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Life this past month has been extremely busy: a new house, three states, old friends, distant family, cocktails, ice cream, grits, baby lamb, spring asparagus, bagels, udon, pizza…the list goes on and on. After just nine days of frantically unpacking as many boxes as possible at the new house, I packed my bags and headed to the east coast to vacation in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Manhattan. The first part of my three leg tour was a long-awaited trip to catch up with my closest girlfriends from high school. Although it has been 13 years since our days at Reno High, it felt as if we were all 16 again and times hadn’t changed (well, except for maybe the addition of liquor (legally) and no curfew). The three days we spent together on the coast were filled with old memories, laughter, giddiness, new memories, and of course food.

And did I mention the cocktails? Other then catching up with one another, our main goal was to kick back and leave the stress of life at home behind. What better way to relax then to sit on a 75 degree patio that overlooks the water sipping on martinis? What I learned about Southern beverages is that they are ridiculously sweet and should be drank in moderation (should I have expected anything other from the region that specializes in sweet tea?). After just one sweet-tini it was time to switch to bourbon! Just recently I started drinking Manhattans and learning about the finer points of whisky and vermouth. Every chef I have ever worked with has a thing for Makers Mark, so I figured it was time to give in and start acquiring the taste. Since Bourbon is made in Kentucky it is huge in the South and I seized the opportunity. My favorite bourbon during the trip was Bookers; the caramel flavor, the smokiness from the barrel, and the undertones of coffee were a perfect combination and made a very smooth and refreshing martini. I now understand why there are so many rocking chairs and wrap around porches in the South, they are used as platforms for good conversation and sipping on bourbon!

When we weren’t drinking cocktails, the majority of our time was spent in Willmington and Wrightsville Beach. Thankfully the weather was warm and mild and the humidity bearable; perfect for walking along the beach and exploring the local shops and restaurants. There were boat rides, wild raspberries, searches for shells, more sweet tea, dead jellyfish, fried fish, One Tree Hill sightings (don’t ask), and beach frolicking.

And oh, let’s not forget all the Southern sweets… Beignets, Ice Cream, and Pastries to name a few. Our first morning in North Carolina, my mom’s friend made us fresh, hot beignets – a Southern breakfast of champions. It felt like we were back in high school as we sat around the breakfast table and watched Mom cook for us. It was such a treat and brought back so many fond memories.

We were also treated to some of the best ice cream in North Carolina. On our drive back to Raleigh from the beaches, we stopped in the small town of Angier for a cone from Sunni Sky’s Homemade Ice Cream. Known for their 90+ flavors, we were not disappointed. It was a warm day, and the place was packed. Not only does this place have creamy and delicious ice cream (all made in-house), they also allow you to taste as many flavors as you want (and I did say there were 90+ flavors). Although I tried 3 flavors, the winner for me that day was the Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream. A single scoop in a waffle cone is huge, but I still managed to finish every last melty drop.

Finally, our trip to the South wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Cracker Barrel. It wasn’t the best Southern Food I have ever had, but the Southern Service was impeccable, and quite impressive for a meal that cost less than $10!

Although the trip was only 3 days, we packed in as much as we could and we made so many new memories. We decided that 13 years is too long to go between visits, and are planning another girls trip for next year.

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