Friday, December 24, 2010

The Most Christmasy House of All

[caption id="attachment_527" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="A beautifully decorated Christmas tree welcomed visitors to my in-laws' house on the Southport Christmas Homes Tour."][/caption]

I'm fortunate enough to live near and have a great relationship with my in-laws. They live in Southport, NC, only 30-odd miles south of Wilmingtong, and I worked for a few years with my father-in-law, Bob Dzubak. Bob taught me to build cabinets and some key design principles and introduced me to the world of woodworking. My mother-in-law, Kathy, or KD, has a great eye for design. A few years ago, Bob and KD were looking to move out of a gated community and into the town of Southport, so Bob and I built a house. Well, we didn't exactly build it, he hired framers and painters and all that, but we refined the layout and look of the house, designed, built and installed the cabinetry and built a beautiful home. This year KD decided to decorate in her usual way but put their home on the Christmas Homes Tour. Here are a few pictures showing off the house and the cabinetry. Enjoy, and Merry Chistmas.

[caption id="attachment_524" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="It was a rainy day, but the house's holiday spirit couldn't be dampened."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_528" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="A table-filling poinsettia greeted visitors on the Christmas Homes Tour."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_540" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="There was a giant Santa in the TV room. He freaked me out a little (sorry, Santa)."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_534" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="A table full of Santas. I hope they bring me lots of presents."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_529" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="KD festooned the breakfast bar with live greens and fruit. The pomegranates were my favorite."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_533" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="No detail was spared, even the shelves above the butcher-block cutting board were decorated."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_522" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The dining room table was carefully decorated."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_523" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="KD sait it took forever to wrap all of the little presents on the table."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_521" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Two amaryllis (amaryllises, amarallisi?) that KD grew for the occasion."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_530" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The living room was filled with live greenery, flowers and even the Grinch."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_532" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="Like I said, the Grinch."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_531" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="KD's treatment of the mantle shelf was beautiful."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_539" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Down the hall is the master suite, where KD was showing off her green thumb with this table of plants."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_525" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The kitchen table looked so great, I thought you'd like to see it again."][/caption]

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Boundaries International Art Colony on Bald Head Island

 

[caption id="attachment_516" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="No Boundaries International Art Colony took over Captain Charlie's Cottages for two weeks of furious art making."][/caption]

 

Three Wilmington artists started an art colony on Bald Head Island a few years ago. Now the No Boundaries International Art Colony brings artists from around the world to Bald Head Island for two weeks of art and camaraderie with fellow artists. I was lucky enough to visit No Boundaries for the second consecutive year and to attend their closing gala and gallery show. I wrote a story about it here.

 

 

 

[caption id="attachment_514" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Shawn Best, director of The Woods Gallery on Bald Head Island, paints on the porch."][/caption]

 

 

[caption id="attachment_515" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Tubes and cups of color wait for the artists return."][/caption]

 

 

Friday, November 19, 2010

DryCASE - A New Toy to Keep My Toys From Getting Wet

Two weeks ago I got my hands on an interesting product that’s going to help me take my Adventure Blogs for Bald Head Island to a new level – a DryCASE. DryCASE is a waterproof, vacuum-sealed, crystal-clear bag for electronic devices.

I know what you’re thinking, Great, but how’s that going to make his Adventure Blogs better?

Well, for starters, if I’m paddleboarding, surfing, kayaking or doing something where I may get wet, I can leave my camera in my Sea-to-Summit dry bag and use my phone, which shoots 5 mp (plenty for web-quality photos) to get some action shots and even video.

I wish I had one at the start of summer when I went paddleboarding for the first time. I was way too nervous to bring my camera, but with my phone in the DryCASE hanging around my neck, I could have taken some awesome first-person shots to let you see what paddleboarding is all about. It would've been awesome to have when I went sailing too.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kitten in a Duffel

[caption id="attachment_504" align="aligncenter" width="449" caption="Kitten in a Duffel"]Kitten in a Duffel[/caption]

Good art inspires and I was inspired by Kitten in a Snifter by one Chester Geyemyer. I call this piece Kitten in a Duffel.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kitten in a Snifter

[caption id="attachment_499" align="aligncenter" width="423" caption="As advertised."][/caption]

Lauren and I were in Halifax County, North Carolina over the weekend and we saw this amazing piece of folk art in nearby Weldon. Entitled Kitten in a Snifter, this original artwork by Chester Geyemyer was captivating to say the least. We searched high and low for the companion piece Puppy in a Stein but didn't see it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Best Pizza in New York.

image

Nino's Pizza on Eighth and Avenue A. Best pizza I've ever had. 

I'm Goin' Back In Time

In honor of the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future, I went on a History Tour of Bald Head Island with the Old Baldy Foundation. The Old Baldy Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of and education about Old Baldy Lighthouse. You can read about my time-traveling ways (on a golf cart that hit somewhere around 18 miles an hour and definitely did not generate anywhere near 1.21 gigawatts) on The Island Times, the official blog of Bald Head Island.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Liver Pudding? No Thanks, I'll Have the Cat Barf.

I'm an adventurous eater. Sure, I have my food hangups (I like to eat even numbers of things) and personal food rules (meat should not be cooked in a ball or loaf, sliced tomatoes are horrifying, olives are grody), but I won't let any of it get in my way of enjoying a good meal or expanding my palate. But I do have one exception. One thing I have cooked and eaten once that I will never eat again.

 

Liver Pudding.

 

Liver Pudding, or Liver Mush, as they call it in some parts of North Carolina, is a horrible, horrible foodstuff that smells like burning hair when you cook it and tastes even worse. It's a "sausage" made of liver, spices, head meat and a binder, usually cornmeal. It comes in wax-paper-wrapped bricks or long, sausage-style links, like kielbasa. Below is a picture of one of the long, sausage-style links. Once you see what it looks like I'm sure you'll steer clear too.

 

[caption id="attachment_488" align="aligncenter" width="437" caption="It really looks like a turd, doesn't it?"][/caption]

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Snowden's succession plan proving a success

A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed Chris Snowden of Snowden's Jewelers for a story in the Greater Wilmington Business Journal. Snowden's Jewelers has seen phenomenal growth in the last few years and the story focuses on his marketing efforts and the changes he made to steer his business to new heights. Read about it here: Snowden's succession plan proving a success.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It Was My Birthday. I Went Kayaking.

[caption id="attachment_477" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="It was a beautiful day for kayaking."][/caption]

Yes, I had a birthday about a week ago. On the morning of my birthday I found three new grey hairs in my beard. I decided to counter the greying of my beard by going kayaking - nothing like fresh air and a marsh full of birds to fight back the effects of aging.

I went to one of my favorite spots - Bald Head Island - and joined the Bald Head Island Conservancy on one of their kayak trips. It was a beautiful day, a great paddle and a welcome break from my routine.  Read about it on The Island Times, Bald Head Island's blog.

 

 

 

[caption id="attachment_478" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The kayaking birthday boy."][/caption]

Sunday, October 10, 2010

How to Build a Storm Trooper Helmet from Two Milk Jugs

 

[caption id="attachment_470" align="alignleft" width="221" caption="I want to make one of these."][/caption]

 

Lindsey over at Filth Wizardry has made a Storm Trooper helmet for her kids and it looks killer (see the picture she took of her finished product). All she did was carve up two plastic milk jugs, hot glue them together, and, well, read her instructions here. Take a look around her site, she's got some fun, Star-Wars- and non-Star-Wars-themed projects that you may want to try with your kids. Or, if you're like me (I'm chugging milk straight from the jug so I can make my own Storm Trooper helmet), you'll want to make them for yourself.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Greater Wilmington Business Journal

As you may have read in an earlier post, Lauren and I have a pair of rain barrels we use to water the garden. I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Rick Harris of Cape Fear Rain Water Harvesting, a Wilmington-based company that sells rain catchment systems. I wrote about it for Greater Wilmington Business Journal and you can read it here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Wine - As if I Needed Another Reason to go to Bald Head Island

[caption id="attachment_459" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The Farm to Table Wine Dinner, sponsored by Childress Vineyards, featured many locally-sourced food products."][/caption]

In graduate school one of our great friends - Adam Shobert - began pouring wine at The Wine Sampler, a local wine shop. His approach to wine really opened up my eyes and my palate and, before he moved to Ohio for greener pastures, we were Friday night regulars for his tastings. Now, thanks in no small part to Adam, I'm a wine convert. Under his guidance, it didn't take long and I feel like I've developed a decent (but still undertrained) palate.

Which brings me to last weekend.

Last weekend (September 24 - 26), Bald Head Island hosted the second annual North Carolina Wine & Food Weekend. The weekend featured several North Carolina wineries, some delicious local food, a wine dinner and sparkling wine brunch (where they served, wait for it, bananas foster French toast). As the Adventure Blogger for The Island Times, Bald Head Island Limited's blog, I felt it was my duty to explore the culinary delights at the festival. I wrote about it here. Hope you enjoy. And I hope you can make it next year.

[caption id="attachment_460" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The always lovely Lauren was the perfect weekend companion."][/caption]

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New Music Review Up At Deckfight

Durham/Chapel Hill, North Carolina's, The Old Ceremony has a new album out. I reviewed Tender Age for deckfight.com. Read it here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another Bald Head Island Adventure - The Bluff Island Hike and Kim's Island Exploration

[caption id="attachment_445" align="alignleft" width="258" caption="After a day of hiking and kayaking, we pulled up into the reeds on Kim's Island and had lunch."][/caption]

There are a few things I miss about living in West Virginia and Virginia and all of them are the mountains. I miss the way the mountains change color in the spring and again in the fall. I miss the breezes down the draws and hollows and coves. I miss hunting and hiking, creeping through the woods as quietly as possible and sitting and listening.

Since I moved to Wilmington in 2002 I've tried to find a way to recreate these things, but the narcotic haze of nostalgia keeps me from ever recreating the past. So I've tried substitutes. The azalea and witch hazel bloom. The ocean breeze. Walks through the flat, characterless pine forests  or along the beach. Nothing has compared to what I remember and long for in the mountains.

[caption id="attachment_446" align="alignnone" width="267" caption="Self-portrait on Bald Head Island."][/caption]

I recently went for a day hike and kayak trip on Bald Head Island that made me rethink things. Harper Peterson, owner of Riverside Adventure Company, invited me along to explore Bluff Island and Kim's Island, which are part of the Smith Island Complex, same as Bald Head Island. I went and I wrote about it for The Island Times, Bald Head Island Limited's blog. Read it and, when you're in my part of the world, go experience it yourself.

[caption id="attachment_443" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="I'm in the green kayak but you can't see me, I'm behind you."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_444" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Brown Pelicans on the remnants of the pier on Kim's Island, Bald Head Island, North Carolina."][/caption]

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Venice is Sinking - Sand & Lines Review

I've been listening to Athens, GA five-piece Venice is Sinking's new release Sand & Lines nonstop this week. Recorded in the historic Georgia Theatre - host to nearly every one of the Athens biggies from the B-52's to REM to The Police to Colonel Bruce Hampton & Aquarium Rescue Unit - shortly before it burned down in 2009. Sand & Lines was recorded live in the empty dance hall and captures the tone and space of the room, giving the sound a depth not found on many albums. I reviewed the album for Deckfight, a blog of southern and independent music and literature. If you're interested in buying Sand & Lines, the album is available at www.veniceissinking.net and all proceeds from the album's sale are going to help the Georgia Theater's rebuilding efforts.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sailing with Riverside Adventure Company

[caption id="attachment_417" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Sails and wind."][/caption]

My first summer as a Boy Scout, I took swimming class where I had to do some pretty ridiculous things (like make a flotation device out of blue jeans and retrieve a brick from the bottom of the deep end of the pool), but I learned to swim. To earn that merit badge and know that next year I could come in and pass my swimming test opened a whole world. Canoeing, rowing, powerboating, sailing, kayaking - all these things were waiting for me next year. The next year we went to a different camp and they didn't offer sailing. I missed my chance. If I'd learned to swim better before camp I could've taken sailing in a picturesque pond where a handful of Optis waited patiently, tied to the docks. Sure, the new camp was bigger and offered more classes, but they didn't have sailing and their lake was mosquitoey; I wanted to learn to sail on that little pond in the hills. After Boy Scouts I never really had the opportunity to go sailing, until a couple of weeks ago when I went as part of my Adventure Blog series for Bald Head Island Limited. Harper Peterson and his crew at Riverside Adventure Company took me out for the morning and showed me the ropes. It was fun and I didn't get seasick and I'd like to try it again sometime. Read about the adventure here. Enjoy.

[caption id="attachment_416" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="I'm a sucker for knots and ropes and pulleys and sailing has a lot of all three."][/caption]

Oh, and I gave myself this as a reward for the day since I didn't get one the first time around:

[caption id="attachment_422" align="alignnone" width="200" caption="My sailing merit badge."][/caption]

Monday, August 2, 2010

Panko, Ossabow, Vino

[caption id="attachment_408" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Could we finish this huge slice of Bananas Foster Cheesecake at our dinner at The RIver Pilot Cafe on Bald Head Island? Read the review to find out."][/caption]

What do Panko, Ossabow and Vino have in common?

I ate them all for dinner at The River Pilot Cafe on Bald Head Island. Also included in the meal was the humongous slice of Bananas Foster Cheesecake shown left.

Read the review here, make a reservation and get on the ferry, your meal awaits.

River Pilot Cafe on Urbanspoon

Music Review up at Deckfight

Deckfight.com has posted my review of Chapel Hill, North Carolina's The Honored Guests' EP Into Nostalgia. It's short, so you can read it in one sitting. Go here for the review and here for the free EP.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Force is With Me

 

[caption id="attachment_394" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="My nephew Silas. He's a Star Wars nut. Here he is at the beach. We went boogie boarding with Yoda and Chewie."][/caption]

 

My nearly-seven-year-old nephew Silas has come down with the same thing I and every kid of my generation had at the same age - Star Warsitis. He's obsessed and I think I may have helped start it. Last Christmas I gave him my copy of LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga for Wii and it immediately took hold of his brain. Every bedtime story you tell him involves Master Yoda or Chewie or Storm Troopers. He can rattle off the plots to all six movies without hesitation. And, worst of all, he thinks Episodes I, II and III were good. But he's a child. He's seven. He hasn't had the time to learn that the new trilogy is far inferior to the originals.

I digress.

He's going into first grade this year and that's a big deal. Lauren and I wanted to get him something but couldn't come up with any good ideas. Until we were in Williams-Sonoma last night.

 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Garden-Schmarden

At the beginning of the gardening season, Lauren and I were excited. We built a new garden bed; mixed our soil, compost and fertilizers; poured over seed catalogs and made our selections. We planted our seeds in Dixie cups, moved them in and out of the house and watched as they finally sprouted. We stepped up the seedlings and had dreams of wheelbarrows full of zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and herbs.

Last year we picked up a couple of tomatoes and a couple of peppers and a bunch of herbs and planted them. We didn’t tend them that well. A little water and a lot of luck later and we had TONS of produce. We gave away pounds of tomatoes and zucchini, dried herbs for our friends and generally enjoyed a fantastic and easy harvest.

Now, this year’s garden. We worked, watched, watered, weeded and worried over our plants. I pulled suckers off the tomatoes, picked off slugs, snails and caterpillars, sprayed for bugs and disease with soap and oil and an assortment of organic products. Everything was going well: the bugs ate a few of our early zucchini but we were winning the battle; our Hungarian Heart tomato was thriving and bearing dozens of little tomatoes and even one the size of a softball; cucumbers were vining; peas were shooting and all was right with the world.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The Hungarian Heart in its death throes."][/caption]

Until one evening when I went out to water. Our Hungarian Heart was wilted and leathery and was drooping like it hadn’t been watered for a week. It was dry, but not that dry, so I watered. By morning it had slumped against the trellis, dead. We cut off the one big tomato, pulled up the plant and threw it away. But what happened? Why did this plant die while the rest of the bed looked healthy? We added more soil and lime and tried another tomato. It thrived, growing quickly and heartily and looking promising. Then another tomato in another bed died just like the Hungarian Heart. Then another. Then the new one we planted where the Hungarian Heart used to be.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Geocaching on Bald Head Island

[caption id="attachment_371" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Head over to Bald Head Island for some geocaching or another adventure. I do. And I'm a Doctor (an MFA actually, but it's a terminal degree)."][/caption]

I've been geocaching for a while. If you're unfamiliar, geocaching is a GPS based treasure hunting game. People hide boxes and clues and you find them by using a set of latitude and longitude coordinates entered into your GPS. I suppose if your orienteering was good enough you could do it with maps. I think that's going a little far, and that's coming from an Eagle Scout.

So, I went geocaching on Bald Head Island. Actually I found a few and hid two of my own. And I wrote about it for The Island Times, the Bald Head Island blog. Check it out, dust off your GPS or that old Silva compass and go have an adventure.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

SUP - I Love Adventure

[caption id="attachment_366" align="alignleft" width="191" caption="I am now accepting donations for a paddleboard."][/caption]

I love to try new things. In the last couple of weeks I've tried a cherry tomato right off the vine (gross, never again), fixing my lawnmower (fail) and standup paddleboarding (epic win). Fortunately for me, no one wants me to write about eating tomatoes or fixing lawnmowers (although I am available). I do, however, have a story for Bald Head Island's haven magazine about standup paddleboarding (also known as SUP). I also have a teaser blog post about it at their blog, The Island Times, so click the link and check it out.

Oh, and many thanks to my friend Rory Laverty for joining me on the adventure, to Coastal Urge for supplying the boards and to Millie Holloman Photography for their phenomenal photos of the whole thing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Beta Radio - Seven Sisters

Beta Radio, Wilmington's latest injection into the Americana-Folk music scene, released their debut album, Seven Sisters, a few weeks ago and I reviewed it for Deckfight. The review is here. This is easily one of my favorite albums this year and I think you should do two things: read the review and buy the album.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Go Fly A Kite

[caption id="attachment_358" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Kite flying Frye's-eye view."][/caption]

I can cross kite flying off my life list now. On Friday, May 28, I went to Bald Head Island as part of my Adventure Series on their blog and I flew a kite for the first time.

I know, I know. I'm 32, have whitewater rafted Class V rapids, bungee jumped, climbed a mountain and never flown a kite. But now I have. Go on over to The Island Times to read all about it.

And if you're in the area, head out to Bald Head Island where Coastal Urge will be hosting Kite Night at Beach Access #39 on East Beach every Friday at 5:30 pm.

Grilled Vegetables and Tofu with Parsley-Walnut Pesto and Quinoa

[caption id="attachment_328" align="alignleft" width="308" caption="CSA week 4. It's finally zucchini and squash season."][/caption]

This week we picked up the fourth of our 10 CSA boxes through Copper Guinea Farms. In the last two weeks the weather’s gotten warmer and we’ve seen a decline in lettuce but an increase in squash. As we move into summer I’m sure we’ll get a variety of squash, zucchini (which is squash, really, but I like to spell it and say it) and tomatoes.

Which brings me to our garden. We had our first harvest this week: one zucchini and one cucumber. There’s a Hungarian Heart tomato on the vine. It’s odd looking, heart shaped and supposedly pinkish-red when ripe. This morning I harvested another zucchini and two more cucumbers and counted 52 tomatoes on our plants. I don’t eat tomatoes (or meat cooked into a ball or loaf, but that’s for another time), but I’m looking forward to making salsa, fried green tomato (they lack the gross texture of a ripe tomato) BLTs and fresh red sauce this summer.

[caption id="attachment_336" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="First harvest from our garden: one zucchini and one cucumber. Hey, you gotta start somewhere."][/caption]

And, with that in mind, how about a recipe using some of the ingredients from Copper Guinea’s CSA box and our very own herb and vegetable garden?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Grilled Vegetables and Tofu with Parsley-Walnut Pesto and Quinoa.

Oh, and there’s this: I’ve never written a recipe, but I guess you’ll see that.

[caption id="attachment_334" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="A full grill is a happy grill."][/caption]

Friday, May 21, 2010

Music Review: Band of Horses - Infinite Arms

[caption id="attachment_322" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Band of Horses released their third album, Infinite Arms, on May 18."][/caption]

On Tuesday, May 18, Band of Horses released their third album, Infinite Arms. I was asked to review it for Deckfight, a blog that reviews Indie Rock and Literature with a southeastern flair. The review is kind of abstract but it was a lot of fun to write. You can read it here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Big Box of Veggies: CSA Through Copper Guinea Farms

[caption id="attachment_303" align="alignleft" width="175" caption="Turnips (white) and radishes (red). We grew radishes, but were all out by the time we got our CSA box."][/caption]

A little over a month ago I put up a quick post about our gardens. They’re doing quite well: we’ve harvested all the lettuce and have one more round of arugula to pick; we’ve planted tomatoes (five kinds), zucchini, peppers, herbs, two kinds of cucumbers (and we have 20 finger-sized cucumbers on the vine right now) and more herbs than we know what to do with. Even with all of our planting we don’t seem to have enough vegetables in the summer and it’s always one more trip to Harris Teeter for produce.

No more.

This year we are participating in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program with Copper Guinea Farms, a family farm in Atkinson, North Carolina, about an hour inland from Wilmington.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wilmington Restaurant Week: Catch

[caption id="attachment_286" align="alignleft" width="268" caption="Catch - 6623 Market Street - local food with a modern twist."][/caption]

Here in Wilmington we just wrapped up our spring Restaurant Week. From April 28 to May 5, local restaurants offered lunch and dinner specials and prix fixe menus. It’s a great opportunity to have some fine food, maybe revisit a place you haven’t visited in a while or do what Lauren and I did—try someplace new. Several of our friends have been raving about what Chef-Owner Keith Rhodes is doing at Catch—making fantastic food using local farms and fish. When Lauren and I saw Catch was offering a $30 prix fixe menu, we had to go. So we made the call and got a reservation.

For all its hype, Catch’s location had me worried. It’s on Market Street; north Market Street. The section of Market Street that’s all car lots interspersed with tiny strip-malls and a few freestanding stores. But good food is good food no matter the location (try the shrimp trucks in Hale’iwa, Hawai’i). When we walked in, I forgot Catch was on Market Street at all. The bar was modern and well stocked. The simple dining room was cozy without being cramped. And the whole restaurant makes you feel as if you’re under the sea. Rich blue walls the color of the deep ocean, natural wood wainscoting and hardwood floors reminiscent of sand. The light fixtures reminded me of coral and cast shadows on the walls that looked like light playing on water. Crisp white tablecloths. A couple of flowers in a vase. The most surprising thing: no noise from Market Street, only the din of conversation and the click of forks on plates.

[caption id="attachment_277" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="White Wolf Golden Ale and Atteca Garnacha 2007."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_276" align="aligncenter" width="305" caption="Firecracker Shrimp--breaded shrimp in a sherry-cream sauce."][/caption]

Service came quickly after we were seated and we put in our drink and appetizer order: Lauren had White Wolf Golden Ale, I had a glass of 2001 Atteca Grenache and then the Firecracker Shrimp to share. The White Wolf Golden Ale is brewed in Farmville, NC and is very much a beer’s beer—golden and slightly hoppy, like an upscale Budweiser—Lauren thought it was passable, but wanted a Stella Artois or even a Blue Moon (which we were surprised weren’t available). I thought my Atteca Grenache was fantastic; very well balanced and reasonably priced. The Firecracker Shrimp were more like Lauren’s beer—lacking in some way.The shrimp were large, sweet and juicy; the breading light, just salty enough and very flavorful and the sherry-cream sauce was a nice finish. What the Firecracker Shrimp lacked was the heat and pop the name promised. Where was the chili? Not the lip-blistering, get-me-some-milk chili, but something. Some Texas Pete or maybe Sriracha. With the addition of a little hot bite, the Firecracker Shrimp would go from good to great.