Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Amelie's open uptown

The uptown outpost of popular French bakery Amelie's (the original a 24/7 operation in NoDa) is open uptown at 330 S. Tryon St. Manager Lynn St. Laurent says they're experimenting with hours right now -- currently, they're open 7 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, to 9:30 Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10-4 Sunday. But says St. Laurent, "just like with NoDa, I'm here at 7:30 and people just keep coming in!"

Pastries and egg bakes, plus regular coffee (no espresso, at least yet) are available in the morning, with two soups, sandwiches and salads arriving from the original site about 11 a.m. each day for the lunch crowd. Folks are asking about baguettes to take home; St. Laurent says they're working on it, hoping to establish a strong order system, so you could pick them up on the way home at lunch or end of day. "We just don't like to sell them more than an hour or two old."

"Weird" hours are happening too; for example, the place opened for the Panthers game Sunday and got plenty of traffic, she says. "We'll extend hours as business warrants it." 704-376-1782.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Boar ... and beer

Blue at the Hearst Plaza uptown hosts a Carina Cellars wine dinner of five courses Sept. 9 and braised boar shoulder is on the menu; $65; 704-927-2583).

McCormick & Schmick’s at SouthPark offers a Charles Krug dinner Sept. 14: four courses and four wines for $49.99. 4335 Barclay Downs Drive; 704-442-5522.

Lava Bistro plans a three-course Shelton Vineyards dinner Sept. 23; $39; 8708 J.W. Clay Blvd.; 704-549-0050.

Morton’s hosts a nationwide wine dinner and charity auction Oct. 7 to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The Mondavi wine family has done two 27-liter bottles of wine, a special blend that will be auctioned. The dinner will be broadcast to 54 private dining rooms across the country, including Charlotte, and diners will get four courses, plus wines; $175. (Also new at Morton’s: crab cake BLTs, smoked salmon pizza, bone-in filets and sea bass.)

Firebirds at SouthPark plans a four-course Sequoia Grove winemaker dinner Oct. 11 with braised Kobe short ribs on the menu; $65; 704-366-3655.

And Charlotte Oktoberfest 2010 is slated for Sept. 25 at the Metrolina Tradeshow Expo, 7100 Statesville Road, on the outdoor fields. Three different tickets will be sold: general admission ($35) gets you in at 2 p.m. and premium ($50) at 1 p.m.; designated driver tickets are $20. The event has sold out in advance the past three years. General and premium buyers get a 5-ounce tasting glass, samples from more than 350 beers and a souvenir event guide with map. Live entertainment, games and food will be on hand. Some proceeds will go to the National Kidney Foundation of North Carolina and the Autism Society of North Carolina. Tickets are on sale at the website: www.charlotteoktoberfest.com.

Bits and pieces

Lebowski's will compete in the National Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo over Labor Day weekend, in three categories: Traditional Medium, Creative BBQ (with the Carolina Gold) and Creative Spicy (with the Huli Huli). About three dozen restaurants are in the running, including cult faves such as the Anchor Bar, and national chains, such as Quaker Steak & Lube. See www.buffalowing.com for more.

GadoGado has added flatbread pizzettas to its menu, and will host wine tastings every last Thursday of the month. 157 N. Trade St., Matthews; 704-844-8686.

Noodles & Company at the Arboretum and South End host Tuesday family nights Aug. 31, Sept. 7 and 14, which means kids 12 and younger eat free (a small noodle bowl and drink) from 5-9 p.m. Cookies and activities will be on hand, too.

Morton’s hosts a nationwide wine dinner and charity auction Oct. 7 to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The Mondavi wine family has done two 27-liter bottles of wine, a special blend that will be auctioned. The dinner will be broadcast to 54 private dining rooms across the country, including Charlotte, and diners will get four courses, plus wines; $175. (Also new at Morton’s: crab cake BLTs, smoked salmon pizza, bone-in filets and sea bass.)

Firebirds at SouthPark hosts a four-course Sequoia Grove winemaker dinner Oct. 11 with braised Kobe short ribs on the menu; $65; 704-366-3655.

SouthPark blynk shifts

blynk at SouthPark has finished its test phase and is rolling out a broader menu, with "grand opening" deals the week of Sept. 13-18. Look for an organic salad bar with housemade dressings, a smoothie bar, panini and more. Specials include:
Sept. 13: First 30 customers eat free (one sandwich or salad per person; it opens at 11 a.m.).
Sept. 14: Large salads half-price.
Sept. 15: Free soup with purchase of sandwich.
Sept. 16: Smoothies 75 percent off.
Sept. 17: Sandwiches half-price.
Sept. 18: Free gift certificates for $5 off your next buy (as long as you spend more than $5).
And organic coffee is free 2-6 p.m. all of those days.

Heidi Klum ... candies?

Links of the week:

Celebrity food endorsements. Don't worry: Heidi's thing isn't pursestrings. But you will find out where Smokey Robinson's soul ended up.

And, going somewhat the other way from models, here's an assortment of terrifying meals being offered all over the country. (Cheesecake pancakes?)

Now, for something serious: Local, farm-to-fork food is getting slapped around on the Internet. Look here
at respected chef Wylie Dufresne's slam, and here for a summary of other arguments. What do you think?

New restaurants open

Take a week off and all sorts of things happen:

15 North Roadside Kitchen is open at 1513 Montford Drive. Chef Brett McKee, who received accolades at Charleston's Oak Steakhouse and has cooked at the James Beard House, fared well with 17 North Roadside Kitchen in Mount Pleasant, and has brought to Charlotte the concept, defined as dishes "derived from local demographics, his personal memories and the suggestions and stories of the restaurant’s guests." The menu is quite the diverse work: crawfish and shrimp Creole, N.C. bass en papillote (baked in parchment), boneless buttermilk fried chicken, grilled pork chop with fig preserve demiglace, a burger with Velveeta and bacon, Maine lobster rolls, Austrian wiener schnitzel (complete with egg), and a risotto dome filled with braised duck, tomato and vegetables -- among other things. Dinner nightly and Sunday brunch are offered; http://15northroadsidekitchen.com; 704-919-0003.

Growlers Pourhouse is open at 3120 N. Davidson St., serving 5 p.m.-midnight Tuesday-Sunday, with the bar open to 2 a.m. Sibling to Crepe Cellar, this specializes in American craft beers and "beer food": raw oysters, housemade sausages and dogs, pretzels, etc. There's a beer engine, too. More info at www.growlerspourhouse.com.

Plaza-Midwood place closes; new plans announced

The former Common House is slated to become Kickstand, a burger bar aimed at families that will then emphasize DJ-driven dance music and varying music themes at night to bring in a more entertainment-oriented crowd. Common House closed last week, though the original operating partners have been gone for several months. Said Michael Adams, part of the ownership that bought them out (and also has Hawthorne Pizza and Loco Lime): "We felt we needed a fresh start." New TVs (to the tune of $30,000) and playing off the idea of old and modern bikes, with the name, are focal points. Target opening: Sept. 10.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dinner deals and more

“Charlotte Bites and Brews Restaurant Week” is slated for Aug. 19-29: Diners get an appetizer, two entrees and a bucket of Anheuser Busch beer for a range of prices that depend on your menu choices: $25, $30 or $35 per couple (“or group of 2,” as the press release clarifies). Organizers are Steve Caldwell of Elevate Lifestyle and Kim Hughes of 704events.com, and restaurants can join the lineup until the actual kickoff, says Caldwell. Ten restaurants were signed up at press time: Blu Basil, Prosciutto’s, Boardwalk Billy’s, Dilworth Neighborhood Grille, Jackalope Jack’s, Revolution Pizza, Tilted Kilt, Wild Wing Café, Brickhouse Tavern and Icehouse. You can check for updates and details here.

Revolution Pizza & Ale House, for a new menu, seeks recipes for specialty pies (the six winners will get to name their creations). Submit your idea to info@revolutionpizza.com by Sept. 5. (NOTE: Date has changed from Aug. 31.)

"Buy a Bottle, Save a Tree" is a program by the Firebirds restaurant chain and Sequoia Grove Winery: Buy a bottle of the 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at the restaurant Sept. 1-Oct. 31 and 10 percent will go to the winery's Save a Tree campaign for giant sequoias, with the Sequoia Parks Foundation.

The Central, and its menu

The former Café Central in Plaza Midwood is now The Central, and chef Jon Lock has a new menu. Vegetarian items abound, from sweet potato spring rolls to black bean burgers and the Gypsy Platter – baba ghanoush, sauteed chickpeas, jasmine rice and roasted red pepper puree with grilled flatbread. Also offered: sandwiches, burgers and wraps, quesadillas and entrees such as seared ahi tuna and pulled pork barbecue, and the Triple-Triple: three buttermilk pancakes (you can add chocolate chips or bananas, too), three eggs and three strips of bacon. Prices run $3.50 (PB&J) to $14 (shrimp pasta). 1401 Central Ave.; 704-930-7810; you can see the whole menu here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Best fast food, according to Zagat

Zagat just finished its rating (or rather, 6,000+ voters' rating) of chains, both fast food and full service. And the winner of Top Food in Fast Food ("mega chain" division)? ... Wendy's. Bonefish Grill tops the full-service places in food. Take a look here.

This is making the Web rounds, despite the fact it apparently happened in January, but it's still amazing film (and on the BBC, no less!). My favorite moment: At the very end, when the next car drives up. Really? They waited behind this?

How to find bargains on a wine list? Here are thoughts -- the first is a little too duh for me, but the last is terrific.

Uptown gets more local?

Grateful Growers Farm's Harvest Moon Grille is "going to connect with an existing brick and mortar restaurant" uptown, confirms partner Natalie Veres, though "I can't share more" until paperwork is complete, hopefully by week's end. (Rumors that it's the Ratcliffe on the Green site are "not true.") The Grille currently offers dishes made with area foodstuffs from a bright orange cart that parks in different spots during the week; that's partner Cassie Parsons pictured at right manning the cart. Other news: The Wednesday site is slated to change to one of the Carolinas Medical Center campuses, and when school gets back in session, the cart will be back at the Johnson & Wales campus on Mondays.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Rooster's hosts a Tomato Harvest Celebration Dinner Aug. 18, with area farm Fisher Farms as a partner: Five courses with paired wines for $59. Among the courses: heirloom tomato Caprese croutes; gazpacho with jalapeno crème fraîche; basil gnocchi with Sungold tomatoes and Parmigiano Reggiano; grilled hanger steak; and even tomato tart with basil gelato. 6601 Morrison Blvd.; 704-366-8688.

Starting Aug. 15, The Liberty offers a three-course brunch for $14.95 each Sunday ($5.95 for 9 and younger), including all-you-can-eat "Sweet Sunday Dessert Smorgasbord." (Get on the email list and you may get a coupon for a free brunch.) 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

Honey harvest at the Ritz-Carlton: Aug. 11, some 30 pounds of natural honey is expected to be gleaned from the two beehives on the roof of the uptown (LEED Gold-certified) hotel. Executive chef Jon Farace will be on hand, as will folks from Cloister Honey -- and the 80,000 (or so) bees who live there. 201 E. Trade St.

Free pizza, ranking, more

  • Donatos is again offering free pizza. Be one of the first 300 people who show they have a Donatos phone number saved on their cell phones at each of its 15 Charlotte-area stores except the uptown one, after 5 p.m. Aug. 10, and get a free medium thin-crust pizza. You can dine in or carry out.
  • Pewter Rose made a national Zagat.com list for best breakfast spots, hitting the No. 5 position with its “to-die-for butterscotch scones,” according to the site. The South End restaurant serves brunch every day now, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. 1820 South Blvd.; 704-332-8149.
  • Dine Out for Hospice at Encore Bistro and Bar at Blakeney on Aug. 30: Ten percent of the restaurant's total sales that day will be donated to Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region. 9824 Rea Road; 704-341-3651.

Summer winding down with a bang

Lava Bistro & Bar will host a beer tasting Aug. 30 to make room for new craft beer on draft. So for $15 a person (plus tax and tip), you'll get tastes of all the place's craft beers, plus appetizers. 8708 J.W. Clay Blvd.; 704-549-0050.

Blue extends its Restaurant Week deal -- three courses for $30 -- until Aug. 31. Hearst Plaza at corner of 5th and College streets; 704-927-2583.

Gado Gado offers a three-course special for $26 through the end of the month. 157 N. Trade St., Matthews; 704-844-8686.

Taco Bell: "Authentic"?

Taco Bell has introduced "Cantina Tacos": two grilled corn tortillas around grilled chicken, "carne asada steak" or "carnitas shredded pork" with chopped onion, cilantro and lime wedge. Pork is a new offering for the national chain. They're $1.49 for one, $2.79 for two.

To quote its press release: "For years, Taco Bell was and still is considered Mexican inspired. Now at Taco Bell, we will offer authentic and freshly prepared Mexican tacos with a variety of proteins ... Cantina Tacos are based upon authentic Mexican Street Tacos which are all about the simple, but high quality ingredients ... We are excited to bring both protein and form innovation to our consumers."


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Charlotte institution closing

Leo's Delicatessen in Elizabeth, believed to be the oldest deli in Charlotte, is slated to close after Aug. 12, says owner John Maheras. The business opened in 1942 "five doors up at 1503 (Elizabeth Ave.)," says Maheras; "I remember because I was practically born and raised in it." It moved to the current site -- 1421 Elizabeth Ave. -- in 2002, he says; his family has owned it since 1976.

"Our lease is up (and) we're trying to relocate," Maheras says. "We're trying to find a spot in or around the area."

Have a Leo's recollection? Let us know.

Papa John's can haz gourmet?

A Papa John's press release notes that finalists in its pizza recipe contest "reflect a changing pallet among the pizza consumer": "All three have a different sauce – tomato, BBQ and spinach alfredo. Two feature jalapenos. One includes chicken. NONE have pepperoni, widely regarded as the most popular topping in the U.S. And none have mushrooms, viewed by most as the preferred vegetable on pizza." (Fail for the PR folks, beyond the "pallet/palate": one does have pepperoni.)

So what ARE the three, culled from 12,000 Facebook submissions and slated to appear on menus this week, with a winner determined by sales through Aug. 29?

“Big Bonanza”: barbecue sauce, double bacon, beef, ham, jalapenos, onions, roma tomatoes, mozzarella.

“Cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu”: spinach alfredo sauce, grilled chicken, ham, onions, mozzarella, three-cheese blend.

“The Workin’ Fire”: traditional sauce, parmesan/romano, jalapenos, pepperoni, spicy Italian sausage, mozzarella.

Tutto closing

Tutto Mondo, a bar and lounge sibling to Pewter Rose open since 1997, will close after Aug. 13. Events are planned Aug. 9-13, with "old staff coming back, old DJs -- it'll be a lot of fun," says Pewter Rose's Susie Peck. A new nightclub called Deja Vu lounge is slated to open in the space under different ownership.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tequila, farm dinner, BBQ coming up

Cantina 1511 in Dilworth offers a Herradura Tequila dinner Aug. 12, four courses with paired cocktails from Mexico native and Herradura “international ambassador” Jesus “Chuy” Ostos. He’ll be on hand to discuss, too, and part of the proceeds will benefit the Council for Children’s Rights. Among the courses: Oaxacan stuffed meatballs with a Royal Margarita; sweet and spicy short ribs with Tequila Sunrise, and more. $45; 1511 East Blvd.; 704-331-9222Ö.

Grateful Growers Farms plans its “fairly annual” On-Farm Dinner for Oct. 16. Included in the $100 sticker price are a guided tour of the farm, tastings and hors d’oeuvres, a meal focusing on the farm’s pasture-raised meats and locally grown sides (guest chefs are planned), local craft beers, live bluegrass music and contra dancing, and a silent auction that will raise money for Friendship Trays. Also, the first 100 ticket buyers get a $5 coupon for the takeout-lunch Harvest Moon Grille. Tickets at the website: www.ggfarm.com.

Look for the renamed, new-sponsored N.C. official Memphis BBQ Network Championship Cook-Off Sept. 10-11. It’s now part of the Time Warner Cable BBQ and Blues Festival in uptown, from Charlotte Center City Partners, and the competition qualifies the professional-division winner to compete in the famous Memphis national competition. Registration for Backyard Grillers began July 19, and all 50 slots were filled within 30 minutes, according to CCCP, with 14 professional teams already signed up.

"Dim Sumdays," lobster deals

Kalu offers “Dim Sumdays” from noon to 10 p.m. Sundays, serving dim sum dishes made to order (not offered from carts). Among the dishes: pork shu mai; whole shrimp har gow; Mongolian lamb buns, Vietnamese spring rolls, whole fried black bass, rib tips, daikon salad, an assortment of rice dishes (sprouted brown rice with salt and butter; golden Thai curry and more); prices range from about $8 to $17. 505 E. 6th St.; 704-910-4877.

The Palm does its lobster-dinner-for-two (a 4-pounder; you can bigger ones for a surcharge) for $89.95 through Aug. 31. 6705-B Phillips Place Court; 704-552-7256. (Photo from examiner.com.)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Free Chipotle

Eat at any Charlotte Chipotle on August 3 or 4 and save the receipt. Go back during tax-free weekend -- that's Aug. 6-8 -- and present the receipt and you'll get a free burrito, salad, order of tacos or bowl.