Tag Archives: travel

She’s a HOT SHOT! …and Her Datil Peppers Have a Pedigree

For 30+ years, Sherry Stoppelbein has been feeding St. Augustine, Florida ~ with three restaurants, a bakery and an award-winning hot sauce company. They’re all in one HOT  location situated in the center of the historic district of America’s oldest city. Hot Shot Bakery & Café  isn’t really about Stoppelbein (according to Stoppelbein)  but about the made-from-scratch food she whips up for breakfast, lunch, catering, signature themed cakes; she’s all about pleasing her patrons who have a hankering for ‘unique’.


Winning culinary competitions by entering a wide variety of her signature datil pepper dishes over the years, Hot Shot Bakery & Café  has a following that includes all ages. Kids adore her baked goodies from cupcakes to cookies. College kids crave her hearty soups, wraps and paninis. Foodies die for anything she’s concocting, especially the new little chocolate covered datil pepper!image002

How about Stoppelbein’s ‘WALL OF FLAME’ featuring photos of patrons who are eating their first datil pepper treat or competing to eat the most? After months of wannabe winners, the current champion has only eaten FOUR chocolate covered datils!image003



The history of St. Augustine’s prized pepper is that it was probably born in Peru, coursing a path to its cousin the Habanera (Havana) and then finding its home in St. Augustine. Stoppelbein and her husband Bubba grow the plants at their home in Elkton, Florida. A good year could bring 50-100 healthy plants yielding 2 bushels of peppers from each plant (22 pounds) which equals approximately 400-500 tiny bright green peppers. As they mature from June through the summer, they turn bright golden yellow.


In addition to dipping the datils into semi-sweet Hershey chocolate, Stoppelbein manufactures her line of datil sauces, jams and condiments as ‘Datil B Good’. The line includes datil pepper BBQ sauce, citrus jam, four escalating degrees of hot sauce, datil mustard and her famous chocolate sauce ~ all with a kick!

Spring Events in Wilmington, N.C. & Island Beaches

image002Spring is the ideal time for an active vacation in Wilmington, North Carolina’s historic river district and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach. Fitness trails from the river to the sea make it easy to stay fit while enjoying a coastal vacation. More than 54 parks and gardens include the 1.75-mile Wilmington Riverwalk in the historic river district and Wilmington’s new Gary Shell Cross-City Trail, an off-road, multi-use trail with bicycle and pedestrian access to numerous recreational and cultural sites. On the island of Wrightsville Beach, visitors and locals walk and jog along The Loop, a fitness trail that circles the town’s park. Two North Carolina state parks are located on Pleasure Island: Carolina Beach State Park and Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, both of which offer hiking and cycling along trails, as well as fishing and other recreational activities. Kure Beach boasts a new oceanfront park and the area’s only disc golf course. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Fear River, and numerous marshes and channels, there are abundant recreational opportunities for fishing, boating, and paddling.

Wilmington is a Bicycle Friendly Community, as designated by the League of American Bicyclists. Bike routes and maps can be found online at www.wmpo.org/WMBPC/index.html. For cyclists, Blue Clay Trail offers an intermediate level mountain bike trail: http://sirbikesalot.com/entry.php?fid=56. Cape Fear Cyclists post ride calendars on their website at www.capefearcyclists.org. Runners can find information on races and weekly runs by connecting with the Wilmington Roadrunners www.wilmingtonroadrunners.org. Surfers can find daily surf reports and competition information online at www.surfchex.com, www.wblivesurf.com, and www.hotwaxsurfshop.com.

With all this activity it’s easy to see why Wilmington is a “North Carolina Fit Community” (www.fitcommunitync.com) and ranks on RelocateAmerica.com’s Top 10 Recreation Cities list (2010). Wilmington and the destination’s fitness-oriented beach towns of Carolina, Kure, and Wrightsville also host sports events throughout the year.

Following is a roundup of sports events:
March 9: Azalea Triathlon. 8am. UNCW Natatorium and campus. http://www.setupevents.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=event_detail&eventID=2184

March 15: SAO Midnight 5k for Ovarian Cancer. 11:59pm. UNC-Wilmington, Wilmington. http://www.active.com/running/wilmington-nc/sao-midnight-5k-for-ovarian-cancer-2013

March 16: 9th Annual Steve Haydu St. Patrick’s Lo-Tide Run. 8am. Carolina Beach Boardwalk, Carolina Beach. http://www.lotiderun.org/

March 16: Quintiles Wrightsville Beach 5k. 5pm. Mayfaire Town Center, Wilmington. http://its-go-time.com/wrightsville-beach-marathon-5k-march-16

March 17: Quintiles Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon & Marathon. 6:15am. Wrightsville Beach. http://www.wrightsvillebeachmarathon.com/

March 23: Blue Ribbon Run 5k. 4pm. Autumn Hall, Wilmington. http://its-go-time.com/event-registration?ee=52

March 23: Wrightsville Beach Biathlon. 9am. Stand-up Paddleboard and Run. Blockade Runner Resort, Wrightsville Beach. http://wbb.eventbrite.com/#

March 24: Poplar Grove Plantation Peanut 5k. 8am. Abbey Nature Preserve, Poplar Grove Plantation. http://www.poplargrove.com/5k_run.htm

March 30: Bunny Hop 5k/10k. 8am. Pine Valley, Wilmington. http://wilmingtonroadrunners.org/events/cat.listevents/2013/02/21/-?offset=1&category_fv=3

April 4: 2nd Annual Donut Dash. 6pm. UNC-Wilmington, Wilmington. http://its-go-time.com/event-registration?ee=66

April 6: Azalea-Big Buddy 5k/10k/Fun Walk. 8am. Mayfaire Town Centre, Wilmington. 910-392-8180; http://www.ncazaleafestival.org/events/azalea-5k10kfun-walk-2013

April 7: Paws4People 5k/10k. 9am. UNCW University Station, Wilmington. www.p4pwilmington5k.com

April 13: Son Run 5k. 8:30am. Wrightsville Beach Park. http://wilmingtonroadrunners.org/events

April 21: 5k Race for the Planet. 7am register; 8am race. Earth Day event. NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, Kure Beach. 910-458-7468; http://www.ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher/5k-race-for-the-planet-2

April 27: Coastal NC Run for Autism. 8am. Mayfaire Town Center, Wilmington. http://www.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1052901

April 27: The Great Glow Run 5k. 8pm. Hugh MacRae Park, Wilmington. http://www.greatglowrun.com/

April 27: Step Up For Soldiers Combat Mud Run. 8am. National Guard Armory, Wilmington.


June 13: NewBridge Bank Bridge to Bridge. 6pm. CFCC Schwartz Center, Downtown Wilmington.


May 18: 2013 Patriot Rush 5k & 1-mile walk/run. 8am. Grace Baptist Church & Wilmington Christian Academy, Wilmington. http://its-go-time.com/event-registration?ee=58

May 25: Flashback 5k & 10k. 8am. Mayfaire Town Center, Wilmington. http://wilmingtonroadrunners.org/events/icalevent.detail/2013/02/21/132/-

May 30: Wilma Dash. 6pm. A women’s only walk/run through Wilmington’s historic district. Begins at Coastline Event & Conference Center, Wilmington. http://www.wilmaontheweb.com/Wilma-Dash.


May 18-19: 11th Annual Kona Waterman’s Classic. Longboard surf competition (day 1) & standup paddleboard race (day 2). Crystal Pier at The Oceanic, Wrightsville Beach. http://wblasurf.org/2013/02/20/2013-kona-waterman-classic

April 25-28: Carolina Cup Stand Up Paddleboard Event. A national qualifier race for the World SUP Championships. Blockade Runner Resort, Wrightsville Beach.http://wrightsvillebeachpaddleclub.com/about-the-carolina-cup

August 17-18: Wrightsville Beach Wahine Classic. Women’s surf competition. South end of Wrightsville Beach. http://wblasurf.org/category/events/


April 9-August 17: Wilmington Hammerheads Soccer Season Begins! April 9-August 17. Home games at Legion Stadium, Wilmington. www.wilmingtonhammerheads.com

May 18-19: Seaside Soccer Classic. Cape Fear Regional Soccer Park & others, Wilmington. 910-392-0306; www.capefearsoccer.com

May 28-August 5: Wilmington Sharks Baseball Season Begins! May 28-August 5. Home games at Legion Stadium, Wilmington. www.wilmingtonsharks.com

St. Francis Inn Wins National Geographic Award

Historic St. Francis Inn “the oldest Inn in America’s Oldest City” (circa 1791) is the featured notable bed & breakfast in National Geographic’s current award to St. Augustine, Florida, making the Top 20 Places to See in National Geographic Traveler’s World.

Inn owners Joe and Margaret Finnegan commented on the honor, “Our guests have known for many years that they were staying in a very special inn and location on Spanish Colonial St. George Street. We’re proud that this highly respected publication recognizes our place in history too.”

St. Augustine is acclaimed as one of only four locations in the U.S. included on the international list. National Geographic editors praised the city for maintaining the genuine Old Florida culture and charm and preserving its nearly 450-year-old historic assets. Specifically recommended by editors are the 17th century Castillo de San Marcos, the Lightner Museum built by Henry Flagler in 1887, St. Augustine Lighthouse (Florida’s first) and the pedestrian-friendly St. George Street.

St. Francis Inn

Meet Bon Appétit Chef de Cuisine Mary Nolan

Bradenton, FL Welcomes Bon Appétit Chef de Cuisine Mary Nolan  June 9 for an exclusive Cooking Demonstration and Luncheon.

On her Food Network program “Chic & Easy,” Chef Nolan showcases simple meals and tips to impress guests without breaking the bank, making the process seem effortless even for those without formal cooking training.

Exclusive VIP packages are being offered to guests staying the weekend at one of four hotel partners – Holiday Inn Lakewood Ranch, Comfort Suites, Fairfield Inn & Suites, and Wingate by Wyndham – who are offering rates starting at just $89. The Food Lovers Package can be added to the hotel stay for $175 or The Culinary Delight Package for $125.

The Food Lovers Package includes:
• VIP Meet & Greet with Chef Nolan held on Friday, June 8
• Cooking demonstration and luncheon
• VIP Champagne Brunch held on Sunday, June 10
• A copy of Bon Appétit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook ($50 value)

The Culinary Delight Package includes:
• Audience view of the cooking demonstration and luncheon
• VIP Champagne Brunch held on Sunday, June 10
• A copy of Bon Appétit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook ($50 value)

To book your hotel and reserve your spot in the kitchen, call (941) 729-9177 by April 30. For more information visit www.AMILBK.com

It’s sometimes called “Forgotten Florida” between St. Petersburg and Sarasota on Florida’s west coast including Anna Maria Island & Longboat Key, Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch, which are treasured for their authentic Old Florida charm, breath-taking scenery, funky dining and shopping districts, and 16 miles of sugar-white sands. See this earlier post for more area info: Finding Forgotten Florida

In A Stew

What do you get when you put chicken, pork, beef, squirrel, rabbit, tomatoes, lima beans, corn, okra and a few more vegetables to cook in a big pot for a few hours over an outdoor open fire? It’s Brunswick Stew!

Well, not all of these items are needed. Maybe you don’t have any squirrel or rabbit, and maybe not all of those other ingredients either. The outdoor fire is not even required.

Brunswick stew has more unique recipes and special ingredients than can be counted. The main secrets to this famed dish are the lengthy cooking time and the thickness of the rich stew, which differentiates it from soup.

Brunswick, GA and Brunswick County, VA both claim to have originated this stew, but anyone can claim it really, and there are as many different recipes as there are chefs creating it.

Brunswick County, NC celebrates this stew with its fourth annual Brunswick Stew Cook-off on April 21 in Shallotte. Arts, crafts, entertainment and kids’ activities are included with this popular event.

Here’s more info. Will we see you at the sampling table?

More than the Tango!

Thought I knew quite a lot about the best beef in the world and a few bottles of Malbec! Also knew something about the tango! Now I find much more that I can enjoy in a visit to Buenos Aires. The new app Buenos Aires Essential Guide, co-authored by Shafik Meghji and Sioned Jones and published by Sutro in their extensive collection of travel apps, is highly recommended for planning a trip and locating everything on arrival. 

It’s a beautiful app, well written and comprehensive, especially useful translations of key phrases so that an English-speaking tourist will not be completely overwhelmed by ignorance of the local language. It’s easy and affordable to download from iTunes for iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

The photographs are stunning too!

These authors are experienced writers with major publishing credentials. Shafik has co-authored Rough Guides to Nepal, India, Chile and Bolivia and contributed to several others as well as writing for travel anthologies, newspapers, magazines and websites. Sioned relocated from her home in London to Buenos Aires. She is a linguist and photographer and now works in the language industry.

Check out this guide. It’s top notch!

Wilmington Announces Garden Show

The 19th annual Wilmington Garden Show Feb. 4 & 5 will feature dozens of vendors selling hundreds of plants, products, services and gift items for plant and flower enthusiasts at every level of expertise. Demonstrations and lectures will be on the show floor. More than 50 gardening and landscaping vendors will offer displays, plants, decorative items, helpful tips and more.

Both days feature a full schedule of guest speakers who will provide demonstrations and lectures on a variety of topics. All events take place at the Schwartz Center (601 N. Front Street, Wilmington) on Cape Fear Community College’s downtown campus. Garden Show hours are Saturday, 9:00 a.m.—5:00 p.m. and Sunday, 11:00 a.m.—4:00 p.m.

General admission is $7; children under 12 are free. For more details, please call 910-798-7670. Print out a discount coupon and for more information. Visitors who attend the Wilmington Garden Show and the Wilmington Wine & Chocolate Festival are eligible to receive a $3 discount coupon, available at both events the day of the show.

Tasting Wine and Chocolate

Toni Incorvaia, owner of Noni Bacca Winery

Wilmington Wine and Chocolate Festival welcomes tasters to NC Feb. 3-5 at the Coastline Event Center.

Connoisseurs can sip, nibble and sigh as they sample delectable delights from more than 60 superb regional wineries, chocolatiers and artisans. A Friday night Grand Tasting gala kicks off the event with live music and heavy hors d’oeuvres by Lawler Catering. Charlotte-based recording artists The Brubakers will entertain with contemporary jazz while wine and chocolate purveyors tantalize with tastings and samples.

On Saturday and Sunday, the wine and chocolate showcase features fine vintners, chocolatiers and artists in a casual atmosphere. Products will be available for sampling and for sale.

Demonstrations by food and drink experts will educate as roaming musicians entertain in a marketplace setting.

Festival proceeds benefit the New Hanover County Senior Center’s programs.

Showcase admission is $12 in advance/$15 at the door (tickets good for one-day admission). Grand Tasting tickets cost $40 in advance/$45 at the door, based on availability. For festival details and ticket information, visit www.wilmingtonwineandchocolatefestival.com, email wineandchocfest@gmail.com, or call 910-742.0120. Tickets are also available at Wilmington-area Harris Teeter stores. Discount coupons for visitors attending the Wilmington Wine & Chocolate Festival and the Wilmington Garden Show will be available at both events.

Hot Jazz on the Cool NC Coast

There’s nothing like hot jazz to heat up a cool winter evening. Each February since 1980, the North Carolina Jazz Festival has brought world-class jazz musicians to Wilmington. Check it out Feb. 2-4.

Fifteen traditional jazz artists will perform in an intimate cabaret-style setting at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside’s ballroom. Now in its 32nd year, the 2012 North Carolina Jazz Festival kicks off on Thursday night with a concert featuring local piano man Grenoldo Frazier, along with a “beauty and the bass” performance by vocalist Melva Houston and bassist Herman Burney.

Melva Houston

A magical evening continues with two sets of rousing classic jazz. Friday and Saturday night sets (7:30 p.m. until midnight) will feature celebrated jazz musicians, including: Harry Allen (saxophone), Herman Burney (bass), John Cocuzzi (vibes/piano), Adrian Cunningham (clarinet, alto & tenor sax, flute), Kevin Dorn (drums), Nicki Parrott (bass, vocals); Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar master); Ed Polcer (trumpet/cornet); Chuck Redd (vibes/drums); and Bria Skonberg (trumpet, vocals).

John Cocuzzi

Adrian Cunningham


Bucky Pizzarelli

Chuck Redd

This year’s newcomers to the N.C. Jazz Festival are pianist John Royen, accordionist Patrick Harison, and trombonist Dion Tucker, who plays with Harry Connick Jr.’s band, as well as the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. A Patron’s Brunch on Saturday will feature the All-Star musicians and a jam session.

One of the oldest traditional jazz festivals in the country, this festival often sells out; advance reservations are recommended. For tickets and details about the N.C. Jazz Festival, call 910-793-1111 or visit www.ncjazzfestival.com. Individual concert ticket prices vary: Thursday ($35 per person); Friday and Saturday ($50 general admission; $25 military rate, each night).

Sex and Sponges in Beautiful Barbados

Barbados officially celebrates its high season for visitors beginning in mid-December when North Americans and British are particularly eager to avoid their cold winter. For history and details about this fabulous destination we recommend the Barbados Travel Companion app available from iTunes. It was authored by experienced travel guide writer and journalist Harry S. Pariser and published by Sutro Media which boasts more than 300 mobile apps covering the world’s best destinations. We didn’t go to Barbados for sex or sponges, but after getting the complete scoop from Harry, it might be time to plan another trip. Here’s a little preview of the app content.

The good news for Barbados lovers is that all year is a near-perfect season, and spring or summer rates for lodging or travel packages can be quite enticing.

This is a beautiful friendly Caribbean island which welcomes guests all year. The interesting people are its foremost asset. With golfing, diving, surfing, any water sport, plus swimming with the turtles among the coral, there’s never a shortage of activity. Check current event schedules to plan for something special. The gorgeous beach itself, with an occasional break for a rum punch or several, delivers a pretty good vacation, and the beach locales range from busy resort areas to secluded spots for napping under swaying palms.

Summer in Barbados features the Crop Over Festival which is a five-week event. Its origin is more than 200 years old when the sugar cane crop harvest was finished and called for a celebration. Albeit not still based on the harvest schedule, the festival includes dancing, parades, competitions and of course the fabulous food, arts and crafts which are popular year-round. Thousands of visitors are attracted during this season, and all for good cause.

Duty free shopping is available in Bridgetown, the capital city, in department stores and jewelry shops plus small malls outside the city, but my favorite shopping is among the craft vendors in Pelican Village or along the street in many areas. Tropical batiks, straw hats or local art and pottery are frequently the same products in various locations, but I find the browsing and light bartering to be part of the fun. Vendors are not allowed on the beach, and hawking is not common.

Touring the rum distillery or studying the island’s architecture, rich history and culture also provide myriad choices for daily excursions beyond the beach.

Good food is not a secret here. Spices combine Caribbean influence with occasional Asian or French and create many special dishes including fresh local vegetables such as sweet potatoes. A flying fish sandwich was the first meal I chose in Barbados, and it’s often one of my favorite entrées. It’s local and plentiful due to its actual appearance of flying out of the water (toward the anglers we believe) while it’s supposedly trying to escape larger fish. Other fish is fresh as well as shrimp, lobster, and much more. Pickled sea cat, a relish made from octopus, adds a nice touch to fish and other selections.

Let’s talk about pudding and souse another day! Do you know what they are? Have you sampled them in Barbados, or maybe elsewhere? We heard it was good at Lemon Arbour in St. John.

Let me know what you think about finding the fine food, great beaches and dazzling upcoming events. Sex, sponges, octopus and rum are deserving of further review as well.