Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dinner Lab debuts Oct. 10

Dinner Lab (see here for background) launches Oct. 10 in Charlotte, with dinner from Atlanta-based chef Dustin Sandell, who's chef de cuisine full-time for Dinner Lab Atlanta. The idea is to let chefs can experiment outside the bounds of what they may typically do, and let diners assess their work -- the chefs get audience feedback, so they can tinker with what they're thinking about.

Diners join the organization, which is now in 20 cities, to get info on upcoming dinners. There's a membership fee of $125 per year in Charlotte, then each event is priced individually (typically in the $55-$85 range, we're told). This link to join offers $20 off a first dinner if you join. About half the time, the chef for an event will be from the home area, about half will travel in.

The menu for Oct. 10 (members will get an email with location and details about 24 hours before the event):
"The Bone": triple-filtered beef consomme with marrow cloud, barley and sage brittle
"The Leaf": pepper and watercress with local bacon, bleu cheese, cane vinegar and honey-grilled apple
"The Shell": crab pancake with crayfish butter, grilled lemon gel and chive blossom
"The Trotter": pork cheeks with foraged field peas and beans and smoked white corn relish
"The Grain": oatmeal crumble cake with bittersweet black sesame syrup and blackberry thyme sorbet

Sandell's bio, from the Lab: He's "a well read southern gentleman, with a penchant for exploration. Most say his food tastes like a Kerouac novel without the poor grammar. Whatever the case, this dinner will be an epic culinary journey ..."

More info at www.dinnerlab.com.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Passion8 bids farewell to its Fort Mill site

As Passion8's Luca and Jessica Annunziata prepare to open a new restaurant in Elizabeth, they're offering a "Last Hurrah" dinner Oct. 8 at the original, at 3415 Highway 51 N, Fort Mill: An eight-course dinner for $88, featuring what they're citing as their best dishes paired with their best wine and spirits ("we're emptying the cupboards"). Reservations: 803-802-7455. That will be the last dinner served at the venue; the new place is aiming to open mid-October at 1523 Elizabeth Ave.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fire in the City down to 2

And then there were two: chefs, that is, in the Fire in the City competition dining event: In the Sept. 29 final (it's sold out), Tom Dyrness of Mama Ricotta's will face returning champ Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill.

Details on the semifinals:

Sept. 22:
Matchup: Dyrness and David Feimster of Fahrenheit.
Surprise ingredients: Not Just Coffee's coffee and donuts from Your Mom’s Donuts.
Highest scoring dish of the night: Coffee-crusted elk, sweet corn flan, port-cherry reduction, cast iron corn and chipotle salsa with Goat Lady Dairy and Your Mom’s Donut biscuit (by Chef Dyrness; see below).
Advancing: Dyrness, with a score of 28.08291032 to 26.76362869.

Sept. 23:
Matchup: Brian Williams of Upstream and Fortes.
Surprise ingredients: America’s Best Nut Co. peanuts and Heritage Farms applewood-smoked bacon.
Highest scoring dish of the night: Heritage Farms Cheshire pork bacon taste plate, bacon confit with creamed kale, bacon and cheddar gougeres with crispy America’s Best Nut Co. N.C. peanut slaw, collard-wrapped Romano pork and bacon sausage with sweet potato puree (by Chef Fortes; see below).
Advancing: Fortes, with a score of 28.92828283 to 26.08716049.

Monday, September 22, 2014

BLT Steak turns 5, gets visit from namesake and $5 lineup

Founding celeb chef Laurent Tourondel will pop in to BLT Steak to cook with chef de cuisine Ben Miles, and the place will offer a $5 lineup at dinnertime as well, on Sept. 26 and 27. On that specialty menu, for $5: all dinner appetizers (including shrimp cocktail, crabcake, tuna tartare and oysters from both coasts, by the half-done), all dinner desserts, a cocktail called the Apple Pie Old Fashioned, and select wines by the glass. 110 N. College St. in the Ritz-Carlton; reservations: 704-972-4380.

McAlister's celebrates 15 years in Charlotte with freebies

McAlister’s Deli, a regional chain which opened its first Charlotte location in 1999 and now has 17 stores in the area, is celebrating this week with the following freebies and fundraising at the Arboretum, Olde Towne, Lake Norman, Monroe, Mooresville, Ballantyne, Rea Road, Park Road, UNCC, Concord, Matthews, Whitehall, Carolina Place, Baxter and Rock Hill locations (see the Facebook page for details):

Monday (Sept. 22): A free cookie

Tuesday: 15 percent of all proceeds will go to Autism Speaks, Greater Charlotte Chapter, in honor of National Autism Awareness Month

Wednesday: Kids eat free all day, and there's a VIP Night at the Arboretum location (8046 Providence Road)

Thursday: Free tea

Friday: All Charlotte-area city service employees get $3 off their purchase (you must show ID) on this Service Appreciation Day

Friday, September 19, 2014


Georges Brasserie hosts its third annual "Shucked" on Oct. 2: an all-you-can-eat-and-drink oyster feast for $95 ($75 without drinks). The event offers oysters from both coasts, plus clams on the half shell, oysters Rockefeller, roasted oysters, steamed clams, clam crostini, fried oysters, wine, beer and oyster shooters, and live entertainment, too. 4620 Piedmont Row Drive; 980-219-7409.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Coming Monday: Carolina Apple Days Feast

After a visit last Sunday to Horne Creek Farm to gather apples, Heirloom hosts the product Sept. 22: A special apple-riddled dinner that's also a fundraiser for Slow Food Charlotte, Lomax Incubator Farm and the Piedmont Culinary Guild.

The menu, for $100 (wine pairings for $40 more):

1st: Clark Barlowe of Heirloom
"Crudo & Crudite"
Charlotte Fish Company seasonal crudite with apples in textures

2nd: Majid Amourpoor of Bistro La Bon
Chestnut apple soup

3rd: Ben Philpott of Block & Grinder
Foie gras and truffle stuffed apple, Gorgonzola mousse, Lucky Clay Farm baby greens

4th: Marc Jacksina of Earl's Grocery
Beef heart carpaccio, tart apple, horseradish

5th: Michael Bowling of Hot Box
Crispy rind pork belly, salted smoked apple butter, roasted root vegetables, Bulleit Rye apple chips

6th: Greg Collier of The Yolk
Smoked apple buckwheat poundcake, Apple Pie Moonshine ice cream, white cheddar brown butter crumble, apple cider crème anglaise

Reservations: 704-595-7710. Heirloom: 8470 Bellhaven Blvd.

Fire in the City, Round 2 wrapup

The second round of Charlotte-area chef competition wrapped this week, so the Got To Be N.C.-product-related event is down to four chefs: Brian Williams of Upstream, Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill, Tom Dyrness of Mama Ricotta's and David Feimster of Fahrenheit.

Sept. 15:
Matchup: Jon Spencer of Epic Chophouse and Williams of Upstream.
Surprise ingredients: N.C. fish and Old Mill of Guilford grits.
Highest scoring dish of the night: Sweet grit and almond cake, vanilla Railhouse Porter marshmallow, buttermilk sherbet, pine nut toffee (by Chef Williams; see below).
Advancing: Williams, with a score of 30.31212914 to 25.69503916.

Sept. 16:
Matchup: Paul Ketterhagen of Carpe Diem and Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill.
Surprise ingredients: Texas Pete Cha! (it's a sriracha sauce) and Goat Lady Dairy chèvre.
Highest scoring dish of the night: Orange-scented five-hour braised Heritage Farms Cheshire pork belly, almond-crusted Goat Lady Dairy chèvre sweet potato cheesecake, melted squash and Texas Pete Cha! Q (by Chef Fortes; see below).
Advancing: Fortes, with a score of 27.77736220 to 21.70314136.

Williams and Fortes face off Sept. 23, and yes, that is a matchup of chefs who cook at sibling restaurants; both work for Harper's Restaurant Group sites. The other second-round competition yielded a Sept. 22 matchup of Dyrness and Feimster, both of whom cook for high-profile owners: Mama Ricotta's Frank Scibelli has several places around town; Fahrenheit's Rocco Whalen's original is in Cleveland. No one cooking for himself in a one-location-place remains. (And yes, "himself" is right: No women started.)

The final is set for Sept. 29; all competitions are held at Bonterra in Dilworth, and are currently sold out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wine dinner at Del Frisco's

Del Frisco's hosts a Jordan Winery dinner Sept. 20, with Dena Zigler speaking. In the lineup: salmon carpaccio with Meyer lemon peach vinaigrette and Chardonnay; braised beef short rib over pan-roasted summer vegetables with 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon; filet mignon with duxelles and creme fraiche potatoes and Cabernets from both 2003 and 2005; and mixed berry shortcake with the 2008 cab. $175; 4725 Piedmont Row Drive; 704-552-5502.

Dine out, do good: An all-star edition

Final reminder: An all-star edition -- with notable chefs from around the Southeast -- of dinners to avert childhood hunger happens Sept. 20 at Mimosa Grill.

Mimosa executive chef Jon Fortes hosts; visiting chefs are Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston (and of the upcoming Season 2, premiering on PBS Oct. 5, of "A Chef's Life"); Colin Bedford of Fearrington House in Pittsboro; Jay Swift of Atlanta's 4th & Swift; and Joe Trull of Grits and Groceries in Belton, S.C.

Cost is $175 and proceeds go toward national hunger relief group Share Our Strength's effort to end childhood hunger. (You can also become a sponsor, at varying levels.

On the menu:

Passed appetizers from Fortes, including Springer Mountain chicken "ballontine" (with country ham, preserved apricot and sage); N.C. Shrimp Tacos with pickled Harmony Ridge cabbage; Tobaccoville beet carpaccio with local beans, citrus and Looking Glass goat cheese; and Wagyu beef gougere with Ashe County cheddar pimento cheese.

First course from Bedford: Yuzu crab salad with black-pepper-poached pineapple, celery root, truffle and crispy tapioca, and Avant Sauvignon Blanc

Second course, from Howard: Carolina Gold red rice with crispy okra and green tomato vinaigrette, and Carmel Road Unoaked Chardonnay

Third course, from Swift: Crispy Heritage Farms pork shank with jowl bacon succotash, hot muscadine mostarda, and Belcreme de Lys Pinot Noir

Fourth course, from Trull: Apple and fig bread pudding with cider caramel, candied cashews and Jorge Ordinez Special

327 S. Tryon St.; info: Adele Nelson, anelson@strength.org, 202-594-3595.

Festa Italiana on Sept. 20

Raffaldini Vineyards in Ronda will celebrate its ninth annual Festa Italiana 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 20, with wine, food, live music and more. Cost of admission is $15, and includes a tasting of three wines and a commemorative glass (parking is included).

Italian supercars from Foreign Cars Italia will be on display, plus Italian-influenced artwork from area artists; Italian folk music from Mebanesville; and Italian language tips, and vendors will sell Italian pastas, sandwiches, brick-oven pizza, espresso, gelato and more.

Info: www.raffaldini.com; 336-835-9463; email info@raffaldini.com.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Heritage wine dinner

Heritage hosts a wine dinner Sept. 18 focusing on Flora Springs Vineyard, with the winery's with Danny Sanford on hand. Among the courses: smoked duck, spice "bubbles," orange and smoked lemon with 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay; N.C. shrimp with rosewater, ginger, lemongrass and 2013 Oakville Sauvignon Blanc, Soliloquy Vineyard; and short rib with cherry cola, black pepper, potatoes and 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. $95; 704-843-5236 or email info@heritagefoodanddrink.com; 201 W. South Main St. in Waxhaw.

Fire in the City's second round begins

Fire in the City's second round has begun:

Sept. 8:
Matchup: Luca Annunziata of Passion8 and Tom Dyrness of Mama Ricotta’s.
Surprise ingredients: Joyce Farms pheasant breast and Cackalacky Cheerwine sweet sauce.
Highest scoring dish of the night: Joyce Farms pheasant breast roulade with cornbread chorizo stuffing, Cackalacky Cheerwine-glazed Heritage Farms Cheshire pork belly, fall squash hash and tomato chow-chow (by Dyrness; see below).
Advancing: Dyrness, with a score of 27.26469580 to 27.09347079.

Sept. 9:
Matchup: David Feimster of Fahrenheit and David Moore of Gallery.
Surprise ingredients: Perry Lowe Orchards Honey Crisp apples and Carolina Distillery Carriage House apple brandy.
Highest scoring dish of the night: Vanilla goat cheese panna cotta, five-spice & Carriage House apple brandy-braised apples, Perry Lowe Orchards apple chip, apple & brandy syrup (by Feimster; see below).
Advancing: Feimster, with a score of 29.39230769 to 23.51789030.

Dyrness and Feimster face off Sept. 22.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A 2nd Block & Grinder on the way

Owner Jed Kampe says he's signed a lease for a second location of Block & Grinder, this at the LangTree development off Exit 31 of I-77, at Lake Norman, and is aiming at a late spring 2015 opening. Also on, or coming to, the property: an amphitheater on the lake, a 12-story hotel, a healthcare facility, apartments and condos, he says.

His new spot will be bigger "but won't be crazy in terms of seating" and will have a clearer division of restaurant and retail for its butcher shop and wine offerings, plus private dining and patio space both covered and uncovered, Kampe says. The current place is at 2935 Providence Road.

Fire in the City wraps up 1st round

Fire in the City, the Charlotte-based branch of the Competition Dining series highlighting N.C. foods, has wrapped up its first round, whittling the 16 starting chefs to eight. The last four battles in the first round:

Sept. 2:
Matchup: Nicolas Daniels of The Wooden Vine and Paul Ketterhagen of Carpe Diem.
Surprise ingredient: RayLen Vineyards & Winery Riesling.
Highest scoring dish of the night: Manchester Farms quail ballotine stuffed with quail sausage, with smoked farro risotto and Riesling gastrique (by Ketterhagen; see below).
Advancing: Ketterhagen, with a score of 26.29415301 to 23.93311475.

Sept. 3:
Matchup: Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill and David Sullivan of Fish Market Bar and Grill.
Surprise ingredients: RayLen Vineyards & Winery Riesling.
Highest scoring dish of the night: Duo of Maple Leaf Farms duck: Riesling-marinated cold smoked breast, two-hour confit of leg, Scott Farms sweet potato apple bread pudding, parsnips and Riesling cider butter (by Fortes; see below).
Advancing: Fortes, with a score of 29.74561404 to 25.46072351.

Ketterhagen and Fortes will compete Sept. 16.

Aug. 26:
Matchup: Brent Martin of The Summit Room and Jon Spencer of Epic Chophouse and Chillfire Bar & Grill.
Surprise ingredients: Fogwood Foods blueberry syrup and Certified Angus Beef ribeyes.
Highest scoring dish of the night: Marquise au chocolat over pistachio and Fogwood Foods blueberry syrup crust, with blueberry syrup gastrique (by Chef Spencer; below).
Advancing: Spencer, with a score of 27.17516159 to 26.55705128.

Aug. 27:
Matchup: Chris Coleman of The Asbury and Brian Williams of Upstream.
Surprise ingredients: Mirepoix, potatoes and Uncle Scott’s Root Beer.
Highest scoring dish of the night: Cast Iron Certified Angus Beef ribeye, Yukon Gold chevre purée, roasted mirepoix, Uncle Scott’s Root Beer demi-glace (by Chef Coleman; below).
Advancing: Williams, with a score of 26.50819820 to 24.64995532.

The second round begins tonight (Sept. 8); Spencer and Williams face off Sept. 15.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Smashburger donates to help kids

Setting aside $1 from each burger sold during its opening month (mid July to mid August), the owners of the new Smashburger in Cotswold have now donated more than $15,000 to Ace & TJ’s Grin Kids, which aims to enhance the lives of children who are terminally ill or chronically handicapped by taking them, with families, to Disneyworld.

The location of the national chain is in Cotswold Village Shops (4400 Randolph Road; 704-626-1110); owners are Steve Taylor, Chris Smith and Jay Kikel.

New at the Music Factory: Sushi

Eight Sushi Asian Kitchen opens today at the NC Music Factory, a collaboration between Alex Myrick (of Blue, Osso and Texicali) and owners Lisa Bennett and Robert Ortez (who also own Label nightclub in the factory).

Yes, chef Gene Briggs is in charge of this one, too, and he advises that the menu will be moderately priced and "sushi-heavy" -- but will also use Asian influences and techniques on ingredients from nearer by. Think tempura, dumplings, spring rolls and skewers.

A wall mural of a female Samurai by Charlotte artist John Hairston is the dining room's focal point and there's a "bar front story of the Last Emperor" by Matt Moore and Matt Hooker, done in "graffiti street art style" as a press release described it. The overall design of the space, in the century-plus-old mill building, leans to the industrial (photos to come).

1000 NC Music Factory Blvd.; 704-900-6147; www.eightcharlotte.com.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Global wine dinner

Global hosts an Australian wine dinner Sept. 10, with Alex Sherrah from Coriole Vineyards on hand. Among the courses: coconut-marinated kangaroo loin with squash blossom quinoa and 2011 Coriole Estate Shiraz; and confit lamb belly with bacon and cheddar scrolls and 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. $69; 704-248-0866.



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

New chefs en route to Bonterra, Rooster's

Blake Hartwick, last cooking in Dilworth at the helm of defunct Las Ramblas, says he’s excited to return to working with owner JD Duncan mid-September, taking over the kitchen at Bonterra. Las Ramblas makes a one-night “return” at Bonterra Sept 4, with Spanish fare and wines taking center stage and both Hartwick and current chef Bill Schutz cooking.

Schutz is moving into the chef spot at Jim Noble's Rooster’s, whose current chef, Joe Kindred, is preparing to open Kindred in Davidson.

Hartwick says he plans to focus on “really cool stuff at the bar” first, and getting some wine dinners planned. “It’ll still be New South, New American. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel ... (but I) want to get us out on a new avenue as well.” Expect a few Spanish incursions, such as grilled octopus or maybe crispy eggplant, at the bar, while price points will stay about the same. Says Duncan: “We want to keep that classic Southern cuisine, but I’m going to give him the room to go a little more contemporary... This is our 16th year.”

Rooster’s chef/owner Noble, meanwhile, says he’s happy to finally hire Schutz, with whom he’s wanted to work for years.

Fire in the City continues

Results from the latest two Fire in the City matchups:

Aug. 20:
Matchup: David Feimster of Fahrenheit and David Quintana of Southminster (a retirement community).
Surprise ingredients: Olde Mecklenburg Brewing Copper Amber Ale and peaches from Pee Dee Orchards.
Highest scoring dish of the night: OMB Copper Amber Ale almond fraisier (that's a French word -- say "frez-yay" -- denoting a sweetened cake served with fruit and some kind of cream) with dark chocolate mousse, OMB dulce de leche, Pee Dee Orchards peaches (by Quintana of Southminster; see below).

Advancing: Feimster, with a score of 26.94034091 to 26.14361111.

Aug. 25:
Matchup: David Moore of Gallery and Ben Philpott of Block and Grinder.
Surprise ingredients: Garlic and okra from New Town Farms and Heritage Farms Cheshire pork rack.
Highest scoring dish of the night: Confit Heritage Farms Cheshire pork rib, cured pork and New Town Farms okra terrine, okra seed and okra pickle, papaya and prickly pear (by Moore; see below).

Advancing: Moore, with a score of 26.98105263 to 24.07513193.

Feimster and Moore face off Sept. 9.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

25th annual Chef's Best is Sept. 5

Chef Chris Coleman of The Asbury is the headliner at the 25th Annual Chef's Best, a fundraiser for Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina this Friday, Sept. 5. A live auction and raffle are planned; reception begins at 6 with "Southern-inspired" foods from the culinary school at The Art Institute of Charlotte, and dinner is four courses and a cooking demo from area chefs. Tickets are $100 and offered here.

New place from BAKU people coming to SouthPark

Expect Treehouse Whiskey & Fork to open mid-month, beside sibling BAKU at 4423 Sharon Road. The idea? A rustically whimsical site -- yes, there's actually a treehouse -- and a menu executive chef Alek Goncharov describes at "a new take on BBQ and New American style cooking."

That means house-smoked meats and lots of whiskey-based sauces made daily (including the signature, a whiskey molasses sauce, served with a platter of hickory-smoked brisket, ribs, barbecued chicken and more). Entrees will run $15 to $45. Goncharov is a graduate of The Art Institute of Charlotte and a native of eastern Europe, to which he returned last year, working on Eastern-Western fusion food.

Owned by the Asi Group, this, like BAKU, is the product of architect Jason Hood and interior designer Scott Carpenter. The treehouse will be a private dining area for eight, on the patio; that space will also have swinging outdoor furniture and a fire pit. (The accompanying photos are from its Facebook page.)

More than two dozen whiskeys and nearly three dozen beers on tap will be on hand, plus house cocktails. (The Treehouse Trapdoor is described as "a Whiskey/Bourbon mix, cranberry juice, pineapple juice (no ice), shaken then poured over fresh ice, garnished with an orange half wheel, and topped off with a tree design grenadine floater.")