Thursday, September 30, 2010

Green pizza

Wolfman Pizza now uses the eco-friendly GreenBox™, which is so cool that no less an authority than Fox News has dubbed it the pizza box of the 21st century (Ashton Kutcher said it was cool on Twitter, too, if you're more about him than Fox). Made from 100 percent recycled material, its top breaks into four plates, so you don't need paper plates (or to use the energy and resources to clean regular plates), and the bottom converts into a storage container for leftovers, so you don't need foil or plastic bags.

District manager Bailey Dunmire of Wolfman (multiple locations) said in an e-mail release: “A lot of green products are eco-friendly, and that’s great, but they also cost five to ten times more... (This is) right in line with other pizza box costs." Inventor Ecovention's William Walsh said Wolfman is the first restaurant in the Carolinas to use the box.

Tipping should die

Yeah, I said it. What say you?

This column, from the new Gourmet Live (which is actually an iPad application, but you can get certain parts on just your regular old whatever-you're-reading-this-on), hits points I've agreed with for years, though I think he leans a little hard to the customer side. Favorite point: It's not actually any harder -- given proper training and situations -- to serve a $4 hot dog than a $59 steak, so why does one server make 15 times as much? But author Foster Kamer adds a point I had not considered: "Tipping, which has been proven to be discriminatory, could be downright unconstitutional." Whoa. (Note: There's a bit of strong language here, but thankfully he doesn't go into that whole Mr. Pink tirade against tipping.)

NOTE: Several commenters are making it clear they didn't read the story that this post is about. This isn't a referendum on tipping in general; this author makes several points specifically and does NOT advocate (as I do not) simply eliminating tipping as a practice without other forms of compensation. He also references European service; please read before commenting, and please be polite. I will delete rude posts -- not afraid of an argument, but insist on a respectful, thoughtful environment.

Dine out, do good

Upstream hosts its second annual Oyster Bash Oct. 9 at Phillips Place, with a portion of proceeds going to Urban Ministry Center. Ten kinds of cold-water oysters, 10 paired wines (some sparkling), two hours to enjoy them, in both the private dining room and the covered patio; $95. Among the oysters slated to be on hand: Rappahannock, Old Salt, York River, and the better known Blue Point and Malpeque. Three wine experts will also be on hand, and will announced their choice of best pairing for the night. Reservations required; 704-556-7730.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

And now for something (completely) different

"Table Manners" is a group exhibition running Oct. 1-Nov. 27 at Lark & Key Gallery in South End, with pottery for the table (as in, you can use it), aimed at bringing "awareness to the handmade in conjunction to the homemade," says the press for the event. "The combination of homemade and handmade allows us to focus on the moment -- the aromas, tastes and textures of the food along with the visual and tactile experience of the vessels in which it is being served." Ceramic artists Julie Wiggins and Amy Sanders are curating. and the show will include work by several potters, including Elizabeth Robinson (below). Backdrops include work by Duy Huynh of the gallery ("Slow Food For Thought," at right).

On Nov. 5, ARTfeast will happen 6-9 p.m., bringing fare from local, sustainable food producers into the gallery for sale, including Grateful Growers and The Secret Chocolatier. Also on hand: a pottery demo by Wiggins, a trunk show of jewelry, and live music from Justin Faircloth. 128 E. Park Ave.; 704-334-4616;

Monday, September 27, 2010

Deals and chances

Bojangles' has introduced a new smoked sausage biscuit today: 99 cents, for a limited time, says the company.

Create a burger on Facebook for Topz Healthier Burger Grill and win two tickets to "9 to 5: The Musical" at Blumenthal on opening night (Oct. 5). Here's how: Go to the Facebook page here (you must "like" to post). Post a description of your burger creation. "Cleverness and creativity of both recipe and description are the key criteria," according to Topz, whose staff will pick the winner Oct. 3. The winner gets a free version of their creation, and multiple entries are encouraged.

Chipotle plans to roll out its new kid’s menu in Charlotte Nov. 15 and to highlight it, will give kids a free kid’s meal every Sunday from Nov. 21 through Dec. 12 when parents purchase a burrito, salad, burrito bowl (a burrito without the tortilla) or order of tacos. Among the kids' items: small cheese quesadilla for $2.95 with side of rice, choice of beans, small bag of chips and milk, apple juice or soda; single taco with three items from the line (one meat or guacamole and two others such as salsa), with chips and choice of drink, for $3.50 and more.

2nd daily Penguin update: Sprock confirms that chef Auten is out

Greg Auten says he's out of the Penguin deal and is focusing on opening his Pinky's Westside Grill in about three weeks. "We are 100 percent Pinky's, nothing to do with the place over there... It happened last-minute last week; some legalities are preventing me from participating."

The grill, at Freedom Drive and Morehead Street, will be fast-casual, he says, with fish tacos, falafel ("I took some lessons with a guy from Israel, so they'll be authentic"), burgers, sandwiches and some "healthier items," such as salads. But will there be pickles? "That's still up in the air," he says.

(The recap: Last week, Penguin current operators Jimmy King and Brian Rowe announced they'd be ceasing to operate the Plaza-Midwood restaurant. Lisa Ballentine, daughter of Penguin originator (in the mid-50s) Jim Ballentine, whose family retained ownership of the building and name when King, Rowe and Auten began running it about 10 years ago, said franchisor Martin Sprock and Auten would be taking over in late October. Later in the week, King and Rowe said in a press release they would not be "bullied" and that they were "not used to having lawyers," but did not elaborate. Auten had left several months ago to start Pinky's.)

UPDATE: Sprock confirmed Monday that Auten is out, but that other people will be coming to the deal ("Charlotteans who have been involved in the restaurant business for a long time"). He said the menu will be "90 percent the same," with some healthy-food additions, such as a salad. Other plans: a patio and new air conditioning. The only change that might "freak people out": ice cream or frozen custard. "I'm not saying I'm going to do it," but he's considering it; the Penguin was once an ice cream shop. He plans to emphasize family-friendliness, also. Asked if such an approach will preserve enough of the current diverse crowd to stay viable, he said: "It needs to be cool and hip, mixing the musicians with the investment bankers... (But) we've heard families say there's too rough a crowd at times."

Taste the World Oct. 7

Looking for a bit of international flavor and intrigue? East Charlotte offers the newest version of its "Taste of the World" tour Oct. 7, with 21 restaurants on its list of participants.

Here's how it works: You attend an opening reception at the VanLandingham Estate. Then you're ferried by bus to three of the 21 (to date) possibilities, to enjoy a sampling of cuisine. You don't get to pick which you attend, but you're guaranteed to get three different cuisines; possibilities range from Vietnamese to Brazilian, Middle Eastern to Indian. You end up at a closing reception back at the VanLandingham. The evening goes from about 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., with the final reception beginning at 9. Tickets are $30 and you can get them here.

Participating restaurants so far: Ben Thanh (Vietnamese), Brazas (Brazilian), Dim Sum (Chinese), Fu Lin (Asian/Indian fare), Jerusalem (Middle Eastern), Carolina Kebap (Turkish/Mediterranean), Namaste (Indian), Pollos Mario (Colombian), Portofino (Italian), Woodlands (Indian), Saigon Bistro (Vietnamese), Jamile's (Somalian and more), Mama's (Caribbean), El Pulgarcito (Salvadorean), The Motherland (West African), Sadie's (Southern!), The Landmark (classic diner), Lang Van (Vietnamese), Carnitas Guanajuato (Mexican), Cocina Latina (Mexican), Linares (Mexican), Mily and Lalo (Peruvian) and Three Amigos (Mexican).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Know of more discount dining?

If you know of more discounted dining, share with us here. (If you missed the story, go to

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Penguin: It ain't over

Current operators of The Penguin Brian Rowe and Jimmy King issued a press release Thursday evening suggesting the recent drama over the location and business aren't quite over: "We would like to be accommodating but we won't be bullied or treated in bad faith. At this point, we will do whatever is necessary to deal with this situation and be treated fairly and in accordance with the law... (W)e are not used to having lawyers and dealing with these sorts of disputes."

Asked for more detail, King declined.

To recap: Rowe and King, with chef Greg Auten, took over operation of the Plaza-Midwood landmark restaurant about 10 years ago from the originator, the late Jim Ballentine. The Ballentine family kept ownership of the building and the restaurant name and logo. About five months ago, Auten left the business to open a new restaurant. This week, it was announced that Rowe and King's lease would not be renewed, and that the Ballentine family, with Auten returning and the addition of experienced franchisor Martin Sprock, would begin operating the restaurant, that it would retain the Penguin name, and eventually be franchised.

Rowe and King, who became partners in the nearby Diamond restaurant renovation some months ago, have said they would cease operating the Penguin Oct. 24. The Diamond is slated to open around the end of October. The news has continued to create a stir, especially in social media, where several Facebook pages address the developments, and the Twitter hashtag #penguingate continues to be active.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New chef; wine dinners

  • Carpe Diem, which has a new chef and sous chef, offers a Bennett Lane wine dinner Sept. 30. First the chef news: Paul Ketterhagen, formerly sous chef and on staff at the restaurant for four years, has now taken over. He attended Johnson & Wales in Charleston and cooked with Maverick Southern Kitchens, FIG and 39 rue de Jean there, before coming to Charlotte. New as sous (and catering chef) is Buzz Frazier, who's cooked at Nolen Kitchen and ilios noche among other Charlotte spots. Now the dinner: It's $80 for four courses, which include goat cheese panna cotta with sliced proscuitto, walnut pepper brittle and a salad of arugula, figs, apples, and a red wine reduction, with 2006 Red Maximus; and slow-roasted pork shoulder with salsa verde and 2006 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. 1535 Elizabeth Ave.; 704-377-7976.
  • Kalu Asian Kitchen hosts a seven-course, six-wine dinner Sept. 29 with French wines from Grapevine Distributors. Among the seven: artisanal black edamame; Japanese-style chicken wings and foie-gras-stuffed Kobe meatballs with Delas Croze-Hermitage, Rhone; sushi of tuna with seven-spiced honey and Wasabi Three Ways Roll, with Joseph Drouhin Moulin-a-Vent, Beaujolais; and more. $69; 505 E. 6th St.; 704-910-4877.
  • The Wine Shop at Foxcroft does a Kermit Lynch wine dinner Oct. 11 with guest chef Graham Giacobbe (of Clean Catch fish market and formerly with Customshop) and a Lynch representative on hand. Included in the courses: she crab soup with 2008 Château d'Epiré Savennières; cornmeal-dusted triggerfish with Lowcountry hash and '09 Joncier Lirac Rose; braised beef cheeks with '09 Maxime-François Laurent "Il Fait Soif" Rouge; and more. $65; 7824 Fairview Road; 704-365-6550.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Everybody's cool": Penguin update

Jimmy King and Brian Rowe, current operators of The Penguin in Plaza-Midwood, and Lisa Ballentine of the Ballentine family, who owns the building and Penguin name, confirmed Tuesday that King and Rowe will move on after Oct. 24. The Ballentines declined to renew King and Rowe's lease.

"Everybody's cool, everybody's friends," said King, who with Rowe and chef Greg Auten took over running the place about 10 years ago. "We love the Ballentines and I think they love us. That's all I've got to say." Said Rowe: "We've known the family 10 years."

Ballentine had earlier likened the situation to a romantic breakup: "There's strong language ... but at the end of the day, you still love each other." In a nod to the tumult, she did add, "Yeah, the lease was coming to an end, but you were going out with another girl anyway (the Diamond; see below)... We're all doing what's best for the Penguin."

The three met late into the night Monday, says Ballentine, not about an "eleventh-hour deal," but "honestly (because) all of us freaked out over the Internet and television" tempest that began Monday morning. Facebook and Twitter were bombarded with postings (including the hashtag #penguingate on Twitter, and tweets that included links to Venn diagrams), and television cameras appeared on site.

And angst still exists in the community, despite the apparent smoothing over among the principals. A Penguin fan page on Facebook, which hadn't had a new posting since January 2009, now has as its status "Come experience The Penguin Drive-In without it's soul" (yes, spelled that way), while a Facebook event titled "Boycott the Penguin as of Oct. 24th" had more than 2,000 people planning to "attend" (or, rather, not attend, since it's a boycott) by about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

"We have nothing to do with that," said King.

UPDATE: Event creator Mark Cline lives in China Grove and says he created the boycott event "as a little sign of support" and sent it to "a few friends." "I have to say, this is completely blown out of proportion ... half the people boycotting are the same hipsters that put the Bird where it is today, going out of business ... I'm sure I'll have to pull the plug on this soon."

Those concerned about the change at the Penguin fall broadly into two categories:

  • People who dislike the new plan for the Penguin, which includes franchising by experienced Charlotte franchisor Martin Sprock, and the return of Auten (who left about five months ago to open a new place) as part of the operation prepping for franchising, and,
  • People who feel an allegiance to King and Rowe, and have expressed their intent to "move along" with them as they prepare to reopen The Diamond. That restaurant business, also an icon among Charlotte businesses, was purchased by the pair, along with Andy Kastanas of Soul Gastrolounge, this year. Extensive renovations have been done and it is slated to reopen as an "updated" diner by the end of October or beginning of November. (Plans call for it to be open 24 hours a day eventually.) "We remain firmly committed to this neighborhood," King said in a press release.
The Penguin, known for its burgers and fried pickles as well as its diverse clientele, has appeared on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," and has been a neighborhood gathering spot since Ballentine's father, Jim, opened it in the mid 50s as an ice cream shop.

Ballentine combats accusations of "forcing out" King and Rowe by saying she plans to do another project with them, though she won't say more than that it won't be a restaurant and it will be in Plaza-Midwood. King and Rowe declined to comment, beyond saying "we've talked about some ideas. It's too early to say anything."

Monday, September 20, 2010

More on Penguin: Greg Auten returns

Pieces of this news continue to emerge, notably that chef Greg Auten, part of the partnership that took over from originator Jim Ballentine, says he is returning to Plaza-Midwood's Penguin, and that the current plan is for a partnership that will do much renovation and refining, then franchise it, while the original stays the property of the Ballentine family. (Ballentine opened the iconic place in the mid 1950s, and his family has owned it, and the Penguin name and logo, continuously since then.)
The story so far: Facebook posts and Twitter tweets, confirmed with a manager at the restaurant, announced the Penguin would no longer be operated as it's been, as of Oct. 24.
A lengthy conversation with Auten and Martin Sprock, formerly of Raving Brands, brought this:
Ballentine's family, which owns the building, approached Sprock about two months ago, says Sprock. He had talked to them a few years ago, asking if they'd be interested in allowing him to franchise the operation. As founder of Raving Brands, a holding company which has Flying Biscuit and Monkey Joe's, among other concepts, he was interested in the Penguin. At the time, the Ballentines refused, he says.
Auten, who has cooking experience at Providence Cafe and Alexander Michael's, says he left the Penguin about five months ago, because he wanted "to have more of my own thing." He pursued opening Pinky's, at the corner of Freedom Drive and Morehead Street.
Pinky's will now become the second Penguin, according to plans, say both Auten and Sprock, shooting to open in mid October.
Current Penguin operators Brian Rowe and Jimmy King announced in April that they had become partners in the sale of the Diamond nearby, which closed for extensive renovations.
Discussions seem to be continuing -- Sprock said he had a meeting this morning with the Ballentines, and I've been told other meetings are going on. Stay tuned!

Maddi's Southern Bistro closing

Maddi's Southern Bistro will serve its last dinner Saturday -- the accompanying gallery at Birkdale will be moving its stock back to the original Dilworth location after a 40 percent off sale all week. All week, the bistro will offer half-price bottles of wine and $2.50 beers, along with gallery fixtures, restaurant equipment and furniture for sale. Birkdale Village, Huntersville, 704-987-7777.

Dine out, do good

If you support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, stop in to Andrew Blair's this week. The restaurant will donate 10 percent of food and beverage sales to JDRF supporters Sept. 22-26 to the Charlotte chapter. AB's opens at 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and serves Sunday brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 1600 Montford Drive; 704-525-8282.

Penguin to be gone?

A manager at The Penguin confirms the last date of operations as we know them will be Oct. 24. Details on the way...

Monday, September 13, 2010

New openings

LaVecchia’s fourth restaurant concept has opened: Jax Backstreet Tavern is at 55 Glenway St. in Belmont, serving pizzas, salads, mini-hot-dog sliders, wings, sandwiches and more, with 24 beers on draft and plans already for a second location, in uptown Charlotte, slated for the fall. You can get a look at the menu, and more details, at; 704-825-1776.

The SBB Smokehouse is now open at 10099 Weddington Road in Concord; 704-979-2569. It is related to the Myrtle Beach operation of the same name, but is “more a biker-themed restaurant” than that, says general manager Brandon Salter. This has real motorcycles inside, 13 TVs and a menu ranging from fried and smoked wings and chicken fingers to house-smoked brisket, pork, chicken and housemade sausage, ribs and more.

Beard at Blue

Reminder: The James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour dinner at Blue is Sept. 22, with host chef Gene Briggs working with Charlotte’s Bruce Moffett and Geoffrey Blount, along with “Top Chefs” Kevin Gillespie and Eli Kirshstein. Tickets are $150 each, and part of the proceeds go to the Beard Foundation, whose mission is to “celebrate, nurture, and preserve America’s diverse culinary heritage and future.”

Among the courses: crispy oysters with pork belly and 2009 Fiano, Fontanavecchia (Campania, Italy); Hudson Valley foie gras with corn sorbet and ’08 Chateau St. Michelle Eroica Ice Wine; wild striped bass with ’07 Rodney Strong Reserve Chardonnay; pork shoulder with cornbread puree with ’06 Yalumba BushVine Grenache; and warm pecan shortcake with ’06 Chateau St. Michelle Late Harvest White Riesling. 704-927-2583; 206 N. College St.

Sip/stroll, dad/daughter

Uptown's EpiCentre plans its first "Sip & Stroll," a wine, arts and music festival, Sept. 17-18. On hand: wines from more than 20 wineries, art and demos by artists, live music, food from EpiCentre restaurants, kids' crafts and more. Tickets are $20 for Friday or Saturday, $30 for both days, and offered online here and at EpiCentre venues.

Passion8 Bistro hosts "Daddy Daughter Dinner Date" Sept. 29 with soprano Jenny Chen from Opera Carolina singing fairy tales and professional portraits offered for purchase at the dinner. $125 per dad and daughter; 3415 Highway 51 North in Fort Mill; 803-802-7455.

Free Outback? And Hardee's turns 50

Through the end of September, Outback Steakhouse customers will get the chance to win “free Outback for a Year”: Diners get a scratch-off card on each visit, and 1,600 winning tickets are available. The prize comes in the form of a booklet of vouchers, two redeemable for free steak each month (vouchers exclude alcohol, tax and tip; approximate value is $600).

Among Hardee's plans over September, to celebrate its 50th:
A $50,000 giveaway on its Facebook page.
$50 gift cards given away via its Twitter feed.
50 cent sausage biscuits Sept. 30.
The chance to share your stories, photos and videos through its social media outlets, including the above, Flickr and YouTube.
More is here.

Nude sushi models Uptown

Enso at the EpiCentre celebrates its one-year anniversary Sept. 16 with "traditional Asian entertainment, including sushi demonstrations and nude sushi models." What that means is exactly what you think -- if what you're thinking is women on whom sushi is artfully arranged and displayed (meaning they're stationary), for diners to appreciate.

Also on tap, says special events coordinator Jennifer Lloyd: hardcore "freestyle runners," dressed in ninja black, "jumping around everywhere, anywhere there's room, inside and out" from 8:30-10; sushi artists (Enso's top three) performing sushi demos, including some knife-show stuff; and a come-one-come-all sumo wrestling event. Sort of -- contestants don enormously padded bodysuits and helmets and get in the ring, mostly for comedic value, notes Lloyd. Expect the event's components (including an early-evening appearance by radio's Ace & TJ) to go into the wee hours.

210 E. Trade St.; 704-716-3676;

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beer, wine dinners

The Liberty hosts a Stone Brewing dinner Sept. 15, with three rare specialty beers on tap, plus two of its year-round features, plus chef Tom Condron's pairings. $55; 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

The Pizza Peel hosts an Abita beer dinner Sept. 18, with "panini pizza" and jambalaya on the menu. Details are at its new website:; $35; 4422 Colwick Road; 704-714-8808.

Aria hosts a wine and pasta dinner – four courses (including potato gnocchi with butternut squash and short rib ravioli) and four Summerland Winery offerings – for $45 Sept. 21. 100 N. Tryon St.; 704-376-8880.

Lava Bistro offers a Shelton Vineyards dinner Sept. 23, with courses including smoked N.C. trout with ’08 Chardonnay and braised pork shoulder with ’07 Malbec. $39; 8708 J.W. Clay Blvd.; 704-549-0050

Del Frisco’s plans a Venge Vineyards dinner Sept. 24. Five courses, including smoked lamb porterhouse with 2007 Muhlner Steps Vineyard Syrah “Clone 877,” and a Delmonico steak with both 2008 Silencieux Cabernet Sauvignon and ’06 Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. $95; 4725 Piedmont Row Drive South; 704-5502.

MORE bacon-wrapped tots...and beer

New items at Fran’s Filling Station: jalapeno-bacon-wrapped tater tots with a Tabasco honey glaze (available in a duo with the original bacon-wrapped tots or on their own); sweet corn nuggets with goat cheese ranch; lamb ragu over rigatoni with ricotta and goat cheese; chicken Milanese topped with a seasonal salad; and a daily fish. Also on tap: nightly specials such as “Something Spicy” on Mondays (such as Malaysian chicken curry or shrimp with ancho chiles) to “Red & White Checked Tablecloth Italian Night” on Saturdays (steak Marsala or chicken cacciatore). Lunch changes are coming, too, with tots and fried pickles joining that lineup, more combos being added and more plate lunches and international sandwiches. 2410 Park Road; 704-372-2009.

Rock Bottom Brewery starts offering Oktoberfest Lager with a seasonal menu (plus prizes and giveaways) Sept. 14 and the lineup will stick around until Oct. 24. Among the new: Oktoberfest Combo (grilled bratwurst, knackwurst and Hungarian sausages, housemade pretzel sticks and seasoned fries, with beer mustards), steak tacos (top sirloin marinated in Oktoberfest), smoked pork loin, German Kobe burger and more. 401 N. Tryon St.; 704-334-2739.

Special dinners on tap

Gallery hosts a farm-to-fork dinner Sept. 16, with proceeds benefiting Slow Food Charlotte. Among the fare: confit of Baucom’s pasture-raised chicken, with grilled figs and Four Friends Brewery Queen City Red; and Baucom’s grass-fed smoked beef brisket with Four Friends Extinction Ale. $75; 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4100.

Foskoskies hosts an Argentine wine dinner Sept. 20, featuring the wines of Ricardo Santos and sons, of Tercos Winery. Five courses with six wines (including salt cod with “dueling Malbecs” and braised beef short ribs with ’08 Tercos Sangiovese) for $40; 2121 Shamrock Drive; 704-535-2220.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

SouthPark's M5 to become ...

... Zink, in a move by Harper's Restaurant Group -- opening target date is early next week.

M5 Modern Mediterranean had closed a few weeks ago because of an exhaust system problem, and sibling Zink American Kitchen had closed uptown earlier in the summer. M5 had been under review by the company and headed in a more mainstream direction before the equipment problem. Now chef Scott Wallen and staff are putting finishing touches on a menu that will incorporate the most popular dishes from Zink, including housecut fries and chips, plus the most popular from M5 (flatbreads from the wood-burning oven, Mediterranean dips and housemade pita, roasted whole fish), plus new additions, and a version of a popular sea bass dish from sibling Upstream (this one done with cod, miso-marinated).

And yes, the 30-foot zinc bar that was a hallmark has moved to the new location, at the Village at SouthPark, 4310 Sharon Road (704-909-5500). Domestic beer and wines and nightly specials will be as they were offered at the original Zink.

Talk on the radio!

Tune in to Mike Collins' "Charlotte Talks" on WFAE (90.7 FM) at 9 a.m. Sept. 9 and ask me anything. Anything the producers will let you, that is. We'll be discussing sustainable foods, out-of-the-way shops and the like. Got an idea or suggestion? Yell here, or on Thursday: Call 704-926-9323 or 800-603-9323, tweet @CharlotteTalks, e-mail to or post here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dine out, do good

All through September, 30 area businesses, about half of them restaurants, will donate a portion of their proceeds for one day to Cookies for Kids' Cancer, a national nonprofit that raises money for pediatric cancer research. The effort was designed to honor Charlotte kindergartener Grier Christenbury, a 6-year-old who has battled neuroblastoma since he was 2 1/2 and is in treatment again, and children in similar circustances. September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness month. Each day's business also presents an opportunity to celebrate a simple pleasure, say organizers: "a family dinner, eating ice cream on a hot summer night or getting your nails done with your mom." Check out the calendar here; find out more about Cookies here.

Brunch, bistro, baked goods.

Maddi's Southern Bistro will offer brunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m. both Sunday and Labor Day Monday. 16925 Birkdale Commons Parkway; 704-987-7762.

CPCC's Baking and Pastry Arts program sells boxed lunches and desserts from its Aspire Bistro project: Proceeds benefit the BPA club. Hours: 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 3:30-8-:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday for the next few weeks. You can check it out via video here.

Roosters, Mad Men, more

Rooster's hosts a four-course Biltmore wine dinner Sept. 9, and artist Michael Haun of Roodoodles will be there, painting roosters during the dinner. Some "roodoodles" (sample pictured) will then be sold. Dinner includes heirloom tomato Caprese croutes with '06 Blanc de Blanc; wood-grilled hanger steak with '07 Reserve Zinfandel, Chalk Hill; and more. $47; 6601 Morrison Blvd.; 704-366-8688.

Mez offers a dinner with wine from Russian Hill Estate in the Russian River Valley Sept. 15 for $55 (including lamb chop with mint, sweet onion chutney and veal jus, paired with '06 Russian Hill Top Block Syrah), and another highlighting Bodega Catena Zapata on Sept. 17 for $60 (with applewood-smoked tenderloin with roasted Brussels sprouts and root vegetables and '06 Catena Zapata). 210 E. Trade St.; 704-971-2400.

DWR Charlotte (Design Within Reach) hosts a Mad Men style cocktail party Sept. 9; wear "your favorite mid-century threads" and swig martinis, talk mod furniture and listen to music from DJ Scott Weaver. 4310 Sharon Road; 704-365-6514; RSVP to

Free froyo, chef change, 1/2-price apps

The Blakeney TCBY store will celebrate its grand opening Sept. 25 with one free cup of yogurt per customer. 9864 Rea Road; 704-341-2002.

Marc Jacksina is now executive chef at Andrew Blair's on Montford Drive. "Customers will see a different side of my cooking, more direct in approach, but still gutsy, and directed towards pairing well with our amazing bourbon, wine and craft beer lists," Jacksina says in a press release. Folks looking for chef Blake Hartwick will find him doing some stints at Sunset Grille (his former Las Ramblas stomping ground) and Aria uptown, he says.

Big View Diner offers half-price appetizers 4-6 p.m. daily in its bar/lounge. 16637 Lancaster Highway; 704-544-0313.