I think it’s safe to say I dine at restaurants more often than the average eater, that is to say A LOT. I impose mandatory splitsies on my dining companions, which means everyone gets to try everyone’s food, so it’s normal for me to sample several plates during a single meal. This is good for obvious reasons (though my pants may disagree), but trying lots of different things means you’ll inevitably end up with a dish or two that just don’t strike your fancy–something you wouldn’t order again or that you wouldn’t recommend to a friend. Every once in a while, I’ll find myself eating an AMAZING appetizer, and feel my apprehension grow as I worry the remainder of the meal won’t live up to the starter.
This is precisely how I felt when I dined at Flatiron Kitchen & Taphouse for the first time. I started with a glass of Malbec and their fried green Napoleon: salty fried green tomatoes, sautéed spinach, sweet bits of corn, and bacon atop a dollop of warm, creamy goat cheese (a hearty serving for a mere $8).
Stretching my luck, I ordered another appetizer, the PEI mussels with green curry, coconut milk, citrus, cilantro, grilled baguette ($12). Two fantastic starters (not to mention well-priced, substantial servings) that I’d happily order again. And honestly it’s hard to make that statement because there are several other items on the appetizer list I’d like to try (including the crab beignets, baked goat cheese, and warm Brussels sprout salad, with bacon lardons, dried cranberries, toasted almonds, and champagne vinaigrette!).
For our first entrée, we split the seared diver scallops: four good-sized scallops served with risotto-style sweet potatoes, warm heirloom tomato, and orange beurre blanc over arugula ($29). The risotto-style sweet potatoes were unlike anything I’d ever had before–I actually had to double check the menu to be certain the sweet, creamy cubes weren’t some sort of foreign-shaped grain. Delicious.
Given the restaurant’s name, I felt obliged to order some beef. Flatiron solely serves Wagyu beef, a highly rated domestically raised Japanese breed of cattle. The beef entrees range in price from the $15 Wagyu burger (hickory grilled with white cheddar and onions) to the $33 Wagyu flat iron (the most tender, buttery steak I’ve had in Charlotte, served with Brussels sprouts and roasted garlic whipped potatoes). There’s also a tenderloin, ribeye, and puff-pastry-wrapped Wagyu meatloaf.
Other than beef, Flatiron’s dinner menu features a garlic herb chicken, cast iron duck with pomegranate reduction, veal cutlet, shrimp & grits, housemade pastas, Scottish salmon, and hickory-grilled NC mountain trout. Every dessert is made in house, including the special cheesecake bread pudding I enjoyed on my visit. The bar features craft brews, including at least six local NC beers at all times, over forty different wines including twenty-six(!) by the glass, and handcrafted cocktails.Read More
Happy Whole Grain Sampling Day! Yes, it’s that time of year again (the first Wednesday in April) when we all take a moment to appreciate the chewy, nutty, heart-healthy deliciousness that is the whole grain.
Over the years, I’ve struggled with blood sugar issues (mostly low sugar crashes) and through trial and error, I’ve found my body functions at its best with balanced meals, meaning protein, fat, AND carbohydrates. My carboholism is well documented, but even I can admit not all carbs are created equal. That’s where whole grains, those slow-digesting, complex-carbohydrates, come into play.
Wondering what the heck a whole grain is? Check out my post from last year’s Whole Grain Sampling Day: “So, what’s a whole grain anyway?”
Incorporating whole grains into your diet is easy. I like to cook a big batch of steel-cut oats on Sunday, and dish it out into single-serve portions for whole-grain grab-and-go breakfasts throughout the week. Another quick option is tossing cooked grains on top of your lunch-time salad (quinoa is my salad-topping grain of choice).
There are several ways to enter! Check out the rafflecopter below! The giveaway ends at midnight on April 4, 2014. The winner will be notified via email.
Disclosure: I received a selection of whole grain products to sample but was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.Read More
So, kale. It gets lots of buzz in the health food world, and it should. It’s loaded with calcium, vitamins A, C, and K, anti-cancer carotenoids and flavonoids, and it’s been shown to help lower cholesterol. But, uh, it’s kale, and people aren’t always sure what the heck to do with it. The good news is the options are vast: make a salad with a warm vinaigrette, add a bagful to soup or stew, wilt it down with garlic and serve it as a side , throw it in your frittata or fruit smoothie (seriously!), add it to pasta, or make a kale and caramelized onion grilled cheese, if you please.
A few weeks back, I got an email asking me to make my 2014 the year to KALE UP. I’m down for healthy food challenges, so I checked out the KALE UP site, to see what this campaign was all about. Their first blog post introduces kale as your “new friend with benefits” and explains the year to “kale up” means finding easy ways to get kale in your daily life.
I suggest we all start with these 120 calorie savory cheddar-kale scones–they’re a tasty way to score some kale points for the day.Read More
Invite me to brunch, and you’ll get a look. When I ask you “what time” with furrowed eyebrows, it’s because I’m trying to determine whether you’re inviting me to have 10am brunch (AKA breakfast) or 12pm brunch (AKAlunch). I don’t do brunch. I love breakfast and I love lunch. Why consolidate the eating joy into one meal?
Enter Elwoods Barbecue & Burger Bar‘s new brunch menu. Needless to say, I ate my words. Brunch vendetta be gone. How could I say no knowing their juicy brisket makes an appearance in several of the menu items? Exactly. You can get straight-up brisket and eggs if you’d like, but if we’re doing brunch, might as well get a little fancy and go with my top pick: the brisket BBQ Benedict with poached eggs and grilled tomatoes nestled on English muffin halves and topped with their signature red sauce. It made a brunch believer out of me.
If you’re not in the mood for BBQ (blasphemy!), their take on chicken and waffles, with buttermilk fried chicken tenders, a homestyle waffle, and honey maple syrup is a solid choice. They’ve also got French toast make with thick-cut Texas toast, and you can even get it stuffed with peanut butter and banana or strawberry and cream cheese.
For you do-it-yourselfers, there’s a build-your-own breakfast sandwich, with your choice of bacon, sausage, pulled pork, or pulled chicken, plus an egg, choice of cheese, and bread, PLUS a self-serve Bloody Mary bar. Homemade, house-made, made-from-scratch–you can use these terms to describe practically everything on the menu, including the breakfast sausage. I snarfed down my whole side of their hashbrowns–they’re the chunky, chopped potato kind (not the shoestring kind, thank god), and they serve ‘em up extra crispy.
Did I mention $10 bottomless mimosas? Who wants to meet me for brunch this weekend?Read More
I’ve never been to Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville. I’ve heard about it, walked by it, and stalked the menu, but I’ve never been in its doors or dined at its tables. People RAVE about the place. It’s where everyone who visits Asheville wants to go. I’ve even heard it said that Tupelo Honey Cafe is Asheville, meaning Appalachian, southern, and a smidge hippy (at least from this Yankee outsider’s perspective).
Tupelo Honey opened back in 2000, and over the past few years they’ve expanded to become a seven-store regional restaurant empire, the newest location of which is in Charlotte. Tupelo’s Charlotte location opened in the space previously occupied by Pewter Rose Bistro, which closed last year. Pewter Rose had great ambiance; it was romantic and cozy with the low-strung lights, origami birds, and hanging plants–it felt like a grownup tree house. Tupelo’s renovations on the space retained much of the building’s character — high ceilings, brick walls, and wood detailing everywhere. They reconfigured the seating layout, allowing for many more tables and a large bar area, but at the sacrifice of Pewter Rose’s romance factor.
Tupelo’s focus on local sourcing was a cornerstone of their success in Asheville. Even with the restaurant’s recent expansion, they’re sourcing goods regionally (via a company that aggregates foods from farms in each restaurant’s region), and using those local products to shed new light on many old-time, comfort classics. There are grits made with goat cheese, ribeye served with bordelaise (a French wine sauce), and crab cakes with lemon cherry pepper aioli. At Tupelo Honey Cafe, every meal starts with a complimentary basket of their famous biscuits, served hot with a side of blueberry preserves and honey (surprisingly, I preferred the honey).Read More
It is with great remorse that I recall how late bolognese entered my life. Yes, there was a time when “bolognese” just sounded too fancy, too French, for my liking. But if there’s one way to get me to eat something, it’s slipping it into lasagna, right there between the layers of pasta and creamy cheese. And for this very thing, I say THANK YOU to Papa Joe’s (one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Akron, Ohio) for their bechamel lasagna with bolognese. It was love at first bite, as they say.
For the record, bolognese is not French. It is, in fact, a hearty Italian meat sauce. I’ve come so far.
I succumbed to eating bolognese without much arm twisting, but I didn’t attempt to cook the sauce myself until I sat in on a cooking class with my friend Keia (her blog: Ink and Fork) at Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen at the Atherton Market this fall.
Here’s the deal. This sauce takes time. The more time you put into the sauce, letting it gently simmer on the stove, the richer the flavors will be. The good news is the sauce gives you an excuse to open a nice bottle of red wine (as if you needed an excuse…), and you, lovely chef, can enjoy the remainder of that bottle while the sauce slowly cooks down. It’s precisely the sort of relaxing kitchen moment I crave.
This sauces freezes well, and even if you double the recipe, you’ll still have plenty of wine to drink, so go for it, friend. For my bolognese, I like a medium to full-bodied dry red wine, like the Alamos Malbec I used in this batch. Whatever varietal you choose, make sure to pick a wine you’d actually enjoy drinking. Which is exactly what I did with the rest of my Malbec… This one is going into my regular rotation!
Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen — Healthy & Sustainable cooking classes
If you’re looking for a fun date night or girls night out, check out Chef Alyssa’s cooking classes. Chef Alyssa does an awesome job of breaking down intimidating recipes into easy, step-by-step chunks. Keia and I had a great time in the class, and this bolognese recipe is one I’ll be making for years to come. Check out the class schedule here.
Heat oil in a heavy pot over (or large saute pan) medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots and saute until soft, about 8-10 minutes.
Add beef and pancetta (or bacon); saute, breaking up the meat with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add wine and balsamic and boil for 2 minutes, stirring often and scraping up browned bits.
Add the stock and tomato paste. Reduce heat to very low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper.
Finish sauce by adding the milk, then bring to a simmer until absorbed, about 20 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a large saute pan.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute before al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cupful of the pasta water, and add the pasta to the bolognese sauce. Turn heat to medium-high, toss to coat. If the sauce is too thick, add a few splashes of the pasta water to loosen it up. Top with parmesan and parsley before serving.Read More
Looking back over the past two posts, I’m just baffled by how much food and fun I crammed into my short weekend in Greenville! Nichole of Gap Creek Gourmet sure knows how to show a gal a good time! I’ve got one last post to share with y’all, and it’s food-filled doozy.
Nearly every Tuesday night and Saturday afternoon, John Nolan, owner of Greenville History Tours, leads a group of food lovers around downtown Greenville to check out some of the area’s most popular restaurants. He has two food tours–the At the Chef’s Table Tour and the Tastes of the South Tour–both of which cost $45 and last for 2.5 to 3 hours. During my visit, I went on the Chef’s Table Tour, a unique, behind-the-scenes, VIP excursion on which we sampled signature dishes at five area restaurants AND met each of the chefs behind the food. Five amazing dishes, five alcoholic beverages, time with the chefs, plus tidbits of Greenville history and architectural facts make this tour an awesome value. If you’re looking for things to do in Greenville, I can’t think of a better way to spend the day than on this Greenville food tour!
Each of the stops on John’s Chef Table tour are part of the Table 301 restaurant empire, and our first destination was Soby’s on the Side. Soby’s on the Side is located right next to Soby’s (more on that restaurant below). It’s a breakfast and lunch joint (with breakfast offered all day and brunch on the weekends), and they also handle all of the catering for the Table 301 group.
Our tasting plate featured their interesting take on steak and eggs: filet mignon, orange marmalade, sorghum syrup, egg yolk, and green onion, with a mimosa on the side.
After our breakfast tasting, we headed over to Nose Dive, a gastropub that serves lunch, dinner, and brunch on the weekends. At Nose Dive, they take the term “gastropub” seriously–they’re striving for food forwardness, to be more than just a bar. They’ve got some traditional pub food on the menu (burgers, fish and chips, and tater tots, to name a few), but the menu also feature unexpected dishes like pekin duck, potato gnocchi, and steamed mussels, plus a dark chocolate candied bacon brownie. Yes, please.
While we sampled a dish of hearty pot roast with creamy Anson Mills grits, sweet heirloom carrots, and blistered tomato (and a beer), Chef Craig Kunhs talked about his home gardening practices, and how he feels it helps him to better understand the products he buys from local farmers to use in the restaurant.Read More