The Palm–Charlotte, NC {restaurant review}

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When I think of The Palm, I envision a fancy New Yorker carrying shopping bags in one hand as she hails a cab with the other on her way to (insert pretentious voice here) “lunch at the Palm.

So, when I first got the invitation to come in and try out the Palm, I ignored it.  I’m in Charlotte, the Palm is in New York City.  A couple of weeks later, I received a second invitation right when I was coincidentally preparing for a weekend trip to NYC.  After mapping out the location of the Palm in Manhattan in relation to where I was staying, I began drafting a response email.  But just before I hit send, something caught my eye.  The invite was for the Palm in Charlotte.  What the what?  There’s a Palm in Charlotte??

Lesson #1:  read emails thoroughly before archiving, deleting, and/or replying.

When people ask me for restaurant recommendations  I often joke about avoiding four-dollar-sign restaurants.  In my book, $$$$ means special occasions only.  Luckily, I had a reason celebrate!  My mom was in town for the weekend, and it was the perfect opportunity to get fancied up for a girls’ night at The Palm.

the palm charlotte cocktail

As we walked into the restaurant, I felt a little apprehensive.  I still had the glamorous New Yorker image in my head, and I was wearing Gap flats after all, not Jimmy Choos.  All these anxious feelings melted away as soon as I approached the hostess.  From her smiling face, to the jolly restaurant managers, to the walls covered with caricatures of famous North Carolinians, it felt warm and welcoming, not the slightest bit hoity toity.

Lesson #2:  never judge a restaurant by what you’ve seen in the movies

Once seated, we were promptly served one of the best bread baskets I’ve ever laid my paws on:  a trio of breads locally sourced from Great Harvest Bread Company.  There was raisin bread, whole white bread, and my personal favorite:  the Dakota Bread with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and millet.

Mom and I were in the mood for some seafood, so we started with the Colossal Lump Crabmeat Cocktail ($24).  After we both verbally affirmed our passion for horseradish, mom dropped a heaping spoonful into the cocktail sauce.  I waited as she took her first bite.  She was speechless, her eyes closed, her face quickly turning red.  I waited for some sort of sign…  Was it good?   Was it bad?  Was she choking???  When a smile stretched across her face, I took a piece of crab, dunked it in the doctored cocktail sauce, and popped it into my mouth.  And that’s when I realized it wasn’t just any old horseradish.  It was atomic.  Breathtaking, nose-hair-burning, atomic horseradish.  It was fantastic.

Along with the crab, we enjoyed the bacon wrapped scallops ($16).  Though the bacon wasn’t especially flavorful, the balsamic and basil reduction served for dipping was the perfect tangy pairing for the scallops.

the palm charlotte bacon wrapped scallops

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Baked Shrimp with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes {recipe}

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One of the perks of working in the city is having the world at your fingertips on your lunch break.  When the clock hits noon, I like to hit the street.  Often, I’ll swing through the library or take a stroll through the 7th St Public Market.  When it’s warm, I find a nice table in the shade and read while I eat, and when it’s cold, I saddle up next to the fireplace at Carribou.  There’s a grocery store just a few blocks away, and I’ve found squeezing my shopping into my lunch break to be not only productive but surprisingly liberating.

Shrimp and Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Last week, on a lunch-break grocery shopping spree, I picked up ingredients for this shrimp and tomato bake.  It’s a low-stress meal that can easily be made after work or prepared the day before.  (I find that recipes using canned tomatoes taste even better when they’ve had time to sit.)  Shrimp, tomatoes, and a bit of cheese–it’s a dish built for carbohydrates.  I recommend a crusty bread or a twirly noodle.

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Buffalo Chicken French Bread Pizza {recipe}

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I know it’s the new year and we’re supposed to be juicing and diet cleansing and sweating to the oldies plus doing three thousand crunches a day, minimum.  I know I should be focusing on eating my greens and counteracting all that indulging I did over the holidays.  Spinach.  Kale.  Brussels Sprouts.  SALADS, SALADS, SALADS!!!

I know.  I KNOW.  But what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t share THIS with you guys?

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Am I right?!

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Most buzzed about bakeries in North America

Duchess meringue picture via Urbanspoon

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.

Continue reading about the best bakeries in the world.

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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Inside Great Harvest Bread Co.

One of my many food fantasies is that I’ll someday own a small cafe—just a breakfast great harvest 15and lunch joint where your coffee mug is topped off every three seconds and the food is unpretentious and comforting.  At Mary’s Cafe we’ll do all the baking in house.  There will be homemade bagels slathered in cream cheese, scratch english muffins topped with melting butter and blackberry jam, and piping hot paninis made from homemade focaccia.  For dessert?  Triple chocolate cake, and flourless chocolate cake, and molten chocolate cake topped with chocolate fudge and homemade ice cream…  oh, and maybe a chocolate chip cookie or two.

Granted this fantasy hinges on my baking experience, which consists primarily of baking the cookie recipe on the back of the Nestle chocolate chips bag a thousand times or two.  (I don’t care what people say—it’s ok to use the recipe on the back of the bag.)

Fresh-baked bread is one of the simple pleasures in life.  I consider myself a free-basket-of-bread connoisseur, but I’ve never been behind the scenes at a cafe (or a bakery for that matter).  That is until last month, when I got the opportunity to knead some dough at the Great Harvest Bread Co. in North Charlotte.

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Chicken Pesto Paninis

It’s Thursday–the day I spend approximately two to three hours scouring the internet, flipping through cookbooks, and rifling through my big black book in search of amazing recipes and/or inspiration for things to cook this weekend.  It’s a ritual that borders somewhere between dedication and obsession.

Nothing cheeses me off more than spending all those hours (HOURS!) researching on top of shelling out my hard earned moo-lah on ingredients, taking the time to cook the darned thing, and having it turn out to be a flop.  After trying one-too-many frown-evoking recipes, I adopted a new blog bylaw in 2012:  only post recipes that I would recommend (without hesitation) to a friend.  Even though I painstakingly snap photos of everything I cook, if it ain’t delicious, it ain’t going on the blog.  Jarrod knows exactly what I mean when I ask if a dish is “blog worthy,” and he’s pretty truthful about so-so meals (in a I’m-just-glad-you-cooked-please-don’t-make-me-do-this sort of way).

When he REALLY likes something, he doesn’t hesitate to let me know.  Like this Chicken Pesto Panini, for instance, which he declared the BEST SANDWICH OF HIS LIFE.

If those aren’t fighting words, I don’t know what are.

Chicken Pesto Panini (8 of 10)

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Don’t eat poop. Eat a Bagel.

At some point in the last few weeks, I unofficially declared a new weekend goal:  to try AT LEAST one new (to me) lunch spots in the city each week.  It’s good to have goals in life, guys.  You need to give yourself realistically obtainable milestones to strive for.  Goals give your life purpose and destination, and, in my case, a full belly.

About 30 minutes into what should have been a 5 minute drive to Owen’s Bagels including FOUR (potentially) illegal u-turns, I finally (wo)manned up and called Owen’s to find out where the heck they were located.

With their direction, I quickly made it Owen’s, which is smashed at the end of the Pavilion Plaza on South Boulevard:

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If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you might drive by it (four times) blissfully (or not so blissfully, as the case may be) unaware.

Now normally I’d question the pedigree of a restaurant whose letters are peeling off the awning, but I haven’t had a good bagel in god knows how long and I swear if I see another bagel thin flaunting itself as a delicious bagel alternative I may go batshit.

So I made an exception.  I do have goals to keep in mind after all.

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Owen’s is locally owned and operated and they are all about fresh steamed bagels, which they purchase straight from an NYC bagel shop.  The bagel sandwiches are made to order and come piping hot off the steamer.  If you’ve never sunk your teeth into the chewy bliss that is a hot steamed bagel, I beg you to get your butt to Owen’s.  Stat.

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There was a whole lot going on inside of Owen’s.  I spotted a couple dozen people laughing and happily enjoying lunch against a backdrop of crazy signs and oddball décor.

The quirkiness of Charlotte never ceases to surprise me.  You just never know what you’re going to get, unless you take the time to look inside.  I think that’s what this city is really about.  Slowing down, and taking the time.  Stopping to smell the bagels, if you will.

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At the front of the store, you’ll see the ordering section complete with construction paper visual aids depicting their menu items.

I giggled over a few of them including the Muenster Mash, Tonya Harding Club, Ned’s Gandy Dancer, and the Booty Bagel.

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After ordering, I popped a squat in a back corner and admired the writing on the wall (no pun intended).

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It was EVERYWHERE.  Kinda made me wonder why they don’t just stick a ladder out front and let some customer put a good sharpie to work on their awning lettering.  There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for a couple free steamed bagels Winking smile

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After a short wait, my grub was ready!

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I went with the Jake Delihome Bagel, which was loaded up with turkey, colby cheese, AVOCADO, onion, and tomato on a Bialy bagel:

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I’m not sure what a Bialy Bagel is exactly, but the sandwich was awesome.  The turkey and cheese and veggies were tasty, but it coulda been bologna sandwiched between that steamy bagel and I think I still would have been in heaven.

I was so so so happy to see that they had Cheddar & Sour Cream Baked Ruffles!!  Cheddar & Sour Cream chips are pure nostalgia for me.  They were the chip of my youth, whereas funyuns were the chip of my teenage years… mmmmmm funyunnssss…. Oh how I miss those stanky snacks.

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And with this, I bid you ado:

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Owen's Bagel & Deli on Urbanspoon

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Bananas Foster Bread

So what do these have in common?  Yesterday’s guesses gave me quite a few chuckles.

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Maker’s Mark and bananas happen to be two of the BF’s FAVORITE things.  Since we didn’t get to spend VD together, I decided to whip up a batch of Marker’s Mark Banana Bread over the weekend.  I had a Cooking Light Recipe for Bananas Foster bread that I’d been DYING to try out, and Makers Mark seemed like a terrific substitute for the Cognac called for in the recipe.

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Who drinks Cognac anyway?  Emeril Lagasse, that’s who.

Lucky for this banana bread recipe, I’m not dating Emeril Lagasse.  I’m dating Mr. Maker’s Mark.

Seriously…

Edible.

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Canoodling:

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This looks quite natural, actually.

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First up:  get your hands on some mushy brown bananas.  Hopefully you planned ahead for this, because the base of ANY good banana bread recipe is some seriously overripe bananas.

These guys are actually on the under-ripe side, but they got the job done.

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Next:  preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×5 inch bread loaf pan with cooking spray.

Combine the following in a nonstick skillet:

  • 1.5 cups mashed up ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 5 tbsp melted butter
  • 3 tbsp Maker’s Mark

Can we say yum?

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Heat over medium until it starts to bubble and thicken slightly

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Then you’ll want to remove this banana goodness from the heat and set aside to cool.

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In the meantime, combine the following in a separate bowl:

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice

Flax!

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Alltogethernah:

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Once the bananas are cooled off, add in:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup fat free plain yogurt
  • 2 large eggs

Beat everything together until combined, then add in your dries to wets and mix until just blended:

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Yes, I licked them.

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Next is the easy part — pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.  Then let the bread cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile mix up the icing:

  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tbsp Maker’s Mark

And dr-dr-drizzzzleeee  over the warm bread:

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Notice that at this point I had ALREADY cut off a small piece for sampling… That’s a key step in successful baking.  Frequent and continuous testing.

Mr. Maker’s Mark said this was the best banana bread he had ever tasted because it was “delightfully moist and not overly sweet”

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I agreed, it was delicious… and addicting.

Must be the alcohol.

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Maker’s Mark Banana Foster Bread Ingredients List (serves 12):

  • 1.5 cups mashed up ripe bananas
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar, divided
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup Maker’s Mark, divided
  • 1/3 cup fat free plain yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar

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