Last week I had a business related road trip down to Wilmington NC. While work travel is both exhausting and a little unfulfilling there were a couple bright spots to the trip.
It was my second time down to North Carolina, but the first was a long long time ago. So driving past field after field of corn, tobacco and peanuts felt only vaguely familiar. My only real hope for the trip was to find a boiled peanut stand and pick up some real grits.
First night in Wilmington was a business related dinner. So of course that meant the posh take on Southern food on the picturesque riverfront. I have to admit that historic downtown Wilmington is worth a look see. Especially if you have an interest in 19th century architecture and you don’t mind Confederate statuary. Nice, but it didn’t seem to be the most integrated part of town.
Another day a another terrible hotel breakfast, does every hotel in the US think that waffles and turkey sausage is actually a selling point?
Anyway, the next day did afford me the opportunity to sample some of Wilmington’s finer local food. And definitely at a place more fitting of my proletariat station in life.
Lunch was at Jackson’s Big Oak Barbecue (yes the oak tree out back is massive) which specializes in Eastern North Carolina style barbecue. This particular style of slow cooked barbecue uses a vinegar based sauce, as opposed to the more familiar tomato based sauces. Allowing more of the pork flavor to shine. Being my best chance to enjoy the regional fare, I went all out. BBQ pork, Brunswick stew, collards, mac and cheese, hush puppies, corn sticks, fried okra, and sweet tea. Yeah, it might be a while before I work all of that off. Still there is so much more to go back for.
The next morning I was up early to make a grocery run before I had to head back north. Cornmeal, grits and raw peanuts were on the list. You can’t get good grits up north so I had to pick up some while I was down. I ended up getting some House Autry stone ground grits. They are not the sort of boutique grits you can find in some parts of North Carolina, but they are so much better than the run of the mill sort. In fact if all you ever had was Quaker grits and you try House Autry you might be inclined to send hate mail to the Quaker Oats Co. After the grocery run it was time to load up and head out.
Alas I never did get far enough afield to find an honest to god boiled peanut stand, but that at least gives me an excuse to go back sometime. And since I picked up raw peanuts I can just make my own.
On the drive back north there was a couple of stops I had to make. I could not pass by Baltimore without stopping to pick up some Berger Cookies. And I did manage a short detour through the horribly touristy Pennsylvania Dutch region just to pick up a couple of whoopie pies, but I passed on the shoo fly pie since I figured there was already too much sugar in the van. Oh, one more thing, I never knew the Amish grew so much tobacco. Who would have thought?.
Now it is time to get back on the bike and work off all that fried food and BBQ.