Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dine out, do good for kids

Seven Five Guys in the Charlotte area will donate a portion of proceeds this week to First Book-Charlotte, which provides new books to kids in need (that's a happy recipient at right). Participating locations: Ballantyne, Blakeney, Steele Creek, Matthews, Monroe, South Boulevard and Arboretum. The week includes this coming Sunday, and hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Details: www.fiveguys.com. First Book-Charlotte, launched in 2006, distributed more than 300,000 new books as of spring 2012, says Colleen Luddington, co-chair of the group.

Showmars has School Tools barrels in each of its 28 restaurants, awaiting your donations of school supplies for students who don't have them. School Tools' campaign runs throughout August. Pens, pencils, glue sticks, markers, book bags and more are welcome. You can also give at www.school-tools.org.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Summer at the Mansion

The Duke Mansion hosts an evening of cocktails and snacks 5:30-7 p.m. Aug. 17, and you can stroll the gardens or stay cool inside the mansion. Snacks are free; drinks are from a cash bar (which takes credit cards). Reservations: 704-714-4445 or email kellis@tlwf.org. 400 Hermitage Road.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Chicksbeer: Shakespeare, girls, brews

"For a quart of Ale is a dish for a King.”
— William Shakespeare, A Winter’s Tale

Coming in September: Chickspeare, Charlotte's all-female Shakespeare Company, will perform portions of the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged at NoDa Brewing, with beer and food from the Tin Kitchen food truck on hand.

The theater company began doing shows about 14 years ago at the Johnson Brewery on Central Avenue (now defunct) and, said founder Sheila Snow Proctor in a release, "Some of my most fond theater memories are from those early years at Johnson Beer. The opportunity of recreating that experience for a new audience with NoDa Brewing was irresistible." Plans call for both old and new company members.

Dates: Sept. 16, 17, 23, 24. Time: Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Reservations: 980-819-9734 or at NoDa Brewing, 2229 N. Davidson St., during business hours.
$20 buys you a ticket to the show and meal: Your choice of tacos - barbecued beef brisket with chipotle slaw, drunken chicken with goat cheese or sweet potato hash with stewed white beans - and sides; you buy drinks separately.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Food truck + wine place = seated dinner

Vin Master, a wine store, and Roots Farm Food, a food truck, collaborate on a seated dinner at what the two are calling "the inaugural Food Truck Dinner." It'll be Aug. 18 at Vin Master, 2000 South Blvd. Vin Master owner Chris Woodrow and Roots' chef-owner Craig Barbour plan five courses, including oysters with Prosecco, duck confit with Chianti and more. $85; reservations at thevinmaster.com.

Sweet Saturday at Market

7th Street Public Market offers "Sweet Saturday" 11 a.m.-2 p.m. July 28 at 224 E. 7th St. uptown: Vendors will have a variety of sweets, from white chocolate cupcakes at Cloud 9 Confections to sweet rolls at Banzai Sushi to fro-yo push pops at Tasty-Yo to vegan, raw, sugar-free desserts (including "Life by Chocolate Cake") at Viva Raw. Also coming "soon," according to market press: new vendor Orrman's Cheese Shop. More info at www.7thstreetpublicmarket.com.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Restaurant Week is half over: How's it going?

Let us know how your Restaurant Week meals have been. (This is the three(-or-more)-courses-for-$30 deal going on through July 29 at some 100 restaurants around town; details here.) Had something outstanding? Found a new favorite? Share.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Big Ben celebrates Olympics

Big Ben British Restaurant and Pub plans a party 4 p.m.-midnight July 27 to celebrate the opening of the Olympic Games. (They're in London, you know?) 2000 South Blvd. at Atherton Mill; 704-817-9697.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cantina 1511s sold

The two Cantina 1511s have a new owner; Frank Scibelli's FS Food Group has sold them "in order to focus on their other restaurant concepts," according to a press release. The chefs and staff will stay on in Dilworth and Stonecrest, according to FS; the new owner is Quantum Development, a South Africa-based company that has Mugg & Bean, a coffee-themed restaurant franchise.

So what's FS doing with its four other concepts? Midwood Smokehouse will expand into the adjacent space with a bigger kitchen and dining area, plus a wraparound bar (current tenant Slate Interiors moves to the end of the property); Bad Daddy's is scheduled to open two locations outside Charlotte this year (in Raleigh and Cary) and is "poised to begin franchising" with a first franchisee "close" to signing; and Mama Ricotta's will get a new look this fall, closing for a week for significant renovation. (Paco's Tacos & Tequila had its menu overhaul earlier in the year.)

Bizarre food note of the week

"Time Machine Chef" posits that great TV will come from chefs trying to cook time-period-appropriate fare in time-period-appropriate ways, including the opening episode, in which chefs must whip up a cooked cockatrice (above, from elfwood.com), and dogs (in RUFFS!) operate rotisseries in hamster-wheel-like contraptions. (I'll help, via Eater.com: Skip to 1:42.) "Top Chef" fans will rejoice (or boo) at the return of Ilan Hall. Premieres Aug. 16 on ABC.

Bits and crumbs: Providence Cafe closed

Yes, Myers Park's Providence Cafe is closed, and yes, it's going to be something new from Charlotte Prime, which is the Ruth's Chris franchisee in Charlotte - details to come after some finalizing of details. Stay tuned.

New at Gallery: Tomato and avocado salad (above), along with a spiced tuna loin appetizer; grilled local peaches with Goat Lady Dairy camembert; and entrees of hake fillet, Scottish salmon, and pasta pillows with shrimp and scallops. 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4100.

Blue offers a food and wine pairing Aug. 15 focusing on Landmark Vineyards. Among the fare: rabbit ragu with ricotta gnocchi and 2010 Overlook Chardonnay; whole roasted salmon with 2009 Grand Detour Pinot Noir; and lacquered squab breast with pancetta, black currants and Robiola polenta and 2009 Kanzler Pinot Noir. $49; reservations required: 704-927-2583; Hearst Plaza uptown.

Fran's at Market

Fran's Filling Station's market-edition is open at the 7th Street Public Market, with a menu that includes fried pickles, bacon-wrapped tater tots and most of the signature sandwiches (from the original location, which is at 2410 Park Road in Dilworth), including burgers and fried chicken sandwiches, lemon chicken salad and wedge salads, plus daily specials.

Strong wines at Zink

Zink hosts a wine dinner featuring Sonoma County's Rodney Strong Vineyards on Aug. 2, in conjunction with Chef's Collaborative and that group's effort to preserve Bristol Bay, Alaska, which it calls the most productive wild salmon fishery in the world. The four courses include sweet pepper and corn-crusted Bristol Bay wild salmon with tomato cobbler and 2010 Russian River Pinot Noir 2010; and Snake River Farms beef duo with roasted cauliflower and tasso ham, with 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 2007 Rockaway Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. $75; 4310 Sharon Road; 704-909-5500.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

More deals for this week

Harper's at Southpark and Carolina Place offer both a $15 two-course lunch menu and a $20 three-course dinner menu through July 29. Lunch gives you an entree from the burger, sandwich, salad or pizza categories, plus a starter or dessert, while dinner will vary at each restaurant. Find details at www.harpersgroup.com/events.asp.

6518 Fairview Road, 704-366-6688; and 11059 Carolina Place Parkway, 704-541-5255.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Coming up: Pizza Fusion at Metropolitan

Pizza Fusion, which bills itself as "a socially responsible restaurant chain passionate about organic pizza making," plans to open in September at The Metropolitan in midtown, at 1055 Metropolitan Ave. (around the corner from Trader Joe's). Look for salads, appetizers, sandwiches and desserts, in addition to the pies, and "trendy, eco-friendly design elements consistent with its do-good, eat good mantra." Pizzas range from classics to vegan and gluten-free forms, and its press says the chain endeavors to get local produce at each location (which are built to LEED certification standards, by the way). Crusts are organic white, multigrain or gluten-free and vegan. www.pizzafusion.com.

New menu at Fern

Fern rolled out a new summer menu this week, with new dishes, among them:
* Summer terrine of cucumber, local squash and almond custard with kombucha-marinated fennel salad;
* Squash blossom hush puppies with caramelized onion "butter";
* Fried green tomato sandwich with house-smoked mushroom bacon (note: "bacon," not bacon, since the place is vegetarian -- this always confuses someone);
* Dashi ramen with coconut froth and a poached farm egg;
* Chiles rellenos with quinoa and housemade spicy "chorizo."
See the whole thing at www.fernflavors.com.

Also of note: Brunch is now served 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; that lineup includes quinoa and spinach benedict; housemade gluten-free biscuits; sweet potato hash with fennel and walnuts; housemade granola and more. 1323 Central Ave.; 704-377-1825.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tequila Week

Vida's second annual Vida Tequila Week begins July 23, with activities all week, including a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity July 24 (also National Tequila Day) and a tequila pairing dinner July 25.
Monday: a margarita flight and specially priced Vida margaritas.
Tuesday: features, with $1 from each featured margarita donated to Habitat and Vida matching those donations.
Wednesday: Five-course pairing menu with 1800 tequilas; $40.
Thursday: "Tequila Therapy," a weekly Vida feature, with pitchers of margaritas and sangria.
Friday: Featured "Coronaritas," which are just what you think: margaritas made with Corona.
210 E. Trade St.; 704-971-8432.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tomato Fest and movie nights

Harper's celebrates "all things tomato" in its 13th Annual Tomato Fest, with locally grown tomatoes appearing in tomato antipaso, crab and avocado stack, tomato and onion salads, and more.

Also up at the Carolina Place location only: Dinner and movie nights July 21 ("Cars 2") and July 28 ("The Three Stooges"). Family discount dining is offered 5-9 p.m. and the movies are shown, starting at sunset, in the courtyard outside the south entrance of the mall (beside REI). 11059 Carolina Place Parkway; 704-541-5255.

Maverick Rock Taco en route

Look for Maverick Rock Taco to open on Montford Drive when permitting and final details are pulled together, says Angelo Kaltsounis of Xenia Hospitality Group (of ilios noche, Nolen Kitchen, Big View Diner). But figure it's well on its way -- and it will have a lot going on:

Concept: The theme is "All-American rock and roll" and its design "screams Americana," Kaltsounis said. It's geared to be draw both older diners and families (plus lunch customers) as well as the more typical Montford Drive customer (which I define as younger, drinking more than they eat and arriving a little later than diners usually do).

Food: After travels to cities from Detroit to Austin, the group chose Mexican fare. Chef is Phil Okey, whose experience in the area ranges from Mac's to Sullivan's. Look for street tacos, burrito-style wraps and individual proteins served several ways: Seared ahi tuna, for example, with a chipotle orange miso glaze, would come as a taco (with Asian slaw and avocado), a wrap (with slaw and avocado plus greens, pumpkin seeds and horseradish) or as a Maverick salad (on greens with jicama, mango, red onions and avocado, with serrano-apple vinaigrette). Other proteins might include chicken stewed with adobo and chile-rubbed pork. There'll be entree plates, too, along with guacamoles, ceviches, wings and more (Mexican-spiced popcorn free at the bar?), plus desserts from the group's pastry wizard, Frank Kaltsounis. And tequila flights, and specialty salts. Prices will average about $7-$8 for lunch specials, $12-$13 for dinner entrees.

Decor: Look for an enormous American flag of reclaimed wood as a focal point, a back wall that sports vinyl records (think music store), reclaimed brick (from a New York fire station), and an eventual Phase 2 construction that will create a wrapped balcony.

Music: Plans call for live music at least twice a week and "Smitty" spinning classic rock and roll on Saturday nights. Kaltsounis says they aim at a 50-50 blend: 50 percent recognizable music, and the other half "up and coming." Maybe a mariachi band sometimes ... The feel will be "very Ace Hotel meets the Breslin." (The latter was called "Hogwarts for hipsters" by the New York Times' Sam Sifton, in case you haven't yet clicked the links.)

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Coming up

Coastal Kitchen & Bar, in the Hilton Charlotte Center City, hosts a Flora Springs wine dinner July 20, with Danny Sanford from the winery. Among the courses: sea scallop with white corn leek ragu and Chardonnay; filet of beef with quail egg, asparagus, white truffle dauphinoise (potatoes; think gratin) and Flora Springs Trilogy. $50 (and complimentary valet parking); 704-331-4360 or via Open Table; 222 E. 3rd St. uptown.

Wine Spectator lists include Charlotte

Among the latest Wine Spectator awards, The Angus Barn in Raleigh won its Grand Award, and 20 Charlotte restaurants were noted in the group's three categories.

Blue, Del Frisco's and Fig Tree got the awkwardly named "Best of Award of Excellence," while Awards of Excellence went to BLT Steak; Bonterra; Capital Grille; Chima; Copper; Fleming's; Gallery; Mama Ricotta's; McNinch House; Mimosa Grill; Morton's; Ruth's Chris (both); Sullivan's Steakhouse; The Palm; Upstream; and Zink.

In 2012, 2,842 restaurants won Awards of Excellence, which recognize wine lists that offer "a good selection of quality wines that thematically match a restaurant’s cuisine." For the "Best," won by 878, lists are supposed to show "significant vintage depth or superior breadth in one or more major wine regions." The Grand Award places "generally offer 1,500 or more selections, with superior breadth and depth in many ... regions"; 75 places have that in the 2012 list.

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Hawthorne's on way to Ballantyne

A new Hawthorne's New York Pizza & Bar could open Aug. 15 in Ballantyne if all goes according to plan, in the former Domenico's (before that Chees Mo'z) spot at 8410 Rea Road, in the Village at Robinson Farm.

It will be the fifth full-service location in the area for the Charlotte-based chain, and plans call for a free slice day "for the community" near the opening, says marketing director Matthew Vincent. The menu will range from the $12 18-inch New Yorker cheese pizza to other pizzas and Italian-American dishes, pastas, sandwiches, children's dishes and more. Lunch and dinner will be offered daily 11 a.m.-11 p.m., with the bar open later. www.hawthornespizza.com.

For Monday, a Moon deal

Harvest Moon Grille offers its weekly "Over the Moon Monday" deal - three courses for $30 6:30-10 p.m. each Monday - with today's menu including bruschetta peperonata (with Siegel Farm peppers and housemade ciabatta bread); "mock-saka" made with eggplant, Yukon Gold potatoes and spicy chorizo; and a duo of melon inspired gelees. 235 N. Tryon St.; 704-342-1193.

New menus

New menus at The Liberty:
Brunch (already begun) includes house-cured wild salmon on bagel with pickled cucumber, egg and more; fried egg sandwich with pork belly; maple pecan cinnamon rolls; Berkshire pork "Nuevo Rancheros" (with egg, beans, queso on corn tortilla); organic Cobb salad; marinated steak salad; hickory smoked American Kobe brisket; and more.
Lunch, which kicks off Aug. 1, will include a whole menu of burgers, from a truffle burger (truffle cheese, jalapeno bacon, black truffle aioli and truffle glaze) to the Hatch burger (four types of green chiles, pepperjack cheese and more), wild Scottish salmon burger, market burgers (you choose toppings), and more; plus poutine (cheesy fries with add-ons such as barbecue pork or lobster); chimichurri chicken burrito; fish and chips; all-Angus hot dogs and more.
1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

D'Vine Wine Cafe's new menu starts this week, with new fare ranging from cheese and charcuterie selections; BLT on house-baked bread; grilled chicken breast tenders with corn and sweet pea risotto; seared salmon with black Thai rice and black bean and peach salsa and more. 14815 John J. Delaney Drive, 704-369-5050.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Two-for-one cupcakes (and Restaurant Week)

Bar Cocoa at The Ritz-Carlton will offer two-for-one cupcakes throughout Restaurant Week -- which is July 20-29.

In case you forgot about Restaurant Week, it's more than 100 area restaurants serving three-course (or more) meals for $30, and all the details are here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ooh. Scary. Food Truck Friday.

And the "free film to follow" (you can see that at the bottom of the poster) is "Carolina Stories": Two-minutes videos described as "showcasing unique people, places and community efforts from Charlotte and the Carolinas." They'll be shown 7-10 p.m., and come from Convention host committee Charlotte in 2012.

New at Blue

Among fare on Blue's new menu: pan-seared Hudson Valley foie gras over local-peach tarte tatin; grilled shrimp kabobs with garlic over summer vegetable tabbouleh; Alaskan halibut with peeky toe crab succotash; crisp duck breast (roasted under a brick) with roasted local peach mostarda and Carolina gold rice pilaf. Hearst Plaza uptown; reservations: 704-927-2583.

Coming up

Softshell crab makes its last appearance of the season at TOMI July 13-14, in limited quantities. Pan-seared with sansho pepper and Chinese spices and served with steamed vegetables, it's $13. 7741 Colony Road; 704-759-1288.

Free live music and $3 Bloody Marys arrive at the Rooster's SouthPark Sunday brunch this week. Brunch starts at 11:30 a.m.; 6601 Morrison Blvd.; 704-366-8688.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

King's Kitchen Mission 5000

Folks at The King's Kitchen and Rooster's uptown want to throw a party near the start of next school for children who are homeless, a time "they can let go of worry for a day, eat great food, have fun, listen to music and get much needed school supplies so they can enter into the school year confident and prepared," as chef/owner Jim Noble puts it.

So they've got a plan for diners that involves eating at both restaurants: Start at the Kitchen for lunch or dinner and tell the server you are dining for Mission 5000. You'll get a card. Take that with you to a meal at the uptown Rooster's (not the SouthPark one) before Sept. 1, and give it to the server there. You'll get 10 percent off that meal, and the two dinners together count as one completed card. Noble aims to collect 5,000 such cards, and at that time will donate $5,000 from Rooster's and $5,000 from the Kitchen to the planned event.

You must make reservations for your meals before the end of August. If you go to the Kitchen, but can't make it to Rooster's, you are allowed to give your card to someone who can to complete it. Updates and more info at Twitter @roostersuptown or @thekingskitchen.

Chow Down Uptown this week

Chow Down Uptown hits the 7th Street Station parking lot (224 E. 7th St.) 5-9 p.m. July 12, with live acoustic music on hand. Among the vendors:

Clover Joe’s - Sandwiches, including cheeseburgers and hot dogs.
Goody Woody’s - Fried tacos, sandwich wraps, burgers, dogs and more.
Harvest Moon Grille - eclectic fare emphasizing area produce, meats and cheeses.
Herban Legend - "American Classic Cuisine and International Comfort Food."
Maki Taco - Pan Asian cuisine.
Napolitano’s – Sandwiches and more with an Italian flair.
Sal’s Roadside Eatery - Sausage and peppers, hot dogs, eggplant parm, shish kabobs and more.
I Scream 4 Ice Cream - You can step into the air-conditioned mobile ice cream parlor.
Outdoor Feasts - Barbecue and more.
Sticks and Cones - Soft-serve ice cream, including chocolate, strawberry sundae and "Carolina gold."
Smoke and Go - Slow-cooked, smoked ribs, chicken, turkey, beef brisket, Boston butts, etc.
The Roaming Fork - Eclectic; we're told the pulled pork/grilled cheese sandwich "sells out faster than any item at Chow Down."
Southern Cake Queen - Cupcakes in dozens of flavors.
Wingzza - Wings and pizza.

Admission is free; there's $5 parking at the Secure Parking Lot adjacent to the Chow Down. Note: Not all vendors accept debit/credit cards.

Tequila tour

Caffe Siena hosts a “Tequila Tour” 6-9 p.m. July 17: four tequila cocktails from mixologist/manager Diego Francica, and tequila-inspired cuisine to go with it, served on the Holiday Inn Center City's rooftop rotunda. An example: The Compadre (Hornitos reposado tequila with Triple Sec, cranberry and lime juices and jalapeno garnish) with bourbon-glazed Atlantic salmon brochette. Reservations required: 704-335-5400 ext. 32; 230 N. College St.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Half-price cheesecake

The Cheesecake Factory will halve the price of its cheesecake slices (one per dine-in customer) on July 30, National Cheesecake Day. Also that day: the introduction of the Oreo Dream Extreme cheesecake (that's it, there to the right): vanilla cheesecake with Oreos layered with fudge cake and Oreo mousse, topped with milk chocolate icing. 4400 Sharon Road; 704-770-0076.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Burger month at BlackFinn

Four specialty burgers offered through July 31 at BlackFinn:
* The Eye Opener: On a toasted everything bagel, this has bacon, egg, creamy cheese sauce "and a hint of coffee" for $10.99.
* The French Connection: melted Brie, bacon, honey and apple slices on a kaiser roll for $12.99.
* The Big Maxx: garlic Texas toast, topped with breaded mac 'n cheese and roasted jalapeno sour cream for $11.99.
* St. Patty's Melt: topped with beer-braised onions and garlic-herb cream cheese, on grilled marble rye bread for $11.99.

For each of those types of burgers sold, BlackFinn will donate $1 to the Wounded Warrior Project. 210 E. Trade St.; 704-971-4440.

Coming up

Sweet Lorraine’s Bakery plans its grand opening in Dilworth for July 14. Chef/owner Christine Guerriero, a New York native, trained at the French Culinary Institute and named the bakery for her late mother; father Chuck and sisters Michelle and Stephanie will help with the business. Cookies, cakes (both prepared and custom-ordered), pies, pastries and artisanal breads will change on a seasonal basis. 220 East Blvd.; 704-332-5222; www.sweetlorrainesbakery.com.

Paint, eat, contribute: The Guerrilla Artists Group, a nonprofit that does youth art programs for kids who can't afford extracurricular art activities, plans a fundraiser 6-9 p.m. July 17 at Harvest Moon Grille. You'll get canvas, paint and brushes and a guided paint class (all levels!), with hors d'oeuvres during class from the Grille. $40; tickets at www.guerrillaartistsgroup.org/events-calender.html. The restaurant is uptown at the Dunhill: 235 N. Tryon St.

The Wooden Vine hosts an Iberian wine dinner July 17. Among the six courses: grilled squid with honey-herb chimichurri and Don Conde Cava; braised rabbit with succotash and 2009 Atalaya Almansa; and lamb medallions with Madeira glaze and 2005 Vina Alberdi La Rioja Alta Reserva. $55; 231 N. Tryon St.; 704-376-8463.

D'Vine Wine Cafe's new summer menu brings new small plates, cheeses, entrees and more, and the place's next big tasting is 2-5 p.m. July 21, with samples of the new menu and more than 35 wines. 14815 John J. Delaney Drive, 704-369-5050.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hot enough for you? (Burger, that is.)

National chain Red Robin now offers two burgers with the getting-famous ghost pepper, estimated on the Scoville heat scale at about 800,000 to 1,000,000+ units. (For comparison, jalapenos and Tabasco sauce rank somewhere in the 3,500 to 8,000 range; habaneros rank about 350,000 and a chart linked to by Time magazine says law enforcement grade pepper spray ranks between 2,000,000 and 5,000,000+ units.)

So Red Robin is serious. it's got the Fiery Ghost burger, with ghost pepper sauce and fresh-cut and fried jalapenos on top of pepperjack cheese; and the Cry Baby, which adds crispy onion straws tossed in sriracha dry seasoning, plus onions sauteed in Cholula hot sauce, pepperjack and ghost pepper ketchup.

“We are very excited to offer our guests two distinctly-Red Robin approaches to one of the world’s hottest chiles,” Dave Woolley, executive chef with Red Robin, said in a press release. “Our most adventurous guests will love how the Fiery Ghost Style tests the extreme limits of their taste buds, while the Cry Baby ... (takes) a more mild approach to the flavor of chiles and infusing both Latin American and Thai culinary influences.”

Meh, says heat blogger Scott Roberts here.

Tried it yet? Let me know... Zach Owens, assistant general manager at the 3415 Toringdon Road store, says he's a spicy guy and deems the Fiery Ghost burger "pretty hot. I need my drink with that one." (He recommends a milkshake, by the way.)