Thursday, April 17, 2014

If only ... you could afford these super-cool offers (and a question at the end)

The James Beard Foundation has a new thing: It's partnered with IfOnly, a remarkable operation that offers experiences you never thought you could get (hence "IfOnly") -- if you have the money to purchase them, that is -- and your purchases benefit charities or causes.

Some are clearly awesome: Superstar chef April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig and The Breslin in New York teaches a butchery class and prepares dinner for 12 (OK, it's $5,000, but still) and a chef jacket signed by Michael Chiarello of Bottega in Napa, and the chance to get noted drink master David Wondrich's help in creating your own bespoke cocktail for $1,000.

(There's also the opportunity to have a famous chef follow you on Twitter -- for $65. "Experience the ultimate social media nod and connect with a culinary star" when a Cleveland chef (no, it's not Rocco Whalen) actually follows you (as long as you're not a business or offensive). Still, that's potentially more fruitful than personalized, emailed cooking tips from chef Michael Chiarello -- which are $750. A piece.)


Check it all out at

A quick look at the other categories at IfOnly:

Also under the Lifestyle section (where the chefs are): Go with a friend to Haiti for two days with star photographer Russell James for $25,000 (plus $12,000 if you want to fly to the UNESCO World Heritage-protected Citadelle Laferriere and be the subject of a photo shoot). If you only have $10,000, you can fly to NYC instead and watch James shoot models, and get shot, too. These benefit the Nomad Two Worlds Foundation, which supports and promotes artists from indigenous and marginalized communities.

In Sports, you can hang out with NFL stars Marshawn Lynch and Josh Johnson at a reception in Vegas for $48,000 (benefitting the Family First Foundation).

In Music, you can bid (minimum start is $2,000) on a private piano and vocal lesson with A Great Big World (who did "Say Something" with Christina Aguilera).

And in the Bollywood section, $750 gets you lunch with Bhangra star Malkit Singh, which I would totally pay if I happened to live in India, since I find Bhangra the best music in the world to cook to.

What do you cook to?

Dine out, do good: MS version

The Chrome Toaster food truck's Aaron Rivera, with help from Greg Collier from The Yolk Cafe and Emma Merisier from Southern Cake Queen (who also has a truck), holds a dinner April 19 to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 7-10 p.m. at World of Beer, 222 E. Bland St. in South End.

Appetizers, four courses -- including scallops with spring pea agnolotti and foie gras with goose egg -- and wine are included for $75. All proceeds go to the MS Society's Greater Carolinas Chapter. Get tickets here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dine out, do good ... barbecue for Charlotte's Light Factory

Friday (April 18) is the last day to buy T-shirt tickets for the May 3 "Golden Hamiversary" of the CSCA Pig Roast, an event run for years by the Charlotte Society of Communicating Arts, and this year making a return -- and benefitting The Light Factory.

The event is rain or shine, at 9832 Concord Highway, Midland. You'll get pork, slaw, beans and buns, plus live music and "all sorts of frivolity," says its press (rumors include a bonfire), and tickets (which come with T shirts) cost $38 for S, M, L and XL, and $40 for XXL. Tickets will be sold until noon April 18 at the link above, which also gives you a little stroll through images past of the pig roast. (No spoilers, but scroll around on the website, because some of the old images and tales are fantastic. Personal favorite: 1993.) Here's a shortcut for the short of attention span.

(I know the image is cut off on one side, but Blogger only gives you a few sizes to choose from, and this pig, by seems to need some room to stretch ...)

The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography and Film, founded in 1972, is working to reestablish itself in a new location on Central Avenue (it suspended operations in Spirit Square last fall) and is working to raise money for upfitting two galleries, classroom space and a darkroom.

Easter plans

Update: Bonterra will offer Easter brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. 1829 Cleveland Ave.; 704-333-9463.

BLT Steak will serve breakfast 7-11 a.m. and brunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m., with both a regular menu and some Easter-only dishes, such as goat cheese frittata and chocolate chip pancakes. 110 N. College St. in the Ritz-Carlton; 704-972-4380.

Blue will serve brunch 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. with live jazz and carving stations of top round and spiral-sliced ham, plus chicken tagine, shrimp and grits and more. $39.95 ($14.95 for 6-12; free for 5 and younger); 206 N. College St. in the Hearst Tower; 704-927-2583.

The Capital Grille will be open 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. for Easter brunch, with choice of starter, entree and dessert for $49 for adults, $18 for children. Entree choices are lobster eggs Benedict, bone-in 14-ounce sirloin steak, 8-ounce filet mignon, seared halibut with roasted artichoke, dry-aged sirloin hash with fried egg and crisp onions, and citrus-glazed salmon. (There's a separate menu for kids.) 201 N. Tryon St., 704-348-1400.

Del Frisco's will serve brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and dinner until 9 p.m., with full menus and a $49 three-course special also offered. There's also a $39 three-course brunch menu, plus a $12 kids' lineup. 4725 Piedmont Row Drive; 704-552-5502.

NOTE: This time changed April 15; it'll be serving until 2, not 3. Fleming’s offers a three-course brunch menu 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. with choice of prime rib with a trio of sauces, eggs Benedict (above), prime rib hash or baked brioche French toast, plus appetizer and dessert for $39.95 (and you get a $25 dining card, valid for a future visit). There's also a three-course menu for those 11 and younger for $18.95. 219 W. Trade St.; reservations 704-333-4266.

The Liberty hosts brunch with reservations from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Biscuits for everyone -- plus a Southern ham tasting, crab two ways, chicken and waffles, prime beef roast and more, served as a three-course fixed-price meal for $26.95 ($9.95 for 10 and younger). 1812 South Blvd.; reservations 704-332-8830.

Red Rocks will serve a buffet only, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., with reservations required and a surprise visit from the Easter Bunny planned. Cost is $27 for adults, $11 for kids, and the menu will be different at each location. Birkdale Village in Huntersville: 704-892-9999; Strawberry Hill, 4223 Providence Road; 704-364-0402.

SouthPark hosts a buffet 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for $37, with house-smoked salmon, Carolina shrimp and grits, wood-grilled barbecue chicken and more. 6601 Morrison Blvd.; 704-366-8688.

Upstream's buffet will be 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., with prime rib, roasted salmon and mint-rubbed leg of lamb and a dessert bar. 6902 Phillips Place; reservations 704-556-7730.

Reminder: Taste of the Nation is tonight

Charlotte's Taste of the Nation event this year is April 16, an annual event that raises funds for national hunger relief group Share Our Strength's "No Kid Hungry" effort: 100 percent of ticket sales go to that program.

General admission tickets get you into the event at Two Wells Fargo Center Atrium at 301 S. Tryon St. from 7-9:30 p.m.; a VIP ticket lets you in at 6 p.m. for $100. Tickets aren't available online anymore, but they'll be sold at the door.

Taste of the Nation gets you tastes of the work of area restaurants and culinary schools, plus wine, beer and spirits (including offerings from the Mixologist Bar), plus live music, silent auction and live auction.

Participating restaurants are: BAKU, Brixx, Cantina 1511, Chima, Coastal Kitchen & Bar, Dressler's, Ember Grille, Gallery, ilios noche, Mama Ricotta's, Mimosa Grill, Napa on Providence, Saffron, Savannah Red, Upstream, Village Tavern and Wolfgang Puck Pizza | Bar.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Forbes puts CLT event in 'must' list

The Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend, an every-other-year affair that brings vintners, wine lovers and much of their surrounding orbits into town to raise money for an array of area causes, made the Forbes' Travel Guide's list of five must-visit Spring Food Festivals.

Bernardin's gets a sibling in Charlotte

Chef-owner Freddy Lee has opened 3 Trade at 333 W. Trade St., sibling to his Bernardin's at the Ratcliffe, also uptown.

The new place focuses on Lowcountry and "contemporary American" food, "plus pasta and sushi," its press says. Executive chef Travis Garrett is a graduate of and former instructor at Johnson & Wales, and Lee, who's got a Culinary Institute of America background, said he plans to stay "very involved."

Lunch (about $8-$15) will be offered weekdays and dinner ($10-$25) Monday-Saturday. 704-370-3006.