It’s Mardi Gras Time!

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So, you would love to attend the Mardi Gras but there is no way you can manage to get to New Orleans. Why not celebrate Mardi  Gras right here in the Brunswick County, NC Islands at the Mardi Gras by the Sea on Oak Island? The event is sponsored by the Oak Island Business Alliance and runs from February 28 – March 4.

The festival begins on Friday with a scavenger hunt at local businesses and finishes the night with a crayfish boil, including live music, at The Grape and Ale beginning at 6 PM. The scavenger hunt continues on Saturday until 5 PM.

Saturday starts off with children’s story hour at the library followed by a parade starting at 11 AM; an arts and crafts festival in the soccer field from 12 noon until 4 PM; a Gumbo Cook-Off also in the soccer field at 1 PM and a bonfire on the beach at the cabana at 5 PM.

On Sunday you can attend a pancake breakfast from 8 AM until 11 AM at the Elks Lodge and on Tuesday evening from 6 PM until 10 PM you can participate in the Brunswick Little Theater Masquerade Ball at the St. James Community Center. For more information, check out http://www.facebook.com/MardiGrasByTheSea.

If that is not enough to satisfy your taste for Mardi Gras, check out the Live Oak Cafe in Southport, NC for dinner February 27 – March 1, and on March 4.

 There you can dig into scrumptious Cajun Creole Specials, including: Crawfish Etouffee, Blackened Mahi with Andouille Sausage Gravy, Shrimp Creole, dirty rice, authentic turtle soup and much more.

Spring Dreaming

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The wind is blowing, the icicles are dripping, icy rain is falling, I am bundled up and warm and dreaming of Spring. I could blame the groundhog – it seems his prediction is the same every year. Yes, I know, it could be worse. The midwest and northeast are being inundated with snow again and a foot of snow can fall in an hour there. Here, in Brunswick County, I don’t believe there has ever been a foot of snow. But I am spoiled. I have often bragged to relatives in the northeast saying that Spring begins here in February. And it does – usually. The redwinged blackbirds were swarming the other day – one of the signs of the coming Spring that I have come to recognize. And I saw a bluebird just yesterday. There seem to be buds on some of the early blooming plants as well. But, as this weather is proving, you cannot depend on these as harbingers of Spring. There is, however, a sure sign of Spring that we who live on these barrier islands have come to recognize:

The Awakening

Spring comes to the islands,
not in the shape of green crocus spears
thrusting their tips through frozen ground and snow,
bursting with the energy of new life,
anxious to claim the Spring.

Spring comes to the islands,
not in the shape of daffodils
uncurling their golden trumpets,
playing a fanfare of beauty to usher in the season.

Spring comes to the islands,
not in the shape of a robin,
it’s red waistcoat bursting with pride
gathering twigs to build a new home,
to feather its season of love and new life.

Spring comes to the islands,
in the color of white
shining in the sunlight;
in the shape of sails
billowing in the March wind,
carrying the boats north through the waterway
like their great white wings
carry the ibis out to sea.

Rebecca Pierre

Ahhhhh, Love

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Valentine’s Day will soon be here. It’s a time to celebrate those we love in ways that we often forget throughout the rest of the year. We get caught up in the tasks of our everyday lives and don’t seem to be able to find the time for the small gestures that mean so much. Roses and Valentines and candy are sweet and are definitely appreciated, however, time is the key. Time to talk about hopes and dreams and long term plans. To say thank you for all that you do. The one Valentine tradition that gives us the opportunity to share that time is a quiet dinner together away from everyday distractions. A time during which we can look at each other – tell each other – I know you. I love you for all that you are.

There are many fine restaurants in Brunswick County, NC where you can enjoy a scrumptious meal for Valentine’s Day and enjoy that bit of time together – just the two of you. I have listed some of them below, but remember to make reservations. Even those restaurants that don’t require them usually do on Valentine’s Day.

On Bald Head Island, NC try Mojo’s on the Harbour. Here, you can have a steampot – and in addition to shrimp, crab, and other shellfish, you will find steak, pork and chicken as well as fish like flounder, tuna and salmon on the eclectic menu. Ask about Italian specials and their gluten-free menu. Mojo’s has a full bar, offers wine by the bottle or the glass, serves cocktails and has Guinness draught.

Live Oak Cafe is an excellent choice for an intimate dinner in Southport, NC.  American nouveau cuisine using only the freshest ingredients is the basis for their eclectic menu. From starters to entrees, you will be pleased with dishes such as crab dip, Cajun-marinated fried alligator bites, low-country gumbo, shrimp pasta, grilled rib eyes, marinated pork tenderloin and more. In addition, there is an excellent wine list with selections from Australia, California and Argentina, among others.

Perched on the South Harbour Village Marina on the mainland portion of Oak Island, NC you will find Joseph’s Italian Bistro. Since 2003, Joseph’s has been providing Italian style meals using recipes handed down from his mama. Everything is homemade including the breads and desserts From antipasta to pasta to seafood to chicken and veal, the food is scrumptious – and the desserts are to die for.

For a more casual atmosphere and ocean views you can choose Paradise Cafe on Holden Beach, NC. Sit among the palm trees, tropical birds and local artwork hanging on melon-colored walls and enjoy appetizers, burgers, pizza and hot subs. You will also find local seafood and Caribbean and Greek Island dishes. Be sure not to leave until you have enjoyed a Paradise Sunset, the house drink.

Sugar Shack in Ocean Isle Beach, NC features authentic Jamaican home cooking. The house specialty is a huge steak, marinated, slowly grilled and richly flavored. Other offerings include award winning baby back ribs, a grilled mango tuna, spiced-just-right crab fritters, homemade soups, great burgers and nightly specials, such as lightly fried coconut shrimp served with mango-pepper marmalade. Then you just need to top it all off with a luscious slice of homemade Key lime pie. Guinness and Red Stripe beer are served.

Many tables at Twin Lakes Seafood Restaurant in Sunset Beach, NC offer a panoramic view of the region’s most picturesque watercourse. The Twin Lakes menu features many different seafood, beef and poultry combinations and preparations, such as fried, sauteed, grilled, broiled or blackened. The seafood is never long out of the water and everything is prepared by an award winning chef. Irresistible desserts are available as well.

Calabash style seafood restaurants abound in Calabash, NC but for a change of pace you may want to try the Grapevine Restaurant & Lounge. At the Grapevine, the motto is “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and us together.”  You will find yourself in a comfortable old world atmosphere with a menu to match. For example, you may choose Seafood Prosciutto Pasta, Mediterranean Pasta or Mediterranean Grouper. You will also find Original Calabash Style Seafood Platters and there are more than 30 wines from which to choose.

Eddie Roamanelli’s, in Leland, NC, serves some of the best American Italian fare in the region. The menu offers a variety of salads topped with dressings made in-house as well as Italian appetizers like Toasted Ravioli and Mama Romanelli’s Calamari topped with pepperoncinis sauteed in oregano butter and diced tomatoes.  Entrées include Eggplant Rollatini, meaty housemade Lasagna and flavorful Rigatoni Ala Vodka. You may also choose sandwiches including American favorites like Prime Rib Dip and Smoked Turkey Club and Italian classics like the hot Italian Sandwich.