Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Charlotte-area hot pepper burrito up!

Charlotte-based Salsarita’s now serves what it's calling the "World's Hottest Burrito," employing the Fort Mill-based PuckerButt Pepper Company's Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper.

That pepper is the Guinness World Record holder for "Hottest Chile Pepper" -- calculated to be about 300 times hotter than a jalapeno.

The burrito will be available at 11 Charlotte-area locations for a six-week trial period. It's made with grilled chicken, black beans, rice, corn salsa, tomatoes, cilantro and 1 teaspoon of Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper pepper mash, and goes for $12.99. Half of each sale will benefit Dove's Nest, part of Charlotte Rescue Mission, whose goal is to help at-risk women make major life changes.

Going to try it? Report back!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Links for a Tuesday: Cue up the 'cue

Barbecue legend Ed Mitchell (above, in a file photo), who made The Pit in Raleigh famous, is closer to opening a place in Durham called Que.

In case you missed it: Maurice Bessinger of Maurice's Piggie Park has died. You may remember his mustard sauce, or the pro-slavery tracts he set out in the restaurant.

Fahrenheit rising

Chef/owner Rocco Whalen plans to open his second Fahrenheit March 3 atop the uptown SKYE Condominiums at 222 S. Caldwell St.
Whalen's original Fahrenheit is in Cleveland. Here, the restaurant will offer a glass-walled "sky bar" with views of the city from the 21st floor. Among decor highlights: quartz columns, a ceiling mural, a rooftop herb garden, folding glass door "systems," an illuminated stone wall and outdoor fire pits.
Look for American regional cuisine with Mediterranean and Asian accents, as it's described. A sampling: sweet potato biscuits with lobster and Neese's country sausage gravy; coffee and mustard crusted pork; American Kobe beef short ribs with teriyaki lo mein; and more.
The chef also plans events, such as Food Network Cookbook Dinners (Whalen is something of a TV star), at which diners get a signed copy of the featured chef’s cookbook, and food truck events, and will be part of the Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend coming up, with a vintner dinner with Bure Family Wines.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Beard award nominations: Oh, the suspense

The James Beard Awards announced its nominees in chef-etc. categories today with several Carolinas chefs highlighted, as usual, and not a soul from Charlotte, also as usual.

In the running for Outstanding Chef (in a field of 20) is Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady's in Charleston. For Rising Star (with 25 in the group), there's 

Katie Button of Cúrate in Asheville. 

For Outstanding Pastry Chef: Phoebe Lawless of Durham's Scratch. For Outstanding Restaurant: Fearrington House in Pittsboro. For Outstanding Restaurateur: Giorgios Bakatsias of Giorgios Hospitality Group in Durham (with Kipos, Parizäde, Village Burgers, and more; his Georges Brasserie in Charlotte isn't mentioned, but I suppose we could insist on claiming him).

For Outstanding Service: McCrady's; for wine program, Charleston's FIG

And then amid the 20-chef Southeast field are Jeremiah Bacon of The MacintoshKevin Johnson of The Grocery and Josh Keeler of Two Boroughs Larder, all in Charleston; Colin Bedford of The Fearrington House; Ashley Christensen of Poole's Downtown Diner in Raleigh;  Scott Crawford of Herons at the Umstead in Cary; Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston; Scott Howell of Nana's and Matt Kelly of Mateo in Durham; Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani in Asheville; and Aaron Vandemark of Panciuto in Hillsborough.

Anyone could nominate chefs online; a Beard committee then chooses each year the nominees for each award. That list then goes to "an independent volunteer panel of more than 600 judges from across the country ... (which) comprises leading regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, culinary educators, and past James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Award winners." That group votes in specific  categories to pick five finalists in each category. The same judges then choose the winners. 

Each category's five finalists will be announced March 18, with winners revealed in May.



Monday, February 17, 2014

Scotch, 'cue and Zoe's

The Scotch Society of Ballantyne at the Ballantyne Hotel gathers folks monthly (6-8 p.m. on a Friday) to sample three to four Scotches, with accompanying small plates, for $40. The year at a glance, in which you’ll see they’re a little more eclectic than one might expect of a Scotch Society:
March 28: Irish whiskey.
April 25: Tequila/mezcal.
May 30: Highlands (This one comes with a pig roast dinner for $65 -- reservations required at 704-248-4100 or
June 27: Unique barrels.
July 25: Macallan.
Aug. 29: Our favorite “Glens.”
Sept. 26: Bourbon (for National Bourbon Month).
Oct. 31: Islay and the Scotch Islands.
Nov. 21: Johnnie Walker.
Also coming up at the Hotel, its restaurant Gallery will offer a weekly barbecue plate lunch special (and on the bar menu at night) for $15 throughout National Barbecue Month, which is May.

Zoës Kitchen, a Mediterranean fast-casual chain, plans to open a location (its 112th) Feb. 20 at 6100 Fairview Road. Signature dishes include chicken kabobs and rollups, hummus, and vegetarian and vegan options. The company plans to give away 500 meals at the new location in a Facebook contest here, and one person will win food for a year. Menu and all that stuff:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

MORE updates: Restaurants' current V-Day plans; updating through the day

Terrace Cafe SouthPark and Ballantyne are open for lunch and Valentine's dinner both Feb. 14 and 15.

"Food Truck Friday" in South End is cancelled.

North Harbor Club in Davidson is open for Valentine's.

Harper's at SouthPark will be open for dinner Feb. 13 with a "very" limited menu and service in the bar area only, but plans call for all Harper's Restaurant Group places to be open for Valentine's Day, perhaps with a delayed lunch start, depending on the roads. Plans are to run Valentine specials through Sunday now, instead of the original Friday and Saturday.

Luce, Malabar, Toscana and Mezzanotte are all slated to be open for Valentine's and Saturday, too, while The first three, normally closed on Sundays, will open for Sunday dinner at 5, offering their Valentine's menus.

Lulu is closed Feb. 13, but plans to open on Valentine's for dinner; they'll contact those with reservations if anything changes.

The Cowfish and sibling eeZ both plan to be open for Valentine's.

Plans for BLT Steak at The Ritz-Carlton aren't changing: It'll be open through the week, including Feb. 13 and 14.

Speaking of hotel restaurants (almost always safe bets to be open), The Asbury in the Dunhill and Gallery at the Ballantyne Hotel both plan to be open for Valentine's.

Nan and Byron's and 5Church will be open for dinner at 5 p.m. Feb. 13. Nan and Byron's Valentine's dinner will use the a la carte menu and begin at 5; 5Church offers a four-course dinner for $50 Friday-Sunday, and will also offer its a la carte menu.

Wolfgang Puck Pizza | Bar is open for dinner Feb. 13 starting at 4 p.m., and plans to be open for Valentine's (with a special dessert duo offered) for its regular hours, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.

Valentine's Day dinner at the VanLandingham Estate is still scheduled, but staff are calling guests to see about moving it to Saturday night.

Siblings Barrington's, Good Food on Montford and Stagioni plan to keep all Valentine's Day reservations the same, their folks say, having already done some rescheduling with diners -- they'll call customers with any updates. Deliveries were ordered early, so they're expecting business as usual on Friday. (All three are "playing tonight (Feb. 13) by ear.")

Vintner Wine Market ‏is delaying its 2013 FoothillsBeer Sexual Chocolate tapping (its annual Valentine's Day event).

Lumiere, the new modern French place in Myers Park that was scheduled to open Feb. 14, will not be opening then, said partner Matthew Pera. Many of its specialty purveyors can't deliver today and were not sure about Friday, and some of the more intricate dishes require prep a day in advance, which is not happening. "It's a big disappointment, as we've worked so long and hard to get open, and the community has been so supportive and patient," he said. "We'll just redouble our efforts and hope the weather allows us to get open on Saturday." Plans right now call for sibling The Liberty to be open.

Amelie's in NoDa says: "We're open as always here in NoDa," but uptown and Rock Hill locations are closed today. No issues are expected for Valentine orders, though.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New restaurant headed to Dilworth

Chef Brent Martin will be chef at The Summit Room, which, if all goes according to plan, will be taking the East Boulevard space left empty by Bruegger's and Caribou. Native Charlottean Deedee Mills (who's got the food truck The Mayobird) is the owner, and they're looking at a mid-April opening.

Local, sustainable foods will be key, says Martin, who you might recall from Peculiar Rabbit or Pewter Rose, and the goal is "a refined, Southern-inspired menu ... We want to be innovative enough to attract foodies and fellow chefs, but not so stuffy as to scare away the average family looking for a home-cooked meal."

Mills says she named the restaurant a day after she returned from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. She plans The Summit Room as a dinner spot, operating 4 p.m. to close Monday-Saturday. From 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., she wants to run the place as a bricks-and-mortar Mayobird: As she does with her food truck, she'll offer chicken salad in more than a dozen variations, plus soups, pimento cheese and more. Breakfast will have a coffee bar, quiches and casseroles and more.

The menu's in development, but among the ideas floating around are waffles with duck liver mousse and pimento crawdad beignets, as well as deviled eggs, corn-dusted trout or barbecue shrimp.

Amelie's doing ATL

Lynn St. Laurent of Amelie's says plans call for a May-or-so opening of an Amelie's outpost in Westside Atlanta, which she characterizes as "like NoDa was six years ago." She and partners Brenda Ische and Bill Lamb have been working on figuring out something in Atlanta for a year and a half, she says, wanting to find a location that suited the nuances of the business, from parking to production. They've set up a company in Atlanta that's owned by Amelie's Holdings, with a partner who will ultimately be the operating partner, and plan training; she says chef Georgia Gronefeld's already been sent. The menu will be the same, though they "might tweak a few things," while the decor will be "absolutely the same."

"What we learned by opening Rock Hill (the company's third location, in addition to the original in NoDa, shown in a file photo above, and the one Uptown) was that we had better be prepared," she says, because they didn't expect it to be as popular as quickly as it was. That's what the Amelie's folks call a "half-baked" location: Some things are made in the production kitchen (the former Charleston House), such as pastry cream and some of the choux shells (like eclairs and macarons), but no stabilizers are used, and things are filled and dipped, etc., on site. (In contrast, the Uptown location is a "no-bake"; nothing's baked there.)

"It's a new type of market," she says. "For me, it makes more sense to go somewhere like that and learn how to do it, then come back and open a 'half-baked' in Lake Norman or whatever."

Monday, February 10, 2014

Heirloom slated to open Tuesday

Heirloom, serving "locally sourced, globally inspired" food, according to its press, is scheduled to open Feb. 11, with chef Clark Barlowe at the helm. Barlowe, who went to Johnson & Wales in both Providence and Charlotte, includes Mama Ricotta's on his resume and lists stints at legendary French Laundry and elBulli. Barlowe competed in 2013's Fire in the Rock chef contest and appeared on "Chopped" on the Food Network.

Dinner Tuesday-Sunday, with lunch Thursday-Friday and brunch Saturday-Sunday; 8470 Bellhaven Blvd.; 704-595-7710.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Duckworth's headed to uptown

Rob Duckworth confirms there will be a Duckworth's uptown, in the former Fox and Hound location, if closing goes according to plan next week, and that the multi-level space will be significantly reworked: "We'll be changing that building in a big way." Some ideas being batted around: maybe a cellar in the basement offering many years and styles of beers, possibly a separate bar with a more obscure beer list, etc. Figure on a first-quarter-2015 opening at the earliest.

Former Panther, other players will sign autographs at opening

Former Panther Everette Brown (above, back in the day) hosts a field day for kids Feb. 8, plus autograph signing, at the grand opening of his Tropical Smoothie Cafe at 1111 Metropolitan Ave.

Brown, the franchise owner (who opened the location in November), and 13 other current or former NFL players are scheduled be on hand 9 a.m. to noon for carnival games, field day competitions, smoothie samplings and more, and from noon to 2 p.m., players (including Captain Munnerlyn and Jon Beason) are slated to sign autographs. Ten people will be awarded free smoothies for a year during the event. More info:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Chef Bragg now at Lulu

Chef Geoff Bragg has returned to Lulu as chef de cuisine, and plans to start offering specials as early as next week. Bragg was sous chef at Lulu years ago, before running kitchens at the now defunct Peaceful Dragon and Pewter Rose, as well as time at Grove Park Inn, and most recently at the Peculiar Rabbit.

"Restaurants like this one (Lulu) have been my true passion," he said in an email. "Intimate, with the ability to give my attention to every single plate."

Look for more of his influence in the spring menu, on which he'll be working with owner Fabrice Dinonno. He credits Dinonno with doing "a superb job of evolving Lulu into what it is today" and says he'd like to add some "plating techniques, dish enhancement and, of course, leaning more on local and sustainable purveyors/ingredients -- all without bumping the check average!"

Lulu: 1911 Central Ave.; 704-376-2242;

More for Chinese New Year

Baoding offers a special menu for $19.95 per person, with an appetizer of salt and pepper calamari, then salad and entree choices that range from pineapple flounder to jumbo shrimp on skewers. 4722 Sharon Road; 704-552-8899.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dynasty chef now at Great Wall South, with New Year dishes

For fans of Dynasty Cuisine, which offered marvelous Chinese food (and hot pots!) in Matthews but closed more than a year ago, good news: chef Joe Lam has turned up, at Great Wall of China South, at 6666 Carmel Road. Owner Alex Chow says Lam is head chef, and he's doing some special things for a fixed-price Chinese New Year menu offered through Feb. 16, among them braised pork feet with dried oyster and black fungus, stuffed tofu with shrimp paste and Chinese greens, stir-fried cuttlefish with chive flower, lobster with ginger and scallion, and, for an additional charge, crabmeat fish maw soup. Dinner for ten people: $298 ($328 with the soup). 704-542-5409.

Links for a rainy Monday

Sure, sure, there were lots of cool Super Bowl commercials (and that non-%#%^&-Bowl commercial by Anna Kendrick for Newcastle is bleepingly hilarious), but you had to like the food-related one below the best, right?

The slooooowly moving farm bill contains this hopeful program amid its 900 pages: Better, fresher food.

Hey, how about we start rapping the food news? Props for creativity, but major penalty for dissing the vegans: