Thursday, November 27, 2014

Charlotte's Jon Fortes wins dining competition title

Chef Jon Fortes, representing Mimosa Grill (though he's now at Fort Mill's Flipside Cafe with spouse and co-owner/chef Amy), won the statewide final of the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series on Nov. 22.

Fortes, who had won the Charlotte-based "Fire in the City" leg of the series, faced chef Dean Thompson of Flights in Raleigh, who had topped the "Fire in the Triangle" leg, in the final, held in Raleigh.

The competition, which began with 64 chefs in five regions, worked like this: Two chefs, with accompanying help, cooked three courses each in head-to-head competition, using a surprise N.C. ingredient that was announced just before beginning each event. Winners advanced to finals in each region; those then faced each other. Organizers chose the chefs and seeded the brackets. Culinary professionals and diners who bought tickets helped judge each event, scoring each dish as the night progressed.

The surprise ingredients Nov. 22 were Apple Mill apple butter, caviar from Atlantic Caviar and Sturgeon Company, and Biltmore Winery's Sparkling Blanc de Blanc. Fortes' highest scoring dish (above) was his Duo of Carolina Pork: apple butter pork rillette and sparkling-wine-braised pork belly with goat cheese, andouille, leek and mushroom bread pudding, and sparkling wine and apple butter squash sauce. Highest scoring dish of the night was Thompson's carrot and apple butter cake with caramelized white chocolate and apple butter streusel, sparkling wine icing, apple butter mousse, sparkling wine and caviar salted caramel, sparkling wine apple chip, candied walnuts and apple-butter-brandy frozen custard (below).

Final score: Fortes, 27.13310185 to 25.90297158. Fortes' teammate Thomas Marlow is now executive chef at Mimosa, while alternating members DJ Ivey and Joe Cornett, are also still with Mimosa.

“Dean Thompson is a phenomenal chef and competitor, so it was clear that we needed to execute at a high level to be able to take home the title,” Fortes said in a press release.

The 2015 series will begin in January with the Triangle series, followed by Charlotte, then the Triad, hosted for the first time in Winston-Salem. Tickets and more info:

New menus from NoDa to uptown Charlotte

Heist Brewery's new winter menu offers lots of "twisted eats": Among the highlights are The Grilled Cheese (shown above; made with black truffle butter, Manchego sheep's cheese, cave-aged Gruyere and Jasper Hill Farm blue cheese, and served with White Oak & Hickory Smoked tomato bisque); dates stuffed with Ashe County Cheddar blue cheese and served with candied pecans, applewood-smoked bacon and a ginger pear chaser; and chicken and waffles: whipped meringue waffles with maple horseradish syrup and pink peppercorn and Champagne butter​. 2909 N. Davidson St.; 704-375-8260;

The fall menu at The Asbury, dubbed the "campfire" menu, includes more small plates ($4-$10), with deviled eggs, house-pickled vegetables, BBQ caramel popcorn and winter squash fondue -- and that's just on the Snack Plate. Chef Chris Coleman says his childhood memories of fall -- "smoke, embers, warmth and comfort" -- inspired the lineup, from Campfire Trout (shown below; from Sunburst Trout Farms in Canton, this is brined in smoked water and seared in cast iron) to chicken and dumplings (which uses herb and potato gnocchi) to Ooey Gooey Candy Bar, which is housemade marshmallows, boiled peanuts and chocolate in a bite-sized serving.
Also new: Matthew Krenz, formerly with Passion8, is now chef de cuisine at The Asbury, which uses beef from his family's Krenz Ranch. 235 N. Tryon St.; 704-332-4141;

5Church has a new lunch lineup. Among the list: French onion roast beef sandwich; honey-mustard chicken wrap; chicken Cordon Bleu; mussels and fries; plus new salads and lighter plates. (FYI: The lamb burger stays.) 127 N. Tryon St., 704-919-1322.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Crowne Plaza reno includes restaurant

Food for Thought is the revamped restaurant in the renovated-to-the-tune-of-$10 million Crowne Plaza Charlotte Executive Park. Executive chef Michael Cowan aims at farm-to-table and locally sourced ingredients "with a Southern twist" and has cooked at the Omni San Francisco and the Boathouse II restaurant in Hilton Head. Look for stone, reclaimed wood and a more open setting in the restaurant. 5700 Westpark Drive, off Tyvola Road near I-77.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Growlers Pourhouse opens for lunch in NoDa, Lumiere starts brunch

Growlers Pourhouse now serves lunch starting at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday-Friday, and its housemade sausage and brats, twice-fried fries (and poutine -- fries with gravy and housemade cheese curds on top) and panini (and there's gluten-free bread). Lunch starts at noon Saturdays and Sundays, as in the past. 3120 N. Davidson St.;

Lumiere plans to start serving Sunday brunch on Dec. 7: Look for classic French omelets, pastries and more: 1039 Providence Road; 704-372-3335.

Speedway Christmas coming

“Speedway Christmas” at Charlotte Motor Speedway lets visitors dine in the Speedway Club and overlook a holiday light show with more than 3 million lights and an infield Christmas Village (there’s a Santa’s workshop, mini fair rides and a petting zoo) – plus, you can sign up to drive the track. This is the fifth year for the event, and the course has been redesigned; this year, you drive under the concourse behind the front stretch grandstands as part of the 3.1-mile course. Drive-in holiday movies will be shown Friday and Saturday nights.

The driving course opens Nov. 22, and the Christmas Village will be open each Thursday-Sunday until Christmas Day, plus Dec. 22-24, then will open again Dec. 26-28. The light show goes through Dec. 30 (closed Christmas Day). Entrance is $20 per car on nights the Village is open, $15 per car when it’s closed. Visitors can dine at the Speedway Club each day in that timeframe except Christmas, and on Thanksgiving Day, it's serving 400 troops. The speedway is at 5555 Concord Parkway S. in Concord; info at or 800-455-3267.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bubbles and Bordeaux

D'Vine Wine Cafe hosts "Bubbles & Bordeaux" Dec. 4 for $49.99. On the menu: Sauternes with foie gras "rocher" (think of Ferrero Rocher candies, then think foie gras); Vieux Manoir Red Bordeaux with duck confit, sweet potato waffle and cranberry chutney;
Delamotte Brut Champagne with pear frangipane tart, and more. 14815 John J. Delaney Drive; 704-369-5050.

Heritage celebrates 1 year with tasting menu

Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw celebrates its first year with a tasting menu from chef-owner Paul Verica, offered Tuesdays-Thursdays through the end of the year. The menu features some of the dishes the place opened with, says Verica.

Options include the pretty beet salad above (with walnuts, goat cheese, parsley and balsamic), sunchoke chips, pulled pork in a jar (with grits, collards and a topping of crispy onions), short rib with house pasta, N.C. shrimp with black rice and Asian greens and more. Three courses for $33, four for $40; 704-843-5236 or email; 201 W. South Main St. in Waxhaw.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

5Church, Chicken Salad Chick plan 2nd locations

Chicken Salad Chick plans to open a second Charlotte location Dec. 16, in the Bank of America Plaza uptown at 101 S. Tryon St. Owners Julie Beville and Michelle Singleton plan 10 Charlotte locations, according to the Alabama chain's press release, and founder Stacy Brown's company has sold 100 franchises, from Florida to Texas.

5Church's owners plan to open a second location in Charleston this summer, at the corner of Market and East Bay streets. While the Charlotte one's named for its location at Fifth and Church streets, this one earns its moniker by being sited in a former church. Look for "neo-Victorian" decor and Sun Tsu's "The Art of War" lettered on the ceiling -- both signature details of the original.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Wondering where to eat in Charlotte on Thanksgiving?

If you're not cooking, take a look at this list of Charlotte restaurants that will be open, and get your reservations in. It's a bigger list than usual this year.

(I love this image, and I think it may come from cool educational site, though I'm having trouble being sure. Happy to recredit if someone else knows...)

Dine out (well, buy out), do good

Common Grounds Farm Stand hosts its sixth annual Cornucopia on Nov. 22: It's a fundraiser for the Urban Ministry Center, with free admission, live music from Wicked Powers and a vendor village, ranging from artists to food makers, plus the Plated Palette food truck, and a raffle for family-meal dishes from Chef Alyssa's Kitchen, Block & Grinder, Bonterra, The Asbury, 300 East, the Tin Kitchen, Hot Box Street Food, Harper's Restaurants and the Moffett Restaurant Group (that comprises Barrington's, Good Food on Montford and Stagioni). The Farm Stand will also be selling frozen family-size dinners, soups, chilis, baked goods, cheeses, dips and more. The event runs 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at 119 Huntley Place.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

'BeerGiving' at Flying Saucer

BeerGiving at Flying Saucer Draught Emporium on Nov. 22 means Thanksgiving dinner -- with deep-fried turkey, green bean casserole, stuffing and more -- plus 10 specialty beers on tap (including Founders Backwoods Bastard and Stone's Hibiscusicity). 11 a.m.-2 a.m. (yes); 9605 N. Tryon St.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bits and crumbs: Brunch, Bloodies, bubbly

Starting in December, Passion8 will serve weekday lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday brunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., including a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar. Also coming up: A tasting of bubblies (half a dozen, from Prosecco to Cava and more) and tidbits, at 6 p.m. Dec. 10 for $18. 1523 Elizabeth Ave.; 704-910-3161;

Vivace’s fall menu, from new executive chef Mike Suppa (who's logged high-profile time with star chef Todd English), includes all new first-course and pasta dishes except for two stalwarts, and Suppa calls the grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes and green goddess dressing "a standout." Second courses are all new but for the veal saltimbocca; they range from skate wing Milanese to braised lamb shank with saffron risotto to tomato-braised swordfish with Tuscan white beans. Check out the whole lineup here. 1100 Metropolitan Ave.; 704-370-7755.

Among dishes on the newest menu at McCormick & Schmick (two locations): blue crab and corn chowder; bouillabaisse; ginger-pear-glazed wild salmon; miso-seared scallops and more.

It's the annual Weihnachtsmarkt at Olde Meck (What? You don't know what that IS?)

The Weihnachtsmarkt is a marketplace, and it'll be open Dec. 4-6 at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s 8.5-acre spread at 4150 Yancey Road.

Vendors of gifts, crafts and baked goods will set up in what's usually the OMB Biergarten, and you can drink your beer (or Gluhwein, "glow wine": think mulled red) while you shop. The market will open at 4 p.m. Dec. 4, and the year's Yule Bock and tree lighting are slated for 5 p.m. Hours will be 4-9 p.m. Dec. 5 and 2-10 p.m. Dec. 6.

Super tasting at D'Vine

D'Vine Wine Cafe does its Holiday Super Taste from 2 to 5 p.m. Nov. 15. For $25, you'll be able to try more than 36 wines, and taste them with turkey and ham, with sides, so you can get your wines for Thanksgiving just right. 14815 John J. Delaney Drive; 704-369-5050.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A new gluten-free option in Charlotte

Add Jayla's Gluten-Free Cafe to your list of gluten-free (and if you missed the lengthy story about places able to deal with dietary choices and restrictions, take a look here).
Owner Beth Donovan said she was in the food business in Denver, Colo., before opening this Sept. 15. On the menu: pizzas, sandwiches, salads, "Power Breakfast Muffins" and more. It's open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays; 1515 Mockingbird Lane (near Park Road shopping center); 980-219-7797.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Links for a Monday: Honey Sriracha Pizza Hut? Little espresso?

Pizza Hut, going the way of other chains letting customers make things their own ways, plans a menu overhaul for mid-November that will make honey sriracha sauce an option, says the Associated Press.

Check out this lovely short documentary on Appalachian salt directed by Charlottean Tim Alden Grant:

Literary Starbucks is a Tumblr, for when you're thinking WWADSEO? (What would Antoine de Saint-Exupery order?)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Specials for veterans on Veterans Day

JJ’s Red Hots, in Dilworth and Ballantyne, will give an unlimited free meal to veterans on Nov. 11, including a hot dog called "Red, White and You" with bacon, beans, onions and house barbecue sauce. But they don't have to have just that -- veterans and active duty military personnel can get "unlimited hot dogs, sausages, sides and non-alcoholic drinks."
“Our veterans and troops’ efforts are limitless so we felt they deserved the same,” said owner Jonathan Luther in a press release. 1514 East Blvd. and 15105 John J. Delaney Drive.

Brazilian restaurant Chima, whose rodizio dinners offer an array of meats and hot and cold dishes, served in all-you-can-eat, yet-upscale style, offers a free rodizio for veterans with the purchase of another rodizio ($52.50) on Nov. 10 and 11. Veterans are encouraged to make reservations, and bring a military ID. 139 S. Tryon St.; 704-601-4141.

On Nov. 11, Olive Gardens offer a free entrée from a special menu (seven of the chain's most popular entrees, plus unlimited soup or salad and breadsticks) to active-duty military and military veterans with proof of military service.

LongHorn Steakhouses offer a free Texas Tonion appetizer and non-alcoholic beverage of choice to active-duty military and military veterans with proof of military service.

At participating On The Borders (multiple locations), veterans with proof of service get a free create-your-own combo.

Participating Shoney’s offer a free All-American Burger (dine-in) all day to veterans with proof of service.

Texas Roadhouse restaurants in Concord, Gastonia, Hickory, Matthews and Rock Hill offer free lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 11 to veterans and active members of the military, with proof of service.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Turkey Day ... burger?

Yep. Bad Daddy's Burger Bar's "Lucky Pilgrim" is a turkey patty with Brie, sausage stuffing and cranberry spread, on a brioche bun with a side of turkey gravy for dunking. It's $10.95, and will be in the restaurants Nov. 10-26.

What's up at Heirloom?

Heirloom's November cooking class will be Nov. 13, focusing on Toska Truffles and a pasta dough recipe chef Clark Barlowe says he adapted from his time at The French Laundry; it includes a three-course meal and cocktail afterward, for $35.

Nov. 19 is the monthly artisan dinner: Five courses with five N.C. beverages, for $75.

Also new: The restaurant is serving complimentary tapas 5-7 p.m. daily to customers who buy a drink (including the nonalcoholic kind). "This was inspired by my time in Spain in 2008," writes Barlowe. Such a civilized custom. 8470 Bellhaven Blvd.; 704-595-7710.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sausagefest this Saturday in Charlotte

JJ's Red Hots hosts its third annual Sausagefest 3-7 p.m. Nov. 8, in the parking lot of its 1514 East Blvd. location, with quite the array of housemade sausages. Look for smoked elk sausage with chipotle BBQ sauce; Asian shrimp and pork "dim sum" sausage with spicy blood orange marmalade; traditional Italian sausage with peppers, red wine and basil pesto crema; andouille sausage with housemade slaw and remoulade; and pepper jack cheese bratwurst. Cost is $25, and you get unlimited sausages; craft beer from Unknown Brewing, Olde Meck, NoDa, Triple C, Sugar Creek and more; live music and raffles -- plus a keepsake half-pint glass from Good Bottle. Founder/owner Jonathan Luther (whose band will play) calls the event "a family-friendly, dogs-welcome kind of festival."

Julbord at IKEA

IKEA hosts its annual Julbord feast Dec. 12: That's a Swedish dinner featuring specialties such as Swedish-style meatballs with lingonberries, the wonderfully promising "assorted varieties of herring," poached salmon, smoked salmon with horseradish sauce, cucumber salad, ham, sausages, red cabbage, boiled potato with dill, cheeses, Swedish rice pudding, Glögg with raisin almond mix (that's a hot spiced wine punch) and lots more. Tickets (there's limited seating) are $14.99 ($4.99 for kids 12 and younger).

IKEA Charlotte will have two seatings, at 4 and 6 p.m.; 8300 Ikea Blvd.; 888-888-4532.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sip out, do good

Sip wines at a tasting 4-7 p.m. Nov. 8 at Cru Wine Shop and you'll be helping SOS Feline Rescue of Charlotte, with 10 percent of all sales in that time going to the rescue. The nonprofit, aimed at helping homeless and feral cats, is currently full, and can't take in more until some are adopted. (Interested in, for example, the pictured Roxanne? Go to the rescue's site at, its Facebook page, or its online adoptable list.

Cru is at 12206 Copper Way.