Tuesday, June 30, 2009
At least I thought it was just going to be a snack bar. But I was wrong. The Sunshine Cafe is a little more serious than a standard snack bar. It's run by Armin's Catering, and therefore most of the food has a slight gourmet touch. After all, when was the last time you went to a snack bar and ordered "Grilled Cilantro Chicken Breast served on Foccacia Bread with artichoke parmesan spread with melted muenster cheese?"
Ok, unfortunately I didn't order that -- it sounds delicious (I just saw it on the menu). But I did order the Birkdale Club, and was satisfied with my selection. This club contains "Grilled Sliced Smoked Turkey with melted muenster cheese with crisp bacon, honey mustard, leaf lettuce and tomatoes served on toasted wheat bread."
Granted, it's a basic sandwich. But the ingredients were solid. The bacon was crunchy. The lettuce crisp. And the tomatoes were large and ripe. It came with a bag of chips, and a can of coke. And it cost only about $6. A pretty good deal. The sandwich was good, but not great. It was perfectly edible, and the ingredients were good, but it didn't knock my socks off -- it just seemed to lack flavor. Perhaps I should have tried the sandwich with the grilled cilantro chicken. That one sounds a little better.
Since the sunshine cafe is at Blythe Landing, there aren't too many seating options. And all that exist are outdoors. My friend and I grabbed a seat in front of the Cafe on a picnic bench. The nice thing is that there is a view of the water. The bad thing is that we were constantly shooing away flies. I get the feeling that the Cafe exists primarily to provide food for outbound boats, so people can eat while boating on the lake. Eating on land is an afterthought at best.
Atmosphere: 2/5 (The flys were a problem)
Price: $ (The price was a little over $6.)
Kid Friendly: No
Conclusion: Good food, for a good price. The outdoor seating is nice, but the competition with the flies is not. I feel like they offer better sandwiches, but I just didn't choose the best. It wasn't bad -- it just lacked flavor. I'll head back again, but next time I may choose to eat at home. FYI, they have limited days of operation (Wed - Sat; 11a-3p). If you have a boat, they offer dockside service.
15901 NC Hwy 73
Huntersville, NC 28078
Monday, June 29, 2009
Technically, it's edible. Officially, it's pretty darn gross. I can see where this might be necessary if you didn't have refrigeration. But dear God! I think that I'd rather slaughter a chicken and gut it myself, than to hear the disgusting SCHLOP sound this thing would make coming out of the can.
I have a few selected photos below, but to get the full effect, you need to read the amazing post here. FYI, even though she cooked it -- it never browned!
This weekend I made the trek up to the DC area to see some friends and gigantic robots fighting each other (Transformers II). While there I was taken to dinner at the Vienna Inn for some Chili Dogs.
The Vienna Inn, which is almost 50 years old, is a dive. There's no better way to describe it. Our table still had ketchup splattered on it, the laminated menus were stained and tattered, and the inside is dark and cramped. But, it's a neighborhood dive, and that makes all the difference.
In this bar and restaurant, you will find a broad cross-section of the area. From blue collar guys at the bar, to suits sucking down chili dogs, to large and small families, everybody there was a local, and everybody seemed to have a great time.
After we grabbed a seat and looked over the menu, I decided to go with the red pepper poppers (like jalepeno poppers, but hotter) that I'd split with my friends, and a chili dog.
I've gotta admit, I was a little concerned about the chili dog. It was listed as $1.55. Yeah, that's right, only $1.55! The low price worried me. After all, what the heck are they using so that $1.55 makes a profit?? The dogs I make at home are probably more than $1.55! But after my friends assured me that I'd be fine, I placed the order.
The peppers arrived first, and they were great. The generous helping of breading on the outside was fried to a crisp. The peppers had some heat, but the cream cheese stuffing and the sweet-pepper relish on the side helped to keep my mouth from lighting on fire.
Then came the chili dog. As you can see from the photo, it's a normal size hot dog. The bun was steamed, and the dog was given a generous helping of chili and nacho cheese. However, there wasn't so much chili that I needed a utensil. Which is good, because we weren't given any!
The chili had the normal chili flavors, beef, onion, cumin, etc. However, there was one flavor on the after-taste that I couldn't quite put my finger on. It was sorta sweet, and I think it could have been oregano. However, my friend thought it tasted sorta like bananas. So, when you go there, be sure to have a bite, and let me know what you thought the after-taste was!
Atmosphere: 3 /5
Service: 2/5 (The waitress forgot about my buddy's order, so she gets a 2 instead of a 3)
Kid friendly: Sorta. It is a family friendly place. There were tons of families, and hot dogs and chicken tenders on the menu are perfect for kids. Just make sure the high-chair isn't near a walk through. It's a tight fit in there, and your child could get wacked (by mistake) a few times as people walk by.
Conclusion: The Vienna Inn is a messy family-friendly dive bar and restaurant. It's been around for almost 50 years, and will probably be around another 50. Don't let the low score fool you. You'll enjoy your meal. Think of it as eating with your family -- just more disfunctional. Check out the insult generator on their website if you don't believe me! I'll definitely return.
120 Maple Ave E
Vienna, VA 22180-5793
Friday, June 26, 2009
Until this summer.
It is a blackberry bush, and it has given us a TON of blackberries. So, last weekend we took these blackberries from our yard, and put them in a cobbler. This is a great cobbler recipe that is originally from America's Test Kitchen. We've used this recipe for the past few years, and like everything from this book, it's delicious. If you don't have this book, get it.
6 Cups Blackberries (from your backyard if possible)
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 Cup Flour
1/4 Cup plus 2 Teaspoons sugar
1/4 Teaspoon baking soda
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup buttermilk
1/2 Stick of butter
1/2 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 Teaspoon cinnamon
1) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
2) Place the fruit filling in 9 inch pie plate and bake 20-30 minutes (until juice begins to release from fruit)
3) In a large bowl, while fruit is baking, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside
4) In a separate bowl mix together buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla, set aside
5) In a small mug, mix together cinnamon and the two teaspoons of sugar
6) Stir buttermilk mixture into flour mixture and combine
7) Remove cobbler from oven and stir
8) Pinch biscuit mixture into 8 equal pieces, , and flatten somewhat
9) Place on top of fruit mixture, with about 1/2 inch between biscuit pieces
10) Sprinkle with cinnamon / sugar mixture
11) Return cobbler to oven, and bake until golden brown, about 15 - 20 minutes.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I'm a big fan of Paula Deen. And if you know about her recipes, and her love for all things with butter and / or are fried, this image is for you.
I used scissors to make cut, after brutal cut, around the coupon I found for buy one entree get one free (with the purchase of two drinks)
I used all my strength to open the garage door (I pushed a button).
I concentrated every minute of the brutal and difficult drive (8 minutes on 73)
It took FOREVER (about 2 minutes) to find a parking space
And I waited and waited to get a table (just over 5 minutes).
And then I was forced to eat a delicious meal, and now I'm typing!! Oh, the sacrifices I make for my readers!! (Please note the HUGE amount of sarcasm above!) :)
My wife and I entered Maddi's Gallery, to get to Maddi's Southern Bistro. While waiting for our table, we perused the gallery that features Southern folk art. Some of the things in there are truly art. Some of the things in there are more of the tchotchke nature. But either way, it's entertaining to stroll about the store.
After a short wait (they had a couple large groups taking up most of the small restaurant), we were seated, and started looking over the menu. When I was walking to my seat, a waitress walked by with a plate of Fried Chicken. It looked amazing, and my dinner decision was made instantly. So, I turned my attention to the appetizers, and was hooked by the Fried Green Tomatoes (one of my favorites to make). I chose a wine, and was ready to go.
My wife agreed with me on the Tomatoes, and chose the Steak of the Day Entree, which was steak over a creamy pesto pasta dish. It sounded interesting, and I was going to sample some of the meal. (Hopefully while her attention was somewhere else!)
Maddi's Southern Bistro is decorated whimsically with many things found in the gallery. There was a wooden cow on the wall above me. There is a large multi-colored swirly glass chandelier in the middle of the room (definitely a piece of custom-made art), and paintings adorn the walls.
Our wines arrived first, and I was instantly drawn to the GENEROUS pours. Maddi's has a very respectable wine menu, and with the $5 glasses of wine (Monday - Thursday) you really can't go wrong.
Next came the Fried Green Tomatoes. I like Fried Green Tomatoes, I make really good ones in my kitchen. But these were a little better. The tomatoes were thinly sliced and fried at a high temperature; combine that with bread crumbs in the coating, and you've got a VERY crunchy Fried Green Tomato. They were served with a vinaigrette that was amazing.
After we polished-off that, we were brought our entrees. My Fried Chicken looked and smelled delicious! It was breaded and fried, and was a dark golden brown. YUM! It had a side of Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese. Which smelled so amazing, it only made my mouth water more.
I used a combination of my fork, knife, and hands to get to the chicken. It was really, really, amazing. And ranks among the best fried chicken that I've ever had. In all honesty, it may have been the best. The outside was crisp and crunchy, and the inside was tender and juicy. Just REALLY frakin' good! In addition, there was so much on my plate, that when I took the leftovers home I used it to top two separate salads.
The Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese was unique, and delicious. The smoky flavors complimented the chicken. And the cheese sauce was amazingly creamy and rich. Really, why didn't somebody ever give this to be previously? It's so good, it should have been done years ago.
My meal was amazing. However, just to be honest, my wife's dish was not as amazing. The steak was fatty, and the flavor of the steak was just out of place on the homemade creamy pesto pasta dish. The pasta was really good, the steak was OK. But together, they just didn't work (so I deducted .5 points from the Food Score). If my fried chicken was on the pasta, now THAT would have been good!
Atmosphere: 4/5 (fun and funky interior)
Price: $$$$ (I'm basing this on a guesstimate, for the price of my dinner, wine, and 1/2 of the appetizer, including tip). Due to the coupon I clipped, and the $5 wine special, we actually left there for about $45 for dinner for both of us. If you don't have a coupon for Maddi's, Helen Schwab has a deal for you.
Kid Friendly: Yes. They have high-chairs and kids menus. However, it is a small restaurant. If you child is in a screaming or throwing mood, you might want to wait until tomorrow.
Conclusion: Maddi's offers a fun environment to sit down and have a great meal. The wine selection is good and the fried chicken is almost a spiritual experience. However, the meals there can be hit and miss. So just be on the safe side, and order the fried chicken! :)
Maddi's Southern Bistro
16925 Birkdale Commons Pkwy
Huntersville, NC 28078
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Fortunately, this weekend I broke down and grabbed a Bogle Sauvignon Blanc. I'm still learning about Sauvignon Blancs, and I wanted to give this one a try. Bogle has never let me down before, and this time was no exception.
My wife and I shared this 2007 vintage over sushi last night, and this wine perfectly complimented the delicate flavors and light nature of this meal. This wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, and because of this it remains very light with no hint of oak. The fruit is readily apparent with a strong pineapple flare, that doesn't hide the pear and peach overtones.
There is a mild acidity that remains balanced throughout the taste, and gives the wine a crisp and light feel on the tongue. A great summer wine, that isn't too sweet, and is perfect with a lighter meal or sipping on a warm night.
Rating: 4/5. It's good, drink it now. I don't see much reason to let this one age.
2007 Sauvignon Blanc
37783 County Road 144
Clarksburg, CA 95612
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Norman's Grille (http://www.normansgrille.com/) opened, Friday, June 12, 2009. And is in the complex that is at Jetton and Catawba in Cornelius. In fact, I think it's in the same complex as Derado's Italian Market, which opens today.
According to the e-mail I received, Norman's Grille "offers flavors inspired by Mediterranean, Italian, French and Asian cuisines. The dishes are prepared by chef-proprietor Robert N. Coles, in an intimate and relaxed speakeasy type atmosphere."
Just an FYI, they're sooo "speakeasy" that the e-mail mentioned it TWICE! That's doubly speakeasy. Or is it "speakeasier? I'm not sure. :)
But there is one thing that I am sure about: If you have been here, let me know what you thought! I'm always curious about new restaurants, and I hope to review it soon.
Our trek to the Club (don't worry, it's not really a club -- just a restaurant) began when I tried to get reservations at Eez, and was put on a 40 minute wait list. It was almost 7:00pm, and we were hungry after a day of kayaking. So, I let my fingers do the walking -- to 411, not the phone book -- and called the Club. I was told the wait was 10-15 minutes. I asked to be put on the wait list, because I'd be there after a 10 minute drive. They indulged this request, and when we arrived, we were the next to be seated. EXCELLENT!!
Even though it was hot, we grabbed an outside table. The sun was originally in our eyes, but it was setting behind the trees from across the small harbor, and soon we were cooling down with a cold glass of chardonnay.
We took a look over the menu, and had a hard time deciding what to get. To start, we decided to split two appetizers: the Toasty Brie with Apricot Chutney and the Wedge Like Salad.
The brie dish was a breaded baked brie served with an apricot chutney, black peppercorn biscotti (to spread the brie on), and a small arugula-frisee salad topped with a macadamia nut vinaigrette. I loved the brie -- by itself. The apricot chutney was a little too sweet to work with the brie. And the peppered biscotti was WAAY to strong for the brie. When I tried all three together -- as I think was intended -- all I tasted was apricot and pepper. The brie was completely lost between the two. I had a bite of the arugula salad, but I was more interested in trying the Wedge Like Salad.
The Wedge Like Salad was everything you'd expect on the typical lettuce wedge salad, minus the wedge. Iceberg lettuce, bacon, tomato, and a blue cheese /ranch dressing. Now THAT was delicious. My wife and I were splitting it. But after a few seconds, we started a fencing match with our forks. Each of us parrying each others fork advancements, trying to save our bacon (literally!). Unfortunately, I was also pre-occupied with trying to finish the brie. So, some bacon was lost to the steadily advancing fork of my wife.
Next came the main course. I ordered the Herb Crusted Tilapia. The tilapia was breaded (I'm guessing there were were some herbs in the breading), and fried. It was accompanied with a "crisp ricotta whipped potato" cake (which was again fried -- but hey, it's the South. A LOT of stuff is fried.) and served with an oven roasted tomato and basil vinaigrette.
The tipalia was light, flaky, and cooked to perfection. The basil vinaigrette added a nice tangy flavor to the fish, and I was hooked (get it?). Then I had a bite of the potato cake. OMG! It was sooo frakin' good! Really, I could have just had the potato cake. I hope they make this an appetizer, because I'd order 3 of them before my meal. The potato cake consists of VERY creamy mashed potatoes, whipped with ricotta cheese. It is then breaded, and fried. Yeah, it's a cholesterol buster -- but it's worth it.
Price: $$$$ (Including wine and tip, just under $40 per person)
Kid Friendly: Unknown. I didn't notice any high chairs or kids menus.
Conclusion: It's a little on the pricey side (most entrees in the high teens)but most of the food is great, and the dining experience doesn't get any more relaxing with the docks and water within throwing distance. It may not be a good place for dinner every night, but I think it's a great place to splurge every now and then, or to hang out at night for some drinks.
North Harbor Club
100-D North Harbor Place
Davidson, NC 28036
Monday, June 22, 2009
Get the full article here.
As it turns out, a friend of mine happens to work next-door to Prosciutto's. So, it just made sense to have lunch there this past Friday.
I got there a little early, so I took a seat and looked around. Prosciutto's is sorta your standard neighborhood pub. But they tend to focus on pizza, and they REALLY focus on the professional sports teams of New England.
If you're a Red Sox or a Patriot's fan, this place is for you. Signs and flags of these team adorn the walls, and for a second I forgot that I was in NC. However, being a fan of the New England teams is not a requisite for liking this place ... Prosciutto's has a comfortable feel to it. I was instantly a fan.
Once my lunchtime partner-in-crime arrived, we took a look at the menu. I was just planning on having a couple of the pre-cooked slices of pepperoni pizza which was a lunch special. But he's a regular I went with his suggestion and we split a large Venetian pizza. It's a White Specialty pizza (it has olive oil and garlic instead of tomato sauce) and has grilled chicken, broccoli, onions, feta, mozzarella, and basil.
The pizza took a while to cook, but that was expected. They were starting it from scratch. And when the pizza arrived, it was obvious that it was worth the wait.
The pizza was loaded with toppings, which were well spread out. Every slice had plenty on it, and the crust was thin, slightly crunchy, but not burned. It was cooked to perfection, and forks and knives were not needed.
I'm usually not one for chicken or broccoli on my pizza, but it was frakin' good! The flavors of the ingredients all worked well together -- even the broccoli. As you can probably tell, I'm not a fan of the little green things, but it worked. It was good. And I recommend it. Heck, I'll probably order it again.
Prosciutto's has a decent size patio area that is apparently packed on Friday evenings. And I can see why. Pizza, beer, outdoor dining with friends... what more could you ask for?
Price: $$ (Just over $10, but the lunch specials are well under the $10 threshold.)
Kid Friendly: Yes. They have placemats with a kids menu and a play area too.
Conclusion: Good local pub with good food. Next time I'll be trying a calzone and a dessert cannoli. If I lived closer, I'd become a regular. They also have free WiFi. Heck, maybe I'll make it my second office! :)
Shops on the Green
20920 Torrence Chapel Road
Cornelius, NC 28031
Friday, June 19, 2009
What will it be like? Will the food be fantastic? Will the wine be wonderful? Will the desserts be delicious? I have no idea. But by the end of next week, I'll post a review of Maddi's.
Thanks for voting and reading!
This brie recipe will solve your problem, and make you look like a superstar chef too!
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pecans
1 tbsp brandy
1 (14 oz) round brie
2 apples, 1 pear
2 tbsp lemon juice
1) Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees
2) Mix together sugar, pecans, and brandy. Set aside. If too thin, add additional tbsp of brown sugar.
3) Slice apples and pear into wedges, place in bowl, add lemon juice and toss. Place in fridge.
4) Place room temperature brie in oven and bake for 4 - 5 minutes.
5) Spread sugar mixture onto top of brie, and bake for 2 - 3 minutes.
6) Remove brie from oven, and place in middle of large plate.
7) Serve with fruit on one side of plate, and crackers on the other.
8) Enjoy with a good chardonnay!
FYI, the above recipe was taken from Paula Deen.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
So, yesterday I met a friend at Micky's so we could check it out and see what we thought. We entered, and the layout is pretty self explanatory. There's a large menu behind the register, a counter where you order and pay, and to the left is a HUGE room for dining.
After a quick look over the menu, I decided on Micky's Club. It's a sandwich with roast beef, ham, turkey, and bacon; with lettuce, tomato, and American cheese on a Kaiser roll. I also got a side of fries. After we ordered, we found a seat in the VERY empty dining room.
It's apparent that the dining room is under construction, or at least it soon will be. Tables are stacked on top of each other and the building plans were laid out in the middle of the room (I snuck a peek). The walls are mostly bare, and it felt a little awkward sitting down in there. I mean, this is almost a construction zone, were we allowed to be in here?? (Yes, we were.)
A short while after we ordered, our meals were brought to us. My sandwich was quite good. The Kaiser roll was so-so. However, the fillings of the sandwich were delicious. The ham, turkey, and roast beef seemed fresh, and the bacon was crispy. In addition, the lettuce and tomato were fresh too. I was slightly turned off by the American cheese (lets face it, it's not really a cheese), but this wasn't enough to make me dislike the sandwich.
Also the fries were really good. Cooked nice and crispy on the outside and tender inside. They were obviously cooked just for this order, and they were hot and delicious.
It should be noted that the woman behind the register was friendly and patient while my friend and I looked over the menu. It was a nice surprise when she brought the food to our table. I was expecting that we'd have to retrieve it ourselves.
Atmosphere: 2/5 (when it's no longer under construction, I'll need to re-visit)
Price: $ (sandwich, fries, and drink just under $10)
Kid Friendly: Yes. They have a kids menu and a high chair.
Conclusion: Micky's has mostly standard deli fare: soups, sandwich, salads, etc. But the food was quite good, and the service was more than expected.
15906 Old Statesville Rd.
Huntersville, NC 28078
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
All participating restaurants will have great meals at fantastic prices. So, get in your car and make the 5-10 minute drive to these Lake Norman area restaurants:
* Dressler's (previously reviewed)
* Kabuto Japanese Steakhouse
* Maddi's Southern Bistro (previously reviewed)
* Mickey & Mooch (previously reviewed)
* Positano Osteria
* Red Rocks Café (previously reviewed)
* T1 Tapas (previously reviewed)
I'll be enjoying the deals -- will you?
** UPDATE: Since this original post, I've added a link to my recent review of Maddi's Southern Bistro.**
I must admit, this blog has really opened my eyes to new wines. Before I regularly purchased Jekel and Bogle (I still consider them to be a great value) and usually only got their Chardonnays and Cabernets. Aside from the occasional bottle of Trefethen Chardonnay, I really didn't buy much else.
So, here I am at my computer on a Wednesday morning sipping a Cline Zinfandel -- because I forgot to take wine notes this past Saturday evening. Oh, the things I will do to keep my readers happy! (I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I make for you!) :)
This 2007 Zinfandel has an extremely dark purple color. And at 14% alcohol (This morning is GREAT!), it's a full bodied wine that should be paired with a heavier meal. The wine is extremely fragrant, and has a bouquet fruit smells dominated by cherry with a slight hint of oak. The wine is extremely light on the palate, and has distinct cherry and blackberry flavors. Even though it is light and is heavy on fruit flavors, it still has a slight pepper / spicy finish, that evens out the fruit.
I'm my opinion, its a very good Zinfandel. A definite buy.
Price: $ - $$ (varies from $8.99 to $13.99)
24737 Arnold Drive
Sonoma, CA 75476
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Just so there can be no mistaking, the windows and doors were boarded up. Well, I guess that's one place to take off my list!
Just out of curiosity, did any of you ever eat there? If so, how was is? Most of the reviews I found online weren't very favorable
Update: If you have news of any restaurants closing or opening, let me know!
LaSpada's Original Cheese Steaks and Hoagies in on Hwy 115 in Cornelius, next to the fire station, and across the street from Quixote Cafe. Though there are two other LaSpada's, they are in Florida, and it appears to remain a family affair. It is noted on the sign, that these restaurants originated from Chester, PA. But according to the website, the family moved from PA to FL at least 30 years ago.
LaSpada's has a local dive feel. It's not the cleanest place, and the inside eating area doesn't make you want to stay and chat. Surprisingly, the outside seating is very nice in comparison, and there is a landscaped garden in front of the patio. So, after we ordered, a buddy of mine and I took a seat outside.
The nice thing about our cheese steaks, is that the meat wasn't pre-cooked waiting for us. Once we ordered, the we actually could hear the meat sizzle as it was placed on the cooker. The meal was brought to our table, and I had a look. The cheese steak had steak, onions, and melted white american cheese. I also had waffle-cut fries on the side.
I've had amazing cheese steaks, and I've had crappy cheese steaks. This one was somewhere in-between. The roll it was served in was OK. The steak with melted onions and cheese, was again OK. I was hoping for a little more flavor. However, it seemed the steak was overcooked, and it had a leathery texture. The fries were nice and crispy and pre-seasoned. There wasn't much need for ketchup.
I've been to LaSpada's before, and my sandwich was better then. However, that was last year, and I won't let that sway the score below. But as always, I encourage you go to the restaurants I review to check them out for yourself.
Atmosphere: 3/5 (inside = 2, outside = 4; so I averaged them together)
Price: $ (small sandwich, fries, and fountain drink under $10)
Kid Friendly: Sorta. They have a kids menu, but I didn't notice high-chairs. (Though I could have missed them.)
Conclusion: One of the few places in the area that specializes in cheese steaks. The second you walk in the doors, you feel like you're back in PA.
LaSpada's Original Cheese Steaks and Hoagies
19741 S. Main Street
Cornelius, NC 28031
Monday, June 15, 2009
To be honest, I didn't want to go here. It was a hot day, and who wants a hot sandwich on a hot day?? Not me!
Well, that was until I tasted this sandwich. It was REALLY good!
My wife and I walked into the store, and took a look at the menu. As you may have noticed in past posts, I tend to freeze up when looking at a large menu while the cashier looks at me like, "Make a decision already! You've been reading the menu for 20 minutes!" (No the cashier didn't look at me like that, and she was actually quite nice and helpful. However, that's the way I feel when I look at a new menu.)
I eventually picked the first sandwich I saw, the Hook & Ladder. The menu describes it as a sandwich with, "Smoked Turkey Breast and Virginia Honey Ham smothered with Monterey Jack." I also chose the "Fully Involved" option, which means that the sandwich comes with all the fixings (e.g. mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, etc."
As my wife and I sat down I got to look around. This new restaurant is exceptionally clean. Not surprisingly, it is decked out in firefighter garb. From a firefighter's jacket and gas mask, to a large mural across the wall, this place is a little boy's dream. Heck, while I was sitting there, I was beginning to feel as if I was a little boy again. (I'm sure my wife would argue that I still have the mentality of a little boy!) I knew I had fully regressed when I saw the plastic fire helmets that they hand out to kids. Suddenly I wanted one REALLY bad. No I didn't get one -- my wife wouldn't let me! :)
The sandwiches were delivered to our table and I took a bite. WOW. It was great! The melted cheese, the warm bread, the smell of the baked meats were fantastic. In addition, the veggies were fresh and crisp. Just the way I like it. Really, this is one great sandwich that I'll definitely order again. Also, it should be noted that my wife LOVED her meatball sub.
As I said earlier, I usually don't like toasted subs (bad Quizno's experience). However, this meal has me re-thinking my preference. If you want a warm cheesy sandwich, and you like fire engines. This is the place for you.
Service: 4/5 (Friendly staff that even cleared our table.)
Kid Friendly: Yes. Along with a kids menu, they offer kid-friendly pricing two days of the week. I think it's Wednesday and Sunday. Call ahead to make sure.
Conclusion: Good price, tasty sandwiches, and friendly service made this an unexpectedly great meal. And my inner child loved the fire engines. Your child (inner or not) will probably like this place too.
9826 Gilead Rd.
Friday, June 12, 2009
6-8 tomatoes, cut into sixths
1 clove garlic, minced
6-8 leaves of basil
1/4 cup of olive oil (approx)
Salt and Pepper (needed for every recipe)
1 lb of chilled but cooked pasta (Use noodles like rotelle, farfalle, etc. Do not use spaghetti or fettuccini.)
shredded or shaved parmesan
1) Mix the tomatoes, garlic, basil, and most of the oil in a large bowl.
2) Add salt and pepper to taste
3) Toss with the pasta, if needed add some extra olive oil to thin the sauce.
4) Top with parmesan to taste
Thursday, June 11, 2009
When I first entered Firebirds, I was hit the the smoky aroma of burning wood; which I assume was coming from the clearly visible kitchen. My friend and I were seated, and took a look over the menu. I was craving something meaty and smokey, so I picked the Smokehouse Burger. Which is described as, "BBQ sauce, applewood-smoked bacon, shredded cheddar and diced red onion."
While waiting for our orders, we were brought our beer and freshly baked bread. The bread was easily broken into two, and had a nice crunchy crust. It was served with butter, and was quite delicious. In all honesty, I could have just eaten that alone. However, there was still food to be delivered, and I waited anxiously.
Finally our meals came, and mine was delicious. I'm usually not one for BBQ sauce on my burgers, but this was a wonderful exception. The sauce was a thick molasses based sauce, and was sweet, tangy, and smoky and was poured over a 1/3 lb burger with thick strips of bacon. The burger was also topped with loads of cheddar. My only complaint about the burger was that the cheddar wasn't melted. However, that didn't matter too much to me, because I immediately dove in and started eating.
The burger was cooked perfectly to my liking (medium well), and the thick BBQ sauce with bacon and cheese and onions was great. Just what I was looking for. In addition, the steak fries were very good, I used them to mop-up some of the BBQ sauce that dripped onto my plate.
In addition, I really like the interior of Firebirds. When I walk in the door, I feel like I'm in a very nice mountain lodge in Tahoe or Colorado. The rock facade, exposed wood, and large fireplaces all add to a relaxed feel, that makes this a good place for a salad, burger, or a steak. Next time I go back, I'm going to try the Bleu Cheese Filet. It sounds delicious.
Price: $$ (burger and beer had me just under $20)
Kid Friendly: Yes. They offer a kids menu (meals under $10) that is part of an activity book.
Conclusion: Slightly pricey, but the atmosphere and food make the couple of extra bucks worthwhile. I will definitely be back.
6801 Northlake Mall Dr
Charlotte, NC 28216
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
The price was attractive, about $8. And the label was attractive too. (Darn you marketing department!) So I was hooked, and it was bought.
I've gotta say, I lucked out. It's a very good Merlot.
This 2006 Merlot has a nice clean mouth feel. It didn't overwhelm the dinner (which included lighter flavors from grilled veggies and risotto), and it complimented the meat. It had distinct currant and cherry overtones but it wasn't too fruity. The wine didn't linger on the palate, and had very little aftertaste. It seemed like it could have used another year to mature a bit more, but all-in-all a very good wine.
Also, I'd like to give a little shout-out to the person with whom I met this morning. If you're looking for a super-sweet white wine for the summer I'd suggest the 2008 Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand). It's too sweet for me, but I'm sure you'd like it! :)
Red Rock Winery
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
My friend and I entered, and seated ourselves. We were quickly brought some salsa, chips, and a menu. I started munching on the salsa and chips. But I decided against munching on the menu, and opened it to the Lunch Specials section instead. :)
There were several options, and I picked lucky number 13. Which according to the menu consisted of an "Enchilada, taco and chalupa." Keep in mind the chalupa part, it'll come up again later. Remember... chalupa.
As we waited for our order, I enjoyed my Diet Coke and the salsa and chips. The salsa and chips were very good. The chips were light and crunchy. I think they had more flour than typical corn chips -- which is a good thing. And the salsa was a nice and thick sauce. Not too chunky, and not too liquidy. The more I think about it, I REALLY liked their salsa and chips. But this man cannot live on salsa and chips alone. I need enchiladas too!
The plate arrived, and it was loaded. I started on the enchilada first and all I can say is YUM! Ok, I can say more... it was ground beef rolled inside a corn tortilla covered with red enchilada sauce and melted cheese. I plowed through the enchilada, it was delicious. The meat was flavorful and moist, and the enchilada sauce added a nice spicy zest.
Next came the crispy taco. It was a standard crispy taco shell packed with the same ground beef that was in the enchilada. It was topped with lettuce and cheese. It was ok, but was lacking some flavor, so I put some extra salsa on it. This bought it up a notch, and I was happy with it.
Then came the tostada. It was good. A flat and round crispy corn shell (just a flat and round version of the taco shell), topped with refried beans, lettuce and cheese. It was nothing special, so I loaded lots of salsa on it, and then it was good.
We waited a long time for the check, and then waited some more for the change. Between when we were done with eating, to when we finally got our change was probably about 20 minutes. Waay too long in my opinion. That's a LOONG time for two guys to sit around and talk. Really, after some talk about sports, weather, and the economy, we were out of topics! I mean what else are we supposed to talk about -- our feelings?? *shudders*
It was when I got to the car I realized (with the help of my friend), that I ate a tostada. But I ordered a chalupa! This is one of my pet peeves, and it has happened to me in this area before.
The restaurant probably had the tostadas already made, and was hoping that I wouldn't notice the difference. Tostadas and chalupas are made of almost the same things. The major difference being that chapulas are made with a fried dough, not a taco shell. Those flat taco shells are for tosadas.
Small thing, I know. But really, why put both things on the menu when you're only going to serve one of them??
Food: 3/5 (Enchilada, salsa, and chips good. Wrong menu item, not so good)
Price: $ (everything including tip was $10. For dinner expect to pay $3 to $5 more)
Kid Friendly: Yes. There is even a very cheap kids menu.
This place has potential, but the wrong menu item and slow service hurt it. The enchilada, chips, and salsa were good. So, I'll go back to try dinner and see what happens.
241 South Broad St.
Mooresville, NC 28115
Monday, June 8, 2009
Hopefully this blog will continue to gain attention and readers. Who knows?? I might actually get paid for this one day! :)
I first visited the Soda Shop while looking for a new house in the area. We were tired after a morning of home shopping, and saught refuge in this restaurant. I liked it then. Almost two years later, I visited the Soda Shop again last week. I've gotta admit, I still like that place.
The Soda Shop has been around since 1951, and I don't think that much has changed in that time. Walking though the door you get a wave of nostalgia for another time. There are still the old-fashioned fountain drink dispensers and milkshake mixers. They still play music from the '50s, and much of the menu was probably available in the 1950s too.
My wife and I grabbed a booth in the back, and took a look at the menu. Since I'm always in the mood for a hot dog, I ordered one with mustard, relish, onions. and melted cheddar cheese. For the side I asked for onion rings, and I had a sweet tea to drink.
After about 7 minutes, our meal was brought to our table, and I took a bite. This is one heck of a large hot dog. It's about 1/4 lb, and had plenty of toppings. There were a couple of instances where I made a mess (cheese and relish dropped on my hands) and used many, many napkins.
The only disappointment for me about this hot dog was the "melted cheddar" cheese. It's not so much cheddar as it is nacho cheese. If it was room temperature, it would still be a gooey liquid. However, everything else was so good, this is really a very minor issue.
The onion rings were quite good. The batter on the outside was fried to a crisp, and the rings were nice and large. Also, the sweet tea was excellent.
This is a great, informal, family friendly restaurant. I need to visit more often, and I highly recommend it.
Price: $ (Food, drink and tip were under $10)
Kid Friendly: Yes. This is definitely a family friendly restaurant.
Conclusion: This restaurant has been open for over 50 years for good reason. Its relaxed family-friendly atmosphere is a draw. And its nostalgia makes you wish for a time before modern technology. This is definitely one of my favorites in the area.
The Soda Shop
104 South Main Street
Friday, June 5, 2009
This is one of my favorite recipes. Enjoy!
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion (minced)
1 clove garlic (minced)
2 large carrots (minced)
4 ribs of celery (minced)
1 pound of beef
1.5 cups whole milk
1.25 cups dry white wine
1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 container of good parmesean cheese
1) Melt butter in large pot or skillet over medium-high heat
2) Add onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and salt to taste
3) Cook until vegetables are softened. (About 5 mins)
4) Add beef, and break up-meat. Stirring occasionally until done
5) Add milk, and simmer until milk evaporates (about 15 mins)
6) Add wine, and simmer until wine evaporates (about 15 mins)
7) Stir in entire can of tomatoes (including juice)
8) Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 1.5 hours - 2 hours
9) Before serving add cream, and stir in
10) Serve over pasta, and top with lots of parmesean cheese.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I walked in to Lupie's yesterday not knowing what I'd find. I knew only two things about Lupie's Cafe. 1) It's across the street from the Huntersville City Hall, and 2) It's across the parking lot from Toast. So, with that limited knowledge, I walked in the door hoping to find a good meal. But I found something even better... CHILI!!
In case you didn't know, I love me some chili. For the better part of a decade, I worked near a chili restaurant called Hard Times. Hard Times has some amazing chili that is put on everything from fries and salads, to burgers and hot dogs. You name it, they'll top it with chili. So, after I moved here, I suffered some serious chili withdrawal. And on the few occasions that I ordered chili dogs in area restaurants, I was seriously disappointed.
Until yesterday, that is.
After I took a seat at Lupie's and ordered a sweet tea, I looked over the menu. I quickly settled on a Big Dog with Texas Chili. I was excited, the last time I had a good Chili Dog was when I last visited Hard Times, so I was anxious to see if an area restaurant could deliver the goods. Fortunately, they did.
The Big Dog is at least 1/4 lb of meat in a large toasted hot-dog bun with sesame seeds. It was then topped with Texas style chili, onions, and cheese. (Thank goodness I wasn't on a date with my wife -- after this meal, my breath would have made her run for the hills!) One of the things I liked most about this dog was the fact that I didn't need a fork to eat it. The bun was large enough to contain the chili so I could eat it with my hands without spilling. Truly an amazing feat of hot dog engineering!
Remaining true to the Texas style, this chili wasn't made with tomatoes, and apparently was simmered with beer for six hours. The chili had plenty of flavor and a slight kick of heat. Enough heat so I could notice, but not enough so that my tongue was on fire. I'll definitely need to try their chili mac when I get a chance.
The only disappointment during the meal was the generic potato chips. A chili dog needs fries, IMHO. However, the chili dog was big enough to fill me up, so I only had a couple of chips anyhow.
Price: $ (meal AND drink were under $6)
Kid Friendly: Yes. But you might want to think twice about feeding your child chili if he/she is still in diapers!
Conclusion: One of the best values around. The service was quick and friendly. And the food was quite tasty. I'll definitely recommend this place to my friends.
101-A Old Statesville Rd.
Huntersville, NC 28078
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
In the mood to try a new wine for the summer, I picked up this Concannon Vineyard Chardonnay. Before tasting it, I prepared a green salad with left-over Rosemary Grilled Chicken. I was in the mood for a light, but flavorful meal. But, would the wine compliment the dinner? I'd soon find out.
I popped the cork, and took a whiff. Unfortunately, my nose is slightly stuffed from allergies, so my sniffer wasn't working its best. But from what I could tell there were hints of grapefruit and pineapple in this light straw tinted chardonnay.
This 2006 wine is light to medium-bodied, and reflects the pineapple and grapefruit tones that my nose detected. There is a definite alcohol crispness in the initial taste that lingers on the tongue. In fact, it lingers almost a little too long and almost hides the fruit. The wine then ends on a sweet note as the sip finishes.
Concannon is based in Livermore Valley (about an hour east of San Francisco), but gets the grapes for this wine from the "Central Coast," which is located a few hours drive to the south. Unfortunately, Central Coast that doesn't say much about the grapes, because the central coast of California is quite large and the areas can vary from hot and dry, to cool and moist. But generally, the grapes produced there are pretty good.
This wine was good, but not great. I'll drink it again, but I don't think I'll be buying it any time soon. I tend to like Chardonnays less acidic and more buttery and oaky.
Price: $ (under $10)
4590 Tesla Road
Livermore, CA 94550
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
So yesterday I headed out to meet another friend at Tenders. On the corner of Westmoreland and Statesville Roads in Cornelius, it's easy to find. And from the looks of the parking lot at noon -- a LOT of people have already found it.
I walked in and took a look at the menu. It's very basic. In fact, the menu reminded me of the menus available at Five Guys and In-N-Out Burger. This restaurant focuses on only a few things and does them well. As opposed to some of those fast-food restaurants that have dozens of entrees, Tenders has only three -- Chicken Tenders, Chicken Sandwich, and a Pork Loin Sandwich.
I chose the Chicken Tenders, and added Honey-Mustard sauce, Fries, and a Pepsi. While waiting for my order I looked around the restaurant. This place is VERY clean. Not a speck of dirt or crumb of food around. The owner obviously takes pride in this restaurant.
Once my food was ready, I loaded up on ketchup, went outside, and grabbed a table with an umbrella for shade. I took a bite of the fried chicken and was amazed how tender the chicken was. It almost fell apart while picking it up -- something I wasn't ready for.
Usually,when eating chicken tenders, I've found them to be tough and rubbery. However, these were juicy and tender, and had quite a lot of flavor. In addition, the fried batter was thick and crispy. On a few occasions when I took a bite, the chicken pulled away from the rest of the tender, leaving a large portion of fried batter waiting for my next bite. These are easily the best chicken tenders that I've had, and it could be the best fried chicken that I've had.
The fries are cut and fried on the premises, as the bags of potatoes will attest. In addition, the skins are left on the fries, which only makes me like this place more. I found the fries to be crunchy and tender -- much like the chicken I was enjoying.
This was a really great meal, at a VERY reasonable price ($6 and change). It's locally owned and all of their ingredients are fresh. I can't recommend this place enough.
Price: $ (food and drink under $10)
Kid Friendly: Yes. They offer a kids meal, and I don't think your children could hurt the cement floors. Also, what kid doesn't love chicken tenders?
Conclusion: This is a great local restaurant. They only do a few things, and they make a GREAT fried chicken. I highly recommend it.
Tenders Fresh Food
18341 Statesville Rd.
Cornelius, NC 28031-9184
Monday, June 1, 2009
Unfortunately, Zaxby's no longer has the Italian Chicken Sandwich (BOOOOOOO!). But they do have a great buffalo chicken salad (YAAAAY!). It's called The Blue.
When I walked into the Zaxby's in Mooresville, I entered a fast food restaurant that looks much more like a TGI Friday's than a KFC. The walls were covered with NASCAR memorabilia and old-ish looking signs and objects. The restaurant appears clean, and the floor is (purposely) stained concrete. I approached the counter and placed my order.
The Blue is a salad consisting of "mixed greens, red cabbage, carrots, roma tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles, fried onions, and Buffalo Fingerz or blackened chicken with Texas toast." I chose the Buffalo Fingerz, and was quite happy with my selection. The salad was fresh with crisp lettuce and ripe tomatoes. And the fried buffalo chicken was warm and delicious with a tangy yet spicy kick.
I have to admit, I have a real weakness for buffalo chicken salads. If I see one on a menu, there's a high chance that's what I'll be ordering. And this salad really didn't disappoint. I wish that there had been a little more chicken. But there was plenty available, and in all honesty, the last thing I need right now is more fried chicken.
I've got a soft spot for Zaxby's, created by the Italian Chicken Sandwich. But their buffalo chicken fingers will keep me coming back, whether they're in a sandwich or a salad.
Atmosphere: 4/5 (much better than a standard fast-food restaurant)
Price: $ (soda and salad were less than $10)
Kid Friendly: Yes. They offer a few days where kids eat at a discounted rate. Call them at the number below to learn the details.
Conclusion: If you're looking for chicken fingers, this is the place to go. Good atmosphere, and very good food.
138 Williamson Rd.
Mooresville, NC 28117