Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bonefish deal

Bonefish Grill's happy hour, with $5 drink specials all day, now adds $5 appetizers 4-6 p.m.: Among the lineup are "Bang Chicken" (crispy chicken in creamy and spicy sauce), "Bang Tacos" (shrimp tacos), ceviche and more. 7520 Pineville-Matthews Road, 704-541-6659; and 10056 E. Independence Blvd., Matthews, 704-845-8001.

Food trucks / Art

The trucks will be out March 2, in coordination with the South End Gallery Crawl once again.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Local chefs head to NYC

Executive chefs Marc Jacksina, Alyssa Gorelick and Blake Hartwick -- of siblings Halcyon, Fern and Something Classic, respectively -- will travel to the James Beard House in New York to put together a five-course "Taste of Charlotte" dinner June 28. Each will prepare a dish of his/her own, and the trio will collaborate on two dishes. Also on tap: wine pairings, plus a moonshine cocktail from Halcyon mixologist Maggie Ruppert. Details (menu, price, etc., since it's open to the public as well as members) to come, but there is talk of possibly using a whole (local) pig ...

Also coming up from this restaurant group:
Fern hosts a Mother Earth Brewing beer dinner March 19 for $45. Among the courses will be creamy polenta in French onion broth with chanterelles and Sisters of the Moon; and sweet potato and rosemary croquettes with braised mustard greens, with Dark Cloud. Reservations: 704-377-1825; 1323 Central Ave.

And Halcyon hosts "Grapes Down South" with Brooks Winery and winemaker Chris Williams on March 29. Look for oysters with buttermilk foam and mustard caviar, with Willamette Riesling; "Marc's Picnic Fried Chicken" with Japanese potato salad and Janus Pinot Noir, and more. $70; reservations: 704-910-0865; 500 S. Tryon St.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Updated: Emeril's opens for lunch

Update: An alert reader let me know the e2 website listed the burger at $13, and I've confirmed that with the restaurant -- the original menu had it at $16, but general manager Jeff Wakem says he decided to drop the price.

e2, Emeril's Eatery, begins serving lunch Feb. 28. The lineup, which will be offered 11 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays, includes:
* "The Burger" for $13: house-ground sirloin with aged white cheddar, aioli and hand-cut fries.
* Pork cheek ragu ($14), with fresh pasta.
* Chef's daily pie (from the wood-burning pizza oven).
Also on the menu are items from the dinner menu such as chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits and more. 135 Levine Avenue of the Arts uptown (between Tryon and Church streets); 704-414-4787.

Dine out, do good

Bonterra continues its support for Charlotte's Heartbright Foundation with a Switchback Ridge Winery dinner March 15, with winemaker Kelly Peterson on hand. Among the courses: Snapper ceviche with 2009 Robert Foley Pinot Blanc; veal chop with 2005 and 2009 Switchback Cabernets; and more. Reservations through the foundation, which provides cardiovascular and diabetes services for the underserved: $125; 704-373-3002; 1829 Cleveland Ave.

Dine out, do good

Dine out (in April), do good: The East Lincoln Relay for Life “Betting on a Cure” team will get 100 percent of the proceeds from breakfast and lunch April 9 (that's Easter Monday) from West Lake Restaurant in Denver, raising money for the American Cancer Society. Hours are 6 a.m.-2 p.m., and the restaurant is at 1235 N. Highway 16; 704-483-9023.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

FABO stalks Stewart

Coffee shop/art gallery FABO has a "Stalking Jon Stewart" campaign going, trying to convince "The Daily Show" star to stop in during the Democratic National Convention for a cup of coffee -- or maybe broadcast from her place? Recent victory: Owner Amy Aussieker got to meet "Daily Show" reporter John Oliver, in town on an unrelated (but comedy) gig. She presented him with a gift basket; he pronounced it the "most pleasant stalking I think there's ever been." Could Amy be on the road to victory? Watch the effort at (The clip of Oliver with Aussieker on WCNC is on that page.) FABO is at 2820 Selwyn Ave.; 704-900-2430.

Dine out, do good

National Pancake Day is 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Feb. 28: You get a free short stack at IHOP, and are asked to donate to support Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and other charities. They're aiming to raise $2.7 million this year. Info:


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

James Beard awards: Down to the semis

The James Beard Awards folk announced semifinalists today; winners will be announced in May. From the Carolinas are:
The Macintosh in Charleston, up for Best New Restaurant. (29 in group.)
Sean Brock of McCrady's in Charleston, up for Outstanding Chef. (20 in group.)
Magnolia Grill in Durham, up for Outstanding Restaurant. (20 in group.)
Eric Solomon of Eric Solomon Selections in Charlotte, up for Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional. (20 in group.)
Katie Button of Cúrate in Asheville, up for Rising Star Chef of the Year. (31 in group.)
And among the nominees for Best Chef: Southeast are Jeremiah Bacon of The Macintosh, Ashley Christensen of Poole's in Raleigh, Craig Deihl (yes, spelled like that) of Cypress in Charleston, John Fleer of Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley in Cashiers, Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, Scott Howell of Nana’s in Durham, Aaron Vandemark of Panciuto in Hillsborough, and Ken Vedrinski of Trattoria Lucca in Charleston. (20 in group.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2 parties, a night and a block apart

The EpiCentre plans "Charlotte’s Greatest Night Out" 9 p.m. to midnight Feb. 23: You buy a wristband for $10 and $1 of that goes to help a collection of causes, from Hospitality House of Charlotte to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The wristband gets you in to 10 participating EpiCentre venues, which will offer specials. 210 E. Trade St.

A day later and a block west, you can check out a beer dinner at Trade Restaurant & Bar in the Omni Charlotte (132 E. Trade St.). Four courses of Carolina Piedmont-centric food, from Grateful Growers pork belly to Goat Lady Dairy's chevre, share space in the Feb. 24 lineup with brews from Olde Mecklenburg Brewery such as Noel Red Double Bock and an unfiltered Copper Altbier. $40; reservations: 704-414-4920.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Wine dinners and St. Pat

Pewter Rose and Reid's host a wine dinner Feb. 21 featuring Maisons Marques & Domaines. The menu includes stewed tomato and blackberry ravioli with 2009 Pio Cesare Barbera D'Alba and braised short rib with 2009 Marc Bredif "Chinon," among other things. $55; reservations at

Ruth's Chris uptown and the Wine Vault offer a Caymus dinner March 6. Courses include seafood gumbo with 2010 Belle Glos Meiomi, and bistro filet mignon with 2009 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, plus a tasting of 2009 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon "Special Select," and more. $85; The Wine Vault: 704-548-9463.

March 16-17, Gallery restaurant offers Irish dishes for St. Patrick's Day, including traditional Irish stew ($6) and house-cured corned beef and braised cabbage ($8). 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; reservations: 704-248-4100.

New at Osso

Osso has new menu items. Among them: wild boar ragu over garganelli pasta; lobster Bolognese (done with slow-cooked tomatoes, over pasta alla chitarra -- that's "guitar" and it's rougher-textured, sort of square-edged strands) and grilled lamb chops with charred onions and mint salsa verde. 1000 N.C. Music Factory Blvd.; 704-971-0550.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hot and Hot's Hastings on way

Chef Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham will join chef Jon Fortes at Mimosa Grill for a day of "culinary collaboration" March 10.

Hastings, oft nominated for best chef in the South in the James Beard awards, wrote a cookbook named for his restaurant; he, Fortes and sibling Zink's chef, Tommy Dyrness, will do a cooking class from the book 10 a.m.-noon that day. The class will wrap up with a four-course tasting menu, with wines and recipes, and costs $40.

At night, both Mimosa's regular menu and a special lineup from the cookbook will be offered, and Hastings will be on hand. Among the specials: proscuitto and Vidalia onion salad; roasted Rock House Farm pork loin with Anson Mills farro; whole roasted snapper; and Hot and Hot doughnuts. A portion of the proceeds from the day will go to Southern Foodways Alliance.

Reservations: 704-343-0700; 327 S. Tryon St. Photo: Birmingham News.

New menu at Fern

Fern sports a new menu from executive chef Alyssa Gorelick. Among the additions: Garden Noshes – an appetizer choice of one, three, five or seven dips and snacks, from red curry eggplant to marinated herbed feta; Mata Hari Meatballs made with house-crafted seitan and red crimson lentils, baked in a spicy tomato sauce; red beet tagliatelle with figs, beet greens and Carolina bleu cheese in a walnut-red wine sauce; and more. 1323 Central Ave.; 704-377-1825.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Coming up

Ruth's Chris uptown (222 S. Tryon St.) offers a special Mardi Gras menu Feb. 16-21. Among the courses: crawfish and andouille gumbo; fried boudin ravioli; New Orleans surf and turf (bistro filet with creamy black pepper shrimp) and more. $55; 704-338-9444.

Keep an eye out for volunteers handing out samplings of a new King's Bakery sandwich sometime around March 1. The tasting will be uptown; the King's Bakery, sibling to the King's Kitchen, is on the Church Street side of the Kitchen, at 129 W. Trade St.

Georges Brasserie hosts a Fiddlehead wine dinner March 8, with Kathy Joseph of the winery on hand. Four courses; $90. 4620 Piedmont Row Drive; 980-219-7409.

Thank the Women Who Feed Us

"The Women Who Feed Us" is a six-course dinner March 5 at Harvest Moon Grille, designed to recognize women involved in agriculture and the general food supply. Marylyn Williams of Charlotte will be honored by area farmers as 2012 Local Food Activist of the Year. Williams, a member of Slow Food Charlotte and the Southern Foodways Alliance, has volunteered for farms at dinners, talks, lectures and other events and has worked to promote the local food movement.

The meal will be prepared by an all-woman culinary team, and the event "is for women, but we won't send anyone away," said a spokesman. (Yes, man.)

The dinner, $55 per person, will benefit the expansion of Leading Green, which picks up goods from farms and delivers to purchasers. Reservations: 704-342-1193; 235 N. Tryon St.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Zebra dinner

Zebra's Mirror Wine Company dinner is Feb. 17, with Rick Mirer and winemaker Rob Lawson on hand. Among the courses: classical poached Scottish salmon with chevre and swiss chard bundle, with 2010 Mirror Sauvignon Blanc; duet of beef and lamb tenderloins with 2008 Fisticuffs Cabernet Sauvignon and 2007 Mirror Cabernet Sauvignon; and more. $75; 4521 Sharon Road; 704-442-9525.

Valentine's -- sort of

Every once in a great while, you just have to quote the press release verbatim. Here's what the Wine Vault is offering tonight for Valentine's (lightly edited for punctuation and capitalization):

"We've had lots and lots of cutesy lovey couples calling about tonight's festivities. Are you doing a couples sale? NO. Are you having romantic jazz playing? NO. Can we reserve a couch just for the two of us? NO. The Wine Vault tonight will be playing disco, drinking Champagne and eating CUPCAKES. So come on out, all Champagnes are 10% off and cupcakes are free for all of our friends on the e-mail list and Facebook site. Grab your besties, BFFs and posse and just come - hang - and chill! No pressure, no waits at the restaurants, and no obnoxious forced romance. (Bitter, no not me.)

"P.S.: Couples making out will have cupcakes projectiled at their faces."

9009 J.M. Keynes Drive; 704-548-9463.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Reviews/comments: Who's judging who?

John Kessler from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes today here about how sometimes, folks commenting about restaurants may be a bit more than just casual readers wanting to share a personal opinion. He judged a place "Fair" (sample line: "Everything else I try is just kind of eh. It would be eh at half the price, but it’s eh with a head scratch and a “wow, that’s expensive” as served."). He expected that commenters might differ. But in recognizing the email address of one dissenter, he found -- surprise! -- an employee of the PR firm the restaurant had hired locally. (The commenter wasn't "Anonymous" but had an online nickname.)

He proceeded to point out the connection in the comment thread. So fun! (Sample line: "Okay, so this is the private and anonymous you who just really likes the joint, as opposed to public you who gets paid to promote the place? I, um, get it…")

He wishes commenters would be more transparent about any connections. I agree: That'd be nice. I've had one chef and more than a few restaurateurs admit to posting a comment to my blog as "Anonymous." (Our blog system does not allow us to see the email addresses of commenters, even with screen names, unless they specifically share them.)

It won't happen.

Equally worth noting: Some area websites offering restaurant reviews are run by folks otherwise in the business -- restaurant real estate, for example. Nothing wrong with that, and often there's news to be found from people on an inside track -- but it's not always obvious to the casual reader who's working with whom.

So, dear reader, bear in mind that commenters sometimes have connections to restaurateurs, sometimes are restaurateurs and all the time must be taken (just as you do reviews) with a fat grain of French sea salt.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Valentine for everyone

Here's a Valentine's gift that's different: Now through noon on Feb. 17, if you buy two tickets to Charlotte's Taste of the Nation event (it's April 11 at the Wells Fargo Atrium uptown), you get one ticket free.
Taste of the Nation raises money toward the goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015, as part of the national group Share Our Strength. Guests get food from top area restaurants, live music, silent and live auctions, and the knowledge that 100 percent of ticket sales stay in this community, going toward Second Harvest Food Bank and Community Culinary School of Charlotte. Tickets are $85 each, so this deal means you get three for $170. Order online here and use the promo code LOVE.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sweets Feb. 19

"All things confectionery" are what's on tap at the Feb. 19 Sweet Tooth Festival. Cupcrazed Cakery, The Secret Chocolatier, Yoforia, FuManChuCupcakes and wine shop Vin Master are among retailers who will offer samples. Tickets are $25 and include goodie bags from event sponsors. A portion of proceeds will benefit The Joe Martin ALS Foundation, which provides homecare aides and nurses to people living with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS (also called Lou Gehrig's Disease). 2-6 p.m., 10605 Park Road;

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Updated: Valentine's

The Wine Shop at Foxcroft still has room in its 8:30 p.m. seating for Valentine's Day: $45 for goat cheese tart; choice of truffled parsnip soup with lobster salad or pork belly; tomato fettuccine or braised pork cheeks; and dessert, plus a glass of sparkling wine. 704-365-6550; 7824 Fairview Road.

East Boulevard Bar & Grill does Valentine's dinner for two for $15: two appetizers, two entrees and one dessert to share. Among the choices are blue cheese pierogies and shrimp and grits. 1315 East Blvd.; 704-332-2414.

Del Frisco's offers an 8-ounce filet and 8-ounce lobster dinner for $79 on Valentine's night. 4725 Piedmont Row Drive; 704-552-5502.

D'Vine Wine Cafe will have Valentine additions to its regular menu Feb. 10, 11, 13 and 14, including surf & turf, dark chocolate "Sweethearts" s'mores, and a selection of Champagnes and other sparklers. 14815 Ballantyne Village Way; 704-369-5050.

Sante will be open all Valentine's weekend, including 5-9 p.m. Sunday and Monday, with dinner Tuesday (the 14th) 5-9:30 p.m. That night, a five-course dinner will be offered for $65 per person; among the choices are appetizers of lobster bisque, lamb empanada and truffled country paté; entrees of crab- and potato-crusted grouper, shelled lobster with lobster risotto and rack of lamb; and desserts of raspberry Napoleon and pear and blackberry crisp. 165 N. Trade St. in Matthews; 704-845-1899.

The Palm does a 4-pound lobster dinner for two for $120 Feb. 10-14. Add a bottle of Piper Sonoma Brut and pay $150. Phillips Place; 704-552-7256.

The Liberty's couples menu will be available Feb. 10-14, too, in addition to its regular menu. On the three-course couples one are entree choices of pan-roasted mahi mahi with cauliflower and lobster; butcher steak with root vegetable gratin and grilled Berkshire pork porterhouse. 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

TOMI offers a two-course Valentine special Feb. 10-14 for $19: a tempura-style appetizer, followed by tilapia, stir-fried with Taiwanese rice wine, soy sauce and ginger. 7741 Colony Road; 704-759-1288.

Mimosa Grill plans a "Bubbles and Bites" menu, with small tastings of a variety of dishes, each paired with a sparkling wine. (The regular menu will also be available.) Among the tastings: fennel-dusted sea scallop; house-smoked Rock House Farm pork brisket; pink pepper-crusted venison loin; and more. $60; 327 S. Tryon St.; 704-343-0700.

Artisan at The Art Institute of Charlotte will do three courses for two people for a total of $20 (plus tax and a 15 percent scholarship contribution, in lieu of tip) at lunch Feb. 13, 14 and 15. That's 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Reservations: 704-357-5900; the culinary school's restaurant is at Three LakePointe Plaza, at 2110 Water Ridge Parkway.

The Mint Hill Hawthorne's will have a couples' menu Valentine's night: one appetizer, two entrees, one dessert and a bottle of house wine for $50. Among the choices are lobster butternut squash striped ravioli and roasted pork loin with sweet potato hash. 7319 Matthews-Mint Hill Road; 704-545-8089.

Table 274 does a "Week of Love" Feb. 7-14: three courses (one starter, two large plates or pastas, one dessert) with two glasses of wine for $49.95. Guests may buy the entire bottle of wine (house red or white) for an additional $10. 274 S. Sharon Amity Road; 704-817-9721.

FireWater will have three seatings -- 5, 7 and 9 p.m. -- of a special Valentine's dinner. For $30, you get an entree choice of vegetable pasta, New York strip steak, tilapia in white wine sauce or seared tuna; a house salad; non-alcoholic drink; and chocolate mousse cake. 8708 J.W. Clay Blvd.; 704-549-0050.

Soul Gastrolounge will have a slew of Valentine specials, including butter-braised lobster over red wine risotto; and "Cupid's Offal": bone-marrow-buttered crostini with grilled lamb heart, chicken liver pate and skewer of chicken hearts and crispy sweetbreads with beef-heart marmalade. 1500 Central Ave.; 704-348-1848.

Global offers a five-course fixed-price dinner for $65 without wines, $95 with pairings. Among the courses: duck confit with Perigord truffle agnolotti; boneless beef short ribs with foie gras sauce; and caramel custard with whipped cream and rosemary pinenut cookie. 3520 Toringdon Way; 704-248-0866.

Lulu plans a five-course dinner Valentine's night for $75 per person, with choices that include foie gras with chanterelle butter and braised fennel; "cowgirl" ribeye; ravioli with lobster claw; and more. The regular menu will also be available. 1911 Central Ave.; 704-376-2242

La Paz plans a three-course Valentine's meal. Among the choices: mojito-poached shrimp; roasted pork and scallop tamale; pan-seared salmon with pear and mango chimichanga; Mayan chocolate terrine; and more. 1100 Metropolitan Ave.; 704-332-6322.

Terrace Café will offer a four-course dinner - including soup, salad, entrée and Champagne with chocolate-dipped strawberries - Feb. 10, 11 and 14. $95 per couple; Piedmont Town Center, 704-554-6177; Ballantyne Village, 704-369-5190.

Valentine's specials will run Feb. 10-14 at Georges Brasserie, with special entrees, Champagne and live violin music on Valentine's Day. 4620 Piedmont Row Drive; 980-219-7409.

Harvest Moon Grille will serve a "Feel the Love" menu, with options ranging from Grateful Growers pork roulade to pappardelle with rabbit, and more. $90 per couple; 235 N. Tryon St.; 704-342-1193.

Savannah Red at the Charlotte Marriott City Center offers a meal that's part of a Valentine's package offered Feb. 11: $395 per couple (with a max of 12 couples) buys a 17-course dinner and 12 wines from Hartford Court Wines; a night's lodging; and breakfast for two. 100 W. Trade St. Info: 704-358-6571.

P.F. Chang’s has a four-course Valentine's meal for two, available now, for $39.95: two soups, one appetizer, two entrees and two mini-desserts. Phillips Place, 704-552-6644; Northlake, 704-598-1927.

Fern will do a four-course vegetarian wine dinner on Valentine's Day for $45 per person. Among the courses are fig and caramelized onion tart with housemade "bacon" (as in a vegetarian form), and mushroom, artichoke and winter onion stew. 1323 Central Ave.; 704-377-1825.

Sibling Halcyon will host a Bitter Beer Dinner Feb. 16 as an "Anti-Valentine's Day event": Five courses of meat-centric dishes, each with a beer pairing (and no dessert) for $55. Among the offerings: charred lamb heart pho with 21st Amendment IPA; mussels with vaporized beer and pimento cheese fondue, with Stone Ruination IPA; and chicken and waffles with Midnight Madness from NoDa Brewing Company, served in a firkin (essentially a quarter-barrel), tableside.

Back to Valentine's Day proper:
The Wine Shop at Foxcroft will do two seatings (6 and 8:30) for Valentine's night, and menu will be $45 per person, including a glass of sparkling wine. Among chef Justin Solomon's choices: truffled parsnip soup with lobster salad; tomato fettuccine; braised pork cheeks; and more. 704-365-6550; 7824 Fairview Road.

Bar Cocoa at the Ritz-Carlton offers its five-course, all-dessert Chocolate & Champagne Dinner 7-10 p.m. Feb. 11-14: five Champagnes with five desserts for $125 plus tax and tip. 201 E. Trade St. Reservations: 704-547-2244.

Passion8 hosts a Sweethearts Champagne Brunch Feb. 12 for $29 (entree selections include N.C. trout, lobster ravioli and more), and will open Feb. 14 for a "Love Bug Dinner Date" that includes live music. 3415 Highway 51 N, Fort Mill; 803-802-7455.

Sonny’s Valentine’s Special: all-you-can-eat babyback ribs for $13.99 Feb. 11-14 at 440 Tyvola Road; Arboretum; 7820 Lyles Lane, Concord; 328 W. Plaza Drive, Mooresville; and 2781 Cherry Road, Rock Hill.

Red Rocks Cafe at Strawberry Hill offers a $38, four-course, fixed-price dinner with choices including mini crabcakes, twin medallions of filet and more, Feb. 10-14. (You can also order the entrees a la carte for $24.95.) 4223-8 Providence Road; 704-364-0402.
The Red Rocks at Birkdale will offer an a la carte special menu, along with its regular dinner menu, Feb. 10-14. Birkdale Village; 704-892-9999.

Gallery offers a four-course fixed-price menu Feb. 10-14, with choices that include filet mignon and Georges Bank lemon sole. $65; 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway; 704-248-4100.

Monday, February 6, 2012

3 free bagels

Bruegger's is giving away three bagels to each guest who brings in a coupon Feb. 9 (National Bagel Day and the business's 29th birthday) before 2 p.m.: You can get the coupon at the "Birthday Bash" tab on the Bruegger's Facebook page, or join the company's email club -- as long as you join before 11:59 p.m. Feb. 7.

Looking for the Ratcliffe sign?

What of the Ratcliffe's Florist sign that hung at what's now Bernardin's at 435 S. Tryon St., but then disappeared?

Good news: The sign is slated to be unveiled on The Green on Valentine's Day -- relocated to the original site of the building and hung from a pole, with an explanatory plaque in the pavement in front of it. (The illustration here, courtesy of Wells Fargo, was part of a proposal -- approved -- to the Historic Landmarks Commission.)

Original owner Louis Ratcliffe first opened a Charlotte flower business in 1917, records say. This two-story Mediterranean Revival-style building, designed by Charlotte architect William Peeps (he did Latta Arcade, too), was built in 1929. It housed the florist business for some 60 years, before becoming restaurant Carpe Diem. The neon sign and stained-glass window facing Tryon stayed intact in that incarnation.

Then the building was sold, and plans were made for The Green and Three First Union. Preservationists, who'd seen several uptown things come down in the late 90s, winced and worried. But the bank chose to do an extraordinary thing.

In 2000, the building was lifted up, pulled across Tryon Street and stored in a parking lot for about a year, while the underground parking deck at The Green was constructed. In 2001, it was moved back across the street and repositioned, about 75 feet north of its original placement on Tryon.

Since then, it has housed other restaurants, including two versions named Ratcliffe on the Green, before becoming Bernardin's late last year.

At that time, with the restaurant on site no longer being named for Ratcliffe, Wells Fargo decided it would be more appropriate to put it back in its original spot, said Tom Dorsey, a senior vice president for corporate properties. "Where we put it, it becomes a signature piece for The Green, and in the middle of the Levine Cultural Arts campus. ... The sign is not only a piece of history, but a piece of art."

A small dedication ceremony will be held at noon, Feb. 14.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Doughnut dinner, Mardi Gras and good (overall) restaurant news

The Liberty hosts a book dinner Feb. 11 with chef John Malik for Malik's "Doughnuts for Amy," described as "a novel of life & death, love & retirement, sugar & spice." The menu is comprised of recipes from the book, ranging from grilled zucchini with roasted red pepper sauce to braised short rib to malted milk and vanilla bean doughnut. $40; 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

Georges Brasserie's second annual Mardi Gras Celebration will be Feb. 21, with drink and food specials including seafood gumbo, pan-seared red fish with crawfish and bananas Foster bread pudding, plus live New Orleans jazz. 4620 Piedmont Row Drive; 980-219-7409.

The restaurant industry is projected to expand in 2012, says the National Restaurant Association’s 2012 Restaurant Industry Forecast: Total industry sales (at the country's nearly 1 million restaurants) are expected to reach a record high of $632 billion in 2012, which is a 3.5 percent increase over 2011. Employment in the industry is expected to hit 12.9 million in 2012, which makes restaurants the second largest private sector employer in the country, and about 10 percent of the U.S. workforce. Restaurants added jobs at a rate of 1.9 percent in 2011 (topping the total rate of 1 percent); in 2012, the forecast calls for a 2.3 percent rate, a percentage point above projected total U.S. job gains.

Friday, February 3, 2012

An N.C. kind of "Iron Chef"

Ever watched "Iron Chef" or "Top Chef" and pined to be among the judges who get to actually taste all that stuff?

Two long-running opportunities exist:

* Blowing Rock restaurateur Jimmy Crippen is hosting a series of four events, involving 64 chefs in all and occurring in several N.C. venues, though not, sadly, Charlotte. (Next year, he vows.)

Here's how it works: A total of 64 N.C. chefs compete in four regions, in head-to-head, single-elimination matches. Each pair creates a six-course meal (at a neutral restaurant) featuring a locally grown ingredient revealed to them less than an hour before the competition (a la "Iron Chef"). Diners, culinary experts and celebrity judges determine which chef advances to the next round.

The whole thing is dubbed the "Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series," sponsored by the N.C. Dept. of Agriculture. Each of the four regional competitions are also named: "Fire in the Rock" for Blowing Rock (which actually began in 2005 but is now part of this), "Fire on the Dock" in Wilmington, "Fire in the Triangle" in Raleigh and "Fire in the Triad" in Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

Said Crippen, "I was thinking of Charlotte right off the bat," but he couldn't come up with a good name. " 'Fire in the Queen?' That doesn't sound good," he said, laughing. The events -- he's serving as host at all four locations -- are "the most fun I've had in the business in 25 years."

The event kicked off Jan. 31 at Crippen's Country Inn & Restaurant in Blowing Rock. Chef Jessica Grogan of Crave in Boone topped Michael Barbato of Timberlake's at Chetola Resort.

Winners from each region receive $2,000 and a custom red chef's jacket. The four regional winners will face off in a grand finale in October. Tickets ($49 per person in the first rounds), brackets and more info are at

* And for just the western part of the state: The 2012 WNC Chefs Challenge, a third annual competition to name a "Best Chef in Western North Carolina,” will begin March 20 at Century Room on the Park, above Pack's Tavern in Asheville.

The 14 competitors in the weekly battles (through May) will include returning 2011 champion Nate Allen of Knife & Fork in Spruce Pine. The finale will be the start of the sponsoring WNC Magazine Asheville Wine & Food Festival, on Aug. 23.

Diners will get to taste dishes and take part in the judging, as will a panel of chefs, journalists and culinary folk.

Info and tickets ($49): 828-225-6944;

Crawl, chew in South End Feb. 3

New idea: In a last-minute kind of happenstance, the South End gallery crawl and Food Truck Friday have combined for tonight (Feb. 3). Food trucks -- including Herban Legend, Goody Woody's, Napolitano's, Roots Farm Food, The Tin Kitchen and Gourmet to Go -- will serve 5-9 p.m., at Camden and Park Avenue. The crawl runs 6-9. More info here.

Secret Charlotte menus?

Do you order a dish at your favorite area place that actually isn't on the menu? It might be a dish the place used to serve, but removed from the menu (but regulars know the kitchen is still willing and able to make it, occasionally), or it may be a special preparation or presentation of a regular dish.

I'd like to hear about it -- here, or through e-mail at Restaurateurs: If you offer something only to insiders who know how to ask, or if there's an old favorite you make for a few folks and want to share, shoot me an e-mail.

In the meantime, Zagat's found a bunch of national "not-on-the-menu" dishes; they're here. Have to say, I'm most excited by the "Boozy Donuts" at the fabulously named Flex Mussels in New York... (Photo from

And in case you didn't know about In-N-Out Burger's secret menu (you can get just about anything "Animal Style" except the "Flying Dutchman"), you can get the skinny here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

New at Bobcats games

Bobcats home games will have some new fare, including gluten-free and more health-focused dishes, we're told. Look for veggie burgers, grilled veggie kabobs and salads; "Veg Out" and "Fruta" snack cups; grilled chicken sandwiches and Caesar wraps; and a gluten-free snack cart. Also on hand at Time Warner Cable Arena this year: "Meatball Mania" items, including traditional beef meatballs with marinara, chicken meatballs with green chile verde, and Thai pork meatballs with ginger-soy barbecue sauce.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Trattoria Antica opening

Augusto Conte's latest, Trattoria Antica, is scheduled to open Feb. 4 at 3909 Providence Road South in Waxhaw. Among the menu offerings: linguine with shellfish, lasagne alla Bolognese, gnocchi with tomato sauce and basil, Neapolitan-style pizzas, Mediterranean sea bass, lamb shanks, veal scallopine, and more. 704-243-0633.