Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Updated: New uptown spot

Chef Jamie Lynch will be at the kitchen helm of 5Church, slated to open in spring at the corner of Church and 5th streets (in the former Molly MacPherson's), with a New American menu. N.C. foodstuffs will figure prominently in what's being described as "an eclectic blend of multicultural flavors" and the lineup will include housemade breads, pastas and cheeses. Other press-release descriptions: The interior is a "tongue and cheek (sic) interpretation of a neo-Victorian décor”; expect lunch, dinner and weekend brunch that are "casual, yet refined."

Lynch, most recently at Barrington's in Charlotte, has worked at Le Cirque, Café Boulud and Aureole, and plans here, according to a press release, "to develop New American-style seasonal menus that reflect the purity of local products and to advocate proper techniques of food preparation in a respectful manner.”

Champagne dinner

The Wine Vault has scheduled "National Champagne Lover Come Out of the Closet Day" Feb. 12 at Aria's upstairs lounge, uptown at . $25 for tastes (with explanations) of Duval-Leroy Brut NV (that means non-vintage); Duval-Leroy Rose NV; Duval-Leroy Cuvee Paris NV; Duval-Leroy Clos des Bouveries 2004; Duval-Leroy 1995 Femme de Champagne; and Duval-Leroy 2000 Femme de Champagne. Aria will also offer three courses for $30 that evening. 100 N. Tryon St.; 704-548-9463.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Puck honored

Wolfgang Puck was named today as recipient of the 2012 James Beard Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award. Puck has won a number of awards from the Foundation, a national group that seeks to promote the culinary arts and whose awards are what some dub the Oscars of the food world, yearly honoring chefs, restaurateurs, cookbook writers, wine professionals and more.

Puck, slated to open a restaurant at Phillips Place this year, will get the award in May at Lincoln Center in New York. He cooked the first guest-chef dinner at the James Beard House, in 1987, and is the only person to win Outstanding Chef twice, said Beard president Susan Ungaro: "Wolfgang has not only demonstrated to the industry his incredible talent but he has helped shape the industry by revolutionizing how American chefs think about food. What sets Wolfgang apart, however, is that his creativity takes him beyond our industry’s walls. As a former Humanitarian Award recipient, he has shown that the culinary industry can improve the lives of others and benefit society as a whole."

He is a native of Austria and got famous with Spago in Hollywood, which opened in 1982. He's got 20 fine dining restaurants currently, plus "multiple" casual places; 5 million of his fresh and frozen pizzas sell each year, and Campbell's sells 26 varieties of Wolfgang Puck soup. There's cookware, too ... (Photo from Access Hollywood.)

Four Diamonds

Bonterra, Zebra and McNinch House received Four Diamond awards from AAA Carolinas this week. Each has won multiple times: This is Bonterra's eighth award, Zebra's ninth and McNinch's 15th. Of 58,000 inspections each year nationally, 3.4 percent result in this rating, according to Dave Parsons of the organization.

Links of the week

McDonald's has dropped "pink slime," perhaps in part because of chef Jamie Oliver's protests (but maybe not), says the Huffington Post here.

The Daily Mail, meanwhile, illuminates us on the British teen who collapsed after (she says) eating nothing but chicken nuggets -- for 15 YEARS.
(MSNBC explains a little about salt and reducing it in a related story here.)

Wow. I might need a glass of wine after that. You, too? Learn a few vocabulary words to be more impressive while imbibing, here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bits and crumbs

This Sunday (Jan. 29) is the 12th annual Soup on Sunday benefitting Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region. Soups from area restaurants, pottery from area potters, all offered 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Central Piedmont Community College, 425 N. Kings Drive (at the corner of Kings and 7th.) General admission (food and drinks) is $30 ($10 for kids 7-12, free for 6 and younger); "soup lover's special" is $40 and you get a handmade pottery bowl as well. Details and tickets: hpccr.org. You can also buy them at the door or by phone at 704-335-4312.

Global will add a Jan. 31-Feb. 4 run to its Restaurant Week three-for-$30 deal.

Bonterra, Zebra and McNinch House received Four Diamond awards from AAA Carolinas this week. Each has won multiple times: This is Bonterra's eighth award, Zebra's ninth and McNinch's 15th. Of 58,000 inspections each year nationally, 3.4 percent result in this rating, according to Dave Parsons of the organization.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

But do you REALLY want to show your love?

The Ritz-Carlton uptown's 14-Carat Chocolate Package should do. You get:

* Five-course, all-dessert Champagne and chocolate dinner for two, including pairings such as Chocolate Pistachio and Raspberry Macaron with Moët & Chandon Nectar Rosé Imperial.

* Two nights in The Ritz-Carlton Suite, which has "floor-to-ceiling panoramic views of Charlotte."

* A private dessert cooking class for two at Bar Cocoa’s Cocoa Lab Kitchen.

* A Le Vian 14K White Gold and Chocolate Diamond Pendant Necklace.

* A Montblanc Chocolate Brown Bohème Fountain Pen.

* Weekend brunch for two at Bar Cocoa.

* The Honey Detox and Chocolate Truffle Body Treatment and Massage for two at the hotel's spa.

* A dedicated private car and driver throughout your stay.

* Limousine service to and from the hotel and a local address or to and from the hotel to the Charlotte airport.

The price tag is $14,000 -- and yes, that includes tax and tip. Interested? You can get "personalized reservations assistance" (I should think so) from the hotel's Ashley Branch at 704-549-4735. Note: You do need to call seven days in advance.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bits and crumbs

The Duke Mansion does what it calls "Chill Chaser Evenings," starting Jan. 27, with cocktail hour (5:30-7 p.m.) at the Mansion: cash/credit bar and snacks from chef Harrison Booth. Feb. 24 and March 23 are also on the calendar; reservations: 704-714-4445. 400 Hermitage Road.

Bonterra hosts a Michael Keenan wine dinner Jan. 30, with courses including jumbo lump crab cocktail with 2009 Spring Mountain Chardonnay and spiced slow-braised lamb shank with 2007 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. $75; 1829 Cleveland Ave.; 704-333-9463.

Showmars (multiple locations) will offer two promotions in the first two weeks of February, for American Heart Month: Jan. 30-Feb. 10, one dollar from every large Greek salad will go to the American Heart Association; and restaurants will sell AHA Red Dress pins for $5, and buyers get a $2 coupon toward their next visit, valid through February.

The Villa Antonio at 4707 South Blvd. now offers $5 appetizers each night at the bar, and $6 drink specials.

Monday, January 23, 2012

"East" Feast, Harper's deal

Through Jan. 29, East Blvd. Bar & Grill offers three courses for $15. Choices include Buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks, soup, side salad, burger, bruschetta wrap, fish tacos, entree salads and more. 1315 East Blvd.; 704-332-2414.

Harper´s offers three courses for $20.12 through Jan. 29. 11059 Carolina Place Parkway (704-541-5255) and 6518 Fairview Road (704-366-6688).

Friday, January 20, 2012

Charlotte Restaurant Week tips

Ten days, more than 100 restaurants, three courses (or more) for $30.
Charlotte Restaurant Week begins Jan. 20. The idea's a great one: Restaurants can get a lot of traffic during what’s typically a slow time of year for them (there’s another Week in July, too), while diners get a chance to try places they might not otherwise. But note a few things:

  • That $30 doesn’t include tax, tip or beverage for the most part (though some places do include a glass of wine, draft beer or margarita in the deal). So expect to spend more than $30 per person.
  • Diners intent on getting a deal should shop the website, www.charlotterestaurantweek.com, comparing choices to restaurants' regular menus. At many places, you can choose a trio that would barely top $30 at regular prices. But if you’ve done your homework, you can get more bang for your buck. (Personally, I like to choose what sounds good together, but some folks really want to feel that discount.) And check details like steak weights. Some places may offer smaller steaks or one lobster tail rather than two. (Understandable, since restaurants can take a bath on the Week, but you want to be aware.)
  • Places can be busier than they usually are and, if they’re not well-managed, you can feel part of a herd. Ask how reservations are going and lean toward weeknights, rather than weekend nights, if this worries you. Prepare for a bit of natural confusion, relax, and you'll have a better time.

Here are some highlights:

For those who crave the new:
Osso, Fern and La Paz are relatively new – and before you tell me how long La Paz has been around, this is the new location at the Metropolitan. And check its CRW menu: A pretty complete divergence, from newly hired chef Tobin McAfee. I’m told diner response may mean additions to that tried-and-true menu.
For the folks who want choice:
The Tuscan grills own this one: Aria and Primo both essentially have their whole menus in on this deal. Sante in Matthews, while much smaller, also proffers a notably large percentage of its lineup.
For those who look at the dessert menu before entrees:
Blue: Seven choices, covering all three dessert food groups – Chocolate, Fruit, Liqueur.
For adventure-seekers:
The Speedway Club is usually a private club, but opens up for this event. Always wondered about it? Check it out.
Global offers a good sense of what it’s about, from salmon rillettes on housemade baguette to the cod dish called Stockfish a la Nicoise.
Luce has an appetizer, fish, pasta and risotto of the day in its lineup.
I’d skip:
Del Frisco’s offers choice among entrees -- each of which tops or nears the $30 mark alone -- but every diner will have the exact same salad, side and dessert? Go if you've never been (it's luxe), but you won't get much insight into what the kitchen can do. Morton's is similarly one-dimensional.
For the deal-hungry:
Maharani Indian Cuisine: You get a glass of wine, an appetizer, a full dinner-size entrée AND a full-size tandoori entrée, plus dessert.
Chima: Sheer volume – all you can eat of both the salad bar and the dozen proteins served from skewers. Regular price is $49.50; a few of the usual meats (lamb chops, for example) won’t be served, but it’s still a significant discount.

French wines Jan. 31

A Wine Vault French wine dinner Jan. 31 at Pewter Rose brings in Jean Louis Tribouley Orchis and three Saint Damien Gigondas, with dishes such as quail "au vin" over basmati rice and a mild chorizo and Northern bean cassoulet. $75; 1820 South Blvd.; 704-548-9463.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chef Hibbs back

Chef Mark Hibbs returns to Charlotte restaurants with the new Blackthorne Restaurant & Bar, which opened last week at Ballantyne. Hibbs, former chef-owner of the defunct Ratcliffe on the Green, says the concept is New American Bistro, with some of the former Ratcliffe entrée favorites, such as braised lamb shank and roasted Poulet Rouge chicken, plus a lengthy lineup of appetizers and small plates, from seared duck breast crostini to fried quail in a bucket. Owners are Tim and Jay Duffy, new to the restaurant business. 11318 N. Community House Road; 704-817-5554.

Restaurant Week bonus

Customers who order the three-for-$30 menu two or more times at participating Harper´s Restaurant Group locations (Zink, Mimosa Grill and Upstream) during the Jan. 20-29 Charlotte Restaurant Week will get a $20 gift card. Dine four or more times and you get a $50 gift card.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bits and crumbs

Reid's offers an oyster roast Jan. 21 starting at 2 p.m. ("'til we run out of oysters!"), as an "on the house" thank-you to supporters. Beer (Bud and Bud Light) will sell for $2. 2823 Selwyn Ave.; 704-377-1312.

The Palm offers a fixed-price menu through March 31: $49.95 gets you choice of starter (Caesar or mixed green salad, lobster bisque or mushroom ravioli), entree (9-ounce filet, scallops or shrimp) and side. Phillips Place; 704-552-7256.

Revolution Pizza & Ale House plans a five-course Southern Tier beer dinner Jan. 29 for $45. Among the courses are ground venison chili with Iniquity Black Ale, pan-seared scallops with 2XIPA, and more. 3228 N. Davidson St.; 704-333-4440.

Bonterra hosts a five-course Robert Foley wine dinner Feb. 1, with Bob and Kelly Foley on hand. Among the courses are a smoked tomato pappardelle with 2009 Charbono; rack of wild boar with 2009 Merlot; and more. 1829 Cleveland Ave. Reservations: www.heartbright.org; 704-373-3002.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Growlers gets recognition

Draft Magazine includes Growlers Pourhouse in its list of America's 100 best beer bars, here. 3120 N. Davidson St.; 704-910-6566.

Free Chick-fil-A breakfasts

Charlotte area Chick-fil-As are offering free breakfast dishes 6:30-10:30 a.m. Jan. 23-28 -- but you must reserve online by Jan. 21. Go to www.chick-fil-aforbreakfast.com, click on the date, time and location you want, then on the item (it's a diverse group, from chicken biscuits to breakfast burritos to oatmeal). You must give a name and e-mail address. Then you get a confirmation to print and take with you. Limit: one free item per customer per day. (You have to get it yourself, and not all restaurants have every item.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Leroy Fox open in former Hotel Charlotte

Leroy Fox is open, with a short menu (more to come), in the former Hotel Charlotte spot at 705 S. Sharon Amity Road. Checking in, we found very-salty-crusted but juicy fried chicken served North (breast and wing) or South (leg and thigh); an Asian style of slaw (cabbage shredded fine, with bits of ramen noodle); grilled salmon (a miniscule portion, but tender and moist); and peppery-battered fried zucchini fingers. Service is exceedingly friendly and the place is astronomically lighter and airier than it was as the cozy Hotel: White woodwork and a dining-room long divider break up space, and a multitude of TV screens also make it brighter.

I suspect the "foxing" joke (as in "a foxing fantastic time" and "foxing fried chicken") will pall, but T-shirts ("Vixen") may have longer life. Also of note: original hotel doors and other details, and some private areas, like "The Fox Den."

Dinner nightly until Jan. 23, when both lunch and the full dinner menu will kick in. It's owned by a group that includes restaurateur Martin Sprock, known for his franchising, though director of operations Daniel Thompson said franchising plans are "still up in the air." 704-366-3232.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Roosters news

The second Rooster's, uptown at 1 Bank of America Center’s Urban Garden at 5th and College streets, should open at the end of January, the Rooster's folks say. Also coming up: The original location hosts "An Evening with Duck Rabbit Brewery" Jan. 25, with a menu that includes braised rabbit sugo with caramelized onion, paired with Milk Stout; cocoa-crusted duck breast with coffee-cured duck ham and Brussels sprouts, paired with Brown Ale; and more. $50; 704-366-8688.

Beer dinner

D'Vine Wine Cafe hosts a Global Brewers Guild Beer Dinner Jan. 26, featuring Uinta and 21st Amendment breweries. On the menu: grilled salmon and soba noodle salad with 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die IPA and shrimp bisque with St. Andre grilled cheese and Uinta Hop Notch IPA; roasted duck breast with Uinta Bristlecone Brown; smoked beef brisket with 21st Amendment Back in Black IPA and more. $44.99; 14815 John J. Delaney Drive; reservations required: 704-369-5050.

New hours, new offerings

The Wine Shop at Foxcroft has new hours for food service: The wine bar and kitchen now open at 5 p.m. and close at 10:30 Monday-Saturday, and are closed Sundays. The shop is open 10 a.m-11 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 7824 Fairview Road; 704-365-6550.

Chick-fil-A rolled out a new kid’s meal this week, with four grilled nuggets, fruit cup and low-fat milk, and has also added a new side: apple sauce.

Wells Banana Bread Beer is among the week's new beers at the Pizza Peel, 4422 Colwick Road.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Heard Puck rumors?

Wolfgang Puck, who had an "Express" version of a restaurant in the Charlotte area a while ago (it morphed into a "Carolina Bistro," then closed, at Promenade on Providence), may be on his way back. Says a spokesman: "We are currently in plans to open a new concept but the details are not firmed up exactly just yet." Stay tuned.

What's up in Blowing Rock

Crippen's Country Inn & Restaurant plans two January events with other chefs:

* Jan. 20 kicks off a yearlong “Rising Star Chefs” series with Raleigh chef/owner Chad McIntyre of Market Restaurant. McIntyre's cooking is described as clean Southern flavors with an inventive, sometimes global twist; he's worked on the Gulf coast and out west, and opened in Raleigh about a year ago. $39 (must be purchased in advance); www.crippens.com.

* Jan. 24 will be a “Battle of the Champions,” pitting Nate Allen from Knife & Fork in Spruce Pine (WNC Chef Challenge winner), Michael Barbato from Chetola Resort (2011 “Fire On the Rock” winner) and Crippen's chef Stan Chamberlain in a battle in which diners will vote on the winner. Each chef will do two courses; $49 (must be purchased in advance); www.crippens.com.

Crippen's is at 239 Sunset Drive, Blowing Rock.

Emeril's place sets opening date

Emeril Lagasse's new e2 will open Jan. 26, if all goes according to plan, serving dinner Monday-Saturday at 135 Levine Avenue of the Arts uptown (between Tryon and Church streets). Described as "casual American," it brings together several veterans of Lagasse restaurants, from chef de cuisine Justin Sells to sous and pastry chef Stephanie Nikolic. Look for chicken and waffles, shrimp pizza, sea scallops with crab fumet, "ham-cured" pork loin and more. The setup includes a counter bordering the open kitchen; a seafood/raw bar; a common table for up to 12; a cocktail bar; the main dining room (seating 125); and a street-level outdoor patio. Complimentary valet parking will be offered, and reservations will be taken starting Jan. 16, at 704-414-4787 or e2emerils.com.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

City Tavern at SouthPark

Look for a new City Tavern at SouthPark, in the former San Antonio's Modern Mexican spot (formerly Morton's), by Dick’s Sporting Goods and McCormick & Schmick’s. Plans call for entrees to range from about $12-$24, and for construction to begin this month, with the place opening in March.

Lulu offers 4-course special

From Jan. 20-29, Lulu offers four courses for $30 at dinner: choice of olives, pâté or fried calamari; choice of soup or salad; choice of steak and frites, braised rabbit, cod Provençal or risotto of the day; and dessert. 1911 Central Ave.; 704-376-2242.

Soup on Sunday, Year 12

Save Jan. 29 (11 a.m.-2 p.m.) for the 12th annual Soup on Sunday benefitting Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region. Soups come from a multitude of area restaurants, and you can buy pottery made for the event by local potters. It's held at the Philip L. Van Every Culinary Arts Center of Central Piedmont Community College, 425 N. Kings Drive (at the corner of Kings and 7th.)

General admission is $30 and gets you food and beverages ($10 for kids 7-12, free for 6 and younger), while the "soup lover's special" is $40 and you get a handmade pottery bowl as well. Details and tickets: hpccr.org. You can also buy them at the door or by phone at 704-335-4312.

Restaurants already on the list (with soups, if they've announced them):
Red Rocks Café (white bean chicken chili); 300 East (butternut squash with Gorgonzola); Zebra (truffled mushroom and lobster bisque); Sante (roasted butternut squash); Fenwick’s (tomato bisque and chicken with veggies and garden blend rice); Barrington’s; Harvest Moon Grille; Fran’s Filling Station; Crepe Cellar; Paco’s Tacos & Tequila; Midwood Smokehouse; Mama Ricotta’s; and Rodi.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Noted Kinston restaurant has fire

Chef & the Farmer, a well-regarded restaurant in Kinston, had a major fire this weekend, and a reopening date has not been set, reports the Kinston Free Press. Owners Ben Knight and Vivian Howard opened the place in a former mule stable in 2006, and it specializes in fare made with Eastern N.C. growers' products. A fire official said the fire "gutted" the restaurant's storage area, according to the story.

Coming up: wines, beers, more!

The Wine Vault's next dinner, with Barnett Vineyards and David Tate, is slated for Jan. 15 at Sullivan's Steakhouse. Among the lineup are crab cake with "Savoy" Chardonnay; Delmonico steak with Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon; and more. $75 (including tax and tip); 704-548-9463.

The annexed space for The King's Bakery, next to uptown's The King's Kitchen, is open, and will host a Trinchero Family wine dinner Jan. 18. The menu includes Hoppin' John cakes and cheese fonduta with Joel Gott Pinot Gris; braised beef short rib with Brussels sprouts, cornbread purée, wild mushrooms and veal demi-glace, with Napa Cellars Syrah; and more. $50; 704-375-1990; the space is on the Church Street side of the Kitchen, at 129 W. Trade St.

Arthur's Wine Shop at Belk SouthPark hosts a Zinfandel Festival 6-7:30 p.m. Jan. 18 for $10 a person. 704-366-8610.

Blue hosts a beer and food pairing with Old Mecklenburg Brewery Jan. 19. Pairings will include rabbit and ricotta canelloni with OMB Copper; charmoula-lacquered duck confit with Dunkel Lager; oven-roasted Kobe top round beef, carved at the table, with OMB Unfiltered Copper; and more. $45.95; Hearst Tower (corner of College and 5th streets uptown); reservations: 704-927-2583.

New lunch

The Capital Grille now offers a customized "Plates Menu" for lunch, with a 45-minute time estimate and a lineup that includes choice of soup or salad, sandwich and side for $18. The current menu includes a Wagyu cheeseburger with fried egg and crisp onions, roasted pepper soup and roasted root vegetables; the choices will change seasonally. 201 N. Tryon St.; 704-348-1400.