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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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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