I don’t believe I’ve ever fantasized about mussels like I have George’s. They’ve been on my mind and in my dreams, succulent and meaty and begging to be eaten, for weeks. Of course we’re talking mussels here, not muscles, of which George’s Brasserie offers five different varieties. The fiery style, with a delicate spicy cream sauce, was so good, I’m not sure I’ll ever find the courage to order any of the others. It was love at first dunk of their fresh French bread into that spicy sauce. This overwhelming delight was a somewhat unexpected reaction, given that French food has never really excited me (a distaste I blame on a few bad experiences I had on a trip to Paris back in college, and an overall dislike of game and heavy sauces). In contrast, Executive Chef Andrew “Drew” Dodd puts a contemporary spin on the cuisine, while still offering many signature French dishes, including bouillabaisse, cassoulet, beef bourguignon, and charcuterie. A handful of the entrees are sourced locally, including the North Carolina trout armandine, the Spring Mountain Farms chicken served with black garlic beurre blanc, and a few varieties of their large oyster selection.
Like the food, the restaurant itself is upscale yet inviting. There are cozy round booths bordering smaller bistro style tables complete with Parisian-style rattan chairs. Small touches, like the aluminum bread pails brought to each table, keep the restaurant grounded and the atmosphere friendly.
One of my favorite hors d’oeuvres is the 48-hour pork belly, which is cooked sous-vide and served with jalapeno infused water melon. Unlike other pork belly I’ve tried, George’s has a crispy skin and no jiggly bits; you can literally sink your teeth into it. Other standout dishes are the supple pan-seared scallops, served with sweet corn and saffron puree, fava beans, smoked tomato, and thyme beurre blanc and the NY Strip Au Poivre with brandy peppercorn sauce, served with a petite ceramic pot of truffle pommes frites. I’ve also heard great things about the goat cheese and caramelized onion tart, but I’ve yet to try it (next time!).
George’s is a place where Francophiles and Francophobes alike will be satisfied, not only with the exceptional food but also the extensive wine list and the attentive and impressively knowledgeable servers. And for those fiery mussels, of course.
From the luminescent silk screen Barbies on the walls, to the linen towels in the bathroom, to the liquid nitrogen cloud lingering over your cocktail, at Bubble Charlotte no details are spared. Bubble, which officially opened May 17, 2013 (after years of anticipation), is Charlotte’s first champagne bar and oh so much more. There’s a full-service kitchen, patio area with bar service overlooking the intersection of College and Trade, and not one but FOUR different beverage menus.
Bubble’s main entrance is on the Epicentre’s ground level. Once inside, guests ascend a dramatic staircase to the second floor. The decor strikes a playful balance between sophisticated and fashionable, and the dining area is anything but standard with large round communal-style tables. The aim is a premium (but not pretentious) experience.
So let’s talk booze. Bubble has over 30 champagnes in house, and their Perlage preservation system enables high end champagnes to be sold by the glass, while still maintaining the flavor and integrity of the beverage. Patrons can score a solitary glass of Dom Pérignon for $45, while a bottle can cost upwards of $200.
Bubble’s beverage repertoire spans much further than champagne though, and all of the bartenders are Bar Smarts certified. They offer a “slim list” of sub-120 calorie cocktails, and their much-buzzed-about N’tini cocktail is topped with liquid nitrogen steam, which quickly chills the cocktail and produces a “seductive cloud.” Ingesting liquid nitrogen is hazardous, in fact, a British teen had part of her stomach removed last year after ingesting the chemical. To avoid potential harm, Bubble’s N’tinis should not be consumed until the liquid nitrogen cloud has dissipated. At the press event I attended, Bubble’s operating partner, Bourke Floyd (fka Brady on Dawson’s Creek), was adamant about the safety precautions the bar will take to ensure no one is given an N’tini until it’s safe to drink.
The petite chef-driven menu at Bubble features a handful of small plates: prosciutto wrapped melon, pomme gaufrettes (waffle fries), chef-chosen cheese plates, and fresh, never frozen, calamari served with wasabi cream and Sriracha. As for salads, I enjoyed both the fresh strawberry chevre salad (with goat cheese and Spanish candied walnuts) and the Caprese Napoleon, which is topped with a fig balsamic reduction and a light drizzle of olive oil.
The entrees include champagne poached shrimp, Thai-chili ribs, steak frites, and Mediterranean chicken skewers. There are also four flatbreads, the toppings of which were promising, but the bread itself was horrendous–flavorless with the texture of a hardened shortbread cookie. Dear Chef: please fix this flatbread faux pas ASAP.Read More
If you were to look through the massive accumulation of notes in my phone, you’d see my list of must-try breakfast joints near the very top. Me and breakfast? We go way back. From dad’s crispy skillet potatoes to mom’s buttery pancakes, with as much cereal as one child can physically consume crammed in between, breakfast has long been a love of mine. I’m always on the lookout for places to add to my list. Just two days after meeting Gregory Collier, Chef and owner of The Yolk Cafe in Rock Hill, SC, I made the voyage south to try out his breakfast wares.
From any seat in the family owned and operated restaurant you can see Chef Greg at the helm in the open kitchen and his wife, Sabrina, assisting customers. The restaurant has the feel of a diner with its vinyl booths and classic metal swiveling bar stools. The menu, however, rings a different tune. Take, for example, the Valencia omelet (my first choice), which is made with zucchini, squash, roasted tomato, and mozzarella or the fun-guy egg white omelet with mushrooms, herbs, and pungent asiago cheese. Just these two options alone include five ingredients you won’t find at a run-of-the-mill diner. A greasy spoon, the Yolk is not. We’re talking steel cut oatmeal, chorizo chili, and crispy capers here!Read More
Have you heard the breaking moos? There’s a new burger joint in Uptown Charlotte! Cowbell Burger & Bar will kick off its opening this Friday March 29th. Located in the spot formula occupied by Nix Burgers, near the intersection of Tryon and 5th St, Cowbell will offer “artisanal burgers with a side of rock & roll.” The restaurant joins a growing restaurant family that includes Leroy Fox (a mix of southern food and a contemporary vibe) and Mortimer’s Pub, which is located in the Epicentre and serves great sandwiches (I’m obsessed with their veg-out grinder).
Last weekend, I stopped into Cowbell for their Gulp & Graze pre-opening event. The restaurant space has been revamped, and feels much larger than Nix. The bar was pushed back, further from the door, leaving ample room for mingling and table seating, and the vibe is hipper too, with tufted leather chairs and low red lighting.Read More
Block & Grinder just opened in Charlotte, and its concept is unique: think full bar, wine shop, butcher counter, and restaurant all mashed into one location. The focus is on fresh ingredients, what the owners call a “back to basics” approach. Block & Grinder specializes in premium, all-natural meats and wild game. The meats are fresh and cut and ground in-house daily, giving patrons a “butcher block to grinder” experience. Even the corned beef and pastrami is brined, steamed, smoked, trimmed, and cut in-house.
Most seats in the restaurant offer a full view of the open kitchen, which is headed by executive chef Kent Graham (who previously served as chef for the Atlanta Braves). At any given time, you can see half a dozen cooks methodically knocking out orders as the line man calls them out.Read More