Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Culinary Adventures with Liz Biro, Part 1

In which we go on a food tour of downtown

Liz Biro is one of my local food heroes. Liz Biro, a food hero. That rhymes. I’m not proud.

Anyway, I first heard of Liz by reading her local restaurant column “The Dish” in the Star-News. Her take on our selection of non-chain food agreed pretty well with my own, so she became a trusted source on a new restaurant or a place I hadn’t tried yet. Then I met her, and liked her even more. Her interest in food runs deep and wide and roams the world from Italy to right back here at home in Wilmington. She writes her column for the paper and for Port City Foodies, and contributes to Fodor’s, all in the interest of exposing people to the great food our area has to offer.

Her latest brainchild is her popular Culinary Adventures with Liz Biro. It’s a downtown walking tour of a sampling of the most popular restaurants, complete with drink and food tastings. Liz also knows some pretty interesting food history about Wilmington, including what old buildings used to be groceries that milled their own flour. And I love me some food history! So I signed up for a tour and took my Good Neighbor Morgan along with me.

Now. Listen. (Coming out of the mouths of my parents, this always meant I was about to get in big trouble.) Now. Listen. If you are a tourist, and you are visiting our fine town, and you have time, GO ON THIS TOUR. Not only will you spend a very enjoyable 3 hours or so, you will come away with a wealth of knowledge about the downtown eatery availability. One of the reasons Liz does these tours is that as the local newspaper restaurant reviewer, she gets asked a lot by out-of-towners, "Where should I eat?" You will come away with that knowledge and will probably enjoy your stay that much more.

Now. Listen. If you are a downtown restaurant owner, you'd do well to get ON this tour. If I owned a downtown restaurant, I'd be climbing all over myself trying to get Liz to bring group after group of potential customers through my doors where I could impress them with my wares.

Lecture over.

Liz was waiting for us by the Visitor’s Center in our lovely downtown. She was easy to spot because she had her Culinary Tours sign up for us.

Well, that, and I know her, so I’d have recognized her anyway.  
Now I’m not going to steal Liz’s thunder by walking you step-by-step through her tour. You wouldn’t have as much fun with me as you would with her anyway. But I will say, home girl’s got some knowledge about the food scene in Wilmington, past and present.

In case you didn’t know, Wilmington’s history goes back to pre-Revolutionary War times. And they ate food way back then, too! Liz has some great stories about the river, the groceries, the supply lines, the flour mills, taverns, and structures along the Cape Fear.

But don’t think you’re going to just be wandering around, listening to a history lecture. (I do that anytime I go for a walk with Pootie.) Liz also has arrangements with several restaurant-owners for some stops along the way.

You might get to go by a wine bar…

And listen to the French owner talk about France and wines and the real definition of Bistro. And sample some food.


And go to a white tablecloth restaurant

Where you might get to sample some cocktails.

I like liquor bottles.
And you might get to go to another popular spot

And sample some food…

With your Good Neighbor Morgan

Except not that last part, because she's my Good Neighbor, not yours. Unless she moves. Which would make me sad.

But you can take your own Good Neighbor with you.

Then you might wander up to a great casual dining place

Where you’ll get to sample some more food

And over to Hot Pink Cake Stand

Where you might be lucky enough to catch owner Jody Carmichael decorating a cake.
Holy cow. That’s impressive.

And eat a cupcake.

And maybe sample a nice little dessert wine with it.
Then maybe she’ll take you over to Caffe’ Phoenix where the bartender Joel Finsel will let you sample the most unbelievably delicious fresh peach, jalapeno syrup and moonshine concoction EV-ER.
I want to marry this drink. Probably because this is all I had instead of the six I would have gladly downed, and I didn’t wake up feeling like someone was throwing a 25 pound medicine ball against the inside of my head. MAN, this was good! It’s a good thing Morgan drank hers fast, because I was about to distract her and snag hers, too.

Instead, I took a picture of the gorgeous mirror over the bar. Which unfortunately also had me in it.

Hey, y'all!
Then maybe Liz will walk you down to Mixto, where you’ll get to sample more food and more drinks…

… or, you know, maybe you won’t. Because Liz is about keeping it interesting and changing things up. She’s fun like that. But whatever it is, it will be a great time, and you'll be in the know about the downtown restaurant scene.

Coming up, part 2, in which I interview Liz. Stay tuned!

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