Adventures in Grilling

Back in Ohio, I had a lot of things.  A house.  A yard.  Shrubbery.  The whole kit and kaboodle.  Sure, most people save downsizing til they’re empty-nesters, but me?  Oh, no.  I cut ties with three-quarters of my belongings at age 26, leaving behind my beloved hedging shears, lawn gnomes, and my beautiful propane grill (complete with double burners), and headed south.  Since then, I’ve dreamed of the day I’d once again cook over an open flame, just me, my meat, and the great outdoors.

I spent the Memorial Day weekend at home in Ohio, and one morning I convinced my dad to teach me how to light a charcoal grill.  As a soon-to-be-thirty, self-declared independent woman, I’m ashamed to publicly announce my ineptitude in this area.  But standing in the backyard, listening to him explain the mechanics of the offset smoker while the flames licked at the mound of coals put a fire in my belly.

And when I returned home to Charlotte, this:

Weber One Touch

Even before I’d taken the grill out of the box, I invited a few friends over for sausage party.  I stocked my fridge full of Johnsonville brats, opened up a bottle of wine, and got to assembling my new grill.

weber one touch partsweber one touch assembled

In retrospect, it probably would have been a good idea to give the ole grill a trial run.  Nothing like going at it green with a crowd full of hungry bystanders.  Though my dad had showed me how easy it was to light a charcoal grill using a charcoal chimney, I was overcome with a sudden confidence in the grilling aisle at Lowes, and when I picked up the chimney to put it in my cart, I thought, “oh, no, I got this,” and put the chimney right back on the shelf.  Flash forward a few hours later, with the aforementioned starving bystanders, and me with nary a chimney, shred of newspaper, or drop of lighter fluid in sight.

An hour and one burnt thumb later, there was ash-covered charcoal… sort of.


And we waited.grilling & chillin

Several mistakes were made this day, but I did do one thing right.  Friends, ALWAYS have snacks on hand.  The simple Johnsonville Andouille smoked sausage and caramelized onion pizza I threw together kept my friends from rioting while we faltered with the grill.  This is sausage and onions done right.  Classy, even.

andouille and caramelized onion pizza 2

And after two hours of “grilling” we FINALLY sat down and enjoyed some Johnsonville original brats plus some brat-stuffed jalapeno peppers.  And you know what?  It was fantastic.  Even with all the flubs, as long as you don’t pierce the brat with a fork and leach it of its juices, that thing is sure to be delicious.

(As soon as everyone left, I logged onto Amazon and ordered a charcoal chimney.)

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Restaurant Roundup: George’s Brasserie, TRUE Crafted Pizza, & Chima Brazilian Steakhouse {Charlotte, NC}


I don’t believe I’ve ever fantasized about mussels george's 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.

georges brasserie scallops

Georges Brasserie on Urbanspoon


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Mama Ricotta’s—Charlotte, NC {restaurant review}

Shortly after moving to Charlotte, I fell in love with Mama Ricotta’s.  I blame it on the goat cheese and mascarpone dip, which was my first bite of food on my very first visit to Mama’s.

mama ricottas - goat cheese dip

Mama’s is the type of place where families feel equally comfortable as couples on hot dates.  The dining room is cozy with large family-sized booths plus intimate tables for two, vintage family photos, and a large wood-fired pizza oven.

If you have any Italian friends or family, you know the importance of sharing food in the Italian culture.  Food is love.  This holds true at Mama’s, where most of the pasta dishes are available family-style and are served in deep dishes that are passed around the table, just like at home.

It didn’t take long for me to realize Mama Ricotta’s had common ownership with Bad Daddy’s (one of my favorite burger spots in town) and Midwood Smokehouse (my favorite barbecue joint).  I’ve eaten at these restaurants dozen of times, and many of those meals have ended with toasts to Frank Scibelli, the owner and man behind the amazing food.

I’m a big fan of bread, and Mama Ricotta’s bread basket alone is worth a visit.  The housemade rolls are served with olive oil sprinkled with crushed red pepper flakes for dipping.  As for appetizers, there’s that amazing dip I mentioned–it’s a warm goat cheese and mascarpone dip served with grilled crostini and a warm tomato basil sauce, a steal at $8.50.  I also highly recommend the new house made burrata ($12).  Burrata is fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream, and Mama’s burrata is soft and supple and accompanied by olive oil poached tomatoes, basil, roasted garlic, and grilled ciabatta.

mama ricottas - bread

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Buffalo Chicken French Bread Pizza {recipe}

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?

buffalo chicken french bread pizza 1
Am I right?!

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How to make leftover pizza taste like it was just delivered.

Pizza is one of few foods for which I will risk third degree burns of both the mouth and esophagus.  As soon as I open the box and locate the slice with the most ample crust, I’ve got it dangling above my mouth, scalding cheese be damned.  The crust is by far my favorite part, and it alone can make or break a pizza.  I cannot fathom why some people think of the crust as merely a handle used to transport the pizza to their mouths, ceasing to eat once they reach that sweet spot where sauce and cheese meets bready bliss.

Pizza delivered to your door is one of life’s simplest pleasures, but leftover pizza can leave a lot to be desired.  There’s always the option of eating the leftovers for breakfast, cold and straight from the box, but I crave the smells and textures of a freshly delivered pie.  When years of college dorm living taught me that microwaves turn pizza crusts to rubber, I found my solution in the oven.

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Pizza randomness

Soon after first meeting the BF, we bonded over our mutual love of cheesy niblets.  After perfecting our buffalo chicken dip recipe, we moved on to make THIS our favorite Friday night feast:


As a kid, pizza was one of my favorite dinners. When mom or dad would come home exhausted from their days, too tired to cook, with just enough energy to utter the words “let’s just order pizza for dinner” my heart would pitter patter with excitement as an uncontrollable cheshire-cat style smile spread across my face.

Pizza was cause for celebration in my family, and back in the day I was a straight up pepperoni and cheese gal.

Red heart Pepperoni and Cheese Red heart

I remember the day I got my braces.  I was 13 years ripe, and I think my dad felt bad that I was in so much pain… Or perhaps he felt bad because he had just assisted in adding more metal to his poor teenage daughters head (as if my GIANT glasses were not enough).

So, in an attempt to cheer up his little girl, he decided we’d order pizza from our favorite hole in the wall pizzeria for dinner.  I remember opening that steaming box and seeing the thick pepperonis all curled up into little cups of grease heaven, and that amazing pizza smell that made the pain suddenly start to melt away.  I was so excited, so high from the pizza induced endorphins, that I grabbed a slice and chomped down without hesitation.

I remember the horror that immediately washed over me as I ripped my hand back from my mouth like a kid who’d just high-fived a hot stove as I burst into tears.  My newly bedazzled mouth was too sore to eat the pizza.  Too sore to enjoy the crunch of that buttery crust or the spice of the pepperoni.  Too sore to even nibble on the oozing cheese.  Through my tears, my dad and I painstakingly cut the pizza into pebble sized swallowable bites and I proceeded to toss them into my mouth followed by long swigs of Coke like a real pizza pill poppin addict.

Why was adolescence so cruel?!


Yes… that just happened.

But let us focus on what’s important here.


It brings people together.

It puts a sparkle of happiness in your eyes and warm and fuzzies in your belly.

Heck, it even puts hair on your face.


Hahahaha… That’s my nephew Dylan.  LOVE that pic.  He’s almost 13 now… and sadly, no longer a pirate.

I can count on one hand — strike that — one FINGER the number of people I’ve met in my life who did not adore pizza.  (crazy man, that Tim is)

Pizza is the jam.  The cat’s meow.  The shiznit, if you will.

A couple years back, my sister and I were brainstorming ideas for a Father’s Day present for our dad.  We decided we would take dad out to lunch to the restaurant of his choice.  Mexican or seafood or a big Italian feast.  Whatever his heart desired.

When we presented him with his present, he got a big smile of his face and then told us where he’d like to go.  10116_709197216164_23305880_41001277_853689_n

Cici’s Pizza Buffet.


Sometimes all a father really wants is to pig out with his children at the pizza buffet Smile

I haven’t been to CiCis Pizza Buffet since then, which is very sad given how enamored I was with their macaroni and cheese pizza…  So wrong, but SO right!

When I was contacted a couple weeks back about doing a giveaway for Cici’s, I HAD to jump on it (in secret hopes that my one of my siblings will win a free pizza buffet for my pa, of course).

Here’s the scoop:  CiCi’s Pizza Family Funtacular summer scratch and win contest runs through August 28.  The scratch off tickets give you the opportunity to win movie tickets, family fun packs, children’s movie tickets, CiCi’s gift cards, free buffets, carry-out pizzas and beverages.

Oh man… my dad would LOVE LOOOOVE to win this….

Grand prize for two lucky families: an all-expense paid trip for four to Universal Orlando Resort Vacation…. Ok… Shut the front door!!!  Now I really REALLY hope one of my siblings win!

I have SIX scratch off tickets to give away, and I’ll send them ALL to the winner.  TWO ways to enter:  1.) leave a comment (or link) on this post with your favorite pizza topping or recipe AND 2.) Follow me on Twitter @Fervent_Foodie!

I’ll use a random # generator to select a winner Sunday at midnight!


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Holy crap, that was a lot of food.

Have you ever been in conversation with a new person and thrown out the obligatory “so, Bill, what do you do for a living?” and had Bill come back with “well Mary, I’m a psychiatrist”?  Confused smile

When a person discovers they’re in the midst of conversation with someone who analyzes people for a living, they are immediately scared.  (What the heck have I said in the last five minutes? …  Does he think I’m a basket case… Why am I suddenly sweating profusely?!)  All of this fear and anxiety is followed by near immediate curiosity.

Oddly enough, that’s a similar reaction to the one I get when I first tell a person I’m a food blogger.  People get oddly weirded out, followed almost instantly with excited curiosity.  I try to explain that I am not a food critic, but a food enjoyer.  I’m not professionally critiquing food, but rather honestly sharing my experiences with the food with friends and fellow foodies.

Isn’t sharing food with others what makes a good meal great, anyway?


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Pizza Porn

1 week til moving day! Eeeekkkkk!

As such, my meals have consisted of a few simple things.

Eggs… Thoroughly documented Fervent Foodie staple.

Salad. Taco Salad, Veggie Salad, Tuna Salad, Cobb Salad, etc.





Pizza Bogo on Urbanspoon

Speaking of pizza, I had the fam over for an extreme night of packing last night, and picked up some Pizza Bogo for dinner. Tuesdays and Wednesdays they have a special where you can get ANY large for $5.95. ANY large.


Pizza BOGO has toppings that will blow your plain cheese loving mind, I tell ya! We’re talkin GOURMET Pizza.

I painstakingly narrowed it down to four larges.  Prepare yourself for impending pizza porn:

The Veggie Works

Banana Peppers, Red Onions, Green Peppers, Mushrooms, Black Olives, Cheese & Tomatoes



The Meat Works

Smoked Ham, Beef, Pepperoni, & Italian Sausage


Meat lovers rejoice.  This was DELICIOUS.


The Bombay

Curry Tandoori Sauce, Cheese, Spinach, Banana Peppers, Tomatoes, Tandoori Chicken & Scallions


I really wanted to love this one, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.  My mom thought it was pretty tasty though.  To each her own Smile 



The Milano

Roasted Garlic Oil, Spinach, Seasoning, Roasted Garlic, Cheese, Roasted Red Peppers, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Chicken Breast & Balsamic Glaze


This was my personal favorite…


I’m a sucker for balsamic glaze…



I can only imagine the google searches that are going to bring people to my blog now that I have a blog post that uses the words “porn” “meat” and “lovers”  Surprised smile 

Haha… oh welll.  The pizza sure was good!


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Sausage & Caramelized Onion Pita Pizza

Last weekend, I caught 5 minutes or so of Giada’s cooking show on the Food Network on which she made a sausage and caramelized onion calzone.  Are you drooling yet?  Ever since then, I’ve had this image of sausage and caramelized onions floating around in my head, beckoning to me.  I just so happened to have a leftover sausage from last Sunday’s cookfest, so I decided to put it to use today:


YUMMMMM…..  I haven’t made a pita pizza in AGES!  Jennie O’s mom and pop would be so darn proud! 😀 

First up, I cranked the heat on the oven to 350 degrees, sprayed a small skillet with cooking spray, and placed it over medium high heat.  Once the skillet was hot, I added:

  • 1/4 cup sliced white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced


Onions & garlic.  Anytime you start a recipe off with these two ingredients, there’s an unwritten guarantee it’s going to be delicious.  Didn’t you know??

I reduced the heat slightly at this point just to make sure I didn’t burn the garlic or onion.  Then I just let the onions do their thing, stirring them occasionally. 

Meanwhile, I topped a Joseph’s low-carb pita with 1/4 cup Classico Fire Roasted Tomato & Garlic Sauce and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. 


Once the onions were soft and a nice light brown color, I added them on top of the pita along with 1/2 a link of pre-cooked & chopped up Jennie O’ Hot Turkey Sausage.


I cut up a light Sargento Mozzarella string cheese into small sticks and tossed those on top then seasoned with a sprinkle of dried oregano and some black pepper:


Then I popped this beauty into the oven for 10 minutes, until everything was heated through and the cheese was melty:


I also fixed up a small side salad, which consisted of romaine lettuce, 1/2 a roma tomato, some chopped red onion, and 2 tbsp Ken’s Steakhouse lite Caesar dressing: DSCF3454

I REALLY like Ken’s Lite Caeser by the way.

Nom nom nom!


Sometimes the simplest of ingredients combine to make the most amazing meals.  It is the best of both worlds! 

Ingredients List:  Sausage & Caramelized Onion Pita Pizza 

  • 1/4 cup sliced white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Joseph’s low-carb pita with flax
  • 1/4 cup Classico Fire Roasted Tomato & Garlic Sauce
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 link Jennie O’ Hot Turkey Sausage
  • 1 light Sargento Mozzarella string cheese
  • Dried Oregano
  • Black Pepper


Stats on my pita pizza:  236 calories, 17g carbs, 11g fat, 22g protein, 6g fiber

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