Friday, May 31, 2013

Nick Jonas + Bad Daddy's = Signature burger

Since Nick Jonas (yes, he of the Jonas Brothers) created his own burger combo at Bad Daddy's Burger Bar in Birkdale Village, Bad Daddy's decided to make a thing of it:

The "Slick Nick Burger" -- he named it himself, too! -- is a turkey burger with Monterey Jack cheese, jalapeno bacon, lettuce, pickle, barbecue sauce and a fried egg, on a whole wheat bun with a side of slaw. Available through June, it's $12.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dine out, do good

California Pizza Kitchens in North Carolina will join the chain's fundraising effort for victims (and families) of the Boston Marathon bombing and aftermath: From June 3-6, 20 percent of checks from customers who bring in a fundraising flyer will go to The One Fund. To print the flyer, go to

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bits and crumbs

Bonterra hosts a Triple C beer dinner June 4, with five courses and pairings for $65. Among the offerings: peeky toe crab with hearts of frisee, with Saison; grilled lamb chops with wilted arugula and mango-bulgur salad, with Smoked Amber; and white and dark chocolate pate with toasted hazelnut meringue, with Chocolate Stout. 1829 Cleveland Ave.; 704-333-9463.

Mama Ricotta’s has a new executive chef: Dan Davis has come from New York, where he worked at Tabla and the Benjamin Hotel, among other places. He studied at Johnson & Wales in Charleston. Mama Ricotta's had its 20th anniversary last year. 601 S. Kings Drive; 704-343-0148.

BLT Steak at the Ritz Carlton now offers an Express Lunch Menu: Choose soup or salad and half a sandwich for $17. 110 N. College St.; 704-972-4380.

Tall, tall chef takes over at Embassy

James Hettinger takes over as exec chef of the Embassy Suites Golf Resort & Spa, as the press release says, because he was "head and shoulders above" the competition -- at 6 feet 11 inches. (That's him with GM Terry Crawford, above.)

 The release calls him "one of the world's tallest chefs," a distinction difficult to confirm, but related numbers are big, too: He'll be in charge of producing 150,000 meals a year in the convention center, 120,000 breakfasts in the atrium and 60,000 meals in the Rocky River Grille, the Suites' restaurant, for which he'll be developing a new menu. He's worked at the Waynesville Inn Golf Resort & Spa, the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Fla., and other hotel and club restaurants around the country.

He plans a Lowcountry feel for the new lineup, from sweet-tea-roasted chicken to food from a smoker he's building. Embassy Suites Concord; 704-455-8200;

In case you're not up to speed on the 'cronut'...

 A. It's sadly not from around here. It's offered in New York, at Dominique Ansel's bakery in Soho.

 B. Ansel, a 2013 James Beard Award finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef, has trademarked the name for these half-croissant, half-donut entities; he started serving them mid-May and they've created quite the sensation.

C. Buzzfeed has not only pictures but GIFs of its production, here. (Photo above from Zagat.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

National Burger Day: Today (May 28 that is)

The Liberty in South End offers half-off its Pub Burger all day May 28 for National Burger Day; 1812 South Blvd., 704-332-8830.

So I drove to Cleveland to check out Rocco Whalen's place...

Well, OK, I was going that way anyway. But here's a peek at Fahrenheit, which is in the historic/hipster Tremont neighborhood (where Lolita, Michael Symon's place and one of my favorites in the area -- Cleveland, Ohio, that is - is). A second location is headed to uptown Charlotte, reportedly in September.
We tried chef Whalen's signature dish, the beef short rib, served with teriyaki lo mein noodles: A decidedly sweet edge to well-cooked, rich meat, with lots of roasted mushrooms.

Also beautiful: Seared tuna with what Whalen calls tomato-edamame fried rice and a green curry cilantro sauce with a bit of kick.

The place is handsome -- brick walls with cordovan ceilings and rustic details, all in earth tones -- and on a busy Friday night, it's loud. Worth noting: Beyond the cooking, Whalen is famous for substantial weight loss (documented on "Fat Chef" and here, and includes on his menu several "Fahren 'lite'" dishes, with calorie counts.

60-second service or a free McD sandwich

Today through July 31, you'll get your drive-through order in 60 seconds or less at Charlotte-area McDonald's -- if you roll up between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. weekdays -- or you'll get a coupon for a free sandwich.

Owner-operator John Link, one of several in the area, said in a press release: It's "our way to have a little fun with our crews and customers this summer," he said. (I'm trying to imagine the crew thinking this is fun...)

Customers will be handed a sand timer when they pay. If the sand runs out before the order "is presented at the pick-up window," they'll get an apology and the coupon.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cleveland star Rocco Whalen coming to Charlotte

Cleveland star chef Rocco Whalen will open a second outpost of his popular Fahrenheit in Charlotte in October, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

He told the paper it will be the city's first open-air rooftop restaurant, 20 floors up in The Skye Condominiums at Third and Caldwell streets uptown.  

Fahrenheit will have two linear fire pits and will do room service for the mixed-use building's Hyatt, he said.  

You can check out the menu at

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Passion8 folks to open American Cafe

Chef Luca Annunziata and Jessica Annunziata of Passion8 Bistro plan to open The American Cafe & Lounge May 28, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, in the Clarion Hotel at 3695 Foothills Way in Fort Mill. The place will offer a late-night menu and live music until 2 a.m. on weekends.
Passion8 offers an Italian-influenced menu that relies heavily on local foodstuffs, and routinely offers Slow Food events. This, says Jessica, will focus on "moderately priced food with an emphasis on fun."

Special dinners coming up

Dean & DeLuca chefs from its markets in Japan, Turkey, Thailand, Singapore and the Middle East, plus one from California, will join Charlotte’s to offer a multicourse dinner June 5 at the D&D Wine Room at Phillips Place, for $250 per person. The Wine Room is the chain’s first full-service, in-store restaurant. Each chef will do his own course, and there’ll be pairings of beer and wine. Charlotte’s Andres Moncayo will cook along with Eiji Murakami and Tetsuya Sakai from Japan, Wassem Mustafa from the Middle East, Ali Ronay from Turkey, Timber Suwannakoot from Thailand, Gerald Yong from Singapore and Jason Rose from St. Helena, Calif. Reservations 704-643-1664; 6903 Phillips Place Court.

The Palm hosts a Duckhorn and surf ’n turf dinner June 14. Three courses, plus reception, plus pairings is $120 ($95 for the restaurant’s 837 Club members), and the menu includes oyster shooter with wasabi tobiko and carpaccio with 2011 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley; tomato and watermelon salad with 2011 Migration Chardonnay, Russian River Valley; the 2010 Merlot with the surf ’n turf and more. 6705 Phillips Place; 704-552-7256.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Newk's opening in Rock Hill

A new Newk’s Eatery opens June 3 in Rock Hill, the third in the Charlotte area. It will host a pre-opening charity night June 1 benefiting Early Learning Partnership, which promotes literacy and free healthcare for children. Tickets for that night will be $10, and guests can donate more during the event, by writing checks or purchasing program items for donation, such as literacy tools, books, or coupons for prescriptions or clinic visits. All proceeds from ticket sales will go to ELP, and Newk's will make a matching donation, for a total of $3,000. The new location is at 2350 Dave Lyle Blvd., Rock Hill; 704-796-3720.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mac's sauce tops in nation at Memphis in May

Mac's Speed Shop took a first-place finish in tomato sauce at the Memphis in May 2013 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest this past weekend, which brings hundreds of teams to Tennessee and awards more than $100,000 in prizes.

Money to Second Harvest

Cantina 1511 presented a $2,000 check today to Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina: It's the promised percentage from the places' Cinco de Mayo sales. East Boulevard location general manager Vince Ponzio (left) and Stonecrest's, Phil Carter (right), presented to Shay Merritt of Second Harvest.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Liquid nitrogen cocktails require permit 'condition'

Bubble Charlotte will apparently be allowed to serve its liquid nitrogen cocktails when it opens to the public tonight. Mecklenburg County ABC law enforcement said the new EpiCentre place did receive its mixed-beverage permit, and the county health department has approved its liquid nitrogen cocktail procedure with the following "permit condition" (italic emphasis is mine):

"FOOD ESTABLISHMENT is approved for the addition of liquid Nitrogen as a BEVERAGE topper so long as the liquid is not introduced into the BEVERAGE for consumption. In accordance with FOOD ESTABLISHMENT procedure, a qualified facility representative shall educate the CONSUMER about the product prior to consumption. A FOOD EMPLOYEE shall ensure all precautions are achieved to ensure liquid nitrogen is not consumed. It is not recognized as an approved FOOD ADDITIVE and shall not be consumed by patrons."

That didn't make clear to me whether a server could hand someone a drink with liquid nitrogen still in it or not (as long as they warned them about it). So I asked the department's Lynn Lathan to clarify.

"If there is any liquid nitrogen (still in the drink)," she said, "they are to maintain possession of it until there is none left.

"When you give something to someone, they're free to eat or drink it. ... (So) if there's liquid nitrogen in it, they are not to give it to the customer."

Clinical toxicologist Anna Rouse Dulaney with Carolinas Poison Center said risk factors include "the temperature (of the drink itself and the glass it's in), the customer (and whether the customer is intoxicated) ... (and) where in the throat it hits: A sip vs. a throwdown."

(Something called the Leidenfrost effect would create an insulating vapor between your mouth and the nitrogen, so that even though the stuff is 321 degrees below 0, it would be possible to swallow it down.)

Dulaney advises that if a sip of such a drink hurts, stop immediately. If there's pain in the throat or stomach, the person should not eat or drink anything else (which would obscure medical testing) and seek medical attention.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chef at Bubble

Chef Jason Kerton will be running the kitchen at the upcoming Bubble Charlotte at the EpiCentre. Kerton, a Culinary Institute of America grad, says he's cooked with Bobby Flay at Mesa Grill and at the Sanctuary in Charleston. He's also done food for ballparks in Akron and Charleston. Here, his lineup will include Champagne tempura: asparagus and carrot done in a Champagne tempura batter; Caprese Napoleon (tomato and fresh mozzarella stacked and drizzled with fig balsamic reduction); and sesame-crusted salmon. 210 E. Trade St.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Tim Groody opening Fork!

Chef Tim Groody plans to open Fork! in the former Creole House in Cornelius. He and girlfriend Melanie McIntosh, plus his sister and brother-in-law, will be owners -- "It's really a family-oriented business," he says -- and he plans to "get back to my roots."

Those involve lots of use of local produce and products, a casual feel but upscale quality, and midrange prices. Charlotte-area diners know Groody from his time at defunct Sonoma, Town and other Pierre Bader restaurants, plus and Flatiron Kitchen + Taphouse in Davidson; he's currently finishing a stint as corporate chef with Frank Scibelli's restaurants.

He plans lots of small plates and appetizers, running perhaps $5 to $12, and entrees served a la carte beginning at about $13. "I'll have some little pastas, entree-size salads ... lots of heirloom tomatoes. I'd like to get back into dumplings and little bites like that, even playing more into a lot of Asian stuff, which I like to cook."

The house at 20517 N. Main St., more than 100 years old, will seat about 30 to 35 outside (it's got a big wrap-around porch) and 50 or 60 inside.

McNinch and Michel Picard

McNinch House hosts its first wine dinner of the year May 23, featuring Michel Picard Winery. Among the courses: butter-poached S.C. Royal Red shrimp with gnocchi and 2009 Bourgogne Chardonnay, Maconnais; and coffee-braised beef short rib and roasted diver scallop with 2005 Chateauneuf du Pape. $125; reservations: 704-332-6159; 511 N. Church St.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Brazilian drink does good

Chima is donating 100 percent of the sales in March from its signature drink, the caipirinha -- a total of $7,884 -- to the Easter Seals UCP organization. The Brazilian steakhouse folks will present the check May 16. 139 S. Tryon St.; 704-601-4141.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spring dinner at Luna's

Luna's Living Kitchen will do a spring dinner May 11 "to celebrate mothers, friends and the cornucopia of local flavors this season brings." On the menu: salad with candied pecans and zesty orange vinaigrette; coconut-lime noodle bowl with vegetables from local farms and "a surprise twist" on Luna's coconut-cacao pudding. Reservations for 5-9 p.m.; 704-333-0008; 2102 South Blvd.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Liquid nitrogen: So timely

And the liquid-nitrogen-enters-our-zeitgeist continues (see previous blog post) -- and be warned: The first clip of last Thursday's "Grey's Anatomy" included in this, from the national Braiser website (focusing on food and drink) is too gruesome to watch. Skip that one.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Puck party

Wolfgang Puck Pizza | Bar at Phillips Place celebrates its first anniversary with a week of complimentary stuff: A glass of sparkling wine and a piece of "Italian-inspired cake" are offered May 6-11. 6706-C Phillips Place Court; 704-295-0101.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bubble: Liquid nitrogen-infused drinks?

UPDATE: A publicist said the drinks would not be served when the place was "busy" but couldn't elaborate.

Bubble Charlotte is getting close to opening at the EpiCentre, and a press release today trumpets its "N-Tini" as "the most unique cocktail launched in the Queen City." This is a cocktail "infused with liquid nitrogen ... truly a one-of-a-kind cocktail surrounded by a seductive cloud."

The problem is that it requires care not only by the maker but by the drinker, who must wait for the nitrogen to evaporate before consuming the drink or risk freezing tissue or the sudden expansion of the nitrogen into gas. You may recall the story last October of a British 18-year-old who was seriously injured (she had emergency surgery removing part of her stomach, according to ABC News), apparently by not waiting for the nitrogen to evaporate before drinking.

At the time, ABC News quoted Dave Arnold, the French Culinary Institute's head of culinary technology, and also head of cocktails at Booker and Dax bar at Momofuko in New York, saying "It's like anything in life. If it is used improperly, there are hazards." Also quoted: The editor of Bartending Magazine, who said: "Anything that is the least bit hazardous does not belong in the bar... This nitrogen cocktail; it's ridiculous."

Paul Malcolm, on faculty at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, said today, "There's the wow factor. Then there's the burn-the-lining-of-your-esophagus factor... How could you monitor (the drinker) on a bar that's busy on a Saturday night?"

J&W recently did Modernist cooking education with "Modernist Cuisine" co-author Chris Young, and everyone had to take a safety course beforehand. "Maybe if anyone drinking it had to get a quick OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) certification," said Malcolm, "that would be the way to do it."

Below is the press release: