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.