Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Could someone please do this here?

At En Japanese Brasserie in New York, says the Tasting Table daily email note I get, "tuna collar is featured along with other overlooked cuts in the restaurant's 'Fish head, eel bones and beer' monthly dinner parties."

What I covet is dinners featuring overlooked cuts, not the actual tuna collars (which, in case you don't know, is exactly what you think: the part just below the head). Would you be interested, or would there be no good audience for such a thing?

New Ballantyne place

Brigs joins a five-restaurant, two-decade operation from Raleigh-Durham, now open at Toringdon Market on Johnston Road. Known particularly for breakfast and brunch dishes, it offers $5.99 weekday breakfast specials. September specials will include blueberry-orange French toast; portobello benedict; portobello Oskar (grilled caps filled with blue crab, topped with hollandaise and asparagus); and more. 12239-102 N. Community House Road; 704-544-0074;

'Blue Moon' takes over

The Harvest Moon Grille’s distinctive orange food truck (the one chef Cassie Parsons and staff began with, before getting the bricks-and-mortar location in the Dunhill Hotel uptown) was stolen in late July. That curtailed the movable feast known for its stops uptown and at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. Now, they’ve leased a new cart, which they plan to buy when the insurance claim is settled, they say. Look for the “blue moon” regularly, beginning Thursday for lunch at Tryon and 4th streets uptown; 7:30 a.m.-noon at the farmers market; and 5-9 p.m. Saturday at the SouthEnd food truck lot, at East Park Avenue and Camden Road.

And if you haven't seen the blog, it's worth it: beautiful photography, in particular, by S. Hughes:

Dine out, do good

Eat at Red Rocks Café at 4223-B Providence Road on any September Sunday, and 15 percent of your check will go to the Alzheimer's Association, for World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. The restaurant has raised about $4,000 in each of the last two years. For more info on Alzheimer's: 1-800-272-3900 (a 24-hour line) and Red Rocks: 704-364-0402.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

'Pumpkins' at Zebra

Zebra chef-owner Jim Alexander notes the restaurant just got in some of what he calls "the butter" of swordfish and what is commonly called "pumpkin swordfish," for its distinctive orange-pinkish color. That color is often attributed to a diet heavy in shrimp, and the fish is high-fat and high-flavor; this came from the lower east side of Florida, he says. Look for simple preps all week at the restaurant; 4521 Sharon Road; 704-442-9525.

Doing good, past $1M

Sometimes, restaurants updating their look has a hidden benefit. As Darden restaurants -- Olive Gardens, Red Lobsters and LongHorn Steakhouses -- have remodeled, starting in 2010, they've donated items to Habitat for Humanity's ReStore resale outlets, and the total has topped $1.2 million in value. The donations are in-kind and range from art and furnishings to hostess stands. About half of the 300 restaurants targeted for update have been done. ReStores sell new and used furnishings and building materials, with proceeds going to help local Habitats fund the building, rehab and repair of homes.

“This partnership is boosting sales at ReStores and providing funds for Habitat for Humanity to serve more families in need of decent, affordable housing," said Larry Gluth, senior vice president of United States and Canada for Habitat for Humanity International, in a press release.

Friday, August 26, 2011

3 star chefs in Blowing Rock

This September, Crippen’s Country Inn & Restaurant in Blowing Rock hosts three N.C. chefs who have been recognized by James Beard Award voting panels in recent years.

Each will be cooking a meal, with chef Stan Chamberlain and his team, on a Tuesday night for the inn.

First up, Sept. 13, is Charlotte's own Bruce Moffett of Barrington's, a semifinalist for best chef in the Southeast in 2009. Sept. 20, Bill Smith of Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill, named an American Classic restaurant by the Beard group in 2011, makes the trek. Sept. 27, it's Keith Rhodes of Catch in Wilmington, named a semifinalist for best chef Southeast in 2011.

Tickets for each dinner are $63, and diners can plan on meeting the chefs. Reservations: or 877-295-3487.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

New Terrace Cafe

Terrace Café's second location opened this week at Ballantyne Village; the original, near SouthPark opened in 2009, and has gained honors for its breakfasts in particular (with red velvet waffles and s'mores French toast, for example). The new space features a large iron tree, created by a local artist, and is on the lower level of the Village's Crown building. Check out menus here. 14815 Ballantyne Village Way; 704-369-5190.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Free Chick-fil-A

Starting Aug. 29, you can go to and reserve a time (6:30-10:30 a.m.) and location to get a free Chick-fil-A breakfast entree of your choice. The slots run the week of Labor Day, from Sept. 6-10. You sign up, then print out the invitation you're sent; one per customer. Entrees range from sausage biscuits to chicken-egg-cheese bagels to new multigrain oatmeal.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Dog Wall

You can immortalize your best friend (assuming he/she is canine) and support both war veterans and dog rescues at Solstice Tavern's Dog Wall in NoDa.

Restaurant owner John Meyer and manager Sam Fennimore came up with the idea: A mural on the back patio to raise money for Hounds for Heroes, a group that matches shelter dogs with returning war veterans. Meyer, Fennimore and other Solstice employees have rescued dogs, says Fennimore, which made the choice a natural. Artist Cher Cosper is painting the mural, with 47 stars: You pony up $50 and she'll paint a caricature of your dog in one of them. If you want to help even more (or feel your precious really needs more exposure), the middle of the mural will be Cosper's version of the classic genre of dogs playing poker: That will have seven spots, and an auction for them is planned, sometime in early October.

Eleven stars have already been sold. Find out more at the Facebook page Solstice Tavern Dog Wall, or call the restaurant at 704-342-2556 and ask for Fennimore.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Brunch at Harper's

Harper's at Southpark now offers a New Orleans-style brunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. each Saturday, with dishes from Lowcountry shrimp and grits to "Chef Dar's Voodoo Eggs" (which include andouille sausage, tasso ham, peppers, onions and cheeses). 6518 Fairview Road; 704-366-6688.

'Manliest Restaurant in America'?

Men’s Health magazine is holding its "first annual" contest for “Manliest Restaurant in America”: Editors carved the country into nine regions, then nominated five places in each and are now inviting readers to vote here.

“The nominees represent a range of guy food in every corner of the country — from a Korean taco truck in LA to an old-school steakhouse in New York,” according to Adina Steiman, who is Men’s Health Food and Nutrition Editor and, incidentally, a woman. “We are expecting ... heated debate.”

I bet.

But nothing in Charlotte made it. Should somewhere here be there? (If readers get into this, we'll naturally also ask about the -- well, what would the accompanying gender classification be? Womanliest just doesn't quite do it. Most Ladylike? Feminininininest?

By the way, the magazine's nominees for the Southeast: Memphis's Rendezvous and Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken (yeah, right: TWO places in Memphis?); Atlanta's Bone's; the Blue Ridge Brewing Co. in Greenville, S.C.; and my completely uninformed favorite, by virtue of the enormous slogan atop its web page "Lard Have Mercy": Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford, Miss. Voting ends Sept. 21.

Friday, August 19, 2011

New sip at the Ritz

Urban Sip at the uptown Ritz-Carlton now has a tapas menu, with ahi tuna tacos, prosciutto di Parma with smoked blue cheese, steak tartare with poached quail egg, and more, and is also introducing the "Rooftop Honey Brandy Sour," a seasonal cocktail made with honey harvested from the beehives it keeps on the hotel roof. 201 E. Trade St.; 704-547-2244.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Deals: Half off and AYCE for $15

Some time remains on two August-long deals at Passion8 Bistro in Fort Mill: Dine between 5 and 6 p.m. any day and you get half off the full seasonal dinner menu (that includes cheese plates, foie gras, pasta of the day, etc.). And each remaining Tuesday in the month, you can get “bottomless” mussels for $15: That’s all you can eat Prince Edward Island mussels in either red or white sauce. The sauces vary each week depending on what chef Luca Annunziata finds at market: Last time the white used local corn and onions, a little white wine and cream, while the red was a puttanesca sauce (tomato, capers, olives, garlic).

New at Blue

Seasonal entree specials at uptown's Blue include: oven-roasted Alaskan halibut with Charleston Gold rice pilaf; pork Milanese with heirloom tomatoes; grilled Certified Angus Beef flat-iron steak with piquillo pepper confit; and more. New desserts range from lemon tart with blueberry-port reduction to cantaloupe crème Catalana, a Spanish-style custard infused with cantaloupe. Hearst Tower uptown (corner of College and 5th streets); 704-927-2583.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Subs aplenty

Look for lots of new Penn Station East Coast Subs in the area over the next few years, Marc Nagy plans “at least five” in south Charlotte over the next three to four years – the first this fall at 5110 Park Road – and the company says plans call for 28 total locations by 2016. There are already two of the chain, founded in Ohio in 1985 and selling cheesesteak subs and more, in the Charlotte area.

Mexican updates on way

Frank Scibelli and chefs Jared Cannon and Drew Ward are just back from a research trip to Mexico City for Cantina 1511 and Paco's Tacos & Tequila: Expect to see new dishes, based on their visits to more than 50 places there, many of which have one-to-three-staple menus. Among those were El Cardenal (known for breakfast and hot chocolate), La Casa del Pavo (turkey dishes) and Azul y Oro (contemporary fare). Dishes they're working on for Charlotte include escabeche (pickled carrots, onions and jalapenos, in varying forms), served with chips and salsa; tortas (sandwiches, with fresh avocado and refrito puree); turkey carnitas (like pork), for tacos, tortas and quesadillas; birria (spicy meat stew); and agua fresca (flavored water), which may be used in cocktails.
Cantina 1511: StoneCrest, 704-752-9797; and 1511 East Blvd., 704-331-9222.
Paco’s Tacos: 6401 Morrison Blvd.; 704-716-8226.

Wine, beer dinners

Passion8 hosts a small vineyards dinner tonight (Aug. 17) for $85. Among the courses (chosen wines came from family-owned farms, were in bottom 1 percent of wine production from Italy, were organically farmed and hand-picked): Tega Hill zucchini blossoms stuffed with taleggio cheese, wtih Le Rote Vernaccia; stuffed ravioli with Giuseppe Lonardi Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore; pork medallion with prosciutto and fontina, with Martorana Nero D'Avola Sicilia, and more. 3415 Highway 51 North, Fort Mill, S.C.; 803-802-7455.

D'Vine Wine hosts a New Holland Brewing Co. beer dinner Aug. 25. Among the courses: Full Circle, with fried green tomato, crab and corn salsa; Sundog Amber Ale with a chicken corn dog; and Mad Hatter IPA with a barbecue trio (pulled pork shoulder, smoked chicken lollipop and beef brisket). $45, reservations required: 704-369-5050; 14815 Ballantyne Village Way.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Charlotte chef goes "Extreme"

Look for executive chef Adam Long of Big Daddy's Burger Bar in Charlotte on “Extreme Chef” at 10 p.m. Aug. 11 on the Food Network. The episode? “Wild Wedding Cookoff,” in which, according to the “Extreme Chef” description, chefs get $200 to buy ingredients at a 99-cent store, must make appetizers in 20 minutes, create a meal with the “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” saying, make a three-tier wedding cake from “a variety of popular snack food cakes” and, if in the final two, swim across a pool, gather ingredients in a cabana and “make the perfect bite in 20 minutes using caviar, avocado, figs and almonds.” Just ... wow. He's up against a corporate chef from L.A. and Anthony Lamas, executive chef at Seviche in Louisville.

Coming up

The King’s Kitchen offers “Olde Meck on the Deck” between 6 and 9 p.m. Aug. 9, with burgers, brats, ribs and wings being grilled and served on the patio facing Trade and Church streets, and Olde Meck beers: Mecklenburger, Copper and Captain Jack Pilsner. $20 per person; 129 W. Trade St.; 704-375-1990.

Blue plans a Kenwood wine and food pairing night Aug. 17, with five dishes served tasting-style, accompanied by Kenwood wines. Among the pairs: seared tuna over quinoa tabouleh, with 2008 Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc, Sonoma Valley; pan-seared salmon with Charleston Gold rice cake and 2009 Kenwood Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley; and grilled Certified Angus Beef natural strip loin, carved tableside, with 2007 Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon, Jack London Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. 704-927-2583; Hearst Tower uptown.

Bistro La Bon will do a 10-course wine dinner Aug. 24, pairing eight Falcor wines with the courses, with Falcor owner Mike Bee on hand. Among the offerings: house-smoked salmon wrapped in rainbow trout skin with 2010 Ros”e; lamb “surprise” with 2005 Syrah; and Peking duck confit with 2005 Le Bijou. $75; 1322 Central Ave.; 704-333-4646.

Rooster’s also offers a dinner Aug. 24, with Wild Horse Winery, and courses ranging from Fisher Farms heirloom tomato “carpaccio” with Chardonnay, Central Coast, to stinging nettle agnolotti with local crowder peas and Pinot Noir, Central Coast, to grilled Maple Leaf Farms duck breast with local oyster mushrooms and “Unbridled” Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County. 6601 Morrison Blvd.; 704-366-8688.

Aug. 27, Mimosa Grill will do a J. Lohr dinner with the Wine Vault, with courses that include Clover Farm Quail “spring roll” with Falcon’s Perch Pinot Noir; seven-hour-braised pork “wings” with five-spice blackberry glaze and Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon; Rockhouse Farms “MG Meatball” (using Wagyu beef, Old Spot pig and old-style Dorset lamb), with Tower Road Petite Sirah; and more. $75; 327 S. Tryon St.; reservations: 704-548-9463.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Vapiano opens uptown

Vapiano opened Monday, the latest site of an international chain in the "fresh-casual" category, at 201 S. Tryon St. It's a blend of old- and new-school approaches: Pasta is made daily on site, for example, while customers go through a sort of buffet line, but use a "chip card" to order (and servers are dubbed your personal "Vapianisti" -- no, really). You specify type of pasta and sauce, or the ingredients on your hand-tossed pizza or salad, and dine in an interior that boasts fresh herb plants on tables and live olive trees scattered about. Pastas run about $7-$10, panini about $8 and pizzas about $7-$8.

German native Lars Kruse, the local franchisee, first found Vapiano when living in Dusseldorf; now a Wake Forest-educated banker, he says Charlotte is "the perfect spot for a Vapiano. It is fast-growing, modern and nice – just like Vapiano," according to press materials. Michael Mascali, with experience at Cheesecake Factory and Frankie's Italian Grille, is also a part of the operation, which has about 70 locations now, and another 100 planned.

Dine out, do good

The Melting Pot will donate $1 for every four-course "Classic Dinner for Two" sold in August to Classroom Central. The dinner is a new one, using Angus sirloin and sesame-crusted ahi tuna, plus cheese fondue, salad and chocolate fondue. It's $78 for two ($39 per person). If you donate three items ("items" include package of pencils, pens or erasers; pocket folders; etc.) for Classroom Central when you dine, you'll get a card for a complimentary small chocolate fondue to use on a future visit. Classroom Central provides free school supplies to children who need them, and serves some 150 area schools. Reservations: 704-334-4400 for the 901 S. Kings Drive restaurant; 704-548-2432 for the one at 230 E. W.T. Harris Blvd.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why, yes, that IS a 'cue sundae

This particular layering - perhaps parfait would be a better noun - of pork, slaw and beans comes from "Big" John Crane of Matthews, and Charlotte Motor Speedway (with Levy Restaurants) is bringing it to the Food Lion AutoFair Aug. 25-28. Also at the fair (but less delicious): an exhibit of 100 years of Chevrolet automobiles, bulletproof passenger vehicles and SUVs, and more. Crane does barbecue as a sideline (he owns Crane Construction in Charlotte) and created the 'cue in a cup for his wife, who's on a gluten-free diet and wanted a barbecue sandwich at a fair, sans the bun. Nice detail: He squirts barbecue sauce over the rounded scoop of slaw to mimic a sundae's syrup. It's in a 20-ounce cup at the Speedway event and will cost $8. Info: