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Cubano

10 Jun

Psssst.  Charlotte. Hey, Charlotte. Look at this. LOOK. AT. THIS.

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Do you know what this is?  Do you?

It’s a Cuban Sandwich.

Do you know what goes on a Cuban Sandwich?

Sliced ham, sliced roasted pork, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, and sliced pickles. If you’re a girl from the Tampa Bay area, like me, you also get some salami. Cuban sandwiches were born in Tampa, if you didn’t know. If you’re from Miami you put some mayo on there.  No biggie.

But Charlotte, you know what doesn’t go on a Cuban sandwich?

  • Lettuce (NEVER do this. Ever.)
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Dijon mustard
  • Spicy mustard
  • Jalepenos
  • Grill marks (because it’s pressed, you know?)

Pork is preferably roasted and sliced, not pulled or chopped. And please, please make it on Cuban bread. Pretty please?

Not saying these things aren’t tasty on a sandwich, because they are. They just don’t go on a Cuban sandwich.

Not gonna lie, it drives me a little crazy that the North Carolina version of a Cuban sandwich is heavy on pulled pork. Pulled pork is just so dang ubiquitous here, that it seems like most restaurateurs never question whether or not it belongs on this type of sandwich.

And for those that would sully greatness by adding lettuce (::cough cough:: Midwood Smokehouse) please stick to what you know (and do well), and leave Cuban sandwiches to those who care to do it right. At some point your “Southern twist” on the Cuban sandwich makes it not a Cuban any more.

The beauty above comes from a tiny shop in Largo, FL, called Havana Harry’s Market. If you’re down that way, definitely stop in on your way to the beach, the sandwiches are legit. You can pick up some black beans and rice and Cigar City beer while you’re there.

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Diggin’ that ‘do, Harry

Not that all Cuban sandwiches in the Charlotte Metro area are terrible. There’s a Colombian bakery in Stallings called Lucy’s Bakery & Deli. Sandwiches are made with mojo pork, sometimes sliced, sometimes shredded. They also sell guava and cheese turnovers, so it’s hard to get mad about the shredded pork. And the owners are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I feel a little like I’m back in Florida every time I go.

I’m generally okay with a chef putting his/her own spin on a dish, especially a spin that brings it closer to the amazing Southern cuisine we can get here in Charlotte. But some things are better left un-spun.

Just my two cents.

 

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And….we’re back. Kind of.

20 May

Goodness, it’s been a LOOONG time since either of us posted on this blog. The WordPress dashboard is informing me that it’s been more than 2 years since we last posted, and that in that time we’ve received 33 views…so my guess is that no one’s missed us too much 🙂

To be honest, I’m not sure there’s much direction for this blog going forward, but since we’re using it primarily as a way to be creative together, I guess that’s okay. We’ve still been having food adventures, and have tried to expand our horizons a bit. My apologies in advance for the crappy phone-grade pictures…

In October 2014 we took Portland, Oregon, by storm with two of our favorite people, Josh and Adara. Or maybe we should say that Portland took us…I’ve never wanted to NOT come home from a trip so badly!

In the past two years, we’ve also taken a few trips home to visit family and got to visit breweries that we’ve been trying to go to forever. Not pictured – all the amazing home cooking 🙂

And of course we’ve been up to some other shenanigans. Last year, we joined a CSA, which has elevated our fresh vegetable game substantially. We also did some hiking, drank more beer, ate some great food…

And we pirated it up in Key West…but that’s a story for another day 😉

Cheers!

 

 

Eat ALL the Food!

8 Feb

Three months ago, Jason and I started going to the gym. During our entire relationship, we’ve never been the type to be attracted to working out – then one day, we just decided to do it.  We walked into our local Fitness Connection, got a quick tour of the facility, then ponied up the money to join.  I’m happy with our decision, and except for a brief time off last month due to us both getting sick, we’ve been pretty faithful to our workout schedule.

Without a doubt, one of the toughest things about our newly acquired commitment to not being couch potatoes is planning meals around working out.  I’ve waxed poetic about the therapeutic value of cooking before, but after spending an hour and a half getting sweaty and stinky, neither of us has much energy to devote to making a meal.

Eating a bowl of cereal for dinner isn’t an option.  Our gym sits on Hwy. 74 right behind a Cook-Out Restaurant and a Hardees, and though there’s nothing about either of these fast food messes that is attractive to us, the smell gets us every time.  My god, all I want is some fries when we leave the gym.eat-all-the-food

By the time we get home, we’re ready to EAT. Now that I think about it, one of the reasons we probably held off from going to the gym for so long was because I was worried about how we’d find a way to cook around it. A quick Google search of what to eat after a workout yielded nothing that looked appetizing.  Pinterest was equally uninspiring.  Squeezing a packet of tuna onto a spinach salad with a little bit of lemon juice for dressing sounds awful any day of the week, but especially after having just killed it at the gym.  What’s someone who loves food to do?

It’s ironic that we spent years refining our cooking skills to prevent wastefulness and just make enough food for two; now we’re on the hunt for recipes that are healthy, tasty, and yield enough to be used later in the week.  Here are some of our favorite recipes to double-up with.  We make no promises as to their nutritional value other than to say they’re as “clean” as we can make them.  This isn’t diet food, but it’s also not Hardees.

We’ve also got some recipes we can make that don’t require us to stand on shaky, exhausted legs to constantly stir or monitor. These also require a minimum of chopping because let’s face it, neither of us have good knife skills after an “arms” night.

  • Picante Chicken from Allrecipes.com – you throw some chicken in a pot, put some salsa on it. Cook a little rice and a can of beans and you’re all set.  Also good with avocados and salsa on the side, or a green salad.
  • Asian Steak Salad with Mango from Real Simple – use leftover steak or beef and this salad is surprisingly light, filling, and easy to make.
  • Beef and Veggie Stew from Betty Crocker – this comes together quickly. We use the lowest sodium broth we can find, and also add some fresh celery and onion to the frozen veggies. Even with a few mintues of extra prep work, it still only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish.
  • One-Pan Pasta from Martha Stewart – this recipe is genius and delicious. Dump your ingredients in a pot and then rest your weary legs while you let the stove do all the work.

Giving thanks…

27 Nov

pass outOur house stinks right now.  It stinks in a delicious way, but it definitely stinks.  You see, I decided to get started on Thanksgiving food prep today, even though Jason and I are only going to be a party of two tomorrow, and I failed to predict the rather odd olfactory juxtaposition that would result from boiling Brussels sprouts while baking a cheesecake.  Thankfully, both of those tasks are now over; I just popped some garlic in the oven to roast for tomorrow’s mashed potatoes – so there’s hope for our home to smell good yet.

We didn’t plan to spend Thanksgiving on our own, but my parents visited in October, and Jason’s parents came up only a few weeks ago.  Neither set of parents were eager to rush back up to Charlotte so soon, especially on one of the worst travel weekends in the year.  And Jason and I aren’t enthusiastic about the four-day dash from North Carolina to Florida to spend Thanksgiving at two different houses.

So we’re on our own.  You’d think that we wouldn’t want to go through all the trouble of making Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us, but here’s a big secret – I love cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  And Jason loves turkey leftovers.  We learned just how much we love these things last year when the timing of Thanksgiving fell perfectly in line with the timing of some kitchen renovations.  Our kitchen was unusable for cooking anything more substantial than a grilled cheese sandwich, so we opted to eat Thanksgiving dinner at The Liberty.  It was a great decision, and the food was delicious and the dessert bar was awesome – but it wasn’t the same.

As crazy as it sounds, and as much as I love eating Thanksgiving food – my favorite part of this holiday is the cooking.  It’s spending time in the kitchen with my husband, chopping vegetables, sautéing mirepoix, sipping pinot noir, and dancing to music.

This time of year, everyone’s posting lists of things they’re thankful for on social media.  Ironically, most people don’t wax poetic about all the material things the have, even though lately it seems like Thanksgiving is synonymous with Black Friday and buying stuff.  It’s the simple things that we’re most grateful for – the love of our family and friends, having a roof over our heads, our health.  My Thanksgiving wish is that we can keep our focus on this – the world would be a much happier place.

So even though I’m disappointed I won’t be seeing our families this Thanksgiving, I’m still incredibly grateful. And I’m happy.

I’m just going to leave this here…food for thought for all those days that aren’t Thanksgiving 🙂

Gratitude

Winston-Salem

8 Sep

We like minor-league baseball, so when our friends Josh and Adara recently invited us to a Winston-Salem Dash game we were all about it.  The plan was to meet before the game at Foothills Brewing Company . But since we had no other plans that day, and the weather was beautiful, Jason and I decided to wander around historic downtown Winston-Salem for a bit.

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I think most folks think of Old Salem when they think of Winston-Salem.  We visited that in April, and really enjoyed it.  However we haven’t met anyone yet who has commented on Winston-Salem’s art district.

Which is a shame, because it’s a really great little area with some fantastic casual restaurants and a few galleries featuring work by local artists.  There’s also this guy:

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We had delightful time wandering around, taking in street art and the different architectural textures that come from building new structures around old.  The National Black Theatre Festival was taking place, and the crowds of people celebrating (along with random limousines and red carpets) only added to an already joyful atmosphere.

Sadly, I failed to take any shots of where Jason and I enjoyed lunch – Sweet Potatoes.  Chalk it up to a humongous food coma and lack of proper planning.  Anyway, please forgive me, and make a point of going there when you visit Winston-Salem. You won’t be sorry!

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Romare Bearden Park

2 Sep

Romare Bearden Park

We hope you had a lovely Labor Day weekend. We checked out Charlotte’s newest park – dedicated to Romare Bearden. Learn more about Romare Bearden here: http://www.beardenfoundation.org/index2.shtml.

Bibi – a Beautiful Taste

28 Jul

IMAG0275Our second installment of the IT Challenge didn’t take place in Indian Trail.  We made a last minute substitution for one of our IT restaurants to go to Bibi – a Beautiful Taste in Downtown Monroe.  Why you ask?  Mostly because the weather was nice and we wanted to dine al fresco.  Also, there are Bibi’s fantastic Facebook status updates about their specials:

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Who’s a sucker for The Neverending Story? This gal!

And even though they have a small dining room, this is where you get to eat if the weather’s nice:

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Isn’t it pretty?

 I wish we could give this place a resounding thumbs up, but there are a few things going on that bother us.  It has all the elements that we look for in a restaurant:  locally owned and operated, great food, craft beer…but there’s something about it that keeps us from coming back on a regular basis.  But more on that in a minute.  First, the good stuff:

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Nuggets o’ goodness

Battered and fried cauliflower tossed in an Asian barbecue sauce.  I’m still questioning why I only began liking cauliflower when I turned 30, but no matter…this is delicious.  My slight critique of it is that the sauce can make the cauliflower a little soggy – I think I would definitely ask for it on the side next time.

Jason’s entrée was a crabcake salad with goat cheese.  No complaints:

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He also got a side of truffle mac & cheese.  I helped him with it…

IMAG0072If I’m ever in a situation where I get to make a request for my last meal, this stuff’s gonna be on my shortlist.  I’m not kidding.  Bring on the firing squad!

I had the pretzel chicken with caramelized onion mashed potatoes.  There was also a side salad with orange tarragon dressing – but I flaked and didn’t get a picture.  Normally this comes with seasonal veggies.

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Sadly, we were too full to order dessert.  I’m sure those are fantastic here.

So why aren’t we regulars?  In one word: service.  We had three different servers over the course of our meal.  All were super sweet, but none seemed to have a clue as to what they were doing.

They had a particularly hard time with craft beer.  The beer menu here is impressive, considering that you’re in the heart of downtown Monroe, but it didn’t seem that anyone knew a thing about it.  I ordered a Second Wind by Mother Earth Brewing and Jason had a Stone IPA.  Our first server brought us a can and a bottle, and then looked a little confused when we asked for glasses.  But she brought us glasses – that held less than 12 oz. and were coated in ice. It just felt weird.

A European couple was seated near us, and they had questions about the beer menu.   They asked the server (a different server from the one who seemed so confused by our beer order) what some of the best local beers were, and she also looked mildly confused and told him “they’re all craft beer.”  He ended up ordering a Highland Gaelic without any help from her, but at least he got a glass when she brought his order out.

I’m not going to lie – we felt the prices for the entrees were a bit high – I had chicken and it was $15.50.  That being said, the food was really good.  But if I’m going to drop $15.50 on a plate of chicken, I’d appreciate if the server who’s taking care of us knows a little about the entire menu, including the beer.  I’d also appreciate not being handed off to three servers throughout the meal.  It was really disjointed and made it difficult to relax.

Will we be back?  Probably.  I’ll keep getting the awesome Facebook status updates, and we’ll remember how awesome the food is, and we’ll go back in hopes that someone’s decided to step up and manage the restaurant and train the servers.

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