Flatiron Kitchen & Taphouse–Davidson, NC {restaurant review}

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Flatiron Davidson NC

I think it’s safe to say I dine at restaurants more often than the average eater, that is to say A LOT.  I impose mandatory splitsies on my dining companions, which means everyone gets to try everyone’s food, so it’s normal for me to sample several plates during a single meal.  This is good for obvious reasons (though my pants may disagree), but trying lots of different things means you’ll inevitably end up with a dish or two that just don’t strike your fancy–something you wouldn’t order again or that you wouldn’t recommend to a friend.  Every once in a while, I’ll find myself eating an AMAZING appetizer, and feel my apprehension grow as I worry the remainder of the meal won’t live up to the starter.

This is precisely how I felt when I dined at Flatiron Kitchen & Taphouse for the first time.  I started with a glass of Malbec and their fried green Napoleon:  salty fried green tomatoes, sautéed spinach, sweet bits of corn, and bacon atop a dollop of warm, creamy goat cheese (a hearty serving for a mere $8).

Flat Iron - Fried Green Tomatoes

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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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Block & Grinder {Charlotte, NC–restaurant review}

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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.

Block & Grinder - farm to table

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.

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