Sunday, January 31, 2010

Updated! More CRW updates

D'Vine Wine will extend its Charlotte Restaurant Week arrangement Feb. 1-6.

So will Sole.

Red Rocks in Birkdale also offers the deal through Feb. 6.

Global will offer the deal Feb. 4-6.

Villa Antonio on South Boulevard will offer its three courses for $30 throughout February.

Providence Cafe and Lava Bistro and Bar extend the deal to Feb. 6.

Blue will offer it until Feb. 12.

Gallery will do so through Feb. 11.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Soup on Sunday postponed

Soup on Sunday, the annual fundraiser for Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, has been postponed a week, to Feb. 7, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Culinary Arts Center of Central Piedmont Community College, 425 N. Kings Drive.

Just because it's cold out...

  • Well, and because Top Chef semifinalist Sam Talbot, who grew up in Charlotte, is on it: A hot list. (Photo from photobucket.)
  • Beer thoughts this week, the 75th anniversary of canned beer, here.
  • The Chicago Trib does 2010 trends -- could it really finally be the year of stevia, which Charlotte's Peter Reinhart has been talking about since, maybe, 1975?

Updated: Restaurant Week extended

The Liberty will extend the offer until Tuesday.

M5, Zink American Kitchen, Mimosa Grill and Upstream will extend it until "at least until Wednesday," according to Harper's group's Tom Sasser. And its passport program, which gives gift cards to folks who eat at two or more of the restaurants, will also be extended.

Carpe Diem extends it through Feb. 6.

Bonterra extends it through Feb. 2.

Chima Brazilian Steakhouse will open tonight at 4:30 and close "early" -- but will extend the CRW deal through Feb. 4.

Kabuto Lake Norman is closed today because of the snow, but will continue the CRW offer until Feb. 5.

Sonoma will offer its entire menu for the three-courses-for-$30 deal Feb. 1-6.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Las Ramblas to move; Sunset Grille to open

Dilworth tapas restaurant Las Ramblas is slated to close and the Sunset Grille to open in that spot about March 1. The new place, sibling to Las Ramblas and Bonterra, will be a neighborhood grill concept, open for lunch and dinner daily, plus weekend brunch, with a kids' menu. Expect pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and daily specials, including themed nightly specials (Italian, Cajun, etc.), and more televisions for those wanting to watch sports, along with an "enhanced" patio (pet friendly!) at the 2400 Park Road location.

Marketing director Rachelle Pacholski attributed the move to lease arrangements and said the ownership is seeking a "smaller, more urban location" for the Las Ramblas concept. Plans call for the Sunset Grille to serve Las Ramblas's most popular selections each Monday night until a new site is found for the tapas place.

Food and Haiti and Charlotte

  • Owen's Bagel & Deli in South End raised $2,000 for the WorldVision Earthquake Relief Fund for Haiti last week. Co-owner Geoff Owen says: "Just one more example of how Charlotteans respond to people in need. It was really an unbelievable day."
  • Amelie's is sponsoring a raffle to benefit the American Red Cross’s Haiti relief: Tickets go for $5 each or five for $20 Jan. 30-Feb. 5 and prizes include gift certificates to NoDa restaurants (including Cabo Fish Taco and Revolution Pizza & Ale House), tickets to N.C. Dance Theatre, classes at NoDa Yoga, artwork from Brenda Ische (she did Amelie's interior design), handmade jewelry and crafts, and more. Winners will be drawn Feb. 5 and don't need to be present to win. (Want to contribute a prize? Call the bakery at 704-376-1781 or e-mail Tickets will be sold in the atrium; 2424 N. Davidson St.

Valentine news

  • Global offers two seatings, at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m., for a seven-course Valentine meal costing $75 per person. Among the course choices: beef cheeks with smoked green lentils; brandade of cod; Morbier cheese with candied ginger and fig glaze; chocolate mousses and more. 3520 Toringdon Way; 704-248-0866.
  • Ratcliffe on the Green offers a chef’s tasting menu for $75, including a glass of champagne, Feb. 12-14. 435 S. Tryon St.; 704-358-9898.
  • P.F. Chang’s has a four-course, fixed-price menu for two for $39.95 at lunch and dinner, with choices including chicken lettuce wraps, Mongolian beef and spicy chicken. 6809 Phillips Place Court; 704-552-6644.
  • BLT Steak will be open 5-10 p.m. and offer its regular menu along with specials such as fried oysters with caviar, foie gras, dry-aged Delmonico steak with crispy bone marrow, raspberry trifle and more. 110 N. College St.; 704-972-4380.
  • The Wine Shop at Foxcroft has two seatings for its four-courser, at 6 and 8:30, for $95 per couple, including a complimentary bottle of wine. On the menu: local beet salad; cauliflower soup with truffle oil; hanger steak with wild mushroom ragout; strawberry shortcake with mint chantilly cream. 704-365-6550.


Maddi's Southern Bistro is extending its Charlotte Restaurant Week deal -- three courses for $30 -- through Feb. 6, citing the weather forecast; call 704-987-7762. (Photo -- really! -- from

If it does snow, and you decide to stay in, this could help: "Eat Your Books" is a service that lets you list what cookbooks you possess, then search their recipes online for the one you're trying to think of and can't remember what book it's in.

Or you can roam the world with Food & Wine's list of 10 game-changing restaurants. (Note: Adria's "red mullet mummy" is not even the weirdest thing on the list -- click through to the edible soil and smoking fish...)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Now on Facebook

"Helen Schwab on Dining" is a new page on Facebook. Yes, it's a way those not on Twitter can get automatic updates on new blog posts -- but you can also comment on posts, talk to me and others and get feedback, offer ideas and anything else your heart (or stomach) desires. Let me know what you think; I'm trying some different platforms here -- and there's nothing like a few days without e-mail to make you appreciate other platforms!

Thanks for your patience. Here's a laugh for a reward: Italy's minister of agriculture hopes to "give an imprint of Italian flavors to our youngsters." How? The McItaly (and for a little more Italian flavor: here).

Deals aplenty

Big View Diner plans a “super appetizer buffet” for the Super Bowl Feb. 7. The buffet, from 4:30-6:30 p.m., along with a beer tasting, will be $10, and other drink specials and a tailgate menu will be offered, along with giveaways and a fundraising sale for Red Cross Haiti relief. 16637 Lancaster Hwy.; 704-544-0313.

Village Bistro at Ballantyne Village will continue to offer a $25 menu, including a glass of red or white wine, through February. 14815 Ballantyne Village Way; 704-369-5190.

If you eat at Pei Wei today (Jan. 29), you can pick up a coupon for a free serving of its new Caramel Chicken (chicken with caramel-chile sauce topped with a slaw of cucumber, red pepper and more) served any day Feb. 1-7. 13845 Conlan Circle; 704-543-1121.

Wine events coming up READY

M5 hosts a Ceretto wine dinner tonight (Feb. 2), with a menu that includes fennel-pollen-marinated sweet prawns with saffron sabayon and 2004 Barolo Zonchera; and a roulade of Alba truffles with Piedmontese strip loin, with 2005 Barbaresco Asij. $65; 4310 Sharon Road; 704-909-5500.

Blue offers five Mediterranean dishes paired in a tasting set-up with Francis Ford Coppola wines Feb. 10. Among the dishes are peekytoe crab salad with 2007 Diamond Collection “Yellow Label” Sauvignon Blanc; and Kobe top round crusted with cocoa nibs, with 2006 Rubicon Estate “Cask” Cabernet Sauvignon. $34.95; Hearst Tower (corner of College and 5th streets); 704-927-2583.

2nd Rooster's is official

Jim Noble plans to open his second Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen this fall, at One Bank of America Center (150 N. College St.). It, like the original at 6601 Morrison Blvd. near SouthPark, will have an a la carte menu specializing in “new Southern cuisine” with dishes such as spit-fire-roasted chicken and pork, butter beans, pan-fried corn, seared sea scallops and more. The two-story site is under construction and slated to be the first restaurant to go into the building.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

E-mail still down at work...

... if you need to reach me, e-mail my Gmail account. Feel free to send news, etc.; no telling how long Observer's will be down...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Charlotte Restaurant Week continues...

... through Jan. 31.  Click here for info.

Here's a random sampling of online reservation availability, conducted while my work e-mail is down this morning. I tried for a table for two at 7 tonight. The closest thing available:

Bonterra: Tonight at 8:30.
BLT Steak: Feb. 1 -- as in, not during Restaurant Week, bub.
Blue: Tonight at 7.
Gallery: Tonight at 7:15.
Dressler's: Tonight at 7.
Morton's: Tonight at 8.
Del Frisco's: Tonight at 8:30.
Upstream: Tonight at 7.

Already been out for CRW? Let me know what you thought, here or on Facebook at Helen Schwab on Dining here.

Lively links for a gray day

Wondering what the new body part in restaurants will be? The "nape." Yeah, it's a euphemism.

Consider the lionfish -- as dinner. Why? It's a predator that's screwing up the waters in the Atlantic and Caribbean, plus it's delicious.

Want to save $24 billion a year in health care costs? (All of us, I mean.) Cut back your salt by half a teaspoon a day.

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's Monday. We need Bourdain. And time.

Ah, Anthony Bourdain. So quotable, so ribald, so inappropriate.

The Atlantic found this timeline. Water, and not long after, beer. And almost the next day: sheep. Time should have ended in that first century -- after flan, but before haggis -- don't you think?

Baa the way, Mert's Heart and Soul plans to serve curry lamb stew, beside about 30 other restaurants, at Soup on Sunday on Jan. 31, a fundraiser for Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region. The event runs 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at CPCC's new Culinary Arts Center (425 N. Kings Drive) and you can buy tickets at the door ($30 and $40). 704-335-4312.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weekend links

  • Jamie Oliver crying may turn you a little, but this whole Food Revolution idea: Well, it's hard to argue with. Take a look.
  • Here's an interesting theory on food and asthma, but maybe what's best is the site name: "The Ethicurean: Chew the right thing."
  • And now the popular Kevin from Top Chef will not be going to the Bocuse D'Or competition.
  • Innovative and unusually articulate chef Grant Achatz of Chicago's Alinea explains development of a dish (at right).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The latest deals

  • Sante offers a $29.95 dinner special Jan. 21-30. Among the choices: warm Mediterranean hummus with grilled pita chips; seared beef tenderloin medallions; jumbo lump crabcakes; and more. 165 N. Trade St., Matthews; 704-845-1899.
  • Andrew Blair’s will extend its Restaurant Week three-course-for-$30 deal through Feb. 6. Also new at the restaurant is its winter menu, with new items (portobello mushroom lasagna; shrimp and grits; steak and frites) and some dishes returning to the lineup (Montford wedge salad and St. Louis ribs). 1600 Montford Drive; 704-525-8282.
  • Get a look at Pie Town's new pizza menu Feb. 6, with a meal including tastes of four new pizzas: barbecued chicken, shrimp scampi, beef short rib and potato, and "pepperoni supreme" (plus salad, gelato and soft drink) for $28. Peter Reinhart will do a Q-and-A about the new pizzas and introduce the pizzaiolos (that's the makers, y'all). 710 W. Trade St.; 704-379-7555; RSVP on this to
  • Village Bistro offers choice of appetizer, salad, entree and dessert for $25 through February. Among the options: tilapia spring rolls with Thai ranch dip; meatballs with vodka sauce and pasta; Asian grilled salmon; and fried cheesecake. 14815 John J. Delaney Drive; 704-369-5190.
  • Zen turns four and celebrates with a two-person anniversary menu through January: $45 for choice of one bottle of wine, one appetizer and two entrees from a selected menu. (The usual price would be $60-$65, I'm told.) 1716 Kenilworth Ave., 704-358-9688.

New Thai, Cuban getting close

Rick Taing, part of the ownership of Sushi 101s in Charlotte, plans to go into the former Sugar Magnolia spot at Blakeney (Rea Road) with a Thai place called Blu Thai Basil. Expect a mid-March opening, and a menu similar to Taing's Rock Hill place, Lime Leaf Asian Fusion.

Look for a mid February opening for Cuban Pete's Cafe in Plaza-Midwood and a menu that will be traditional Cuban food, plus a "little Cuban rum bar," according to general manager Gary Sikorski, along with a sangria bar, a Cuban coffee bar and more. 1308 The Plaza; 704-910-5233.

Wine dinner at Liberty

Hess Collection director of winemaking Dave Guffy visits The Liberty for its first wine dinner, a four-course meal with Hess pairings served in the private dining area Feb. 3. On the menu: Pacific coast chilled peekytoe crab and Maine lobster with 2007 Su'skol Vineyard Chardonnay; slow-roasted beef strip loin with marrow and wild mushroom gratin with 2006 Allomi Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; and more. $50; 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

New menus

  • Gallery Restaurant's new winter menu includes crisp smoked strawberry and spinach salad with spiced pecans; duet of rabbit (seared tenderloin and tomato-braised leg ravioli); seared lobster with shellfish cake; New Zealand lamb rib-eye; and more. 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4100.
  • Johnny Rockets is permanently adding "The Houston" burger to its menu in 2010: done with "Hot Rocket Fuel Sauce," pepperjack and jalapenos, it's proven popular, says the chain. CORRECTION, thanks to an alert reader: The area location is no longer open; but the S.C. sites are.
  • Topz now has an "Italian Angus" burger: smothered in marinara with grilled mushrooms, onions and peppers and topped with mozzarella. Also new: Tuscan grilled salmon as an entree. 15025 Lancaster Hwy; 704-542-9323.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Steak place deals

  • The Palm offers a filet and crab-stuffed lobster meal (plus asparagus) for $47.95 per person through March 31. 6705-B Phillips Place Court; 704-552-7256.
  • The Capital Grille, now through Feb. 28, does a four-course “Comfort Food with a Gourmet Twist” dinner for $49: it aims to do a chef's version of "classic American cuisine," such as tomato soup and grilled cheese: tomato and fennel soup with miniature grilled mozzarella, prosciutto and basil sandwiches. That's a first course; others entrees such as braised Wagyu short rib with Gruyere crust and lobster and shrimp pot pie. 201 N. Tryon St.; 704-348-1400.
  • BLT Steak now has a "5 At 5" bar menu, with appetizers for $5 from 5-7 p.m. each night. Among the choices: steak sliders with aged cheddar and caramelized onion jam; miniature crabcakes; sweet potato fries with rosemary and blue cheese; and more. 110 N. College St. in The Ritz-Carlton; 704-972-4380.

Lobster (more) at Lavecchia's

LaVecchia’s now serves live Maine lobster for half-price -- on any size -- on Wednesday nights. Also: Get half off any regular dinner entree on any one day in your birth month. The uptown restaurant will open for lunch in March. 225 E. 6th St.; 704-370-6776.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Uptown gets Mexican

Vida Cocina and Tequila Bar should open in late spring or early summer at the intersection of Trade and College streets (across from the Ritz-Carlton). Look for "evolved Mexican cuisine" -- meaning, according to chef Chris Swinyard (formerly with Dean and DeLuca), dishes such as grilled Gulf shrimp tacos with jalapeno bacon and mango habanero salsa; tortilla-crusted halibut; and adobo-rubbed, bone-in pork chops. Plans for the tequila bar include 100 varieties and "skinny margaritas," made with organic ingredients. Sean O'Brien (formerly with Capital Grille) and Swinyard lead the effort, with Charlotte-based Landmark Leisure Group.

Chez Georges going into Oceanaire spot

Look for a French concept from a noted area restaurateur to go into the Oceanaire Seafood spot at Piedmont Town Center.

Giorgios Bakatsias, a Triangle restaurateur with several notable ventures -- among them Vin Rouge and Cafe Parizade in Durham and Bin 54 and Spice Street in Chapel Hill -- confirms he is taking the site and making it a French brasserie.

Bakatsias, whose places are noted for creative design and who opened the contemporary Mediterranean Giorgio in Cary in December, says he's "very excited to come to Charlotte." Diners now see "honest, great ingredients ... but also great value. They want romance and elegance of service, but also value." The space "hugged me and said, 'Please, I want to be a French brasserie,' " he says, laughing, and it doesn't require major structural renovation, so expect a spring opening. "March is very realistic." Prices will be in the $5-$22 range, with 80 percent of entrees -- such things as roast chicken, fish and more -- less than $21 or so.

Monday, January 18, 2010

King's Kitchen going into Harper's Grill spot

Jim Noble's not-for-profit King's Kitchen will be going into the former Harper's Grill spot in uptown. Details to come on this place that will employ and train the chronically unemployed, offer local and comfort food, and use its funds for established centers to help feed the hungry in Charlotte and elsewhere.

Half-off food for "those who protect"

The new menu at Concord's Branchview Tavern keeps the popular pretzel ham melt and prime rib, but adds more appetizers, salads and sandwiches. Fried green beans, onion straws, chicken salad with spicy pecans, ribs, fish and chips, funnel cake fries and more share space on the new list. 970 Branchview Drive, by Village Fudge; 704-785-8485.

Also new: 50 percent food discounts for area military (both active and retired), firefighters, police officers and members of the sheriff's department: "We are supportive of those who protect our community," said owner Bill Enderlein. He asks that folks not in uniform show a current ID when ordering.

Eat bagels for Haiti

Owen's Bagel and Deli will donate all its profits from Jan. 23 to earthquake relief in Haiti. Co-owner Missy Owen has a sister, Amy, who lived much of the last 10 years in Port-au-Prince, working at the United Nations and Catholic Relief Services. You can see Haitian art and decorations that Amy sent back; they brighten the deli. It will be open regular hours that day, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. 2041 South Blvd.; 704-333-5385.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday links

Chef Alice Waters' work in establishing something called the Edible Schoolyard in California is at the heart of an interesting controversy over at The Atlantic. Here's one side, and here's the other. Discuss.

"Whoever invented the Food Network should be shot." Why? Maybe not the reason you're thinking. Look here.

When should you complain in restaurants? Smithsonian Magazine ponders here.

When next in Italy -- you're on your way, right? -- check out the Platinum Pizza Award winners. (Best detail: the place with an "important rectangular 'by the slice' tradition.")

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti help from restaurants

Rotelli will donate 10 percent of its proceeds from the entire day's operation Jan. 18 (11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.) to the Red Cross for Haiti. 7510 Pineville-Matthews Road; 704-541-1850.

Blue, at the uptown Hearst Tower, has slated several events to help local Haitian families from The First Haitian Church of Grace, whose church's Rev. Surin St. Fleur told owner Alex Myrick his Sugar Creek congregation has lost many family members in the earthquake. Jan. 20: "Wine and Blues" with local blues musicians playing, and a $25 wine tasting, with all proceeds donated; Jan. 21: live jazz and a three-course meal for $35, with 15 percent of proceeds donated ($10 donations will be accepted at the door from bar customers); Jan. 22: live music with requested donation of $10 at the door, plus silent auction and $15 beer and cheese tasting, with proceeds from auction and tasting donated. 704-927-2583.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A deal, a brunch

Old Stone Steakhouse offers a birthday special: Come in any day during your birthday month and get half off a regular dinner entree price. Also available: a three-course meal from 5-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday for $13.95. 23 S. Main St., Belmont; 704-825-9995.

P.J. O’Reilly’s now has brunch 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday, with housemade corned beef hash; “Irish feast” with Irish bacon and breakfast sausage with eggs, grilled tomatoes, hash and home fries; and more. 16640 Hawfield Way Drive; 704-341-2247.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thai in Gastonia

Thai House in Gastonia (interior at right) hosts a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. Jan. 15, with complimentary Thai food and drink. (RSVP by Jan. 14.) 4008 E. Franklin Blvd., Gastonia; 704-823-1797.

Beer, wine dinners and news

  • The Liberty's first beer dinner, with Big Boss Brewery in Raleigh, is Jan. 14, for $40. Look for roasted Maine sea scallops paired with Angry Angel, Coca-Cola-braised Black Berkshire pork shoulder with Bad Penny Brown, bison short ribs with Hells Belle, and more. 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.
  • Bonterra hosts a five-course Robert Foley wine dinner Feb. 3, the annual dinner to benefit HeartBright Foundation, which raises awareness of heart health issues and funds preventive cardiology programs for the economically disadvantaged. Winemaker Foley is slated to be on hand and the cost is $199. Among the pairings: Pinot Blanc with chilled lobster and celery salad and cornmeal-crusted oysters; and Merlot with grilled pork medallions with wild boar sausage. 1829 Cleveland Ave. Reservations are required at
  • Tickets go on sale Jan. 18 for the Charlotte Wine and Food Weekend at and by phone at 704-338-9463. New this year: C3 -- Charlotte Cru Competition -- a free and open-to-public wine competition, Charlotte's first, held as a blind tasting Feb. 6 at Del Frisco's of wines entered by wineries taking part in the Weekend. The biennial fundraiser estimates it's raised more than $3.2 million for local nonprofits since 1989 with its vintner dinners, tastings and galas, and this year is focusing on helping Mecklenburg County youth.

Dining deals

  • The Palm offers a Prime Bites menu -- each plate costing $3.50 -- from 5-7 and 9 to closing on weekday nights. Look for sliders with pesto aioli, filet mignon sandwiches with buffalo mozzarella, mini crab cakes and more. Phillips Place; 704-552-7256.
  • All five Charlotte-area Sonny's offer, now through Feb. 21, an all-you-can-eat barbecue chicken meal (two sides, plus garlic bread or cornbread) for $7.99.
  • Cosmos Cafe (both locations) enters the three-course-deal landscape with a $20.10 meal: Choices will vary week to week and the deal will be offered Jan. 20 through Feb. 10 at both lunch and dinner. There'll also be $10 bottles of wine featured. Among the first week's food choices are sesame-crusted salmon with orange sake, chicken breast souffle with spinach, and shrimp and lobster bisque pot pie. 300 N. College St.; 704-372-3553; and 8420 Rea Road; 704-544-5268.

Noble's negotiating

Rumors have swirled that Noble's is closing, but Jim Noble tells me that's not true: He's negotiating for a new location for the upscale, innovative restaurant in SouthPark/Myers Park environs that will seat 80-90, and is at work on the details. (The lease is up in summer on the current spot.) Also to come from the restaurateur: details on the new Rooster's uptown, his not-for-profit King's Kitchen and his new barbecue venture. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mellow Mushroom in Myers Park

A Mellow Mushroom will go into Tranquil Court, the mixed-use development on Selwyn Avenue in Myers Park, and is slated to open in "early summer," according to developer Crosland.

Uptown restaurant changes chef

Mark Hibbs, known for an emphasis on local foodstuffs and seasonal menus, is no longer chef at Ratcliffe on the Green in uptown Charlotte, but says he retains an 11 percent ownership in the restaurant.

Hibbs says he was told Friday his services were no longer needed. Ratcliffe general manager Erik Carpenter confirmed Hibbs' departure, but said, "Mark went off to do other things." Carpenter said the ownership group is Zach Goodyear; his father, George Goodyear; father-in-law Gary McCoy; and McCoy's brother, Ed.

Sous chef Greg Balch, who worked with Hibbs the last three years, has become executive chef, says Carpenter, and the menu will remain split between brasserie dishes and a chef's tasting menu. That chef's tasting lineup, however, will go to a quarterly change, rather than shifting every few weeks. The restaurant is also adding brunch Saturday and Sunday through January, and will open for Sunday dinner through that month as well.

Hibbs, who cooked in D.C. and Charlotte's Cosmos Cafe before opening Ratcliffe, says he plans to stay in Charlotte with his wife, who had been pastry chef at Ratcliffe's.

Slurp out, do good

Jan. 31 brings the 10th annual Soup on Sunday, a fundraiser for Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region in which restaurants and other food folks bring soups, breads, desserts, gelati and drinks that you get to sample from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. for your $30 entrance fee. Pay $10 more dollars and you get to choose and keep a soup bowl (and we use that term broadly, for some are more plate-ish than bowl-ish) made by local potters from Carolina Clay Connection, Charlotte Country Day and Providence Day schools and Urban Ministries. The event will be in the new Culinary Arts Center at Central Piedmont Community College at 425 N. Kings Drive.

Among the folk and their soups already signed up are the following (check for updates):

The Art Institute of Charlotte with cream of cauliflower with Bosky Acres goat cheese and chive oil; Big Daddy’s Burger Bar with tomato bisque; BrickTop’s with lobster bisque; Brixx with wood-roasted tomato with chorizo; Cantina 1511 with pozole; Capital Grille with chunky corn chowder; Global with celery veloute with truffle oil; Katz with mushroom barley; Mama Ricotta’s with pasta fagioli; Original Soup Man with garden vegetable; Red Rocks Cafe with white bean chicken chili; Sante with roasted butternut squash; Vivace with white bean puree; and Zebra with lobster bisque and truffled mushroom.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New, nearly new, soon-to-be-new

In case you've missed some intense bursts of energy:

  • Though the Charlotte location Butter will, heartbreakingly, not have the restaurant component the NYC original is famous for (it will be strictly a nightclub, more like the same owners’ 1 Oak in NYC), N.C. Music Factory does have other news. Mattie’s Diner should open in the next few weeks, with a classic diner menu with some twists and specials; Black Bear Saloon, a multilocation venture in New York with a fairly straightforward bar menu is under construction; upcoming Wet Willie’s is known for frozen slushy-esque daiquiris, but also sells wings-burgers-etc.; and Noah Lazes says the Factory is eying “at least three other” restaurants, all “major operators.”
  • New in Plaza Midwood: Whiskey Warehouse at the old Creation spot, with pretty brick and wood interior, Jack-and-Coke frozen drinks, and burgers with bourbon BBQ sauce and whiskey-glazed salmon; Loco Lime, the second location of a Mexican place in Huntersville, slated to open in a week or two, and upcoming Cuban Pete’s Café. (In order: 1221 The Plaza; 1101 Central Ave.; and 1308 The Plaza.)
  • Eats at the arts complex on South Tryon Street include no slushy-style cocktails to my knowledge, but the café at the Bechtler is open, with Porcupine Provisions catering it all, aiming at the feel of a European bakery, from sandwiches and salads to some Bechtler grandmother recipes such as carrot cake and marble pound cake. Still to be determined: Who’ll end up doing the café planned at the Mint, and the several places (including “signature restaurant”) at the Duke Energy Center?

Wine dinners and more

  • Del Frisco’s hosts a Reynolds Family Winery dinner Jan. 15, with Steve Reynolds presenting each wine. In the lineup: ’07 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with handmade gnocchi and cremini mushrooms and mascarpone sauce; ’04 Persistence with roasted pork tenderloin with cherry pecan stuffing; ’05 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon with Kona-braised short ribs; and more. $95; 4725 Piedmont Row Drive; 704-552-5502.
  • Blue offers an Oregon Pinot Noir and food pairing night Jan. 19, with five Mediterranean dishes in a casual tasting setup. Among the pairings: pan-seared striped bass over bacon and leek pomme Anna with ’07 Chehalem “Three Vineyard”; and magret duck breast with wilted arugula and spiced walnut salad with ‘07 Stoller “JV Estate”, Dundee Hills Willamette Valley. $34.95 (reservations required); uptown’s Hearst Tower at College and 5th streets; 704-927-2583.
  • Beginning this week, McCormick & Schmick’s offers some New Zealand menu items, along with a sweepstakes for a trip for two (including air and hotel) Down Under. Also, each chain location will award one $50 gift certificate. You can enter at the restaurants or online. Among the dishes: mussel fritters; shellfish stew in sourdough bread bowl; New Zealand grass-fed filet mignon Wellington style and more. 4335 Barclay Downs Drive (704- 442-5522) and 200 S. Tryon St. (704-377-0201).

Beer fans: News

Look for Southeastern chain Taco Mac to open at Piedmont Town Center in June, with more than a hundred beers on tap (their most recent restaurant boasts 140), and its specialty: Buffalo wings with seven degrees of heat (mild to "Death"). Sandwiches, burgers, tostadas and yes, tacos, too; you can find a menu here.

Restaurant week; simultaneous deals

Charlotte Restaurant Week kicks off Jan. 22 and runs through Jan. 31 (yeah, 10 days). Go here for the three-courses-for-$30 deals and lots (not all) of online reservations.

Also in that timeframe, Global will offer three courses for $30, with choices including braised lamb and black bean soup; shoulder beef tenderloin; brandade (a salt cod puree); ziti and more. 3520 Toringdon Way; 704-248-0866.

And Zebra will offer three courses for $34 on weekdays throughout January, with choices that range from lobster bisque and truffled mushroom foie gras soup to N.C. rainbow trout Francaise and filet of beef tenderloin with fingerlings. 4521 Sharon Road; 704-442-9525.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Links to love

Really? Does everyone have one but me?

When the White House chef and Bobby Flay take on Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali -- and Mario wears the clogs pictured here -- who do you think is going to win? Never mind that Michelle appears to have dressed as a pumpkin. (I love her. But that's a pumpkin look.)

The "Frozen Food Master" reviews, via video, frozen foods. So serious, yet so good, here.

American-in-Paris food blogger David Lebovitz points out the French aren't all I'll-eat-anything, foie-gras lovers here.

Bits, pieces, Go Go gone

  • The University location of the Melting Pot offers a four-course dinner for $35 now through Jan. 7, with $5 going to the Levine Children's Hospital. (The midtown location will be closed for kitchen renovations.) 230 E. W.T. Harris Blvd.; 704-548-2432.
  • M5 chef Scott Wallen has revamped and extended its lunch menu, with entrée salads, pastas, flatbreads, sandwiches and entrees. Among the lineup: grilled Scottish salmon with romaine, radicchio, green beans and fennel; chicken rigatoni; roasted three-cheese flatbread and more. 4310 Sharon Road; 704-909-5500.
  • Harper's To Go Go in the SouthPark area has closed, but the full-service Harper's next door, at 6518 Fairview Road, remains open. To Go Go customers may order takeout, catering and delivery from that Harper's location (which is where the food had always been prepared), said Tom Sasser, president of Harper's Restaurant Group. The To Go Go lease expired at year's end, said Sasser, and the company decided to consolidate operations into the full-service location, which will add curbside delivery for takeout customers. 704-366-6688.
  • A new Golden Corral location, seating 450: 7701 N. Tryon St. 704-549-4555.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New uptown spot on way

Aria Tuscan Grill and Bar La Scala, the latest from restaurateur Pierre Bader, is slated to open Jan. 15 at 100 N. Tryon St.
Executive chef William Schutz's menu, dubbed "old world comfort food" by Bader, includes crispy suckling pig, pappardelle with braised duck ragu, osso buco, veal scallopini, grilled Angus ribeye, fettuccine alla carbonara, risotto with artichokes and more. The wine list is international but with an Italian concentration, and a wine wall for up to 1,000 bottles fronts the first-floor bar.
Look for leather wrap, steel and textured stone walls, and a sculptural chandelier of replica 1910 Edison bulbs lighting the main dining area. Also of note are a second-floor lounge (including a "nest," a suspended semicircular niche overlooking the main floor), entrances from Trade Street near College and through Founders Hall, and the fact the place was designed with sustainable principles and materials. The place seats 170, plus a chef's table for eight in the kitchen, and there's a private room for up to 50. Aria will also serve as caterer for the renovated Founders Hall.
Lunch weekdays; dinner Monday-Saturday. 704-376-8880; the Web site wasn't functional at post time, but is at