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My 25th Birthday: Rental Cars, Russian Food, and Southern Hospitality

June 19, 2013

This past weekend was a very important milestone for me, it was my 25th birthday. Why is that significant, you may ask? Well, it means that I can now rent a car without chopping off an appendage and handing it to the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Associate. Wanting to waste no time in using this new capability, I woke up early on my birthday and headed down south to North Carolina, for four days of relaxation on the beach with Colleen and her family. Yes, that means that Patrick was off the hook for cooking me an extravagant birthday dinner. You’re welcome, Patrick!

I used flyer miles to fly into Raleigh for free (Love JetBlue!), and rented a Toyota Camry, then drove just over 2 hours east to Wilmington, NC. (Side note, I got three hours of sleep the night prior due to the damn Bruins triple overtime game, so this was a bit of a struggle). Colleen had told me that her parent’s beach house was her “happy place,” but I didn’t realize just how incredible it was going to be. Located on a private island known as Figure Eight Island, I had to pass a security checkpoint before accessing the bridge to their house. As I drove through the neighborhood blasting Macklemore’s “Same Love,” which is a great song, I thought to myself, “Damn I need to get rich somehow.”

Anyway, I finally arrived and was greeted by Colleen, looking more relaxed and happy than ever before. I should mention that this was also a big weekend for me, because I was going to meet the rest of her extended family, including her two sisters, grandparents, aunt and cousin, uncle, and family friends. Most importantly, I was going to meet Myla, the family’s dog and somehow most important and influential member.

I’ll skip all of the details, because you only care about the food, but let’s just say Colleen’s parents and family were incredibly hospitable, they are all awesome people, and I’m not just saying that because I’m dating her. Of course, I would say it even if it wasn’t true to make them like me, but in this case, I don’t even have to lie. Their family friends from Chicago, Barb, John, and their daughter Kathryn, were also very nice, and I even gave Barb my phone number! Look out for a special Barb post when she visits Boston this summer. The only real problem was that her 12 year old cousin, Lydia, played me for a fool and took all of my money in poker. That wouldn’t be the biggest problem if I wasn’t going to Vegas next week, but I am, so I was kind of concerned. But that is neither here nor there.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my time at the beach was the food. Man, it was great. Every night after a fancy cocktail hour on the porch, we would gather at the large dining room table for a feast. Colleen’s Russian grandmother, known as “Bobbie,” was the head chef, with other members of the family helping out. I, of course, sat in the corner drinking wine and eating crackers, careful not to get in the way. Here is just some of the food I was treated to on Cagney island:

On my birthday, the first night I was there, Colleen and I headed to the island yacht club to have a celebratory drink. I had a dark & stormy, while she had a frozen margarita. Both were delicious, and we shared a small appetizer plate of oysters, cole slaw, and some type of orange dipping sauce. The oysters were incredible!


When we got back to the house, it was time for dinner. We had linguine with sliced tomatoes and some grey and green things that were delicious, along with some of the best tasting shrimp I have ever had. I had to peel the shell off which made me feel like I was helping the cooking process!


Bobbie was busy on the final night preparing these chicken enchiladas, she rolled them herself and they were incredible. Covered with a tomato sauce and cheese, even with 12 people we couldn’t finish all of them they were so filling.


Finally, Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals was Saturday night, and it was me vs. a bunch of Chicago natives. To ease the inter-city relations, Colleen made these blueberry mojitos that were out of this world. In it, she put white rum, seltzer water, mint leaves, truvia (or simple syrup would work), and fresh blueberries. After 3 or 4 of those, we were all friends again!


There is a tradition on the island, that when you leave you must toss a penny over the bridge. It’s good luck and means that you will come back sometime. I tossed mine as far out as I could, because I definitely want to make it back there, for great food, great views, and even better people. My best birthday yet!

Check out more pictures of my trip here:

– Fin


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