Wednesday, December 19, 2012

More for the New Year

Global offers a five-course fixed-price New Year's meal for $69 ($99 with wine pairings). Reservations are available starting at 5 p.m. Among the courses: smoked onion bisque with 2010 Bodegas Eidosela Albarino; Hudson Valley duck foie gras poached in Gewürztraminer, with 2010 Beblenheim Heimeimberger Gewürztraminer reserve; and veal breast with braised, smoked grits and 2009 Trenza Tinto, San Luis Obispo. 3520 Toringdon Way; 704-248-0866.

Café 157 will serve its regular dinner entrée menu (sandwiches not available) 5-9 p.m. New Year’s Eve, with filet mignon and broiled lobster tail as specials. 157 N. Trade St., Matthews; 704-844-8686.

"Happy Blue Year!" is Blue's plan: First seating (5-6 p.m.) is $34.95, with choices including flat iron steak, Moroccan spiced salmon and more. Live music runs 9 p.m.-1:30 a.m. (cover charge is $5 after 10, but that's waived with dinner reservations) and there's a complimentary Champagne toast and a late-night menu.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

FABO spikes coffee

FABO, the "fabulous art buying opportunity" in Myers Park, with wine, coffee drinks, pastries and more, hosts a shopping event Dec. 22: Free glass of wine with each purchase of $20 or more, with staff shoppers who'll read your list and find stuff for you among pottery, jewelry, art, coffees, teas and accessories.

Also new: "Spiked Coffee" -- a coffee drink with chocolate, raspberry and red wine. 2820 Selwyn Ave.; 704-900-2430.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Late-night at Puck's, and Second Harvest

Wolfgang Puck Pizza | Bar in Phillips Place offers a new late-night menu 10 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, including half-price pizzas. 6706-C Phillips Place Court;

Also at Puck's: Five percent of all restaurant sales Dec. 17-22 will benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina's holiday food program, which buys hams and turkeys for families who can't afford a special holiday meal.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Updated: Holiday meals

Passion8 offers Christmas Eve dinner 3-8 p.m., with country ham trio, stuffed Georgia quail, N.C. bison short ribs, day boat fish, duck confit and more among the options.
For New Year's Eve, dinner will be from an a la carte menu with specials, and served 4-8 p.m.

New South Kitchen will serve 4-8 p.m. Christmas Eve, with a buffet that includes roasted beef tenderloin, deep-fried turkey and salmon crab strudel, for $35 ($15 for those 12 and younger). The restaurant will also offer dinners to go that evening, with deep-fried turkey breast fillet or whole boneless breast; an assortment of sides and extras. 8140 Providence Road; 704-541-9990.

Café 157 will be open 4:30-9 p.m. Christmas Day, serving its regular dinner menu (meaning its sandwiches will not be available), plus specials of pan-seared Maryland crab cakes and rib eye steak. A Reservations: 704-844-8686; the restaurant is at 157 N. Trade St. in Matthews;

The Wine Shop at Foxcroft hosts New Year's Eve dinner with two seatings, at 6 and 8:30 p.m., for $50, including a glass of sparkling wine. Courses include choice of steak tartare or parsnip potage with crab; scallops or short rib; apple galette or chocolate gateau. Reservations: 704-365-6550; 7824 Fairview Road.

D'Vine Wine Cafe is taking reservations for New Year's Eve; if you're seated by 8, you have the table for the party. The place offers New Year's specials, as well as its regular menu, and a "join the party" package: $10 gets you a drink special, party favors, music and a sparkling-wine toast at midnight. 14815 John J. Delaney Drive; 704-369-5050.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Naughty? Nice? Parties either way

Siblings Sullivan's and Del Frisco's host "Naughty and Nice" parties Dec. 21. Each will include raffles through the night. You win free raffle tickets several ways, including bringing an unwrapped toy or nonperishable food item (Sullivan's has partnered with the Salvation Army for a drive). Sullivan's will have a live band and DJ, and appetizers and cocktails for $6 each. Del Frisco's will offer half-price wines by the glass, wine bottle specials and more.

Custom cocktails for the events at both places are the "Other Mrs. Claus" (rum, lime juice and jalapeno) and "Santa's Little Helper" (vodka, eggnog, cinnamon and rumchata, which is a cream/rum liqueur).

Sullivan’s is at 1928 South Blvd.; Del Frisco’s is at 4725 Piedmont Row Drive.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

'Coal oven pizza' en route to Concord Mills

Tony Sacco's Coal Oven Pizza is scheduled to open at Concord Mills in spring 2013. The Florida-based chain will offer full-service dining and is known for its anthracite-coal-burning pizza oven, from which come traditional and specialty pizzas. It also offers pastas, sandwiches and more. Info:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Free hot fudge cake at Shoney's

Shoney’s serves up its signature Hot Fudge Cake free to all dine-in guests -- while supplies last -- on Dec. 6. The deal is offered at all Shoney's:

Yelp gets hammered again; what say you?

For the second time recently, Yelp reviews are getting hammered, this time in Time.

First, it was the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods" host Andrew Zimmern, calling it "a tremendous forum for a bunch of uninformed morons" in his "Go Fork Yourself" podcast.

Here, Josh Ozersky takes a more measured approach (though he prefaces it with "in my experience, Zimmern is right"), and says Yelp's influence, for good or bad, is greatest on the most vulnerable: new, small, independent places that don't have a chain's PR budget.

Then he does something smart: He suggests how to use Yelp reviews -- which I'd embrace for any other online review system, too.

* "Look for believable descriptions of service lapses -- not 'the waitress was unbelievably rude,' but 'we stood at the bar for 40 minutes before we were seated, despite having a reservation.'

* "Look for specific descriptions of dishes, particularly those that involve texture and temperature, two qualities I find unlikely to be wholly fictive.

* "And, best of all, look at every picture you can. Because, unlike Yelp reviews, love letters and professions of faith, pictures never lie."

Love that. When, as in Charlotte, a search for "highest-rated" (with an unspecified algorithm) gives 55 restaurants before dipping below four stars (and No. 171 also gets four stars, with 141 reviews), you need other ways to digest the information. (Sorry.) His are an excellent start. And they apply to all online restaurant reviews, not just Yelp's.

Do you have more suggestions?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

No! Riverview Inn to close

The Riverview Inn, open since 1946 with the Burns family, will close Dec. 22, says Jon Burns. Fans of the fish camp -- with particularly notable salt-and-pepper cats -- also fondly remember the iconic pegleg pirate "Captain Windy" (above, in an Observer file photo from 1986), who greeted diners and awed children for years. (He was really Gilbert Winchester, and died in 2010.)

Jon Burns said sales had been decreasing, with food and labor costs rising in this economy, and, "as an independent restaurant, it's getting harder and harder to earn a living at it... Our type of restaurant might slowly be becoming a thing of the past."

The restaurant posted the closing notice on its Facebook page, prompting lots of all-capital comments: "OH NO!" and "SO SORRY" and "You will TRULY be missed" -- along with fond memories of a spot that taught many what a fish camp was. Generally thought to have begun around the Depression, they were spots, near waterways, where fishers could fry up their catch. Those cooking began to do side dishes as well, and to sell to others.

Catering will continue to be offered, "at least for awhile," says Jon. 10012 Moores Chapel Loop (on the Catawba River, just off Wilkinson Boulevard, U.S. 29/74); 704-399-3385.

“It’s sad – but who else gets a 67-year run?” asks Jon.

Christmas shows at Santé

Santé hosts its 11th Annual Christmas Shows soon: That's a three-course dinner and entertainment by The Carolina Voices group, dressed in traditional costumes and singing carols, at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 9, and at 5 and 7:15 p.m. on both Dec. 16 and Dec. 23. $45; 165 N. Trade St., Matthews; 704-845-1899.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wine, beer, dinner

Falcor Winery hosts five-course wine dinners, Dec. 4 at The Melting Pot in midtown and Dec. 5 at the Lake Norman location, with a percentage going to Hinds' Feet Farm, which helps people living with brain injuries. Reservations: 704-334-4400 for 901 S. Kings Drive; 704-987-2201 for 16625 Statesville Road in Huntersville.

The Pizza Peel hosts a five-course beer dinner Dec. 6, with New Belgium brews paired with each course. In the lineup: Vivant Bier De Garde with roasted butternut and Bier De Garde soup; Fat Tire with oven-roasted game hen and cranberry walnut herb stuffing, and more. $35; 4422 Colwick Road; 704-714-8808.

Vine American Kitchen opens

Vine American Kitchen is now open in Ballantyne. Charlottean Bill Freeman, whose resume includes a stint as CEO of McCormick & Schmick's, created the concept, for which this location is "the launching pad," according to press. Look for a display kitchen and American fare from exec chef Paul Cruz that ranges from herb-rubbed rotisserie chicken, Maryland-style jumbo lump crab cakes and jambalaya, plus flatbreads, burgers, seafood, steaks and more. Sunday brunch spans apple cider pancakes to crab hash.

On the name: “So much of what we do here has some connection to the vine," Freeman said in a press release. "Whether through locally sourced seasonal fruits and vegetables, freshly squeezed juices in our cocktails, or the variety of grapes in our abundant wine selection, we are bringing the garden to our guests."

Entrees range $15-$29, with starters, sandwiches and flatbreads running $4-$14. The wine list leans to bottles less than $30, the high-rated and/or "great value" wines, Freeman said.

Seating areas range from a dining room of 116 to the eight-seat Barrel Room to a patio with fire pit.

13735 Conlan Circle; 704-469-5282;