Thursday, February 28, 2013

3 wine dinners approach

Wine dinners on the horizon:

Mimosa Grill does "Tuscany in the South" March 9, with chef Jon Fortes talking about how the Italian region inspired him, and sommelier Mark Orsini of Country Vintner talks about Tuscany's most famous wine regions. $75; 704-343-0700.

e2 Emeril's Eatery offers a Thelema dinner March 16, with Thomas Webb speaking about the South African winery just north of Capetown and chef de cuisine Brian Mottola preparing four courses. $85; 704-414-4787.

And Customshop hosts a Chateau Musar dinner March 17. Cabernet, Syrah and Cinsault from this winery in Lebanon will be paired with fare from chef Trey Wilson, and guest Marc Hochar will talk about ancestors to Chardonnay and Semillon. $130 per couple; 704-333-3396.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Democrats and Republicans, through food

Public Policy Polling reports the following tidbits from its first national poll on food, conducted Feb. 21-24 among 500 registered voters:

Burger King is the favorite fast-food hamburger restaurant, topping Wendy's and McDonald's, while KFC and Chick-fil-A tie among fast-food chicken places (though Southerners lean toward the latter).

57% of Americans would rather drink a Coke than a beer, while 30% prefer beer and 12% claim they never drink either.

Among bready things, Democrats enjoy bagels (34%) and croissants (32%) while Republicans prefer donuts (35%).

Democrats "are cool with vegans" (a 48/22 favorability rating); Republicans have a negative opinion of them (31/41).

Democrats prefer regular soda (47/31) while Republicans prefer diet (42/34).

And while Republicans narrowly believe that Olive Garden constitutes "a quality source of authentic ethnic food" (43/41), Democrats (41/44) think it does not.

54% of voters say that they'd be willing to pay more for their restaurant meals to help employees have health insurance; 30% say they would not. Democrats (72/19) are overwhelmingly willing to pay more for that purpose, but Republicans are, by a narrow margin (41/38), as well.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Studio Movie Grill opens Tuesday

Studio Movie Grill -- an "in-theater dining concept" -- is slated to open Feb. 26 at the EpiCentre, and plans a number of special events in the following weeks.

The "Cans Film Festival" will be March 8-10; guests who donate two canned goods or nonperishable food items get a free movie ticket to the film of their choice that's showing, and donations go to Second Harvest.

"Old Time Hockey Weekend" March 16 includes a showing of "Slap Shot" and a Q&A with the star Hanson Brothers. Info:

Each second Wednesday of the month will be girls' nights out with "fave female flicks" for $1 and drink and food specials; the first will be "Magic Mike" on March 13. Each first Thursday will be "Brews N' Views," geared to guys, with half-price domestic draft beer and "your favorite movies"; first up is "Superbad" April 4.

And $1 movie classics will be shown each third Thursday; "Clerks" starts the series March 21.

The menu ranges from steak sandwiches, ribs and an assortment of chicken tenders, to pizzas, burgers and tacos.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Zebra dinner for Africa Yoga Project

Susie Johnson, a former employee at Zebra, "left me to study yoga in India ... and now she is raising money to take yoga to children in Africa," says Zebra chef-owner Jim Alexander. So he's sponsoring a dinner to help, Feb. 28. Cost is $100 and menu choices range from lobster bisque or signature vase salad to N.C. rainbow trout Francaise or chicken breasts Provencal. RSVP required to 704-442-9525; 4521 Sharon Road.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bad Daddy's makes Zagat list

Zagat chose 25 Burgers in 25 cities, and Bad Daddy's Burger Bar made that lineup (Zagat lists only the Dilworth location, but there are also Bad Daddy's at Ballantyne, Birkdale and the Charlotte airport, plus a location in Raleigh).

New at Bad Daddy's, by the way: the Edamame Cashew Burger (that's it, above), a vegetarian option that includes a housemade Greek yogurt tzatziki sauce; plus Irish nachos (with warm Guinness beer cheese sauce, a fried egg, scallions and bacon), bacon blue cheese fries, truffle parmesan fries, salt and vinegar fries and a strawberry Greek yogurt crunch shake.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Now open

OGGI (which is Italian for today) is open at 16646 Hawfield Way Drive, at The Shoppes at Ardrey Kell. The idea? Pastas and desserts made daily in-house from scratch, and served in a homestyle, casual setting. The Roy family owns it, and had restaurants for more than 20 years in Miami. Pastas range from gnocchi and crabmeat ravioli to lasagne and linguine with clams, while entrees include chicken with artichokes, skirt steak with caramelized onions and port wine sauce and veal scallopini with portobellos. Lunch about $7-$15; dinner entrees $13-$25; 704-716-9400;

A second East Coast Wings & Grill has opened in the Charlotte area, at 9711 Northlake Centre Parkway, part of brothers J.D. and Jeff Penland's plan to open five in the area over five years. The N.C.-based chain offers 75 flavors of wings. No, really.

James Beard semifinalists

Restaurant and chef award semifinalists are out for the 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards. Among them is Charlotte's Eric Solomon, up again for Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional, among 20 semifinalists (including Durham's Sean Lilly Wilson).
From elsewhere in the Carolinas:
For Best New Restaurant (29 semifinalists): Mateo Tapas in Durham and The Ordinary in Charleston.
Outstanding Restaurant (20): Chapel Hill's Lantern.
Outstanding Chef (20): Sean Brock of McCrady’s (yes, they specified McCrady's, but he's also in charge at the more in-the-news Husk).
Outstanding Pastry Chef (20): Phoebe Lawless of Durham's Scratch.
Rising Star Chef of the Year: Katie Button at Asheville's Cúrate.
Outstanding wine program: Angus Barn in Raleigh and Charleston Grill at Charleston Place Hotel.
And among the 20 semifinalists for Best Chef: Southeast are Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner in Raleigh; Elliott Moss of The Admiral (soon to be of Buxton Hill) in Asheville; Scott Crawford of Herons at the Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary; Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston; Scott Howell at Nana’s in Durham; Aaron Vandemark of Panciuto in Hillsborough, and, all in Charleston: Jeremiah Bacon at The Macintosh, Craig Deihl at Cypress ,and Joshua Keeler at Two Boroughs Larder.

New look, menu at Nolen Kitchen

Nolen Kitchen will reopen Thursday night after a major renovation -- the restaurant's Stratos Lambos says the place was gutted and that the new look encompasses new colors, coverings and furniture, though the layout of bar and dining area stays the same, and the feel continues to be casual. The menu will be new, too, what Lambos calls a refined lineup that keeps staples -- like the bacon-wrapped meatloaf and chicken souvlaki -- but adds New American/Continental fare, such as Moroccan-spiced half chicken with garbanzo bean stew and a grilled swordfish sandwich with eggplant caponata: "We are not changing the concept but enhancing the overall experience... We believe in reinvesting." 2839 Selwyn Ave.; 704-372-1424.

Meanwhile, look for the Xenia Hospitality Group's second ilios noche to start construction at Quail Corners shopping center in March and, if all goes according to plan, to open mid-June.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Links of the week

See, back in the day -- the '60s day -- some places cared about what really matters in life. See for more. (With hat tip to colleague Trent Roberts.)

Looks as if the kitchen at The Admiral, one of my favorites in Asheville -- and maybe anywhere -- is getting a major shakeup. Ah, well: Buxton Hill Barbecue and The Bull and Beggar are great names ...

And I do love me some good food ink... That vegan tat is cool, but the recipe for hummus? Amazing.


Fleming's hosts an Argentine wine dinner Feb. 22, featuring wines from Paul Hobbs Imports. Winemaker Hobbs worked at Catena and Robert Mondavi, and helped make the first vintages of Opus One, says Charlotte wine consultant Mark Orsini, and helped start Vina Cobos in Argentina. Among the courses: chicken and chorizo empanadas with 2010 Bramare Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo Vineyard, Mendoza; and duo of beef (braised short rib and blackened filet) with 2011 Felino Vina Cobos Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza and 2009 Bramare Cabernet Sauvignon Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza.
$75; reservations 704-333-4266; 219 W. Trade St.

Pure Pizza hosts a farm to fork dinner March 2 with Triple C Brewing, including a hummus and tarragon chicken pizza using spent grain from the brewing process, served with Light Rail Pale Ale; and a pizza made with creamed spinach, ribeye and Asher blue cheese, served with Smoked Amber. Pizzaiolo and chef Peter Reinhart is slated to be there, too.
$40; tickets available at Pure or here; 224 E. 7th St.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bonterra starts brunch

Bonterra is going to start Sunday brunch this week, with chef Bill Schutz's lineup including starters such as she crab soup and cornmeal fried oysters, and entrees ranging from shrimp and grits with andouille sausage to French toast made with challah and caramelized banana to steak 'n eggs with arugula, potato hash and smoked sea salt. Entrees will range from $8 to $16, and an extensive Bloody Mary bar is also promised. They're calling it a nod and fond farewell to friend and neighbor restaurant Pewter Rose, which served Sunday brunch for years before closing recently. 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; 1829 Cleveland Ave.; 704-333-9463.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What's your favorite cocktail in Charlotte?

Favorite bartender? Or are you the kind that prefers a "mixologist"? (And no, not everyone thinks they're the same thing -- the second term, like "bar chef" -- suggests someone who creates new drinks, rather than executing ones for which there are already recipes.)

Let me know your favorites from specific restaurants; I'm collecting some, to be shared soon. Meanwhile, Food & Wine (from which the photo above comes) is calling the South "the Next Cocktail Destination" while simultaneously declaring moonshine the "Trend That Must Go." Harrumph. (Although I hope they're right about Mezcal and tequila brunch drinks coming into style...)

'Pewter Rose Day,' declares Mayor Foxx

I don't remember this happening before:

"WHEREAS, Pewter Rose is a success story of humble beginnings rooted in partnerships,
cooperation, and dedication to developing regional identity in the food culture of one of the
South’s most treasured cities grew to epic stature of enduring legacy; and

WHEREAS Mrs. Susie Peck became, in 25 years of service a principal operator, a symbol of
grace, elegance, fairness, gentility and steadfastness in female leadership; and
WHEREAS, hundreds of thousands of people over 25 years, were made to feel welcome and
received exceptional cuisine, libation, service and hospitality, regardless of age, race, gender,
sexual orientation or political affiliation; and

WHEREAS, Pewter Rose displayed an ethos of supporting local business people and North
Carolina industries including farming, fishing, dairy, wine, floral, food, artists, craftsmen,
musicians, handymen, other neighborhood and regional restaurateurs, and more was fostered in
the spirit of leadership through mindful examples:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Anthony R. Foxx, Mayor of Charlotte, do hereby proclaim
February 13, 2013 as


in Charlotte and commend its observance to all citizens."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Harper's Group closing Zink

Zink will close after Feb. 24, the Harper's Restaurant Group said today, with owner Tom Sasser saying the place couldn't gain a strong foothold at the location at 4310 Sharon Road -- the restaurant's second (the first was in the IJL building uptown, from which a bank branch bumped it). Chuy's, an Austin-based Tex-Mex chain, is expected to take the spot. Zink dishes will show up at siblings Harper's, Upstream and Mimosa Grill, Sasser said. Steve Seitz of the Harper's group said the company is considering other locations in the Carolinas.

Whether to announce a closing date is a challenging decision; Seitz said the group wanted to give people a chance to say goodbye to a strong staff. 704-375-9715;

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bits and BYOB

Upstream hosts a BYOB dinner Feb. 22; bring your own bottles and get a five-course meal for $65 (and a reception with sparkling wine starts at 6:30 p.m.). Among the courses: Fanny Bay oysters and Hawaiian big eye tuna with white soy gelee; duo of foie gras; pan-roasted sea bass and plum wine-glazed pork belly; and more. Phillips Place; 704-556-7730.

The King's Bakery is expanding to increase production, which means it's moving its sales business into The King's Kitchen (129 W. Trade St.). That means if you want to buy its breakfast pastries, coffee, lunch sandwiches or retail bread, you'll now go to the next-door King's Kitchen -- which is extending its hours accordingly, and offering breakfast items to go 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. weekdays.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mueller's closed

Margie Mueller confirmed today she has closed Mueller's at 119 Huntley Place in Myers Park, the tiny and well-loved sandwich shop she took over when the founder, her brother Dave, died in 2011. "We had it for six years," she said. "It was his dream and I was happy to try to carry it on for him." But "I wasn't as strong as he was," she said, and felt she couldn't keep it open any longer. She said she is in negotiations, with the possibility that someone will take it over and continue to use her brother's burger recipes. She hopes to open a catering business in Charlotte. Those interested in that may contact her at 704-376-0257.

Charlotte chefs compete

Chefs Robert Marilla and Geoffrey Blount, both culinary instructors at Central Piedmont Community College, will vie for regional titles in the American Culinary Federation's Southeast conference March 2 in Louisville, Ky. Winners advance to nationals in Las Vegas in July.
Marilla, culinary arts instructor and overseer of the school's Greenway restaurant, will go for the regional ACF Chef of the Year title, against two Atlanta chefs and one from Louisville. In competition, he'll have 15 minutes to set up, 60 minutes to "fabricate and cook" four portions of his dish, 10 minutes to plate and 15 to clean up.

Blount, baking and pastry arts instructor, will take on two chefs from Georgia and one from Florida in the pastry chef of the year competition, and will have to prepare four portions of a hot or warm dessert, with the same time constraints as above.

New Firehouse coming

Firehouse Subs will open its eighth Charlotte-area restaurant Feb. 8, and will have a grand opening with the Steele Creek Volunteer Fire Department on Feb. 9, with free drinks from noon to 2 p.m. and the fire department showing off antique firefighting memorabilia and the new mural dedicated to them. Each Firehouse Subs restaurant gets a hand-painted, custom mural in the dining room; this one illustrates Steele Creek’s Engine No. 2 and the Central Steele Creek Presbyterian Church. (The chain also has a public safety foundation that supports first responders and public safety organizations, and says it's given more than $436,000 in North Carolina.) 12806 S. Tryon St.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bruce, Kerry Moffett announce 3rd restaurant

Bruce Moffett (above) confirms his third restaurant in Charlotte, Villa Rustica, is slated to open in July or August at 715 Providence Road, in the Cinch (clothing) spot at the Villa. Moffett is known for his original (12-year-old, perennially well-rated) Barrington's, and Good Food on Montford, which he has with his brother, Kerry.

The idea of Villa Rustica? Just what you'd guess: "We'll get a wood-burning oven and do some pizzas, a lot of handmade pastas, real simple meats," says Moffett. He plans to put Kerry at executive chef over all three; "it'll give him the opportunity to get his hands on a bunch of different cooking styles," and he notes how well Kerry's food at Good Food has been received.

The new place will seat about 75 at the Villa's historical Reynolds-Gourmajenko House. "I'd been kicking around some ideas ... but I walked in and thought 'I guess we're doing Italian food'," Bruce Moffett says. That's what happened with the other two as well -- the Barrington's space reminded him of his living room in New England (it's named for his hometown in Rhode Island), and Good Food looked like a spot in which he and Kerry could something like Avec in Chicago.

Moffett, who's talked about his reluctance to open a second place until he felt he had a good handle on the first (and spent eight years doing that), says seasoned staff makes him comfortable enough to try this. "I have people that have been with me for 12 years," such as Barrington's manager Peggy Gibouin, and others he's known for more than a decade (like Good Food executive sous Larry Schreiber), and recently hired Mike Vergili, former executive chef at Carmel Country Club to be general manager at Good Food.

He's also excited at the prospect of increased buying power: "Now we can buy local whole animals; I'll get the chops (for Barrington's), Kerry can grind up the legs for sausage (at Rustica) and Good Food gets the shoulder... it opens up a lot of chances closed to us now."

Baronofsky Design, which did Good Food, will do this space as well. More to come (not active yet) at

e2: Mardi Gras

e2 plans a Mardi Gras celebration 5-9 p.m. Feb. 12 with live New Orleans jazz (5:30-8:30) and $6 hurricanes, Sazeracs and Ramos gin fizzes (a plethora of classic N'Awlins cocktails). Abita (from Louisiana) will serve $3 beers and pass out beads "and other giveaways" and there'll be dinner specials in addition to the regular menu. (A sampling: fried oyster sliders, crispy softshell crab, crawfish with angel hair and Cajun cream.)
135 Levine Avenue of the Arts; 704-414-4787.

Free bagel

Bruegger’s celebrates its 30th anniversary Feb. 7; go onto its Facebook page and you can get a coupon for a free bagel and cream cheese of your choice in stores that day. (You can also vote there on which classic flavor you'd like to make a reappearance in stores.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Farewell for Pewter Rose

The Pewter Rose folks plan a farewell party this Sunday, Feb. 10, at nearby Bonterra (1829 Cleveland Ave.) to raise money for its displaced employees and final expenses. The restaurant closed Jan. 20 after an equipment failure that caused significant damage to the historic South End building that houses the restaurant for nearly 25 years. Owner Susie Peck and her daughter, Madelon, say they've partnered with area businesses to host this event, which will include food, wine and a silent auction that will include wines from Saintsbury, Bouchaine and Solena, and contributions from 300 East, Pasta & Provisions, Terra and Bang Bang Salon. Interested? Email Madelon Peck at

Updated: ValDayLove

Mimosa Grill offers a small-plates-and-sparkling-wines menu for Valentine's night, with dishes ranging from N.C. oysters to pork loin, for $60 (that's including the wines). It will also offer a Valentine Sunday brunch Feb. 17 for $40 per couple. 327 S. Tryon St.; 704-343-0700.

Sir Edmond Halley’s plans specials, including wild mushroom bruschetta, Maine lobster tail bites with habanero cream, horseradish-encrusted filet medallions, pan-roasted corvina, and more Feb. 14-16. 4151 Park Road; 704-525-7775.

Chima does its Brazilian rodizio dinner for $79 per person on Valentine's Day -- that's an array of grilled meats and other proteins, plus a salad bar, dessert, glass of Champagne and coffee. 139 N. Tryon St.; 704-601-4141.

Mimi’s Cafe begins a Feb. 7-17 deal for Valentine's in which diners get a three-course French-inspired dinner for two for $26.99. Offered 4-11 p.m., the meal has entree options such as chicken Madeira, beef Bourguignon and four-cheese ravioli. 10224 Perimeter Parkway; 704-509-5911.

Harvest Moon Grille does three courses and a bottle of Prosecco for $120 per couple. 235 N. Tryon St. in the Dunhill hotel; 704-342-1193.

BLT Steak (at the Ritz Carlton uptown) offers Champagne tastings in a flight for $12 Feb. 11-16; a complimentary chocolate heart with lunch on Feb. 14; and a special menu for dinner that night that includes Kumamoto oysters, Scottish salmon, New York strip and more. 201 E. Trade St.; 704-972-4380.

Fern (1323 Central Ave.; 704-377-1825) will have three courses for $30: choice of Brussels sprouts salad or roasted and raw glazed white carrots; butternut squash risotto or puree and vegan chocolate cheesecake or mint whipped beets.

Halcyon (500 S. Tryon St.; 704-910-0865) will do a $60 Valentine meal, with courses including housemade ricotta and strawberry salad; shrimp and grits sushi roll; petite filet mignon with truffled turnip puree; and more.

Something Classic (1419 East Blvd. or 220 N. Tryon St.) will offer a pick-up Valentine menu (order by Feb. 11) that includes peppercorn beef filet for two, chicken Wellington for two and more.

Cosmos Cafe (300 N. College St.; 704-372-3553) offers a $34.95 menu Feb. 14-17, including choice of appetizer; salad or crab bisque; petite filet, chicken, prawns or pork loin; and dessert.

Kabuto at Lake Norman has a three-course, fixed-price Valentine's special Feb. 14-17: Japanese onion soup, salad and choice of steak, shrimp or salmon with chicken and glass of wine for $50 per couple. Choose two from the steak, shrimp or salmon grouping for $60. Reservations recommended: 704-655-0077; info at

e2 will feature dinner specials Feb. 14 from chef de cuisine Brian Mottola, such as she-crab soup, filet of beef for two, and seared halibut. Reservations will be taken for 5-10 p.m. 135 Levine Avenue of the Arts; 704-414-4787.

D'Vine Wine Cafe offers a "special red menu" Feb. 14, 15 and 16, along with its regular menu. Among the red (which is $39.99 or $69.99 with the wine pairings): seared scallop with braised red cabbage and Duval-Leroy Champagne; filet and lobster with beet risotto and 2006 Conn Valley Pinot Noir and 2008 Keenan Merlot; and more.
14815 John J. Delaney Drive; 704-369-5050.

The Palm offers a three-course menu for two Feb. 13-17, featuring a 4-pound Nova Scotia lobster for two. 6705 Phillips Place Court; 704-552-7256.

Gallery does a three-course prix-fixe menu for Valentine’s Day Feb. 14-Feb. 16. with entree choices including vegetable pappardelle, grilled filet of beef and seared red snapper, for $55. Diners can get wine pairings for an additional $20. Reservations: 704-248-4100; 10000 Ballantyne Commons Parkway;

Passion8 offers a five-course "Love Bug" dinner 5-10 p.m. Feb. 14 for $150 per couple. Among the options are red shrimp with Champagne sabayon; Hudson Valley foie gras; Maine lobster and parsnip bisque; filet mignon with fennel and Israeli couscous salad; duck breast; chocolate terrine and more. 803-802-7455; 3415 Highway 51 N, Fort Mill.

The Ritz-Carlton has an array of Valentine's plans:
Its 15th-floor Urban Sip will have live jazz Feb. 14 (a Thursday) as well as on that Friday and Saturday as usual, and will introduce "First Date": three courses of dessert with sparkling wines, offered both at Urban Sip and at the lobby-level Bar Cocoa for $75 per person. Example: strawberry sabayon with Lamberti Rosé Prosecco; warm chocolate cake with Banfi Rosa Regale; and spiced cranberry clafouti with Veuve Clicquot Rosé.
Urban Sip will also offer desserts for two, such as chocolate fondue and chocolate tasting plates, and a Champagne menu ranging from Krug Rosé and Dom Ruinart to Dom Pérignon and Veuve Clicquot.
Bar Cocoa will also offer, in its Cocoa Lab kitchen, a chocolate and Champagne lovers workshop 9 a.m.-noon Feb. 16 for $75.

Dine out, do good

Feb. 24 is a Daytona 500 viewing party at Buffalo Wild Wings at Sardis Road North (near Independence Boulevard), with drawings for Daytona and NASCAR items, and with 10 percent of diners' tabs going to the "Relay for Life" fundraiser of the American Cancer Society. If you buy a "Blazing Challenge" -- a dozen of the place's hottest wings, which must be eaten "in 6 minutes or less without the aid of napkins or beverages" -- all the money goes to the ACS. (Mention "Relay for Life" to your server.)
Then, Feb. 28, eat at Salsarita's at Cotswold (304 S. Sharon Amity Road) and bring in the flyer below, and 15 percent of your total will go to Relay for Life, which raises money for services and educational programs for cancer patients and their families.

The 2013 Relay for Life will be May 31, at the Irwin Belk Athletic Complex at Johnson C. Smith University; info:

'Breakout 50' restaurant ideas: How many do we have?


Nation's Restaurant News named its 50 "breakout brands" for 2013, concepts the folks there predict will do best this year. This is some good reading for those interested in what's happening across America in this segment of the dining world. Some highlights:

* Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q continues to win kudos for its "innovative networking with the farm community, devotion to high-quality food and a state-of-the-art inventory and personnel-management system." (We have this one.)

* Pure Taqueria just closed its Matthews location: Apparently that one didn't have what the company's Chris Sedgwick told NRN was the key: "good execution with the right partners.”

* Meatheads' originators "are fans of Sun Tzu’s 'The Art of War,' a military treatise from about 500 B.C. that they encourage their managers to read." No, this isn't from the guys at our 5Church, and we don't have a Meatheads.

* "Despite its short-shirted female servers, Brick House isn’t another Hooters or Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, (its chief executive) said — and its restaurants do have a smattering of male servers." Later in the piece, we discover patrons can purchase a 100-ounce “Beer Bong.”

* There's Cheeseboy, the Melt and Melt, and we don't have any of these grilled cheese specialties.

Top concepts? Healthy menus, burgers, pizzas, Mediterranean grills (we have a Zoe's) and upscale bar/wine/taverns. Creative ones: sandwiches made with waffle as the bread (Bruxie), wraps using Italian tortilla-like flatbreads (Piada) and a juice place with Starbucks' power behind it (Evolution Fresh). Should be an interesting year.

Emeril named Humanitarian of Year

Emeril Lagasse (of e2 here, and a multitude of restaurants elsewhere) was named the James Beard Foundation's Humanitarian of the Year today. The organization notes his "culinary contributions, contagious enthusiasm, and philanthropic achievements," and "his passionate advocacy for youth." The Emeril Lagasse Foundation supports nonprofits and educational initiatives "that create new opportunities for children" and have varied among communities, creating such things as an outdoor classroom, gardens, a fresh foods cafeteria and a culinary learning center, in New Orleans, Las Vegas and the Gulf Coast.

Lagasse, in addition to his 13 restaurants, is a celebrity chef on TV (from the Food Network to Good Morning America), has several product lines and has written more than a dozen cookbooks.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Palm on 'The Job'

Five people (that's them, above) will vie to be an assistant manager somewhere in The Palm chain on the Feb. 8 series premiere of reality series "The Job." So all Palms nationwide are hosting viewing parties that night, 5 p.m. to closing. Diners will get free hors d'oeuvres during that show (which starts at 8 p.m. Eastern time), and can get discounted "Prime Bites" (such as sliders, mini crabcakes, fried shrimp -- but in the bar only) all evening.

Lisa Ling from "The View" hosts the show, which will have five job candidates going through elimination challenges on each episode, "as they compete for their dream job." (Assistant manager?) 6705 Phillips Place Court; 704-552-7256.

Friday, February 1, 2013

'Culinologists' en route to CLT

Research chefs, the folks who figure out -- and sometimes create -- trends in the food industry, will descend, with an array of similarly minded folks, from food scientists and nutritionists to researchers and marketers, on Charlotte March 6-9, for the Research Chefs Association's annual conference and "Culinology" Expo.

That word (it's trademarked) refers to "the blending of the culinary arts and food science." Planners expect more than 1,200 food research and development professionals to show up at the convention center. Jim Fowler, RCA executive vice president, said in a press release that Charlotte is "where modern and traditional cuisine are in abundance -- a great backdrop for our event."

Keynote speaker will be famous molecular gastronomy guy Homaro Cantu of Moto and iNG restaurants, and the title of his address is "Trailblazing a New Culinary Frontier: Ideas for Improving Our Diets Without Harming the Planet."

Some tantalizing tidbits: Attendees will hear about "the art of sensory science, ... pungent ingredients, next-generation oils" and more. And PepsiCo's Mehmood Khan is slated to lead a session called "Global Food Challenges, the Future of Food and the Implications for R&D Professionals."

Interested in the ideas? Find out more at Interested in research chefs? Here is an old, but chatty description.

California Pizza Kitchen and hearts

California Pizza Kitchen will partner with Colby Red, a wine from a winemaker whose son had two open-heart surgeries as a child. Proceeds from the wine support charities that encourage heart health. The chain will sell the wine by the bottle and glass at all locations through the end of April, and has pledged to donate "up to" $10,000 to heart-health charities this year.

Also coming up at CPK: a Valentine's menu of one appetizer, two entrees and a dessert for $30, offered Feb. 14-17. 4400 Sharon Road and at the airport.