Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Free donuts! And discounted lasagna...

National Doughnut Day is June 3, and you can get one free one of any kind -- without buying anything at all -- at participating Krispy Kremes, which include the Gastonia, Matthews and Salisbury ones.

Participating Dunkin Donuts, meanwhile, give you a free one when you buy a beverage.

Neither's website makes it easy to see which are participating, so your best bet is to find the one closest to you and ... call.

In other National Days: July 28 is National Lasagna Day. Sibling chains Brio and Bravo! will cut lasagna prices in half that day. Reservations are recommended; Brio at 4720 Piedmont Row Drive, 704-571-4214; Bravo! at Northlake Mall, 704-597-1455.

8 things servers hate ...

Since we haven't gotten into a service discussion lately in the blog, let's look at this story, listing eight things diners do that drive servers bats. There are a few things you might not have thought of as being annoying, and can easily stop doing. A few I disagree with, but it's an interesting list.

NOTE: This is always a hot topic. We'll stay civil here, OK? No profanity (or profane words spelled with dollar signs) or criminal accusations or comparing people to maligned groups, etc., etc. (I won't let those post.) Just make your point in calm, convincing language; you can do it!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Zagat voting open for Charlotte

Zagat, the national restaurant guide based on diners' comments, is featuring Charlotte voting on its website through June 5. If you vote before then (meaning if you submit ratings or comments on restaurants you've visited in the past year), you can get a free copy of the 2012 "America's Tops" guidebook to restaurants in selected cities (including Charlotte), or a 90-day subscription to the website, or a chance to win a $500 sweepstakes. You can submit opinions anytime; the offer is just for a time-hastened vote. (And, by the way, it's pronounced zeh-GAT, rhyming with "scat.")

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Raleigh star leaves The Pit

Ed Mitchell, who's made a name for himself doing barbecue at The Pit in Raleigh, announced new plans, which include leaving the restaurant and opening other in the Triangle area, reports Andrea Weigl of The News & Observer. Greg Hatem of The Pit says the food won't change; in fact, look for another Pit in Durham. Weigl explains here.

New look; new menu

Andrew Blair’s has closed for brunch and dinner service while its dining room is being remodeled. It will continue to be available for private events, however, as well as its "AB's on Montford Late Night Parties," which start at 9 each Friday and Saturday. 1600 Montford Drive; 704-525-8282.

Included in the latest menu for Lulu (serving lunch weekdays and dinner nightly): lima bean "hummus"; whole roasted fish with thyme and lemon; Ashley Farms rabbit with egg fettuccine; poulet and frites; barbecue baked beans with pork belly; and more. 1911 Central Ave.; 704-376-2242.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dine out, do good

The next "Bask in the Cause" -- an event benefitting Autism Services of Mecklenburg County -- will be 5-8 p.m. May 25 at Bask on Seaboard. Bacardi mojitos and chicken salad pitas are on the menu of the monthly networking social; you get one free drink, courtesy of Charlotte-area distributors, and free hors d'oeuvres from Bask, and profits from any additional sales of food or drink go to Autism Services. 1000 Seaboard St.

D'Vine Wine Cafe hosts a "heart healthy" wine dinner with Ehlers Estate Winery May 26. The Napa winery contributes profits to cardiovascular disease research. On the menu: deviled quail egg with peach-wild oat stuffing and 2009 Sauvignon Blanc; grilled halibut cheeks with red quinoa and 2006 Merlot; bison tenderloin carpaccio with 2007 Stl Helena 1886 Cabernet Sauvignon; and more. $59.99; reservations required: 14815 Ballantyne Village Way; 704-369-5050.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dine out, stay in ... Aruba

Moe's Southwest Grill locations in Charlotte and the Triangle area will send one couple on a "Burrito Lovers Getaway": a four-night stay in Aruba, in the Caribbean. You can register to win at area Moe's through June 6; the winner will be drawn June 9.

Coming up

The Patriot Festival, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. May 30 at Symphony Park at SouthPark mall, will offer what organizers call the first annual rib burnoff. Area restaurants and barbecuers will compete for prizes (including a People's Choice award). Info: Call 704-496-2794 or e-mail info@patriotcharities.org. The festival raises money and awareness for wounded military and their families from the Carolinas.

Through May 31, the Palm offers a $49 three-course Italian dinner that includes choices of Nova Scotia lobster ravioli, wild Alaskan halibut puttanesca or bone-in veal rib chop Parmigiana. 6705-B Phillips Place Court; 704-552-7256.

Cafe 157 hosts a four-course cigar dinner June 1. On the menu: tomato bruschetta, warm goat cheese salad, aged ribeye and chocolate mousse, plus three cigars from the Pepin Garcia Family and four wines, along with raffle prizes. $125 at the door ($100 in advance); 157 N. Trade St. in Matthews; 704-844-8686.

The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge offers a Father's Day brunch (it's June 19, for you slackers) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. $39.95 ($19.95 for ages 5-12, free for younger); reservations required: 704-248-4100; 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway.

Friday, May 20, 2011

More wine dinners!

Blue does a "Best of the Northwest" wine and food tasting May 26. Five dishes (among them frog legs, soft-shell crab and bison strip loin) and more than 40 wines will be offered. You can do the wines for $20, the food for $75, or both for $85. Reservations required: 704-927-2583; Hearst Tower uptown.

Passion8 plans a Napa Valley winemaker dinner May 28 with Bryan Gallagher of Croze and Smith Wooten. $65 for five courses; 3415 Highway 51 North, Fort Mill, S.C.; 803-802-7455.

The Ritz-Carlton's Urban Sip hosts a Smith-Madrone wine dinner June 22, with commentary from what the Ritz calls "renowned mountain vineyardist" Stu Smith, managing partner for Smith-Madrone. Among the fare: 1995 Reserve Cabernet and 2008 Chardonnay, and courses ranging from truffled chicken salad on brioche to parmesan-crusted lamb. $125; 201 E. Trade St.; 704-547-2244.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


New concession offerings and a new "bistro" area at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, just in time for the NASCAR Spring All-Star Race (May 21) and the Coca Cola 600 (May 29), from Levy Restaurants:

At the "State Fair Tent": Bologna Q, a strip of bologna deep fried and topped with sweet onion and mustard; Lug Nutz, fried macaroni-and-cheese balls; fried peaches, with a cinnamon crust and vanilla cinnamon yogurt sauce; and funnel cake fries, fried dough with strawberry dipping sauce.

At the "Chicken Co-Op": Southern chicken sandwich; popcorn chicken; Buffalo popcorn chicken; and more.

At the "Hot Diggety Dog" stand: Foot-long hot dogs such as the Carolina Kicker, with pork barbecue and jalapeno peppers; and Charlotte Pole Dog, with chili, cole slaw and onions.

At the "J&J Snack Bar": Soft pretzels only, including a sugar pretzel, stuffed pizza pretzels, stuffed cheddar pretzels, pretzel dogs, pretzel bites with marinara or cheese sauce, and the CinnaPretzel served with Cinnabon icing.

At the "Bistro" area: $12 plated lunch/dinner of pork barbecue, barbecued chicken, green beans, cole slaw, rolls and cookies.

At stands throughout the venue: a new pimento cheeseburger; pig tails (curly fries with pork BBQ and BBQ sauce); Buffalo curly fries; and veggie burgers; and gluten-free snacks, including Nu-go Free chocolate bars, chips, popcorn and candy, as well as Red Bridge Beer.

New chains around town

The regionally famous Char-Grill (from Raleigh) has a Davidson outpost now, with burgers and the rest of its lineup, at 624 Jetton St. at Davidson Commons; 704-896-8710.

The Original Italian Pie, which began in New Orleans, took the ex-Sole spot in Dilworth at 1608 East Blvd. and serves pizzas, pastas and more. Here's the website.

Texas-based Genghis Grill is now open at Ballantyne, with a Mongolian stir-fry menu: You can choose your own ingredients, then watch them being stir-fried. (Think salad bar meets Japanese steakhouse, and yes, there did used to be this very idea in Dilworth.) You can take a look here. 11324 N. Community House Road; 980-236-1427.

Are any of these particular favorites of yours? Let us know why/why not.

Who's that ahead of Guy FIeri?

TheDailyMeal.com ranked the top 25 "most successful" (think money) chefs in America and you won't believe who's ahead of the tousle-headed "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" star. Or maybe you will. Let me know. It's here.

NOTE (carefully written to avoid spoiling too much): I am surprised, in answer to a few readers asking, that No. 5 is ahead of the ubiquitous Fieri. On the other hand, I am surprised that either of them are not behind several others on the list -- this is fascinating stuff. (Don't miss the methodology on the first page.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wine dinners

Café 157 hosts an Italian wine dinner May 19 for $49. The lineup includes grilled veal roulade over roasted eggplant risotto with Rodano Chianti Classico; roasted peppered beef tenderloin with Tedeschi Amarone, and more. Reservations required at 704-844-8686. 157 N. Trade St., Matthews.

May 20 is Upstream's BYOB wine dinner: Bring out the bottle(s) you've been saving and get four courses (plus sparkling wine first) for $55. On the menu: wasabi-pea-crusted hamachi; crispy soft-shelled crab with white truffle cream and morels; a tasting of American Wagyu beef; and housemade Verona chocolate truffles. 6902 Phillips Place Court; 704-556-7730.

Savannah Red in the uptown Marriott offers "An Evening in Napa" May 25 with Ehlers Estate wines and Jason Niec of Black Chicken Wine Cellar. Among the courses: fried chicken liver pate with 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, and smoked petite medallion of beef tenderloin with 2006 St. Helena Cabernet Franc and 2007 One Twenty over Eighty Cabernet Sauvignon. $65 and reservations required; 704-363-8161.

Vivace hosts a small Italian wine dinner, featuring small plates, June 5 for $75. Among the fare: scallop risotto with Preludio No. 1 Chardonna, and speck-wrapped pork tenderloin with Sorgenti Respiro Chianti Classico; 704-548-9463.

Dine out, do good

Now through May 23, you can donate $1 at Hardee's for the "Stars for Troops" benefitting Homes for Our Troops and USA Cares, and receive $10 of restaurant coupons.

15 North Roadside Kitchen hosts a four-course J. Lohr wine dinner May 24, with proceeds from wine sales benefitting the National Kidney Foundation. $55; 1513 Montford Drive; reservations (by May 19): 704-519-0020.

Providence Road Sundries will donate 10 percent of all food sales through the Memorial Day weekend (May 28–30), to USO-NC. Owner Doug Bell says he's honoring chef David Jones, who served two tours of duty in the Middle East. The Charlotte division of the USO-NC, at the Charlotte airport, offers a private lounge where military personnel (about 8,000 a month) stay between deployment and leave, among other services. Providence Road Sundries: 1522 Providence Road, 704-366-4467.

Friday, May 13, 2011

First Bite: Midwood Smokehouse

First Bite is a a look at a restaurant that’s opened recently, based on one visit, not a full-fledged review.

The food: Barbecue, naturally, but with range: there's pulled pork, beef brisket (fatty, lean or both), smoked sausage, smoked chicken, St. Louis-style ribs (dry or sauced) and smoked prime rib. Three sauces: S.C. mustard, Eastern N.C. style vinegar, and Midwood Signature. And what we had was really good. Pork comes in small or large plates and the flavor is terrific; I'd wish only for a slightly lighter hand with that tangy vinegar sauce. Chicken is moist and the mustard sauce stellar: a glossy version with a sweet edge. Ribs were a might lean, but again, beautifully flavored. A little fan of pickled onion comes atop meats, a great detail. This is longtime Charlotte restaurateur Frank Scibelli's newest outing, and he might just have the next Big Daddy's on his hands, in terms of popularity and hitting the zeitgeist at just the right time.

The look: Think spare and smart. The former Cafe Central's mirrored bar back stayed, but now sports daily specials, slogans and the like. Battered tin signs and old photos dot the woody interior.

The service: Friendly, casual and pretty quick on our visit, and capable (and more than willing) to explain dish details and make recommendations.

Details: 1401 Central Ave.; 704-295-4227; about $7.50-$19; www.midwoodsmokehouse.com.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bits, pieces

Tickets are on sale for the May 22 St. Anthony Festa Italiana: Ciao for Charities, hosted by Queens University of Charlotte. Expect food, wine, beer, opera and contemporary music, a silent auction and proceeds going to benefit the Nevins Center for the Disabled and Holy Angels. Pizza acrobats (!), a 4-fout seafood risotto, multiple pastas and grilled meats will be on hand, as will food from Blue, Brooklyn South Pizzeria, Fiamma, Luce, Mama Ricotta's, Showmars, Toscana, Villa Francesa, Vivace, Zio and more. A trip to Italy and a gourmet Italian dinner cruise on a Lake Norman yacht with the winner and 25 friends are highlights of the auction. Tickets are $65, $10 for 10 and younger, and you can buy them online at www.festaitalianacharlotte.org. Queens is at 1900 Selwyn Ave., and parking is free.

Gallery offers al fresco dining with live entertainment 7-9 p.m. each Friday in May and June, with views of the signature 18th hole of The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge golf course. 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4100.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mac's headed for Memphis...

... "Memphis in May," which hosts the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, that is. Mac's Speed Shop was invited to take part, along with 250+ teams from 20 states, as well as Africa, Italy and more, May 12-14 in downtown Memphis. Mac's will be competing in the pork shoulder category.

Beer and more

Blue hosts a Mother Earth Brewing beer and food pairing May 19, with five dishes and five beers, in a tasting set-up. Among the fare: poached rock shrimp with Weeping Willow Wit; and herb-roasted ostrich with corn souffle and Dark Cloud. $34.95; Hearst Tower uptown (corner of College and 5th streets); 704-927-2583.

Widmer Brewery's Chris Squier hosts a beer and cheese tasting at Whiskey Warehouse May 19, with some proceeds going to buy gifts for kids in Levine Children's Hospital. Three beers and cheese pairings are included. Tickets are $14 and a donated toy ($20 without) when purchased at www.bandtastic.com/cheese; $20 and $25 at the door. 1221 The Plaza; 704-334-7005.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dine out, do good

Buy a piece of Triple Chocolate Miracle Cake at Texas Land & Cattle Steak House and a portion of the proceeds goes to the Levine's Children's Hospital of Charlotte. The chain, along with Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, hopes to raise more than $100,000 for the nearly 60 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals involved in the campaign.
7779 Lyles Lane in Concord; 704-510-0021.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wine and burgers

May 12, the Wine Vault orchestrates a dinner with Morton's and Catena and Cousino-Macul wines. The unusual entree in this four-course lineup? One-pound burgers made of USDA Prime filet, ribeye and New York strip, topped with Vermont aged sharp American cheese, artisan bacon and caramelized onions, with wines. $75; 704-548-9463.

New free uptown shuttle

Now available: The "Entertainment Express," a free shuttle running loops through uptown and the N.C. Music Factory Thursday through Saturday evenings. Stops are at 4th and College streets, on College and 6th at the public bus stop beside the Holiday Inn and at the Music factory fountain plaza. The shuttle runs about 6:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., and you can catch it about every 15 minutes at those stops; others may be added.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Updated: Mother's Day madness

It's this Sunday, May 8, y'all.

Cajun Queen will serve brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m., and dinner all day (jazz starts at 6:30 p.m.); 1800 E. 7th St.; 704-377-9017.

Zink offers brunch for $29 ($12 for 12 and younger). 4310 Sharon Road; 704-909-5500.

Mimosa Grill offers a chef's table 10 a.m.-4 p.m. with brunch and lunch dishes and a dessert table ($27.95; $10.95 for kids 3-10), plus half-price wines by the glass and $5 Mimosas. 327 S. Tryon St.; 704-343-0700.

Andrew Blair's brunch buffet is $14.95 ($9.95 for 12 and younger). 1600 Montford Drive; 704-525-8282.

Cosmo's Cafe at Ballantyne will have brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m. for $22.95 (there's a separate kids' buffet). 8420 Rea Road; 704-544-5268.

Kabuto Lake Norman will be open 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Mother's Day with a special of hibachi chicken, shrimp and steak, plus a slice of red velvet cake, for $59.95 per couple or $29.99 per person. (The special will be offered May 5-8.) Reservations required: 704-655-0077; 16516 Northcross Drive, Huntersville.

Moms get one free cup of frozen yogurt on Mother's Day at any of the five Charlotte-area TCBY self-serve locations (Myers Park, Birkdale Village, Blakeney, Colony Place and Wesley Chapel: go here for addresses).

At the Renaissance Charlotte SouthPark, kids can make pancakes for mom without the cleanup part: The hotel restaurant offers a station where kids don chef's hats (that they can take home) and make buttermilk pancakes with toppings. Also offered at the brunch buffet, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., for $29 ($14 for kids 6-12, free for younger): omelets and eggs Benedicts, cinnamon apple crepes, grilled mackerel, beef roulade and more. 5501 Carnegie Blvd.; 704-501-2510.

Both Red Rocks Cafe locations will do brunch buffet 10 a.m.-3 p.m., with an a la carte menu kicking in at 3. Reservations required: Strawberry Hill (4223 Providence Road) 704-364-0402; Birkdale in Huntersville 704-892-9999.

Both Melting Pots of Charlotte, at Midtown and University, will be open 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., with a four-course menu of cheese fondue, salad, entree and chocolate fondue for $38 ($48 for seafood). There are kids menus, also, at $22 for those 10-15 and $9 for 9 and younger. Reservations recommended: 230 E. W.T. Harris Blvd., 704-548-2432 and 901 S. Kings Drive, 704-334-4400.

Luce will be open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. for brunch ($30; $15 for kids). 214 N. Tryon St.; 704-344-9222. Toscana will have the same hours and price; 6401 Morrison Blvd.; 704-367-1808. MezzaNotte will be open for brunch and dinner, adding Mother's Day specials to its regular menu. 2907 Providence Road; 704-365-4650.

Café 157 will offer a limited dinner menu 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. 157 N. Trade Street in Matthews; 704-844-8686.

Vida plans a buffet 11 a.m.-3 p.m. with more than two dozen dishes, including chipotle-rubbed prime rib and mole chicken breast, for $22.95 (half-price for kids 4-1 and free for younger). The restaurant will close at 3, then reopen at 5 for dinner. 210 E. Trade St.; 704-971-8432.

TOMI is doing brunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., with an entrée plus side of whole-grain wild rice, plus dessert (vanilla egg custard cake), all for $10. 7741 Colony Road; 704-759-1288.

Passion8 Bistro offers four courses for $42, with mom getting a complimentary Champagne, Mimosa or white sangria. 3415 Highway 51 North, Fort Mill, S.C.; 803-802-7455.

The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge will do brunch 10 a.m.–2 p.m. for $55 ($28 for those 5-12; free for 4 and younger). Reservations required: 704-248-4100; 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway.

BRIO Tuscan Grille will do brunch beginning at 10 a.m., as well as offer a full dinner menu all day. 4720 Piedmont Row Drive; 704-571-4214.

Mama Ricotta’s buffet will run 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and include breakfast items, classic Italian dishes and desserts for $18.95 ($10.95 for kids 10 and younger). Reservations recommended: 704-343-0148; 601 S. Kings Drive.

Epic Chophouse in Mooresville will be open 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. with its full menu and a chef's feature. 104 South Main St., Mooresville; 704-230-1720.

At The Liberty, diners will start with assorted pastries and breads, then choose an appetizer and main course and finish with a dessert buffet for $24.95 ($9.50 for those younger than 10). Choices include Low Country she crab soup, butter-poached shrimp, brioche French toast, trout, steak frites and more. 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

The Morehead Inn and VanLandingham Estate open for brunch, with reserved seatings at 10:45 and 11 a.m., and 1:15 and 1:30 p.m. If weather permits, there will be outside seating as well. $28.95 for adults, $24.95 for seniors, $15.95 for 4-12, free for those 3 and younger. Reservations required; The Morehead Inn (1122 E. Morehead St.) 704-376-3357 and VanLandingham Estate (2010 The Plaza) 704-334-8909.

Meatless Monday

Gallery has signed up to participate in the national Meatless Monday initiative. Among the dishes it will offer: an express lunch of vegetable noodle soup with crispy eggplant and tomato parmesan slider, marinated tomato and fresh mozzarella salad and dessert "shooter" of the day (shown above) for $12; a sandwich of grilled spring squash, sweet onions, roasted red peppers and melted Fontina cheese; and charred Asian vegetable stir fry. Get more info at www.meatlessmonday.com. 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4100.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Waxhaw Food & Wine Weekend

Look for some of the area's best-known chefs at this Waxhaw event May 13, held with the town's seventh annual Spring Fest. It's a five-course meal with wine pairings (and passed hors d'oeuvres to start), and Union County's Habitat for Humanity is the main beneficiary. Chefs are Paul Verica of the Country Club at Longview, Gene Briggs of Blue, Marc Jacksina of Halcyon, Joe Kindred of Rooster's, Ben Miles of BLT Steak and Bruce Moffett of Barrington's. $100; cocktail attire; held at the Woman's Club at 200 E. South Main St. Reservations: Cathy Murphy at 704-843-2195 ext. 226 or events@waxhaw.com. You can get more information about the weekend here.