Monday, August 31, 2009

New menus, meals

  • Both Bonterra and Las Ramblas have expanded their menus. Chef Cory Sharpe has nearly doubled the lineup at the former, adding cheeses and charcuterie, snails and beef carpaccio, steaks and more. Chef Marcelino Sanchez at the latter has added to the tapas lineup there, including panini (including the Las Ramblas, with lomo, Serrano ham, chorizo, drunken goat cheese and apricot mustard spread), paellas and pastas. Bonterra: 1829 Cleveland Ave., 704-333-9463; Las Ramblas, 2400 Park Road; 704-335-8444.
  • Longitude 81 has a new menu, aiming at more diversity. Among the dishes: shrimp corn "dawgs," served with Key lime honey mustard and chili garlic sauce; seafood dip; pan-seared scallops with tomato chow-chow, and pork osso buco with smoky mac and cheese. 971 Gold Hill Road, Fort Mill; 803-802-9981.
  • MezzaNotte now serves Sunday brunch, including a buffet for $11.95 and an a la carte menu that ranges from Tuscan meat loaf to eggs Benedict with crab cakes. 2907 Providence Road; 704-365-4650.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pizza updates

Donatos (multiple locations) is adding "hand tossed" pizzas to its lineup; its research showed that crust style was preferred by "as many as 50 percent" of consumers. A sweet Italian sauce, new pepperoni and dipping sauces (marinara or buttery garlic) accompany the intro; the new crust joins thin and thicker crust styles at Donatos (and that's right, with no apostrophe). And for the first time in company history, these pies will be "pie-cut," not sliced into squares.

In other news: Dale Boone from Atlanta became the first person to meet the nearly-two-year-old Paventi's Challenge: consuming a 32-inch pizza -- including 4.5 pounds of dough and 2 pounds of mozzarella -- in 42 minutes and winning a $500 jackpot. Want to try your luck? The jackpot has been replenished at Paventi's Pizzeria, 6434-D W. Sugar Creek Road; 704-509-4404.

Uptown deals

Uptown Restaurant Week will be Sept. 18-27 (yes, it's actually 10 days), with about 17 participants (at press time) offering three courses for $35. One place -- Therapy -- will sell you three courses each for two people for a total of $35. Uptown Magazine sponsors the event. Details are here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

News, notes

  • Vintage Wine Cellar has started Tuesday Trivia Nights from 7-9 p.m.: It's free and you compete for food and wine prizes. 12206 Copper Way; 704-543-3977.
  • The Coffee Table is open in Wesley Chapel, "a true independent house," notes Charlotte native, CPCC Culinary graduate and co-owner John LaTour; co-owner and wife Melissa is a former Starbucks barista. Opened Aug. 12, the place offers coffee drinks using CoffeeWorks, plus teas, chai, housemade lemonade, housemade muffins, cookies and pastries, plus sandwiches, salads and wraps, and plans call for soups -- and live entertainment -- in the fall. 5945 Weddington Road; 704-821-0533.
  • Sonoma has a new menu out -- and has dropped the "Modern American" at the end of its name to reflect the changes. Chef Bill Schutz and owner Pierre Bader now pitch a lineup with a larger concentration of first courses, and main dishes offered a la carte to encourage sharing. Among the offerings, slated to change monthly or so: crispy fried oysters, pork belly soft tacos, Kobe beef sliders, grilled Kurobata pork tenderloin, sauteed halibut and more. 100 N. Tryon St.; 704-332-1132.
  • Harper's Grill offers a "green plate" free Monday-Saturday nights with the purchase of a second entree of equal or greater cost through Sept. 12. The green plate is a different signature dish each day, ranging from fried chicken to fish and chips. 129-100 W. Trade St.; 704-372-7792.

"Quite like" is the best part

PR Quote of the ... well, Year?: "Nothing conjures up the memories of youth and the comforts of home quite like a classic bologna sandwich.. By popular request, beginning in late August, the Oscar Mayer Fried Bologna Biscuit will be available at participating Hardee's restaurants. (It) consists of a slice of melting American cheese and a folded egg atop a thick-cut slice of grilled Oscar Mayer bologna, all sandwiched between a signature Hardee's Made From Scratch biscuit."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fran's back!

Fran Scibelli, whom you may remember from Metropolitan Bakery at Foxcroft and prior Charlotte ventures, is back, with Fran's Filling Station at 2410 Park Road in Dilworth.

(And yes, despite the fact I am on vacation -- which readers tell me I should note, to explain the infrequency of Web posts -- the restaurant scene grows apace.)

"I did a lot of soul-searching before deciding to open another restaurant," she says, before deciding she really wanted the feedback she couldn't get catering. "And I still thought there wasn't anyplace like the kind of place I want to eat. Not genre-specific, where you can get lots of different flavors. No foie gras, no truffle sauce, just good food… We're jeans and not high heels." (She also figures there's not much difference between what people now call a gastropub and what used to be called an American bistro.)

Lunch brings 11 specialty sandwiches, house-roasted turkey and roast beef, house-baked bread ("just for ourselves!" not for retail sale, she hastens to specify), salads and soups. Dinner is categorized thusly: noshes and nibbles; something crispy, something from the sea, something green, like mom made, and between the bread. Rosemary-grilled chicken breast and slow-roasted beef (pot roast) top the price list at $13.

"You can eat a little heavier (here) or eat leanly. We do have bacon-wrapped tater tots (with maple-black-pepper-rosemary glaze) but we also have seared tuna."

Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday; 704-372-2009.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chef leaves Harper's; South End gets gastropub

   Longtime Charlotte chef Tom Condron has left the Harper's Restaurant Group to open a gastropub with more-occasional Charlotte dining stirrer-upper Matthew Pera.  Dubbed The Liberty, it's slated to open in early October in the former McIntosh's space in South End (1812 South Blvd.). 

   Says the British-born Condron, "We're going to have fun food, food that will allow you to have fun at the table." He says the fare will be "as much farm to fork as possible" -- one example: braised pork shoulder and belly, served with Bibb lettuce for wrapping and an array of accompaniments, such as pickled pineapple and Georgia peanuts, "assembly required." The menu will change frequently, and he plans to play off the 70-plus beer list. "When I was growing up, you slammed 'em back with your mates and didn't really appreciate it. ... Now there are these great crafted beers out there. In this economy, it's a lot easier to spend $6 for a well-crafted beer than $12 for a halfway decent glass of wine."

Pera, quoted in a release, says: "Tom and I have often discussed how there is a gap in Charlotte between fine dining and casual," and the pair will put an emphasis on "reasonable" prices, defined here as entrees between $14 and $22.

   Both partners plan to be on hand, Pera (who served as general manager at Marais, Upstream, GW Fins and more) running the front of the house and Condron (who's worked with such luminaries as Joel Robuchon and Paul Bocuse) in the kitchen. The place will seat about 200, with a patio and 50-seat bar, plus private dining space. Plans call for it to serve lunch and dinner daily; the Web site isn't fully operational now but it's  here. 



Slow Food on Aug. 19

Slow it down with a five-course meal with wine pairings at Passion8 Aug. 19, which will also give diners the chance to hear from speakers from area farms, writers and an S.C. agriculture official. Cost is $100. Details  here.

Odds and ends

Closest place in Bon Appetit magazine's Top 10 Best New Restaurants is ... Cakes & Ale in Decatur, Georgia, where the dish to try, according to said magazine, is citrus arancine with Pecorino cheese.

Happy birthdays

  • Miro celebrates its 10th anniversary with a fixed-price meal through September: $36 is dinner for two, with one appetizer, two soups or salads and two entrees. 7804 Rea Road; 704-540-7374.
  • Dilworth Neighborhood Grille celebrates five years of business with a $5 limited menu Aug. 10-16, and will partner for five days of fundraising for five charities Sept. 14-18. 911 E. Morehead St.; 704-377-3808.

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Save yourself -- and your relatives, who'd you'd doubtless be hitting up to invest with you -- some time and money by checking out this. I am told, by PR folks naturally, that three million people play this every day....