Thursday, March 29, 2012

Updated: Easter dining choices

Villa Antonio at 4707 South Blvd. plans Easter brunch 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for $25 ($12 for kids younger than 12), with an omelet station, carving station and dessert station, plus traditional Italian dishes and classic brunch fare. 704-523-1594.

The Liberty serves up its Easter Brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m., with baked goods and multiple choices for each of three courses, including crabcakes, cured salmon, bacon-wrapped pork, black cod, Prime Montana beef roast and more. $24.95 ($9.95 for kids 10 and younger); 1820 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

Harvest Moon Grille hosts Easter brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m., with fare ranging from scrapple with over-easy eggs and Southern tomato gravy to eggs Benedict (over crispy pulled pork) to stuffed apple French toast, plus lunch dishes such as fried catfish or vegetable quiche ($10-$14). 235 N. Tryon St. in the Dunhill Hotel; 704-342-1193.

The Palm plans a fixed-price, three-course Easter dinner 5-9 p.m. for $58.90: Choices include lobster bisque; entree pairings of filet mignon with shrimp, scallops or crabcake; cheesecake and more. 6705 Phillips Place Court; 704-552-7256.

Morton's will do a three-course meal for $59, with choices including tuna tower and lobster bisque; entrees of filet with asparagus, salmon, and chicken with artichokes; and chocolate mousse or lemon souffle. 227 W. Trade St.; 704-333-2602.

Del Frisco's will open for lunch 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., then for dinner 5-9. The full dinner menu will be offered at both times, including the "Power Couple" Sunday feature (a three-course dinner for two for $99). During the lunch time, a three-course $35 menu (and $12 kids' menu) will be available, too, along with a Bloody Mary and Mimosa bar. 4725 Piedmont Row near SouthPark; 704-552-5502.

BLT Steak hosts brunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m., with dishes ranging from Eggs "Ritz" (with spinach and crab) to buttermilk pancakes, plus lunch items such as steak and fontina panini, confit lemon rosemary chicken and more. 110 N. College St.; 704-972-4380.

Mama Ricotta's will do a traditional Italian Easter meal, including Brodetto Pasquale alla Romano (lamb broth with lemon and egg), spring vegetable risotto and herb-crusted leg of lamb, for $25; that will be available, along with the regular lunch menu, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 601 S. Kings Drive; 704-343-0148.

Epic Chophouse in Mooresville will be open 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. for an Easter brunch ($27.95), then 5-10 p.m., offering its full menu plus a chef's feature for dinner. Among brunch items: chilled salads, a brunch bar (grits, bacon, French toast, pancakes), carved prime rib, fried chicken, leg of lamb, and more. 104 S. Main St.; reservations: 704-230-1720.

Blue's Easter brunch will be 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., with carving station for top round, roast pork loin and roast turkey and Mediterranean entrees and sides, salads and desserts, plus live jazz. $39.95; $14.95 for kids 6-12; free for younger. Corner of 5th and College streets; reservations: 704-927-2583.

The Ritz-Carlton uptown will host Easter Saturday tea 11 a.m.-4 p.m. April 7 in its Urban Sip area (15th floor), with traditional and contemporary tea sandwiches, scones with preserves and Devonshire cream, and desserts from the hotel's Bar Cocoa, including petits fours, chocolate mousse with housemade marshmallows and more, for $32 for adults. A children's tea menu ($10) will also be available. Daily "Chocolate Afternoon Tea" at Bar Cocoa will also be available during Easter weekend, with the same menu. 201 E. Trade St.; reservations: 704-547-2244.

Georges Brasserie will offer brunch 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., followed by Easter dinner 5-9 p.m. 4620 Piedmont Row Drive; 980-219-7409.

The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge will host Easter brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. April 8, with decorative displays, seasonal entrees, breakfast dishes, a carving station and more, plus live entertainment (including the Bunny, and egg hunts at 11:30 a.m. and 1 and 2:30 p.m.).
$59.50 per person, $29.50 for children 5-12, and free for 4 and younger. Reservations required: 704-248-4100 or online at 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway.

Cosmos Cafe Ballantyne will do brunch for Easter from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m., with a seafood raw bar, carving station, create-your-own omelets, live jazz and more. $29.95 ($5.95 for 12 and younger); 8420 Rea Road; 704-544-5268.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Titanic dinner in Mooresville

Epic Chophouse offers, on April 14, "the EXACT 11-course dinner" served 100 years before, on board the Titanic, with dishes such as poached salmon, lamb and roasted squab. Diners will get a keepsake boarding pass with information on a particular actual passenger; at the end of the night, you find out if "you" survived.

The restaurant plans to arrange its dining room similarly to passenger liners' of the time: tables for up to 10 (so you may be seated with diners you don't know), with appropriate table settings, linens and flower arrangements, and yes, there'll be a string quartet playing both circa-1912 music and music from the James Cameron movie. (And a fiddler will play Irish jigs in the bar.)

$125 includes Champagne reception and diners are encouraged to dress for either 1912 or 2012; 104 S. Main St.; reservations: 704-230-1720. (Photo from

Friday, March 23, 2012

'Classics' chefs' Beard dinner revealed

Update on the upcoming dinner by Something Classic group chefs (that's Marc Jacksina of Halcyon, Alyssa Gorelick of Fern and Blake Hartwick of Something Classic) June 28 at the James Beard House in New York:
The menu is set and confirmed. The dinner is $170, and you can get more information from Rachel Wormser at Reservations are only through the Beard House, at 212-627-2308.

Cocktails will be "Wine 'n Shine": Cheerwine, N.C. Moonshine, Carriage House 100% apple brandy (from Asheville), Amaro (an herbal liqueur) and orange bitters; and Carolina Cucumber Punch: N.C. muscadine wine, Blenheim's ginger ale, agave nectar, lemon juice, cucumber slices and thyme.

There'll be passed appetizers, then five courses, ranging from "Fish Camp" (softshell crab, smoked trout hush puppy and more) with Chateau Puech Haut "Tete de Belier" Mourvedre Rose AC Coteaux de Languedoc 2011; to "New Town Farm Tip-to-Tail Pork" (preserved pork cheek mousse with Appalachian black truffles, crispy cast iron pork belly, smoked shoulder corn pudding with New Town Farms collards, southern lomo tenderloin, S.C. mustard and Eastern Carolina barbecue sauces) with Hacienda Monasterio Crianza Ribera del Duero 2009.

New at Capital Grille uptown

On March 26, The Capital Grille launches a spring "plates" menu with three new dishes: asparagus soup; shrimp and piquillo peppers with bomba rice (that's a Spanish strain, often used in paellas); and grilled spring vegetables. They're part of the nine-"plate" lineup of choices at lunch time: Diners pick soup or salad, sandwich and side for $18.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mama Ricotta's gets new exec chef

Drew Ward is the new executive chef at Mama Ricotta's, and has revamped the lunch lineup as his first step, introducing five new sandwiches, plus pastas and entrees. The new list is slated to be out in the next two weeks.
Ward is a grad of the French Culinary Institute in New York, worked at Manhattan Ocean Club, Quality Meats, Tabla and Oceana, and became exec chef at sibling Cantina 1511 at Stonecrest.
Among the new fare: three panini (soppressata, speck and goat cheese), chicken meatloaf with hot cherry pepper gravy, shrimp and artichoke salad, whole wheat linguine with salmon and more. (And yes, the penne alla vodka is still on the lunch menu.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Charlotte Food Truck Tracker help

A quick note to several readers who have expressed love for the Food Truck Tracker map ( here it is) but a few difficulties using it:

1. You can zoom in on the map by double-clicking as often as you want to on the map itself (not the pins). Some days, trucks are in the same vicinity, and unless you zoom in, some pins disappear behind others.
2. You can choose the day of the week you want to inspect with the dropdown menu at bottom left. If you don't choose, you see all the days at once, which can be a little confusing -- but helpful if you're looking to see when a particular truck will be in a particular place. We wanted to offer both options, but using the dropdown improves readability.

Let me know if you have trouble, and I'll try to help, here or through email at

Wine dinners

Sullivan's Steakhouse hosts a Stewart Cellars dinner March 22. Among the lineup are porcini-rubbed quail with 2008 Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay; and java-rubbed dry-aged New York strip with 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. $85; 1928 South Blvd.; 704-335-8228.

And Blackthorne Restaurant offers a Stewart dinner March 23, with a menu ranging from poached flounder Veronique with 2008 Chardonnay to braised short ribs with a Syrah reduction and 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. $60; 11318 N. Community House Road; reservations: 704-817-5554.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bits and crumbs

Trattoria Antica in Waxhaw opens for lunch this week, at 3909 Providence Road South in Waxhaw. 704-243-0633.

Techno-interesting: The Crepe Cellar is using an iPad app called NoshList. Diners give their cell phone numbers for the waitlist for a table, and the app allows the host to text diners when their tables are available.

Monday, March 19, 2012

James Beard award finalists

Et tu, Hugh? Edward Lee, a contestant on the last Top Chef series, is in the final five chefs up for Best Chef Southeast for his work at 610 Magnolia in Louisville, while Hugh Acheson, a judge on the last Top Chef series, is one of the other four. Acheson cooks at Five and Ten in Athens.

And while we're on the subject, no: No N.C. chef made it, and the only S.C. one is Craig Deihl of Cypress in Charleston.

He joins Linton Hopkins of Atlanta's Restaurant Eugene and Joseph Lenn of The Barn at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn., as the final five.

Up for Best New Restaurant is a festival of one-word-namers: AQ in San Francisco, Fiola in Washington, D.C., Isa and Tertulia in New York and Next in Chicago.

Rising Star Chef finalists are Dave Beran of Next; Daniel Bowien of Mission Chinese Food in
San Francisco; Thomas McNaughton of flour + water in San Francisco; Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar in New York; and Sue Zemanick of Gautreau’s in New Orleans.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

New and coming up at D'Vine, Roosters

Among the items on the new menu at D'Vine Wine Cafe are lamb ribs with grits and pickled mustard seeds; pastrami baguette with roasted potatoes; steamed bun sliders with beef brisket, pork belly and shrimp; pork medallions with bacon mac & cheese; and more. 14815 Ballantyne Village Way; 704-369-5050.

Rooster’s Uptown opens for weekday lunch at 11 a.m. March 19 and will stay open through dinner, with lunch served until 3 p.m. Dinner specials begin tonight (Friday), and a late-night menu is being planned. It'll start about 9 or 10 p.m. and will offer what chef-owner Jim Noble calls "really cool, progressive stuff" with "some predictable and some very interesting options." Fun. The place validates parking nightly; you pay $2 for two hours, or $5 maximum for the evening, Noble says. 1 Bank of America Center's Urban Garden (corner of 5th and College streets); 704-370-7667.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Taste big reds

March 20 brings two rounds of tastings of more than 25 "huge, MASCULINE" red wines from the Wine Vault at Founders Hall for $25, ranging from The Prisoner and The Ripper (Shiraz) to Rock Wall Petite Sirah and Twenty Rows Cabernet. Aria will offer three courses for $30 to tasters, also, and will waive corkage fees for bottles purchased that night. Tasting reservations: 704-548-9463.

NCAA game specials

During the NCAA tournament, Harper's group restaurants offer deals: $5 Burger and Brew at the bar during televised games at Harper's Southpark and Carolina Place; $8 Burger and Brew at Zink (also only at the bar during televised games); and $10 Beer and Pizza Special at Harper's Carolina Place (a flight of four beers and a pizza, offered anytime at the bar).

Sunday Supper at Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon Grille starts serving Sunday Supper this week, with family-style fare made with locally sourced foodstuffs. On the March 18 menu: Windcrest Green salad with sorghum vinaigrette; choice of entree of apple-glazed Grateful Growers pork roast, roasted half chicken from Baucom's or farmhouse beef cassoulet; choice of two sides among brown-sugar-glazed carrots, collards or Ashe County mac and cheese; and salted pot de creme or chocolate torte. $20 per person, $10 for kids younger than 12. 235 N. Tryon St.; 704-342-1193.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fake chicken! Really!

The New York Times' Mark Bittman reports on a new form of fake chicken that may actually be worth promoting: See him get fooled by it here (and read his story, which references the amazing Margaret Atwood on how we might treat animals in the future; be advised: It's chilling).

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

More for St. Pat's

The Liberty offers a special St. Patrick's Day menu (the family of chef Tom Condron, we're told, traces its roots to Ireland) of classic and contemporary Irish fare, Friday through Sunday. And March 20 is the place's second annual Lost Founder's flight tasting, with Founder's Imperial Stout, Breakfast Stout, Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and Blushing Monk on tap. The flight is $16. 1812 South Blvd.; 704-332-8830.

New at SouthPark

Crunch Salads is now open in the food court, from partners Manoj Pandoria and Scott Cline. Pandoria has The Brow Bar in SouthPark mall and says he wanted more healthy options in the food court, so approached Cline, a chef. “We have spent close to a year developing our menu and believe Charlotte will embrace our concept,” Pandoria said in a press release.
The menu ( here) lists 13 salads, seven wraps and five flatbreads, from about $6 to $9.50, and diners can create their own combinations as well. It's open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday. 704-362-0077.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Coming up: St. Pat's and dinners

East Blvd. Bar and Grill plans a special St. Patrick's Day menu, ranging from baked Scotch eggs with Irish whiskey and grain mustard sauce and bangers and mash to house-cooked corned beef brisket with cabbage and Guinness beef stew. 1315 East Blvd.; 704-332-2414.

The Pizza Peel hosts a Highland Beer dinner March 22 for $30. On the menu: ceviche with St. Teresa's Pale Ale; red mole with chicken, with Kashmir IPA and more. 4422 Colwick Road; 704-714-8808.

First in a 2012 wine dinner series at the Ritz-Carlton uptown (in the Urban Sip wine bar) will be a Falcor dinner March 23. Owner Mike Bee is slated to be on hand, and the menu includes warm duck confit salad with 2006 Le Bijou, Napa Valley; grilled center-cut filet with foie gras gastrique and 2005 H Block Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley; and more. $125; 704-547-2244; 201 E. Trade St.

Tournament-by-photo, Part II

And now for the Poultry and Pork brackets, in the 2012 Observer Tournament of Food.
The No. 1 (Fran's Filling Station):

The turkey provolone pita (Bedder Bedder & Moore):

The fried chicken sandwich (The King's Bakery):

The chicken Philly (East Blvd. Bar & Grill):

And Pork:
Torta al Banilera (Tacos El Nevado) (it's shown torn in two):

Grilled brat (Waldhorn):

The Cuban (Havana Carolina Cafe):

The No. 6 grilled pork banh mi (Le's):

Monday, March 12, 2012

Half the tournament bracket in photos

The beef and something-other-than-meat-centric brackets are in, in photographs:
The Stinger (Taste of Buffalo) and this is half the sandwich:

The "Awesome" Roast Beef (131 Main):

The Reuben (Growlers Pourhouse):

Beef on 'weck (Lebowski's)

The Loretta Lynn (Something Classic):

The Hot Mama (Common Market):


The herbed egg salad (Sunflour):

The Rocket Wrap (Kabob Grill) (couldn't really shoot half):

So much Olive Garden love...

The Grand Forks review by Marilyn Hagerty (that's her, courtesy of her paper)

that went viral is here.
Our own Tommy Tomlinson on that review: Here.
A bit of the viral-osity and some thoughtful analysis is here.
Charlotte writer Joe Posnanski, who went with Tommy, on that experience: Here.
A commenter on Joe's blog, on HIS experience: "I'm generally adverse to chain restaurants, but the Olive Garden fried lasagna is one of the greatest things I've ever put in my mouth."

And a confession: My younger daughter, when she turned 18, was taken by her friends for a birthday dinner at the Olive Garden because "Mom would never let me go." We stopped in for that dinner. The salad was marvelous.

Also on the Interwebs: Gene Simmons (yes, the Kiss one) is "parlaying his love for music into a new restaurant and entertainment venture" called Rock & Brews. The L.A. International Airport-vicinity place - just the first in a plan that includes future sites in Denver, Atlanta, Maui, Tokyo and Los Cabos - will have "an authentically themed backstage environment." Insert joke here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Update: Who makes Charlotte's best sandwich?

Voting's closed. Thanks!
Last chance reminder: NO anonymous comments will be counted. So if you want your vote to count, and you made it as Anonymous, please recast it in the next 30 minutes!

Each year, The Observer does a tournament, timed with NCAA basketball's March Madness, that focuses on one area dish. This year, we’re trying something new.

Here's how to comment, if you never have: Scroll to bottom of this particular post and click on the "119 COMMENTS" phrase. (Number may be different.) Then click on "Jump to Comment Form." Type your comment into the empty box, then click on Name/URL and enter your name or a screen name (like a pen name). Then hit "Publish your comment."

The category is sandwiches. But because so many restaurants offer so many sandwiches, and because I suspect readers know about some great ones I will never find, we’ll have readers “vote in” eight specific sandwiches from specific restaurants -- by commenting on this blog post by 5 p.m. March 7. For example, a reader might vote for the Darby’s Roast Beef Deluxe at the Common Market. You must name both the specific sandwich and the restaurant to have your vote counted. (PLEASE read the rest of the rules below before commenting!)

The eight specific sandwiches that get the most votes will be in the tournament. I’ll also choose the four most intriguing sandwiches suggested by voters – meaning that if there’s a sandwich that sounds terrific from the voter’s prose, but no one else seems to know about it, it can still make the tournament.

I’ll name an additional four of my own choices to round out our starting bracket of 16.

Other rules: No burgers. (That was last year.) No barbecue. (That’s in the future). No chains with locations outside the Carolinas.

And no anonymous comments will be counted. You have to have a screen name – which, as a reminder, doesn’t have to be your given name; this just allows us to count one vote per commenter.

After that, it’ll work as usual: I’ll create the pairings and publish the bracket March 9. Then readers will vote on pairings, and both those results and taste tests will be used to determine which sandwich advances.

We’ll announce the winner March 30.

Let the games begin. (Also: Folks who have Liked my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter @helenschwab got a head start on this. You can stay in the loop by Liking

Rooster's uptown opens

The second Rooster's, at 1 Bank of America Center's Urban Garden, is now open for dinner, and will add lunch hours after a few weeks. That's at the corner of 5th and College streets uptown. Check the menu at; 704-370-7667.

Harvest Moon in National Geographic

Harvest Moon Grille makes the latest edition of National Geographic Traveler in a short piece about farmers turned chefs, noting that Natalie Veres and Cassie Parsons of Grateful Growers Farm (oddly not mentioned by name) began with a food truck before landing at the uptown Dunhill Hotel with a restaurant. Read more here.

Coming up: Harry's

Harry’s Grille & Tavern is scheduled to open March 12 at the Town of Ayrsley, with a lineup of small plates, burgers, entrees and more from chef Keith Roybal, formerly with steakhouses in New Jersey. "Named after the friendliest person I know and just like him, this Harry will never let you down,” Tyler Birchfield, operating manager for the group that owns Harry’s and area general manager of the Ayrsley Hilton branded hotels, said in a press release. Harry's will be in the Arcade building; 2127 Ayrsley Town Blvd.; 704-499-9494.