Friday, December 16, 2011

Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend tickets

You can buy tickets for the 2012 Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend beginning Dec. 19, online at

This every-two-years happening is one of the Southeast's largest wine events, say organizers, and has raised more than $3.5 million for area charities (this year: the Council for Children’s Rights; Second Harvest Food Bank's Metrolina-BackPack Program; Pat’s Place; and Charlotte Community Health Clinic).

The Weekend will be April 18-22, and highlights range from winemaker dinners at area restaurants to tastings and classes to a golf tournament. The kickoff is a tequila dinner at Paco's Tacos & Tequila, April 18, and the largest event is Big Bottles & Blues at the Ritz-Carlton, April 20. A gala and live auction (look for the rare 1919 Romanée-Conti bottle) will be April 21, and a brunch April 22.

New pizza joint

A second Mellow Mushroom was slated to open this week in the Charlotte area, at 14825 Ballantyne Village Way, with a design theme of “Magic Carpet Ride” using what Marc Kieffer of the ownership group called “magic carpets … and a giant one-of-a-kind hookah.” There’s also a 106-inch TV screen, along with other big screens. It’s open daily. 704-369-5300.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

More for New Year's

For New Year’s Eve:

Blue offers a three-course menu for a first seating (5-6 p.m.) on New Year’s Eve (and all day New Year’s Day) for $34.95. Among the entrée choices: flat iron steak with chanterelles, roasted pork tenderloin and pork belly, or duck Bolognese over housemade tagliatelle pasta. Hearst plaza uptown; reservations: 704-927-2583.

Also for New Year’s Eve: Global offers a five-course meal ($65 with a glass of Champagne with dessert; $95 with wine) from 5 to 11 p.m. On the menu: roasted garlic soup with black pepper tuile; foie gras au torchon with brioche, fig chutney and arugula; diver scallops with wild mushrooms; venison with pumpkin cake and crispy collards; and chocolate praline Yule log. 3520 Toringdon Way; 704-248-0866.

Christmas Eve options

For Christmas Eve:

New South Kitchen will be open 4-8 p.m. Christmas Eve, with a buffet. Among the stuff on it: shrimp cocktail, spinach artichoke dip, roasted beef tenderloin with red wine au jus, deep-fried turkey, salmon crab strudel, assorted sides and vegetables, and desserts ranging from gingerbread to Christmas cookies. $30 ($15 for those younger than 12); 8140 Providence Road; 704-541-9990.

Passion8 will serve 3-8 p.m. Christmas Eve, and offers a New Year’s Eve menu 4-8 p.m. 3415 Highway 51 N, Fort Mill; 803-802-7455.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Updated: Open on Christmas

Harvest Moon Grille at the Dunhill uptown will do brunch on both Dec. 24 and 25: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., with classic brunch dishes and "holiday surprise treats." 235 N. Tryon St., 704-342-1193.

The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge will offer holiday brunch Christmas Day, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Ballantyne Ballroom. The buffet will include salads, cheeses and seafood displays, breakfast items, a carving station and desserts, plus live traditional holiday music. $55 ($28 for ages 5-12, free for 4 and younger). Reservations required: 704-248-4100; 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway.

New brunch

Dandelion Market has a new brunch menu, with dishes such as Prosciutto Benny (two baguette crostini topped with tomato, prosciutto, poached egg and Hollandaise), Gravy Cake (fried potato cake with mushroom gravy and poached egg), huevos rancheros, French toast sticks (at right) and omelets. Brunch will run 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with a Bloody Mary bar both days. 118 W. 5th St.; 704-333-7989.

Dancing for New Year's

Georges Brasserie plans a live four-piece jazz band for New Year's Eve, with dancing from 9 p.m.-1 a.m. A special menu is also planned, ranging from onion soup and warm vichyssoise to cheese plates and tuna tartare to trout amandine, pan-seared scallops and bouillabaisse, all a la carte. 4620 Piedmont Row Drive; 980-219-7409.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cheer on Saturday

"Spread the Cheer" will run 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 10 at the EpiCentre (210 E. Trade St.) uptown, a family-oriented event with holiday music, food available from EpiCentre restaurants and visits from Santa.

Before and after Christmas

BEFORE: Blue plans a Christmas Eve, three-course, lobster or ribeye dinner for $39.95: appetizer is peekytoe crab and ricotta crespelle or pear and baby arugula salad; entree is baked, stuffed lobster with almond basmati rice or grilled ribeye with garlic spinach and roasted potatoes; dessert is choice among four. Corner of 5th and College streets at the Hearst Plaza; 704-927-2583.

AFTER: Lulu celebrates its sixth anniversary Dec. 26, with a complimentary glass of Champagne and dessert to those who purchase an entree at dinner (5-10 p.m.). Reservations recommended. 1911 Central Ave.; 704-376-2242.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bits and crumbs

According to Cy Santos (of the defunct Cyros Sushi in the SouthPark area), diners should expect his return with a sushi place - with the addition of "a new Japanese BBQ concept and hot food menu" plus separate bar - in the same spot in the near future. That was at 6601 Morrison Blvd.

Table 274 plans a three-course Champagne Duval-Leroy brunch Dec. 10 with Brut, Rose Prestige and the "Lady Rose" Champagnes and a menu of orange and fennel salad with watercress; prosciutto-wrapped mountain trout and wild mushroom frittata; and chocolate truffles. $35; 274 S. Sharon Amity Road; 704-817-9721.

New on menus

Fern begins this week its "Sundown Sampler" menu, offered 2-5 p.m. each Tuesday-Thursday: For $12, you get up to three items from a list that includes OM burger sliders, Indian Taco, Three Sisters Cake, quinoa salad and more. 1323 Central Ave.; 704-377-1825.

On the new winter menu at Ilios Noche: arancini (fried balls of risotto with Gorgonzola cheese); lamb chops marinated in lemon and Greek herbs; diver scallops with truffled wild mushroom risotto and arugula; and more. 11508 Providence Road; 704-814-9882.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hotel does dine-around

The Renaissance Charlotte SouthPark Hotel has created a deal called "Explore Charlotte's Local Cuisine." The package includes overnight accommodations and appetizer and drink for two at the hotel's Flagstones restaurant, then a $50 credit toward dining at close-by places Del Frisco's, Brio Tuscan Grill or Georges Brasserie. You also get dessert at the hotel restaurant or room service. The cost starts at $189 per room per night and will be offered through Aug. 11, 2012. Info:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Uptown 'cue plot thickens

Bryan Meredith, Sue Johnston and John Duncan plan to open Queen City Q in January at 225 E. 6th St. (where LaVecchia's once was, before moving to Hearst Plaza), and what once were plans for "Queen City 'Que" to open in the next few days in the 7th Street Public Market (that's the very same block) have changed significantly.

Duncan's name you'll recognize from Bonterra, and he was a founding partner at Mac's Speed Shop; Meredith was formerly in software and Johnston has catering experience and will run the catering arm of this.

The 'cue, described as "fresh Q smoked daily," will be done by Dan “Boone” Gibson, says Meredith; he was the first pit master at Mac’s, has worked various other chef positions in town, and is a CPCC culinary grad. The menu aims to include brisket, ribs, chicken and housemade sausage, plus sides, salads and desserts. Hours are planned for 11 a.m.-midnight nightly.

This joins, on the uptown 'cue horizon, City Smoke from restaurateur Pierre Bader, and what had been planned as Queen City 'Que from barbecuer Dan Huntley at the market.

Now, Huntley says his opening a place within the market is off, since his plan to use a gas-and-wood rig under the existing restaurant hood (the same brand as Queen City Q plans to use in the former LaVecchia's space, incidentally) was nixed by county engineers. He now says he'll be parking his food truck -- dubbed Outdoor Feasts ("it's an LLC; I've had it for 10 years" -- on the market's property and serving barbecue from there during market hours Wednesday-Sunday.

(Meredith, of Queen City Q, said he was "shocked" to read news of Huntley's "Queen City 'Que" some weeks ago, since he'd incorporated the name with the state: "I don't really know how all that happened.")

Expect from their place, says Meredith, a rustic look with barn wood and paprika red walls, and prices in the $10-for-lunch range. And as for the sudden proliferation of 'cue uptown: "My basic philosophy is this: Nobody goes to the same place every day of the week. My job... is to make sure one of those days you come to our place. I don't care where you go the other four days ... Try 'em all! Enjoy 'em all."

Coming up wine-y

Domenico's hosts a four-course Italian wine dinner with Zenato wines Dec. 7, with wine educator and importer Clint Harris on hand. Among the courses are risotto with mushrooms and Zenato Cormi, and veal Sorrentino with 2008 Valpolicella Classico Superiore. $40; 8410 Rea Road; 980-819-9723.

D’Vine Wine Café hosts its third annual “Holiday Bubbles Jubilee” Dec. 8, focusing on Champagnes and sparklers. Food ranges from orange-scented French toast with pecan brown butter to seared pork belly with strawberry and sage jam to shrimp satay and there’ll be Mumm, Roederer, Heidsick and more. $59.99; 14815 John J. Delaney Drive; reservations required: 704-369-5050

Vivace and the Wine Vault host a Saturday afternoon wine brunch with Flora Springs wines -- and menu items such as eggs Benedict with duck confit and grilled hanger steak with ricotta gnocchi -- Dec. 10.
$45; 1100 Metropolitan Ave.; 704-548-9463.

Wine lounge uptown

Vintage Wine Lounge holds its grand opening at 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at 317 S. Church St., in uptown's Brevard Court. Expect cheese plates and charcuterie, live music and drink specials. The menu ranges from edamame to panini, and the wine list is mid-range, about $18 to $40 by the bottle, with 2-ounce tastes and 6-ounce glasses of nearly everything offered. Hours at first (management hopes to expand) will be 4-11 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 704-332-3273.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pre-Season's Eatings (sorry)

The Ritz-Carlton (where a 12- by 14- by 10-foot Green Gingerbread House is on display) will offer holiday teas 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18. 210 E. Trade St.; reservations: 704-547-2244.

Blue plans a five-dish food and Champagne tasting Dec. 6, with Moët & Chandon goods and a menu that ranges from tuna crudo with blood oranges and Calabrese peppers with Chandon, California Blancs De Noirs, to roasted rack of Berkshire pork with "Impérial," Rosé Champagne Ả Épernay. $49.95; Hearst Plaza uptown; 704-927-2583.

Del Frisco's offers holiday lunches from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 9, 16 and 23. 4725 Piedmont Row Drive; 704-552-5502.

And coming up at the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge (for all events: 704-248-4100; 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway):

  • Hot Chocolate & Toddies, with live entertainment, 2-5:30 p.m. Fridays-Sundays through December (except for Christmas Day). Adults can add Godiva liqueurs and garnishes to their drinks; $5 without, $8 with.
  • Holiday Afternoon Tea in the main lobby 1-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays through December (except Christmas), with seasonal looseleaf tea blends from Harney & Sons and savory tea sandwiches, traditional confectionaries and other treats. $30 for adults, $15 for ages 5 –12, free for those 4 and younger.
  • Brunch with Santa 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 11, including "a surprise visit from the Grinch." Hmm. Bring cameras; pictures aren't offered. $45 for adults, $20 for ages 5-12, free for those 4 and younger.

Monday, November 21, 2011

D'Vine holidays begin

D'Vine Wine Cafe hosts a holiday "Champagne & Bubbly" food pairing event Dec. 8. 14815 John J. Delaney Drive; 704-369-5050.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Another TV chef en route

Paul Niedermann, head chef at BLT Steak in New York City (who just won on the ninth season of “Hell’s Kitchen”) comes to BLT Steak Charlotte Dec. 3 to do a fixed-price dinner. On the menu: yellow beet carpaccio; fennel-pollen-dusted halibut; grilled N.Y. strip with chipotle sweet potato puree; and more. $100, with wine pairings for an additional $40; 201 E. Trade St.; 704-972-4380.

Updated: Vegan beer dinner

Fern’s first vegan beer dinner will be Dec. 5, with Mother Earth Brewing Company. Five courses will include stuffed oysters with caviar (with Endless River) and housemade sausage with marinated cabbage, mustard greens and stout mustard (with Dark Cloud).

Note: Several readers have asked if the dinner is actually vegan: Yes. Though the menu doesn't put quote marks around words like "oysters," the dinner is completely vegan.

Mother Earth taproom manager Travis Quinn will be on hand for explanations. $45; reservations required; 1323 Central Ave.; 704-377-1825.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Discount giveaway

"Feed It Forward 2011" is a web restaurant-discount offer in which you give $10 "gift cards" at specific restaurants to folks whose e-mails you have -- and they cost you nothing.
It starts Nov. 17 and ends at midnight Dec. 25. You can log onto and enter the e-mail addresses of people you want to give to, designating up to 40 $10 gift cards from the site per day - and they are free. Feed It Forward participants gave more than $32 million in dining experiences in the first three years of the program, the company says.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Updated: Thanksgiving dining options

Bistro La Bon will serve 11 a.m.-4 p.m., with a buffet including prime rib, roasted salmon and turkey, for $22 ($8 for those 10 and younger). 1322 Central Ave.; 704-333-4646.

Ruth's Chris will start serving at 2 p.m., with a three-course meal for $36 (children's menu $14). 222 S. Tryon St., 704-338-9444; 6000 Fairview Road, 704-556-1115.

Mez plans to "recreate your grandmother's cooking" from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., serving traditional dishes (even Waldorf salad and derby pie!) family-style. $24.95 (half off for children) covers all you can eat and unlimited coffee, tea, soda and juice; 210 E. Trade St.; 704-971-2400.

Villa Antonio at 4707 South Blvd. will serve 4-10 p.m., with both traditional dishes and its regular dinner menu. 704-523-1594.

Savannah Red at the Charlotte Marriott City Center will have seatings at noon, 3 and 6 p.m., with a five-course menu for $39.95 ($15.95 for those 6-12). Choices include smoked crab cappuccino; fried turkey breast; grilled ribeye; pumpkin Krispy Kreme bread pudding and more. 100 W. Trade St.; 704-358-6524.

Table 274 will be open noon-7 p.m. with an all-you-can-eat dinner served family style for $24.95 ($10.95 for those younger than 12). On the menu: roasted turkey, smoked prime rib, sides and desserts. 274 S. Sharon Amity Road; 704-817-9721.

Harvest Moon Grille at the Dunhill Hotel uptown will do two seatings, at 2 and 4 p.m., for its traditional dinner, including heritage turkey, Grateful Growers pork, mashed potatoes, chestnut-corn stuffing, carrot and kohlrabi salad, pies and more. $37 (half price for kids 10 and younger); 235 N. Tryon St.; 704-342-1193.

New South Kitchen will serve a buffet 11 a.m.-5 p.m., with orange and sage roasted turkey, roasted ham, rib roast, sides and more for $30. 8140 Providence Road; 704-541-9990.

The Palm at Phillips Place will do a traditional three-course meal for $45 (kids 12 and younger $18.95), plus offering its regular dinner menu. 704-552-7256.

Passion8 will serve 3:30-8 p.m. with three courses for $48 (children younger than 7 eat free), with choices including spicy squash soup with cinnamon creme fraiche; turkey with pancetta-wrapped roulade of local venison sausage; Berkshire bone-in pork chop; pan-seared scallops and Anson Mills grits; and more. 3415 Highway 51 North, Fort Mill, S.C.; 803-802-7455.

Cafe 157 will offer dinner noon-5 p.m. for $28, with a traditional Thanksgiving menu. 157 N. Trade St., Matthews; 704-844-8686.

Lulu will be open 11 a.m.-5 p.m., serving its regular menu, plus a three-course traditional turkey dinner for $30: choice of soup or salad; oven-roasted turkey with dressing, potatoes and root vegetables; and dessert. 1911 Central Ave.; 704-376-2242.

The Charlotte Marriott SouthPark hosts brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and dinner 5-10 p.m. Brunch is $32 ($15 for kids 6-12 and free for 5 and younger), with seatings every half hour. Dinner is $25 ($12 for 6-12 and a kids' menu also offered), with choice of soup or salad; entree of turkey or lamb with sides; and choice of dessert. 2200 Rexford Road; reservations: 704-916-4085.

BLT Steak will do "seasonal classics with an upscale twist," noon to 7 p.m. Chef Ben Miles's prix-fixe menu will include dishes such as butternut squash soup; roasted organic turkey with chestnut stuffing, cranberry-grenadine sauce and rosemary gravy, or roasted prime rib of beef with garlic confit jus, caramelized onion and bacon popovers; family-style sides of mashed potatoes, haricots verts, glazed carrots and Brussels sprouts; and more. $68; 210 E. Trade St.; reservations required at 704-972-4380.

The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge will do brunch 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Seasonal salads, decorative displays, carving stations with regional sides and desserts, plus live music, will be $55, $28 for children 5-12, free for those 4 and younger. Private dining rooms are available for larger groups. Reservations required: 704-248-4100 or at

The Liberty will be open 11 a.m.-6 p.m., offering a three-course menu for $24.95, including choices such as lobster, smoked trout and jumbo lump crab "cake"; pork belly with crispy maple-glazed pig ears; turkey with heirloom sweet potato fingerlings; salt-crusted prime rib; and an all-you-can-eat dessert buffet. Reservations recommended; 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830 or here.

Flatiron Kitchen + Taphouse
will serve 11 a.m.-3 p.m., offering a traditional meal of roast turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin cheesecake and more for $24.95. 215 S. Main St., Davidson; 704-237-3246.

Villa Antonio at 4707 South Blvd. offers a to-go package, serving 6 to 8 people for $135; you pick up on Thanksgiving Day. 704-523-1594.

Table 274 will do dinner to go for those who order before Nov. 20 and can pick up by 10 p.m. Nov. 23. For $24 per person, you get an uncooked turkey, cornbread stuffing, sides and more, all oven-ready. 274 S. Sharon Amity Road; 704-817-9721.

Epic Chophouse will do a menu for 8 to 10 for $110; order by Nov. 21 and pick up Thanksgiving Day between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. 104 S. Main St., Mooresville; 704-230-1720.

Sauceman’s offers smoked turkeys two ways: Bring your own in by 9 p.m. Nov. 22 and the place will smoke it for you for $29.99. Or you can order one (by 9 p.m. Nov. 20) for $10 per pound, and pick it up before 10 a.m. Thanksgiving morning. 228 West Blvd.; 704-333-7070.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Turducken! and more

Brixx at 7th Street Station and Abita Brewing Company collaborate on a pre-Thanksgiving beer dinner Nov. 17, featuring turducken: That's the oddity mentioned this time of year that stuffs a chicken into a duck, then stuffs that into a turkey. It will be accompanied by Abita's Restoration Ale, TurboDog, 25th Anniversary Vanilla Double Dog and Abita Select Imperial Louisiana Oyster Stout, usually only available at the brewery’s tasting room in Abita Springs, La. Tickets are $30 and must be bought in advance; 225 E. 6th St.; 704-347-2749.

At the Pizza Peel on the day before Thanksgiving, all draft beers will go for $3. Meanwhile, new brews there for this week include: NoDa Ramble on Red; Founders Breakfast Stout; Terrapin Wake N Bake; Catawba Valley Mother Trucker; Bells Winter White Ale; Left Hand Milk Stout. 4422 Colwick Road; 704-714-8808.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Next Restaurant Week dates

The 2012 Charlotte Restaurant Weeks, and we use the term "week" loosely, will be Jan. 20-29 and July 20-29, organizer Bruce Hensley announced Monday. That's the three-courses-for-$30 deal that happens twice a year in restaurants in the Charlotte area, in typically slow times for the industry. Hensley also reviewed his numbers on meals served since the event began, in July 2008: A steady uptick of dinners served, from about 35,500 in seven days in 42 restaurants, to about 90,000 in 10 days in 92 restaurants this past July. Hensley estimates an average total bill per dinner of about $46, meaning a total "impact," as they say, of more than $4 million.

(The "week" was extended to 10 days in the third iteration of the event.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

New offerings

Fran's Filling Station has a new lunch menu, including a grilled cheese and mac & cheese section that allows you to order these made traditionally or customized with various add-ons, such as caramelized onions, bacon or roasted jalapenos. Also added: finger foods from the dinner menu (bacon-wrapped tater tots, sweet corn nuggets, marinated goat cheese and roasted tomato bread, etc.), as well as the dinner menu's chicken sandwiches and smaller-scaled burgers. The build-your-own sandwich and salad section has expanded significantly, and there's now soup-and-salad and soup-and-half-sandwich options. New sides include farmers' market cottage cheese with crunchy vegetables and a touch of horseradish, and sweet potato chips; coming up is an expanded fry selection. 2410 Park Road; 704-372-2009.

Domenico's Cucina Italiana at 8410 Rea Road is not, as some have thought, related to the Matthews place of that name. This is where the former Cheez Mo'z was, and opened at the beginning of September, says partner Frank Alessio, who says he also has pizza restaurants in Boone, Hickory and Granite Falls, and is involved at Luigi's and Tony's in Charlotte. Here, he says, he's partners with Luigi Montesano, and the menu ranges from 10 wood-fired pizza options to pastas such as lasagna and housemade ravioli to entrees such as Cornish hen and veal piccata. Lunch weekdays and dinner nightly; 980-819-9723;

On the latest menu at Lulu: warm goat cheese with roasted red peppers on baguette; pan-seared foie gras with roasted sweet potatoes & chanterelles; acorn squash stuffed with Grateful Growers sausage, apples and sage; salmon shepherd’s pie; braised and pulled barbecued rabbit; cod with squid ink pasta; paella; and more. 1911 Central Ave.; 704-376-2242.


Upstream offers 11 combinations for $11 each for 11/11/11, all night long in its bar at 6902 Phillips Place (704-556-7730):
* 11 oysters
* Any quick bite item (that's from a range of noshes on the bar menu) and any martini
* Any sushi roll under $10 and any draft beer
* Any quick bite item and 1/2 a carafe of sake
* Any sushi roll under $10 and 1/2 carafe of sake
* Sushi special of the night and any quick bite item
* Any glass of wine under $10 and any quick bite item
* 6 oysters and any draft beer
* Any quick bite item and a vodka oyster shooter
* Shrimp ceviche and any draft beer
* A glass of prosecco and any dessert

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Osso coming to N.C. Music Factory

Look for Osso, from Alex Myrick and chef Gene Briggs of uptown's Blue, and Noah Lazes of the N.C. Music Factory, to open Dec. 8 or thereabouts, serving regional Italian cuisine in a contemporary space designed by François Fossard. (This photo is by Fossard, who designed Miami Beach's Mansion and SET, Butter in New York City and Charlotte, and more.) Myrick expects the menu will hit all 20 of Italy's regions; Briggs' opening lineup will likely range from the obviously necessary osso buco (veal shank with saffron risotto) to sea bass to wild boar ragu with pappardelle, with all pastas being made in-house.

The place's name followed Fossard's design, which, as Myrick puts it, is like "staring into the belly of the whale," suggesting the Italian word for bone: Osso. A fireplace will bridge the dining room and a lounge area, and "make no mistake," says Myrick: "As the night goes on, it will be a fun place to be....We don't ever want music to overtake your ability to carry on a conversation, but this is New York all the way."

Expect high sound quality and for the place to stay open until 2 a.m. on weekends (and maybe more). Dinner will be served six nights a week (closed Mondays), and the menu will range from small plates for $10-$14 to entrees about $13-$30. Lobster crabcakes, short-rib-stuffed arrancini (Sicilian fried rice balls), tuna crudo with blood orange, Margherita pizza, veal meatballs, sea bass over lobster and pumpkin orzo: You get the picture. Need more? Go here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Top Chef's Hugh Acheson, wine dinners

Celebrity chef Hugh Acheson will do a four-course dinner with wine, collaborating with Cafe Monte chef Ben Philpott, at the restaurant Nov. 15, beginning with a book signing for Acheson's "A New Turn in the South." Acheson, chef/partner at Georgia restaurants Five and Ten, The National and Empire State South, is a five-time James Beard nominee for Best Chef Southeast, has competed in "Top Chef Masters" and is judging "Top Chef" this season (Season 9, in Texas), which began Nov. 2. (How cute is he? Check "Hugh Said It," for a taste.) $50; 6700 Fairview Road; 704-552-1116. (Photo by Sarah Dorio.)

Passion8 hosts a five-course Lioco wine dinner Nov. 15, with the winery's Matt Licklider on hand. $165 per couple; 3415 Highway 51 North, Fort Mill, S.C.; 803-802-7455.

Gallery hosts a Beaujolais Nouveau party 7-9 p.m. Nov. 17, with a tasting of three Beaujolais wines, cheese and live entertainment. $25; 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4100.

Coming up

Nov. 9 is Free Coffee Day at Bruegger's, the kickoff for its fundraising for Children's Miracle Network hospitals: You get free coffee and are asked to donate to the local Levine Children's Hospital.

The fifth annual "Music To Your Mouth" festival runs Nov. 14-20 at Palmetto Bluff resort (a few hours outside Charleston), bringing chefs, vintners, brewers, farmers and other food celebrities in for an array of demonstrations, tastings and more, plus live entertainment. Among the notables: chefs Ashley Christensen and Sean Brock, and writers John T. Edge and Gail Simmons (yes, also of "Top Chef"). A portion of ticket sales will go to nonprofit Second Helpings, which says it's “rescued” more than 5 million pounds of food destined for landfills and provided that food to more than 65 other nonprofit agencies in South Carolina. Tickets run $60-$225, and there are packages; some events are sold out. Info at

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Emeril en route!

Name's out on the upcoming Emeril Lagasse restaurant in uptown Charlotte: It'll be called e2 Emeril's Eatery, located at 135 Levine Avenue of the Arts, at street level.

Press materials call the new e2 a "flagship" and say it will draw from his first Emeril's (1990 in New Orleans) "in its purest form - comfort, warm service and delicious food, with an easy approach."

“With a thriving dining scene, my alma mater Johnson & Wales, the nearby universities and Charlotte’s great cultural and arts community, I feel right at home here,” Lagasse, one of the first national celebrity chefs, said in a press release. (He now has an empire of 12 restaurants, in New Orleans, Las Vegas, Orlando and Bethlehem, Pa., and has joined the latest "Top Chef" as a judge.)

Look for dishes inspired by travels in this country and others, plus "twists" on New Orleans fare made "uniquely Charlotte." Construction is on schedule for the place to open in early 2012, and it will seek LEED certification as energy efficient.

Dine out, do good

Dining Out for Hospice is this month, in honor of National Hospice Month, and lots of area restaurants are participating. Restaurants plan to donate 10 percent of sales on their designated day to Hospice & Palliative Care of the Charlotte Region, Lake Norman or Lincoln County, or to Levine & Dickson Hospice House. More may join in as the month progresses; check for updates. Here's a list:
Nov. 8: Fatz Café in Lincolnton for lunch and dinner.
Nov. 10: Home Place Restaurant in Lincolnton, lunch and dinner; Dressler's at the Metropolitan in Charlotte, lunch and dinner, and Dressler's at Birkdale Village in Huntersville, dinner.
Nov. 14: Hannah's BBQ in Lincolnton, lunch and dinner.
Nov. 15: 36th Street Bakery & Café in Lincolnton, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Nov. 16: Sports Page Food & Spirits in Denver, dinner; North Harbor Club in Davidson, lunch and dinner.
Nov. 17: Home Place Restaurant in Lincolnton, lunch and dinner.
Nov. 21: Sabi Asian Bistro in Davidson, lunch and dinner.
Nov. 28: Brixx at 225 E. Sixth St. in Charlotte, lunch and dinner.
Nov. 29: Pewter Rose Bistro, lunch and dinner; Restaurant X in Davidson, lunch and dinner.

Bring a new, unwrapped toy to BLT Steak from now through Dec. 14 and the toy will go to nonprofit Toys for Tots and you'll get a complimentary dessert with your entree.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Veterans' thanks

For the third consecutive year nationwide, Applebee's expects to serve more than 1 million free thank-you meals to veterans and active duty military. Meals will be served 11 a.m.-midnight Nov. 11, dine-in only, and guests will need to provide proof of service. Questions? Go to or call your nearest restaurant.

Village Tavern will say thank you to veterans and active duty military personnel on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) by offering 50 percent off all food purchases that day, when they show a valid military ID. 4201 Congress St.; 704-552-9983.

2012 predictions begin: What do YOU see working in CLT?

Here are the top 16 predictions for the coming year from Baum + Whiteman, N.Y.-based international consultants for hotels, restaurants and more, edited for brevity. What can you imagine in Charlotte? What would you be most excited about? (And no fair counting the stuff we already - miraculously? - have):
1. Lots of mom-and-pop disappearances -- "The U.S. could lose 8,000-10,000 restaurants in 2012, few of them belonging to chains."
2. Beyond fusion: "Multi-ethnic, multi-sensory dining experience(s) where flavors clash on purpose" such as "zucchini pizza dabbed with hummus and topped with crunchy wasabi peas" and mostly at lower-cost places. Cowfish and the old Cafe Flavors, anyone?
3. "A widening 'flavor gap'": This means independent operators doing more with more ingredients, and corporate places, "because chains’ financial stakes are so high," serving "the fewest number of items to the greatest number of people."
4. Sandwiches with bread alternatives: flattened tostones, waffles, rice cakes.
5. "Innards and odd parts." Tongue, gizzards, pigs' ears, tripe, chicken livers, beef heart, oxtails. And not just in tacos. (This was predicted last year, too.)
6. Housemade vegetable and fruit pickles - "and there’s a kimchee free-for-all ... Kimchee might be the ingredient of the year."
7. Speaking of which: "At last, Korean hits the charts."
8. Diners with money left, willing to spend it on... 8a. Less comfort food and more invention (like mac-and-cheese with pork rillettes and even more gourmet burgers); 8b. Earlier cocktail hours and later dinners; and 8c. "Round things that go pop in the mouth" such as "kimchee- and parmesan-filled arancini, fried goat cheese balls, spherical falafel, meat balls of all kinds ... mini sandwiches ... Japanese snacky things."
9. Beer gardens.
10. Food truck operators opening brick-and-mortar shops.
11. Foragers and "wildcrafters," with "upscale chefs rushing to harvest dinner from the underbrush and under rocks – or assembling dishes that looked like they might be untamed gardens." (Charleston's McCrady's gets a mention here, and specific items to watch for are listed: white acorns, tips of fir needles, “dirt” made of dried and crumbled mushrooms, black olives, sumac, and desserts "growing out of chocolate 'humus'".
12. Japanese craft beers.
13. Less stacked-high presentations and more "dribble art": stringing out ingredients in "caterpillar-like lines."
14. Peruvian food.
15. The real peak in gourmet burgers (B+W says it was wrong to predict a 2011 peak).
16. And three "cautionary trends" -- misuse of words such as "artisan" and "local"; oversupply of farmers' markets; and too many chefs smoking too many foods.

Update: A great question from a commenter leads me to this addition: B&W's 2011 predictions, in a nutshell. I'd say overall there were some good picks, because you have to view it from a national perspective, but misses and premature pushes, too. What say you?
1. Old Italian returns.
2. Business returns to upscale restaurants, especially contemporary ones.
3. Drug stores and convenience stores ramp up "grab-and-go" to compete.
4. Food trucks sprawl.
5. Korean food! And tacos with everything.
6. Gourmet ice pops will be everywhere -- but new flavors (like mango-chile or jicama-orange) will be even more so, in cocktails and sauces.
7. Restaurateurs will "make customers unwelcome" by not taking credit cards, nixing reservations, raising prices on wines by the glass.
8. "Gross is good": "look for chains to concoct more calorie bombs."
9. Breakfast all the time.
10. Grits as an all-purpose starch.
11. Gluten-free menus and other -free stuff.
12. "Impromptu" food places popping up all over.
13. Sandwiches by other names, cemitas to baos.
14. Out in '11: artisan hot dogs, gourmet burgers, bacon on everything, cupcakes.
15. More and more couponing.

Price's is Serious

Serious Eats, which became popular as a website, has a book out, subtitled "A comprehensive guide to making & eating delicious food wherever you are." Which is pretty ambitious. It includes recipes, yes, but also lots of stops across the country for ... well, what founder Ed Levine would call "serious eats." Three guesses on what Charlotte place makes it, and 2 1/2 don't count -- why, yes! It IS Price's Chicken Coop. "Joining the ranks in the deep-fried corner of our fried-chicken pantheon," the note about the takeout spot begins, and continues with phrases such as "pleasingly chaotic" and "my friend Kathleen Purvis" exclaiming "I don't know why anyone orders anything at Price's but thighs and gizzards." Nuff said, yes?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bits and crumbs

Flatiron Kitchen + Taphouse now offers $9 lunch specials that include a (nonalcoholic) drink. Among them: meatloaf sandwich with tobacco onions and Yukon Gold chips (Mondays); oven-roasted turkey with whipped potatoes and Brussels sprouts (Thursdays); vegetable frittata (Sundays) and more.

LongHorn recently added new lunch combinations starting at $7.99, including half sandwich and soup or salad combos, such as braised barbecue beef with loaded baked potato soup, or strawberry chicken salad with French onion soup.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tasting Nov. 12

Imani Colclough plans a tasting of "soul fusion cuisine" dishes Nov. 12 at the Charlotte Museum of History, and hopes to open a restaurant called Imani's Soul Fusion in Charlotte in spring 2012. On Nov. 12, live entertainment will include Northwest School of the Arts students (a portion of proceeds will go to the school), and soul and R&B musician Rudy Currence. Tickets are $33; 3500 Shamrock Drive. Info: 704-345-3877.

Tuscan weekend coming

"Festa Italiana Tuscany Weekend" is Nov. 5-6: Tuscan chefs Mimma Ferando and Franca Gatteschi, with Blue executive chef Gene Briggs and John Cuttita of Delectables by Holly, will star over the course of two events, with proceeds benefitting Holy Angels, Nevins Center and the St. Anthony Foundation of Charlotte.

Nov. 5 is a wine reception and cruise, with four-course wine dinner, chef demos and live music, on Lake Norman, for $95. Nov. 6, Blue hosts a reception and four-course wine dinner, plus live music and live and silent auctions; also $95 per person (attend both events for $170). Tickets are offered at

Wine tasting, dinner deals

A pinot noir tasting Nov. 7 at Founders Hall will give you 20-plus varieties to try in preparation for Thanksgiving. Cost for the Wine Vault event is $25, but that's erased if you buy a case, and Aria will offer three courses for $30 for tasters, and charge no corkage fee for Wine Vault wines you buy that night. Reservations: 704-548-9463.

Also coming up from the Vault: Its eighth annual Domaine Serene dinner Nov. 15, will convene in the kitchen of Chef Charles Catering, where chef Charles Semail can answer questions as he prepares the meal. It's at 605 Phillip Davis Drive. Reservations: 704-548-9463.

Meanwhile, Table 274 will offer 25 percent off select bottles of wines on its "Date Night" Nov. 10 and donate 15 percent of total dinner sales that night to Cotswold Elementary. 274 South Sharon Amity Road; 704-817-9721.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Wes Morris returns with barbecue restaurant

Fans of the old Carolina Country Barbecue -- which began in Gastonia in the mid '70s, eventually added Charlotte locations, toyed with a franchise and eventually closed all sites -- will be excited to hear this: Wes Morris, whose family opened the first, is back.

He, along with his younger brother Mark and Wes's son Tyler, has opened Ole Carolina Barbecue at 1011 Union Road in Gastonia. (Hard-core fans will note this is just down the road from the original location at 1101 Union Road.) Dad David is 87, says Wes Morris, and "comes in every day for lunch."

It's generally the same stuff, says Wes Morris: pork butts smoked over gas and wood, served with the same recipe of Western N.C.-style, ketchup-based sauce. "There's two things in my freezer," he says: "French fries and Tony's Ice Cream." A pulled pork sandwich with fries goes for $5.19, a small pork plate is $6.50 and a full rack of ribs is $23. Morris says they're hand-bottling the sauce and selling it at the restaurant, and will sell online when the website's up, which should be in a few weeks. The restaurant is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday; 704-215-5293.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bar Cocoa brunch

The Ritz-Carlton's Bar Cocoa now offers weekend brunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Three courses, including a Bar Cocoa dessert, are $28, including coffee, and you can also order a la carte. Among ebtree choices: egg white frittata with Roma tomatoes, mozzarella and basil; crab cake eggs Benedict; steak frites; and more. 201 E. Trade St.; 704-547-2244.

Coming up

Savannah Red hosts a five-course Harvest Wine Dinner Oct. 28, with the wines of Row Eleven and Stratton Lummis. $55; 100 W. Trade St.; 704-358-6524.

Paco's Tacos & Tequila, FS Food Group and Herradura Tequila offer a four-course Tex-Mex meal Nov. 2 from chefs Tim Groody and Jared Cannon, paired with five tequila cocktails from beverage director Ashli Cohen. Some of the proceeds will benefit Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center. $45; 704-716-8226.

Blue offers a wine and cheese tasting and silent auction Nov. 2, with all proceeds supporting programs at the Presbyterian Cancer Rehabilitation and Wellness. (Those include yoga, massage, exercise and nutrition services.) Admission is a $30 donation; 214 N. Tryon St.; 704-927-2583.

The Palm hosts a four-course dinner paired with Macallan Scotch on Nov. 4 for $120 ($95 for 837 Club members). 6705-B Phillips Place Court; 704-552-7450.

Del Frisco's does a Montes wine dinner Nov. 4 with winemaker Aurelio Montes in attendance. Among the fare: Pork belly with diver scallop and Alpha “M” Cabernet Sauvignon and "Aurelio Selection" Napa Angel Cabernet Sauvignon; espresso-rubbed filet mignon with Folly Syrah and "Aurelio Selection" Star Angel Syrah; and more. $99; 4725 Piedmont Row Drive; 704-552-5502.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Check in on Facebook, Foursquare or Yelp if you're uptown at certain EpiCentre locations (210 E. Trade St.) and you can get Thursday discounts. Here's how it works: You check in, and you're eligible for specials such as these:

* Free garlic knots with $5 purchase or more at Libretto’s

* Buy one get one free flatbread in the Pub or Saloon at BlackFinn

* Half-price appetizers at Mez

* Free queso chipotle dip with the purchase of an entrée at Vida

More info:

Jimmy John's for a buck?

Charlotte-area Jimmy John’s host Customer Appreciation Day 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday with several sandwiches (numbers 1-6 on the menu) for $1. "Charlotte-area" in this case is "all locations in Charlotte, Concord, Matthews, Mooresville and Boone," says the press material, which adds the deal is one per customer.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Zagat's ranks Charlotte's top 10 restaurants

Zagat's "America's Top Restaurants" lists the top 10 places in each of 45 areas, compiled from diners' votes and comments, plus a list of 10 "other noteworthy places."

Charlotte's top 10 in food rankings, according to Zagat voters:

McNinch House
Fig Tree
Good Food on Montford
Carpe Diem
Capital Grille
Soul Gastrolounge

The rest of the list:
Bad Daddy's
Harvest Moon Grille
Mac's Speed Shop
Midwood Smokehouse
P.F. Chang's

Survey results released by Zagat at the same time have some interesting Charlotte numbers. Those voting on Charlotte restaurants:

* Say they eat out 3.2 times a week, compared to Houston's 4, Boston's 2.5 and the U.S. average of 3.1.

* Say they tip 19.5 percent, compared to San Francisco's 18.6, New Orleans's 19.7 and the U.S. average of 19.2.

* Top the list of all surveyed areas in one item: 34 percent say they follow restaurants and/or food trucks via social media. The U.S. average is 21 percent and the low is Long Island at 11.

* Are pretty close to national averages on how much they're going out to eat, compared to last year: 21 percent say more, 59 the same and 20 percent less (just a few points off averages), while 24 percent say they're spending more, 63 the same and 13 less.

* Are pretty tolerant, comparatively, of diners who text, tweet or talk on phones, or photograph food and/or companions. Fifty five percent (only Vegas and New Orleans were lower) find it "rude and inappropriate" to use cellphones, with 41 percent (second only to New Orleans) find it "OK in moderation." Connecticut folk just won't have it: 71 percent find it rude. U.S. averages are 63 and 34. On pictures: 70 percent find it OK in moderation and 18 percent perfectly acceptable. Easterners are an angry bunch on this count: 19 percent of Westchester and the Hudson Valley diners find it rude and inappropriate, and Connecticut, Long Island, New York City and New Jersey voters fall close behind, while 28 percent of those chill New Orleansians deem it perfectly acceptable.

Note: I assist in this book in this way: I synopsize voter quotes and help keep the list of restaurants current. Some restaurants don't gain enough voter comments to make the cutoff; some, such as Del Frisco's, are included in a national chain review. Voters decide all rankings and scores, and restaurants choose their own categories for cuisine (so you'll see, for example, "American," "Continental" and "Eclectic").

Pizza tossing

Siler Chapman, who's a three-time world pizza acrobatic champion, now tosses dough -- that's what he does -- at the Indian Land Donatos each Friday night. He's been on Ellen Degeneres's show as well as "Today" and Food Network shows displaying his skills, and he's also done a children's book, "Tony and the World Pizza Champions," which will be for sale at the shows.
Shows start at 6 and 7:30 p.m.. 9931 Highway 521 in Fort Mill, S.C.; 803-547-1104.
Here's a taste of his work:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bernardin's opens Oct. 25

Chef Freddy Lee plans to open Bernardin's (pronounced ber-NAR-din's) Tuesday in the former Ratcliffe spot at 435 S. Tryon St. uptown, serving lunch ($8-$15) 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and dinner ($15-$30) 5-10 p.m.

“We were delighted when the Ratcliffe flower shop space became available," said Lee in a press release. He is a Culinary Institute of America graduate who has run Bernardin's in Winston-Salem since 1992. "We understand the limitations of an historic property, but we also understand the opportunity to create a memorable dining experience by capitalizing on the history of the building."

Lee said he's made a few changes, such as taking up the carpet to reveal the original slate floor, and plans to convert the small balcony overlooking the dining room into a second private dining space.

The menu, similar to Winston-Salem's, will have such dishes as horseradish-crisped salmon, and ostrich from Davie County. It will be contemporary American, with Asian and Indian influences.

What's Charlotte's signature dish?

Harvest Moon Grille is of the opinion that we'd better pony up a Charlotte Signature Dish before all those Democratic National Conventioneers get here. You in?

The restaurant folks "challenge our fellow Charlotteans to create a Charlotte Signature Dish that you feel best represents Charlotte ... (It) must not only be delicious, it must express the Queen City, who we are, what we are known for, and what Charlotte is all about. Put it all on the plate. All ingredients must be local."

You can submit entries until midnight March 15. Describe your entry (plus a photo, if possible), include the recipe and list contact information, including home and work phone numbers, and email to You can also snail-mail it to Harvest Moon Grille, Attn: Signature Dish of Charlotte, 235 N. Tryon St., Charlotte NC 28202.

Judges (to be determined) will choose three finalists, and announce the winner May 18. Grand prize winner gets a free night at the Dunhill (the hotel that houses Harvest Moon), and dinner that night and breakfast the next morning at the restaurant. The winning dish will go on the menu. The second-place winner gets dinner for two; third place is worth a weekend brunch for two.

Wine room shifts; one closes

Yn in Dilworth, an offshoot of the next-door 131 Main, has become Sidekicks, a sports bar concept. "We were competing against ourselves," explains manager Mel Funk, since the menu was dishes from 131 Main; now the fare is fresh-battered chicken tenders, wings, baked subs, nachos, cheese fries, fried shrimp and the like. Dishes still come out of the 131 Main kitchen. If you loved the wines and food from Yn, you can get those (but not the flights) at 131 Main.

Sidekicks has big-screen TVs, bottled beers, a few frozen drinks and some wines, plus upscale liquors. Look for live entertainment to come, along with event nights, from karaoke to trivia. 1315 East Blvd.; 704-343-0131 (this rings at 131 Main; phone's not yet in the new space).

Also gone: Dolcetto Wine Room at Piedmont Town Center.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wine dinners

Table 274 hosts a four-course Gimenez Riili wine dinner Oct. 25, for $45. Among the offerings: roasted Poulet Rouge with 2008 Malbec; pork osso buco with chorizo and smoked cheddar bread pudding and 2007 Malbec; and more. 274 South Sharon Amity Road; 704-817-9721.

Bonterra (recently named one of online-reservation-site Open Table's 50 restaurants with the best wine lists) offers a Switchback Ridge casual food and wine pairing event Nov. 17 for $60. Among the fare: beef carpaccio and filet with cheddar spring rolls with 2009 Merlot, and pork roulade and roasted lamb lollipops with 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. 1829 Cleveland Ave.; 704-333-9463.

Links of the week

I have never loved former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni more than in this piece. My eyes are in solidarity with him (read it; it'll make sense then).

I have never even liked Alton Brown much, until this, in which he coaches us all on completely faking it -- with wine, with cheese, with life.

Just in time for Halloween giving: McSweeney's latest "Lucky Peach" (and since my mom's a Lebanon bologna fan, I'm already excited by the sneak peek you get here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More new uptown " 'Que"

Look for Queen City ’Que: Shrine of Fine Swine to open at the 7th Street Public Market when that venue gets up and running. That’s likely to be mid- to late-November, says Christy Shi, executive director of the nonprofit Charlotte City Market. Longtime barbecuer/caterer/restaurateur Dan Huntley plans to offer pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs, smoked chicken and boudin balls at the Shrine: “like souped-up hush puppies” is how he describes the rice-and-pork-sausage fried goodies.

He’ll be ensconced in the former Reid’s kitchen (at 225 E. 7th St.), with a gas-and-wood cooker that’s been approved for the space. The market will offer a wide array of produce and proteins, with local stuffs emphasized, and conversations are ongoing about how everything will work. Customers might be able to buy food and ask Huntley to cook it; there might be some kitchen-sharing; and other approaches. Various vendors will offer grab-and-go foods as well, and there’ll be open seating for those buyers, as well.

Huntley says he hopes to put a whole hog outside on a rotisserie and wood-fired grill he got in Argentina to demo some barbecuing, as well, and that there’s some discussion about marketing barbecue sauces with Democratic National Convention labels. For the convention, market folks “want people to come in there and see we live in pig country here, and it’s high art,” he says. “I like to think I can bring some of the funk” to Charlotte barbecue.

Bites and a bit... of Moonshine

Halcyon at the uptown Mint Museum hosts "Bites and a Bit of Moonshine" Oct. 20 on its patio, starting at 6 p.m. Specialty cocktails by Maggie Ruppert and five small plates from chef Marc Jacksina will accompany live bluegrass by Jim Garrett and the Popcorn Sippers. "Junior's Repeal" is Midnight Moon Moonshine with house-brandied persimmon, sugar, grapefruit rind and grapefruit bitters; Pumpkin Potcheen combines Troy & Sons Moonshine with macerated pumpkin and seasonal spices; and Shanghai Speakeasy pairs Catdaddy Moonshine with oolong tea, saffron, N.C. honey and tamarind. Each are $11. Plates include local pork belly with sweet potato hash ($13); pumpkin crepes with gingerbread vinaigrette ($11); a slider duo ($15); and more. 500 S. Tryon St.; 704-910-0865.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Discounts, freebies

UPDATED: Bruegger’s does a Bottomless Mug Campaign every year: Pay $149 and get a travel mug and card/keytag entitling you to free and limitless refills of coffee, tea or soft drinks during the following year. For each mug bought between Oct. 27 and Jan. 31, Bruegger's will donate $2 to Children's Miracle Network. A Free Coffee Day kickoff is Nov. 9: You get a free cup and are asked to make a donation to Levine Children's Hospital in return.

Charlotte Qdoba will offer a free side of chips and three-cheese queso or guacamole to all customers all day Oct. 19. The giveaway is to let diners know “how much we appreciate their continued patronage," said area franchise owner Tom Lewison in a press release.

Friday, October 14, 2011

New tapas come uptown

Updated: Longtime Charlotte restaurateur Augusto Conte, saying he wants to stay innovative and relevant uptown, will change his Coco Osteria to a Spanish tapas restaurant after the holidays, probably in the first weeks of January. The restaurant at the Hearst Plaza, to be called Malabar Spanish Tapas, will offer traditional Spanish small plates for about $4 to $10, with a few reaching $14. Chef and collaborator Gabriele Grigolon will lead the kitchen, and the two have been working on the concept for about six months, said Conte.

In turn, in early January, Conte plans to open Trattoria Antica in the former Marino's spot in Waxhaw. Expect Italian "comfort food" in a relaxed atmosphere and entered in the $11 to $20 range.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Burgers coming uptown

American Roadside Burgers plans its grand opening at 440 S. Church St. uptown for 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Oct. 22. Burgers made with Sterling Silver beef, as well as turkey and veggie options, plus chicken sandwiches, wings and salads are keynotes. (A second location, 5821 Fairview Road near SouthPark, is slated to open this spring.)

The opening will offer specials through the day, live music, free ice cream for kids, and a display of "classic and unique" cars and motorcycles, such as a Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide Custom, which happens to be the grand prize in American Roadside’s National Hamburger Day Giveaway (that's May 28). You can enter at the restaurant, or online at


The 8th Annual Wine Vault Beerfest is 2-5 p.m. Oct. 16, with unlimited tastings of 75 beers (from Trappist Ales from Belgium to porters from Asheville), food from the neighboring Boardwalk Billy's, live music and a $20 price tag if you buy before Oct. 15 ($15 with a UNCC ID; $25 at the door). The event benefits UNC Charlotte's biology and economic departments. Info: Karen at 704-548-9463. 9009 J.M. Keynes Drive.

Coming up: 14th birthday, wine dinners

Cosmos Cafe plans a weeklong party as it turns 14, at both the original uptown location and in Ballantyne: Oct. 17-22, a three-course dinner (with entree choices including Greek chicken, pan-seared tilapia and more) will be $14, as will selected bottles of wine. 300 N. College St., 704-372-3553; and 8420 Rea Road, 704-544-5268.

Alton’s Kitchen & Cocktails hosts a Charles Smith five-course wine dinner Oct. 27, with courses such as tuna poke with Kung Fu Girl Riesling, and braised lamb pot with Boom Boom! Syrah. $40; 19918 North Cove Road in Cornelius; 704-655-2727.

D'Vine Wine Cafe offers a Santa Ema wine dinner, also on Oct. 27, with a menu including steak pie with truffled potatoes and
2006 Santa Ema Catalina; seared duck breast with 2007 Santa Ema Amplus Carignan; and more. $49.99; 704-369-5050; 14815 John J. Delaney Drive.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Taste of the World and other followups

Charlotte East's "Taste of the World" went off smoothly Oct. 6, I'm told, the ninth annual version of this tour of area restaurants showing the multiplicity and range of world cuisines they offer. Here, Mai Duong, co-owner of Ben Thanh serves guests. Photo by Nancy Pierce.

Vida raised just over $600 Oct. 4 (National Taco Day, of course) with a taco deal that benefitted Levine Children's Hospital.

Mac's Speed Shop won an invitation to the Kansas City Barbecue Society's American Royal World Championship at the "Autumn Treasures Grill'n and Chill'n" event in Waxhaw last weekend, winning the chicken category, placing second in brisket and pork and third in ribs.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dining as covert operation

Fans of super secret decoder rings and the like may want to check out the Patron Social Club's Secret Dining Society, which masterminds dinners with celeb chefs in extravagant spaces but keeps the details (including what city the dinner will be in) to itself. For the upcoming one, the city will be announced in about seven days, and riddle will be revealed to club members, who then answer it for the possibility of getting a seat. Previous dinners include chef Marcus Samuelsson and a historic mansion in New York, and Mexican-cooking star Rick Bayless in Chicago. (Tequila people are just so much fun.) You can join for free (be sure to uncheck the we'll-swamp-you-with-email box) here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Plaza Midwood gets new vegetarian spot

Look for the vegetarian Fern to open for lunch this Wednesday (Oct. 12) at 1323 Central Ave. That's the former Something Classic Cafe spot, and this is indeed from those same folks; chef Alyssa Gorelick has worked with Marc Jacksina at sibling Halcyon. This menu, chock full of vegan dishes and options, will sport Indian/Mediterranean/Southwestern influences, I'm told, and serve lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Signature items include the OM Burger (a veggie burger with smoked chow-chow and pickled fennel), Indian Tacos (traditional fry bread with pinto bean and squash chili) and Goat Cheese cannelloni (fresh whole wheat pasta stuffed with housemade goat’s milk ricotta and butternut squash puree), and prices will run about $6-$14.; 704-377-1825.

Coming up

Blue offers a wine and food pairing Oct. 11, with Ridge Vineyards. Look for smoked celery root veloute with lump crab and 2009 Estate Monte Bello Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay; duck Bolognese over housemade tagliatelle pasta with 2009 Three Valleys Sonoma County Zinfandel; and more. $59.95; Hearst Plaza uptown; 704-927-2583.

Chima hosts a wine dinner Oct. 11 comparing the attributes of wines from Bodega Catena Zapata (Argentina) and Vina Cousino Macul (Chile), in the context of a six-course, rodizio-style meal. $59; reservations at Bond Street Wines: 704-521-1353.

The Palm will have a Trefethen wine dinner Oct. 18, with John Harrington from the winery as host. Cost is $120 ($97 for 837 Club members); reservations required at 704-552-7450. 6705-B Phillips Place Court.

Passion8 plans a "Mother & Son Dinner Date" Oct. 27: three courses for $68 for two people. Also, the bistro is celebrating its fourth anniversary with some 4-centric deals: Tuesday through Thursdays through the month, diners can get some special-choice $4 glasses of wine 5-7 p.m., and four courses for $44. 3415 Highway 51 N., Fort Mill; 803-802-7455.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sustainable awards

Chef Chris Ivens-Brown of Compass Group in Charlotte is among 15 finalists for the 2011 Chefs Collaborative Sustainability Awards, to be awarded Oct. 24 in New Orleans during the third annual Chefs Collaborative National Summit. About 300 "sustainability-minded" chefs and food professionals are expected at the summit. The award recognizes chefs who have "played an exemplary role in changing the sustainable food landscape." Ivens-Brown is nominated in the "Sustainer" category (seeking a chef who is both "a great mentor" and "a model ... through his/her purchases of seasonal, sustainable ingredients and the transformation of these ingredients into delicious food." He's up against Mike Lata of FIG in Charleston; Frank Brigsten of Brigsten's in New Orleans; Michael Foust of the Farmhouse in Kansas City, Mo.; Sam Hayward of Fore Street in Portland, Maine; and Donald Miller, executive chef at the University of Notre Dame.
Other categories are Pathfinder (for visionaries/catalysts "beyond the kitchen") and Foodshed Champion (for producers noted for working with chefs and valuing a clean environment and sustainable production). More info:

On tables and in glasses now

Pumpkin souffle (right) is back at Bonterra; 1829 Cleveland Ave.; 704-333-9463.

Zebra offers a Friday-night tasting tonight (Oct. 7) of more than 30 of its by-the-glass list. Choose four for $10, 5:30-7:30 p.m. There's also a long list of IPAs, porters, ales and more offered at half price during the same time. 4521 Sharon Road; 704-442-9525.

Through Nov. 30 at the Palm, a special dinner for two -- an 18-ounce New York Strip and two Nova Scotia lobster tails, plus two appetizers and sides -- goes for $85 (the chain turned 85 this year). Also on special: three-course anniversary dinner for $49.85 per person. 6705-B Phillips Place Court; 704-552-7256.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New menus at Halcyon

Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth uptown has new menus, many named with chef Marc Jacksina's notable wry twist: There's "Quail Yea" ($22, stuffed with pimento cheese and served with "angeled egg"), and "Homage to Hominy" ($12, braised house-cured pork belly with stewed Anson Mills hominy and ham hock broth). There's also herbed gnocchi with tomatoes and foraged mushrooms ($18), a sharing plate that includes smoked ham hock terrine, lamb livermush, green tomato chow chow and more ($16), and a clam bake of Olde Salt clams with skillet potatoes, bacon and fried sage Worcestershire butter ($15), plus the "Phwah Burger," which pairs house-ground rib, chuck and ribeye with foie gras stuffed with a local farm egg and adds bacon, aioli and more (with truffled fries, $25, with greens, $26). Lunch/brunch notables: that lamb livermush in sliders (using housemade biscuits with Tabasco aioli) and chicken and sweet potato waffles. Expect more frequent menu changes, says the chef. At the Mint, 500 S. Tryon St.; 704-910-0865.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bourbon dinner; Saintsbury social

Mimosa Grill hosts a bourbon dinner Oct. 8 with a raffle (prizes include cooking classes, dinner for two, something from Woodford Reserve and more), whose proceeds will go to national hunger relief group Share Our Strength. On the menu: "A Study of Apples" (pickled, smoked, raw, dehydrated, liquified, with Early Times 354); huckleberry-sage-brushed squab with Jack Daniels Single Barrel; brown-sugar-glazed pork cheeks with Woodford Reserve; and more. 327 S. Tryon St.; 704-343-0700.

BLT Steak offers a five-course tasting of Saintsbury wines with food pairings Oct. 18, with the vineyard's Dick Ward leading the tasting. $40; 201 E. Trade St.; reservations required at 704-972-4380.

1 Melting Pot moving

The Melting Pot will relocate its University location to the Lake Norman area, specifically 16625 Statesville Road in Huntersville, this fall. The new location is larger, with expanded private party and patio areas, and will offer a separate bar menu, as well.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Nick's Steakhouse uptown closed

Nick's Steak and Taphouse has closed uptown at 225 E. 6th St. (the former LaVecchia's spot). Managing partner Clyde Gilfallan said the place just didn't catch on, and the owners are in negotiations to sell the business, with its accompanying five-year lease. The Nick's Steak and Taphouse in Gastonia is still open, however, as is the relocated LaVecchia's in uptown (at the Hearst Tower), and that restaurant will debut a new lunch menu, most likely next week, said Gilfallan. Expect a more midscale lunch menu than its most recent one, with chef Michael Rayfield doing salads, sandwiches, light pastas, "and a burger or two."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Charleston's Brock wastes not and other links

A really nice story on chef Sean Brock - of newly hot Husk and appreciated-for-some-time McCrady's in Charleston - is here.

A feel-good story about kids, gardens and Halcyon chef Marc Jacksina is here. Gazpacho! (So hurry.)

Cheeses, and smuggling, in Italy: "Like everyone who traveled to get to the event, I came with an empty bag, which I stuffed with heavy blocks of cheese," here.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Scary pancakes and other fall flavors

IHOP offers special pancakes for October: pumpkin pancakes, all-you-can-eat buttermilk pancakes, and Scary Face Pancakes, with a daylong giveaway of the last to kids 12 and younger 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Oct. 28 (one per kid).

And Bruegger's now offers pumpkin spice coffee for the fall, along with baked apple bagels and honey walnut cream cheese in what the place calls a Baker's Choice pairing, offered through Nov. 22. The chain also has a Harvest Ciabatta panini (roasted turkey and green apple), and has brought back its 4 for $4 breakfast sandwich menu for a limited time.

Eat tacos, do good

Vida plans a fundraiser for Oct. 4 (that's Tuesday), taking advantage of National Taco Day. For every taco sold that day, Vida will donate a dollar to Levine Children's Hospital, and then match the day's total in an additional donation to Levine. By the way, each Tuesday from 5-7 p.m., Vida does "Vida Sociale," which offers $2 a la carte tacos, with half a dozen varieties of filling. 210 E. Trade St.; 704-971-8432.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Oktoberfest, kind of

BlackFinn American Saloon has German-ed up its menu for Oktoberfest, beginning Friday, with beer cheese soup, potato pancakes, beer-braised bratwurst platter, sauteed pork chop and pan-fried chicken schnitzel, plus apple strudel offered through Oct. 30. 210 E. Trade St.; 704-971-4440.

Maitakes, wine and wine

Zebra chef-owner Jim Alexander notes he got maitake mushrooms (also called "hen of the woods") in this week that are "huge ... so big we are displaying them in the bar!" He's serving them all week, over risotto with shaved Reggiano Parmesan cheese with red Burgundy, for example. 4521 Sharon Road; 704-442-9525.

hosts a Torbreck dinner Oct. 7 with the Wine Vault. On the menu: smoked salmon with Torbreck Steading; sliced Cajun ribeye with Woodcutters Shiraz; steak frites and Descendant; and more. $100; reservations: 704-548-9463.

Zink offers a five-course Duckhorn Vineyards dinner Oct. 12, with someone from the winery there to answer questions. The menu includes butter-poached Maine lobster tail with 2009 Migration Chardonnay; Snake River Farm Berkshire pork belly trio with 2008 Merlot and 2004 "Three Palms" Merlot; Painted Hills N.Y. strip with 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2004 Howell Mountain Meritage Blend; and more. $85; 704-909-5500; 4310 Sharon Road.

Dine out, do good

Plan now for the Oct. 22 Third Annual Oyster Bash at Upstream, with a portion of proceeds benefitting national hunger relief group Share Our Strength. For $95, you get to try 10 varieties of coldwater oysters from around the continent, paired with 10 wines and sparkling wines. Three wine experts will declare what they think is the best pairing of the evening, as will guests, and votes from both will be counted to declare a winner. Guests will be in the running for a $100 Harper's gift certificate.

Planned offerings include Rappahannocks from Topping, Va.; Old Salts from Chincoteague Bay, Va.; York Rivers from (surprise) York River, Va.; Kusshis from British Columbia; Malpeques from Prince Edward Island; and more, plus Droin Chablis, Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc, La Marca Prosecco, Domaine du Quilla Muscadet, Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc and other paired wines.

Reservations for the night are required: 704-556-7730; 6902 Phillips Place. (Malpeque oyster photo from

Tune in tomorrow

I'll be with debonair host Mike Collins and fellow restaurant writers on "Charlotte Talks" on WFAE (90.7 FM) 9-10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 30. You can listen online as well, here.

Dine out, do good

Terrace Cafe at SouthPark offers a six-course wine dinner Oct. 5 that benefits Charlotte Family Housing. Among the courses: bourbon-glazed pork belly with 209 Oliverhill Shiraz; boursin-stuffed squash blossoms with White Oak Sauvignon Blanc; Korean short rib with 2009 Llama Malbec; and more. $55; 704-554-6177; 4625 Piedmont Row Drive.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Restaurant is animal-welfare-approved

Grazin' in Hudson, N.Y., is scheduled to open Oct. 1 as the first "Animal Welfare Approved Restaurant" in the country. That means all meat, dairy and egg products used at the restaurant come from AWA-listed farms. Animal Welfare Approved is a national nonprofit that audits and certifies farmers raising their animals outdoors on pasture or range, sustainability. (For more on the standards, check the AWA website.)

Dan Gibson and his family own and operate the restaurant, along with Grazin' Angus Acres farm, which raises grass-fed and -finished Black Angus beef. "For some time now, I have dreamed about opening a truly sustainable restaurant," Gibson said in a press release. "And as we only use local suppliers, most of our ingredients will have traveled less than 11 miles from farm to plate, minimizing the carbon footprint of every meal." The place will make its own butter and ice creams, and get its baked goods from another AWA approved source.

The restaurant is at 717 Warren St.;

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bernardin's coming to Uptown

And no, it's not an outpost of chef/celebrity Eric Ripert's Le Bernardin in New York. Chef-owner Freddy Lee, who's opening this second location of his Winston-Salem restaurant, did cook for awhile at Le Bernardin - but that was back in the mid-80s, when Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze had the place. "I don't know Eric Ripert," says Lee. "He came way after that."

Lee, 44, has owned the Winston-Salem restaurant - whose name he and staff pronounce "ber-NAR-din's" - with his brother Terry since 1992. "We've been down here a long time." About a year and a half ago, they moved it from its original site to the historic Zevely House. That's why, he says, the uptown spot at 435 S. Tryon St., formerly the Ratcliffe Florist building, was so attractive. "It's a historic house, like ours in Winston-Salem." They signed the lease with Wells Fargo two or three months ago, he said, and did some renovation. The menu at first will be very similar to his original, which he says is contemporary American with Asian influences, and "completely different" from Ripert's. His family came from Hong Kong and he spent time in India, as well as some months cooking in New York City. He is a Culinary Institute of America grad and says he spent time with Le Coze, as well as with Steven Mellina at Manhattan Ocean Club and at Tribeca Grill.

Lee hopes to open in three weeks or so - which will be about a week before Ripert, interestingly, comes to Charlotte for an Oct. 26 appearance with chef/celeb Anthony Bourdain. Twitter was alive with comments, with people suggesting to Ripert that he rename his place "Le Original Bernardin" and that he send Lee a dead fish wrapped in a Le Bernardin menu. (Ah, Twitter. A subtle place.) Ripert tweeted that "They will deal w MLC my business partner," then clarified that was Maguy Le Coze.

Asked if he'd heard from anyone from Le Bernardin's yet, Lee said, "Why would they call me? I pronounce it 'ber-NAR-din's'."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wine dinner

Mama Ricotta’s hosts Tim Grace, founder of Il Molino di Grace winery, for a wine dinner Oct. 5. Tim Groody, corporate chef for FS Food Group, will do five courses paired with Grace's wines plus two Italian sparkling wines. Among the highlights: Chianti Classico Riserva 2005 and wild boar; risotto al salto with mussels and scallops with Chianti Classico 2006; and grilled Tuscan short ribs with Il Volano (a super Tuscan).
$65, with a shot at a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant and a signed bottle of Il Molino di Grace; 704-343-0148. 601 S. Kings Drive.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rippington's back

Rippington's Restaurant celebrates a "Grand Reopening" Sept. 25 after remodeling (adding a beer and wine bar) with a charity benefit for the Wounded Warriors Project. A $15 donation gets you in, with samples of new bar menu dishes, plus three drink tickets, a chance at door prizes and other ways to support the Project, which helps with programs and services for severely injured service members. 109 W. South Main St., Waxhaw; 704-843-4806.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Steakhouse is opening uptown

Nick's Steak and Taphouse, billed as uptown's first mid-priced steakhouse, is open at 7th Street Station (225 E. 6th St.; 980-819-9240), with prime rib and other steaks, bacon-wrapped grilled swordfish, butter-poached salmon, 16 craft beers on tap, and more. Steaks come with salad and sides and run about $22-$27.

In case you've lost track of the LaVecchia Restaurant Group's movements, let me refresh you. That site used to house LaVecchia's, until that operation moved to the Hearst Tower (across from Luce) in March, and got a menu and wine list upgrade.

Also within the past year or so, the group:
* Opened Jax Backstreet Tavern in Belmont.
* Opened Battleground Steakhouse in Kings Mountain.
* Opened Nick's Steak and Taphouse in Gastonia.
(It also has Nix Burger & Brew uptown and Old Stone Steakhouse in Belmont.)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Taste Charlotte East

... and the world, too, Oct. 6 with the ninth annual Taste of the World, an event designed to let diners travel, culinarily speaking, through the vast world encompassed on the east side of town. About 20 restaurants so far, with more than a dozen different cuisines, will take part, and it works like this: Ticket buyers go to an opening reception at the VanLandingham Estate (2010 The Plaza), then are divvied randomly onto buses. From there, they travel to three restaurants and get tastes at each, complete with guides to help explain the foods. The evening wraps up with a dessert party. Tickets are $30, and you can buy them here. Restaurants on board include:

Ben Thanh
Bistro La Bon
Carnitas Guanajuato
Dim Sum
Fu Lin
Lang Van
La Shish Kabob
Machu Picchu
Mama's Caribbean Cafe
The Motherland
Nile Grocery and Cafe
Pollos Mario
Portofino’s Ristorante Italiano e Pizzeria
Three Amigos
Woodlands Vegetarian Indian Cuisine

Raffaldini festival Saturday

Raffaldini Vineyards in Ronda hosts its sixth annual Festa Italiana on Saturday, Sept. 17, (not Friday, as today's CLT said): a daylong (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) celebration of Italian culture, food, art, music and wine. Admission is $15 and includes a wine tasting and commemorative glass, live music, food vendors and more. Info: or 336-835-9463.

Bits & crumbs

Slate reposted this classic by Christopher Hitchens on the absurdity - nay, impossible effrontery! - of waiters pouring your wine for you. Fun.

Until Nov. 6, diners at Genghis Grill have an extra protein option: Dr Pepper BBQ Chicken -- "all natural white meat chicken, with touches of soy sauce and pineapple juice, flavored with Cajun and garlic seasonings, marinated with Genghis Grill's signature Mongo BBQ sauce, all blended with the 'authentic blend of 23 rich flavors®' of Dr Pepper®." 980-236-1427; 11324 N. Community House Road.

The 28th Showmars is now open in Mooresville, at 138 Williamson Road, accessible from I-77 at exit 36. 704-662-3383.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Calories, sodium cut; First Lady approves

Darden Restaurants -- that's Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse in these parts -- announced today (with First Lady Michelle Obama, by the way) an initiative to cut calories and sodium by 10 percent across its brands over five years, 20 percent over 10. Darden says it's the world's largest full-service restaurant company, with 1,900 restaurants in 49 states.

Also promised: fruits or vegetables will be the default side on kids’ menus (meaning you can get something else, but if you don't specify, you'll get fruits or vegetables), and 1-percent milk will be the default beverage. Those changes start now and will be fully implemented by next July, the company says.

Said Michelle Obama: "I’m here today because this is a breakthrough moment in the restaurant industry ... Darden is working to make the healthy choice the easy choice."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A look at Chapel Hill chef Reusing

Raleigh News & Observer food editor Andrea Weigl tells us a little more about Lantern's chef, Andrea Reusing, who won the regional chef title in this year's James Beard Awards. An excerpt: "Reusing is at Lantern every day, tweaking the menu, creating specials, checking on deliveries, overseeing the kitchen several nights - and teaching, always teaching. Her brother, Brendan Reusing, who helped open Lantern, says: 'She will not stop until you do it the way she wants you to. ... She's really pretty relentless.' " Photo by Juli Leonard.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Updated: Free wings and yogurt Wednesday

Get free chicken wings Wednesday at Trade and Tryon streets uptown, in preparation for this Saturday's Carolina Wing Fest. "Wing King" Drew Cerza (who beat celeb chef Bobby Flay in one of his "throwdowns"), along with area restaurants Buffalo Wild Wings, Duckworth's, Fuel Cafe, Hickory Tavern, Taste of Buffalo, Wing Zone and Wing King Cafe, will give away wings from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Charlotte stop of the National Buffalo Wing Fest, founded by Cerza, is noon to 10 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Metrolina Tradeshow Expo (7100 Statesville Road), with more than 75 kinds of wings from about 18 area restaurants (including the seven above) - plus a wing-eating contest and "bobbing for wings" in vats of blue cheese. Restaurants are competing for a free trip to Buffalo to represent the Carolinas at the 2012 National Buffalo Wing Festival.

Admission is $10; active-duty military with ID, college students with ID and kids younger than 8 get in free. Three wings go for $2 and the event benefits the Great Prostate Cancer Challenge. Info:

And: from 5 to 10 p.m., the EpiCentre Yoforia offers free frozen yogurt. 210 E. Trade St.

Bits and pieces

Enso Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar recently finished up SILK, a private dining and banquet facility (about 2,000 square feet) that can handle about 20 to 100. It's got "Las Vegas-style decor," according to its press release, along with commercial-grade video capabilities and a Bose audio system. Info: 704-705-0131. Enso is at the EpiCentre uptown, 210 E. Trade St.

If you "like" Upstream on Facebook before Sept. 30, you could win a date night each month for the last three months of 2011. The restaurant will pick a winner Sept. 30, who will get a $100 gift card each for October, November and December.

Raffaldini Vineyards in Ronda hosts its sixth annual Festa Italiana on Sept. 17, a daylong (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) celebration of Italian culture, food, art, music and wine. Admission is $15 and includes a wine tasting and commemorative glass, live music, food vendors and more. Info: or 336-835-9463.

Attn: Charlotte Chocoholics

Bar Cocoa opens Sept. 30 at the Ritz-Carlton uptown as an extension of the Lobby Lounge as well as streetside access. "A sophisticated, all-new chocolate and cocoa experience," according to its press, it will offer food and drink, plus retail sales, dessert dinners and cooking classes.

* A daily "Chocolate Afternoon Tea" starting Oct. 1: Six teas plus chocolate tea and hot chocolate with housemade marshmallows; $32, $10 per child younger than 12, including valet parking, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. daily. (Offerings will be mini-sandwiches, white chocolate and orange scones, petits fours and a signature Bar Cocoa: layers of praline and Gianduja cake, hazelnut dacquoise, chocolate mousse and milk chocolate Chantilly.)
* A weekly five-course (all desserts) chocolate and Champagne dinner starting Oct. 8 for $125.
* Classes in the adjoining Cocoa Lab: Starting Oct. 15 for $75.
* Sales of pastries from the Ritz-Carlton's Josh Cain and confections from chocolatier Norman Love (shown, although don't you wish they'd used someone local?); and
* A Chocolate Rehab package for overnight guests this fall.

You can get a la carte items (think pastries and sweets) 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, to midnight Friday-Saturday and to 4 p.m. Sunday. 201 E. Trade St.

Info: 704-547-2244 and here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Meet your farms

The third annual Charlotte Area Farm Tour happens this weekend, with 32 area farms open for self-guided tours, from 12:30-5:30 p.m. Sept. 17 and 18. Tickets are $25 in advance ($30 on tour days) and different farms are open different days. Download a map and buy a ticket at, or get them at the Milky Way (Charlotte) both locations of Common Market (Charlotte), the Bradford Store (Huntersville), and three Ben & Jerry's locations (Gastonia, Charlotte and Davidson).

Note: You may be able to get in free, if you're willing to help out. Check the website for more information.

Know Your Farms, a family business based in Davidson, organized the tour and aims to "rebuild our local food system in a sustainable way." On the tour are places that grow fruit, vegetables, livestock (including ostrich and alpaca), mushrooms and wine grapes. Many farms plan activities for kids, from hay rides to petting zoos, and adults, such as live music and cooking demos. Also featured: a Shabby Chic Farm to Fork Dinner at Honey Mountain Farm in Mount Ulla Sept. 17. Tickets for this are sold separately from the tour, are $75 (dinner only) and $100 (farm tour and dinner) and benefit Friendship Trays in Charlotte. Those can be bought on the website, too.

Wine dinners

A Mollydooker dinner Sept. 17 at Zebra for Heartbright has a few seats left. Sparky Marquis of Mollydooker will be on hand, and the menu will be French-inspired. $150 (half is tax-deductible); 704-373-3002.

Latour Wines are the star Sept. 21 at The King's Kitchen. Courses include Latour Pouilly Fuisse with roasted S.C. poussin with Anson Mills farro; Fessy Morgan Cru de Beaujolais with grilled veal tenderloin and sweet potato hash; and more. $55; 704-375-1990; 129 W. Trade St.

Allen Papp of Darioush Wines will guide a dinner at Del Frisco's Sept. 23, with dishes that range from poached pears with mascarpone and 2010 Viognier to pappardelle with duck confit and 2007 Signature Merlot to pepper-crusted filet mignon with veal jus with 2007 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, and more. $150; 704-552-5502; 4725 Piedmont Row Drive.

The Wine Shop at Foxcroft offers a Spanish wine dinner Sept. 27 with André Tamer's De Maison wines, and Tamer will be on hand. $60; 704-365-6550; 7824 Fairview Road.

BLT Steak hosts a Shelton Vineyards four-course dinner Sept. 30, with Mandy Shelton Houser and Michael Egues of Shelton discussing both courses and wines. $75; 704-972-4380; in the Ritz-Carlton at 201 E. Trade St.

First place pork (and more)

Gallery won the regional fine dining award in the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' "Best Dish in NC" contest. The entire three-course menu isn't still available, but included such items as Chapel Hill Creamery's Thunder Mountain Swiss, a black walnut-smoked heritage pork dish marinated in Junior Johnson cherry moonshine (pictured), and Baucom's Best short rib with local blueberry and peach barbecue sauce. The last two will be on the fall menu, which begins Oct. 1. 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4100.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Deals: Tasting, barbecue specials

On Saturday nights, get a five-course tasting menu with wines for $35 per person at the Mimosa Grill bar. Chef Jon Fortes also does a three-course tasting menu (without wines) for $30 -- that's every night, and not just in the bar -- that includes cress and strawberry salad with Persian feta; shellfish with shallots, smoked tomatoes and rustic bread or hickory-grilled five-spice ribs; and bittersweet chocolate molten cake with peanut butter mousse and crispy banana. 327 S. Tryon St.; 704-343-0700.

Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q hosts a grand opening for its Arboretum site (3351 Pineville-Matthews Road; 704-910-3038) the week of Sept. 19. Included: Kids eat free (one per adult) Sept. 19; all-you-can-eat ribs for $9.99 Sept. 20; buy one dinner plate and get one for half price Sept. 24, and more.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Palm gift cards

"85 Days of $85 Gift Cards" is The Palm's new promotion on its website, Through Nov. 24, you can enter daily to win a card; a winner is pulled each night, and the card is mailed in the next few days. Why now? The Palm has done a "comprehensive brand refresh," which means new tableware and leather menus, new uniforms and logo, and a new menu, including additions such as an antipasti appetizer and housemade gelato, and "comeback items" like a 14-ounce New York strip and 16-ounce lobster tail. In Charlotte: 6705-B Phillips Place Court; 704-552-7256.

Google to buy Zagat?

The New York Times says yep, noting "Zagat has grown from a two-page typed list to a global empire with millions of loyal readers and reviewers happy to rave about their favorite restaurants and bars. But the company has faced several challenges in recent years, notably a slew of Internet-based competitors that provide an alternate outlet for restaurant reviews. Zagat (pronounced zuh-GAHT) has responded by partnering with a number of online players, including Facebook, Foursquare and, yes, Google."