by Brian Clarey

Thank the weather fates that winter’s back has finally broken and this rush of warm air has settled in the Piedmont Triad. What better time to hit the streets of downtown Winston-Salem and participate in the Big Eat, wherein great restaurants offer signature dishes at half price. This week we’ll look at the Cotton Mill, serving shrimp and grits with half-price house wines, and the Twin City Chop House, serving up roast pork loin with apple-mango chutney and a side.

In other big news, Natty Greene’s has built a brewpub in Raleigh to complement its Greensboro locale. The pub, at 505 SW. Jones St., is scheduled to open on March 15. And Darryl’s in Greensboro, the last survivor of a once venerable chain, is undergoing a total makeover: d’cor, menu, staff, theme… everything.

Table 16 in Greensboro debuts a March menu featuring, among other delicacies, Asian greens with roasted peanuts, flounder and seafood etouff’e, and seared scallops with black barley.

And Harrah’s Cherokee Casino way out west announces a new restaurant concept by celebrity Chef Paula Deen. The 400seat restaurant will be similar to the chef’s Savannah joint and will open later this year.

In more somber news, Wild Wing Caf’ and Miss Annie’s in Winston-Salem have shut their doors.

The week is once again slim with culinary pickings, but hey it could be worse. It could be snowing.

Wednesday sees a Brooklyn Beer Dinner at Greensboro’s Vintage 301 at 7 p.m. For more information, or to make a reservation, call the restaurant at 336.333.31910 or visit the website at www. Also, today marks Day One of the VitaMix residency at Winston- Salem’s Whole Foods Market. Stop by for free demos and samples.

On Saturday, Greensboro’s Fresh Market holds a cooking demonstration at 1 p.m. featuring Irish lamb medallions with creamy cabbage. In a similar vein, Finnigan’s Wake in Winston-Salem celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with a big block party, music and drink specials.

And remember that next Wednesday is the actual St. Patrick’s Day. Try to ingest at least one of the following things: a draft Guinness Stout, corned beef, cabbage, some form of potatoes, lamb, Irish whiskey, soda bread. Or just smack someone around with a shillelagh and call it a day.