Sunday, January 16, 2011

Travel Globally - Eat Locally

My family and I enjoy traveling. When you go from point A to point B in this country though, it is so easy to just hop on an interstate, stop at a chain restaurant, stay at a cookie cutter hotel, have a continental breakfast(1), and then get back on the interstate. That's not traveling, that's torture.

We traveled. Yesterday, we drove out to Camp Lejeune, but we stopped in Raleigh for dinner. Other families stop at McDonald's, for us dinner meant we stopped at Trader Joe's.

We picked up Italian lunch meat, sushi, tortillas, ham and turkey. For five people, it was still less than than $25. We also picked up ingredients for breakfast and dinner for the next day.

It was still a decent hour when we arrived at our hotel. This is one of these extended stay places with a kitchenette. While they don't have a continental breakfast, the fact that we can make our meals saves so much money, that it offsets the extra cost of the room.

Today, we have spent the day in and around the coast of North Carolina. It's been a great day and in addition to just having a good day overall, we have some great stories to tell, some of them that will appear here.

Jumping ahead, we were leaving New Bern and decided that we wanted to pick up some fresh seafood to go with some of the items we bought at Trader Joe's the night before.

I got on the BlackBerry's gps to find a Seafood place near the hotel. Phyllis got on her cell phone to check Google maps to do the same thing. I found a place called Seafood Carry-Out and Phyllis found a place called Seafood Center. Upon comparing notes, we realized we called the same place, just different sides of the same building.

The Seafood Center in Jacksonville, NC is an interesting concept. On right side of the building is the cleanest looking and cleanest SMELLING fish retailer I've ever been in. On the left side of the building is a restaurant (this is the side I called). They have all sorts of fried seafood platters, and will prepare anything you purchase on the right side of the shop (this is the side Phyllis called).

We had the opportunity to talk to the wonderful people there - sadly, I am not the best reporter. I am learning though. I got a business card, but I did not get names. But if this is not a family run business I would be completely shocked. These people work together so well and have such a wonderful rapport with one another, they must be related.

Our initial goal walking in was just to get some scallops. That was it, no more. Then I saw some of the prettiest, cleanest, freshest red snapper. Look at the eyes on these:

If these fish were not swimming two days ago, I would be completely shocked. As we got to talking, I grew more and more impressed, so I asked if I could take a couple of photos and explained about "Think Sideways" and eventually "mytasteoftheday".

What started out as a very pleasant trip to get a little seafood turned into the highlight of the entire weekend, and so far one of my favorite experiences that I have had good fortune to share. The owner pulled my son aside to one end of the store and started taking all sorts of interesting items off of one of the shelves, explaining about each item as she put them in a box for him. There was a jar of sand and shells, a piece of turtle shell, a little conch shell, a sand dollar, a coral, and a star fish.

They didn't need to do this for us, but they did. They did this for my son. (2) When we get home this will be prominently displayed in the living room.

Our main reason for going was to pick up scallops, which we purchased. We also had them fillet three of the snapper, and purchased a dozen clams. Dinner was going to be fun tonight!

I really didn't want to leave, but the reason we bought the seafood was to cook it and eat it so we sadly said our good-byes, took our treasures and headed back for the hotel. Let me tell you though, when my cousin comes back from her deployment (which hopefully will be in August), we will be back. Now, if you happen to be in the area and you've not been to the Seafood Center you need to go:

Seafood Center, Inc
Corner of Bell Fork Road & Hargett Street
Jacksonville, NC 28540

(910) 346-5677

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

We made one quick stop for some crusty Italian bread, lemon, white wine, and fresh garlic. We had a wonderful three course seafood dinner.

Clams are highly overpriced in restaurants. Furthermore, since I never know the quality of the kitchen or the source, I'm usually leery of getting them when I'm out. Now, when I can get them fresh, it's a completely different story. These were some of these best I have ever had, no sand or grit at all.

Clams on the Half Shell

  • 1 dozen large clams
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • black pepper to taste

Rinse clams.
Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic

Place clams into pan with white wine over medium heat.

Cover and simmer until all clams open
While clams are simmering, in a sauce pan over medium low heat melt butter and soften garlic. Add black pepper.
When clams are ready, remove from pan.
Pour garlic and butter into cup and serve.

Several days ago, there was a discussion of Margarita versus Margherita. I humbly add this recipe for your review:

Pasta Margherita with Scallops

  • 4 ounces Pancetta
  • 8 ounces Scallops
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 pound grape tomatoes
  • 2 ounces fresh basil
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound spinach linguine

In large pot, bring 1 gallon of salted water to a boil
When water comes to a rolling boil, add pasta. Remove pasta when al dente.
Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Add garlic and tomatoes.
When tomatoes begin to soften, crush and add pancetta.

Sauce will begin to thicken. Deglaze pan with half cup of white wine.
Move sauce to one side of pan. Add scallops to other side and sear.
Add Basil

Combine and add remaining wine. Simmer for 1-2 minutes.
Remove from heat. Add pasta to sauce. Toss with cheese and serve.

While there were a lot of flavors blended together in the pasta dish, the snapper is a very simple dish. The fish stands out for itself. Red snapper has a very mild flavor that only needs the very slightest accompaniment, a little salt, a little pepper, butter or olive oil to saute it in, and lemon juice. I used orange juice as a slight variant, but that was it. Although my recipes may not normally reflect it, less really is more. The fewer ingredients used the better.

Red Snapper with Orange slices

  • 6 fillets of Red Snapper
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 whole orange peeled and sliced
  • 1 whole orange halved and juiced
  • salt and pepper


Lay fillets out and pat dry.

Sprinkle salt and pepper onto fillets
Heat skillet to medium heat and add olive oil.
Place two fillets in skillet.
Depending on thickness of fillets, flip after 2-3 minutes.
Pour one third of orange juice over fillets.
Remove fillets after additional 2-3 minutes or after fish begins to flake apart
Place slice of orange on top of fillet and serve.

Thank you for taking the time to read today's blog. I hope you have enjoyed it and will share it with your friends by either Twittering, Facebooking, Stumbling, Farking, or whatever method of social networking you would prefer.

Personally, I would hope you would invite your friends over to your home, open up a bottle of wine, and break bread together. That's the best kind of "social networking" anyone can do.

Until next time, I wish you Peace, Love, and Hollandaise Sauce.

(1) Not a footnote: I don't know what Continent most Continental breakfasts are from, but the last time I was served mushy apples, stale wheat bread, and watered down orange juice, I don't call that breakfast!
(2) Not a footnote: I still haven't stopped smiling!!! Really guys, thank you!!!

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