Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bits and crumbs and chicken feet

Halloween at Soul will include specials ("Chicken Spell" is glazed chicken feet with grilled hearts and whipped chicken liver mousse; there's also grilled octopus) and cocktail features: These include Fool's Fire (George Dickel Rye, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, housemade pumpkin syrup, Bittermens Elemakule Tiki Bitters and a cinnamon-sugar rim) and Punch of Pamona (clove-infused Muddy River rum, Carriage House apple brandy, organic cider -- all from the area -- and cinnamon-caramel syrup). 1500 Central Ave.; 704-348-1848.

IHOP (multiple locations) will give a free Scary Face Pancake to each trick-or-treater 12 and younger 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Oct. 31.

Ruth's Chris SouthPark offers wine specials featuring Ghost Pines for $8 5:30-8:30 p.m. Oct. 31, and $8 appetizer specials in the same timeframe: stuffed mushrooms, tenderloin skewers and more. 6000 Fairview Road; 704-556-1115.

Wednesday's Big Question: On beer

Let's try this for a few weeks: I'll ask a Big Question and you tell me what you think.
Question for the week: How much locally brewed beer can Charlotte sustain?

With this week's announcement of the opening of Sycamore Brewing in South End, we're faced with the riches of Olde Mecklenburg, Triple C and Four Friends in that area, plus the new Unknown, Free Range and District 9, plus the established NoDa, Birdsong, Heist and Ass Clown. (That's not mentioning Rock Bottom, which is a national chain but brews on-site.)

Business writer Ely Portillo and I were discussing the pros and cons: Charlotte's clearly a better hub for transporting the wares elsewhere than most N.C. spots, from the owners' perspective, while isn't it a more-and-merrier situation for drinkers? We're not sure. We need good. We need restaurants serving strong local brews.

What think you all?

Pinky's makes Zagat list; Charlotteans' conversational skills questioned

The White Trash Burger at Pinky's Westside Grill made a recent Zagat listing of 50 Burgers in 50 States, complete with the hilarious individual intro: "In Charlotte, a heated conversation about fried pickles isn’t an uncommon thing." Zagat, please see Esquire on the conversational powers of Southerners ...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Final Fire: Chefs battle for state's (bragging) rights

Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill (that's him on the far right) will take on John Bobby of the Winston-Salem Noble's (center) on Nov. 20, in the Got To Be NC competition dining extravaganza's championship bout, dubbed "Final Fire: Battle of the Champions."

This last series, held at Raleigh's Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel, continues Nov. 21 as Dean Thompson of Flights (at the Renaissance Raleigh; he's second from right) takes on the Nov. 20 winner. Then Gerry Fong of Persimmons in New Bern (second from left) goes up against Adam Hayes of Red Stag Grill in Asheville on Nov. 22, and that winner takes on the Nov. 21 one in the final knockdown dragout on Nov. 23.

Tickets are $119 (excluding drinks, tax and tip) and go on sale at 7 p.m. Oct. 30 at

The winner gets $4,000, a hand-forged set of knives from Charlotte-based Ironman Forge and a trip to the pro chef program at the CIA Greystone campus in Napa Valley; runner-up gets $1,000.

A reminder on how it works: Diners get to blind-taste each of six courses created with a featured N.C. ingredient (the chefs, who do three courses each, find out what it is an hour before cooking), and rate them, as do culinary and guest judges, and the ratings are tallied to produce a winner. Photo is from Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series.

Monday, October 28, 2013

'Cooked, Corked, Poured'

The next "Cooked, Corked and Poured" dinner at Wolfgang Puck Pizza|Bar is Oct. 29, with Jim Beam bourbon as the feature. Among the courses: pan-roasted quail with chestnut stuffing and Jim Beam Honey; and porchetta (roasted suckling pig) with Jim Beam Devil's Cut. $50; with space limited (it's on the enclosed patio); 6706-C Phillips Place Court;

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Holidays in Ballantyne

Holiday plans afoot at the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge (always the first to let us know what it's got going on):

Thanksgiving: Brunch will be noon-4 p.m., with carving stations and live entertainment. $65, $32 for children 5-12, free for children 4 and younger. Private dining rooms are available for groups. At Gallery, the lodge's restaurant (that's it, above, in its newly renovated form), the regular menu plus a traditional turkey dinner special will be offered (reservations required): 704-248-4100.

Holiday Afternoon Tea: This will be served in the lobby 1-5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays (except for Christmas Day) Dec. 4-29, with live harp music. $32 for adults, $15 for children 5-12, free for children 4 and younger. A champagne tea is available for $40. Reservations required.

Christmas Eve: Gallery will serve 4-9 p.m.; reservations required.

Christmas Day: A buffet brunch will be served in the lodge noon-4 p.m., with live holiday music. $65, $32 for children 5-12, free for children 4 and younger. Gallery will serve its regular menu and a prime rib special; reservations required.

The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge: 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway;

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Halloween at the Duke Mansion: Scary!

Check out a bit of Southern Gothic at the Duke Mansion's annual Halloween party, a benefit for the nonprofit, starting at 7 p.m. Oct. 25. The theme: "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." Costumes or cocktail attire are appropriate, and there'll be live music, a silent auction and tidbits from chef Harrison Booth, ranging from devils on horseback (dates wrapped with bacon and stuffed with Gorgonzola) and angels on horseback (smoked scallops wrapped with sliced zucchini with yuzu and wasabi) to a grits station to carving stations offering Creole rubbed beef strip loin and turkey with pear cranberry chutney. Desserts and late-night snacks will be on hand as well.

You can make reservations, but walk-ins will also be welcome. Tickets are $75, with $25 of it tax-deductible; 704-714-4445 or 400 Hermitage Road.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bits and crumbs

Georges Brasserie hosts the SHUCKED Oyster Feast 6-9 p.m. Oct. 23: all-you-can-eat oysters from both coasts, plus fried oysters, oysters Casino and oysters Rockefeller, plus crab cakes, hush puppies and salad, and unlimited selected wines. $95 for food and drink; $65 for just the food. 4620 Piedmont Row Drive; 980-219-7409. Also new at Georges: Executive chef Joe Lester, who has served as sous chef for the well-known Daniel Boulud.

BLT Steak offers a Highland Brewing Company beer dining Oct. 25, with four courses and craft brews. Among the offerings (which also include beer tastings, for $75): diver scallops with kabocha squash, chanterelles and country ham, with Clawhammer Oktoberfest; and beef short rib with porcini hash and Oatmeal Porter. 201 E. Trade St.; 704-972-4350.

Chima for veterans

Uptown Brazilian churrascaria/steakhouse Chima, which recently added shrimp to its all-you-can-eat lineup, will salute veterans on Nov. 11-12 with a buy-one-get-one-free offer on its rodizio. (That's the term for the way churrascarias serve: It's unlimited salad and prepared foods, plus servers rotate around the dining room offering an assortment of grilled proteins from large skewers; see above.) Diners must present a valid military ID or discharge letter, and reservations are recommended.

139 S. Tryon St.; 704-601-4141.

New menu at Fran's

Fran Scibelli has a new dinner menu at her Fran's Filling Station, one that also has a look that helps people understand, she says, that the "filling station" concept is "about filling your spirit as well as your body through hospitality."

Among new entrees: braised lamb marinated with harissa (the spicy North African pepper sauce) with cilantro yogurt sauce, and other dishes "very Metropolitan Cafe in style," she says, for those who recall her Foxcroft East spot from the '90s, along with some notes beside dishes letting diners know her inspirations. Those include "flavors bring back reading the menu at Chez Panisse every day on my way to school” and “My father always said ... the basil makes the sauce.”

Also new: a special each Tuesday and Saturday night, beginning Oct. 28, of two salads (choice of field greens, crispy greens or Caesar), one pizza (that's the mushroom and Gorgonzola above) and a bottle of wine from a selected list for $40.

2410 Park Road; 704-372-2009.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dine out, do good

Villa Francesca hosts the fifth annual "Take A Slice Out of Cancer" event 7-10 p.m. Oct. 22
The restaurant has raised more than $20,000, with the American Cancer Society, and will offer VIP tickerts for $125, and regular admission tickets for $20 in advance, $25 at the door (children are $10 in advance and $14 at the door). VIP gets you unlimited food, beer and wine and a seat in the meet-and-greet area; general admission gives you access to the buffet and all live entertainment. Live music and appearances by local celebrities are planned, plus a silent auction of jewlry from local artists and a Panthers helmet signed by Cam Newton.

321 N. Caldwell St.;; tickets also sold here.

Lobster, etc.

Bonefish Grill (multiple locations) offers lobster specials each Tuesday starting at $7.90 (that's lobster sliders; a lobster tail dinner is $12.90).

Zen Asian Fusion celebrates its eight-year anniversary through Nov. 8 with a three-course meal for two for $38: one appetizer/tapas, two dinner entrees, and one dessert to share. 1716 Kenilworth Ave.; 704-358-9688.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Breast cancer help

Throughout October, proceeds from “The Sure Thing” fixed-price menu at Sullivan's Steakhouse will be donated to breast cancer research. (Each October for the past five years, Sullivan’s has offered special menus at its 19 locations across the country and has raised more than $500,000 for breast cancer research.) The menu is three courses, with choices, for $39. 1928 South Blvd.; 704-335-8228.

FS Food Group, which includes Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar, Mama Ricotta’s, Paco’s Tacos and Midwood Smokehouse, is taking part in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with Boar's Head: The restaurants will display survivor stories on tables along with a special dish named for each survivor. For every specialty dish that is ordered, the FS Food Group and Boar’s Head will donate $1 to Susan B. Komen for the Cure.

Burger 21 in Ballantyne Village will donate $1 for every Red Velvet Shake sold through Oct. 20 to Carolina Breast Friends, a Charlotte nonprofit committed to uniting and helping women with breast cancer in all stages of survival. Burger 21 also donates 10 percent of its proceeds to a charity or school on the 21st of each month. The Oct. 21 donation will go to Carolina Breast Friends. 14825 Ballantyne Village Way;

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

$1 pizzas? Yep.

La Tagliatella at the EpiCentre uptown offers its lunch-sized pizzas for $1 4-7 p.m. Oct. 21 and Oct. 28-Nov. 1, for National Pizza Month, and all those dollars will go to No Kid Hungry, a national hunger relief effort. Restrictions: it's just offered at the bar and patio Oct. 21, with a max of one pizza per four diners to share. The last week of the month, the deal will be offered throughout the restaurant, still one per four diners.

Featured pizzas include the Tagliatella pizza with fried eggplant, Parmigiana-Reggiano, honey and balsamico glaze; and the Bismark, with mozzarella, ham and an egg baked in the middle.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Gallery hosts fest, Beard preview

Gallery Restaurant & Bar will celebrate Oktoberfest throughout the month with German beers, from Olde Mecklenburg Brewery Mecktoberfest to Sam Adams Oktoberfest, and a specialty line of Sam Adams, plus a bratwurst sandwich special at lunch.

Also coming up: a dinner Oct. 19 previewing what Gallery will be doing at the James Beard Foundation in New York City
in November. It will be a five-course menu, paired with wines, focusing on local fall produce and game. $85; 704-248-4100.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Aria dinner Oct. 12: Barbaresco

Aria hosts a four-course, family-style "Meet the Producer" Barbaresco dinner Oct. 12. Claudia Cigliuti will talk about her family's Dolcetto, Barbera, Briccoserra and Barbaresco wines, with a menu that ranges from antipasti and ricotta gnudi with farm egg to braised beef shank and mini cannoli. $45; 100 N. Tryon St.; 704-376-8880; email to

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

POSTPONED: Scotch and rocket science at Soul

Update: Andy Maurer emailed that Ardbeg cancelled; they hope to make it -- with the rocket! -- Nov. 7.

Ardbeg, a Scottish distillery, will do a Scotch tasting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Soul, with an extra twist: The rep will bring a rocket, to celebrate the experiments Ardbeg has going in space.

Yes: The distillery, on Islay in Scotland, which has produced whiskey for more than 300 years, sent unmatured malt compounds and particles of charred oak to the International Space Station last October, in an unmanned cargo spacecraft, to see how the two will interact without gravity and, therefore, how new products might be developed. Eventually. The experiment is expected to last at least two years.

Above is Soul bar manager Andy Maurer, who created the place's "Eye for an Islay" cocktail using the Scotch, with Carriage House apple brandy and Mariletti vermouth ($15).

1500 Central Ave.; 704-348-1848;

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Chef Coleman moves from McNinch to Dunhill

Chris Coleman, most recently chef at the McNinch House uptown, is now culinary director at the Dunhill Hotel. In that capacity, he’ll oversee the hotel’s restaurant, the Harvest Moon Grille, as well as its banquet and catering operations, room service and the lobby bar. (Those of you who were fans of his pop-up ventures will have to wait; that effort will remain on hold, as it has all year.)

“I love what Cassie (Parsons, who opened the Harvest Moon) has built here... We're going to definitely keep it local but spruce it up a bit,” said Coleman, 30, who spent nine years at the fine-dining McNinch and plans to bring elements of that experience to this one.

He started last week, but notes a few dishes already: Charlotte Fish’s Tim Greiner brought a wahoo that Coleman served with an Asian-inspired turnip and radish stir-fry with tamari glaze that “sold like hotcakes”; he did a duo of Grateful Growers rabbit (braised leg and pan-roasted saddle over an arugula-barley risotto); and he’s planning fried green tomatoes with sunny-side-up quail egg, sweet-tea-boiled peanuts and wild baby mustard greens from the Seigle Farm Project Parsons started.

Expect new seasonal menus soon. The Dunhill: 237 N. Tryon St.; 704-332-4141.

William Parham, who's been sous chef, takes over as executive chef at McNinch.


That's another Octoberfest, but at the World of Beer in South End: This will be noon to 2 a.m. Oct. 12, with free admission, live entertainment, raffles and giveaways and flights, mixed drafts and some German beers on a Randall: That's an organoleptic hop transducer module (but you knew that, right?) -- a filter that can be connected to a tap of beer to add "flavor-enhancing ingredients," as explained by the Dogfish Head website, which is where the thing was invented.

Plan on seeing (or partaking in) a stein-holding contest, and expect bartenders and servers to be in dirndls and lederhosen. Chrome Toaster will be selling food.

222 E. Bland St.;; 704-333-2080.

Monday, October 7, 2013

ICYMI: Take a look at the new BAKU

I dropped in opening weekend at the new Japanese place near SouthPark. Here's a look.

Feast of the Hunter's Moon coming up

Look for a five-course candlelight dinner at the Historic Rosedale House on Oct. 21; it's the third annual Feast of the Hunter's Moon, an antebellum-period-style dinner and the only time in the year that food and drink are allowed in the circa-1815 plantation house. Chefs from CPCC's culinary school will prepare the meal, with wine pairings, and tickets are $150, with proceeds benefitting Rosedale.

Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres will be followed by the dinner, on the grounds' boxwoods and treasure trees. On the menu: shaved country ham with persimmon preserves; plantation-grown-sage corn chowder; baby greens and gourd slaw with pork belly lardons; roasted chicken; and charred apple brioche with bacon salted caramel.

Details are here and here.