February 1, 2005 – Charlotte Observer
By Kathleen Purvis
“To see ourselves as others see us,” the poet Robert Burns said, would be the highest gift we could recieve. This week, I asked Raleigh food writer Debbie Moose to help us do just that, to finish up our food series Places & Plates. It was only fair. In Places & Plates, we attemped to see other cities in the Carolinas by their food. Since July 2002, I’ve eaten my way through Charleston, Wilmington, Asheville, Raleigh, Greensboro and Durham/Capel Hill, trying to get the flavor of each place. In a way, it’s an impossible task. I started calling these stories my “parachute drops.” I’d hit a town with a stack of maps, a long list of restaurants and stores and a stomach-churning eating plan. In two or three days, I’d try to get a true taste of each. No one can do that, of course. Reviewers usually make two or three visits to a restaurant. I was hitting tywo or three at the same meal. But what you can do is look for what stands out. Markets with ingredients you’d never expect to find in the Carolinas. Chef’s who can catch your attention even when you’re eating your fifth meal of the day.
After almost 50 restaurants, I came away with a list of greats: Port Land Grille in Wilmington being one of them.
The elegant Port Land Grille is consistently named the best restaurant in the area, add our accolades to the chorus. The extensive menu is loaded with local ingredients; fresh-caught trigger fish was grilled on a wood-fired grill, topped with flakes of crab meat & fennel pollen and served on a pool of fresh black-eye pea, butter bean, corn, pickled okra succotash with smoky bacon. Very expensive, but the attentive service is worth it.