Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tur-duck-en Round 4

After 4 years of making turducken during the holidays, I have decided on a change for next year - pinwheel. 

When you read the recipes from Paula Deen and Paul Prudhomme, they are nearly identical.  One factor in both is leaving the skin on the chicken and the duck.  Year 1 I did this.  What a lesson in duck skin that was.  I had not cooked duck prior to that and decided to not make the same mistake next time.  If you are unaware, duck skin is about half an inch of pure fat and tough if not cooked until crisp.

Year 2 I scored the duck skin with hatch marks and seared it in a pan with Chinese seasonings.  I rendered a large amount of the fat from the skin, as well as used a different stuffing (Asian scented) to mix it up a little and highlight the duck.  That was a huge success by guests reviews, but the layer of skin is still not something that does well cooking inside like that.

Year 3 I de-skinned both interior birds and made serious efforts to keep their original shape.  Deboning 3 birds is hard enough, keeping the shape of the two inside when you are putting it together is a whole new challenge without skin.  No complaints from those eating, but I noticed not every slice had all 3 birds because of the movement.  Still went with multiple stuffings for flare.

Year 4 we lucked out and had a larger chicken and duck, but our turkey was a shade smaller than normal.  Again, deboned AND de-skinned.  I decided on one amazing stuffing rather than multiple styles.  I went back and rendered the duck skin after it was removed, this time using the rendered fat to baste the extra stuffing that I had in a separate pan.  The crunch and flavor from that was over the top tasty.  With larger interior birds, there was less stuffing between layers, making nice cross-slices of all 3 meats, it was the perfect storm of Tur-duck-en-ism.  Guests were taking photos and eating 2nds and 3rds.  We have a winner.  The only problem:  it was a nightmare getting the smaller turkey bound up underneath with the larger poultry inside.  That's where this new plan was formed.

I love stuffed meats.  Whether it's stuffed pork chops, chicken cordon bleu, or even a braciole, a well executed stuffed meat is a culinary treat - like opening a gift.  Appropriate this time of year, right?  So the decision is simple, debone and de-skin all 3.  Filet out for a uniform thickness, stuff, wrap, stuff, wrap, etc.  In the end, it will be like the meat lovers jelly roll.  Chicken center (maybe stuffed with a surprise like a mushroom ragu, the stuffing layer between the chicken and duck can be exotic to compliment the duck (wild rice or cous cous stuffing perhaps) and then a conventional sausage and sage stuffing between the duck and turkey.  Easy presentation, easy slicing, easy rolling.

Normal prep for a tur-duck-en is 3 hours.  I have it down to 1 1/2 hours, so adding a little challenge in style points should not be a holiday burden.  I might even do this for a Sunday dinner sometime soon for fun - test runs taste good too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Shelby Fall Festival and Livermush Expo

Shelby Fall Festival and Livermush Expo on the Court Square Shelby, NC 28150

Dress up and be a part of the children's costume parade in Uptown Shelby on the Court Square. Enjoy games, treats and crafts for children of all ages. Friendly dog and cat pet parade, face painting, pumpkin painting and photos with your pet or just you. The Carolina Raptor Center will be here with birds of prey. (rain date October 31.)


Taste Shelby's famed livermush and learn new recipes. Mack's Livermush will be selling their famous livermush sandwiches. Cooking demonstrations, recipes and more. Annual Livermush Poker Run! Bike registration opens at 10am.

End at Art of Sound Music Festival and join in the party!

Here's my take on it -
YUM!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dear Charlotte Observer - PLEASE READ Kathleen Purvis

Kathleen,

I reviewed Prickly Pear several weeks ago and you followed soon after.  I read your review - which was in contrast on many of the same items.  Your joy with the Tres Leche cake being a perfect example of bland and boring in my opinion, to wow and wonderful in yours.  Now today I see you went to Big Daddy's.  I am glad you like the candy shop as you exitted, but did you really try the food?  It's a landmark - yes.  It's very popular still - yes.  The food is average and nearly all is fried.  At what point can that be a genuine positive?  The Lancaster family has done great things for barbeque in the surrounding area, as well as a wonderful job with Jeffrey's near Exit 33.  Big Daddy's needs a big update.

For future reference, please let me know the next one of my reviews that you feel like contradicting.  I would love to be there with you when you eat so I can see you in action.  I have read your column for years and I am genuinely surprised at the direction it is going.

Have a wonderful weekend.  Get some rest.  I have only just begun.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Brunch + Ballantyne = Village Bistro

Heading into the Ballantyne area of Charlotte Sunday, we started scoping out places to eat.  We passed the Big View Diner and thought that was our place.  It was big, retro, and on our way.  It had our interest.  As we made our way back and stopped, the parking lot was half full.  We entered to find that the wait was 30 minutes.  It was 10:35am on Sunday, so it is a busy time.  There were at least 12 tables empty and that was a huge issue for me.  There were 6 or 7 families ahead of us, to which those tables would have handled nicely.  Something was broken and I was not staying to find out.

As we made out way back toward 485, we stopped in the large shopping area off Ballantyne Village.  Google maps on the iPhone searching brunch found Village Bistro.  It was 100 ft from where we parked.  That was convenient.  As we pull the door, it's 10:45 and it opens but it's empty.  Come to find out, they open at 11.  We were greeted promptly, seated and asked to be patient as they get the buffet set up.  The waitress came quickly to get the drink order and explain their features.  Let me stop and say that I am impressed that the door was unlocked early and they were honest to say they were still setting the food.  I would much rather wait for someone being upfront and kind, than wait for a place that can't get tables reset and somehow that affects me negatively.

The buffet had the usual suspects, with plenty of fruit, a fruit punch, eggs, bacon, etc...  There was prime rib, a crazy fun omelet menu, strawberry crepes, pancakes for every imagination, eggs benedict, the list goes on.  For $13.95 adult and $8.95 child, it was a great deal - especially for the area.

I had my wife and daughter with me so I was sure we could try a little of every single thing on the menu.  Sure enough, we did.  In fact, I tried to order almost everything myself to make sure I did not miss a thing for this review.

Prime rib with horseradish sauce - nice.  Eggs benedict using prosciutto in place of Canadian bacon/ham - exceptional.  Vanilla cream cheese filled crepes with strawberry drizzle - excellent.  Salami, mozzarella, roasted pepper and prosciutto omelet - yum.  Caramelized banana pancake - very good.  Regular syrup is a little let down, expecting a more caramel-style syrup or topping.  Corned beef hash with over easy egg - oh my yummy.  Bacon was crisp without burnt, scrambles eggs were moist but not runny.  Fruit was fresh cut.  Coffee was very good and on the strong side - loving it.

I would hard pressed to find anything I did not like.  If I had to pick one weak item it was the pancake.  It was good by almost any one's standard, but everything else was so far above the mark, this was the lowest item and still tasty.

It is unlikely that we will try to go into Big View again, but I promise we will be back at the Village Bistro.

Village Bistro at Ballantyne on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 1, 2010

For the FIRST TIME EVER

Restaurant.com is starting the month with a BIG offer.  90% off TODAY ONLY. 

Use the promo code WOW and load up.  $25 certificates for just ONE DOLLAR!!!

Remember they are good for 12 months. 
Stock up today!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Moe's Southwest Grill

You don't have to ask twice to get me to eat at Moe's.  I had to go to Asheville a couple times a month and the one there was a regular stop for me.  Their quesadillas are significant to say the least.  There is one made with sauteed veggies called something like Instant Friend.  They use some crazy names, but it works.  For $4, you get that, chips and salsa.  Of course that lets you go back to the salsa bar to have some fun. 

I have had a little fun ordering some different items and the only one that is not very fun it the taco.  The shell just does not hold up to multiple fillings.  Again, priced well, so it's just $2-3 depending on your preferences, and that comes with the chips and salsa too.  That's a crazy good deal.  You can absolutely feed a family here and still have some money left in your wallet.

A few people in front of us got burritos, and they were almost the size of a football.  I kid you not, they don't mess around with the portions - they are just large.

This location is a trick to get into.  If you are on 73/Sam Furr passing 21 and Target, the next light is a left into the first entrance for this plaza.  There is Petco on the sign.  If you wait for the second entrance, by the Starbucks, good ol' Huntersville has put up the yellow traffic sticks in the middle of the road to block it.  It is really annoying, especially if your stomach is growling like mine was. 

Come hungry, turn early and eat plenty.  Follow those simple rules and you will leave happy.

Moe's Southwest Grill on Urbanspoon

The Corkscrew in Birkdale - a weekend gem

Date nights don't come too often, so a chance to relax in Birkdale was a great little getaway.  The weather was awesome to stroll around.  We landed at Corkscrew after eating at Moe's (see other review).  They had a live blues trio inside, who were just killing it.  They had everyone cheering and enjoying a little Memphis flare at Lake Norman.  There are bands every weekend, so check their website and look for something that interests you.

Inside is quaint and a little on the small side.  There are couches and such to give it a homey feel.  Since smoking is reserved for outside seating, inside is less packed than years past.  We sat close to the band to watch the show. 

The wine list is pretty large if you are drinking by the glass.  They have several beers as well if you prefer.  The even have a nice little snack menu featuring cheeses and such that pair well with the wines.  There is a white wine cheese platter, a red wine cheese platter, various dipping items, etc.  No price seemed out of line at all.  Interestingly enough, there were wines on their price list that we had at the Wine Loft before it closed.  Birkdale and it's high rent means higher prices - right?  Not so.  The Pinot Noir that I enjoyed was $2 per glass less than the former Wine Loft.  How cool is that?

Service was better than average.  A busy night is not the time to really judge service.  Things do happen.  We were not abandoned, but one round was a little late.  The server more than made up for it and that's what matters.  You have to recognize a flaw and address it.  He did and we left pleased.  We will certainly be back for more - hopefully outside on a cool fall night.

The Corkscrew on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Waldhorn Restaurant in Pineville

Want to take a trip to Germany without leaving the Charlotte area?  Take a short ride to the Waldhorn.  We have enjoyed their Sunday brunch, their mammoth beers, and fun atmosphere.  This is a family run business modelled after her family's restaurant in Germany.  The menu hits the common German fare with a little American on there for everyone not willing to try schnitzels and kraut.  By the way, the purple sauerkraut is magnificent.  If you go for brunch buffet, you shouldn't eat for days before or after.  You can not humanly try everything there and live to tell about it.  The dessert bar alone could take you out, let alone the carving station, variety of hot and cold entrees, salads and tasty tidbits. 

It is just a few blocks from the Pineville mall, so finding it is a snap.  Don't miss a great chance to add some culture to your dining.

There was an article from the local new posted this morning, so I have attached for your reading:


Local German restaurant voted among best in America
By Meghan Danahey
NewsChannel 36
Posted: Wednesday, Sep. 15, 2010

You don't have to cross the Atlantic to have some of the best food Germany has to offer.
Voters at GermanDeli.com have picked Waldhorn Restaurant in Pineville among the top 10 best German food restaurants in the country, for the second year in a row. Nearby Olde German Schnitzel Haus in Hickory tops the 2010 list.
Thomas and Gitta Maier opened their doors in Pineville in 1999. Both come from a long line of culinary talents. Gitta's parents have a restaurant near Stuttgart. It shares the same name.
Waldhorn Restaurant kicks off Oktoberfest celebrations on Friday. For the next four weekends, you will find live music and dancing, in addition to award-winning traditional German dishes. All of it washed down with a variety of German brews.
The original Oktoberfest was held in Munich on October 18, 1810, to celebrate the royal marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The world famous 16-day festival begins in Munich on Saturday.

Waldhorn on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 13, 2010

More of Malto Mario - "Scorpacciata"

Scorpacciata is a term that means consuming large amounts of a particular local ingredient while it's in season. It's a good way to eat, and it's a word we love to use 'round these parts.
We asked Chef Mario Batali - an active practitioner of this philosophy - to explain why eating locally is in such great taste.
And seriously, we could just sit there and listen to him pronounce "scorpacciata" all darned day long.
Download a copy of Mario's free cookbook The Celebrity Pasta Lovers' Cookbook at ShareTheTable.com and Barilla will donate $1 (up to $150,000) to the Meals on Wheels Association of America.
(Article courtesy of Eatocracy)


Monday, August 30, 2010

Salsarita's in Mooresville

The first time I ever called a Salsarita's to see what kind of food they had, I was told it was like Subway for mexican.  As odd as that sounds, it made some sense.  In a my way or no way world - it's nice to have full selection over what you put in or on my food.

This location has been going through a slow transition.  The staff was a little rough a few years ago.  It was never exceptionally clean either.  That has all been changing and I am happy for it.  Of all of the changes though, the one I don't care for is the deletion of shredded beef from the menu.  It's counterpart (shredded pork) won the battle I guess, but I miss the beef.

This segment of restaurant is getting a little crowded, with Qdoba, Salsas and Chipotle all in the race; add the family-owned places like Monterrey and Mi Pueblo etc..  The only way to stand out is really going to be freshness and value.  When 3 of us can eat for $18 and leave full, it's a good visit. 

A couple things for the first timer - the pico has zero heat, so try the medium or mix medium and pico.  The bare burrito is the best value on a plate.  Load it up and dig in.  Check out the daily combo specials and save a buck.  They don't charge extra for guacamole, so get some.  All in all, it's a very good value for a very good meal.

Salsarita's Fresh Cantina on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It’s Never too Early to Think about Oktoberfest!

Courtesy of the Hickory Chamber

Hickory’s Oktoberfest is a three day festival held outdoors during the second weekend of October each year. The Festival begins on Friday, and the hours of operation on the first day are from 12 PM to 11:30 PM. Saturday, guests can show up at 10 AM, and the fest closes at 11 PM. The hours on Sunday are from 12 PM to 5 PM. The entire are of the Oktoberfest is handicap accessible, and guests will be able to find plenty of parking spaces as well.


You will find many things to love about the festival, including beer gardens where you can sample many different kinds of beer. The festival also offers plenty of live music for all tastes. You will find traditional polka as well as rock and roll. The festival has three stages, so you should always be able to hear some great live music.

You will also be able to find plenty of great food at the festival. You will be able to choose from authentic German bratwurst to blooming onions, turkey legs, cheese steak sandwiches, and more. Everything that your tongue and stomach could ever desire will likely make an appearance at Oktoberfest in Hickory. In addition to the food, you will find works from local artists and craftspeople. Make time to visit the arts and crafts are of the festival.
Commercial vendors will also be available selling all manner of wares. Kids and adults will be able to play the carnival games and ride the amusement park style rides. Everyone is going to have a great time at Hickory’s Oktoberfest this year, just like they do every year. If you are going to be in the area, make it a point to come and celebrate with the locals.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Firebirds at Northlake Mall

If you did not read other reviews on the mall, here's the summary - this is the best place to eat at the mall.  There are some decent places around Northlake, but Firebirds really sits above them all.  Every meat on the menu is wood-fired (other than the crab cakes) and it is a great treat.  Steaks, chops, chicken and pork all wood fired and delicious.  Their lunch menu is a great way to enjoy the menu without all of the higher prices.  We have enjoyed a couple meals here with great service and wonderful food.  Friends go there for big events and always leave happy.  Look for weeknight specials all the time.

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill on Urbanspoon

Dixies Taven is Charlotte's Steeler bar!!!

So the building is old, the floor is rough, the space is dark and the Steelers are on Directv.  Perfect right?  This place is the only real sports bar in downtown Charlotte.  It's not all neon and bright, it's dark and all about beer and food.  Okay, football or basketball too, but a lot of beer and food.  If you are looking for Bobcats tickets on any given night, they seem to flow in the bar area from people that have extras.  Their prices are average for uptown.  It would be nice if they were cheaper due to the lower rent factor of an older place like this, but it is what it is.  I would go back on Sundays if I did not have Sunday Ticket at home.  Now a Bobcats game, I am all in.

Dixie's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Good Coffee in Huntersville/Cornelius

Our dear friends at Caribou decided to close my favorite coffee shop a couple years ago.  Through a friend, I was introduced to Dilworth and found a new coffee house.  They make a Snicker-doodle brewed coffee that has all kinds of flavor.  I have bought and brewed about 10 different coffees at home and have enjoyed them all.  The one thing they do different than Starbucks is roast locally and deliver fresh coffee beans to each store.  Early mornings will find warm beans waiting for purchase.  Good luck finding that at Starbucks.

Dilworth Coffee at Highland on Urbanspoon

Carabbas in Huntersville

It's really hard to go to one of these chain-style restaurants and find things that bring joy.  They have really done their homework at Carabbas.  This location in fact has done a good job with the staff as well.  We had a mediocre visit our first time, and since everyone gets a second chance, we were impressed the second time.  Not just better, but impressed.  We sat in the bar section the second time - note: busy places have their best servers in the bar.

They make their business on serving good food fast.  If you want good food that is good, look at the fish.  I had the trout and it was incredible.  Not good, it was down right awesome.  I grew up on fish and this was as good (and better) than what I expected.  Now I am not a fan of chain restaurants.  You can overlook that here and just enjoy a nice meal with solid service.

Carrabba's Italian Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This burger goes a little too far - right?!?!?

Cheeseburgers? Mmmmm.
 
Krispy Kreme doughnuts? Mmmmm.

A cheeseburger on a grilled Krispy Kreme?  Ummmm???

A popular dish on the fair circuit this year is the Krispy Kreme cheeseburger. At the Wisconsin State Fair, which ended Sunday, it sold for $5. For an extra buck, you could add chocolate-covered bacon.
And the burger packs an eye-glazing 1,000 calories, according to the vendor. A regular Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut has 200 calories.

The Krispy burger has been around for years. Dubbed the Luther - supposedly for the late singer Luther Vandross' love of them - it is on the menu at restaurants in Georgia and elsewhere. Sometimes it's served with a fried egg on top.

David Sparks, the director of the Dixie Classic Fair in Winston-Salem, said he hadn't heard of any vendors who plan to sell it at the fair, which will begin Oct. 1.  "I think I'd be surprised if somebody didn't do it, this being the home of Krispy Kreme," Sparks said.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Heirloom Tomato Salad on Grilled Bruschetta

Take advantage of your produce aisle or local farm stand and try out this recipe for a light, seasonal dish.
by Bobby Flay


2 lbs. assorted heirloom tomatoes, diced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed basil leaves, thinly sliced
Salt and fresh black pepper
4 1/2-inch-thick slices ciabatta bread



1. Put the tomatoes, onion, garlic, vinegar, 1/4 cup of olive oil, and the basil in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

2. Heat a grill pan over high heat (or a grill to high). Grill the bread on each side until slightly charred, about 30 seconds per side. Remove from the grill and brush the tops with the remaining 2 Tbsp of oil. Mound the bread with the tomato mixture and some of the juices and serve immediately.

Serves 4. Per serving: 290 calories, 22g carbs, 5g protein, no cholesterol, and 22g fat.

Wellingtons Completed!

It is complete.  The Beef Wellington was a hit.  The recipe laid it out nicely as well.  The time is deceiving though.  You have to thaw the dough (45 minutes), sear then cool the meat (1 hour) and cook then cool the veg filling (30 minutes).  Basically, you need to be doing 3 things at once so everything is cooling at the same time or you are prepping for hours. 

Multitasking, I was able to do all of the prep and have them fully assembled in about 1 hr 20 minutes.  When you sear the beef, place it on a plate with a paper towel or parchment paper.  You have to let some of the juices run off or they will soak the pastry and give you a soggy finished product.

If you are cooking them the following night, like I did, cover with parchment to prevent sticking, then with foil.  Be sure you do the egg wash before you cover them, so the pastry dough does not dry out.  The egg protects it. 

The recipe calls for less dough and I don't understand.  I used both sheets for 4 filets, the recipe is for 8 with the same amount of dough.  It worked well.  That's really the only thing I did different than the recipe.  It was great.  I am looking forward to that last one for lunch today :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Birthday bash gets Beef Wellington

My wonderful wife has a birthday coming up in a few days.  After watching Gordon Ramsey crush people on their Wellington performance - it's my turn.  A little Googling and our friends at Pepperidge Farms have a great recipe that I am going to take on.  Here's the recipe for any that want to try it at home too.  It's like a game show "Play along with us at home..." only you really get a prize - a delicious dinner (we hope).

Mini Beef Wellingtons with Mushrooms & Gorgonzola

Prep Time:30 min
Cook Time:20 min
Serves:  8 servings.

Ingredients
•8 (6 ounces each) beef filet mignons (about 1/2-inch thick each)
•Ground black pepper
•2 tablespoons vegetable oil
•2 tablespoons unsalted butter
•8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
•2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
•4 cloves garlic, minced
•1 egg, beaten
•1 package (17.3 ounces) Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (2 sheets)
•1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Directions

Thaw the pastry sheets at room temperature for 40 minutes or until they're easy to handle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Season the beef with the black pepper.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook for 10 minutes, turning the beef over once during cooking. Remove the beef to a plate. Cover the plate and refrigerate for 1 hour or until the beef is cold.

Heat the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, shallots and garlic. Season with the black pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are tender, stirring often. Remove the mushroom mixture from the skillet and let cool.

Unfold the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheets into 2 (14-inch) squares. Trim the edges to form 2 (13-inch) squares. Cut each square into 4 squares, making 8 squares in all.

Place 1 tablespoon Gorgonzola in the center of each pastry square. Divide the mushroom mixture among the pastry squares. Top each with 1 filet mignon. Fold 2 opposite pastry corners over the beef, overlapping slightly, and press to seal. Brush with the egg. Repeat with the remaining pastry corners.

Place the Wellingtons seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate the Wellingtons and the remaining egg for 1 hour or overnight.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Brush the Wellingtons with the remaining egg. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the temperature of the beef is 117 degrees F. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Urbanspoon Featured Blogger

I guess eating a lot has it's rankings now too.  This blog is a feature on Urbanspoon and as of this post is ranked Number 14 in the Greater Charlotte area.  How cool is that?

mOOresville fOOdie Charlotte restaurants

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Salad that I can taste just reading the intro!!!

If you love salads and pizza, this is for you.  We grill pizzas at home quite often and really enjoy the taste.  Good luck standing in front of a grill on a 98 degree day, with it pumping out 500-600 degrees of cooking heat.  That's just asking too much for me.  I found this recipe and it helps create a margherita pizza flavor without the heat.  For a bread on the side, you can panini (or George Foreman) some dough with italian spices and avoid a hot kitchen as well.  Read the article and recipe below (sorry no picture):

Why didn't we think of this a long time ago? Chopped Margherita Salad is a cross between a margherita pizza and a buffalo-mozzarella salad - with a little romaine thrown in for summer crunch.


It's a light yet satisfying salad that's perfect for a sweltering summer evening. Of course, if you're a committed carnivore, feel free to include some grilled chicken chunks, a flaky whitefish fillet or seared salmon, or even a few sautéed shrimp or scallops.


If you are traveling to a friend's house and have volunteered to bring the salad, this is a showstopper. Be sure to dress the salad just before serving.


Serve it with hearty sourdough bread and a glass of crisp, chilled white wine, and you've got summer dining - at home or away - covered. For another hearty dinner salad, visit our website at www.KitchenScoop.com. Check out our updated twist on a classic Cobb Salad.

Chopped Margherita Salad

1 cup romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
2 fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette

COMBINE the lettuce, cheese, tomatoes and basil in a medium bowl. Turn the ingredients onto a large chopping board and, using a sharp chef’s knife, chop the salad well. Return to the bowl, drizzle the dressing over the salad, and toss well. Serve immediately.

Note: Salad can easily be doubled, tripled or more. If you are serving several people, it’s easier to chop the individual ingredients and place into a bowl than to chop the entire salad on a cutting board.

Yield: 1 serving
Per serving: calories, 191; fat, 15 grams (70% of calories), carbohydrates, 9 grams; cholesterol, 23 milligrams; fiber, 2 grams; protein, 6 grams; sodium, 324 milligrams.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Wine Loft in Mooresville

For everyone (like myself) that wondered what took so long to open initially, it came from a change of ownership at the outset.  Unfortunately the location has not been fruitful like they had hoped.  We have been curious for a while and found out this weekend it was closing.  Here's the note from the management:

"The Wine Loft LKN will close the Mooresville location on July 31. There is really no update beyond that yet. We are looking at other potential locations, but it's very preliminary. We will NOT be open in August, and probably not September, regardless. Business is just too slow during the summer months."

 The Wine Loft is a franchise, so if you love it, there are others - Charlotte being the next closest.  After looking at it every time we went to Harris Teeter, we did stop tonight to see what we will be missing.  Unfortunately we loved it.  Now we get to wait anxiously for the next home to be selected.  We believe it may be coming sooner than they hint at, so let's just hope for good news.  To keep tabs, check their website regularly at:
http://www.wineloftlkn.com

The appetizers were exceptional, the wine selection was massive.  I was even impressed with the craft beers - real high end beers that I drive all over trying to find - all in one place.  The location might not be working, but the leadership and staff certainly have the rest of it right.  Really right.

We are going to follow this and let you know when we hear more.  In the meanwhile, you can get your wine fix at Daveste in Troutman Wednesday through Sunday.  They don't have the menu, but they do a great job on their wines.  The staff are wonderful there as well. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Zoe's Kitchen - All over Charlotte and now in Huntersville


We found ourselves in the new development called Metropolitan in Charlotte again this weekend.  It's a little outside of uptown and designed by the same folks that did Birkdale.  Being Charlotte, it's got a more contemporary urban appeal - more architectural metal and concrete vs Birkdale's white southern colonial feel.

At first glance, it can be a little confusing.  Take time to park and look around and gems like Zoe's and Trader Joe's are right there for your enjoyment.  Dresslers (also at Birkdale) have come to join the party as well. 

We had an appointment for our daughter at 11:15 close to Zoe's and were looking for lunch afterward.  Several people at the event came in with the cups and take out bags so they made the choice for us.  I found the menu on my phone and was quite surprised at how inexpensive it was - especially considering the locale.

Walking in, under the massive menu are several very helpful staff members.  In a take-out fashion - you order then get your number and take a seat.  The food is delivered promptly.

My wife and I both ordered different version of chicken pitas, and my daughter got the chicken quesadilla.  They definitely like the healthy foods, offering salads, wraps, fruits and pitas, as well as pita chips and wholesome sides.  All of their take out containers/cups are either recyclable or compostable.  That is very cool. 

The themed flavor of their chicken is Greek and it goes very well in the pita.  The Greek dressing on the table is extremely tasty and ensures that your never left wishing for more.  The pasta salad and cole slaw are made without mayo, adding feta cheese among other wonderful ingredients.  The chicken portion in the pita had the sides splitting, making it even more fun/messy to eat with the dressing I added.  That may have worked against me, but there were plenty of napkins.  It turned out fine.  Not one of us was still hungry at the end.

With the prices being in the $6-8 range, it is easy to see why the place was packed.  The service was prompt, the food was fresh and delicious.  I would not have expected it to be this good for several reasons.  First, newly opened restaurants have staff issues for months to overcome - not here.  Second, busy days breed shortcuts and lack-luster food.  Again, not here.  And as busy as they were, the cleanliness was top shelf.  A fun, bright, clean location with great food.  I can't wait to try the one just opened in Huntersville.  I fully expect the same results!

Zoë's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Prickly Pear visit as promised!

So many people know of the Prickly Pear and have still not gone.  As promised, as part of the Restaurant Week promotion, we went to do the 4 course meal.  Our reservation was for 8pm, we arrived early and were seated just a few minutes later.  Nice start.  It gave us a chance to check out the cool decor in this old church.  The leather chairs have custom logos cut out of the metal backs.  These things are really cool.  Considering what it was, they did a good job using the space and making it more welcoming than a big room with a vaulted ceiling.

Our server arrived fairly quick, answered a couple quick questions and asked if we wanted the guacamole.  Hmm?  It's not part of the promotion appetizers.  Why ask?  Well, sure enough, it's done table side and really was fun.  At $7, it was well worth it.  4 of us eating it, with a side of wonderfully made salsa, and we could see why it should be offered to everyone.

Appetizer choices of calamari steaks or a personal tostada, we did two and two.  The calamari had a nice sweet dipping sauce.  It was a few large pieces of the mid-section of the squid lightly breaded and fried with a little spice.  It was fantastic.  The little tostadas were like a poor mans nacho chip - yes chip.  One small tostada chip with "I don't care" on top.  After seeing the calamari, I thought this tostada thing was a joke.

Salads come and they are decent.  Dressings were run of the mill, nothing with a ethnic flair what-so-ever.  I expected a chipotle something, maybe a cilantro vinaigrette, anything to stand out.  Not so much.  This was the turning point in the night.

From here on, timing was a mess.  We got our bread right before the meal, not upon arrival or with the salad.  They make a prickly pear butter - nothing more than a syrup they buy added to the butter they buy.  No wow in that item.  The meals show up after a longer than expected delay, and the two ladies ordered the beef.  It's a filet with shrimp.  Neither were to the temps requested, they actually swapped meat to get something closer to what they asked for.  The two shrimp were a good size and flavor, the filet portions were not.  One was about a 3 oz, the other around 5 oz.  That's just not right at the same table.  There was not crust, no flavor or spice.  I just don't understand the lack of effort on the beef.

Us guys got less run of the mill.  I ordered the pork chop in mole sauce, with a potato side.  The other gent got the snapper (that I wanted) with a rice and special slaw.  The snapper was the best dinner item on the table.  The rice was tasty as well.  We did not see the slaw until he was almost done.  It was under the fish, in with one of the tostada chips and on the rice.  It should have been on top of the fish, or laying up next to it.  It was lost and soggy by the time it was noticed.

The pork chop was ordered medium at the waiters suggestion.  I was great with that.  The kitchen did not agree I guess - it was overcooked and not hot when it arrived.  Something went wrong on the timing of the entrees and mine suffered for sure.  This thick chop was tough, dry and the mole was only moisture in the dish.  The potatoes were better than anything else on this plate.  That's not a good thing.

Dessert took at least 15 minutes to come after our table was cleared from the meal.  No coffee offered to go with the creme brulee, mango cheesecake or tres leche cake.  The creme brulee was warm and runny.  It is intended to be cold and firm inside with the crunch of the sugar crust as a treat.  Unfortunately even it got soggy by the warm custard.  The warming actually made the custard grainy, as if the yolks were not creamed properly.

The tres leche cake lacked everything.  A tall slice on a plate falling over, with no flavor or flare of any kind.  The cheesecake was some pre-made cheesecake that was stiff and tasteless with a mango drizzle (also pre-made).  It was horrible.  I mean HORRIBLE.  I made better cheesecake in middle school.  Anyone that pays extra for dessert would be sending this one back.

I wanted to love it, and Fridays can be a tough night for a restaurant that is not sharp on all levels.  To start strong and fail midway though, that's a bummer.  A slow start with a great entree and dessert is forgivable, this was not.  They were busy when we arrived, but by the time we were finishing entrees, the place was half empty.  The entree and dessert delays were not due to volume.  Sadly, we watched people that came in later eat sooner and leave before us.

Timing is EVERYTHING in this business.  An expediter or a clock might help in this kitchen.

Prickly Pear on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 23, 2010

You have to be kidding me - Soiree closed now too!

Sure enough, the quiet dining room on a Friday night combined with the restaurant.com "last ditch effort" have really added up for me now... and Soiree closing last night for good.  We had plans to go tonight - as well as FOUR restaurant.com certificates I bought 3 weeks ago.  That's all a bust.

The newspaper says that it's over a lease issue, but it all goes back to the economy in downtown Mooresville and lack of traffic at the restaurant.  Rent becomes a real issue when you are looking for help to survive.  I had the hunch when we were there last but hoped it would survive.

I had met the owner on a couple occassions and he was a first class operator.  We were always thrilled with the food and service.  This news does not sit well with us.  Sure, I blogged about the last visit not being quite what I was expected, but that was just one night.  This is one more crushing blow to the local diners that enjoyed downtown Mooresville.

Sandwiches in a can: Can-do or can-don’t?

To win consumers’ hearts, Candwich inventor knows it will all come down to taste
by Laura T. Coffey

TODAYshow.com contributor


Mark Kirkland is used to skeptics. He’s comfortable with critics. He’s unfazed by the reaction he typically gets the first time people hear about his invention: “Ewwwwwwww.”
Kirkland, 50, of Salt Lake City, Utah, has dedicated more than a decade of his life to a single concept: The sandwich in a can.
Or, actually, make that a few concepts: Sandwiches in a can. Pizza in a can. French toast in a can. Cinnamon rolls in a can.
Why a can? Because, when combined with techniques similar to those used to preserve Meals Ready-to-Eat for soldiers, an aluminum can keeps food fresh for a full year or even longer. Yes, that’s right: A fresh, year-old sandwich.
And cans have an added benefit, Kirkland noted: They fit perfectly inside all the soda vending machines that exist, well, everywhere. That means his “Candwich” products could be sold in both stores and vending machines.
“So think about it,” Kirkland explained. “You’re a mom running your kids between school, piano lessons, soccer. Stopping at a fast-food restaurant takes time. This is something that literally could roll around the car for a few months. ... I kind of compare it to bottled water when it first came out. At the time I thought, ‘Why would I pay a dollar for a bottle of water when I can just go to the water fountain?’ Now I drink bottled water every day. It’s convenient.”
But how does it taste?

Thus far, Kirkland’s assurances haven’t done much to stem the snickering and giggling. On his late-night Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report,” Stephen Colbert joked about preserving sandwiches with the same technology used to store motor oil. Colbert said of the “BBQ Chicken Candwich”: “I am confident only one of those B’s stands for botulism.”

Kirkland knows his products won’t be a hit with busy moms, kids or anybody else if they don’t taste good. To demonstrate the virtues of “shelf-stable bread” and sandwich fixings that have a long shelf life, he sent two peanut-butter-and-jelly Candwich samples to TODAYshow.com. This writer tried them, and you know what? They weren’t bad at all. In fact, they tasted just like standard peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches made with hot-dog buns — a perennial kid-lunch staple.
In the interest of full disclosure, Kirkland did not send the sample sandwiches in a fully canned state. (The cans are in the process of being mass-produced for his PB&J Candwich product launch in August.) When canned, his food products will undergo the rigors of “hurdle technology” — that is, hurdles to prevent the growth of any pathogens or unwanted organisms in the food. By controlling the amount of oxygen, acidity and water inside the packaging and the sandwich itself, pathogens can be stopped in their tracks, Kirkland said.
The sandwich samples Kirkland shared with TODAYshow.com included the ingredients that would have gone inside a can: A hot-dog bun wrapped in cellophane; a squeezable packet of peanut butter; a squeezable packet of jelly; and a small piece of taffy for dessert. You just build your own sandwich and nosh. The shelf-stable bread Kirkland uses for the hot-dog buns wound up sitting in a FedEx package for five days, but it still tasted, smelled and felt just fine.
But what about pre-built sandwiches and pizza pockets that have meat baked into them? How do those hold up after months and months inside a can?
Jeff Pierson, 46, a nature and wildlife photographer based in Salt Lake City, loves the BBQ Chicken Candwich so much that he’s devoured dozens of them. A few years back, he tried his first canned sandwich courtesy of one of his buddies, a longtime friend of Kirkland’s.
“When it was just peanut butter and jelly, I was pretty excited about it, but when I was handed my first meat sandwich I was a little hesitant,” Pierson recalled. “I thought, ‘How safe could this be?’ But I’ve eaten them after a full year, and they were still good — and I’m still here.”
Pierson said the sandwiches are convenient when he spends multiple days outside — nowhere near a store or refrigerator — taking photos of grizzly bears and other wildlife. When closer to home, he’s also devised a method for enjoying hot chicken sandwiches.
“I keep ’em in my car,” he said. “I put ’em in a heavy plastic sack and leave them on the dashboard, and I have a hot sandwich for lunch. ... I’ve never been sick and I’ve had a lot of them that have been kicking around in the car for a spring and a winter, a few seasons, and it’s always been OK.”
No need for refrigeration

Because of their staying power, inventor Kirkland also sees a place for Candwiches in emergency-preparedness kits and at times when natural disasters strike.
“I wish I would have had about 100 million of these when the earthquake hit Haiti,” Kirkland said. “Or any time there’s a hurricane or the power goes out. ... I think of it as more of a convenience item than an emergency item, but I do think it’s perfect for emergencies.”
In August, peanut-butter-and-jelly Candwiches will go on the market for the first time in limited areas of the United States. That will be followed by a nationwide product launch. Next will be the Pepperoni Pizza Pocket Candwich, which has the pepperoni, sauce and cheese baked into the bread.
Next up: The BBQ Chicken Candwich, the BBQ Beef Candwich, French toast that contains a maple filling, and cinnamon rolls that come with a spreadable chocolate sauce. Kirkland also has plans to unveil canned calzones and canned wrapped sandwiches in the future.
‘A long, hard road’

Kirkland is almost giddy that the Candwich — which is being marketed by his company, Mark One Foods — is finally about to be sold to the general public. His lengthy canned-sandwich journey began when he had an epiphany back in the 1990s.
“I was eating a cookie and drinking a soda, and it occurred to me if I put cookies into a soda can I could sell it through a soft-drink vending machine,” Kirkland said. “I had a cookie in one hand and a drink in the other, I thought, ‘Hey! Bring your hands together!’ That’s where it all started.”
He patented the concept of putting a non-beverage item inside a soda container in 1999. He found an investor named Travis L. Wright who wanted to back the Candwich and help bring it to the market — but as time passed, everything went awry.
It turns out that Wright allegedly used money raised from about 175 other investors to support Candwich development and other business ideas. But those other investors had given Wright $145 million to invest in commercial real estate. A lawsuit filed this month by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission maintains that Wright committed fraud by misleading his investors and using their money to fund a “lavish lifestyle.”
“He had me in limbo for years, and then he left me in the lurch,” Kirkland said. “When the real estate market crashed, his business crashed, and now he’s being charged with fraud. It’s nothing that we did wrong; it’s just that he turned out to be a bad investor.”
Kirkland said he’s struggled to get the Candwiches to the product-launch point without Wright’s full, promised backing. It took a while to pull that off in this economy.
“It’s been a long, hard road,” he said. “It’s been a tough five years. If I didn’t really believe in the product and I didn’t have a good wife, I’d probably be dead now.”
© 2010 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Need energy during the day?

Then don't skip breakfast!  Tired of cereal (or just don't like it)?  Eggs are a lot better for you than most people think.  Yes, egg whites are lower in calories, but lower in taste as well.  They can be substituted in this recipe if you like.  The fatty acids and proteins from a whole egg far outweigh the added calories.  Maybe try both and see what you think.  Here's the recipe from IncredibleEgg.com

3-Step Egg & Cheese Breakfast Burrito


From the American Egg Board Culinary Library
published: 04/19/2010

Only a cereal bowl is needed to prepare and serve this zesty breakfast dish, making your morning clean-up a breeze.
Prep Time: 2 minutes; Cook Time: 45 to 60 seconds; Makes: 1 serving
1 flour tortilla (6-inch)
1 egg
1 Tbsp. shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 Tbsp. salsa

1. Line 2-cup microwave-safe cereal bowl with microwave-safe paper towel. Press tortilla into bowl. Break egg into center of tortilla. Beat egg gently with a fork until blended, being careful not to tear tortilla.

2. Microwave on High 30 seconds; stir. Microwave until egg is almost set, 15 to 30 seconds longer. *Microwave ovens vary. Cooking times may need to be adjusted.

3. Remove tortilla with paper towel liner from bowl to flat surface. Top egg with cheese and salsa. Fold bottom of tortilla over egg, then fold in sides.

Nutrition information per serving: 197 calories; 10 g total fat; 4 g saturated fat; 1 g polyunsaturated fat; 3 g monounsaturated fat; 218 mg cholesterol; 407 mg sodium; 17 g carbohydrate; 1 g dietary fiber; 11 g protein; 365.2 IU Vitamin A; 17.5 IU Vitamin D; 55.3 mcg folate; 119.5 mg calcium; 2.0 mg iron; 129.8 mg choline.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Krystal Burgers vs the state of North Carolina

Dear Krystal Burger,

Can anyone tell me why this tasty little burgers have disappeared from the Charlotte-area landscape?  More so, they are not even in the state any longer.  Traveling into Tennessee or South Carolina, and they are waiting to greet you.
They used to be very inexpensive.  Not so much anymore, but still not as much as McDonalds or Burger King.  At the same time, they are not as large so it's not apples to apples anyway.  A 12 pack cost $9 with tax.  I am happy to pay around 75 cents each for the joy of eating, but the value conscious person I am knows that another 10 cents gets me a much larger burger elsewhere.

Now, for all of the recent transplants from up north that have not seen a Krystal burger before, it looks familiar huh?  Sure.  It looks a lot like a White Castle, so much so that you could probably fool many.  The onion is fresh sliced versus the reconstituted type.  That is the only real glaring difference.

This weekend coming back through Gaffney SC I knew I had to stop and get some.  My travel buddy had never had any (he was from out west) and was pleasantly surprised.  I came to work on Monday and one of my co-workers had hit the one in TN on his way back this weekend.  Obviously, we could certainly use some back in the great state of North Carolina. 

Krystal - I await your reply.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ever feel iffy after Mexican food. Read on...

Uh oh, salsa and guacamole lovers. Sure these two condiments are zesty and chunky – but be forewarned, they could be the culprits behind foodborne illnesses.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that 3.9 percent of foodborne outbreaks from 1998 to 2008 in restaurants were confirmed or suspected to be from salsa, guacamole or pico de gallo.

These 136 reported outbreaks included 12 pathogens such as salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, shigella, hepatitis A and norovirus. Researchers found three deaths associated with the outbreaks.
The analysis did not explore specific reasons how salsa and guacamole became contaminated, but Dr. Rajal Mody, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC in the division that researches foodborne and environmental diseases, said the existing scientific literature provides some clues.

“Salsa and guacamole are made in large batches,” he said. “Small amounts of contamination can affect lots of servings. There is the potential that salsa and guacamole are not properly refrigerated. And we know salsa and guacamole are often made from diced fresh produce items- tomatoes, cilantro, peppers, which we know have been implicated as sources in past outbreaks.”

Improper storage times and temperatures were reported in about 30 percent of these restaurants, according to the research. In 20 percent of these salsa-and-guacamole-related incidents, the food workers were reported as the source of contamination.

Consumers who want to minimize risks should see whether the restaurant posts their environmental inspection score, Mody suggested.

“Ideally, our work here generates some interest in safe handling of salsa and guacamole,” he said. “Just like in a restaurant kitchen, people making salsa at home should follow good safety practices. It’s pretty basic. Clean your food, separate it as you prepare it, cook it and chill.”

The CDC presented these findings Monday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Oh Pineville - we miss Joe's Crab Shack!

So an impromptu trip to Myrtle Beach Sunday (the 4th) created a fun opportunity... Eat at Joe's.  Just like the signs all over town say.  In our Charlotte days, we would see Joe's down by the mall and Home Depot in Pineville.  We never ate there.  Either Joe's was ahead of it's time or we simply missed out.  I can tell you now we did miss out.

Here's a funny thing in hindsight: we blew by another Joe's in Nashville back in April.  You can scroll back and see that we chose Wildhorse Saloon for lunch that day.  Why Joe's now?  You can't go 3 feet in Myrtle Beach without tripping over a crab/calabash restaurant.  Pancake houses serve calabash.  I think even gas stations sell crab and calabash.  Maybe not, but they might.

So my wife has recently been eating more seafood thanks to sushi.  Of all things SUSHI!  Nothing like some beginner seafood in the form of fish sticks or shrimp scampi... Nope.  Roll it up and eat it SUSHI.  Well I am happier for it - that's for sure.

We went to Alligator Adventure (viewing not eating) and my wife says we should get some seafood while we are there.  Sure enough, we park to see some gators and saw the Joe's sign.  There are several great names there like House of Blue, Wild Wings, etc... even Rossi's and Chucks down the road.  I was not going to pass up the chance to eat seafood this day.  No sir!  After the gator adventures, we stroll out and can't find Joe's.  The signs all pointed to those other places.  I was not ashamed to ask directions (my daughter was soooo proud).  The problem is he did not know where it was either and he worked at Wild Wings.  This tourist trap is so large it has a map.  Ah...Joe's was just over their inland lake that the Broadway at the Beach has made.  They had a nice plank walkway across the middle.  It was a great walk on a gorgeous day.

We arrive at Joe's and initially want to sit outside.  Us and oh, about 400 other visitors on a busy Sunday.  Hmmm.  Inside works.  Apparently their AC does too - it was a little chilly in there.  We are told the wait inside is 10-15 minutes so we hit the restrooms.  3 minutes later we are seated.  I like their clock!

Now this place is mobbed.  Slam packed and wall to wall.  Servers are all over and moving quickly.  Ours shows up on que and gets our drink orders.  The menu is a lot to get through so we hold off on an appetizer order right away.  He makes a recommendation, but we hold.

Our daughters first solid food many moons ago was calamari at Frankie's in Charlotte (R.I.P.) and she has been all into it ever since.  We order that and a salad for her (we helped a little with the squid).  My wife ordered the popcorn shrimp and I ordered the Sunset Fire Steam pot.  It has a smokey bay seasoning on the shrimp, dungeoness and snow crab, corn, potatoes and sausage.  I was a little set back by the $26 price tag, but there was enough to share.

Unfortunately the calamari was breaded to heavily; as if it were a chicken strip.  It was cooked a little too long.  When the tentacles are really crunchy - you just know.  The popcorn shrimp had the same coating but it made more sense on there.  The crab pot was a big ol' pile of yummy goodness.  Those type seasonings are always a little on the salty side, so that was expected.  The paper towel roll and scrap bucket got some heavy use.

To crack the crab at Joe's, you have to master this little yellow tool that simply says - STOLEN FROM JOE'S.  The waiter explained that it has to be worked through the shell and then split the shell open to access the meat.  I have never used one before and it seemed to corny.  Well, a couple legs in and we have ourselves a fun little task really.  It's like an old hand can opener that you just run the side, pulling up and pushing down.  It really worked.  He claimed that he "would see" if he could find some of the metal crackers for me to use when I ordered, and sure enough he showed up with them for me and the table next door.  I sent him packing with a cleaned out snow crab leg.  We got this!

Through all of the people traffic inside, our waiter was really on his game.  All of the staff dance on command, they were checking tables like seasoned pros - crab seasoned pros to be exact.  Good service, good food, fun atmosphere in a great location.  This was a great stop - thanks Honey.

Joe's Crab Shack on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Soiree - Main Street Mooresville on a Friday Night

The trip to Soiree starts with finding them on Restaurant.com for a certificate.  This is a big win for us, since we have never seen them on there before.  Typically that site gets newer restaurants trying to get their name out.  Why then Soiree?  We were going to do some checking - and it came on Date Night Friday for us.

We walk in around 7pm and there are only a few tables occupied in the dining room and a couple people at the bar.  This would seem normal since it is a holiday weekend if JJ Wasabis weren't packed just a block away.

We see the sign on the door that they are closing for a few days through the holiday - including Saturday - so they were loaded with specials to clear out the cupboards.  The ever changing menu was a lot different to us.  It took some looking to actually decide on what we wanted to eat.

We ordered the fried squash appetizer special which was deep fried half moons of summer squash with two sauces.  One was a creamy goat cheese sauce and the other was like a red pepper aioli.  It was pretty good - highlighted really by the sauces.  Our entrees were Pasta Paloma and Southern Fusion Chicken.  The Paloma had chunks of chicken breast sauteed with prosciutto and tossed with ziti in a creamy Parmesan sauce.  It was okay - too salty really, but it was okay.  The Fusion chicken was certainly a better dish.  A chicken quarter is grilled, the wing is frenched so you have a bone sticking up.  It looks cooler than it sounds.  It is served on top of smoked leg meat.  The smoking was done very well.  Presentation of a portion of chicken on pieces of chicken did not really work, but the grilled squash on the mashed potatoes looked great.  Overall, this dish had all the flavors right on the money.

My wife is the Creme Brulee Queen, so she had to have one.  This is always a consistent winner here and she was very pleased.  The crunch of the caramelized sugar was great, and the custard was ice cold still.  That is a huge thing for me.  The strawberry they sliced on top was sour.  That was the only let down in the dessert.

We used to go to Soiree often, I mean often.  They had the best Sunday brunch I have ever enjoyed!  It changed and then got cancelled.  We would go for lunch - great prices and great food.  That is gone now too.  Now, a quiet Friday and coupons???  I hope this is not the beginning of the end.  It's not Soiree of old, but it's a solid dinner choice none-the-less.  We even bought 4 more certificates so we can enjoy the changing seasonal menus for the next year (they don't expire :)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Restaurant Week Part 3 - Prickly Pear in Mooresville

The 10-day 'Queen's Feast' restaurant celebration is planned for July 16-25. Each participating restaurant will offer a three-course, prix fixe dinner menu for $30 per person.  I am highlighting 3 in our area that I will be tasting this year.

From their website:
Restaurant critics, neighborhood regulars, and first-time visitors always agree about Prickly Pear: the atmosphere is great, the food is superb, and the service is outstanding. The restaurant offers a casual atmosphere that is perfect for dining with friends, co-workers, and family members. The creative menu features a wide array of great selections, always made from the highest quality ingredients. Be sure to ask your server about daily specials and other notable menu selections. The staff at Prickly Pear are friendly and professional and will ensure that your dining experience is a pleasant one. Please stop in soon!
First course (choice of one)
Entrée (choice of one)
Dessert Course

Restaurant Week Part 2 - Dressler's in Huntersville at Birkdale

The 10-day 'Queen's Feast' restaurant celebration is planned for July 16-25. Each participating restaurant will offer a three-course, prix fixe dinner menu for $30 per person.  I am highlighting 3 in our area that I will be tasting this year.

From their website:
Eat well, laugh often, live long . . . Dressler's is an upscale contemporary restaurant with patio dining, featuring a menu of steak, imaginative seafood, and creative appetizers paired with an extensive wine list and full service bar specializing in martinis, ports, and single malt scotches. Dressler's has a close-knit group of managers who have worked together for many years; the camaraderie and warmth are obvious from the moment you walk through the doors. An accommodating staff will ensure that your experience is memorable. The 130-seat, 5190-square-foot Dressler's is a people place located in that new urbanism, people-driven shopping outpost of Birkdale Village. The interior is subdued and relaxed, yet polished. Private party area for up to 45. Half-price bottled wine on Sundays (under $75).
Appetizer (choice of one)
Entrée (choice of one)
Dessert (choice of one)

Restaurant Week Part 1 - 131 Main in Cornelius

The 10-day 'Queen's Feast' restaurant celebration is planned for July 16-25. Each participating restaurant will offer a three-course, prix fixe dinner menu for $30 per person.  I am highlighting 3 in our area that I will be tasting this year.

From their website:
131 Main is an upscale casual dining restaurant serving updated American classics with an emphasis on fresh food. Its relaxed ambience, reasonably priced menu, and extensive award-winning wine list have made 131 Main the ideal place for a business lunch, a quiet evening out, drinks with friends, or dinner with the family. 131 Main has four locations - Cornelius (Lake Norman), Charlotte (Blakeney and Dilworth) and Asheville.
Appetizer (choice of one)
Salad (choice of one)
Entrée (choice of one)
Dessert (choice of one)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Quaker Steak and Lube - Fear is not a factor!

For anyone with cable, or a hankering for hot wings, The Atomic Wing Challenge has somehow entered your consciousness.  You might not want to do it, but you have heard stories or seen episodes with people getting lit up on national television.  If you recall - my recent visit to East Coast Wings was intended as a warm up for this challenge.  Turned out to be a burn up!  It was hot.  What to do, what to do???


Well, sure enough, I ended up in Concord on Saturday and the thought entered my mind again.  There must be something seriously wrong with me.  After long deliberation (yes - with myself) I decide it's just not the wise thing to do right now.  I had a spicy curry the night before, so that might have had a little to do with it too :)

The second hottest wing on the list is "Scorcher" rated at 30,000 scoville units.  That seems like a hot afternoon without going up to 150,000 for the Atomic.  I ordered them as the V-8 combo, so there were 3 soft pretzels on the side for $9.99.  A good bit of food for the money.  In a daring move, we asked for a little of the Triple Atomic sauce (their newer one) to see just how rough it may be.  A finger dab to the center of the tongue and you know there's some punch in that stuff.  Still not as hot as ECW, but 5 wings versus just 1.  It's still gonna be harder to handle 5 saucey wings after the burn begins.

The Scorchers arrive and eat number 1.  Hmmm.  30,000 really?  Feeling a wee bit disappointed.  Now is it that the Atomic sauce numbed me perhaps?  I don't know.  What I can assure you is that the next wing got a heavy dose of  the Atomic sauce from the sample cup.  Now that baby woke up.  Of course that made the rest of them even more lack-luster. 

We had a fun waitress and the service and prices were quite good.  It was not too busy either, so I am sure that worked to our advantage.

So I think in all I got it backwards.  The Quaker Steak and Lube Atomic Wing Challenge will be easy compared to ECW's Insanity Wing.  It's like ripping off the band aid and then getting the shot.

Quaker Steak & Lube on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 21, 2010

East Coast Wings + ECW Insanity Wing = PAIN (in a good way)

Okay, so the title may confuse some.  To put it simply, the Insanity Wing (yes wing, not wings!) is ludicrous hot.  So much so that they sell them in eaches rather than 6 or 10. 

Where else will $1.89 buy you a gastro-intestinal assault that ranks right up there with swallowing hot coals from your barbecue grill? 

The sane person believes only a fool will do this stunt.  The fool believes he (or she) can do it when they have people there to watch.  Someone in the middle brings the friends and eats ice cream to coat the stomach - which did not help.

So ECW has an expanse menu of various chicken items, as well as shrimp, burgers, wrap and salads.  I could definitely find plenty of good  things to eat if I weren't there for a stomach assault.  Our server knew the 75 flavor process very well and made good recommendations.  Picking above average heats (volcano and lava flow), we got off to a hot start.  We both knew this would not be even close to the Insanity wing, but had to start somewhere toward the top.  The wings are large, well prepared staying a little crunchy in all the sauce.  I got a salad and some homemade chips to start off.  Pretty much everyone got wings in a variety of heats and flavors.  No one was disappointed.    For the beer drinker, they have plenty of specials with big mugs and cheap prices. 

Now of course, the real reason for going, to "warm up" for the Quaker Steak Atomic Wing Challenge.  I figured we should try theirs before we go do the other.  I am reconsidering the Atomic after "the morning after."

The single flapper comes out buried in sauce.  It's brick red with several goodie bits in it.  We were told when it was on it's way, so the fear could start to mount.  Okay, no fear really, just planning for the immediate future.  Napkins, water, lemons, creamy dressings I held back from my salad on purpose, any un-finished beverage on the table was subject to the grasp of the gladiators. 

Flappers are meant to be peeled back a little and eaten in one swoop.  Did anyone ever tell you how bad your cuticles will burn from getting the sauce under your finger nails.  Wing chewed, down the hatch, lips on fire, now throat, oh my aching stomach.  Water water water, blue cheese, lemons, ranch, lemons, toast, ice, water, ice, water, SCREAM, more - oh no - no more water.  Tears, runny nose, red face - all the attributes of a strong warrior right?  If there's one thing I know... don't rub your eyes.  Ok, got it.  But blow your nose with the napkin and get wing sauce on it???  Face and eyes are a subject - holy ouch.  My right eye is melting. 

Bathroom - wash face and hands (NOT in that order) multiple times.  Now, go sit, burn, try to act cool.  The ill effects are burning for a little over 30 minutes, but really drop off quickly.  The lips took it the worst.  The next day was stomach.  Tums, water and a lot of groaning at work. 

If you have heard horror stories about people trying this - they are probably true.  If you want great wings, this is certainly the place.  Almost every price on the menu was better than the competition EXCEPT the wings.  They are bigger than most, so you pay a little more than most.  The 75 flavors cost 99 cents to add per order (up to 25 wings).  That is the only drawback.  They run specials almost every day, so check the website and plan according to your tastes.  Monday is wing night, so have a blast.  And remember YOU WERE WARNED!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Zaxby's in Mooresville CLOSED ?!?!

Doors locked, caution tape and cones block the driveway, all things that don't look good for this Zaxby's.  The franchise is owned by the same folks that own the one in Hickory.  Hickory was closed in recent history as well - but now back open.  I am told it was tax-related concern.  The Mooresville closing is still a mystery for now.  No message or recording when you call.  We are just left to guess until the rumor mill gets up to speed I guess.  Add the fact that the KFC just across on 150 is gone, and chicken choices for that part of Mooresville belong to Bojangles.  Ughhh.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Are you feeling HOT HOT HOT - wings???

I have had the Quaker Steak and Lube Atomic Wing Challenge on my to do list for months.  Life, work and the day of rest needed afterwards have all been hard to schedule.  When it finally looked right, the race was in Concord - whoa Nelly.  Not going in that traffic mess just to burn my innards. 

Well, in a casual conversation from a pair in the food industry, I was told that East Coast Wings in Statesville has some worthy wings for a challenge.  It is possible that they are even hotter?  The reason I blog this in advance of going is to get some feedback...  Any one try them? 

I have been to ECW once and they have a great meaty wing.  It was at lunch, so I kept it middle of the road.  I am now wishing that I read the menu better.  I look forward to the next visit and hope you all can share some stories with me.

Thanks

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Marinated Flank Steak Sandwiches

This ginger-soy marinated flank steak can be grilled and enjoyed on its own or turned into this Asian-inspired sandwich by surrounding it with crunchy toasts, sweet and spicy mayo and a generous handful of peppery, fresh watercress.

Marinate the steak in the morning for a quick and delicious supper from the grill.

Recipe courtesy of Jim Romanoff
Associated Press
Ginger-Soy Marinated Flank Steak Sandwiches

Marinade:
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons chile-garlic sauce, or more to taste
4 green onions, ends trimmed and thinly sliced
1 1/4 pounds flank steak

Sandwich spread:
1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons chile-garlic sauce

Sandwiches:
8 (3/4-inch-thick) slices crusty country-style bread
1 tablespoon extra-virgin oil
3 cups loosely packed watercress or arugula

WHISK together the vinegar, brown sugar and soy sauce in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the oil, ginger, chile-garlic sauce and green onions.

PLACE the steak in a shallow glass dish. Add the marinade and turn to coat the meat well. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours, turning once.

HEAT a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal fire. Stir together the mayonnaise, honey and chile-garlic sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Brush both sides of the bread lightly with olive oil.

GRILL the steak until the underside is well browned, about 5 minutes. Turn the steak over and grill about 4 minutes longer for medium-rare. While the steak is grilling, place the bread slices around it to toast, about 1 minute per side.

LET the steak stand 5 minutes, then cut it across the grain into thin slices. Spread a thin layer of chile-garlic mayonnaise on each bread slice. Arrange the steak over 4 of the slices. Top with watercress or arugula and the remaining bread.

Yield:
4 servings.

PER SERVING: 520 calories; 47g carbohydrate; 37g protein; 19g fat (174 calories from fat; 6g saturated); 58mg cholesterol; 2g fiber; 780mg sodium.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Great snack for the chip lover

So we all know that snacks in moderation are okay.  I have struggled to switch over to baked chips because they mostly taste like cardboard.  Regular chips are too greasy, and the light chips made with Olean don't agree with most peoples' digestive systems.  What to do, what to do?

On a rare (and I mean RARE) trip to a Walmart, I saw these bags by the hot bar/deli called Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps.  There are bagel crisps out there that are tasty, but pretzel - this could be even better.  I grabbed Garlic, Everything (like an everything bagel) and Buffalo. 

The buffalo are my least favorite strictly due to the sprayed on nature of the flavoring.  It's like Cheeto spray on them.  It's just not normal on this type of crisp.  The Everything have the tasty stuff baked on, and that makes all the difference.  The Garlic are pretty much what's expected.  There are several other flavors available, based on the company's website, but these were the only 3 at Wally World. 

Each crisp is a little more dense than a chip, but not nearly like a regular pretzel.  More like a tortilla chip in density.  They are very crunchy, just lightly salted, and would do well with a dip or hummus.  The best part is the lack of negative impact on the daily nutrition.  Nearly no fat or sugar, sodium varies by flavor, and only 10 calories per crisp - serving size is 11 crisps at 110 calories.  Unlike a serving of chips at 150+ calories and still wanting more, 11 of these is about right and better for you.

If you try them, let me know what you think - especially if you get a different flavor.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Weekend fun with an Accordian

John Candy made the word Polka popular again in the movie Home Alone.  The Pittsburgh Steelers have several songs about them set to Polka.  Now, Polka comes back to Troutman.  Yes, Troutman North Carolina.  You can check on the events at the Daveste website http://www.daveste.com/ or read along below.  I have pasted a summary below.   I may not know the dance, but I can eat bratwurst like champ.


Chardon Polka Band Event


June 6, 2:00 - 5:00PM

Back by popular demand! From Cleveland, Ohio!
www.chardonpolkaband.com
FREE ADMISSION - RAIN OR SHINE

Front Door Concessions will be selling delicious bratwurst and hot dogs (Cash)
Bring lawn chairs or blankets


Friday, May 28, 2010

Troutman gets another Winner! Kyjos Japanese Thai Sushi

Listen up - Oishii is gone.  When you pull up at Kyjos, you can tell immediately that you have found a completely different place.  I was very pleased to see a nice decor, art on the wall, nice tables and chairs.  It was not a poor attempt at fast food done Asian, but a true restaurant that features Asian food.

Now, thanks to a grocery receipt advertising at Food Lion, we were buying 2 sushi rolls and getting 1 free.  We all like free, right?  Well sure enough, we would have been happy to pay for all 3 - it was good.  Enough of that - lets get to the real review part.

The owner is named Jen.  She happened to be cooking tonight.  We did not meet her, but we were greeted by her daughter as she opened the door for us upon arrival.  I would guess her to be 6 or 7.  It was a great way to be met at the door.  We picked a table and were greeted right away.  The young man took our drink order and had our server come over promptly.  He was doing deliveries (love that idea), and our server was Dara.  She was very conversational and was a treat as a server.

We ordered some basics for sushi.  I figured if they aren't good, why go the extra bucks for the specialty stuff and be even more disappointed.  Well, next time, it's specialties.  We ordered a Cali roll, spicy tuna and a Philly Roll.  All were exactly as we expected.  They even used the regular and black sesame seeds on the outside of the spicy tuna.  All of the sushi was very well prepared.

The menu is wide open.  It took a few minutes to see what we wanted.  I like choices, I just didn't expect so many.  No worries.  We will get to several I imagine.  Initially, we expected to order the 3 rolls and one entree to split.  Instead, that express dinner menu had great choices for $5-$8.  Where else can you imagine getting chicken, steak, shrimp or scallops dinners for less than $12.  Well, at Kyjos you can.  They offer different veggies (for the non-broccoli person in my house), white or fried rice, or even garlic noodles.  The treat were certainly the garlic noodles.  You could tell we were close the bottom of the pan, as the garlic was a little heavy.  I liked it, my wife was a little surprised.  I am safe from the vampires for another day - yeah! 

We have another conversation with our server and find out the name Kyjos comes from Jen's children's names.  We met Jo Jo as the door, and the Ky comes from her son's name.  It's a nice personal touch to the place.  Troutman is a small town, and family is a big part of it.  This fits right in.

The bill comes - every one's least favorite part.  From previous reviews, you know how annoyed I can get at high priced fountain drinks/tea.  Sure enough, just $1.50.  Way to go Jen.  I would have been very upset to find $2.50 sodas slipped in to our well priced, well prepared meal.

Here's the cool part.  They gave us our coupon back.  I am sure they will do well once everyone realizes that they have nothing to do with what was in that space previously.  The stove may have stayed (maybe), but that is it.  The staff, food, everything is new and wonderful.  I PROMISE we will be back often.

Kyjos Japanese-Thai-Susi Bar on Urbanspoon