Friday, December 18, 2009

More for the Eve

Sonoma will have three courses and a champagne toast for $40 on New Year's Eve. Choices include duck breast with caramelized endive; beef tenderloin with wild mushrooms; N.C. rainbow trout with lemon and caper brown butter and more. 100 N. Tryon St.; 704-332-1132.

The Wine Shop at Rivergate offers a $50-per-couple three-course meal for the Eve. Among the options are scallops au gratin; rack of lamb; chorizo- and goat-cheese-stuffed chicken breast and more. 14142 Rivergate Parkway; 704-831-9000.

Providence Cafe will be open 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; the dinner menu that night includes choices such as cornbread "kettles" filled with crawfish and tasso; housemade osso buco ravioli; prime rib with pappardelle; sea bass with vanilla cream sauce; and oven-roasted lamb loin. Reservations recommended. (Also, the place has new menus for lunch, dinner and brunch.) 110 Perrin Place; 704-376-2008.

Passion8 Bistro has a five-course menu with Champagne toast for $150 per couple; seatings are at 6 and 9 p.m. and the menu includes escargot, smoked Sonoma duck, veal chop with gnocchi, chicken roulade and more. 3415 Highway 51 North, Fort Mill, S.C.; 803-802-7455.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Extreme expansion

Canadian quick-serve franchise Extreme Pita opened a Ballantyne Village location mid-December and has expansion plans for 15-20 more through "the greater metropolitan area" in the next five years. 14825 Ballantyne Village Way; 704-369-5022;

New Year's

The Wine Shop at Foxcroft offers a New Year's Eve dinner for two for $95 -- including a bottle of wine and a Champagne toast -- with seatings at 6 and 8 p.m. On the menu: seared scallop in saffron cream; choice of potato leek soup with crab or salad; pan-roasted chicken or roasted rack of lamb; and flourless chocolate torte. 7824 Fairview Road; 704-365-6550.

Blue has a special for its first seating (5-6:30): a three-course dinner for $29.95. Reservations required. Through the night, there'll be drink specials and a late-night menu, live music and a Champagne toast. And Blue will be open New Year's Day. Hearst Tower uptown; 704-927-2583.

Both locations of Cosmos Cafe will offer four-course tasting menus for New Year's Eve for $48.95, including a glass of Champagne, plus selections from the regular dinner menu. Guest DJs will be on hand as well. 300 N. College St., 704-372-3553; and 8420 Rea Road, 704-544-5268.

The Liberty plans three courses for $40, with choices including crabcake with shot of she-crab bisque; cedar-plank-roasted wild Scottish salmon; flat-iron steak; warm chocolate cake and more. 1812 South Blvd.; reservations: 704-332-8830.

Maddi's Southern Bistro offers five courses (with entrees ranging from Cornish hen to blackened mahi mahi to veal medallions) and a glass of Champagne for $45. 16925 Birkdale Commons Parkway in Huntersville; 704-987-7762.

Mert's Heart and Soul hosts New Year's Day Brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 214 N. College St.; 704-342-4222.

Open on Christmas

Siblings Miro (7804 Rea Road; 704-540-7374), Sole (1608 East Blvd.; 704-343-9890) and Zen (1716 Kenilworth Ave.; 704-358-9688) will be open on both Christmas Day and New Year's Day for dinner.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Snuggies, fries, music: Links of the week

I may be on vacation, but so are others, many of whom are pondering how best to lie around on the sofa and eat, and many of whom (some also in the first group) seeking gift ideas. Therefore, I give you this invaluable tool. Be aware: It's irreverent.

Well worth thinking about in this holiday season are these tips on how some chefs avoid packing on the pounds. Not much that's surprising, but there's this disturbing/illuminating comment from a Boston chef: "The butter and meat and calories I consume are so minimal compared to what goes out on each plate." In other words, don't consume a whole serving of ... much of anything.

When you're out shopping, you might want to have considered this.

And how great is this concept?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pizza by any other name

The former Pizzeria Uno on South Tryon Street is now Mason's Uptown, but it's still run by the same folks -- they've just relinquished the franchise, explained manager Bryan Reece. There's pizza, but now it's a flatbread version, and the menu also now includes wings, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, black and blue grilled steak salad, half-pound burgers, wraps, New York strip, grilled salmon, pastas and more, including daily specials. (One of those is a soup and salad combo for $6.99, or a half sandwich with soup or salad for $7.99.) 401 S. Tryon St.; 704-373-0085.

Welsh Rarity

CafĂ© Central coordinates with Story Slam Dec. 19. The theater space presents “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” and the restaurant offers a dinner special inspired by Welsh cooking: Queen Victoria’s Windsor Soup (typically lamb and/or beef with parsnips and other vegetables) for $4.95 and Gilded Saffron and Butter Basted Roasted Cornish Hen with Herb Garland, plus Welsh cheese and bacon muffins, for $14.95. Pick up a token from the theater to show you qualify for the special (Story Slam doesn't do tickets); if you prefer, that token can instead be used for a 15 percent discount on the regular menu, excluding alcohol and tax. (Plan to get to the restaurant by at least 6 to make the 7 p.m. show, say organizers.) 1401 Central Ave.; 704-930-7810.

BLT Lunch: $18

BLT Steak now offers a fixed-price "Express" lunch from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. weekdays: For $18 (yes), you get any two items from a list of soups, salads and half (yes) sandwiches. Among current options: chestnut apple soup with bacon and brown butter; endive salad with Gorgonzola, walnuts and pear; half sandwiches with fries of Prime steak and Fontina cheese; leg of lamb and provolone or organic chicken with sun-dried tomato. 110 N. College St. in The Ritz-Carlton; 704-972-4380.

More holiday plans (and somewhere open Christmas!)

  • Santa will be at Latta Pavilion Dec. 19, and 131 Main in Dilworth will host a breakfast buffet 10-11:30 a.m. for $3.95 for kids, $4.95 for adults. 1315 East Blvd.; 704-343-0131.
  • Maddi's Southern Bistro offers a "Maddi's for Two" menu through Dec. 30: one appetizer and two entrees from the regular menu, plus a piece of pie, for $37.95. 16925 Birkdale Commons Parkway in Huntersville; 704-987-7762.
  • Fiamma will be open for lunch and dinner Christmas Eve and dinner 5-9:30 p.m. Christmas Day. 2418 Park Road; 704-333-3062.
  • Gleiberman's Kosher Mart & Restaurant will offer full dinner service 5-9 p.m. Christmas Eve (reservations suggested), and will open for deli sandwiches 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Christmas Day. 5668 International Drive; 704-563-8288.
(Note to folks looking for Christmas Day meals: Hotel restaurants are a sure bet, and some Chinese places traditionally open that day.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Remember Charlotte's "Best" 25 years ago?

The first "Best of Charlotte" book was being researched 25 years ago for the hotel chain Guest Quarters, and in Friday's CLT section, I take a look at three that are still around.

But I'm betting some readers remember rather a lot of the places that aren't, too, and so I'm sharing some highlights from the book (courtesy of reader Alex Coffin) here. Feel free to comment with your reminiscences, and I'm particularly interested in which ones you love that are still operating.

The 1985 book's dining-out section begins: "Charlotte's restaurants offer food from every continent (Antarctica excepted, of course) for every palate, pocketbook, mood, and time of day."

Well ... Casablanca counted as the sole African representative, with Egyptian mango juice getting special note. Others listed by cuisine were Rheinland Haus, Nakato's, Royal Palace, House of Hunan, Chez Daniel, Raga, Silver Cricket, La Paz, Nickleby's, Riccio's, Mangione's, Papa Gallo's, Giorgio's and La Tache, plus "American" winner The Diamond.
Subcategories included: Cheap all-you-can-eat: Fish Fare. Cajun: A.W. Shucks and Hotel Charlotte. Elegant seafood: The Fishmarket. Oysters: Calabash Cove. Soul food: Coffee Cup and Mildred's. Southern family-style: Laura's Rozzelle House. Cafeterias: McDonald's and Barclay's. Barbecue: Lexington No. 1, Smokey Joe's (both in Lexington) and Rogers and Spoons in Charlotte. Best imported barbecue: Papa Doc's Pig Palace and Old Original. Fish camps: Lineberger's, Mitchell's Fish House, Pat and Mick's Family Fish House (out of town) and Riverview Inn and Hide-A-Way Inn in the Charlotte area. Barbecue and fish camp: Gus Purcell's. Kosher deli: Leo's.

Then there are odder titles : "No-Surprises Steak House": Ranch House, and "Wholesome Fresh Fare": Pewter Rose (its first incarnation, at Spirit Square, not the current South Boulevard one).

"Mood" recommendations included: View: Slug's 30th Edition. Romantic hideaway: The LampLighter. Late-night people-watching: Knife and Fork. Gracious ladies' lunch spot: Eli's on East. Place to hang out with the old guard: The Townhouse. Place to see a newspaper person miss a deadline: D 'n 'P. Place to take a business client to lunch: Barley & Rye. Neighborhood jock hangout: Kenilworth Cafe. Old Charlotte dining spot: The Epicurean. "Far from the Madding Crowd" sanctum: The Chateau. Uptown downtown hangout: Jonathan's Uptown. Place to get cozy: Proposition XLV. Place to pretend you're a hillbilly: Po' Folks. European Cafe: Cafe Society. Songs with your supper: Zarrelli's.

And by-dish suggestions mention pizza at Carlo's, margaritas at Casa Gallardo, grits at San Remo, moussaka at Anderson's, lemonade at Wad's, fries at the Red Blazer. Thankfully, we still have several of those in particular: fried chicken at Price's, cooked vegetables at Gus' Sir Beef, hot dogs at Green's Lunch and onion rings at South 21.

What do you remember best, and which of the ones still around do you patronize?

(And for some terrific old photos, check out this.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tidings of great joy -- and holiday plans

  • Both locations of the Common Market (in Plaza-Midwood and South End) promise a "ba-rum-pa-pa-pum free Christmas," banning playing of "The Little Drummer Boy." Also, the South End location (1515 S. Tryon St.) hosts a holiday votluck (that's a vegan potluck) 2-6 p.m. Christmas Eve.
  • Sir Edmond Halley’s plans for Christmas Eve: an a la carte menu that includes turnovers of roasted porcini, truffle and potato with lavender goat cheese sauce; quail consomme; grilled artichoke salad; grilled filet with broccoli potato hash and crab bearnaise sauce; butternut squash risotto; New Zealand rack of lamb; and more. It will also be open for New Year's Eve, with a menu that includes roasted lamb and goat cheese pierogies, Maine lobster pot pie and pan-seared Muscovy duck breast.4151-A Park Road; 704-525-2555.
  • New South Kitchen plans a Christmas Eve buffet from 4-8 p.m. Among the lineup: roasted beef tenderloin, deep-fried turkey and salmon-crab strudel. $30 per person (plus 20 percent tip). The restaurant will also be open New Year’s Day, and has extended its operating hours, opening at 11:30 daily and closing at 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 9 Sunday. 8140 Providence Road; 704-541-9990.

  • D'Vine Wine Cafe for New Year's hosts a 5-9:30 p.m. by-reservation-only evening: four courses, $40, followed by a party with live music and complimentary Champagne at midnight. 14815 John J. Delaney Drive; 704-369-5050.
  • The Villa Antonio at 4707 South Blvd. will be open 4-8:30 for Christmas Eve dinner, and for New Year's Eve will have a 5:30 seating for $39 and others for $45: five courses and live music. 704-523-1594.

Links of the week

  • Owen's Bagel & Deli has updated its Web site, and it's as clever and fun as you'd expect from a place that has a sandwich called the Federllllinnnneee (yes, turkey is prominent). Go here.
  • Can't resist Eating The Road/Sloshspot's flow chart brilliance here, but the Will They Build It concept is visually ... um ... stunning? ... here. (General idea: Go to a fast-food place and special-order something fantastical. This comes complete with nutrition facts, which are fantastic.)
  • You thought "Twilight" had nothing to do with restaurants? Hahahahahahaha. Go here.

More for the holidays

  • Global's New Year's Eve plans: five-course meal with glass of champagne at 5:30 for $62; six-courser with same at 8:30 for $72. Among the dishes: diver scallop with Global succotash or truffled terrine of duck and veal; braised oxtail with grit cake or pompano sous-vide with leek fondue; Yule log with Myer's Rum raisin creme anglaise. 3520 Toringdon Way; 704-248-0866.
  • Foskoskies will be open for lunch Christmas Eve, then closed until lunch Dec. 26. For New Year's Eve, it will open for both lunch and dinner, and for New Year's Day will serve dinner only. The New Year's Eve menu is three courses, with price based on entree choice; options include appetizers of pickled ginger salad with tempura-fried shrimp, lobster bisque and pan-fried softshell crab over focaccia; and entrees of beef Wellington, grilled lamb chops, pomegranate duck breast, Lowcountry crabcakes and catch of the day grilled and served over saffron polenta cake. 2121 Shamrock Drive; 704-535-2220.
  • All N.C. Applebee’s owned by the Apple Gold Group will offer half-price appetizers 9 p.m.-2 a.m. and drink specials all day Dec. 31; for the closest location, go to

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Drink/dine out, do good

  • Amelie's is choosing a custom brew as its house blend, and wants customers to help, and also benefit Kids First of the Carolinas. The staff has narrowed the choices with Dilworth Coffee to two. You can come in, beginning Dec. 9, bring a new unwrapped toy or a $5 donation to Kids First, and get a sample of each of the finalists, a ballot for voting and an entry into a drawing for a Buche de Noel (Yule log) dessert. Kids First gives help to families and does not receive local, state or federal funding. Amelie's plans to call a winner Dec. 22: 2424 N. Davidson St.; 704-376-1781.
  • Presbyterian Hospice & Palliative Care is working with the Mr. Food no-fuss Meals location owned by Chip and Cindy Wilson to get donated dinners to grieving hospice families during the holidays and beyond. Volunteers will deliver a minimum of 20 Mr. Food meals each month to high-risk bereavement clients, says the hospice's Kathy Brown. Mr. Food is also offering 15 percent discounts to folks who use the coupon code "PresbyHospice" when ordering, to help support the hospice's mission. 704-365-4515; For information about the hospice, call 704-384-CARE.

So ... Even Mo Fro Yo

Yoforia plans to expand for the first time beyond Georgia with two locations in Charlotte -- Selwyn Corners and the Shops at Piper Glen -- this winter. Both will have self-serve stations and will be open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, to midnight Friday-Saturday and noon-11 p.m. Sunday. The yogurt comes in four flavors: original sweet-yet-tart, pomegranate, dark chocolate and mango, and toppings range from fruit to cookies. 2823 Selwyn Ave. and 6432 Rea Road.

Holiday meals

  • Both Red Rocks Cafes will be open regular hours on Christmas Eve, and taking reservations by phone and online at Also coming up: New Year's Eve features, in addition to the regular menu, at Strawberry Hill include a chilled seafood platter; "Red & Bleu Prime Filet" (with sundried tomato and bleu cheese crust); pecan-crusted mahi mahi; parmesan-crusted pork chop; and more. 4223-B Providence Road, 704-364-0402; the Huntersville location is at 8712 Lindholm Drive, Huntersville, 704-892-9999.
  • Caffe Siena at the Holiday Inn Charlotte Center City offers a four-course New Year's Eve meal with seatings at 6, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. and a DJ from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Among the dishes are sauteed Chilean sea bass, braised beef short rib cannelloni, pan-seared duck breast and roasted beef tenderloin. At 6th and College Streets uptown; 704-335-5400 ext. 458.
  • Mez hosts its second annual Black Tie Ball for New Year's Eve (8 p.m.-2 a.m.), with passed hors d'oeuvres, champagne toast and party favors for $25; other packages, including dinners and Ritz-Carlton hotel rooms are available, too. 210 E. Trade St.; 704-971-2400.

  • Road trip required: Highland Lake Inn (86 Lily Pad Lane in Flat Rock) offers buffets on both Christmas Eve (allspice and peppercorn scented prime rib; Ashley Farm chicken braised with smoked bacon and more) and Christmas Day (Virginia ham, sirloin tips and more). Hours are 5-9 p.m. Dec. 24 (for $34.95) and 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 25 ($36.95); 828-696-9094

Monday, December 7, 2009

New menus

  • M5 has a new lineup that focuses on more hearty dishes, including new wood-fired flatbreads, braised lamb shank with Anson Mills polenta, pork chop stuffed with morel mushrooms, quail stuffed with figs and mushrooms and more. 4310 Sharon Road; 704-909-5500.
  • The Liberty has a new menu; among the dishes are farmhouse chicken pot pie with English peas, baby carrots and porcini veloute; Black Angus pot roast; English fish and chips using Maine haddock, with "smooshy peas"; Vidalia onion soup with blistered Vermont cheddar (don't you love "blistered" as an adjective?), plus grilled bangers (sausage), Buffalo calamari "fries" and more. 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

Tastings, awards, zeitgeist

  • D'Vine Wine Cafe hosts a champagne and dessert tasting Dec. 17, with chocolate-covered bacon with goat cheese fondue; brioche French toast; passionfruit and mint sorbet; Simonnet Febvre Cremant; 2002 Ferrari Perle Blanc de Blanc; and more on the menu. $59.99;14815 John J. Delaney Drive; 704-369-5050.
  • Google Zeitgeist 2009 reports that among popular searches unique to specific U.S. cities, Charlotte's No. 2 search was for "Charlotte Restaurant week" and No. 3 was "Mez Charlotte." Tops? "Parent Assistant CMS." You learn something new every day...
  • AAA Carolinas gave its 2010 Four Diamond award to three Charlotte restaurants (15 in the state) this week: Bonterra, winning for the sixth year, Zebra for the seventh and McNinch Housefor the 13th.

Top chefs -- no, a different kind

Danny Cerqueda of the Carolina Country Club in Raleigh is one of a dozen semifinalists competing Feb. 6 for the U.S. spot in the 2011 Bocuse d'Or International Culinary Competition. Cerqueda and the others -- "Top Chef" contestant Kevin Gillespie from Atlanta, plus four from New York and one each from Vermont, Nevada, California, Florida, Massachusetts and Illinois (one woman among them) -- were chosen by the Bocuse D'Or USA Foundation's Board of Directors, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Jerome Bocuse. Begun in 1987 by well-known French chef Paul Bocuse, that competition (also called the culinary Olympics) is held every other year and pits teams of two (a chef and an assistant) from 24 countries. It will be held in January 2011 in Lyon, France.

Last year, Tim Hollingsworth of the French Laundry led the U.S. team to sixth place -- which is the best the U.S. has ever done (it also placed sixth in '05).

The other semifinalists and current restaurants/businesses, according to the press release:
  • Luke Bergman, The Modern, New York
  • Michael Clauss, Daily Planet, Burlington, Vermont
  • Kevin Gillespie, Woodfire Grill, Atlanta
  • James Kent, Eleven Madison Park, New York
  • Mark Liberman, Roxy’s Black Sheep, West Palm Beach, Fla.
  • Christopher Parsons, Catch, Winchester, Mass.
  • Jennifer Petrusky, Charlie Trotter’s, Chicago
  • John Rellah, New York Yacht Club, New York
  • Jeremie Tomczak, French Culinary Institute, New York
  • Andrew Weiss, The Chef’s Workshop, Las Vegas
  • Percy Whatley, The Ahwahnee, Yosemite, Calif. (who was also a semifinalist last time)
And for "Top Chef" addicts, find out who thinks will be showing up on the second season of "Top Chef Masters" here.