Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Versed in Chick-fil-A

The new spicy sandwich at Chick-fil-A
Boasts heat that will make wimps most likely bray.
And if it's two meals' worth of sodium*
At least it's not more fast-food tedium...

* Actually, the plain sandwich ($3.27 including tax) has 1730 mg of sodium, which is 72 percent of a day's recommended intake (it's saltier by a tad than the regular sandwich and a good bit saltier, and in the ballpark on calories and fat as -- are you ready? -- the KFC Double Down.) You can also get the sandwich made deluxe, with lettuce, tomato and pepperjack cheese. Either way, it comes with two pickle slices, and a bit of orange (from the marinade) rims the crust (a seasoned flour coating). It may not be habanero-hot, but it has a nice little kick that develops as you keep eating. My verdict? I like it, but the original still rules.

New brew spot -- with beer engine! -- on way

Look for Growlers Pourhouse to open in the vicinity of Aug. 3, from the folks at Crepe Cellar.

The focus: craft beer and beer food. That means 12 styles of beers and two seasonals -- all American -- will always be available, says partner Jeff Tonidandel, but exactly which IPA or high-gravity brew will be offered will change as they go. (With one exception: PBR on tap all the time!)

It also means housemade hot dogs and sausages (Italian to brat to turkey-apple), cheese pairings and raw-oyster pairings, dips and "cool desserts." (In point of fact, one of these helped the place get its permit, says Tonidandel. The city folks were thinking the place sounded rather like a bar, until he told them they were so serious about their food, they will be making their own marshmallows for s'mores.)

Also noteworthy (and pictured, from the Growlers Facebook page): an antique beer engine. Like a well's hand pump, explains Tonidandel, this pumps from casks in which the beer has been carbonated with a second round of yeast and sugar, rather than a CO2 tank. He found it on Craig's List in Sonoma and is refurbishing it. Rather than having to finish a cask the same day you open it, the engine keeps it fresh for up to two weeks (though Tonidandel expects to go through a keg a week).

Growlers will share a kitchen with the Cellar, at 3116 N. Davidson St.

Noble's announces relocation date

Noble’s Restaurant will close in its current location after Aug. 21, and chef-owner Jim Noble continues to look for a space in which to relocate the operation. He will continue to offer the Noble's catering menu after August, producing dishes out of his other kitchens (he also has Rooster's and The King's Kitchen in Charlotte).

The last regular dinner service will be Aug. 20, with a special by-reservation-only closing event, "The Toast to Noble's," slated for Aug. 21.

The calendar for summer events at the restaurant, which opened near SouthPark in 2000, includes wine events, slow-food dinners and cooking demos, and is at www.noblesrestaurant.com. 6801 Morrison Blvd.; 704-367-9463.

Monday, June 14, 2010

New menus, new hours

The Wine Shop at Foxcroft, with new chef Tom Landers, has new entrees, a new lineup of cheeses, and more. Among the new: cheeses such as San Simon (Galicia), Cahill Guinness Porter (Ireland) and Garrotxa (Catalonia, Spain); a mozzarella platter for two or more with Neapolitan Buffalo mozzarella, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette with sliced baguette; pommes frites with house spice mix and garlic aioli; truffle macaroni & cheese; shrimp and grits; The Wine Shop house burger (30-day dry-aged sirloin, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle); lamb and goat cheese sliders and more.

The Gallery bar at the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge has a new menu, including Olde Mecklenburg Brewery copper ale-battered crispy chicken, cheese steak spring roll and fried green tomato grilled cheese with cheddar and Manchego cheeses and roasted pepper dipping sauce. 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4000.

Sunset Grille is now open for lunch daily, and its bocce ball court is open. 2400 Park Road; 704-335-8444.

The Ballantyne Cosmos Cafe is now open for brunch on Saturday and Sunday, and also served a full lunch menu all day. 8420 Rea Road; 704-544-5268.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Savor re-do, new at View, wine at Blue

Partner Lisa Burris at Savor Cafe says the business will be expanding into the space adjoining it, beginning in July. The new space will enable the place to add a full bar, a community table seating 16 and 24 more seats. Burris anticipates it taking about a month, but plans on closing only two days, and says they'll do a reopening party. 1404 W. Morehead St., 704-334-0098.

On the new Big View Diner menu: more appetizers, more all-day breakfast dishes, new pastries and low-fat and gluten-free items on the dessert lineup. Among the new: chipotle chicken nachos; pimento cheese sliders; Caprese salad; Green Goddess salad (with Atlantic salmon); chicken souvlaki platter; Greek burger (with melted feta and tzatziki sauce on pita); steakhouse burger (with smoked bacon, Danish bleu and housemade steak sauce); spinach pie; chicken piccata; a fish section on the menu (including Atlantic salmon, S.C. flounder and more); pineapple upside down cake and peach and blueberry cobbler. 16637 Lancaster Highway, 704-544-0313.

Blue hosts a Sokol Blosser wine and food pairing June 17: five courses in a tasting structure, including seared scallop with fresh fig and 2008 Dundee Hills Cuvee Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley; chicken and apricot tagine with 13th Lucky Edition Evolution white blend; grilled lamb loin with 6th Edition Meditrina red blend, and more. $34.95; reservations required: 704-927-2583. Hearst Tower, at the corner of College and 5th streets.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Now open, and bits, pieces, crumbs

The Yoforia in Myers Park is open, and if you like it on Facebook, you can get free froyo June 10, during its grand opening (you'll get a coupon to print or show them on your smart phone). 2823 Selwyn Ave.; 704-372-7676.

At right may be the best Krispy-Kreme-related idea since that bread pudding at Savannah Red. (The photo and idea are from www.thedailynailblog.com, not something I'd EVER have come across on my own, believe me.)

Also new:

Donatos Pizza now sells a Buffalo chicken sub.

Chick-fil-A has debuted its first new sandwich nationally since 1989 -- no, really! -- and it's a ... spicy chicken sandwich. (The 1989 one was the chargrilled chicken sandwich. This is a company that understands its strengths.) The new one is seasoned with a blend of several peppers, pressure-cooked in refined peanut oil and served on a toasted buttered bun with dill pickle chips for $2.99. (You can add lettuce, tomato and pepperjack for a total of $3.59.)

And, speaking of companies that understand their strengths, Charlotte-based Chanticleer Holdings Inc. has just opened its second Hooters in South Africa: Hooters on the Buzz is in Johannesburg, joining one in Durban, in time for the 2010 World Cup. It is one of the largest Hooters in the world, according to press materials, and Chanticleer CEO Michael Pruitt says: "As we expected, both the local South African population and tourists alike have shown great interest in the internationally renowned Hooters brand and dining experience."

Monday, June 7, 2010

Not-quite-blind tasting

"Dining In The Dark" at Andrew Blair's will put diners in a pitch-black dining room June 17 to experience three courses and the virtues and challenges of this kind of focus. Done in other cities, this is a first for Charlotte, says organizer Richard Gruica, whose Good Eats & Meets in Charlotte is a meetup group that coordinates group visits to restaurants, progressive dinners and the like.

The venture is a partnership with The Foundation Fighting Blindness and the restaurant, and part of the goal is to raise funds for the blind.

Diners will mingle over cocktails before entering the dining room, and they'll be seated and settled before the lights go out. Cost is $50 for the meal with one cocktail or glass of wine, and a surprise "food opportunity" will be auctioned off for the Foundation. 1600 Montford Drive. Info: www.meetup.com/goodeats-charlotte/calendar/13477344/

Taste of Charlotte

2010's Taste of Charlotte runs June 11-13 on Tryon Street, between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Sixth Street. More than 100 menu items will be offered by Charlotte restaurants at the festival, in its 12th year. Admission is free; you buy festival coins, with which you purchase food and drink.

Among the restaurants participating: Amelie's, Planet Smoothie, blynk organic, Dixie's Tavern, RiRa, Brazas, Flying Biscuit Cafe, Salsarita's, Bravo!, Fuel Pizza, Sticky Fingers, Brixx, The Pizza Peel, Caffe Siena, Mai Thai, Caribbean Hut, Matt's Chicago Dog, Village Bistro, Chen's Bistro, Mert's Heart and Soul, Village Tavern, Cold Stone Creamery, Namaste, Wild Wing Cafe, Dilworth Neighborhood Grille, Outlaw BBQ Shack and Woodlands.

Also on tap: play areas for kids, open-air shopping (with crafts, jewelry and home goods), local and regional bands playing pop, rock, bluegrass and country, plus belly dancing demos and school music groups.

Hours (and it goes, rain or shine): 11 a.m.-11 p.m. June 11, 12; to 6 p.m. June 13. Info: www.TasteofCharlotte.com.

More for Dad

The VanLandingham Estate Inn will have a barbecue celebration noon to 4 p.m. June 20 (Father's Day, but you remembered that, right?), with pulled pork, cole slaw, rolls, potato salad, banana pudding, draft beer and more. Guests can bring their dogs, and can bring picnic blankets, chairs, Frisbees, etc.; live music and a jumping house for kids will be on hand. "Since we host a popular brunch for Mother’s Day each year, everyone always asks us 'Why don’t you do anything for Father’s Day?'" said managing partner Billy Madallon. “Our first priority was to design something that dads would really want to do." $10 per person per plate without beer; $15 per person per plate with beer; kids 4 and younger eat free. 2010 The Plaza; reservations required at 704-334-8909 or via www.vanlandinghamestate.com.

Andrew Blair's hosts a brunch for Dad that day with the addition of a steak-and-eggs special to its regular Sunday brunch menu. It's a 12-ounce ribeye with sunny-side-up eggs, sweet potato hash and Maker's Mark hollandaise sauce, for $12.99. Hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Reservations encouraged; 704-525-8282; 1600 Montford Drive.

Bring in a scorecard from a round of golf in the week leading up to Father's Day and Village Bistro will give dad $3 off its buffet price. 14815 Ballantyne Village Way; 704-369-5190.

Dads eat free (a barbecue pork, beef or chicken dinner) at Sonny's BBQ in Charlotte, Concord, Mooresville and Rock Hill on Father's Day, when you buy one or more meal at regular price, and eat in (not takeout).

Villa Antonio at 4707 South Blvd. hosts brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. with carving, dessert and pasta stations, plus breakfast foods and Italian fare. $25 adults, $12 younger than 12; 704-523-1594.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First Bite: Georges Brasserie

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

The food: It’s dubbed a brasserie, and has the staples (if not quite the price points) to support the definition – which is a comfortable, informal place in which to get drinks and hearty, usually-single-dish meals. Georges offers steak frites, but in four variations – N.Y. strip au poivre, hanger, filet, ground beef – along with plateaux from the raw bar (variously sized portions of shellfish), onion soup, cassoulet, bouillabaise, hachis parmentier (aka shepherd’s pie), boeuf Bourguignon and more. But there are also dishes of varying provenance: macaroni and Gruyere with bacon, ratatouille with polenta, lamb sausage with couscous; along with a dose of the upscale (that filet and strip, and a $29 veal chop). Still, most main dishes are in the $11-$17 range. Good bread arrives with a crock of butter; a salad of bibb lettuce and goat cheese was generous and simply dressed. Duck confit was fine, though the cooked-in-duck-fat potatoes with them were simply greasy. A newfangled tuna Nicoise placed a tuna steak of average quality atop Yukon Gold potatoes, haricots verts and more, and used good olives, though not enough of them. Mussels arrived (two dozen for $10!) in a surprisingly creamy but good white wine sauce, with nicely done frites. The menu is way light on beers, but the wines are a reasonable collection, with glasses $6-$15.

The look: Formerly the Oceanaire, it’s kept those fab curved red booths, and added black-and-white photography (Brassai posters) to sea-green walls, topping white-linen tablecloths with paper (oddly) and clothing servers in white shirts, black pants and ties.

The service: Not yet the shiniest in the brasserie, ours looked confused when asked what sort of mussels they used. I asked then: “big or little?” He said: “They’re … you know. They’re mussels.” Ah. On the other hand, he did note the Cucumber & Ginger Collins, which included cracked pepper and Hendricks Gin and was … you know. Lovely.

Details: 4620 Piedmont Row Drive; 980-219-7409; and the website is now www.georgesbrasserie.com.

Dining for Dad

Take Dad to Providence Cafe for a meal June 18 through June 20, buy yourself an entree and his is free. The Cafe asks that you limit the offer to one per table. 110 Perrin Place; reservations: 704-376-2008.

The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge hosts brunch for Father's Day 11 a.m.-3 p.m. June 20, with seasonal entrees, seafood, salads, sides and desserts. $39.95 ($19.95 5-12, free for kids 4 and younger); reservations required: 704-248-4100; 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway.

Big View turns 1

Big View Diner celebrates its first anniversary June 5 with a party 1-3 p.m.: free hot dogs, burgers, mini-milkshakes, cookies, brownies and cake, plus children's activities, from a moon bounce to face-painting clowns, plus a DJ. 16637 Lancaster Highway; 704-544-0313.

Flying fish

Hissho Sushi is now open at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, at the renovated First in Flight Bar, in the main terminal's atrium. Among the offerings: The CLT Roll (spicy salmon, cucumber and jalapeno, topped with sliced white tuna and wasabi aioli), the Queen Charlotte Roll (tempura shrimp, leaf lettuce, avocado, asparagus and masago) and traditional nigiri and sashimi.

Sports bar revamps

A trend toward healthier food, more women patrons, changing tastes -- those are the reasons Marriott cites for giving a facelift to the City Center hotel's sports bar and restaurant Champions.

The revamped menu adds dishes such as Thai beef salad, 40 Clove Chicken (brick-grilled half chicken) and blackened fish sliders, and aims at making some old successes more contemporary: beer battered onion rings with horseradish dipping sauce, for example, and fried salt-and-pepper calamari with Thai sweet chile sauce. More area produce is being used as well. The new decor includes new furniture and 50-inch high-def TVs. 100 W. Trade St.; 704-358-6562.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jewel and steaks?

Morton's The Steakhouse hosts an album launch/high-def concert June 7 with singer-songwriter Jewel. The idea: She sings songs from the new album "Sweet and Wild" (and more), broadcast to Morton's and other places in more than 75 cities across the United States and Australia. Viewers can request songs, ask her questions live, and use HD cameras at each venue, perhaps getting themselves live on the air as well. They'll also get what the press release calls "an intimate look at how Jewel prepared for the concert." Hmm. And yes, they'll eat, too: The $100 ticket includes a filet mignon dinner and an autographed copy of the new album. Info:
http://www.velocityboxoffice.com/product.aspx?zpid=518. Morton's: 227 W. Trade St.; 704-333-2602.

Wine dinners and more

Chef Cassie Parsons of Grateful Growers will guest-chef June 3 at Monticello in the Dunhill Hotel uptown, using her farm's pork and other local foods paired with Italian wines. Proceeds from a silent auction then are aimed at helping pay for area farmers, educators and food artisans to attend Slow Food's biennial Terra Madre gathering in Turin, Italy. The dinner is $65; call or e-mail about reservations: 704-342-1193 or astrickland@shgltd.com.

Morton’s The Steakhouse hosts a beer tasting June 11 that will offer "the off-center and full flavors" (you get some of the idea with the label at right, from www.chriszach.com) of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, with cheeses, petite filet mignon sandwiches and more. $45, with $5 of each ticket going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. 227 W. Trade St.; 704-333-2602.

The Wine Shop at Foxcroft hosts a Tuscan wine dinner July 8 with Riccardo and Jenny Campinoti, owners of Le Ragnaie, an agriturismo (the Italian term for a sort of tourist-accessible farm) near Montalcino. Le Ragnaie produces Brunello di Montalcino, along with other wines and olive oil, with organic agriculture. The dinner, says the Wine Shop's Conrad Hunter, "will undoubtedly be the best dinner of the Summer." $65; 7824 Fairview Road; 704-365-6550.