A Food for All Seasons

February 6th, 2016

Here we are, just before Super Bowl, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Lent, Easter and…. SPRING!!!!!! It is a time for reflection and celebration, moderation and indulgence, letting go and moving forward. It is a time for substantial hors ‘doeurves, beignets, King’s cake, jelly bellies and beautiful simple seafood. The Spring garden is perfect for blending together all these apparent contradictions. Greens and radishes are abundant now and can be the basis for a simple and cleansing meal or jazzed up to be something more lavish. This is a dish that is equally festive for breakfast or dinner or can even be used as an appetizer for your Super Bowl Party.

Greens and Bacon Tart
6 slices bacon, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 to 2 pounds spinach, kale, collards or combo
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons dried dillweed
2 eggs
1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 pound puff pastry dough
2 tablespoons melted butter
Saute bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until golden.
Combine greens, onion, sour cream, dillweed and eggs in processor or blender and puree. Transfer to bowl and stir in bacon and feta cheese.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease 8-inch round baking dish. Divide puff pastry into 4 equal parts and roll each into 8 inch round. Reserve pastry scraps. Set 1 pastry round in bottom of prepared dish. Brush with some of melted butter. Top with another pastry round. Spread greens mixture to within 1 inch of edges on all sides. Paint pastry rim with water. Top with another pastry round, brush with butter and add final pastry layer. Press edges of pastry together. Roll out pastry scraps and cut into decorations. Brush with melted butter and bake until golden, about 45 to 50 minutes.

Ode to Tom’s Lawn

January 18th, 2016

I don’t know why I’m thinking about lawns now, but I am. Let me state up front that I have never been a lawn guy. Or a Lawn Guy, as the case may be. My enmity of manicured lawns probably started 35 years ago as I watched my father-in-law pour tons of fertilizer on his 600 square feet of Chicago-area lawn every week. Then he would complain about having to spend a large portion of his spare time mowing the damn lawn.
He was an interesting and, apparently, very conflicted guy when it came to lawn and yard care. This is probably attributable to the inescapable fact that, in his corner of suburbia, lawn care was indeed a competitive sport, one that you definitely did not want to lose at.
I didn’t really realize the conflicting emotions he endured relating to this until I was called upon to posthumously clean out his garage. There, piled to the ceiling in one corner was every issue of Organic Gardening magazine ever published. In the opposite corner of the garage, literally and figuratively speaking, sat containers of every pesticide, fungicide, rodenticide and biocide ever invented, in both liquid and granular form.
Needless to say, you will not find a single blade of grass at the Camellia Cottage Bed and Breakfast. It took me 10 years to accomplish it, but I finally pulled out every square foot of my cursed enemy. It was a day to remember when I finally retired that lawn mower. Come visit us and find out what I replaced all that lawn with.

The Longest Ride

December 30th, 2015

Last week, we watched the movie called The Longest Ride on HBO. Parts of this movie were filmed on our block. 1940s cars were parked in front of our house for a few days during shooting and that was a lot of fun. The story line goes back and forth between the present and the 1940s. When we watched the movie, we actually caught a glimpse of the south side of our house in one scene for about 3 seconds! Watch it and see if you can see it.

Holiday Wonderland in Wilmington

December 14th, 2015

There are a lot of things going on in Wilmington between now and the end of 2015. Here’s a list just to whet your appetite. For details, check the Events Calendar page on our web site.
• Enchanted Airlie Gardens
• Mame at Thalian Hall
• A Christmas Carol at Thalian Hall
• Christmas Belles at Cape Fear Playhouse
• Amazing Wonder Shorts at Browncoat Pub & Theatre
• Trailer Park Christmas at TheatreNow
• Santaland Diaries at Red Barn Studio Theatre
• Light & Train Spectacular at Wilmington Railroad Museum
• Holiday Train Expo
• Live Standup Comedy at Dead Crow Comedy Club
• Christmas Caroling with Santa and His Reindeer (horses with antlers)
• UNCW Basketball games

Happiness in a Muffin Tin

November 14th, 2015

In the late 1990’s, it was the Atkins Diet. In the early 2000’s, it was the South Beach Diet. Since then, whether it be eliminating carbs altogether or just picking and choosing which ones and when, many people have stayed aware of their carbohydrate intake.

Asking about food restrictions when we take reservations not only helps us tailor a breakfast to our guests’ particular needs, but also has given us a somewhat historic perspective on eating trends. Not to mention keeping me from getting into a rut in the kitchen.

We once had two couples staying here for five days. They did not know each other prior to meeting here. One couple was on the Atkins Diet and one couple was vegan. It was a fascinating five mornings, as two plates were all protein and two plates were none(except for some beans). Interestingly, they discovered, actually among some other things, that they had a love of Scotch in common. So, every afternoon while they were here, they would meet on the front porch around 5ish and share a bottle. The Atkins people would also eat a pound or so of cheese. Then, they would go their separate ways for dinner. Perhaps Scotch is a great equalizer, out more likely, porch-sitting is.

All of this is by way of introducing you to one of my favorite breakfasts to make. It happens to be a no-carb recipe, as well as just plain good and easy and pretty–Ham and egg cups. In a muffin tin, lay a thin slice of ham, or turkey, or salami, or prosciutto in each cup. Fill with your favorites: sautéed mushrooms and sour cream, spinach and feta, salsa and cheddar, grits and pimento cheese, or whatever your pleasure. Plop a raw egg on top and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 375 till eggs are done as desired, somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes. For your non-carb friends, serve with a variety of fresh fruit, for others a biscuit or toast will help sop up the yummy yolks.

Wild, Whacky Halloween Weekend in Wilmington

October 28th, 2015

A score of spooky and not-so-spooky activities for your Halloween Weekend in Wilmington:

** Rocky Horror Picture Show (the play) at City Stage Theatre,

** Museum of Nightmares at the new Museum of the Bizarre

** Paranormal Ghost Tour at Poplar Grove Plantation

** Halloween Ghost Trolley,

** “a zombie, a werewolf and a vampire walk into a bar” (the play) at TheatreNow,

** Zombie Fest at Ironclad Brewery,

** War of the Worlds at the CFCC Humanities & Fine Arts Center

** Haunted Trail Tour at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area

….and much more. Check the Events Calendar on our web site for more info.  And…we have rooms available — call or book online!

When Life Gives You Potatoes

September 26th, 2015

Recently, we got a fabulous deal on 20 lbs. of fresh, local Yukon Gold potatoes. Do you have any idea how many potatoes are in 20 lbs? Let’s just say lots and lots. These are beauties, not too big, not gnarly and chock full of flavor. Of course, the trick is to celebrate these babies while they are still fresh. Here is a recent breakfast entree at Camellia Cottage B&B, a classic of Spanish cuisine, but easily played with. Try layering it with spinach, cheese, ham, mushrooms or topping it with an interesting sauce.
Tortilla Espanola
3 lbs. potatoes, peeled
1 large yellow onion
2 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
5 eggs
Cut potatoes in half and slice onion in thick slices. Boil in salted water till potatoes are barely tender. Let cool and slice thinly. Beat eggs with salt and pepper or seasonings of your choice. Oil a cast-iron skillet. Layer potatoes, onions and other goodies in your pan. Pour the egg mix over; it should barely cover the veggies. Bake in a 350 degree oven till set or cook over low heat on top of the stove. When just set, flip and brown the other side.

Have a Drink, If You Can

September 9th, 2015

Our out-of-state guests (and even our in-state guests) have marveled at the arcane liquor laws still in effect in our beloved state of North Carolina. We didn’t realize quite how arcane they really are until we saw a list in the Wilmington Star News.
Try this one on for size: The law stipulates that pitchers of alcoholic beverages must be sold only to two or more customers. In other words, you can’t chug that pitcher yourself!
Or this one: Any watering hole whose food sales do not exceed 30% of total sales must operate as a private club with a membership roster kept in alphabetical order on premise at all times. So…when you walk in and they ask if you are a member, tell them you are a guest of Joe over at the bar.
Alas, two-for-one, BOGO, or free booze with your meal are all prohibited. There is no such thing as a free lunch…or a free drink.
Aren’t you glad the state is hard at work protecting us from ourselves?

The Play Is the Thing

August 26th, 2015

Wilmington hosts more high quality cinema and theater than just about any other similarly sized city. We are truly blessed when it comes to the arts and this is one of many reasons more and more people are visiting here and settling here.

Cinematique at historic Thalian Hall shows movies during the week that you just won’t see in regular theatres. During the next couple months, they will be presenting Cartel Land, Mr. Holmes and Phoenix. Mr. Holmes, a tale of a much older Sherlock Holmes teaming up with a young boy to solve a crime looks particularly fascinating to me.

The other major cinematic event here is Cucalorus, a 4-day international and internationally-known film festival at venues all around Wilmington in November. This unique festival brings directors and their movies from all over the world right into the theater with you.

We have more theater companies that call Wilmington home than we have a right to but nobody is complaining! Would you like to attend a cutting edge play in a pub? Then Browncoat Theater is for you. Currently playing there is She Kills Monsters. At the other end of the venue spectrum is Thalian Hall, an absolutely gorgeous 1850s theater that was totally renovated a few years ago. Several local companies perform there and their upcoming offerings include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and The Addams Family.

We have an intimate theater on Castle Street called Cape Fear Playhouse, home of Big Dawg Productions. Showing now and for the next few weeks is Dead Man’s Cell Phone. City Stage is another wonderful theatrical setting on the fifth floor of the old Masonic Temple building on Front Street. They will soon be rolling out their annual frolic The Rocky Horror Picture Show (it’s a play, not the movie by the same name!) Last but not least, we now have a full-time dinner theater venue, TheatreNow, where the culinary offerings are tied to the theme of the play. JT and Joni and Jail is currently playing, to be followed by We Can Be Heroes and A Zombie, a Vampire and a Werewolf Walk into a Bar…

As always, find more detailed info on upcoming events on the Events Calendar on our web site.

North Carolina in a Bowl

August 16th, 2015

Being lucky enough to live in Wilmington, North Carolina brings all kinds of edible pleasures into your life and onto your breakfast table.  Local produce includes  strawberries, blackberries, peas, spinach, peaches and potatoes in the Spring and early Summer.  Tomatoes, eggplant, okra, zucchini, figs, blueberries, all kinds of melons and peppers thrive in mid-summer.  Fall and Winter gift us with collards, broccoli, kale, cabbage and second rounds of the Springtime treats.  Cheeses, freshly-milled grits and cornmeal, ham, bacon, sausage and beautiful, beautiful  local eggs grace our tables all year long.  Some of these treats we grow in our own garden and are so proud and excited to present to our guests.

Lately, we have been combining all these riches into a breakfast entree we’re calling “North Carolina in a Bowl”.  Into a greased one-cup ramekin, we start with a layer of cooked local grits, usually mixed with some pimento cheese.  Then the fun really starts!  Layers of bacon or sausage, whatever veggies are in season and some more cheese (can you ever have too much?) can get piled on.  If using sweet or regular potatoes, slice thinly and sauté a bit first.  Pour about 1 tablespoon of cream over everything.  Add whatever fresh herbs you love, rosemary is a fave around here.  Plop one beautiful raw egg on top.  I have recently become seriously addicted to fresh duck eggs.  Big, yellow, silky and oh, so flavorful, they can make me weep with joy!  Put in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes, depending on how hard you like your eggs.

So, get ye to your local farmer’s market.  Score some eggs, veggies, cheese and jam.  The next morning treat yourselves to this local, seasonal treat with fresh biscuits.  The perfect start to a wonderful day in North Carolina!