I consider myself very blessed to have made some life-long friends at my first job out of X-Ray school. I truly cannot imagine my life without these people in it. We’re all around the same age and started our careers in imaging within a few years of each other. There are four of us so we cleverly (and sometimes annoyingly ;)) refer to ourselves as the Quad. It was coined out of convenience, really. “So, who is going to dinner tonight?” someone may ask. Instead of painstakingly listing off the eight people’s names because we most often include our “others,” the reply would be “The Quad.”
It is a yearly tradition for us to get together and share in the spirit of Christmas over a scrumptious meal. We try to pick a day that works for the majority of us and squeal in excitement (well, most of us squeal) about how excited we are to dress up! Nothing quite like putting on a pair of sky high heels, some huge flashy earrings, and the perfect dress you searched months to find to make a girl excited about going out on the town! Last year we went to Indochine for some delicious Thai cuisine, another one of my recommended local spots. We also partake in a White Elephant Christmas ornament exchange and I scored this awesome ornament for my tree! (X-Ray techs are into skull and cross bone stuff!)
This year we picked a relatively new spot in Wilmington that surprisingly none of us had tried. My friends share my love of food, otherwise we couldn’t be friends (jk jk!). One girl’s husband is even a chef! Rumors have been circulating for months about how phenomenal this restaurant is, so we decided to see if it would live up to it’s reputation.
Manna is an American cuisine restaurant located in historic downtown Wilmington. Now, you should know that I do have an actual favorite restaurant in Wilmington. I’m not going to name it here in this post. HOWEVER, Manna gave this other restaurant a major run for first place in my book. I don’t want to say Manna is my favorite just yet because I think to say a place is your favorite when you’ve only experienced it once is a little too quick to judge. But, for what its worth, we will be going back to this place very soon because it was just phenomenal.
We started our meal with cocktails because no Christmas party is complete without them! I typically order a glass of Cabernet as my go-to, but red wine makes my nose stuffy. I was pretty sick battling a cold already so I reverted back to an old wives tale that whiskey is the drink of choice when feeling under the weather. I had two drinks and I kid you not I felt like a new person by the end of the meal! Manna features a seasonal cocktail list, so depending on when you go the cocktail list may be different. My drink featured a rye whiskey, lemon, and something else delicious, complete with a single cubed ice block. Forgive me for forgetting the name (it was something French), but I do remember it was the first one on the list! It wasn’t real sweet so if you aren’t into that, you may want to try something different. I loved it though! Grayson ordered his usual Kentucky Mule which I also tried and it was perfectly mixed as well. It was not served in a copper mug like we were expecting, but he loved it nonetheless.
Once we were all settled in with our drinks and chatting about the week’s events, we were ready to order our starter dishes. It is quite obvious that whomever writes the menu for the restaurant has quite a sense of humor and I fed right into it. Anything for a giggle! A few people ordered an appetizer uniquely coined the “Berry Manna Loaf.” It was thinly sliced sour dough bread served with Manna churned herb butter and cranberry jam. I tried a slice and was pleased with how well the butter and tartness of the cranberry jam went together.
I’m a pretty adventurous eater, so don’t freak out when you hear the name of this next dish. It may sound totally weird to you, but if you have never tried it, you are missing out on something absolutely amazing. We ordered the Puerco Rico appetizer which features NC pork belly. Another ingeniously named dish: puerco is Spanish for “pig.” It may sound a little gross if you are unfamiliar, but pork belly is basically just bacon that has not been cured or sliced. Pork belly could possibly be the new bacon 😉 Our waiter was very knowledgeable about the menu and was happy to share that the chef ties and seasons the pork belly himself in house. This was my favorite dish at the restaurant! It was served with masa dumplings and topped with cilantro and garlic aioli. I could have ordered six of these and been happy! A few others at the table ordered it as well and raved about it! Puerco Rico was a huge hit for our group!
With our bellies a litter fuller but still growling for more, it was time for the main dish! I’m a sucker for filet if there is one listed on the menu, so I couldn’t possibly resist ordering the Iron Chef: Bobby Filet. A pan roasted filet served with a potato and turnip galette. This was basically a huge hash brown that had sliced turnip root mixed throughout. It was so delicious and the finely sliced turnips gave the galette a nice crunch that the potatoes would have lacked on their own. Accompanied by turnip greens and a red wine and black olive puree, I was concerned I may have missed the the pearly gates when we walked in!
Grayson ordered The Reel Deal which is their fish of the day (grouper on this occasion) prepared with oyster mushrooms and roasted sage and garlic turnips. This dish is what I like to refer to as a “one dish wonder.” It has a lot of different tastes, textures, and ingredients in one dish that, when mixed together, create a mega-mind blowing-wonder meal. I didn’t think it could have gotten any better after I tried my dish, but I have to admit that I think he ordered the superior dish in comparison to mine. Remember, we already established that my dish was to die for, so imagine how delish his was!
With the main course settling nicely into our now bulging bellies, our waiter asked the question that I had been waiting to hear all night, “Did we save room for dessert?” I can’t lie that my stomach let out a little cry for help when I squealed, “I sure didn’t, but I’m still interested!” It was a special occasion for sobbing out loud! No WAY I was leaving without dessert!!
Our meal was rounded out by a decadent chocolate and pumpkin cream mousse dish topped with a cinnamon ice cream. It was very creamy and the pumpkin and chocolate together were magical. I wouldn’t have expected those two to work together so nicely, but it really was delish! Also, our utensils came straight out of the freezer and were served chilled…pretty nice touch, I think! It’s the little things.
Stuffed silly, we sat together for quite some time after dinner joking and giggling like middle school kids. Nothing like a belly full of top-notch food and a night with your favorite people to kick your seasonal festivities off right! Can’t wait until our Christmas Dinner next year friends!