Tag Archives: foodie

Culinary Goodness from Fire in the City

19 Aug

It was a great Fire in the City dinner with some spectacular food created by Chefs Clark Barlowe of Heirloom Restaurant and Luca Annunziata of Passion8 Bistro. The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series kicked off its first battle last night, and below are photos of the six courses with their descriptions. The secret ingredients were Eggs and Molasses.

The overwhelming favorite dish by diners was course 4! Surprising to me was Heirloom’s dessert (course 5) getting slightly edged out by Passion8’s (course 6). Must be the chocolate sweet-tooth in me coming out. Congratulations to both chefs and their teams on a great night, and to Chef Luca Annunziata on the win!
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Course 1 – Maple Leaf Farms Duck Sausage Joyce Farms Poulet Rouge Scotch Egg, Petite Herb Salad, Quick Dill Pickle, Harrell Hill Farms Sorghum Syrup Molasses Duck Jus – by Heirloom Restaurant

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Course 2 – Ponzu Harrell Hill Farms Sorghum Syrup Molasses Glazed Tuna, Soft Boiled Joyce Farms Poulet Rouge Egg, Sesame Sorghum Duck Yolk, Roasted Beets, Radish Chervil Lemongrass Coulis, Cucumber, Orange Dust – by Passion8

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Course 3 – Woody &Wilcox Birdbrain Farms Ostrich Egg Fried Flounder, 3-Times Cooked Potato Chips, Brussels Slaw, Ostrich Egg Sauce Gribiche – by Heirloom Restaurant

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Course 4 – Raviolo a la Joyce Farms Poulet Rouge Yolk, Ostrich Egg Carbona, Crispy Oyster Mushroom, Roasted Harrell Hill Farms Sorghum Syrup Molasses Party Pan Squash, Charred Corn – by Passion8

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Course 5 – Harrell Hill Farms Sorghum Syrup Molasses Cake, Sorghum Dark Chocolate Cremeux, Sorghum Mousse, Sorghum Raspberry Caramel, Raspberry Anglaise, Vanilla Tuille – by Heirloom Restaurant

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Course 6 – Harrell Hill Farms Sorghum Syrup Molasses & Milk Chocolate Caramel Cup, Citrus Curd, Sorghum Madeline, Blackberry and Pom – by Passion8

Not Your Dad’s Uptown Charlotte

17 Jun
View from BB&T Park

View from BB&T Park

Let me apologize to Uptown Charlotte. You’ve been neglected, and I won’t let it happen again. For some time, Christy and I rarely found ourselves traveling to Uptown on the weekends. With so many other areas of the city booming (South End, Plaza Midwood, & NoDa to name a few), it was easy to turn a blind eye to the tall buildings and all the city has to offer. Now it seems like we can’t get enough. Over the last month, Uptown seems like a second home…and we can’t wait to get back soon. Here are some highlights:

Van Gogh Alive @ Discovery Place – A really unique and powerful exhibit about Vincent Van Gogh that highlighted both his art and writing. We weren’t expecting to have such an emotional response from the display, but a focus on Van Gogh’s own mental health coupled with the powerful backdrop of music and imagery left us in awe. I only wish we mentioned this sooner, as the exhibit has come to an end.

The Asbury – Located in The Dunhill Hotel, The Asbury offers a unique take on Southern food. The kitchen uses local and regional ingredients to create visually stunning dishes that are equally delicious.

Charlotte Knights Baseball – There isn’t a better view of the Charlotte skyline than when you’re sitting in BB&T Ballpark during a Charlotte Knights game. I’ve actually been twice in the last four weeks, and each time was equally fun! Some outstanding food is available at the park, including Queen City Q and Whisky River. Craft beer fans have plenty of options as well, including local favorites Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and NoDa Brewing. Regional craft brewers with beer options include Natty Greene’s and Foothills. You don’t have to be a fan of baseball to go to a game. Honestly, I can’t even tell you who won either game. If you plan on going though, make sure you buy your tickets well in advance. The Knights are leading the league in attendance and sellouts are frequent.

Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment @ Mint Museum – The exhibition covers 11 women photographers and their assignments while working for National Geographic. Each presents a unique story through the lens of their camera. A pretty inspiring collection of photographs that aren’t only visually stunning, but showcase the often dangerous lengths assignment photographers go to get a story.

5Church Restaurant – 5Church feels like it belongs in a bigger city like New York or Chicago. Attention to detail runs rampant in both decor and the food. I’d argue it is probably the most popular restaurant in the city. If you go, be sure to look up. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is handwritten in its entirety across the restaurant’s ceiling. On this trip, we enjoyed the Artisan Cheese Plate, Black Bean Hummus, Grilled C.A.B. Hanger Steak, and Carolina Catfish. Dessert made us pucker with the “Lemon Tart” Pistachio Cookie & Pomegranate Sorbet.

Charlotte Symphony Summer Pops @ Romare Bearden Park – Another new addition to the Uptown landscape is Romare Bearden Park. The open area was the perfect setting for the Charlotte Symphony’s first live concert in Uptown in 10 years. Food trucks were on hand to feed the masses before the free concert. The symphony played “Music of the Movies” and included:

  • Highlights from Jurassic Park
  • Suite from Gladiator
  • Theme from Schindler’s List
  • Star Trek: Into Darkness
  • Themes from 007
  • Cinema Paradiso
  • Suite from Titanic
  • Imperial March from Star Wars

If you aren’t finding something to do in Charlotte, there really is no excuse. In addition to all we did in the last month, SpeedStreet and Taste of Charlotte were also taking place in Uptown. Navigating the city isn’t hard (except when festivals close down streets). If city parking seems difficult, park further out from the city and take the Lynx Light Rail into town.

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Something Old & New

17 Apr

So we’ve been to some really great places recently and just wanted to highlight two that we love.

Rooster’s Wood Fired Kitchen (Southpark)

roostersRooster’s isn’t new, and it certainly wasn’t our first visit…but it had been some time since we were last there. It never really disappoints, which is why it is almost always busy no matter the time of day. The hickory wood fired-ovens fill the restaurant with a great smoked aroma that instantly makes you hungry.

Anyone who enjoys southern cuisine should drop everything they’re doing and head to Rooster’s immediately.

Our suggestion is to order a few of the vegetable sides for the table (they’re all large enough to share). We started with fried okra, skillet fried corn, and fire roasted beets. Fried okra is quickly becoming a favorite thing for me. Most I’ve had is heavy on the batter and completely overpowers the okra itself. Rooster’s batter is really light and flaky and seems to barely hang onto the okra, allowing you to really taste the hard-to-describe flavor of the vegetable. You won’t be disappointed with the corn or beets either. I’ve never been a fan of beets, but Rooster’s is making me a believer.

I ordered fried oysters and the arugula salad with chevre, and Harmony Ridge Farm apples for my entree. I was worried the oysters wouldn’t be enough because it came from the antipasti portion of the menu. I was pleasantly surprised when 6-8 large, meaty oysters were presented in front of me. A more firm batter than the aforementioned fried okra made for a nice crunch that complemented the soft of the oyster itself.

Christy’s hangar steak was cooked perfectly and really tender. A friend ordered the boneless beef short rib, which piqued my interest, and will likely be on my list for a future visit. Looking forward to coming back soon.

Pint Central (Plaza Midwood)

pint-central-logoWow…we really like this place. Our visit was mid-day on a Saturday during March Madness, just as the weather was getting warmer. We got our first taste of NoDa Brewing’s CAVU here (very highly recommended). Pint Central has 28 drafts and over 50 bottles of craft beer available.

First impression – The place feels cared for…which after talking with one of the owners, Carlos, is absolutely validated. He came to our table and introduced himself (something that should happen everywhere, but never does). He mentioned they did most of the work themselves, including building the bar and having his mom design the tables.

pint-centralCarlos’ brother is responsible for the menu. The food isn’t your typical bar fare. The empanadas were some of the best we’ve had, with a light, croissant-like crust that almost had us order another round. The garlic parmesan fries were a great blend of flavors piled high on curly fries (who doesn’t love a curly fry?). Other highlights were the eggplant dip and Brussels sprouts.  I look forward to trying the avocado fries and caprese stack on a future visit.

Just a great experience all around. If you’re looking for a place to hang out, give Pint Central a visit. With the weather warming up, they have a really nice patio that’s sure to get busy as more people discover it’s there.

Long Live Peruvian – A Visit to Viva Chicken

23 May

I always get a weird look when I tell people we had Peruvian food for dinner. And after they shake the look off their face, they always ask, “What is that?” The short answer is “delicious”. However, it’s a cuisine with a foundation in local (Peru & Inca) food with heavy immigrant influences from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Corn, potatoes, and chili peppers are staple ingredients, with marinated meats, kabobs, and stir fry being popular entree options.

Viva ChickenViva Chicken recently opened on Elizabeth Avenue, just down from CPCC. Viva Chicken describes itself as, “a Peruvian inspired restaurant in Charlotte, NC focusing on Pollo a la Brasa (Peruvian rotisserie chicken). Peruvian flavors, affordable prices and a great atmosphere…” What’s not to love about any of that? We had to make a visit.

I had an expectation that this would be a traditional sit-down restaurant, so I took a double-take when we had to order our food at the register. But it really wasn’t a big deal, as once you’ve ordered, a server comes to your table for the rest of the meal and takes care of you.

I would urge you to sit outside on their covered patio. Summer temperatures might make it less attractive, but on the night we were there, the weather was perfect and I think it only enhanced the experience. Peruvian feels like a cuisine that should be eaten outdoors. Maybe it’s a personal opinion, but Peruvian and other food from tropical climates (Cuban, Mexican, etc.) taste better with a warm breeze and cold drink in hand.

There are a couple of local craft beer options available on draft. After ordering a Ramble on Red by NoDa Brewing Company, we found out there was an issue preventing them from pouring beer that night. So instead, they gave us some of their house-made red Sangria. It was freshly made with pieces of fruit throughout it and not overly sweet like so many seem to be. It was the perfect accompaniment to go with the food and warmer temperatures.

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Quinoa stuffed Avocado

We began the meal with the Quinoa stuffed Avocado appetizer. As you can see from the photo, this whole avocado is split in half and then filled with organic quinoa, onions, cucumber, tomato, cilantro, olive oil, and lime. We opted to add rotisserie chicken to it for a nominal fee which is highly recommended, though you get so much food, probably isn’t necessary. A love for avocado won’t hurt anyone’s feelings in this joint, or anywhere you might go to get Peruvian food. It plays heavily in and around many dishes – something I’d advocate more restaurants consider doing.

Christy ordered the Viva Tacu Bowl (Peruvian canary beans, rice, aji amarillo, fresh cilantro and salsa criolla). I took a few bites of it when Christy wasn’t looking and would have been happy if I’d ordered the same thing. Just a nice combination of flavors and seasoning, further accentuated with a spicy Huacatay Sauce – a Peruvian black mint infused with fresh herbs.

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Viva Tacu Bowl

I had the Pollo a la Brasa (Rotisserie Chicken) with white rice and sweet plantains. The chicken had a crispy skin and was so tender it left me continuously picking at the bone trying not to leave a morsel of it behind. A mild Aji Amarillo sauce (referred to as the “yellow” sauce) was good for dipping and if I had more, would have been used on my rice. Only after I ordered did I realize there was a cilantro-infused rice side available, which I’ll opt for instead of the plain white next time.  I want more of the yellow sauce in my daily life. Maybe we’ll try this recipe sometime soon?

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Pollo a la Brasa with White Rice & Sweet Plantains

I have a special place in my heart for plantains. Having lived in the Tampa area before moving to Charlotte, a strong base of Cuban food was always available and plantains were always on the plate. I can’t not order them when I see them on a menu, and Viva Chicken’s did not disappoint. Sometimes plantains are really mushy, but these were firm and sweet. If you don’t get them as a side, consider ordering them at the end of the meal.

We were so pleased with the service. The girl who took our order at the register (sorry I don’t know her name!) checked on us often, cleared our plates, and kept us hydrated with water….all with a smile. As we left, everyone wished us a good night…something you can’t help but love as a nice finish to a great dining experience. Walking out, a sign caught my eye which pretty much sums up why we’ll be back and why this place is destined to succeed – great customer service and sense of “community”.

Perhaps the coolest part of the restaurant was this sign.

Perhaps the coolest part of the restaurant was this sign.

Oh Hello Wine…I Remember You!

29 Apr

It’s been a long time since I last sat down and had a few glasses of wine at dinner,  and then continued drinking into the evening. We’ve been on a craft beer kick, which is easy when you have so many amazing places in Charlotte to find something new every trip into town.

Red Wine

Forgot how good you are red wine…

But there was a time, not too long ago, when wine was our thing. We certainly never had a defined palate for what we drank, but we knew enough that any Pinot Grigio with a strong presence of grapefruit wouldn’t be a favorite, we prefer un-oaked Chardonnay, and we’re happy with almost any Spanish red you throw in front of us.

So a trip to Trader Joe’s led us to their wine section, where for very cheap, you can take a risk on some reds or whites that may or may not pan out. Again, we’re those people who do a happy dance when finding a cheap bottle of wine ($12 or under) that tastes great. We don’t equate quality by how much you shell out for a bottle. And so we were reintroduced to wine night.

A wine night, for us, seems very different from that of a beer night. I think I’m still transitioning from what beer drinking used to be for me (quantity over quality), so sitting down and enjoying a couple of craft beers doesn’t quite fill the void of what I expect when drinking beer. I see beer as a more social venture – something that is best experienced with a group of people. While wine requires a more intimate setting – which fits our idea of a good night in. Continue reading

Recipe: Sea Scallops with Madeira and Roasted Peppers

19 Feb

In a previous post about Valentine’s Day, we spoke of a great recipe that we love to make every year – Sea Scallops with Madeira and Roasted Peppers. We’ve had a few people ask for the recipe, so here it is. Remember, we aren’t taking credit for coming up with this great dish – the head chef at a now closed Arpa in Uptown Charlotte is responsible for the greatness.

Sea Scallops with Madeira and Roasted Peppers
Serves 4

  • 12 large scallops or 24 small scallops (Go Big!)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 8 oz mushrooms, mixed, chopped (shiitake, oyster, crimini)
  • 2 tsp garlic sliced
  • 2 tbsp shallot minced
  • 4 each piquillo peppers, sliced
  • 1/4 cup Madeira
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock, shellfish stock or water
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Parsley chopped

1. In a medium hot skillet sear scallops for 2-4 minutes, and turn.
2. After scallops are evenly seared, remove scallops and the pan from the heat.
3. Add 1 tbsp butter, shallots, garlic, peppers and mushrooms.
4. Saute 2-4 more minutes and deglaze with Madeira.
5. Reduce Madeira by about half and add stock.
6. Bring stock to a boil, return scallops to pan and season with salt, pepper, butter and garnish with parsley.

Note: The one thing we learned at the class about cooking scallops? Always use a dry pan (no oil/butter), pat dry the scallops, and whenever possible use “dry scallops” – those that haven’t been specially treated with a chemical. The natural liquids on the scallop will give you a perfect sear without the addition of anything else to the pan.

That’s it! Wonder why we had such a hard time with it huh? Guess we were just amateurs back in the day.

If you’re going to attend a beer dinner, you should expect to drink good beer.

18 Feb

Yum!

Normally we’re homebodies during the week, reserving the weekends for going out and trying new things.    Jason and I both get up early for work, so most evenings are spent vegging out on the couch.  We’re pretty protective of our veg time, and there’s a little voice in my head that starts whining “I’m sooooo tired” if we’ve got stuff lined up after work.  That little bugger starts softly, but can escalate to a frantic, hyperventilating screech if we’ve got a busy week.

It just so happened that on this particular week, we had a lot of great things lined up, including a beer dinner with Latis Imports at the Dandelion Market on February 8.  So I told the voice to shut the hell up, or at the very least take a few deep breaths.  I reminded it that no one ever died from not sitting on the couch and mindlessly watching reruns of “How I Met Your Mother.” Continue reading

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