Friday, February 26, 2010

Hardees - What the rest of America is missing!

I have to say that I am someone that really avoids fast food typically. The go-go-go faster days seem to force the issue at times. Sure enough, Hardees was just in the right place at the right time. Maybe it was the commercial showing a fireman getting lit up by this burger - then pounding his Coke, his buddies Coke, and looking for another. Can you say CHALLENGE??? What man would not jump on this one?

Well, I tried it in the chicken version. I figured less calories, fat, etc... and it was good. It was not wow, but it was good. The $3.99 price tag for just the sandwich was just too much. I scoped out the price of the burger - just $2.29. Now that is appealing. They serve Coke Zero, so that makes it better. The chicken came in a little wrapper, the burger - a mammoth box the likings of a specialty sandwich at McDonalds.

Presentation is the first taste with anything. I get a big bag, in the big bag, a big box and several napkins. Inside the box, the wrap the sandwich like a deli - with one end out. Leaf lettuce, red onion, tomato and cheese all sitting nicely on the burger. You can see the jalapenos and a little sauce underneath. It actually looks as close to the commercial as I think I have ever seen. It was worth the $2.29 even before the first bite. Ah, the first bite... YUM. This thing is really really tasty.

You can tell they salt the meat a little (just like the others), and that helps the beef flavor come through all of the condiments. The jalapenos are a mild to medium, depending on your taste. To me, it was more like a pickled pepper rather than a hot pepper. It did not interfere in the taste at all. I love pickles, so pickles with heat is a huge plus. There were plenty on there for me to enjoy too :)

So, it's not some new restaurant rave review. It's a great burger at a great price at a surprising place. It's worth mentioning.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Treasure Hunt Lunch - The Untold Story of the Chicken Taco Salad

Think back to the last time you (or a co-worker) got a Chicken Taco Salad at a mexican restaurant. Did you ever really SEE the chicken? Unless it was at a Salsarita's or Qdoba, I am betting that you didn't. For whatever reason, they seem to put it on the bottom. That's right... under the lettuce.

I have two ideas (three if you count treasure hunt). The first is they don't want to wilt the lettuce. It's fluffier on top when it's not wilted from warm chicken, right? The second is they don't want you to see it. It's too little, it's over-cooked, it's scrap pieces of dark meat. You get the idea.

Well, I fell victim to the hunt yesterday. We had a few people missing from work so we ordered take out from El Tapatio Mexican in Hickory. Big glob of guacamole on top, big glob of sour cream next to it, a tomato slice (are we making sandwiches???) and then just lettuce. The little bit of cheese was hidden on top of the chicken, mozzarella I think. I did not know that was a mexican thing.

Somehow I get the idea that if this is not authentic, then the restaurants are just all in cahoots on some master plan to ruin this salad for us. Monterrey does it, so does Cozumel. Is there some crazy cooking school teaching the Mexican Upside Down salad? I will stick to pineapples and cake for anything upside down.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I feel like Chicken Tonight, like Chicken Tonight !!!

Okay, so I am making pork. I just had that old jingle in my head. Do you remember the Ragu brand "chicken made easy" sauces? It was appropriately named Chicken Tonight. Grown adults would flap they arms like chicken wings on TV commercials.

Well hey, they don't sell it in the US anymore (whew). However, they still sell it in Europe and Australia. Isn't Australia the home of Vegemite? "...a vegemite sandwich" Try and get that song out of your head.

Funny thing is, it's doing well there. They have Beef Tonight and Sausages Tonight. Did I mention I am making pork :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Camille's in Mooresville, here we SLOW again

So loving the certificates from has brought me back to Camille's Sidewalk Cafe in Mooresville. I have blogged on how cheap it is to eat there with the coupon. The fact that it was closed and abandoned for a while still lingers though.

Sure enough, Saturday it lived up to it's old impression. First off - yes, we had snow on Friday night. Yes, some roads were a little ugly in the morning. By 10am, it was smooth sailing almost everywhere. Shoot, Golden Corral was open on time and it was nasty driving when they arrived at 5am to get ready for opening.

So Saturday lunch at 11:30am had to wait. Doors locked, lights off, someone moving in the kitchen. When you go to the door, no sign with any info as to why they are not open like every other store in the strip. I call the number and get a guys answering "Hello." Where's the greeting or restaurant name? I ask about their opening and get the snow excuse and they hope to be open in 30 minutes or so.

After spending what feels like ions in the restaurant world; I am left with just one thought: Poor/missing management. I was the first guy on the scene when there was bad weather. How do you ask your workers to drive in it if you are not willing to drive in it? How do you make sure someone is opening if you are not there to see that they are opening it? It just doesn't make sense to leave it to chance, does it?

Well we have one or two more of the coupons and I will use them at some point when I just want cheap. I certainly will wait for a sunny day, about 70 degrees, not a cloud in the sky and no pollen in the air. Maybe then everyone will show up for work and make my food. Oh wait, if it's too nice, they will be on the lake or golfing. I guess I am just out of luck.

Camille's Sidewalk Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Restaurant coming to Davidson

Flatiron Kitchen & Tap House coming to Stowe’s Corner
By David Boraks

Tim Goody, Chad Hollingsworth and Mike LaVecchia plan to open Flatiron Kitchen & Tap House in the Stowe's Corner building in Davidson.

One of Charlotte’s top chefs and two business partners on Wednesday announced plans for a restaurant in the new Stowe’s Corner building downtown, to be called The Flatiron Kitchen & Tap House.

Tim Groody, the former executive chef at Sonoma and chef/owner of Pie Town, is joining forces with food industry veterans Michael LaVecchia and Chad Hollingsworth to develop the new eatery, which they say could be open by summer.

The restaurant will occupy the ground floor of the $4.5 million, 21,000-square-foot Stowe building, which replaced a gas station and has altered the streetscape at South and South Main streets downtown. The partners say they hope it will become “a neighborhood spot” the town and residents can be proud of.

The only question now is how The Flatiron Kitchen & Tap House will alter the local dining scene.


Groody describes himself as a champion of the “Farm to Fork” movement and a fan of local foods and farmer’s markets. He said he’s excited to be in Davidson, with the Davidson Farmers Market nearby and residents who share his passion for local ingredients. He promises a menu of creative, locally-focused dishes.

“It’s just going to be real simple, comfort food, on maybe a more creative level,” Groody said. He’s already planning a signature dish: a Wagyu Flatiron steak. And the restaurant also will serve fresh seafood.

“We want people to feel comfortable about what they can order, and we’re just going to get the best product, whether it be local, or whether it be Michael’s ability to find the best cuts of meat,” Groody said.

Groody came to Charlotte in 1997 after working at restaurants in New York, Napa Valley and Raleigh. He also can be seen regularly on WBTV in Charlotte.

LaVecchia is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte and a longtime business partner of Mr. Hollingsworth. Over the past decade they have built the successful Charlotte-based wholesaler

LaVecchia said it’s a good time to make a move. “Our company’s strong and mature and we’ve got a great management team in place,” he said. “This was a good time for us to kind of get out and cut our teeth and get back into the restaurant thing.”


Designing the new space will be Wagner Murray Architects. The Charlotte firm has designed a string of winners on Charlotte’s restaurant scene, from LaVecchia’s Seafood Grille downtown to Upstream at Phillips Place to Harper’s at Southpark. The firm, headed by David Wagner, also designed the Carolina Panthers’ football stadium.

“Whether he (Wagner) is the common element or not, he’s been able to deliver spaces in Charlotte that have produced,” Hollingsworth said. “So we’re really fortunate to have him on board. We’re tapping into his expertise, both from a design element, but also from delivering a package that makes sense for the market that we have up here.”

The market – Davidson – is one that has grown more slowly and been planned more deliberately than the towns around it over the past two decades. It has retained its small-town feeling and sense of community.

Said Groody: “It’s an ideal location for what I do with food. I’m really into farmers’ markets, and just that small community kind of feeling. … and having (Davidson Farmers Market) right there is great.”

The 2-year-old Davidson Farmers Market meets weekly from May to October in an area off Main Street, next to Town Hall, just a hundred yards from where the Flatiron Kitchen & Taphouse will be. It also hosts a twice-monthly winter tailgate market as well and has helped promote local food in the region.


Speaking of Taphouse: That’s another element in the partners’ concept. Hollingsworth said the The Flatiron plans to keep 24 beers on tap. They’ll also have bottled beers, for a total of 40 to 60 varieties, as well as wines, a full bar and signature cocktails.

“We want it to be a gathering place, we want it to be a place where people can feel comfortable to come and sit with their family and friends and really be part of the community,” Hollingsworth said.

“You will get a very warm reception in Davidson, I assure you,” Mayor John Woods told him and his partners during an informal gathering at the building this week. “This location has all the potential to be the greatest restaurant location.”


This week’s announcement of the new restaurant answers a question that has lingered since as far back as 2007, when developer David Stewart first unveiled his plans for the former Stowe’s Exxon site: What might occupy the ground-floor restaurant space.

Davidson resident Michael Orlando and other local investors bought the space from Stewart and have been shopping it around for nearly two years. In this economy, and amid concerns about parking, it hasn’t been an easy sell. The Stowe building’s second floor is leased to Baybridge Management, a health care management company, and Cocoon Salon. Stewart is still seeking a buyer for the third floor.

Groody, LaVecchia and Hollingsworth worked out a lease with the investors that will allow construction to begin as early as March. That could lead to an opening as early as June, Lavecchia said.

Davidson Downtown Director Sandy Lemons, who helped court Lavecchia and his partners for more than a year, said, “This is a really big day for Davidson.”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Football Food Part 3 BBQ Potato Skins

Grilled BBQ Potato Skins

Prep Time:
10 min

Inactive Prep Time:
10 min

Cook Time:
1 hr 30 min

3 servings


* 3 russet potatoes, scrubbed
* 4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
* 2 tablespoons butter, melted
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 3/4 cup Cheddar
* 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, warm
* 1/2 pound pulled pork
* Sour cream, for topping
* 2 tablespoons snipped chives, for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake potatoes on middle rack until fork tender, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let sit until cool enough to handle.

Bake 4 strips of bacon on a small sheet pan in the oven for 15 minutes. Crumble bacon when it's cooled.

Preheat grill to medium heat.

Cut potatoes in half, lengthwise, and spoon out the flesh, leaving a half inch shell.

Melt the butter in saucepan and add minced garlic. Brush potatoes with the butter and garlic mixture. Flip over and butter the bottoms.

Place potatoes on grill and cook until crisp, about 4 to 4 1/2 minutes on each side and remove from grill.

Divide the cheese, barbecue sauce and pulled pork among the potatoes. Top potato skins with sour cream, crumbled bacon and chives for garnish.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Groucho's Almost Open

Officially, I am told Feb 1. Here's a clip from the Observer this morning:

Groucho's Deli will soon open its 20th Carolinas location at Broad and Center streets in downtown Statesville.

Harold "Groucho" Miller opened the first Groucho's in Columbia in 1941 with original recipes for potato salad, coleslaw and salad and sandwich dressings. He developed most of them as a child in a Philadelphia orphanage.

The closest Groucho's to the Lake Norman area is at 248 Union Square Commons in Hickory.

View its menu at