Yeah, absinthe used to be banned, but it's legal now, and Plaza-Midwood's Soul Gastrolounge offers it, with food pairings and readings of Edgar Allan Poe's work, Oct. 30. (That's the 200th anniversary of Poe's birth and, some would argue -- like me -- a waaaay better Halloween event than most). Look for absinthe oysters Rockefeller, tarragon-butter-grilled shrimp over orange fennel salad and braised fennel and sausage on grilled peasant bread, plus absinthe and absinthe cocktails. Absinthe, also called the Green Fairy, was once considered dangerous; it's an emerald-colored liqueur based on wormwood (artemisia) and alcohol. Wormwood's compound thujone, says Wired magazine (and who wouldn't trust Wired magazine on such a thing?), is what was blamed for the drink's "supposed side effects: hallucinations, artistic inspiration, degeneracy and homicidal mania." Thujone's still banned in this country, but absinthes with little enough of it can be sold (and some doubt the connection anyway), while the New York Times said this year, "Modern analysis has shown that the absinthes produced today have none of these effects." Hmm. Drinks will run $7-$11 and include the classic cocktail and items such as "Surfer on Absinthe" (with coconut rum and pineapple), while the food pairings are $6-$7.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Callers report spotting the Food Network crew from "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" -- the show in which wild-haired Guy Fieri waxes philosophic (and enthusiastically hungry) about all sorts of places and specialties -- filming around town. Among the reported locations: Jake's Good Eats, South 21, Cabo Fish Taco, dish and Landmark Diner. It's my understanding that mum's the word from restaurant owners, but you can hardly expect excited diners to keep secrets...
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
FREE: Become a Facebook fan of Amelie's (2424 N. Davidson St.) and get freebies on Fridays: Oct. 30, the haul is a palmier -- that's a sugared puff pastry fan-like thingamabob pronounced "palm-yay." And Taco Bell gives away a Black Jack Taco to each diner who stops in between 6 p.m. and midnight Oct. 31, "in celebration of Halloween and Game Three of the World Series" (two events that are obviously intricately related).
DISCOUNTED: Brixx Wood Fired Pizza’s Tuesday night special is back: Buy two pizzas, get two free, but you need a coupon and you need to dine in at a participating location: Check for both at the Web site at www.brixxpizza.com (fixed, thanks to commenter).
And it's the last week (through Oct. 29, that is) to get three courses for $30 at Zebra. Among the choices: shrimp bisque, signature vase salad, salmon fillet, lamb tenderloin, chicken with shrimp Provencal, lemon curd tart, coconut almond dacquoise torte, sorbet and more. 4521 Sharon Road; 704-442-9525.
EXPANDED: Tasty Yo, the tart frozen yogurt place in NoDa, will open a second location in south Charlotte Nov. 27, if all goes according to plan. Michelle Goldstein and family (that's them above: Stephanie, Raphael, Deborah and Michelle) plan to offer two flavors at all times there of the tangy delight -- original "tart" and a rotation, beginning with green tea. You top these with fresh fruit, nuts, candy, cereal, and my personal favorite: mochi, a chewy form of glutinous rice cut into bits. (Trust me.) The new one will be at the Village at Robinson Farm (between StoneCrest and Blakeney); the original is at 3116 N. Davidson St.; 704-333-4551.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The name: It stands for Bistro Laurent Tourondel, and chef Tourondel has a slew of concepts nationally: BLT Steak, BLT Fish, BLT Prime, BLT Market, BLT Burger. (One longs for BLT BLT, but what can one do?*)
The food: Steak, yes, but in usual and less-usual permutations. Tourondel's been quoted as preferring the Wagyu skirt, which weighs in at 10 ounces and $52, and it's indeed delicious -- tender, flavorful, rich and rendering sauce on the side (you pick from nine choices) completely unnecessary. Hanger, filet, ribeye, porterhouse, N.Y. strip, short ribs: they're all here ($29-45), plus chicken, veal, lamb and duck at one entree each. So's seafood, and the marinated Alaskan black cod is lovely, though branzino is always hard to turn down (and yeah, there's lobster, too). But it's the quality of sides that's freshest for Charlotte in this genre: amazing Brussels sprouts with bacon, hen of the woods mushrooms, roasted tomatoes Provencal, gnocchi with tomato sauce. The complimentary popovers are much discussed (they come with a tiny card divulging the recipe) and though ours were tasty, I wasn't blown away, since they arrived only warm -- which belied the server's description of them emitting steam when torn apart. Dessert fared better: fabulously simple orange sorbet, and the tiny sticky toffee pudding cake with pecan ice cream. Cheeses and dessert beverages are legion. Pricey? You bet: Only three dinner entrees are under $30 and sandwiches run $16-19 at lunch (entrees then are $26-52).
The service: Here's what did blow me away -- every person of the seven or so that dealt with us was engaged, enthusiastic, helpful and wry when it was called for, from the poor guy crumbing the table (imagine popovers and woven placemats) to the water refiller who noticed a votive was toasting the glazed artichoke table decoration. Servers knew their stuff and were gracious; the bread guy raved with real flair about the tiny "chocolate chip brownie bits" that arrive after dessert. Well done.
The look: Hey, it's in the Ritz-Carlton, so you expect luxe and you get it. But in simple terms: drum lights, leather seating, gold suede. Try not to face the street at night until construction's over over there, since you get a rather blinding work light in the eye, in addition to the neon valet parkers' vests.
Details: 110 N. College St.; 704-972-4380. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Menus aren't up yet on the main Web site (www.bltrestaurants.com) but here’s the dinner lineup.
* Especially since one is not the PR person for this account, though one LOVES whoever is, because of sentences such as this in the chef bio: "The relentless ennui with which he greeted his other studies left a single alternative for the burgeoning chef," which was cooking school in France. That led to French Navy and NYC experience, three-star-Michelin cooking and "Top Chef" judging.
Monday, October 26, 2009
The Flat Rock Grille in the Ballantyne area has closed -- for the second time.
The seafood and steak restaurant, part of a Southeastern chain, first opened in Charlotte in 2005 and closed the Ballantyne site in mid-2007. Ownership changed more than once in the restaurant's history, and a Ballantyne site was resurrected, but WR Hospitality Group, which operated three Flat Rocks, announced today it has closed the 15719 John J. Delaney Drive store. The company cited decreased sales and traffic at that location, but emphasized it will keep its restaurants in Hickory and Asheville going. If you've got a gift card, those two sites will honor it, says WR.
Plug in the discount code TREATS through Oct. 31, I'm told, at www.restaurant.com and you'll get an 80 percent discount on coupons for area places -- so a $25 coupon that goes for $10 usually costs $2. Just tried it and it looks as if it's working.
Also, Halloween and Applebee's: Natural pairing?
50 locations of the chain in North Carolina will host a party 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Oct. 31, with prizes for best costume at each restaurant (contest at midnight, FYI). Nearest location to you: Go here.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
- The Inn at New Town Farms offers the "1st Annual Poulet Soiree" Nov. 7: an outdoor meal with Chef Joseph Bonaparte, featuring wood-fire-roasted, pasture-raised French Red Bro chicken, organic fall vegetables (also from the farm), organic wines and more. $45; RSVP by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The farm is at 4512 New Town Road in Waxhaw.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
It's finally happened: Two restaurants have beaten the reader requests for Thanksgiving plans:
Maddi's Bistro in Huntersville will host a Thanksgiving dinner and buffet Nov. 26 -- three seatings (noon, 2:45 and 5:30 p.m.), traditional dishes and a cost of $24.95 for adults, $9.95 for those 12 and younger. Birkdale Village; 704-987-7762; www.maddissouthernbistro.com.
And Upstream (6902 Phillips Place) plans a buffet with a hot carving station and traditional sides, plus its shellfish bar, sushi station and dessert bar, fresh fruit, salads and more. $32.95 for adults and $14.95 for 12 and younger. 704-556-7730.
- Maddi's Bistro revels for Octoberfest Oct. 16-24 with two food specials in addition to the regular menu -- two German brats simmered in Geary's Winter Ale with sauerkraut and home fries; and Schweizer Schnitzel, a German breaded pork cutlet stuffed with Black Forest ham and Swiss cheese -- plus beers Bavarian Helles Hefeweizen and Lammsbrau Organic Dunkel for $2.50 each. Also on the calendar: a five-course wine dinner Nov. 4 for $49. Birkdale Village; 704-987-7762; www.maddissouthernbistro.com.
- The Fig Tree hosts a five-course Taittinger champagne dinner Oct. 21, with a menu that includes seared sea scallop with cauliflower almond gratin; cornbread-stuffed roasted quail; and gingerbread and apple bread pudding. $85; 1601 E. 7th St.; 704-332-3322.
- The U.S. National Whitewater Center plans an oyster roast 2-7 p.m. Nov. 7 with live beach music, food and drink specials, steamed and fried oysters. 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway; 704-391-3900.
- Techno-driven T1 Tapas in Huntersville hosts a "Spooktacular Halloween Bash" Oct. 29 to benefit Loaves & Fishes. $35 in advance ($45 at the door) gets you a peek at new multimedia from T1 Visions (the restaurant's parent company), heavy hors d'oeuvres (including butternut squash shooters and pumpkin-seed-crusted bigeye tuna with blood orange vinaigrette, a cash bar, and a chance at door prizes. Costumes are encouraged but not required. 8625-C Lindholm Drive, Birkdale Village; 704-895-4373 or www.t1tapas.com.
- Also for Halloween: Blue offers a masquerade party Oct. 30 with drink and appetizer specials, prizes for costumes and a deejay. It's free if you have dinner reservations; $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Hearst Plaza; 704-927-2583.
Celebrate blynk organic's one-year eco-conscious anniversary with a week's worth of specials and/or activities:
- Oct. 19: all day, free coffee tasting of blynk coffees
- Oct. 20: 9:30-11:30 a.m.: free tea tasting with Felicitea; 11 a.m.–1 p.m.: free tips on how to eat healthy from Pure Potential Wellness
- Oct. 21: 9:30-11:30 a.m.: meet blynk’s local vendors and get info on ingredients (including Grateful Growers, Breadsmith, Poplar Ridge Farm)
- Oct. 22: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.: free massage from Massage Heights; 2-4 p.m.: free coffee cupping from Counter Culture Coffee (space is limited, so register via Facebook or sign up at blynk)
- Oct. 23: 11 a.m.-whenever they run out: all full sandwiches, crysps and wraps half price. 200 S. Tryon St.; 704-522-3750.
- Harper's Restaurant Group has added locally produced Wagyu burgers to its restaurants' menus, each with a spin of its own. The breed of beef, known for exceptional flavor, will be offered as sliders (three for $10), as a hickory-grilled burger with caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese ($11) and in iron-skilled meatloaf (with veal and pork and apricot mustard; $14) at Harper's, for example, while Zink will sell a Carolina American Wagyu Burger with aged cheddar, roasted mushrooms, pickled onions and truffled aioli. More here.
- New at Cantina 1511: A $7 fall menu for weekday lunch, based on Frank Scibelli's latest trip to Mexico, that includes: Del Norte Solomillo Salad (marinated, grilled filet mignon tips over lettuce with jicama, pumpkin seeds, grilled pineapple and a pickled chile vinaigrette; avocado, crab and jalapeno bacon quesadilla; tacos with shrimp and crab; a chicken Milanesa torta; and more, plus drinks that include aguas frescas (Mexican fruit drinks; add tequila if desired) and beer served in a salt- and chile-rimmed pint glass with ice and fresh lime juice. Also new for the restaurants: Karime Lopez of Mexico City, who's been hired as a consulting chef through the end of the year. StoneCrest and 1511 East Blvd.
- Andrew Blair’s fall menu is out, with new small plates and seasonal entrees. Among the added: boudin blanc sausage croquettes; Grateful Growers cured ham; New Zealand rack of lamb. Also new is a three-course chef's menu from Blake Hartwick for $25; it will vary nightly. 1600 Montford Drive; 704-525-8282.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
- Sullivan's Steakhouse offers "Palate in the Pink" now to Nov. 23, a three-course dinner for $39.95, of which $5 will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, with a minimum guaranteed donation of $30,000.
- Blue hosts a six-dish B.R. Cohn wine dinner Oct. 29; among the pairings are seared scallops over pumpkin orzo with 2008 B.R. Cohn Merlot, Sonoma Valley; and Spanish oxtail stew with crisp walnut spaetzle and 2007 B.R. Cohn Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast. $34.95; 704-927-2583. Hearst Tower, corner of College and 5th streets. Also new at Blue: 10 menu items, ranging from chicken kabobs with falafel and Greek meatballs to Trout Navarra (stuffed with bacon and served with cauliflower), spaghetti alla chitarra (with shrimp, clams and white wine garlic sauce) and seared duck breast.
- Speaking of new menus, Revolution Pizza & Ale House has a new menu out, adding chef Bryan Tetorakis's grilled pizzas, handmade pastas, house-ground lamb burgers, braised pork belly with collards and more. Owner Aman Boyd says the original menu was "pretty conservative" and now, with a year under the place's belt, they can expand. New menu is here.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Nationally known chef Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Steak threw open its doors this week as the uptown Ritz-Carlton did likewise, offering “regional blackboard specials to accompany (Tourondel’s) signature modern American steakhouse menu.” The printed dinner menu ranges from steaks (10-ounce hanger $29; 8-ounce filet $34; 22-ounce ribeye $45; 10-ounce Wagyu skirt $52) to burgers ($16) to Dover sole with soy caper brown butter ($45) to branzini ($30). Lunch has most of the steaks (at the same prices) and more sandwiches and salad options, and yes, there’s a steak-and-eggs dish at breakfast ($24), along with pancakes, Belgian waffles and more. Chef de cuisine Aksel Theilkuhl runs the kitchen. 110 N. College St.; 704-972-4380. The Web site is here.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Yoforia plans to open two stores in Charlotte this winter, in south Charlotte and Myers Park. Based in Atlanta, the chain offers frozen yogurt made with organic milk and yogurt and four flavors: pomegranate, dark chocolate, mango and original. Toppings include seasonal fruit, granola, cookies and more. Both stores will have self-serve machines and topping stations. Check out more here.
Oct. 8, for a Thursday, sure is jam-packed for diners:
- Taste of the World (go for details) traverses east Charlotte, and diners get to sample various ethnic dishes.
- Mez offers a "first annual" oyster roast, with oyster buckets, shrimp boil, gumbo, chicken sandwiches and live music. At the EpiCentre, 210 E. Trade St., 704-971-2400.
- Blue and Left Hand Brewery do a beef and food pairing for Oktoberfest; Hearst Plaza uptown; 704-927-2583.
- Morton's uptown features Second Harvest as its partner during its week of Philanthropy (RAIN is tonight), with $25 of the $75 dinner going to the charity. 704-333-2602; 227 W. Trade St.
- Uno Chicago Grill offers a limited-time menu beginning this week of pumpkin soup, Power Salad (with goji and sweetened dried cranberries), five-grain-crust flabread, barbecued short rib sliders, pumpkin tiramisu and more.-
- Hardee's now has a Big Hardee: three beef patties, tangy sauce, two slices of American cheese, shredded lettuce and a seeded bun. It's offered in participating restaurants for "$2.29 or less" says the press release.
- Angry Ale’s has expanded its burger offerings, with the Badlands Burger, the Elvis Burger and the Angry as Hell Cheeseburger, plus options for the more health-conscious, including a tuna burger, portobello burger and a raspberry shrimp salad. 1518 Montford Drive, 704-525-3663.
- Fatz Café has repriced its menu, and added sides and choice of soup or salad to its rib and beef entrees, along with adding new items such as honey barbecue chicken nachos, oven-roasted barbecue half chicken, pimento cheeseburger topped with fried green tomatoes, and more. Multiple locations; details here.
- New menus at Gallery: a lineup of breakfast signature specials, including the peach French toast shown, plus new lunch, dinner and dessert lists. Among new lunch entrees are housemade pappardelle pasta with braised short rib, Shanghai ahi tuna with jasmine rice and Atlantic cod with butternut squash couscous and braised local greens. New sandwiches include a grilled vegetable wrap and Underwood Family Farm’s roasted lamb with caramelized onions and aged provolone. Dinner options range from starters such as the Hawaiian tuna duet and beet salad with housemade goat cheese cake to entrées of blue-crab-stuffed Acadian redfish and beef short ribs with bone marrow crostini. At the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge; 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4100.
- Newly made executive chef at Aquavina is Vincent Giancarlo (a Charlotte Johnson & Wales grad), and the new menu adds a significant selection of Certified Angus Beef to its seafood lineup, including The Black Eye (center-cut 18-ounce bone-in ribeye encrusted with Tellicherry black pepper and served with fries tossed in white truffle oil and asparagus with roasted leek and Roquefort fondue; $36) and Surf & Turf Trio (beef tenderloin and tiger shrimp served three ways; $28). 435 S. Tryon St., 704-377-9911.
- Zebra debuts its new dinner menu this week, offering 20 percent off all food and beverages for the week. On the new list: lobster bisque and cauliflower soup with butter-poached lobster; seared Hudson Valley foie gras with red currant compote; pan-roasted sea scallops with ricotta en croute; N.C. trout Francaise; Snake River Farm Kobe strip loin steak with grit and Gruyere cake; tournedos of beef tenderloin with prosciutto roasted asparagus; and more. 4521 Sharon Road; 704-442-9525.
- blynk organic offers new lunch and breakfast items, with ingredients from Grateful Growers and Poplar Ridge, new pastries including gluten-free cookies, and more. Vegetarian picks on the fall menu include a cold vegan low-cal sandwich called the Mezetta, and a hot sandwich with grilled portobellos, while protein fans can get a cold wrap with honey maple turkey and avocado. 200 S. Tryon St., 704-522-3750.
- The 13th annual Ciao, Italia! Festival will be Oct. 10 at the Wachovia/Wells Fargo Plaza atrium (301 S. Tryon St.), rain or shine, organized by the Christopher Columbus Italian Club of Charlotte. Chefs Luca Annunziata from Passion8 Bistro and Gabriel Grigolon from Firenze will do demos, and sausage and peppers, eggplant parmigiana sandwiches, pasta, pizza, Italian ices and pastries and cookies will be on hand, along with wine, beer and espresso drinks. Opera Carolina Chorus, Northwest School of the Arts and Italian singer Franco Corso are among the entertainers, and there will be cultural displays and kids' activities, as well. Admission is $3 with children 12 and younger free.
- The Beer Dinner Extravaganza at Passion8 will offer four courses, paired with beers from FootHills Brewing Company of Winston Salem, for $38 on Oct. 13. 3415 Highway 51, Fort Mill; 803-802-7455.
- Gallery hosts a Chehalem Vineyards wine dinner Nov. 2. Five courses, with Pinot Noirs from each of Chehalem's estate vineyards, and winemaker Harry Peterson-Nedry. $85; 1000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4100.
- The Melting Pot (both locations, in Midtown and University) hosts its annual Ladies Night Out Oct. 19-22, offering a four-course dinner for $35 per person. Five dollars of that goes to the Charlotte chapter of Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Each night, there's also a raffle for a gift basket including Emile Henry cookware, with all proceeds going to Komen. Also, a dollar from every sale in October of the restaurants' Pink Ribbon Martinis goes to Komen. Midtown: 704-334-4400; University: 704-548-2432.
- A portion of the sales of every jumbo Nova Scotia lobster dish at The Palm (in Charlotte, at Phillips Place) will go to World Food Program as part of its "Fill the Cup" campaign to feed schoolchildren worldwide; the restaurant chain has committed to raising at least $100,000 for the effort. 704-552-7256.
- "What's next? The Mac de Triomphe?" (Pun courtesy of Trent Roberts, Observer desk man.) McDonald's goes into the Louvre, gets pantalons of assorted French in knot, here.
- The new Michelin guide for New York City is out. Eater.com takes a look here.
- And a back-from-China blogger for The Atlantic starts a discussion about obesity in America -- how much does the availability of fast or processed food matter in this? Take a look here.
- FOX's "Hell's Kitchen" will hold an open casting call in Charlotte Oct. 16. Says casting associate Brandon McCormick: "While it is true we are looking for the typical chef/restaurant owners for the upcoming season (as we have in seasons past), this season we are actively pursuing people who are culinarily skilled but who have not been able to pursue their passion for food for their livelihood. In other words, we are looking for culinarily skilled foodies who feel like they can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with professional chefs in a restaurant environment." Sound like you? (And you're 21 or older, "outspoken, competitive and can stand the HEAT in one of the MOST EXCLUSIVE and TOUGHEST kitchens in the world"? Show up at Johnson & Wales, 801 W. Trade St. uptown, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 16. Want more info? Go here.
- Ruth Reichl, editor of Gourmet (which reportedly will fold after the November issue) and former New York Times restaurant critic, comes to public TV beginning Oct. 17 with "Gourmet's Adventures with Ruth," a series on cooking vacations. Reichl will visit -- with celebrity guests -- cooking schools around the world, and sample local foods in the vicinity. Slated for the first season: Mexico, Italy, England, Morocco, Brazil, Laos, China and culinary resort Blackberry Farm in Tennessee for the premiere.
The Liberty, American gastropub brainchild of longtime Harper's chef Tom Condron and Matthew Pera, is slated to open Oct. 9 at the former McIntosh's location in South End: 1812 South Blvd. Look for a pub setting with "upscale, yet moderately priced cuisine." Entrees will run $10-$21; look for dishes such as farm chicken with olive-crushed potatoes and chorizo; grilled Scottish salmon with Anson Mills farro (it's a grain); Angus pub burger with Niman Ranch bacon, teleme cheese and duck-fat fries; duck and dumplings with duck leg confit, duck meatballs and ricotta dumplings; grilled hanger steak with preserved tomatoes and parmesan-truffle fries; and more. Desserts will range from Meyer lemon donuts to warm Valrhona chocolate cake.
The space is divided into dining room and bar; the first is done in an "urban retro" style, with the bar sporting a more traditional pub look. Drinks range from 20 hand-crafted beers on tap and 50 by the bottle to 60 wines and a cocktail list. It seats more than 200, with a patio and 50-seat bar. Hours will be 11 a.m.-1 a.m. daily. 704-332-8830.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Look for Icehouse in early 2010 at the former Southend Brewery at Atherton Mill in South End. John Duncan of Bonterra and Las Ramblas plans a lineup of 200 beers, signature burgers, barbecue, ribs and pizzas. Edens & Avant, the group that owns Atherton Mill, plans design changes in the property "focused on features that will engage and connect people from the neighborhood": think more restaurants, stores and a glossing up of the outdoor space. Dan Boone, a chef who's been with Duncan a long time and was formerly chef at Mac's Speed Shop (both are no longer affiliated with Mac's), will do the Icehouse menu. 2100 South Blvd.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Where can you spend a few hours and a few dollars and get a real glimpse of global cuisine? East Charlotte's Taste of the World on Oct. 8.
This regularly slated event loads diners onto buses and takes them to culinary adventures ranging from Caribbean to Middle Eastern, Latino to Italian. For $30, you get an opening reception, samplings at three restaurants, plus a dessert-and-coffee reception at the VanLandingham Estate.
Participating restaurants are Ben Thanh (Vietnamese), Brazas (Brazilian), Congas (Cuban), Dim Sum (Chinese), Jerusalem (Middle Eastern), Landmark Diner, Fu Lin (Asian fusion), Linares (Mexican), Mama's (Caribbean), Middle East Deli, Namaste (Indian), Pizza and More (New York-style Italian), Pollos Mario (Colombian), Portofino (Italian) and Woodlands (vegetarian Indian).
Get more information at the web site here.