Friday, February 25, 2011

N.C. Tap Takeover

It's N.C. Tap Takeover throughout March at Revolution Pizza & Ale House: All of the NoDa restaurant's 44 taps will offer N.C. brews for the month. Among featured breweries: The Wedge from Asheville, Fullsteam from Raleigh, and Outer Banks Brewing Station. Chef Meredith Smith is doing a five-course dinner to match on March 6, with each course paired with two N.C. beers, using area farmers' markets goods. (Beer-marinated skirt steak and local berry coffee cake are among the fare.) $35; 3228 N. Davidson St.; 704-333-4440.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dine/drink out, do good

Salsarita's at Cotswold is donating 15 percent of dinner checks for everyone who mentions "The American Cancer Society" at checkout 4-9 p.m. Feb. 24.

FATZ at Carowinds hosts a pancake breakfast 7:30-10:30 a.m. Feb. 26 for $7, with proceeds to the American Cancer Society as well, and there'll be a raffle including jewelry, NASCAR memorabilia and more that morning.

Beginning March 21, The Capital Grille chain offers its next annual Artist Series Wine Event, in which a limited edition wine is produced and labeled with artwork specifically chosen for the series, with $25 from the sale of each $75 bottle going to Share Our Strength, a national group aiming to end childhood hunger in America. The wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon from Thomas Peffer of Atalon Vineyards in Napa Valley, made with the help of the Grille’s George Miliotes, one of 170 master sommeliers in the world. Fewer than 1,000 cases of this wine, with a painting by Florida-based artist Patricia Timbrook on the label, will be produced.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wine and Food Weekend (not yet!)

Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend 2012 has announced four area charities that will be its beneficiaries:

  • The Council for Children’s Rights (Weekend funds will go to the individual advocacy pProgram, to help abused and neglected children);
  • Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina (funds will provide hundreds of backpacks with food to children in need for a school year);
  • Charlotte Community Health Clinic (funds will pay for basic expenses including medicine and medical supplies); and
  • Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center (the Weekend will partially fund the family advocates, who help children directly and offer after-hours emergency response for families in need).
The every-two-years Weekend holds its official kickoff for the 2012 season this April 16 (yes, 2011) at the NASCAR Hall of Fame with Randy Lewis of Lewis Cellars, a former race driver. But April 15 is a Lewis vintner dinner at Zebra. Tickets are available now at

Italian in Davidson, Irish in Plaza Midwood

Jimmy Hermann, who was co-proprietor of the defunct Firenze, has opened Il Bosco at 124 Depot St. in Davidson. Open for lunch and dinner, it focuses on Italian classics, from panini and pastas at lunch ($7-$13) to dinners ($9-$21) ranging from spaghetti al pomodoro and rigatoni alla Bolognese to chicken piccata and veal Milanese. 704-987-1388.

Whiskey Warehouse hosts a "taste of Ireland" with a Michael Collins whiskey dinner Feb. 23: $25 (buy tickets at, with courses including smoked salmon with Michael Collins Cream; bangers and mash with kale and whiskey; and bread pudding with a Collins Collins. 1221 The Plaza; 704-334-7005.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Diamond: Opening!

The long-awaited Diamond is scheduled to open Friday (that's Feb. 18), beginning with hours of 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. for the first month, then going 24-7. This updating of a classic neighborhood Plaza Midwood spot has been in the works for months; look for a menu that has pig wings (!), along with traditional diner classics, burgers, dogs, an "Italy Vs. Greece" section (!) and more. (Of COURSE, there are fried pickles! What were you thinking?) Take a look at; click on "Preview the menu," then page through it. Surprised by any of it? 1901 Commonwealth Ave.; 704-375-8959.

Awards have Carolinas presences

Semifinalists for the national James Beard Awards were announced this morning (finalists will be announced March 21 and winners in May) and include:

  • Charlotte's Eric Solomon of European Cellars for outstanding wine and spirits professional;
  • Ben Barker of Magnolia Grill in Durham for outstanding chef, and Magnolia Grill for outstanding restaurant;
  • Husk in Charleston for best new restaurant;
  • Lauren Mitterer of WildFlour Pastry in Charleston for outstanding pastry chef;
  • The lead folks behind Chipotle and Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q (both chains) for outstanding restaurateur;
  • Charleston Grill at Charleston Place Hotel for outstanding service;
  • and in the Best Chef: Southeast competition, the following folks in the Carolinas:
Ashley Christensen of Poole’s in Raleigh; Scott Crawford of Herons at the Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary; John Fleer of Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley in Cashiers; Scott Howell of Nana’s in Durham; Shane Ingram of Four Square in Durham; Keith Rhodes of Catch in Wilmington; Chip Smith of Bonne Soirée in Chapel Hill; Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill; Aaron Vandemark of Panciuto in Hillsborough; Craig Deihl of Cypress in Charleston; and Ken Vedrinski of Trattoria Lucca in Charleston.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pork, pride and money

"Zink's All-American Pig Menu" is now offered each Monday night: three courses for $35 at the SouthPark area restaurant, with dishes varying weekly -- and also sold a la carte. Some samples (and Zink is using pork from Morganton's Rock House Farm): creamy potato and bacon soup with braised pork belly salad; confit of pork meatloaf; warm chocolate and bacon lava cake -- and house-cut fries cooked in organically grown pig fat will be offered all day on Mondays. 4310 Sharon Road; 704-909-5500.

Mac’s Speed Shop on South Boulevard won Stone’s “Most Arrogant Bar” 2010 contest by pouring the most of the brewery’s Bastard ales during a week in November – that’s Arrogant, Oaked, Double and Lucky. Stone CEO Greg Koch is scheduled to present a plaque to the restaurant Feb. 17; a celebration with lots of Stone offerings will follow. 2511 South Blvd.; 704-522-6227.

Among new menu items at Blue: pan-seared Hudson Valley foie gras over black pepper and ricotta crepe; pan-seared wild striped bass over toasted walnut spaetzle; and duo of pomegranate-glazed duck. Corner of 5th and College streets; 704-927-2583.

The three Zoë’s Kitchens in Charlotte raised $2,000 for Autism Speaks, Greater Charlotte Chapter in December.

Coming up

Grateful Growers' Cassie Parsons and Natalie Veres are scheduled to be on "North Carolina Now" on UNC-TV at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 (tonight!), discussing the farm and their restaurant Harvest Moon Grille at the Dunhill Hotel in uptown.

"Open That Bottle Night" is coming up Feb. 26 at Andrew Blair's, an event created by former Wall Street Journal wine columnists who felt sure too many people tucked away wine for too long and wanted to encourage them to bring out those special bottles for this "special occasion": the last Saturday of February. Bring yours to the restaurant and you'll get a $30 meal with waved corkage fees. Reservations encouraged: 704-525-8282; 1600 Montford Drive.

Blue hosts its next opera dinner, "Serenata Italiana,” Feb. 27, with opera performances and four courses. Reservation only; $65; Hearst Tower (at College and 5th streets); 704-927-2583.

Pewter Rose’s next wine dinner features red Rhones and French fare: March 1 is the date and the dinner will be capped at 40. Among the courses: roasted baby beet and shaved fennel salad with duck confit, with 2008 Tribouley Orchis; and braised pheasant with mushroom ragout and L'Oustal Blanc Naick 7. $65; 704-548-9463.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Updated with good link: Emperor vies for "Best" award

Chef Bryan Emperor of Kalu was named among 100 chefs nominated for a new award from “Food & Wine” magazine and CNN’s Eatocracy: “The People’s Best New Chef.”
Readers can vote online at by March 1. Ten chefs in ten regions compete; the top vote-getter in each region is named a finalist, and the one with the most votes overall gets the title. That chef will appear in the July 2011 edition, alongside the magazine editors’ choice for Best New Chef (that’s not open to a vote, and the two titles are not mutually exclusive). Some chefs tipped their hands before the formal announcement to mobilize their online efforts (on websites, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). The specifications? The chef must have run her or his own kitchen for five years or fewer.

LaVecchia's news and lots of it

LaVecchia’s Seafood Grille uptown moves from its 6th Street address to behind Blue on 5th Street in coming weeks, and has a new executive chef: Michael Rayfield. He is also exec chef for siblings Nix Burger & Brew and Jax Backstreet Tavern; Jax will go into the former LaVecchia's spot this summer. Rayfield, a Rock Hill native, studied at the Art Institute of Charlotte, cooked for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina for months, and fell in love there with Cajun cuisine -- so expect to see that influence in his new LaVecchia's menu when it reopens.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Best burger?

It's almost tournament time and this year, we're doing burgers -- yes, even though North Carolina makes restaurants cook them to medium, thereby helping us avoid the chance of hideous health issues and simultaneously robbing us of really juicy beef.

Where should I start looking for the 16 "teams" for this year's bracket?
we'll let you vote in two "teams" when I do the bracket. This is a place to suggest your favorites. Then I'll put together a bracket, THEN you'll vote!

If you've got a favorite hole in the wall, spill!

ADDED NOTE: In Section .2609 (e) (3) of 15A NCAC 18A of the N.C. administrative code, it is made clear: This state requires that "ground beef and foods containing ground beef shall be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 155 F". All ground beef, period, as helpful Mecklenburg County health folks have continued to clarify for years, calling the idea that a place that grinds its own meat can then serve it however it wants "urban legend." (That's because the grinding is the possible problem: It creates lots of surfaces for potential pathogens, which must all be heat-treated to kill them.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

New place, new chef

Bluprint, slated to open later this month at 227 W. Trade St. uptown, calls itself "the Bluprint of how a restaurant should be ran [sic]" and promises "Breakfast in California, Lunch in Charlotte, Dinner in New York." The idea from co-owners (and all younger than 30) chef Barry Francois, George Sheppard, Justin Moore and Marcus Thompson: different decorative themes in different sections of the restaurant. Among signature dishes: sweet potato crepes and chicken and waffles for breakfast.

Flatiron Kitchen + Taphouse has a new chef: Andres Arboleda, most recently executive chef at the SouthPark location of McCormick & Schmick’s. Before coming to Charlotte, he was chef de cuisine for The Grill Room at the Riverside Hotel in Florida. Look for a new menu by mid-March. 215 S. Main St. in Davidson; 704-237-3246.

Updated: Valentine meals and deals

Georges Brasserie will do its regular menu, plus a special menu including filet mignon and oysters, Feb. 11-14. Violinist Christine Robinson will play on Valentine's evening. 4620 Piedmont Row Drive; 980-219-7409.

TOMI doesn't usually open on Mondays, but will be for Valentine's Day from 5-9 p.m., with its regular menu plus a special one: three courses for $25, with soup, Taiwanese-style lobster tail with ginger sauce and lemon cream cake. 7741 Colony Road; 704-759-1288.

Terrace Cafe will be open for dinner Feb. 14, with a special three-course meal for $60 per couple. On that menu, choices include blue crab bisque, fennel-pollen-dusted red grouper, farfalle pasta with shrimp and more. The menu will also be offered for dinner Feb. 12, along with the regular dinner menu. Piedmont Town Center; 704-554-6177.

Both locations of Cosmos Cafe will offer a four-course dinner for $35 per person Feb. 11-14, with entree choices ranging from a petite filet mignon to roasted duck. Reservations requested; 8420 Rea Road, 704-544-5268; 300 N. College St., 704-372-3553.

Global's Valentine deal is as follows: First seating is at 6 p.m. and second at 8:30 for a five-course meal costing $65 ($95 if you get wine pairings). Among the courses are duck confit and braised wild boar. 3520 Toringdon Way; 704-248-0866.

New South Kitchen will have a special menu for two Feb. 11-14, with dishes such as crispy shrimp cocktail, surf and turf, salmon and crab strudel and more. Each person chooses a first course and dessert, and couples share an entree platter; prices range from $70-$80 for two. Also available all the time at New South is what it calls the RSVP Menu: three courses, plus a glass of wine, for $25. 8140 Providence Road; 704-541-9990.

D'Vine Wine Cafe offers four courses for $40 per person Feb. 11, 12 and 14. Among the choices: ricotta gnudi (dumplings) with wild mushroom ragout and truffle cream; pomegranate braised lamb or beef; Champagne and saffron poached lobster tails and more. Reservations required: 14815 John J. Delaney Drive; 704-369-5050.

For Valentine's Day, Foskoskies will serve its regular dinner menu along with several specials, ranging from lobster-scallop cannelloni to Chateaubriand (here, that means two filet medallions, one topped with goat cheese bernaise sauce and the other with sauce Bordelaise) plus chocolate fondue for two. 2121 Shamrock Drive; 704-35-2220.

Vida plans a $35 three-course Valentine menu offered Feb. 11-14, with choices including coconut shrimp ceviche, grilled filet Oscar, ahi tuna tacos and more. 210 E. Trade St.; 704-971-8432.

All of the Stratos Restaurant Group places -- ilios noche (704-814-9882), Big View Diner (704-544-0313) and Nolen Kitchen (704-372-1424) -- will offer four-course fixed-price menus through Valentine's weekend, along with their regular menus.

300 East offers a three-course menu for $45 per person Feb. 11-13, with choices that include roasted winter root vegetable salad, grilled lamb satay, bistro steak with pink peppercorn cognac sauce, wild mushroom and lentil pot pie and more. Reservations: Haley at 980-230-3403; 300 East Blvd.

Kabuto at Lake Norman will offer Sweetheart Specials of hibachi combination of chicken, shrimp and steak, plus dessert, for $59.95 per couple ($29.99 per person) Feb. 11-14. Reservations required; 16516 Northcross Drive in Huntersville; 704-655-0077.

The Mint Hill Hawthorne's Pizza offers a couples menu for $50 (including a bottle of house wine and a dessert to share): choices range from shrimp bruschetta to steak Gorgonzola alfredo. 7319 Matthews-Mint Hill Road; 704-545-8089.

Mimosa Grill hosts brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 13, with family-style service and a menu that ranges from walnut-crusted French toast with banana chutney to bistro steak with aged cheddar scrambled eggs. $22; 327 S. Tryon St.; 704-343-0700.

Blue plans a whole week of celebrating for Valentine's, beginning with "Mi Amore Wine & Food Pairing" Feb. 9 for $39.99; a chocolate and Champagne tasting Feb. 10 for $25; Lobster Lover's Delight three-course dinner Feb. 13 for $34.95, and specials for the weekend. These include a three-course dinner for $34.95 with seating at 5-6 p.m. Feb. 11, 12 or 14. Reservations are requested; Hearst Tower at the corner of 5th and College streets; 704-927-2583.

Gallery will do a four-course special menu from Feb. 11 through Feb. 19, with choices that include shrimp and grits, New York strip and chocolate strawberry torte, for $45. Also coming up: a Pommery Champagne tasting Feb. 12 for $50 per couple, $30 per individual; 1000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4100.

Both locations of Red Rocks Cafe will offer a four-course meal for $36 for Valentine's weekend, with choices that include crab cakes, she crab soup, chicken Oscar, filet mignon and halibut. Entrees can be ordered a la carte for $23.95. Birkdale Village, 704-892-9999; Strawberry Hill, 704-364-0402.

Lava Bistro plans a special menu for the weekend - Feb. 11-14 - with choices that range from seafood trifle to grilled sirloin to peanut butter pie. $35, including one glass of house red or white; 8708 J.W. Clay Blvd., 704-549-0050.

Andrew Blair’s, not usually open Monday nights, will do so for Valentine's, serving a menu that will also be offered Feb. 11 and 12. Among the choices: fried oyster po boy, filet with bacon, monkfish in sun-dried tomato cream, ginger-infused crème brulee and more. $59.99 per couple, including one glass of Champagne per person; 1600 Montford Drive, 704-525-8282.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Deals and tastes

When Dilworth's Sole closed, its owners moved some of its most popular items onto the menu at the nearby Zen, which they also own. Now Zen will host an event that Sole did for nine years: an annual wine and tapas tasting. Feb. 20 is the date, from 6-8:30 p.m., for $45 per person. 1716 Kenilworth Ave.; 704-358-9688.

Lulu now offers a fixed-price menu Sunday-Thursday (not on Valentine's Day, though) of three courses for $19.11. Also on special: Get $30-or-less bottles of wine for half-price each Tuesday. 1911 Central Ave.; 704-376-2242.

Panera’s new calorie-conscious menu additions include Thai chopped chicken salad, low-fat wild berry smoothie, and low-fat chicken noodle soup, and new winter treats include the Valentine Cookie, Valentine Petites, Irish Soda Bread and Strawberry Hot Cross Buns. Multiple locations.

Do good, dine out...

IHOP has a national online contest called “Stacks for Good Acts”: Submit a 250-or-fewer-word story about a good deed you or someone you know did in 2010 and submit it at before Feb. 26. One winner will get free pancakes for a year (defined as "one free short stack of buttermilk pancakes per day for 365 days"). The winner will be announced March 1, National Pancake Day, which is IHOP's annual fundraiser benefitting Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. That day, guests get a free short stack from 7 a.m.-10 p.m., and are asked to donate to the fund.

The Jason’s Deli at the corner of Woodlawn and Park roads is donating 10 percent of receipts to the 2011 Charlotte CROP Hunger Walk. Dine there on Feb. 10 and/or March 10 to contribute.

Fans of 300 East/White Horse!

300 East turns 25 this year – well, to be technical, it’s a combined sort of anniversary with the former White Horse as well – and Catherine Coulter is looking to get in touch with old friends, regulars and employees. She’s got a Facebook page (look for “Friends of The White Horse and 300 East's 25th Anniversary”), on which folks have posted everything from thanking the business for their marriage to anecdotes that involve ice machines and underwear parties – not together, thank God. Not on Facebook? You can contact her at or 704-201-8884.
Meanwhile, the Dilworth restaurant, whose actual anniversary is Feb. 14, plans to offer old favorite menu items from 1986 as specials Feb. 16-20 (it will be closed the evening of Feb. 15) and will have special pricing on the Matilda Wong, the house cocktail.

Bits, crumbs, and new beer

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery started its newest seasonal promotion this week highlighting CPA, described as a West Coast style IPA brewed using three hop varieties: "Pronounced citrus hop flavor and aroma dominate while Munich and Amber malt provide body and subtle sweetness." To go with it are menu items ranging from pepperoni pizza rolls and fish taquitos to coconut shrimp and Greek flatbread. Diners can enter to win a trip for two to Denver for the 2011 Great American Beer Festival in September, and the menu runs through March 6. 401 N. Tryon St.; 704-334-2739.

Sante in Matthews will extend its Restaurant Week deal through Feb. 5. 165 N. Trade St., Matthews; 704-845-1899.

The Palm's bar offers a $4.50 menu 5-7 p.m. and 9 p.m.-closing weekdays. Among the choices are Prime steakburger sliders, a charcuterie plate and crispy blue corn fried oysters. 6705-B Phillips Place Court; 704-552-7256.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Barbecue: Michelle, Michelle

“Charlotte is a city marked by its southern charm, warm hospitality, and an 'up by the bootstraps' mentality ... And of course, great barbecue,” said the First Lady in announcing the Democratic National Convention's coming to town.

Some will quickly scoff, particularly the Lexington and Shelby and Greensboro contingents, whose members believe there's no 'cue in Charlotte worth entertaining.

But I'd say there's some relatively good stuff, and certainly good enough to educate folks who still labor under the misconception that barbecue can ever be anything other than pork. Spoon's, Bubba's, Mac's, Old Hickory House. Maybe the Rockstore if you're not making "Charlotte" strictly Charlotte.

Go ahead: Weigh in. Must the delegates rent cars immediately, or can they get a fix in Charlotte that wouldn't embarrass the Carolina barbecue brand? And, from a 30,000-feet perspective, does her mentioning this immediately bode well or ill for the nation's view of our city's cuisine?