America’s Barbecue Battle: An Eater’s Guide

Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.

Make no bones about it: Americans are passionate about their barbecue. Much like grandma’s potato salad and dad’s lasagna, regional barbecue triggers feelings of nostalgia and deep-rooted hometown pride. The word barbecue here is used as a noun, not a verb. It’s not a casual backyard get-together or hot dogs and hamburgers grilled in the driveway over a propane flame. Barbecue in this context is meat cooked low and slow, usually over wood chips, in hand-built smokers and converted oil drums, till it’s fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth tender.

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Dining with dad: how to get your pops to chat

Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog. 

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The thought of partaking in a lengthy conversation is enough to make most dads grimace. It doesn’t mean dads don’t care; talking just doesn’t come as naturally to them as, say, changing your car’s oil or scaring the crap out of your new boyfriend. Deep down, dads are softies when it comes to their kids, despite the stone faces and frequent radio silence.

This Father’s Day, find your dad’s inner Chatty Charles with one of these one-size-fits-most conversation topics.

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Speaking of dads, if you’re looking for a sweet treat for Father’s Day I have the perfect gift idea. I recently sampled a box of sweets from Heidi’s Heavenly Cookies. These are hands-down the best cookies I’ve ever received in the mail, and honestly better than most I’ve had fresh from bakeries. Don’t get me wrong–I’m an avid cookie consumer, but few get an audible “WOW” on the first bite like Heidi’s do. The cookies are preservative-free, and you can store them in the freezer and enjoy them cookie-by-cookie for weeks to come. My two favorites had similar flavor profiles: the toffee chocolate chip (chocolate chip cookies topped with a layer of crunchy gourmet English toffee candy) and sea salt caramel bars (luscious caramel and Mediterranean Sea salt). As an added bonus, the cookies come in adorable little gift boxes. So, order some for your dad and for yourself (and for a certain blogger whose birthday is in July 😉 ).

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Restaurant Trend: Healthy Eating

Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.

With spring in the air and bathing suits on the brain, healthy eating is getting lots of attention these days.  It seems each year more and more diet fads appear, and while many people find these fads a bit extreme (Cabbage Soup Diet, really?), few can argue the benefits of swapping a day or two of healthier eating into their weekly eating regimen.

Feeling a little confused on the different healthy eating trends?  Get the skinny on raw eating, juicing, the macrobiotic diet, and Paleo over on the Urbanspoon blog.

 

spring salad

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It’s All About the “O”

Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.

I have eaten both macaroons and macarons in my day, and though I’ve ordered both as maca-two-o’s-oons (despite their obvious disparities) not once has a server indicated that I was pronouncing the dainty dessert incorrectly. In fact, I believe they too pronounced the name wrong.  Both of these similarly named confections start with meringue:  egg whites and sugar whipped to glossy stiffness.  That’s where the cookies reach the fork in the road, or the spatula in the peaks, if you will:  the difference lies in the execution.

macaron vs macaroon

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Farm-to-face: eating locally when dining out

Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.

If you’ve ever bitten into a tomato in midwinter and wondered how the mushy, lackluster mass was expected to pass for the vibrant, acidic burst a ripe tomato gives, you’ll understand one of the major perks of farm-to-table sourcing: seasonality.  While some diners expect restaurants to offer leafy green salads adorned with thick tomato wedges regardless of the season, there’s a growing movement focused on eating seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients.

Not only does this farm-to-table approach ensure the snozzberries taste like snozzberries, it also keeps more of your hard-earned money in your town, cuts down on transportation time and costs, click to continue reading

Check out the list of Charlotte’s farm-to-table restaurants!  

If a restaurant is missing, let me know and I will add it!

Roots local purveyors

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St. Patrick’s Day Libations

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photo by Allison

As a kid, my annual family trip to Daytona Beach, Florida always coincided with St. Patrick’s Day.  Even though we don’t have a lick of Irish in us, we all made sure to pack a green outfit in our suitcases.  Green socks, green shorts, green bobbly shamrock headbands–there was an unvoiced competition to be the greenest of them all.

I haven’t been to Daytona Beach since I was 15 years old, but this weekend the whole family is headed south, and we’ll be spending St. Patrick’s Day on the shores, just like the good ole days.  I can tell you one thing, I will NOT be drinking any green beer.

If you’re like me and beer isn’t your preferred libation, you’re in luck—there’s arguably no better beverage to celebrate the Emerald Isle than Irish whiskey.

Head on over to the Urbanspoon blog to check out my festive beverage selections! 

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16 Gifts for Foodies

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Judging by the creative parking I saw at the mall today, not to mention the mile-long lines in the stores, I’m not alone in my shopping procrastination this year. As the days tick by, people everywhere are frantically searching for last-minute gifts.  Just the thought is making me sweat!

Chances are you’ve got a few foodies on your list. So, before you surrender to buying everyone a gas card, take a deep breath and a big sip of eggnog and check out this list of gift ideas for every type of foodie.

16 last-minute gift ideas for foodies

 Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.

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Most buzzed about bakeries in North America

Bread, COOKIES, muffins, scones…  I want it all.  It’s my inner Veruca Salt–she cannot be appeased.  Well, not without a hearty handful of carbohydrates, anyway.  For fun, I pulled together a list of the most talked about bakeries on Urbanspoon, based on votes and buzz, and did a little digging into their tastiest wares.  I’ve got quite the continental bakery wishlist now!

 

 Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.

We’ve all heard the term “sweet tooth,” which makes us crave crazy things like Snickers bars slathered with Nutella and marshmallow fluff, but the less familiar “carb tooth” creates some equally intense cravings for yeasty, buttery breads and crumbly three cheese scones. To satisfy both a sweet tooth and a carb tooth, a trip to the bakery is in order.  There are over 10,000 bakeries listed on Urbanspoon, and their specialties span the gamut from meat-filled ciabatta to double-stuffed whoopie pies.

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Duchess Bake Shop Meringue — photo by Nikki Stoyko

Looking for more  of the world’s best bakeries?  Check out this list of Urbanspoon’s most talked about bakeries.

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So, what is gluten-free, anyway?

There’s lots of buzz about “gluten-free” eating these days, and separate gluten-free restaurant menus are practically commonplace.  Though I do not follow a gluten-free diet (bread is my soul mate in food form, after all), I do have several close friends who have adopted, at a doctor’s recommendation, GF diets in recent years.  Through them, I have learned the woes of gluten-free restaurant dining.

So, what exactly is gluten-free, anyway?

Well, until recent years, “gluten” was a word few diners cared much about, let alone restaurant chefs and servers.  At its core, gluten is a protein composite generally found in foods containing wheat, rye, barley, malt, and other grains.  It’s gluten we have to thank for making dough rise and for providing airy structure to baked goods.

 Keste Pizza, NYC – photo by PHUDE-nyc

But it’s not all chewy bread and fluffy cakes–for a growing number of people, gluten consumption is the cause of intense intestinal discomfort.  While the degree of gluten intolerance varies drastically, the most severe form is celiac disease.

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How to order wine like a boss.

Fervent Foodie is a contributing writer for the official Urbanspoon blog.

Whether on a hot first date or trying to impress the bigwigs at a business meeting, ordering a bottle of wine at a restaurant can be quite intimidating for a wine neophyte. A successful attempt requires balance: ordering with confidence, not looking like a cheapskate, and above all else selecting a wine that actually tastes good.  With all the stuffy jargon and wine lists that include dozens, if not hundreds, of varieties, wine is often seen as a complex beverage only enjoyed by snooty oenophiles. If you don’t even know what an oenophile is, this article is for you, my friend.

(continue reading about how to order wine on the Urbanspoon blog)

 

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