Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sports Page (Denver)

Though this blog may give me a certain amount of anonymity, let me assure you, I am a man. And even though I may be, could be, probably am writing this in my polar bear pajamas and fuzzy slippers; once I actually wake up I will be doing manly things. Like mowing the lawn, using a chain saw, and drinking appletinis beer. In the interest of keeping my toes, I usually put-off the drinking until after the power tools are put away. :)

So, yesterday when I was feeling the need to assert my manliness, I went to Sports Page in Denver, NC -- a nearby sports bar. As it turns out, this place is actually one of three in the area. And I find that reassuring. With all the games and races now available on the television, sports bars are a slowly vanishing breed. Which, in my opinion is a bad thing.

Once I entered, I was faced with a decision -- do I go to the room on my right? Or the room on my left? Fortunately, before I had to make that monumental decision with only a 50% chance of choosing correctly, a hostess came and seated me in the room on my right (non-smoking). FYI, the bar, and the smoking section are in the room on the left.

I was given a seat, where I could easily see at least four TVs, and was able to catch up on this weekend's golf tournament (Tiger Woods is unstoppable!). And I took a look at the menu. The menu had a good selection, from salads and sandwiches to steak and fish entrees, this place has something for everybody.

I settled on the Chicken Monterey Sandwich. It's described as a "Lightly breaded Chicken Breast, topped with Applewood Bacon, Cheddar and Monterey Jack Cheeses on a Kaiser Roll with Lettuce, Tomato, Onions & Mayonnaise. Add Any Wing Sauce .50¢."

WOAH! Fried Chicken, bacon, cheese, AND wing sauce? Sign me up! So I ordered the sandwich minus the mayo, but added their original wing sauce and a side of blue cheese dressing. Oh, and I got the fries as well. Too bad they didn't have a side of Lipitor!

The food came to my table quickly -- or at least it seemed quick. With all the TVs grabbing my attention, time flew by! Fortunately, I wasn't disappointed with the sandwich. It was fantastic! I've already the ingredients above, so you know what was in it. But it should be noted that the lettuce and tomatoes were fresh and delicious. And the wing sauce was tangy and spicy -- and just plain delicious on this sandwich. I'm glad they suggested it -- because I wouldn't have thought about adding it by myself.

The fries were the weak spot of this meal, they weren't as crunchy as I would have liked, but they still had their skins, and I actually like that. So while the fries weren't great, they weren't bad either.

I had a good time there, and the service was great. My waitress was attentive and quickly attended to every request. I'll be heading back any time I need some man time.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 11/15
Price: $$ (Most entrees are under $10, but with tax and a beer, you'll be over $10)

Conclusion: The prices were slightly more than I was expecting, but then again, the food was worth every penny. And the service was simply great. If you like sports bars, this place is for you.

Restaurant Info:
Sports Page
179 Cross Center Dr.
Denver, N.C. 28037
p) 704-827-6283
f) 704-827-6376

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chico's Mexican Grill

The other day I was again craving mexican food. So, I decided to drive to a nearby restaurant with my friend, to check out Chico's Mexican Grill.

Located in a rather bland strip mall on the corner of Statesville and Gilead, Chico's is very easy to get to. Once I made my way past the Food Lion in the same mall, I grabbed a parking space, and we made our way in.

I was suprised by the atmosphere at this restaurant. It's sorta cute. The tables at the booths are covered with colorful tile, and in the middle of the restaurant there is a sort of a wooden pergola covering a row of booths. It has no function other than to add atmosphere, and I liked it quite a bit.

We were quickly taken to our seats, and upon seating were promptly brought chips and salsa. To be honest, the salsa was nothing special -- it was very similar to what I get at the store. But nevertheless, I promptly started munching. Our waitress arrived quickly and took our drink orders. And then I started looking over the menu.

On the back of the menu were the lunch specials, and there were many of them. I settled on the special with the tostada, taco, and enchilada. After a short wait, our food arrived, and I dug in. I started with the enchilada. Which, really, wasn't an enchilada. It was simply a flour tortilla filled with beef and topped with enchilada sauce and cheese. It wasn't the standard enchilada that is baked in the sauce. To be honest, I found the beef to be lacking in flavor, so I started applying salsa, to the enchilada. It helped.

Then I hit the tostada. It was good, but not great. It was a simple tostada with beans, cheese, lettuce and tomato. It just wasn't enough to keep my tongue happy so I proceeded to the crispy beef taco. Again, I found it to be lacking flavor. The beef just didn't have enough flavor for me. I'm used to mexican food having a distinctive flavor, and this just lacked most flavor. In my opinion, they needed to add some more cumin, oregano, and onion to the beef.

Aside from the beef, the taco was good. The lettuce and tomatoes seemed to be fresh, and the crispy taco shell wasn't soggy. But since the meat tends to add so much flavor, I was just disappointed by the overall experience.

But it should be noted that the atmosphere and service were great. Our drinks were regularly refilled, and the service was fast and friendly.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 3/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 10/15
Price: $ (Including tip, lunch was less than $10)

Conclusion: Chico's has a lot of promise -- but I just couldn't get over the lack of flavor of the beef. But I did enjoy my time there, so I will be heading back, and trying another dish and meat. Hopefully next time the meal will be a bit better.

Restaurant Info:
Chico's Mexican Grill
North Statesville Rd.
Suite B2
Huntersville, NC 28078

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Foodie in Print Again!

This time the article isn't as grandiose as the last one, but in today's Lake Norman Magazine, this blog made an appearance. Located in the Business Update section, the Foodie got a brief comment:

The Lake Norman Foodie Blog has launched at http://www.lakenormanfoodie.com/. It’s the only daily blog that focuses on restaurants in the Lake Norman area.

I highly recommend you go check out the Lake Norman Magazine, it's got a lot of great info on the area!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Recipe Friday: Roasted Garlic Butter

This week before I made an Italian dinner, I spent an hour making the house smell like garlic. Below, you'll find my recipe for Roasted Garlic Butter. It's a quick and easy way to make gourmet style food, with a limited budget. I recommend you serve this with a high quality crusty loaf of bread; and that before serving, you pre-slice the bread, spread this butter between the slices, wrap in aluminum foil, and then heat in the oven so that the butter has melted.

1 head elephant garlic (or 2 heads of regular garlic)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped (fresh) rosemary
Salt (sea salt if possible)
2 sticks butter (room temperature)
1 loaf of crusty bread (sourdough, italian, french, etc)

1) Cut the top off of the garlic
2) Place the heads of garlic on a sheet of aluminum foil
3) With the cut side up, pour olive oil over garlic
4) then add 1 tablespoon rosemary to top of garlic
5) wrap in aluminum foil, and bake at 350 for one hour
6) After hour, remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes
7) Once cool enough to touch, squeeze garlic so that roasted bulbs empty into bowl, whith sliced sticks of butter
8) Mix with butter. Butter will melt
9) Add One tablespoon of rosemary, and salt to taste
10)Place in refrigerator, and let cool
11) Serve with bread. (See above)
12) Enjoy!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Only 4 days left to vote!

The poll along the left-hand side of this blog shows that Prickly Pear (90 votes) is beating out Dresslers (70 votes). But North Harbor Club is a close third with 65 votes. And Mid-Town Sundries in Cornelius is waaay back with 15 votes.

So, make your voice heard. Vote now, and then make sure to check back often and vote again. If I've got the settings figured out, you can vote once a day. If I don't -- you can vote whenever you want to. :)

So, be sure to come back soon, and vote again. My taste buds are waiting for your decision!


Showmars is a new experience for me. I had never heard of it until I moved to the area. And the first time I went there I was expecting hamburgers -- not gyros.

As it turns out, Showmars is a local success story. Started in 1982, by a first-generation Greek immigrant (hence the gyro), Showmars has grown to over 25 locations, most in the Charlotte area. Their slogan is "Casual dining . . . fast." And I've gotta say, their slogan is pretty accurate.

As I entered the Huntersville Showmars, I briefly reviewed the menu-board on the wall, and placed my order for a gyro and fries with the cashier. I was suprised to be handed a plastic cup, I was expecting a paper one.

A few minutes after I took my seat, my meal arrived with real silverware and a real plate. The food is slightly better than average fast food. The crinkle-cut fries were super crispy, and the lettuce and tomato on the gyro were fresh, and not wilted. The gyro meat (lamb?) was tasty, and the tzatziki was the perfect compliment to this pita sandwich.

The restaurant was slightly worn, and the most noticeable wear and tear is found on the booth seats. However, this restaurant was clean, and the service staff were very friendly and helpful.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 3/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 10/15
Price: $ (Entree and drink for under $10)

Conclusion: It's easy to see why this local chain is doing well. The experience is a notch above standard fast food, and much of the food offered is not the standard fare. Though this probably won't become one of my regular stops, I will stop here when I'm craving some fast greek food,

Restaurant Info:
9605 Sherrill Estates Rd
Huntersville, NC 28078

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Charles Shaw Merlot

When I started this blog I planned never to review a Charles Shaw wine, which in California is known as Two Buck Chuck, and on the east coast it's closer to Three (or Four) Buck Chuck. I wanted this blog to be a little more refined in the wine category. But then again, I bought a bottle of Three Blind Moose because of the label -- so much for being refined!

I first got to know Two Buck Chuck during a summer visiting friends in California. I've only ever found this wine at Trader Joe's, and I must say, even though it is a low budget wine, it is definitely a notch (or two) above jug or box wines.

This 2006 Merlot has an aroma which reminds me of plums, while the taste has a mellow plum flavor with a hint of cherries. However, this is not a wine that has overly developed the fruit flavor, in fact the fruit taste is very low-key. In addition, this wine had a very nice dry after taste, which helped the spicy dish I was eating.

Charles Shaw gets a bad rap for being such a cheap wine. It's easy to get snobby about a wine's price. Sometimes there's a reason to be snobby. However, this time there is no reason. It's a quality wine at a phenomenal price.

Rating: 3/5

Price: It's called Two Buck Chuck for a reason

Wine Info:
Charles Shaw
2006 Merlot
Central Valley, CA

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lancasters BBQ (Huntersville)

Since I moved here, I've learned that there are four things that North Carolinians take seriously: 1) March Madness; 2) NASCAR; 3) Football; 4) BBQ. And I can't think of a place in the area that does a more serious BBQ than Lancasters off of Beatties Ford Road.

I gotta be honest, I tend to prefer a thick, molasses-based Texas Style BBQ. BUT Lancasters is making me question my preference.

When I went there yesterday I was promptly seated, and the sweet tea I ordered came to my table in less than 60 seconds. My waitress apologized that the hush puppies were being made and would take a couple of minutes. Really? An apology for fresh hush-puppies?? Heck, I should be THANKING her for the impending deliciousness!

After looking over the menu I decided on the BBQ with two sides, beans and onion rings. While waiting for the food, I took a couple of minutes to take-in my surroundings. Lancasters is very clean, and has a good atmosphere for a BBQ place. The restaurant is decorated with an automotive theme, with old gas pumps in the corners, and a NASCAR engine in the back and race-car hoods on the ceiling.

After those couple of minutes, my meal came out, along with piping-hot hush puppies. Even though I knew they were just out of the fryer, I reached in, grabbed a hush puppy, and took a bite. YUMMY! The burned fingers were worth it! Then I looked at my heaping plate of food. Lancasters is nice, but it IS still a BBQ place -- the food came on a paper plate with plastic utensils. But, in all honesty, that doesn't bother me -- it kinda goes with the informal atmosphere.

The BBQ Pork was amazing. Flavorful and moist, even before I applied the Carolina vinegar-based sauce. Once I added the sauce, it was even better. The sauce added a refreshing tanginess with a hint of heat, and I devoured everything it touched. The beans were great, I love BBQ beans, and these exceeded my expectations. Keep in mind -- these are NOT vegetarian beans (though, I don't know if anything in Lancasters is vegetarian), so choose accordingly.

And lastly on the plate were the Onion Rings. These were huge onion rings, with a thick layer of crunchy fried batter. Nothing was soggy, and they were among the top 5 onion rings that I've ever had.

Needless to say, I ate waaaay too much, and today the scale hates me. But it was worth it -- how many meals can you say that about? In addition, it should be noted that the wait staff at Lancasters were awesome. My sweet tea was never empty, (something which my bladder didn't appreciate). And they were so friendly, I almost felt like I was a regular -- though the last time I'd eaten there was about a year ago.

Atmosphere: 4/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 12/15
Price: $ (Including tip, I was out of there for less than $10)

Conclusion: Friendly service, huge portions, and great prices make this place a fantastic value. If you're in the mood for BBQ, this is the place to go to.

Restaurant Info:
Lancasters BBQ
9230 Beatties Ford Road
Huntersville, NC 28078

Monday, March 23, 2009

L.A. Murphs (Salisbury)

I'm not the biggest fan of Salisbury, NC. Now, don't get me wrong. The people are friendly. The streets are safe (at least the ones that I've been on). And the traffic congestion is minimal. And (in my opinion) it can't hold a torch to the Lake Norman Area. But my opinion of Salisbury is improving, and it continues to improve, every time I visit L.A. Murphs.

I consider L.A. Murphs to be, first and foremost, a catering company. From cakes and entrees, to sandwiches and cookies, these guys can take care of your catering needs. But, the beauty of Murphs, is that they also provide box lunches.

These aren't your typical box lunches. These are gourmet meals that include everything you'll need to keep going during the day. I've only been there a few times, but I just can't stop ordering the #3... a smoked turkey wrap, with chips and salsa, and a chocolate chip cookie.

Personally, I'd pay the full lunch price just for the freakin' cookie. It's delicious, moist, and filled with more chocolate chips than are physically possible for a cookie that size. They must bend the laws of physics (and taste) to get those things made, and not have them turn into a big chunk of chocolate.

But the star of this meal is, without a doubt, the smoked turkey wrap. The wrap is filled with (I think) smoked turkey, field greens, caramelized onions, bacon, and an herbed soft cheese. These flavors mix together and compliment each other perfectly. The smoked turkey compliments the smokey sweetness of the bacon. The bacon is enhanced by the caramelized onions. The onions are off-set by the slight bitterness of the field greens. And the field greens are complimented by the herbed soft cheese.

These flavors are amazing, it's like a symphony for my tongue. And I simply can't get enough. But I do have one complaint -- they're too small. Only 1/2 of a wrap per box lunch. Personally, I could skip the chips and salsa, which I consider to be the weak link of the meal anyways, and I would just be happy with the wrap and the cookie.

Of course that could be a bad thing.

I would probably eat there several times every day, and would soon be found wandering the streets of Salisbury on some sort of post-cookie sugar-induced hallucination muttering something about bacon and caramelized onions... but I can think of worse things to do with my time. :)

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 11/5
Price: $ (A boxed lunch with drink is under $10)

Conclusion: If you're in Salisbury, you should be eating here. If you want to eat at home, grab some cookies, and one of their oven-ready meals to-go. It doesn't get any easier than that.

Restaurant Info:
L.A. Murphs
1532 West Innes Street
Salisbury, NC 28144
(704) 636-2505

Friday, March 20, 2009

Recipe Friday: Hamburgers

Today is the first day of Spring, and I can think of no better way to welcome spring than to light some charcoal in the barbecue and start grilling. Over the years, I've played with hamburger recipes, and this is my favorite. Sure, you could buy some pre-made patties at the store and slap them on the grill, but you're not taking full advantage of what you could be eating between those buns. After all, how many times do you get to put butter INTO the meat you cook??

So, as a public service, I offer the following recipe. :) Happy Grilling!

1 lb of hamburger meat
1/4 Teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 Teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 Teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 Teaspoon onion salt
4 dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
3 slices of butter

1) Place meat into large bowl
2) Add pepper, seasoned salt, garlic powder and onion salt
3) Thoroughly mix with hands
4) And Worcestershire Sauce, and mix again
5) Roll into three equal size balls
6) Make a hole 3/4 of way into burger with a finger
7) Place butter into hole, and press meat into burger patty, closing hole.
8) Place onto grill and cook to desired temperature, turning infrequently
9) Place cooked patties onto toasted and buttered buns, serve with favorite condiments.
10) Enjoy!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bagel Bin & Deli

After last reviewing a large chain restaurant, I decided to make sure that this next review was of a place on a more local scale. I had no idea what I was getting in to, but I couldn't have made a better choice. The Bagel Bin off of Hwy. 73 by Target, was a great find. This is your standard no-frills bagel place. It has a large selection of bagels from chocolate chip, to salt, to garlic, to green bagels for St. Patrick's Day -- this place has every type of bagel you could want!

Once you enter, the place is straight forward. Deli counter directly in front of you, and about eight tables on the left. I briefly scanned the menu behind the counter and decided on a sandwich with an Everything Bagel, honey ham, lettuce, tomato, and spicy mustard.

When I went to the cashier I noticed the woman who was making my sandwich was carrying a HUGE amount of meat from the slicer. (Yes, that's right, they cut if fresh for the sandwiches.) I also grabbed a Coke, and a bag of chips, just in case the sandwich might still be small -- after all, all that meat was probably for two or three sandwiches. Right??


When I got my sandwich it had over an inch of thinly sliced honey ham in it! I could barely get my mouth around that monster of a sandwich. In addition, the fresh lettuce, and thick cut tomato were delicious, and added even more to the size.

Needless to say, I didn't need the chips. This sandwich was plenty big, and delicious. The Bagel Bin uses Boars Head deli meats, so the quality of the sliced meats is very good. And the bagels, appear to be freshly made, and are tender and delicious. I'll be heading back there soon to pick up some salt bagels -- those are the first that I've seen since I moved here. I would have bought some on my way out, but the line was going out the door, and I wasn't in the mood to wait.

Atmosphere: 2/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 3/5
Total: 9/5
Price: $ (Total for drink, chips, and sandwich were under $10)

Conclusion: Don't let the lack of atmosphere fool you, this place makes a great bagel, and a phenomenal sandwich. The price is right, and it's in a convenient location that I'm near almost every day. I highly recommend this place.

Restaurant Info:
Bagel Bin & Deli
9815 Sam Furr Rd
# I
Huntersville, NC 28078

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Bogle Chardonnay

There are a few vintners that I rely on for consistent quality and low prices. The Bogle Winery is one of them. In fact, I can't think of ever having a bottle of Bogle, regardless of the year or varietal, that I didn't like.

This 2007 Bogle Chardonnay was just what the doctor ordered this past Sunday. During a rainy day of appetizers and movie rentals, sipping this Chardonnay by the fireplace was the perfect compliment. This light golden straw colored wine, has a fragrant fruit aroma with a hint of black pepper. I could taste apples and apricots, with just a hint of butter. And the finish was crisp and clean.

Bogle isn't the best wine out there, but it is one of the most consistent good wines available. I know that no matter where I go, I'll be able to find a Bogle for around $10 or less, and will be quite happy with it.

Rating: 3/5; One of the best values out there, I'd be happy with a Bogle anytime, anywhere.

Price: Approx $10

Wine Info:
Bogle Vineyards
37783 County Road 144
Clarksburg, CA 95612

On a side note, I wanted to share this video with you from You Tube. It's an amazing machine that with a combination of gears, lever, and pullies when cranked, will open and pour a bottle of wine. In find it so remarkable because it doesn't use any modern technology -- it really is a piece of art.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Qdoba (Birkdale)

First of all, I'd like to apologize to you, the readers of this blog. I often do my best to avoid chain restaurants, and the cookie-cutter style food, decor, and service that you usually expect from them. But due to the fact that I eat at this place almost once a week, I finally need to write a review for the Qdoba in Birkdale.

For those of you not familiar with Qdoba, think of Chipotle. It's a burrito shop decorated with an urban / industrial flair -- stainless steel counter tops and tables, corrugated metal, etc. The burritos are decent. And since I love me some burrito, I happen to stop here often. But this past weekend I tried something different (GASP!). I tried the Mexican Gumbo with Pork, and was amazed by what I tasted.

The Mexican Gumbo is tortilla soup poured over rice, beans, and whatever meat you choose. I chose pork. To top-off the gumbo I added pico de gallo, sour cream, and crispy tortilla strips. Once everything is mixed together, this meal-in-a-bowl is fantastic cold-weather food.

In addition, it is seriously tasty. The pork had a mixture of a cumin and sweet flavors. The tortilla soup has a nice spicy kick, the sour cream added a sweet creamy texture, and the pico de gallo added the tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Combine all those flavors together, and you've got a melody of tastes for the tongue to enjoy. It's so good, you could add a few bucks to the price, and put it in a nicer bowl and restaurant, and nobody would know the difference.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 3/5 (The staff are friendly and helpful, but it is fast food and I have to get my own drink and utensils)
Total: 10/15
Price: $

Conclusion: The burritos here are good, but the Mexican Gumbo is great. I highly recommend it with the pork. Qdoba offers a low price, yet filling meal in Birkdale. And that is one of the draws of this typically busy fast-food style restaurant.

Restaurant Info:
Qdoba Mexican Grill
16926 Birkdale Commons Pkwy.
Huntersville, NC 28078

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sangam Indian Cuisine

Years ago when I was in college, I had the chance to spend a summer studying in England. After about a week, I was already tired of the local cuisine. How much boiled meat and Brown Sauce, can one guy take??

So, one day I walked into an Indian restaurant, just to try something different. Once I smelled the aromas, and tasted the food, my taste buds were changed forever and I quickly became a regular of that restaurant.

Since I moved to the Lake Norman area over a year ago, I haven't had any Indian food. And I've been in some serious withdrawal. So, when I heard that there was a good Indian restaurant nearby, my mouth started to water immediately.

When I walked into Sangam with a friend I was surprised by how small it was -- only about 12 tables. However, during this lunch rush, over half of the tables were occupied. The walls are adorned with Indian paintings and Indian music and aromas drifted through the air.

After ordering our drinks, we headed to the back of the restaurant to partake in the Lunch Buffet. I've got to admit, I was quite impressed by the amount of food they had to offer: Vegetable Pakora, Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Korma, Naan, rice, etc. Those are the only names I can remember -- but there was much, much more.

The naan was fresh and warm, and I used it to scoop-up some of my Chicken Korma, which was just what my taste buds ordered. However, I was a little disappointed by the amount of chicken in the buffet tray -- they were quickly running out, and they didn't seem to be replacing it anytime soon.

But aside from that, this lunch was superb. I filled my plate twice, and was entirely full by the end of the meal. The food was flavorful and the tandoori chicken was surprisingly moist, the naan was still warm from the oven, and the service was excellent (though it was a buffet, our plates were cleared quickly, and my Coke was refilled often).

My craving for Indian food has been satiated -- for the time being. The next time I get a craving for this cuisine, or a longing for my favorite dish of Lamb Rogan Josh, I'll be heading here for dinner.

Atmosphere: 4/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 12/15
Price: $ (Lunch Buffet was $8.95)

Conclusion: This is a great option if you like Indian cuisine. The price is a little high (most dinners are around $15 for an entree), but worth it. I'll definitely be coming back here again.

Restaurant Info:
Sangam Indian Cuisine
20910 Torrence Chapel Road
Cornelius, NC 28031

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Foodie Makes News!

Below you'll see part of today's article in the Charlotte Observer, written by Joe Marusak, that features the Lake Norman Foodie Blog. While I knew it was coming, I had no idea it would get a headline, or that it would get 10 inches of space in the Lake Norman Neighbors area! WOO HOO! :)

To view the full article click on the headline, or the link at the bottom of this post. Thanks for reading. Be sure to check back tomorrow for a review of Sangam Indian Cuisine in Cornelius.

Blogger reviews eateries in Lake Norman area
Huntersville man's site also includes a recipe for the weekend and a weekly piece on wine.
Joe Marusak
Posted: Sunday, Mar. 15, 2009

HUNTERSVILLE A new blog by a Huntersville food and wine aficionado reviews and rates Lake Norman restaurants and offers a weekly wine review and weekend recipe suggestion.

The reviewer said he is originally from California, lived in the nation's capital for 10 years and moved to Huntersville so he and his wife could be closer to family.

He said he came up with the idea for Lake Norman Foodie Blog as a way to flex his creative muscle after being unemployed in the public relations field for six months.

The reviewer requested anonymity so restaurants won't know who he is.

“By remaining anonymous, the foodie is able to provide a nonbiased perspective on each restaurant, and nothing is done to draw special attention to the fact that the restaurant experience will be documented,” the reviewer said in an e-mail to the Observer. . .

To read the full article, click here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Recipe Friday: Rosemary Chicken

Here's a little something I found last year, while trying to figure out what to do with the rosemary bush in my back yard. The marinade listed below also works VERY well with salmon. To get the maximum flavor with this marinade I suggest you grill it on the barbeque.

1 package of boneless chicken breast
2.5 tablespoons of chopped rosemary leaves
4 garlic cloves chopped
1.25 cups of olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice

1) Combine the rosemary, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice into a large ziplock bag and mix well.
2) Pound chicken to uniform thickness
3) Insert chicken and mix with marinade by massaging outside of bag.
4) Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
5) Remove from bag, and put on grill until cooked thoroughly (about 5 minutes each side)
6) Enjoy with risotto and a nice chardonnay.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Red Rocks Cafe (Huntersville)

One of my favorite restaurants in the Birkdale area is Red Rocks Cafe. (Yes, I know I'm addicted to Birkdale -- I'm looking for a 12 Step program to address this issue.) Every time I've been there everything has been great; the food, the service, the atmosphere are always top notch. I've never been disappointed by Red Rocks -- until now.

I met some friends for lunch this week, and it was a perfect day to eat on the patio. The sun was out and a perfect gentle breeze made me think that this was going to be a great meal. The server came by and took our drink orders. He returned promptly with our beverages, and my sweet tea was quickly refilled every time I emptied it... which was often.

He came back to take our orders, and I was craving a big juicy burger. So, I ordered the usually succulent Kobe Beef burger. My mouth was salivating with anticipation.

The food arrived quickly considering there were five of us, and after applying ketchup and arranging the fresh lettuce and tomatoes, I took a huge bite. And I was completely disappointed. The burger was completely overcooked. It was dry, tough, and lacking any flavor. This was a well, well, well done burger. I asked for medium well -- which usually gets me a slightly pink middle. This was not the case. At least the fries were good.

Unfortunately, this Kobe Burger was a mere shadow of the burger I've had here previously. In all honesty, I would have been MUCH happier with a Five Guys burger, and the price would've been half as much. After this experience, I won't be paying over $10 for a burger for a while.

Atmosphere: 4/5
Food: 2/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 10/15
Price: $$ (most lunch-style entrees are over $10)

Conclusion: I still like Red Rocks, and this experience is not typical. Though they are a little more expensive than I believe they should be, but I've always had a great dining experience. In short, I'm not scared away and will be returning, especially for a late night dessert on the patio during the summer.

Restaurant Info:
Red Rocks Cafe
8712 Lindholm Drive
Huntersville, NC 28078

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Gumdale Chardonnay

Last night I was enjoying this great weather and got the BBQ warmed up. I cooked up some rosemary chicken (recipe coming this Friday), grilled some vegetables, and on the stove I cooked some risotto. To go with this great meal I picked a Gumdale 2007 Chardonnay. Unfortunately, it wasn't nearly as good as the feast I cooked.

I'm not terribly familiar with the wines of Australia, so I don't want to judge all future white wines from Australia by this bottle. But I was displeased by the high acidic flavors of this wine. Perhaps it just needed to mature, but this wine lacked the buttery oak flavors that I love in Chardonnays. I'm fairly certain some of this is due to the fact that it was aged in steel barrels, as opposed to oak barrels.

There were hints of cantaloupe in this very crisp wine. As for the scent, I can only call it a universal fruit aroma. If I was thinking about pear, I smelled pear. If I was thinking about peaches, I smelled peaches. And if I was thinking about strawberries, I smelled strawberries. I know, it doesn't make any sense to me either.

This wine certainly wasn't what I was hoping for. However, it's still young and needs to mature a bit more. Hopefully that will allow the acidic flavors to mellow and a let the fruit from this wine flourish.

Rating: 2/5. Though drinkable, I won't be buying this one any time soon.

Price: I have no idea what the cost of this wine is -- it was a gift.

Wine Info:
Southeastern Australia

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jason's Deli

The other day I was in the mood for a good sandwich, so I headed over to Jason's Deli on Hwy. 73, across from Birkdale Village. I'd driven by this place hundreds of times -- I might as well give it a try!

In writing this blog, I try to stay away from large chain restaurants. I like to go to restaurants that have a local flavor to them. As it turns out there are over 200 Jason's Delis. Oh well, lesson learned.

When I entered the restaurant, I was a little turned-around and overwhelmed. There is no menu on the wall, just a listing of specials. So, after walking around for a few seconds, I found a menu. The menu is large, and again I was a little overwhelmed. How hard can it be to get a freakin' sandwich?

After looking over the menu a few times I decided to order the Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich. I walked up to the cash register and gave my order, and was told to go about 6 feet to my right to order the sandwich. It turns out that register is for take out orders only. So, after taking a couple of steps to my right, I gave my order again. This time the order taker took it, handed it off, and then started to walk away.

After stopping him and asking where I was to go next, I was told to continue down to my right along the deli counter to the register. I continued down, along the counter, and couldn't find the register. As it turns out, it was directly behind me. UGH. How hard can it be to order and pay for a freakin' sandwich?

After I finally got that figured out, I poured myself a cup of soda, and took a seat by the TV. The inside of this place is huge. Dozens of tables tightly packed with booths along one side. I'm guessing they can easily accommodate over 150 people. They have a patio, but it only has about 3-4 tables, and they were all full. Though the place is decorated nicely (warm earth tones, dark wood, etc.) the size of it is just too immense for a sandwich shop.

After a few minutes, my lunch arrived. The sandwich was large, and filled with quality ingredients. The sandwich description says. "marinated chicken breast, homemade
guacamole, bacon, tomato, russian dressing, swiss, grilled on whole grain wheat." And that sums it up well. The meat consisted of actual chunks of grilled chicken breast -- not sliced meat wheel. It had a great grilled flavor and even though I don't like swiss cheese or whole wheat bread (I should've read the description closer), I enjoyed my sandwich. However, the side consisted of crappy broken pieces of wanna-be Ruffles. I wasn't impressed with that, and it lowered the score of the food by a point.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 3/5
Service: 2/5
Total: 8/15
Price: $ (most entrees under $10)

Conclusion: The sandwich was good, but the rest of the experience was lackluster: the staff were nice, but not completely helpful for pointing me in the right direction; the cavernous room overwhelmed the warm decor; and the sandwich was hampered by the cheap chips. Despite this, I believe this restaurant has great potential - I'll head back later to see if my next experience is a better one.

Restaurant Info:
Jason's Deli
16639 Birkdale Commons Pkwy
Huntersville, NC 28078

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mickey and Mooch (Huntersville)

In a poll that was available on this blog last month, I picked four of the nicer restaurants in the area that I hadn't yet reviewed. And you, the readers, voted. After three weeks of voting, Mickey and Mooch in Huntersville won. And this past Friday, I finally went there.

After we entered through the revolving doors, we found ourselves in a lively and crowded bar with Big Band Era murals on the walls. To be honest, I was suprised how busy the bar is, after all this restaurant is in the strip mall that is home to Target and Lowes. When I think of this area, a lively bar and a good restaurant are not what I think of -- perhaps I should change my thinking.

We were quickly taken to our seats and given a corner booth, where the two wall benches intersected. This made for a cozy dining experience, where my wife and I were able to sit next to eachother, yet still look at eachother too. The dining room was much calmer and quieter than the bar. Though there wasn't too much about the decor that stands out, I found it relaxing.

After looking over the menu, I selected the Lump Crabcake and Top Choice Filet. This comes with a house salad, for which I selected the Blue Cheese dressing. To compliment the meal, I ordered a glass of Coppola Claret Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wine arrived first. It had a good concentration and flavor, but it was difficult to smell with all the other good food related smells in the room. Shortly after the wine arrived the bread was brough to our table. The bread was cold (boooo!) but the butter was melty and spreadable (yaay!). Though the bread was cold, it was light with a flaky crust. If this would have been warm, it would've been amazing!

The salads arrived next. The salad itself wasn't noteworthy. However, that homemade blue cheese dressing was amazing. TONS of small blue cheese crumbles combined with a rich and creamy consistency -- I want a bottle of it at my house for every salad I make!

The entree arrived next, and I wasn't disappointed. The Lump Crabcake was delicious. It was a healthy serving of crab meat, and contained very little filler. In addition, it was served with a bernaise sauce that proved to be a perfect compliment to the crab.

I had ordered the filet per the restaurant's specifications "Hot Pink Center." The restaurant has its own version of rare, medium, well, etc., that are more speficic than the traditional way of stating how to cook the meat. And I wasn't disappointed. The meat was tender and juicy, while being seared on the outside. It was packed with flavor, and didn't contain any noticeable fat or gristle. In short, I ate the entire thing, and there wasn't any piece left on the plate -- and I never do that.

The crabcake and filet came with a HEAPING amount of mashed potatoes, with the skins still on (I love that!). They were moist and good, but could've been better. I would have added some more butter and a few chives to add just a little flavor.

Because we were enjoying the meal, we next ordered decaf coffee and decided to split a slice of carrot cake. The coffee came first and was very strong (especially for decaf), then I spotted it coming around the corner... the largest slice of carrot cake that I've ever seen. I've had actual cakes that were smaller than this gargantuan slice. All the eyes in the room turned to see this massive slice of triple-layer yummy goodness make it to our table. In fact, the people at the table next to us offered to help us finish the cake!

Size aside, this was a delicious cake. The flavors of the carrots, walnuts, cinnamon, and cream cheese frosting all mixed together to create one of the best carrot cakes that I've ever had We had a great evening, and I was very happy that the readers of this blog chose this restaurant. I've got some very smart readers! :)

Atmosphere: 4/5
Food: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 13/5
Price: $$$ (Most entrees over $20)

Conclusion: I've been to this mall hundreds of times, and I'd never seen the entrance to Mickey and Mooch until this visit. It's tucked away, but it's well-known to the locals. The food is great, and the wine-list is expansive. I highly recommend this restaurant, though the price is a bit higher than the plastic tablecloths would have you believe.

Restaurant Info:
Mickey and Mooch
9723 Sam Furr Rd
Huntersville, NC 28078

Friday, March 6, 2009

Officially Launching!

After a month and a half of posting content and fixing glitches, this site is ready for a larger audience. So, today marks its official launch. Below is the press release to help get the word out.

FYI, Monday will feature a review of Mickey and Mooch in Huntersville. In addition, next week I'll be adding another poll so you can vote on which restaurant I should review in the near future. Thanks for reading!

-Lake Norman Foodie

Lake Norman Foodie Blog Officially Launches

Huntersville, NC – Today marks the official launch of the Lake Norman Foodie Blog at http://www.lakenormanfoodie.com/; the only daily blog that focuses on restaurants in the Lake Norman area. Online posts provide personal perspective on local restaurants in an up-front casual manner.

“My intent is to provide locals and visitors with a trusted source of information on Lake Norman restaurants, navigating the vast expanse of available options and charting a delectable course,” said the Foodie.

Already, 34 entries are available on the Blog for readers to peruse and digest. These reviews are intended to give an accurate portrayal of a typical restaurant experience. By remaining anonymous, the Foodie is able to provide a nonbiased perspective on each restaurant, and nothing is done to draw special attention to the fact that the restaurant experience will be documented.

To make the blog user-friendly, links to a map containing all of the restaurant reviews are provided along with contact information, ratings, and prices. In addition, the Blog also features a wine review every Wednesday, Wine Wednesday, and a recipe suggestion for the weekend every Friday.

For more information about the Lake Norman Foodie Blog, please contact lakenormanfoodie@gmail.com or visit http://www.lakenormanfoodie.com/.
- # # # -

Recipe Friday: Beef Stew

Though winter is coming to an end, I thought I'd include this cold weather treat before spring fully takes over. I've been making this recipe all winter long. It makes at least 6 servings, and the left overs reheat easily.

2lbs. chuck beef cubed
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon canola (or vegetable) oil
1 large carrot
1 rib celery
1 medium yellow onion
1/2 lb pearl onions (if you can't find them, look in the freezer section)
1 russet potato
1/2 tsp black pepper corns
1/2 bottle (or more) red wine (cabernet sauvignon or merlot)
12-14 oz canned chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste

1) In a large plastic bag add 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper, and flour
2) place cubed beef into bag and cover with flour mixture
3) in a deep skillet or pot, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat
4) shake off flour, and place beef in butter/oil mixture
5) brown beef on all sides, and remove from pot
6) Add carrot, celery, onions, and peppercorns to pot on medium-high heat until onions have started to brown
7) Pour in wine, and stir to loosen stuck vegetables
8) Add potatoes, tomatoes, tomato paste, and beef broth
9) Stir for 5 minutes
10) Add browned beef to pot
11) Cook over low heat to simmer for 2 hours.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Toast Cafe (Huntersville)

There's not much in downtown Huntersville. There's a police station. City Hall. Mama Mia Too(already reviewed). And if it weren't for Toast, there would be even less of a reason to go there.

When walking into toast, you feel as if you've just entered somebody's home. That's just not because it's in a former house -- from the decor to the friendly service, this place doesn't feel like a restaurant. And that's a good thing.

After seating ourselves, my friend and I looked over the menu. Since I was in the mood for a sandwich and because it was cold outside, I looked at the "melts" section. Eventually I decided on the Roast Beef Melt with Cheddar on Sourdough. I substituted coleslaw for the standard potato chips.

The food was brought to our table quickly. My sandwich was nice and hot. The cheddar was melted, and the roast beef was so hot it was almost steaming. In addition, the sourdough was grilled with butter, making the outside of the bread crispy and golden brown.

This sandwich was very tasty, and just what I needed during this cold weather. Also, the coleslaw was a good substitution for the chips. The cabbage was still crunchy, and there was a good combination of vegetables and sauce. Not too much, not too little. It was just right.

Toast also has another restaurant in Davidson, NC. I had a chili dog there that underwhelmed me. However, that was before I started this blog. And it was in another physical location, so I won't allow that experience to influence the ratings below.

Atmosphere: 4/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 12/15
Price:$ (Most entrees under $10)

Restaurant Info:
Toast Cafe
100 Huntersville Concord Rd
Huntersville, NC 28078

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Redwood Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

When I bought this bottle, I was looking for three things. Good price, red wine, and California. Finding those, I bought this 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon for less than $10 at the local grocery store.

Again, I was sucked in by a pretty label. I saw the name Redwood Creek, and the pretty picture of redwoods, and well, a creek, and I was thinking Northern California, along the coastal hills, with large redwoods that are hundreds of years old. Then I looked at the back. Modesto, CA. MODESTO?????

I grew up just outside of Modesto. Modesto almost in the middle of California's Central Valley. Modesto is at least a 90 minute drive from the nearest redwood trees. And the creek mentioned, is probably a canal with reservoir water. UGH.

But I've gotta give those marketing guys credit. They got me hook, line, and sinker. BRAVO!

Ok, the marketing aside, this is a solid wine. It's a VERY deep purple, and in dim light almost looks black. It's very fragrant, and my nose was filled with smells of plum and a hint of vanilla. When I drank it, it also has a definite plum flavor, which makes it a little lighter than other Cabernets. In addition, It has a smooth finish which makes this wine very drinkable.

Rating: 3/5; It's a solid wine at a great price. If you like Cabernet Sauvignon, this one to get.

Price: $ (Less than $10)

Wine Info:
Redwood Creek
Cabernet Sauvignon
Modesto, CA

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Taxco Mexican Grille

Nestled in the North Cross Shopping Center, across from Lowes, is Taxco Mexican Grill. The restaurant is a little hard to find, but it's location is very good. As it turns out, there is a large water feature at this mall (who would've thought?), and they have a large patio area. During the summer this would be a great place to sit outside and enjoy chips and a beer!

However this it not the summer, and with a few inches of snow and ice still on the ground, i went inside. And was greeted by a man busy behind the bar, in the kitchen. I'm guessing he was the owner -- he never came out, but at least he was friendly.

After a short wait, I was seated in the dining room. The dining room is large, feels cavernous, and you can hear every conversation at every table. The black and white checkered floor doesn't fit the rest of the room (I assume it's left-over from a previous tenant of the space), which was decorated with vibrant colors (orange, yellow, turquoise).

After scanning the large menu, I decided on a combination plate with a beef enchilada and a chile poblano. While waiting I munched on chips and salsa, while sipping my coke. The chips and salsa were OK, but only average.

My food arrived within 6 minutes, and I began my meal. The beef enchilada came with a red mole sauce. In general, the enchilada lacked flavor. The beef was OK, but it seemed like it needed a little extra something, maybe some more oregano or cumin would've helped. So, I used the sides of sour cream and fresh pico de gallo to help it out. Which they did very well.

Next I tried the Chile Poblano. This is always a favorite of mine -- who can resist a pepper stuffed with cheese, dipped in batter and fried?? Unfortunately, the fried batter seemed a little soggy, and the pepper was a little tough. I've never needed a knife with this dish, but tonight I had to use one. However, it was good. Just, again, nothing really above average.

The service, however, was exceptional; my waiter was friendly and helpful. In addition the food was delivered quickly. Though I never felt rushed, I was in and out of there in less than 30 minutes. That's good service!

Atmosphere: 2/5 (If I was eating outside in warmer weather, this would've been a 4)
Food: 3/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 9/15
Price: $$ (Including tax and tip, I paid just under $12)

Conclusion: The food is OK, but not great. However, the service is fantastic, and the patio dining will be great come warmer weather. I'll probably head back in April just to sit outside and enjoy a cerveza or margarita.

Restaurant Info:
Taxco Mexican Grill
9719 Sam Furr Rd
# D
Huntersville, NC 28078

Monday, March 2, 2009

Open Kitchen

While driving through the un-salted snow covered interstates (I-85 and I-77), all I could think about was a piping hot Italian meal. Pasta, meats, succulent sauces, and LOTS of melted cheese. I then remembered a lunch I had a few weeks ago that I didn't review. So, since I can't head out for lunch today -- I'll review Open Kitchen now.

Open Kitchen is arguably the oldest restaurant in Charlotte. Since 1952, this place has been serving up heaping plates of pasta from the same building to generations of customers. In fact, the friend whom I met for lunch, had his prom dinner there.

Upon entering I immediately got the feeling that this place was family owned and operated. The generic stale feeling that you get from the Italian chain restaurants, just wasn't there. On the walls, and ceiling you'll see photos, and newspaper articles from those celebrities who have visited (if I recall correctly, Burt Reynolds was just one of the many celebrities who have been there). The tables have the mandatory red-checkered table cloth, and photos and nick-knacks line the walls. This place screams Italian restaurant. And it reminded me of my favorite Italian restaurant, Lanza's at Lake Tahoe.

Once we sat down, we were greeted by a friendly waitress, who quickly took our order. After I ordered the Veal Parmigiana, he shook his head and said, "you should have ordered what I'm having." He was right.

My Veal Parmigiana came in a deep, hot dish and covered with sauce and melted cheese. The meat was OK, but had a processed feel to it. In addition, it was the first veal parmigiana that I'd had that wasn't breaded and fried. My meal was good, but only average.

By my friend ordered the Veal Juliano -- it looked and smelled amazing. The veal was layered with provolone, then breaded and fried. Then served with a mushroom wine sauce. Though I don't like mushrooms, he was correct, I should have ordered his.

Though I wasn't happy with my meal, I think I just ordered the wrong thing. They have an extensive menu, and I'm sure that one of their pasta dishes would be just the thing to warm me up on a cold and snowy day.

Atmosphere: 3/5 (casual / family feel)
Food: 3/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 10/5
Price: $$ (Many entrees just over $10)

Conclusion: This casual Italian restaurant has a real family feel to it. From the packed parking lot during lunch, I get the feeling that most meals there are better than the one I had. I'll be heading back to try another dish, then I'll pass my final verdict.

Restaurant Info:
Open Kitchen
1318 W. Morehead Street
Charlotte, NC 28208