A Slice of Hollywood in Wilmington, NC

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The town of Wilmington, North Carolina is often referred to as “Filmington.” TV shows such as Eastbound and Down and Dawson’s Creek were locally-based.  Wilmington is also home to a range of films;  from the David Lynch classic Blue Velvet to summer blockbusters like Iron Man. Unfortunately, North Carolina tax laws may push this lucrative business down to Atlanta and New Orleans, which are more film-friendly.

Inspired by Gone with the Wind's Tara, the previous owners raised the columns to be two stories high
Inspired by Gone with the Wind’s Tara, the previous owners raised the columns to be two stories high

But whether or not the film industry flees North Carolina, John West is in Wilmington to stay, thankyouverymuch. West has been in the business for over 20 years, and while work led him to Los Angeles for over a decade, he was thrilled to return to North Carolina. He and his four dogs feel quite comfortable in this historic home, with two-story columns out front flanked by twin palms.  He has his beloved boat for weekend excursions.  Not to mention his mother, who lives nearby. Not only are they close friends, but Martha West is such an impeccable cook, that I wouldn’t want to be too far from her myself.

Kate Gibbs speaking up for film in Wilmington
Kate Gibbs speaking up for film in Wilmington

The weekend we visited, the film industry held a demonstration to keep production local. West’s girlfriend Kate Gibbs even made the news, speaking up for the cause. It was a relaxing weekend, kicked off by a thunderstorm that knocked out power in West’s neighborhood. It was a welcome event.  We lit candles, poured some bourbon and sat on the front porch rockers, catching up.

Fried green tomatoes - classic
Fried green tomatoes – classic

We ate at one of the best restaurants I’d ever visited, called Rx. This former pharmacy has a modest look that belies some serious artistry in the kitchen. Our accommodations were beyond compare – we stayed in a guest house fully-equipped with a bathroom and kitchen, and well-decorated interiors.

John West and Kate Gibbs
John West and Kate Gibbs

The best part of the trip however, was the boat ride. We cruised waterways that slid by restaurants and bars. We passed tiny islands that appear and disappear depending on the tide. I almost forgot I was in an industry town until we sped past the modern home which was the setting of Sleeping with the Enemy. We even skirted close to Cape Fear, made famous by the Scorcese thriller starring Robert DeNiro, Jessica Lange and Juliette Lewis.

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It was a nice slice of Hollywood, but just a sliver of a slice. Only in the South can one expect a pickled okra in their Bloody Mary!

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We luxuriated in the detached guest home – with full kitchen and bath!
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My favorite room in the home was the foyer, warm and welcoming with an antique lighting fixture.
Homemade brunch - Martha's breakfast casserole, fresh fruit, angel wings and "Georgia Ice Cream" - AKA grits.
Homemade brunch – Martha’s breakfast casserole, fresh fruit, angel wings, coffee and “Georgia Ice Cream” – AKA grits.
A custom painting of three of his dogs hangs over an antique roll desk.
A custom painting of three of his dogs hangs over an antique roll desk.
A plaque marks the home's historic status.
A plaque marks the home’s historic status.
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The devil is in the detail in this fine home.

Southern-Themed Oyster Roast

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Buying a home is always cause for celebration. We fell in love with our 1925 craftsman, complete with indoor columns, chandeliers, stained glass windows and crown molding. But we needed to baptize our home, so we threw the doors open and invited our friends and neighbors in to eat, drink and poke around.

Bushels of oysters were roasted on our backyard grill

We wanted our party to reflect where we came from, Los Angeles. But we realized that California cuisine is a bit vague. Some say it’s Asian fusion. Others say it’s regular food with alfalfa sprouts and avocado slapped onto it. In reality, it’s Mexican food.

Instead, we opted for an old-fashioned oyster roast, and Southern comfort food – a nod to our genteel future.

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our all-homemade menu

Guests were invited to mill about the home, peeking in closets and bouncing on beds. One adult even volunteered to give kids a tour of the old, mysterious attic.

Keeping with the Southern theme, I served mint juleps with fresh mint leaves from the yard. To make it easy on guests, I made a huge vat of the cocktail ahead of time. That way, guests could simply pour. Plus, I could regulate how strong the drinks were. I always set my cocktails to strong. It keeps people social and really, only the first few sips burn. For the teetotalers, I brewed sweet tea, of course!

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Blues and jazz guitar played over the stereo and rooms were lit with candles in Mason jars. Since we’re newcomers to Richmond, we placed a suggestion box on a table, urging guests to recommend restaurants to try, fun weekend road trips, etc.

Adventurous friends gathered around the bar to do raw oyster shots with tequila and cocktail sauce. Every time a fresh batch of roasted oysters were brought in from the grill, friends circled the table. We had a few dipping sauces for guests, like chopped parsley and garlic in butter sauce, and of course lemon slices and Tabasco for purists.

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Last but not least, I made sure our friends didn’t go home empty-handed. Especially since so many were kind enough to bring housewarming presents. I made small batches of rosemary popcorn, fresh from our backyard rosemary bush. Stuffed into quaint brown paper bags with a Southern-style label, these awaited guests on the front porch on their way out.

This party felt like a warm hug, and was the perfect way to kick off our new life in Richmond.

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