THE ROUND BISTRO. I don’t make it out to Gastonia very often (once a year, give or take), but I made a special trip last month to check out Chef Jack Acheson’s restaurant, The Round Bistro, and celebrate the restaurant’s two year anniversary with a wine dinner. Within minutes of speaking with Chef Jack, one thing becomes blatantly apparent: his strong passion for the history and diversity of American food. That’s what fueled him to chose American cuisine as his concept for the Round Bistro, and each month, Chef Jack develops a new regional menu that features indigenous ingredients of a specific U.S. region. Last month’s region was the Pacific Northwest, and for September, he’s taking a fun turn and featuring famous football stadium foods. Ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible, and Chef incorporates what’s in season into his regional menu planning.
The menu at the The Round Bistro is large, and spans the gamut from fondue-of-the-day to potato-crusted crab fritters, muffaleta to “Pittsburgers”, plus several salads, She Crab soup, shrimp and grits, and fresh salmon FIVE ways (including baked parmesan crusted, olive oil poached, cedar plank roasted, and blackened). In short, if you want it, they’ve got it, brunch included.
Every third Thursday of the month, The Round Bistro hosts a wine dinner. Chef Jack works closely with a sommelier to select regional wine pairings for each of the six courses, and he uses these dinners as an opportunity to showcase his culinary creativity. The menu for the wine dinner I attended included a cold peach soup with mint and cantaloupe, bay scallop over cactus and smoked gouda salad tossed in a green apple vinaigrette, cedar roasted salmon over basil tomato risotto, wine poached heritage chicken over rosemary polenta, pappardelle pasta with lamb ragu, and chocolate and raspberry mousse parfait, plus wine pairings for each course. All for just $65 per person.
FAHRENHEIT is one of Charlotte’s hottest (no pun intended) new restaurants. Chef Rocco Whalen started the concept in Cleveland in 2002, and opened the second location in Charlotte earlier this year.
First off, SCALLOPS. WOW. Scallops are my go-to entree, and Fahrenheit’s are the best I’ve had in town, no exaggeration here. They are served with a cauliflower purée, arugula, and pomegranate seeds, and they are PERFECT. PERFECTTTTTT. Every time. Even during restaurant week, when perfection is practically unheard of. I also highly recommend the fried goat cheese salad with dried cherry tapenade, pistachio brittle, and “local pig vinaigrette.”
I recently hosted a happy hour at Fahrenheit. (As the resident foodie of my department at work, I’m on the social committee and am in charge of selecting locations for our happy hours. Fahrenheit was a no-brainer because the bar area is large and the outdoor balcony area offers a fantastic view of the city.) So at said happy hour, I tried nearly all of the small plates on the menu. Not complaining. The bacon-wrapped chorizo-stuffed dates with tomato aioli are OUTRAGEOUS. Even the picky eaters liked them. The lobster and sausage biscuit is very comforting and flavorful, but I’d pass on the lobster rolls next time (surprisingly boring). The group also loved the charlotte nachos (potato chips, pimento cheese fondue, green onions, and bacon—what’s not to love?).
STAGIONI – FOUR SEASONS OF FOOD opened early in 2014 by the Moffett Group, the same team that owns my beloved Good Food on Montford. The restaurant is located in the historic Reynolds-Gourmajenko House (the one that looks like a villa) on Providence Road. It’s a little tricky to locate your first time through, but they do have ample parking available behind the building — off of Fenton Place. Whether sitting at the bar or in the small dining area that overlooks an especially open kitchen, the restaurant has a great feel. Low lit, lots of energy, and its almost always packed. Sure, it can get a little loud, but I think that adds to the overall energy of the place.
The menu at Stagioni (pronounced Sta-jo-nee, means “seasons” in Italian) features classic Italian dishes and is divided between snacks (pizza and nibbly bits) and entrees, all of which change seasonally. The snacks are where it’s at, y’all. First, there’s the pizza. Pancetta and Brussels Sprout, clam and bacon, sausage and peppers… All awesome. The pizza (which you cut with large scissors) and a couple glasses of wine make for a stellar meal alone, but I also love their housemade ricotta and stuffed peppadews, and if mussels or octopus are on the menu — get them.
As for entrees, well, I’m a little less excited. I’ve tried several pasta dishes (including the shrimp with saffron and the frutti di mare), and while the housemade noodles were great, I found the overall flavor of the dishes underwhelming. Every time I venture to the entrée side of the menu, I find myself wishing I’d went with the pizza and small plates. Yet, I keep going back. The small plates are THAT good. I should note I haven’t sampled any entrees off their most recent seasonal menu, so I’m hoping to stop in soon and give them a taste. I should also not they’ve got prosecco on tap and a delicious pear skillet cake with avocado ice cream (when pears are in season, that is).