Monday, May 24, 2010

"Sex and City," beer, festivities

The Pizza Peel and Taproom hosts a Founders beer dinner May 25, with courses including Founders Pale Ale with shrimp and chorizo pizza; and Founders Porter with ravioli stuffed with porter-braised beef. $65; 4422 Colwick Road; 704-714-8808.

Mez hosts a "Sex and the City 2" premiere party at 8 p.m. May 27 with guest DJ Mia from MTV's "America's Best Dance Crew." Tickets are $25 and include Champagne, dessert, chances at giveaways, and favors; part of the proceeds goes to support breast health awareness. The movie starts at 9:25 p.m. at the EpiCentre. 210 E. Trade St.; 704-688-2400.

The Lake Norman Wine and Food Festival, June 5 and 6, will feature six restaurants and a dozen wineries, with each restaurant doing up to three dishes. The lineup includes Brooklyn South, The Creole House, Dressler's, Kernel T's Korn Krib, Mayo's Ristorante and Sangam Indian Cuisine. Kenton Place in Cornelius hosts the festival, which will donate proceeds to Angels and Sparrows, Hope House and the Mooresville Soup Kitchen. Info:

BLT breakfast (and lunch)

BLT Steak starts two new menus this week: a renovated Power Breakfast and a new lunch lineup, both designed to "reflect the steakhouse sophistication, Southern inspiration and classic French training" of the site and namesake chef Laurent Tourondel.

Among the morning list are almond brioche French toast with cinnamon-caramelized bananas, eggs "Ritz" (with spinach, crab and cayenne-lemon hollandaise) and a breakfast burrito served with home fries or grits. At midday, there are combo selections such as a burger and fries with your choice of beverage; add a soda and it's $17, a milkshake, $19; a draft beer makes it $22. Veggie falafel, swordfish burger and strawberry-rhubarb crisp are other dishes offered.

110 N. College St. in The Ritz-Carlton; 704-972-4380.

First bite: The King's Kitchen

First Bite is a look at a restaurant that's opened recently, based on one visit -- not a full-fledged review.

The food: Run by chef Jim Noble and staff as a faith-based, not-for-profit venture, this is designed to "employ, train and minister ... to troubled youth, rehab graduates and other members of our community who are in need of employment." Profits go toward feeding the hungry both in Charlotte and other parts of the world. Given that, you may be surprised to find the price points so affordable: sandwiches for $5-$8, veggies for $2.50, meat-and-threes for $8-$11.50. But if you're familiar with Noble's eponymous fine-dining place, or the more casual Rooster's, you won't be surprised by the quality here. Aunt Beaut's Pan-Fried Ashley Farms Chicken is a crowd-pleaser, I'm told, but I couldn't resist chicken livers (moist, though a mite heavily battered), killer grits (yes, they're Anson Mills), collards (you'll be offered vinegar, which you should, of course, take) and perfect sweet potato mash, plus cornbread worth drooling over, and delectably rich biscuits. The meats include pot roast and fried flounder, country-style steak and grilled chicken, but the vegetables are an even more impressive litany of welcome diversities: butter beans, creamed corn, pan-seared cabbage, fried green beans, Sea Island red peas, roasted beets.

The look: Simple but elegant, it's a large dining area with segmented areas, handsome artwork and a lot of bustle.

The service: Buttoned shirts and jeans and gracious smiles are the common denominator, along with enthusiastic menu descriptions and educated answers to food questions.

Details: Lunch (about $5-$11.50) 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. weekdays and Sundays; dinner, beginning May 27, 5:30-10:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 129 W. Trade St.; 704-375-1990.

June 10 brings a fundraiser at the restaurant with a reception and silent auction, then dinner and live auction. Tickets are $250 per person, $2,000 per table of eight.

Dine out, do good

Pencil June 15 into your calendar; it's Communities in Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's 11th annual Dine Out for Kids. Participating restaurants donate a portion of their day's gross sales to CIS, which works to help at-risk children succeed in school and life by connecting community resources with schools. It currently provides services to 5,000 students a year in 44 public schools, and last year, 97 percent of the kids enrolled in CIS stayed in school. (Info:

This year, 66 restaurant locations have joined in (some of the following have more than one site, while not all locations of some of these are participating; check the website for more specifics):

Alexander Michael's, Arthur's, Big Daddy's Burger Bar, Bonterra, BRAVO! Cucina Italiana, Brio, Brixx, Buffalo Wild Wings, Cantina 1511, Don Pedro, Eddie's Place, restaurants at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Harper's, Johnny Burrito, M5, Mama Ricotta's, McAlister's Deli, The Melting Pot, Mert's Heart & Soul, Mimosa Grill, Nothing But Noodles, Pewter Rose, Quiznos, Showmars, Sonny's, Upstream and Village Tavern.

Water for Wine

Through Memorial Day, bring a case of bottled water (16-20 ounces each) to Johnny's Red Bowl and you can buy a bottle of wine at "Water Into Wine" prices -- "ultra-wholesale," as chief operating officer Sean McCormack puts it. The water will be donated to the Charlotte USO to be distributed to military service people.

Among McCormack's picks among the offerings are Paul Dolan Vineyards' Mendocino Pinot Noir -- usually $50 (and $15 by the glass), its Water Into Wine price is $10 -- a Bastianich Rose, sold normally for $40, going for $8; and a Canyon Road Pinot Noir, usually $31, going for $5. 10822 Providence Road; 704-814-7777.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

'Wicked,' new menu

Noble’s offers a three-course pre-theater menu for $40 during the run of "Wicked" (through June 13); choices include strawberry-arugula salad with housemade ricotta; grilled Scottish salmon; braised short ribs and more. 6801 Morrison Blvd.; 704-367-9463. Also, sibling Rooster's will stay open later than usual during the run. 6601 Morrison Blvd.; 704-366-8688.

New menus at Monticello (at the Dunhill Hotel uptown) include the following from chef Chris Jakubczak:
At breakfast: smoked salmon waffle (house-cured salmon on toasted cheddar waffle); steak and eggs (with a New York strip) and a build-your-own three-egg omelet.
At lunch: classic Nicoise salad; Carolina shaved pork with sweet and smoky collards; truffled mac and cheese.
At dinner: N.C. mountain trout from Sunburst Farms, with fingerling potatoes; grilled heirloom tomato and soba noodles; espress- and ancho-rubbed New York strip with roasted potato hash.
Also new: half-price appetizers 5-7 p.m. on the patio or at the bar. 237 N. Tryon St.; 704-342-1193.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ballantyne restaurant shifts gears

Blue Taj, sibling to Copper in Dilworth, has switched up its concept. Opened as an eclectic place offering fare with assorted influences, it now has gone exclusively Indian, with a lengthy menu of classics, tandoori dishes, curries, chaats and more. Owner Pannu Singh says so many customers to Blue Taj were seeking the Indian flavors they'd had at Copper that he decided to go that way. You can take a look at the new menu here. 14815 Ballantyne Village Way; 704-369-5777.

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's true: Pinkberry en route

Expect Pinkberry, the national-craze-leading frozen yogurt with a tart taste and multiplicity of toppings, to open mid-July at Phillips Place, near the movie theater. Pinkberry's headquarters in Los Angeles confirm site and timeframe, and say it'll be "a regular store."

Friday, May 14, 2010

First Bite: Sunset Grille

First Bite is a look at a restaurant that's opened recently, based on one visit -- not a full-fledged review.

The food: Aimed at a broader audience than predecessor Las Ramblas, this pairs neighborhood-grill-type food -- guacamole, wings (grilled), burgers, sandwiches -- with a few more eclectic dishes, such as four-cheese pizza with sun-dried tomatoes and arugula, and pan-seared crabcakes with blood orange fennel slaw. We had a sizable reuben, the meat cut thickly rather than paper-thin, and served on marble rye, with not enough sauerkraut but good dressing. A bone-in pork chop was reasonably hefty and really moist, with an apple chutney with a tiny bit of bite. Shaved parmesan topped the pretty four-cheese pizza, whose crust was the thin, crackling sort, done in a wood-burning oven.

The look: Much has remained from when the site served tapas (and in its new incarnation, it's still sibling to Bonterra): cow skulls still on the wall, seating still handsome and varied. The color scheme is rich rust and browns and golds. Plans call for the small patio to be open more regularly and it's a calm, attractive one, with a bubbling fountain.

The service: Attentive and eager, ours checked in often and made sure we wanted for nothing on a very slow night before the grand opening, slated for May 19, when there will be drink specials.

: 2400 Park Road; 704-335-8444.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wine stuff

AB’s (aka Andrew Blair's) plans a Pinot on the Patio wine tasting series, to be held the third Thursday of each month, May through October. The first will be May 20; guests can drop in between 5 and 8 p.m. and sample three wines plus some snacks for $10 plus tax and tip. Also, if you buy at least two bottles of wine from the tasting, you get a buy-one-get-one-free offer in the dining room that night. Reservations are suggested, not required: 704-525-8282. 1600 Montford Drive.

Aquavina hosts a Penfolds wine dinner June 5. Among the courses: morel-mushroom-dusted seared scallop with Hyland Riesling; and herb-encrusted lamb chop with Cabernet-Shiraz blend "Bin 389." $49.95; 435 S. Tryon St.; 704-377-9911.

Lava Bistro does four courses and wines from Spain on June 5. Among the offerings: saffron poached chicken with 2008 Basico Sauvignon Blanc; and grilled hanger steak with 2008 Altos del Cuco. $50; 8708 J.W. Clay Blvd. at Shoppes at University Place; 704-549-0050.

Vida comes to Uptown

Look for Vida Mexican Kitchen y Cantina this summer, from former Capital Grille managing partner Sean O'Brien and executive chef Chris Swinyard, who has cooking experience at Red Sage in Washington and Mestena in San Antonio.

Described as traditional, old-world-style Mexican cuisine, as well as regional and contemporary Mexican cooking, Vida's fare will also include "Skinny Margaritas" and a long list of tequilas. 210 E. Trade St. at the EpiCentre;

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

NRA menu: Meat!

Ratcliffe on the Green offers a special menu for the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) convention in Charlotte May 14-16: "a salute to North Carolina meats" from chef Greg Balch. Featured: Thomas Farms rabbit three ways (saddle, rack, confit), an M&M Farms bison ribeye, Jensen Farms stuffed quail, Proffett Farms filet, Hochwood Farms duck breast and Cedar Ridge Family Farms wild boar tenderloin. There will also be South Carolina alligator curry at lunch. The restaurant will be open until midnight through the convention, offering its regular menu as well. 435 S. Tryon St.; 704-358-9898.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Georges open

Georges Brasserie at Piedmont Town Center (formerly the Oceanaire) is open, serving what its folks call a "modern version of traditional French comfort cuisine." Andrew Perno, who has put in time at Thomas Keller's Bouchon in Vegas, is chef, and the place is serving dinner Monday-Saturday and Sunday brunch. 4620 Piedmont Row Drive; 980-219-7409.

More on Paco's Tacos

Paco's Tacos & Tequila should be open sometime near the end of June at 6401 Morrison Blvd. near SouthPark (formerly Manzetti's), serving Tex-Mex fare, says managing partner Frank Scibelli.

Scibelli once spent time as a consultant traveling to Fort Worth, where Pappasito's is "the gold standard. I wanted to do a Tex-Mex place along that genre." Plus, he wearies of people confusing Mexican (which he serves at Cantina 1511) and Tex-Mex, which is a whole different creature, and he wants to create a clear separation.

Robb Walsh, a food writer, critic and expert in Tex-Mex cuisine, toured Scibelli and his party around places in the area, and will be coming to Charlotte to help kick-start the venture, says Scibelli. Expect fajitas, lots from a wood-fired grill, chicken-fried steak, a tortilla machine in the dining room and some 60 tequilas, plus a draft system that serves up beer at 29 degrees (that's the coldest it can be, without freezing, apparently). Seafood from the Gulf was planned, but that's now being reexamined, based on the oil spill.

Also coming up from Scibelli and partners -- he says about 80-85 percent of the ownership is the same among this, Cantina 1511 and Big Daddy's Burger Bar -- are two Big Daddy's, which will be called Bad Daddy's because of a trademark issue. One will be in Wilmington, Del., and one "elsewhere."

James Beard winner's ink

Sean Brock of Charleston's McCrady's is getting rather a lot of ink lately. He just won the James Beard award for best chef in the Southeast and he appears in today's Tasting Table (an e-mail service that I've been trying the past few months; this one's particularly cool and includes a link to Brock's own photo-centric blog.) He's opening a new place called Sazerac and working on breeding a "new" heritage pig with EcoFriendly Foods that will apparently be called the "Brockawadabaw."

But equally interesting (well, if you're into it, that is) is his permanent ink. As in tattoo, As in vegetables he loves. From (done by Joan Perry) came the photo here. There's another cool one here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wine events

Global hosts a Burly Cabernet vertical dinner May 18, with Burly owner Hank McCrorie on hand. Among the courses: cured shoulder of beef tenderloin with New Town Farms root vegetables and the 2004; braised short ribs with house-cured pork belly and the 2005; and sous-vide ribeye with the 2006. $75; 3520 Toringdon Way near Ballantyne; 704-248-0866.

Upstream hosts a Frank Family Winery brunch May 22 with the Wine Vault. Among the courses are sweet corn bisque with Taylor Bay scallops and Chardonnay, and wild mushroom and roasted chicken quiche with Pinot Noir. $35; 704-548-9463.

Photo from No, really.

MORE for mom

TOMI will open 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. with a special three-course meal for $10 per person (creamy corn soup, choice of entree, mocha mousse cake), then follow with its regular dinner menu from 5-9 p.m. 7741 Colony Road; 704-759-1288.

Mimosa Grill will be open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. with a brunch that's $24.95 ($10.95 kids 10 and younger). 327 S. Tryon St.; 704-343-0700.

The Liberty will give diners pastries and breads, and a choice of starter and entree, then let them "choose as much as you like" from the "Grand Dessert Buffet" for $16.95 ($6.95 for 10 and younger). Among the options: stuffed French toast with banana, mascarpone and walnuts; omelets; Carolina flounder; flat-iron steak and more. 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

Libretto's at Ballantyne gives each mom a free cannoli, and 50 mothers will win a free gift. 15205-A John J. Delaney Drive; 704-714-1442.

Monticello will be open its regular hours: brunch 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and dinner 5-10 p.m. In the Dunhill, 235 N. Tryon St.;l 704-332-4141.

Harper's at Carolina Place will have special brunch dishes, including crabcakes benedict and honey glazed ham, and will give away a four-pack of tickets to the show "Cavalia." 11059 Carolina Place Parkway, Pineville; 704-541-5255.

M5 will serve brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m. ($24.95; $12.95 for 12 and younger), and will open at 5 p.m. for dinner. It will also do a "Cavalia" ticket giveaway. 4310 Sharon Road; 704-909-5500.

Sibling restaurants Nolen Kitchen (2839 Selwyn Ave.; 704-372-1424), ilios noche (11508 Providence Road; 704-814-9882) and Big View Diner (16637 Lancaster Highway; 704-544-0313) will all have Mother's Day specials and offer Mom a dessert.

Toscana hosts a Tuscan brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; diners choose a starter and entree, and Italian pastries are brought for the table: $24.95 (kids get two courses for $9.95). 6401 Morrison Blvd.; 704-367-1808.

Cajun Queen plans brunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and will offer its regular menu all day and evening. 1800 E. 7th St.; 704-377-9017.

Monday, May 3, 2010

New dining spots opening

Look for the Midnight Diner to open in about a month at South Tryon Street and Carson Boulevard, just down from the Uptown Cabaret. Brian Dominick, part of the Cabaret ownership, bought the classic diner in Kings Mountain "seven or eight months ago," he says, then shipped it here. He'll turn it over in three weeks to an "out-of-state operator" who, he believes, plans a classic diner menu -- breakfast 24 hours a day, salads, chicken, sandwiches, oversized portions -- and will need a bit of time to tweak it.

Bei Jing is slated open at 1603 South Blvd. May 5. A.J. Jiang is chef-owner of this family place, with his wife, Chan Jiang, and they plan to serve a variety of regional fare, including Cantonese, Mandarin and Hunan, plus daily specials. It will be the Jiangs' first dine-in restaurant; he has been cooking for 17 years, and the couple has had takeout places (China Garden in Concord, and in Charlotte).; 704-333-1088.

blynk organic celebrates the opening of its second uptown location -- in the Bank of America Plaza (101 S. Tryon St.) -- with a week of specials May 10-14. May 10, the first 30 customers get a free sandwich or salad (it opens at 11 a.m.); May 11, large salads are half price; May 12, buy a sandwich and get a free soup; May 13, smoothies are 75 percent off and May 14, sandwiches are half price. All week, there's free organic coffee 7-9 a.m.

Restaurant Week estimates

Organizer Bruce Hensley says the tallies are in from this winter's Charlotte Restaurant Week, and they show that 70,000 meals were sold at the 79 participating restaurants Jan. 22-31, at an average ticket of $43.35 per person - more than $3 million. The first, in July 2008, was estimated at $1.9 million.

Free fro yo

Yoforia offers a Facebook coupon for free yogurt between noon and 11 p.m. May 8 at its Shops at Piper Glen location (6432 Rea Road) at That site opened April 28; look for two more, at 2823 Selwyn Ave. and in SouthPark mall, to open in May, with self-serve machines and topping stations.

More for Mom

Del Frisco's offers two three-course Mom meals for $30 each: Brunch (choices include crab benedict, shrimp and grits, filet and more) is 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and dinner (choices range from filet to salmon to ribeye) 5-9 p.m. The regular full menu will also be offered, and kids' meals are available for $9. 4725 Piedmont Row Drive; 704-552-5502.

Mom's meal of barbecue pork, beef or chicken luncheon special is free when one or more people get a regular-price meal with her at Sonny's BBQ (multiple locations).

Andrew Blair’s will open especially for Mother’s Day 10 a.m.-3 p.m. with a brunch menu including omelets, crème brûlée French toast, duck hash and more, plus sandwiches and entrees, and drink specials for $5. 1600 Montford Drive; 704-525-8282.

Villa Antonio hosts brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. with carving, dessert and pasta stations, and more. $25 for adults, $12 for younger than 12. 4707 South Blvd.; 704-523-1594.

Passion8 hosts a five-course “bruncheon” 11 a.m.-3 p.m. with dishes that range from an English tea sandwich trio to pan-seared halibut and beef stew; dinner will be offered 5-8 p.m. 3415 Highway 51 North, Fort Mill, S.C.; 803-802-7455.

The Morehead Inn does its once-a-year dine-in thing, with brunch for Mother’s Day, and the VanLandingham Estate will do the same, with reserved seatings at 10:45 and 11 a.m., and 1:15 and 1:30 p.m. If weather permits, there will be outside seating as well. $28.95 for adults, $24.95 for seniors, $15.95 for 5-12, free for those 4 and younger; reservations required; The Morehead Inn (1122 E. Morehead St.) 704-376-3357 and The VanLandingham Estate (2010 The Plaza) 704-334-8909.