Monday, March 31, 2014

Watch Daniel Boulud live, plus Bits and Crumbs

On the new lunch and dinner lineups at e2 emeril’s eatery (and dubbed “'New New Orleans cuisine' — but with a Carolinas accent" by its press: grilled half chicken seasoned with New Orleans’ Community Coffee barbecue sauce and served with roasted vegetables and “street” corn ($24); praline braised bacon with Bosc pear, mint and pickled ciopollini onions ($9); and wood-oven-roasted grouper with mussels and black Carolina rice ($26). 135 Levine Avenue of the Arts; 704-414-4787.

This sure is a lot of white guys.

This is completely and totally cool: The James Beard House, which routinely has renowned chefs visiting and cooking, put some cameras in the kitchen and you can watch them live on streaming video. I think Daniel Boulud just asked someone to put "some rock and roll on"... (I was glancing at it on March 31, about quarter to six, and many lovely Frenchmen were trying to cook while simultaneously figuring out where exactly the cameras were.)

New from Sprock, ATL group: Ios

Look for Ios Greek Kitchen to open in April in the EpiCentre, the latest from Martin Sprock (you may remember him from Mama Fu's, or Moe's, or the Penguin) in partnership with Concentrics Restaurants, an Atlanta-based restaurant group. A "Greek-inspired" lineup will range from grilled octopus with garlic butter and falafel salad with a harissa yogurt dressing to grilled lamb lollipop pita and sauteed trout with couscous and marinated vegetables, with pricing from about $7 to $15. N.C. craft beer and craft cocktails are planned, as well. Concentrics corporate chef Nick Oltarsh developed the menu; he's cooked at Eleven Madison Park in New York and is now executive chef at ONE. midtown kitchen in Atlanta (you may remember chef Richard Blais from there on Top Chef; he's now at Concentrics' The Spence.) 210 E. Trade St.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tippers: Is this you? (You're not from Delaware, are you?)

Square, that cool little mechanism that lets you swipe your credit card in a vendor's phone (and the service company that runs it), analyzed millions of U.S. transactions, reports Quartz, and found North Carolinians tip third-highest in the country, following only Alaska and Arkansas (!).

Delaware's at the bottom, averaging 14 percent to the N.C. 16.8 (Alaska tips 17%); and while Square is dealing with only credit card transactions, "Those numbers are pretty consistent with what we’ve found,” said Michael McCall, teaches consumer behavior at Ithaca.

Are you in this tipping ballpark when dining out? (Find your home state, if it's other than those, at the link. And the photo comes from, accompanying a tasteless tipping guide, should you choose to Google it, which I am not suggesting you do.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Food (Truck) Fight coming up

April 12 is the "Charlotte Food Fight" at the South End food truck lot. Scheduled to compete: The Tin Kitchen, The Herban Legend, Wingzza, Gourmet Goombahs, Sal's Roadside, Southern Cake Queen, Sticks and Cones, OooWee BBQ, Juan Taco, KO Food Truck, Chef Street Bistro and Chrome Toaster. The event runs 3-7 p.m. and proceeds benefit Charlotte's Relay for Life.

Tickets come in several variations: For $35, you get a meal from each truck and one ticket enabling you to vote in the People's Choice balloting. For $7, you get one meal and one truck and one People's Choice ticket, and for $1 each, you can buy more "votes" to dispense as you please in that People's Choice competition. Tickets are offered online here.

Trucks will compete in categories called Chef's Choice, Mystery Ingredient and People's Choice.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An Italian wine dinner

The Palm hosts a four-course dinner April 9, featuring Antinori's California and Italian wines, with an Antinori specialist on hand to talk about them. The Antinori family wine tradition has spanned more than 600 years and 26 generations, and the company has a joint venture with Stag's Leap, as well. Dinner, with reception, is $175, and among the courses are espresso- and chile-rubbed carpaccio of beef with Antica Napa Valley Estate-Grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley; and choice of porcini-dusted Prime bone-in New York strip steak with roasted shallot and Gorgonzola butter or prosciutto-wrapped wild Alaskan halibut fillet with braised escarole and Tuscan bean ragout, with Marchesi Antinori Tenuta Tignanello Toscana IGT. (IGT stands for Indicazione Geografica Tipica, which is an Italian regional designation, less stringently regulated than DOC, Denominazione di Origine Controllata.)

Reservations: email or call 704-552-7450; 6705 Phillips Place.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A bit of Rome in CLT

Maureen Fant, author of award-winning "Sauces & Shapes," a cookbook on Italian pasta, will be at a wine dinner April 7 at Mama Ricotta’s (with books, too), and the menu will be Roman: Tonnarelli (think square spaghetti) with pecorino and black pepper; agnolotti stuffed with artichokes; roasted pork with herbs; greens and dessert of strawberries with ricotta mousse. $45, with Italian wine included. 704-343-0148; 601 S. Kings Drive;

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Finalists announced for 2014 Beard Awards

The annual James Beard Awards announced today the "nominees," aka finalists, for its slew of national and regional restaurant and chef honors. Winners come out May 5 at a ceremony in New York.

Making the cutoff from the Carolinas were:

Outstanding Chef: Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady's in Charleston (above).
For Rising Star (a national award): Katie Button of C├║rate in Asheville (at right).
For Best Chef: Southeast, Ashley Christensen of Poole's Downtown Diner and more in Raleigh (below) was the only one of the 11 in the semifinalist 20 to move on.
Outstanding Wine Program: Charleston's FIG.
(By the way, you could win a flight to New York with Sean Brock of Charleston's Husk and McCrady's, plus $5,000 and a ticket to the awards ceremony and two night's hotel stay here.)

Other nominees worth noting:
In the Broadcast category, "A Chef's Life," featuring chef Vivian Howard of the Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, was nominated for TV Program on Location, while Sarah LeTrent, a Charlotte native and South Mecklenburg grad who is associate producer of CNN's food website Eatocracy, also was nominated, as co-producer of "American Journey" on CNN and, one of the final five in the Television Segment category.

Semifinalists (aka "the long list") from the Carolinas not moving forward were:

Outstanding Pastry Chef: Phoebe Lawless of Durham's Scratch.
Outstanding Restaurant: The Fearrington House in Pittsboro.
Outstanding Restaurateur: Giorgios Bakatsias of Giorgios Hospitality Group in Durham (he's got Georges in Charlotte, too).
Outstanding Service: McCrady's.
Best Chef: Southeast semifinalists were Jeremiah Bacon of The Macintosh, Kevin Johnson of The Grocery and Josh Keeler of Two Boroughs Larder, all in Charleston; Colin Bedford of The Fearrington House; Scott Crawford of Herons at the Umstead in Cary; Howard of Chef and the Farmer; 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.

The process: Anyone can nominate (up to two per category); then Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee (critics, writers, editors) cull about 20 in each category (it varies a bit) and those lists of semifinalists go to a voting body (former Beard Award winners, the committee members and other regional panelists), who picks five "nominees," then the final winner.

NYC's Corkbuzz headed to CLT?

Corkbuzz, a wine "studio" in New York City that offers wine, education and winemaker dinners, is coming to Charlotte, according to sommelier and restaurateur Laura Maniec, who told Eater that she's signed a lease. She plans a restaurant and wine setup; she's also scheduled to open a second Corkbuzz in Manhattan. "We want this to be a brand in major cities, a great place with food and wine," she said to Crain's about a year ago.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Charlotte chefs? And more

Feel free to let Zagat know you'd like some Charlotte chefs on this list.

Wolfgang Puck Pizza | Bar has a new "express lunch" menu, including a create-your-own pizza (three base choices -- green! white! red! -- and 23 topping options, from arugula to chicken meatballs to smoked mozzarella), offered eat-in or takeout for $7 and $1 per topping. "Duos" are salad or soup plus a half sandwich for $7 to $9. 6706-C Phillips Place Court; 704-295-0101.

Also new: East Coast oysters on the half shell for $1 each and West Coast ones for $1.50 apiece from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday at the Upstream bar. 6902 Phillips Place; 704-556-7730.

D'Vine Wine Cafe hosts a Barlow wine dinner with winemaker Barr Smith on March 19 for $49.99. On the menu: 2012 Sauvignon Blanc with seafood ceviche; 2007 Merlot with pork satay and kimchi; 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2008 Barrouge Blend with "deconstructed Southern cassoulet" (sweet potato, duck, rabbit sausage); and 2011 Zinfandel with French toast cake and bacon brittle. Reservations: 704-369-5050; 14815 John J. Delaney Drive.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Food Truck Friday and Gallery Crawl in South End

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Quick hump-day links

Headed to the Charleston Wine and Food Festival (March 6-9)? Hoping to meet hot-shot chefs? Take note of tips from Mike Lata of FIG and The Ordinary here.

Relax: There's no Chipotle Guacopalypse!

Just can't do better than a smoothie of gravy, ham, pie and more gravy.

Or can you? Here's Jamie Oliver telling Hong Kong about the new restaurant he's opening there -- in Cantonese. My favorite: He's opening it in "a car crash" -- no, in "a bronze bed" -- no, in "Causeway Bay." Yes!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Vino, vino, liquid

Roosters Uptown hosts a Vino Vino dinner March 20, with a menu that starts with family-style appetizers, from crudo (Italy's version of sushi) and arancini (think risotto hush puppies) to bucatini pasta with shellfish to hickory-fired swordfish to black pepper panna cotta with salted caramel and charred grapes. Wines are Prosecco, 2012 Santadi Vermentino, 2012 Firriato Etna Bianco, 2011 Firriato Nero Di Avola and 2009 Pra Recioto Di Soave.
$65; 704-370-7667; 150 N. College St.

The Carolina Place Harper's offers a two-course menu for two for $29, with the option to add a bottle of wine for $15, nightly, throughout March. 11059 Carolina Place Parkway; 704-541-5255.

Gallery has begun a new cocktail program dubbed "Liquid Arts," with new mixologist Greg Voss aiming to emphasize housemade syrups and sodas, as well as local ingredients, in the wares. Examples: A cocktail called Aroma, made with vodka, a housemade strawberry-rosemary syrup, fresh lime juice and Prosecco; and one called Explore, with vodka, basil-coriander syrup, grapefruit juice, basil leaf and cracked black pepper.
Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge; 704-248-4100.

Last chance for Tournament Time!

Update: Post any additions before midnight March 5. Thanks! (And remember, no anonymous posts will be considered.)

The Observer’s annual Tournament of Food approaches, timed as it always is, to conclude during the NCAA basketball championships, April 5-8 this year. This year, our lucky seventh, arrives on the heels of (in order) wings, pizza, fries, burgers, sandwiches and barbecue. So what better to do than appetizers?

We’ll take your recommendations for the best appetizer in the Charlotte area – barring wings (did ’em and don’t want to repeat, even though it is the 50th anniversary of Buffalo wings, we’re told) and fries (did ’em) and nachos (just ... no) – in the comments below (BUT NO ANONYMOUS ONES). The appetizer should be a sharable one, in the spirit of something you might actually eat while watching a tournament together. So ixnay on the foie gras and single-scallop fare, but have at the dips and the fried things and ... well, probably more fried things.

Then we’ll take the top 12 (I get my own four spots) and create a 16-app tournament bracket.

You’ll vote and we’ll taste and finally, a panel will determine a grand winner.

And you saw where I said "no anonymous ones," right? Thanks! Two were posted before I remembered to add that note -- barbecue shrimp at Cajun Queen and e2 wood-oven-roasted oysters -- so if you want those in, someone with a name, please comment.