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.