alex’s Snead’s Ferry had chunky spiced red sauce, ricotta cheese, shrimp, jalapenos, onions, garlic and red pepper flakes. Let me promise you Peter was generous with all the toppings including the jalapenos. My Surf City started with an error as Peter got ricotta happy after making the Snead’s Ferry and loaded that on there instead of the mozzarella. He apologized and was going to remake it but I put the kibosh on that. I told him to throw the mozzarella on there too and keep moving. Here’s a little secret, it was better with the accidental ricotta that it would have been with just the mozzarella and I told him to consider making that the norm. In addition there was the chunky spicy red sauce, a boatload of flaked salmon, Kalamata olives and fresh basil. Holy cow these were good pizzas! And filling like you wouldn’t believe. Instead of swapping halves we had one piece of the other and took half of each back to the house where they got hoovered up by other members of the family. That was a really good experience and I very much hope they last and prosper.

The next stop on our International tour is Fancy Sushi. Most all of the nieces and nephews hit this place every year and they let the old guy tag along this year. It’s a mixed menu, Chinese and Japanese. Most of us got at least one sushi roll from their extensive list. I ordered us a couple of appetizers. The dumplings arrived before the main courses and one showed up at the end. Those tardy tempura vegetables got waved off and with apologies removed from the bill.

I think they do a good job with presentation and they were decent on the whole. I have to say though the one with the yellow sauce I don’t even remember what it was. The one on the left was the Beach Bum Roll and was quite tasty. It had spicy tuna and mango topped with tuna, salmon, yellow tail and eel drizzled with eel sauce and red tobiko. I heard good things about the Super Duper Roll, the Pink Lady and the Sexy Girl. Overall I’d give the place 3.5 stars. Solid enough to eat at but I’ve definitely had better.

I’ve mentioned in previous beach week blog entries that the evening meal is a family one and we take turns being responsible for the meals. When the “kids” got their own night a couple of years ago it was fun to watch them all try to work at it. The results that first year was some pretty rough spaghetti that we ate because we loved them. Anyway, this year one of my nephews brought his girlfriend who is Filipino. Unbeknownst to her he had volunteered them for a Filipino night. She learned of this sitting around the table the first night of the trip. She thought she was being punked and we’d have let her off the hook but once she got over the panic and dealing with the fact that she doesn’t really cook she gamely stepped up to the challenge. There are not a plethora of Asian markets in or around Surf City so they did what they could with the international aisle at a couple of grocery stores. After four hours of prep and cooking we had our Filipino night meal courtesy of Danielle & Jesse with a little help from my sister Dee.

We had adobo chicken wings and rice plus a big old pan of Filipino spaghetti. Unlike the first “kids” spaghetti this was easy to get down. What, you may ask, made this different from regular baked spaghetti? Well, it was made with hand crafted banana ketchup and had cut up bits of hot dog in it (Sheldon Cooper would have been proud). Both were tasty and I think the chefs were proud of their accomplishments as we were of them for taking on the challenge.

Overall a really good trip with family and in spite of my initial thoughts that I’d just be eating the same old, same old there was plenty of new to be had.

I Shall Return


This weekend I was able to add a new stamp on the Culinary-Passport by visiting a Filipino restaurant with great friends and previous blog participants, Andy, Melanie and Ian McGehee.  Any meal shared with friends I’m predisposed to like but Hot4Wings / Filipino Flair in Lexington, SC earned my like by serving up some great dishes.

The restaurant is in a busy little shopping center and isn’t very big but the few booths and tables they had accommodated the small number of patrons that visited while we were there. That was good for us but this place should be busier than it was on a Saturday afternoon.  As the name implies the place has wings and in quite a large number of flavors but that wasn’t what we came for and judging by what we heard I think the Filipino Flair side of the menu is what’s growing and was certainly what we came for.

The gentleman working the counter and we presumed an owner of the establishment was very glad to answer any questions and offer up suggestions from the menu.  One thing to note is this is a smaller place and they may be out of some of the items temporarily or have limited supply.  He was quick to point out what he was out of or was limited in so as to set expectations which is a great customer service move.  As we talked through out orders we made it clear there would be sharing and he brought plates and the meals were set in the middle of the table so they could be communally shared.

We started with the lumpia rolls.  We got pork and allegedly they had vegetarian as well but there was an option with meat so….

Lumpia are basically a deep fried egg / spring roll kind of deal but these had some very tasty marinated pork in it and not just a speck but a significant porcine presence.  The dipping sauce was a fairly spicy chili sauce, not too hot and a little sweet.  Great way to whet the appetite for the feast to come.

Next up we got the house pancit.

This dish was rice noodles with meat and shrimp and a lot of goodness.  The noodles were light and flavorful while the meat was tender and tasty.  The shrimp all disappeared as well so I’m assuming it was good.  We quickly put a dent in this which was good because the next two dishes arrived soon after.

Here we had the pork adobo and sizzling sisig.  Both came with white rice and the adobo had some vegetable garnish as well.  The adobo was marinated pork bites served in some of the marinade that made a nice gravy for the semi-sticky rice.  The sizzling sisig was shredded pork cooked in a sauce that has mayonnaise as a key ingredient and those red peppers on top added spice aplenty.  For the curious sisig was originally made from the pigs face being all chopped up with other ingredients that wouldn’t necessarily make the first cut at your finer dining establishments.  I doubt this was pig face sisig but even if it was I don’t care because it was good.  The last of the entrees we were told would take a little bit longer and it showed up after we had done some serious damage to the these two.

The final entrée was crispy pata which is deep fried pork leg.  I expect this takes longer because as I now understand it the joint is typically boiled to tenderize it a bit and then deep fried.  The deep frying turns the skin into crackling and actually cooks out some but not all of the fat.  The pata was served with two sauces, one vinegar based and one we couldn’t determine the composition of but it was brownish grey, a little bit sweet and complimented the pork very well.  I think the vinegar was rice wine vinegar but I wouldn’t swear to it.  Dipping the pork in the vinegar gave it a kind of eastern NC BBQ flavor.  Oh yeah it had that unnecessary vegetable garnish as well.

As full as we were we had to try one of the deserts and opted for the banana lumpia.

The banana lumpia is pretty much what you could guess.  Banana and some mystery ingredient (we forgot to ask) wrapped in a roll, deep fried and topped with powdered sugar.  It really wasn’t that sweet and there was general agreement with Melanie’s observation that they would go great with ice cream.

I’d definitely recommend this place to anyone.  I know most of our dishes had pork but they have a number of chicken and other shrimp dishes as well as wings and sandwiches.  If you can round up friends to take all the better.  Give them a try if you’re in the area and if you want to know more about the Philippines check out the Tell Me More page.