Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Kicks are Keen on Route 17

If it's after breakfast, it's time to do some walking.

After saying goodbye to the other birthday celebrants, we found our way to Fort Moultrie, not necessarily to admire armaments and groundworks, but rather as an access point to get to the ocean.

While it was a gorgeous sunny day to be on the beach walking north, heading south was like fighting gale-force winds, so a return on the sand was quickly abandoned for a stroll back through the beach neighborhoods of the 1% before hitting Route 17 to head north with no more of a plan than the next meal.

That's my job: R & R. Restaurant research.

If it's lunch, this must be Myrtle Beach.

It was my first time in this centerpiece of what the tourism folks have dubbed the Grand Strand, but all I cared about was finding a place to eat that didn't feel like a stopping point for buses or the pale shadow of a former locals' haven.

I hit pay dirt when after considerable research, I discover (corny name aside) Bummz Beach Cafe located inside an oceanfront 1930s cottage sandwiched between two obnoxious concrete condo/hotel towers. A true beach place, the kind that has their own matchbooks and devoted local crowd.

Needless to say, given the relentless wind and frigid temperature, neither the covered deck nor oceanfront patio were options (except to a roving cat who didn't seem to mind the weather), but a table in front of a huge window facing the ocean and overlooking those outside spaces was almost as good.

Our meal took its cue from the view, beginning with local steamed shrimp and moving though fish tacos and a salad dwarfed by blackened grouper. The mountain of onion straws were in no way site-specific, but provided the requisite crunch factor.

If it's dinner, this must be Wilmington.

I'd only been in Wilmington once and that had been a mere sleepover on the outskirts of town on a stretch of road about as attractive as Midlothian Turnpike, so this trip's layover down on the RiverWalk in the historic district was far more likely to make me want to go back.

My dinner research had sent me in search of an interesting wine list, preferably accompanied by a clever menu and both were found at Circa 1922, a global tapas restaurant situated in a fine old bank building. Large glass lighting fixtures delivered the kind of soft, intimate glow that makes every woman look better, while dark wood and brick walls gave the room the patina of old money.

A table in the front window provided a street view and a nearby heater ensured I stayed warm throughout the meal, which our server graciously allowed to meander along at the pace of people on vacation (albeit a mini one).

Looking and tasting like Christmas, DeMorgenzon "DMZ" Rose was both a nod to a South African vacation and a fine accompaniment to a cheese and charcuterie plate boasting pale pink slices of duck pastrami to die for, Bresaoloa, wild boar salami, Oregon bleu and Saint Andre, a triple creme with a bloomy rind that could have been butter with an attitude.

In another vacation nod, this time to last summer's Portland/Willamette trip, Sokol Blosser "Evolution" had a nose as beautiful as a summer bouquet and accompanied a sushi trio - salmon rose, miso sashimi and shrimp tempura roll - and a decadent lobster avocado roll with hints of grapefruit, yogurt and edamame.

Continuing the crustacean theme with lobster gnocchi with fava beans, leeks and shaved Manchego paired with Robert Sinskey Pinot Noir, I felt like my restaurant research had paid off in spades. At that point, most diners had left or were soon to, but our affable waiter kept things leisurely for us.

We wrapped things up with chocolate ganache cake - although I admit with embarrassment that I wasn't really up to the task at that point - and the last of the Pinot Noir before securing our status as last of the evening's diners. No shame there.

When a day revolves around a different city for each meal, you're already making your own rules.

And if it's Wednesday, it's time to go home. Before we explode.

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