Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I've written about home dry-aging of beef before, several times.  Hubby and I have been doing it for a few years now.  In New Jersey, we had a butcher who provided us with phenomenal dry-aged beef.  After several years of trying to find that beef in or near New Bern, we finally decided to do it ourselves.

Since the ribeye is the easiest cut to dry-age at home, that's what we usually buy, though we have done a combination of wet and dry aging for filet mignon.  Sam's Club has been our favorite supplier of a whole ribeye, though we have bought a few at Harris Teeter when they go on sale, usually around Christmas time.  I'll admit it, the ribeye is a heart attack on a plate.  It should be consumed infrequently, for sure.  (Try telling that to my other half.)  All that fat marbled in the meat is what makes the ribeye so tender, juicy and flavorful.

Anyway, there is a story to tell here.  Recently, we made a trip to Greenville Sam's Club to purchase a ribeye.  The case was empty.  Hubby called the person on duty who said he would get one.  He opened a box, weighed the meat, labeled it, and off we went, meat in hand, to start another aging routine.  Twenty-three days later, we looked at the meat we just butchered:  twelve beautiful steaks stared back at us, though we both remarked that they didn't look like ribeyes.  We weren't sure what they did look like, though.

We separated scrap meat from the fat.

The scraps were cut into chunks.

 Then we ground them in the food processor.

The scraps yielded seven lovely, juicy burgers.

As for the steaks, our first bite was disappointing, to say the least.  These were not tender and juicy like previous steaks had been.  What was wrong?  It's not that the steaks were tough and dry, they just weren't as good as expected, and our senior jaws and teeth weren't happy.  The steaks were definitely chewy.

A few weeks later, on a trip to Greenville, we stopped into Sam's Club and talked to Daniel, the Meat Manager, about our disappointing steaks.  After a long discussion, Daniel told us the person on duty the day we bought the "ribeye" mistakenly sold us a loin.  Then he took us to the meat case where the loins and ribeyes sat, side by side.  Both are top-quality Black Angus, boneless and look identical, except for the labeling.  A closer inspection revealed one distinguishing pattern on the ribeye, where the ribs had been removed.  The loin had no such marks.   Daniel said it took him a few months to be able to quickly tell them apart.  Daniel admitted that, even with dry aging, the loin can never be as tender as a ribeye.  

Because Sam's Club wants to be known for the quality of its meat, Daniel gave us a new ribeye at no charge.  (I presented him with our receipt, of course.  Usually, Sam's Club also requires that the meat be returned, but I explained to Daniel that it was home in our freezer.)  We appreciate Sam's Club standing by its products, and we especially appreciate Daniel's thoroughness in analyzing what went wrong.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


We've lived in New Bern since 1993, but had never set foot in Wrightsville Beach until last Friday.  As we crossed the bridge to get there, I was amazed at how beautiful and well groomed the entrance was.  Blue Water Grill is right over the bridge, on the waterfront.  The restaurant has curb appeal as you enter, and only gets better once you are inside.

Clean, neat lines take your eye to the waterfront ahead.  You can eat inside or out, and we opted for out, as did most everyone else who was there.  It was a beautiful day, and the views were too outstanding to ignore.

Boaters can dock at Blue Water and come in for a quick bite or a leisurely lunch.  Service is friendly and quick and the waitresses are easy on the eye.

Guy opted for one of the day's specials:  Lump Crab Salad Pita with lettuce, tomato and avocado, served with French Fries ($9.99).

The presentation may be lacking, but Guy said the taste was there.  The lump crab meat seemed squashed, but he loved it anyway.

My Baja Fish Wrap ($9.99) was a little disappointing, though it tasted okay.  Breaded and fried fish bites -- not too many of them -- left me a little hungry.  I picked the fish bites out, leaving the wrap which I didn't want.  The fries were deliciously crisp but most of those stayed on my plate with the wrap.

The food may be a bit overpriced for the amount and quality, but we'll still go back to get more of that wonderful view.  Just how much is a view worth?  It's a personal decision, but for us it's worth a lot.  There's just something about water that soothes the soul.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


My Sicilian mother-in-law loved Swiss chard.  In my younger years, unfortunately, I was vegetable-averse and never tried it.  In fact, it wasn't until I was at the New Bern Farmer's Market last fall that I was suddenly struck with the urge to buy Swiss chard.  It looked so fresh and beautiful at 'R Garden's stand, obviously fresh picked and still dripping from moisture.  Each leaf was bright green or deep crimson, and each one beckoned me to bring it home.

'R Garden is not totally organic, but they assert they are pesticide free and are striving to convert to chemical-free fertilizers.  Their produce is consistently good quality and I've become a regular customer.

I asked for help with cooking the chard and was told to treat it just like spinach.  In fact, it is a cousin of spinach and it's loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and also helps to regulate blood sugar.  It's one of the most healthful vegetables you can eat and tastes a lot like spinach.

My favorite way to cook spinach, and now Swiss chard, is to just saute it with a little olive oil.  First, I slice some garlic in the oil and heat it slowly in a heavy frying pan.  When the garlic is golden and sizzling, I take it out and set it aside.  Then I sprinkle some crushed red pepper onto the oil and add the greens.  Sprinkle a little sea salt on the greens and stir for about 30 seconds or till they start to wilt.  Serve with the garlic pieces on top as a garnish, if desired.  Absolutely delicious, and so very simple and easy.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Signage is on Front Street

Whenever I can find a restaurant that focuses on the quality and freshness of organic and sustainable prime ingredients and local products, I'm all in.  That's why we ate at the Front Street Grill in Beaufort.  The theme in Front Street Grill's dishes is “Coastal Food with a Southern Soul.”  Humble southern ingredients (such as local vegetables, fresh fish, smoked ham and stone ground grits)  meet Caribbean spices, for a blend of two cuisines.
Entrance is off of Front Street, towards the water

The dining room is small but tastefully done, and the views are lovely.

The first time we visited, hubby and I both ordered the organic burger ($8.95), made with beef from grass-fed cows.  Served on a toasted Brioche roll with lettuce, tomato and onion and your choice of coleslaw, fries or dressed greens, this burger made us both very happy.  

This time, we decided to branch out.  Hubby ordered the Neuske Ham and Cheese Panini (smoked spiral ham with Monterey Jack and sweet hot mustard on grilled sourdough.....$10.95), and he raved over it.

I ordered the Pit Cooked Pulled Pork sandwich with a house-made BBQ sauce and spicy 
coleslaw on a soft brioche roll ($9.95).  The pulled pork was good (what there was of it), not sure where the BBQ sauce was, but I was still remembering 12 Bones Smokehouse.  Quite honestly, no one could measure up to that.  Also, the waiter goofed on my order and brought me a side of coleslaw, but the sandwich already came with coleslaw, so I got double coleslaw, which I didn't want.  He didn't come back to check on us, so I left the roll and coleslaw and just ate the very small portion of pulled pork.  This was a little bit of a disappointment.

Front Street Grill at Stillwater, 300 Front Street, is located in the renovated historic Topsail marine boathouse on the beautiful Beaufort Waterfront.  Stillwater has been renovated to reflect Beaufort's port history, and the restaurant's location offers spectacular views of Carrot Island horses, Taylors Creek dolphins and panoramic sunsets.
Open Tuesday – Sunday | Closed on Mondays | Reservations 252-728-4956
Lunch 11:30 – 2:30 | Dinner 5:30 – 9:30 | Sunday Brunch 11:30 – 2:30 | Rhum Bar Menu 11:30 – close