Saturday, February 27, 2010

Alton's Kitchen & Cocktails

After hearing about Chef Sean Dowling from a friend, I decided to hit his restaurant, Alton's. Alton's is located in Cornelius, at the Crossroads of Jetton and W. Catawba in the the Jetton III complex (the one with the Harris Teeter). It's kinda hard to find, but apparently it's where Mia Famiglia was originally located -- sorta behind the Chinese restaurant.

When I walked in I was surprised to see that Alton's has two levels. The main dining level has the dining room and bar. While the upstairs looks over the dining level, and is presumably above the kitchen -- would probably be a great place to hold a private party.

I approached the hostess and was immediately seated. The tables are covered with black and white tablecloths, and the chairs are a dark wood. Chandeliers provide the light, which was kept to a minimum. This is good when having a romantic dinner -- bad when trying to read the editorial section of the Observer (as I was trying to do).

I looked over the menu, and noticed some of the usual things. Meats, fish, salads were all there, and then something caught my eye... a New England Lobster Roll. A New England Lobster Roll?? In Cornelius???? It's so crazy it just might work!

So, I asked my waitress about it. (FYI, if you go, ask for Brittany -- she was awesome.) She informed me that it was a mayo-based lobster salad with tarragon. The lobster is fresh; imported live from New England, the lobster is cooked on the premises.

In the mood for something different, I placed my order for the Lobster Roll, and decided to treat myself to the Tangle Oaks Chardonnay. Brittany informed me that if I like my Chardonnay oaky, this was the one for me. Fortunately, I like my Chards oaky, so I took her recommendation.

The wine list is good, with many offered by the glass. And I've gotta say, the Tangle Oaks Chardonnay from Santa Barbara was amazing. Smooth and oaky with a great nose, there was little acidic kick to this wine. Not only was the wine great, but it was a perfect compliment to the Lobster Roll -- who woulda thought?

The Lobster Roll consisted of large chunks of lobster that, surprisingly, weren't rubbery. The lobster came lightly coated with a mayo (and possibly sour cream) based sauce, and had the usual veggies (onions, celery, etc.) and spices.

The truth is, this was my first Lobster Roll, and I didn't know what to expect. But it was delicious.

I was a little taken aback by the large slice of folded bread that held the lobster salad. Buttered and lightly toasted on both sides, it looked more like Texas Toast than a bun. But when I talked to Chef Sean, I was informed that it is indeed a roll that they import from New England just for this sandwich. Even though it wasn't what I was expecting, it was still good.

The sides for this meal almost over shadowed the entree. The Kettle Chips were salty, crunchy, and delicious, while the coleslaw was amazing. Simply put, it may be the best coleslaw that I've ever had. EVER! Crunchy and tangy, this was a great compliment to the creamy and not-so-crunchy Lobster Roll.

At the end I was feeling slightly peckish, and decided on a slice of the Tiramisu Cheesecake. Topped with a layer of chocolate and home-made whipped cream, this was a decadent dessert. It melted in my mouth, and I wanted to take an entire cake home with me.

Score:
Atmosphere: 4/5
Food: 4.5/5
Service: 4.5/5
Total: 13/15

Price: $$$$ (including wine, dessert and tip, it was almost $40)
Kid Friendly: Yes. They have a small kids menu, and several families were dining there.

Conclusion: The prices and decadent food make this restaurant less likely to be an every-day hangout and more of a special occasion restaurant. But the food was amazing and the service was fantastic. I highly recommend you give it a try.

Restaurant Info:
Alton's Kitchen and Cocktails
19918 North Cove Road
Cornelius, NC 28031
p) 704-655-2727
f) 704-655-2726
http://www.altonskitchen.com/ (not yet working)

Monday, February 22, 2010

If you could Photoshop your cookies...

Here's a great stop-motion video that must've taken weeks to put together. It's how to bake cookies -- if you could do it in Photoshop. Think computer screen meets rolling pin. It's well worth the watch, and found myself LOL'ing -- much to my cat's annoyance.


Adobe Photoshop Cook from Lait Noir on Vimeo.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Recipe Friday: Bacon Cheese Turtleburger

Earlier this week I made some meatballs for spaghetti for the first time. They were delicious, and I was planning on sharing that recipe with you. But then something caught my attention on the web -- and I had to share.

First let me say that the Bacon Cheese Turtlebuger has no turtle. (WHEW!) But it does have a truck load of cholesterol and fat. Perfect for cold weather --- and the makers of Lipitor!

This thing is made of a hamburger, cheese, hotdogs, and a weave of bacon that surrounds the hamburger. Who needs a bun when you've got bacon???

If any of you actually make this, please let me know. I'd like to document the occasion, and be there to call 911 when your arteries explode.

Here's the directions:
http://klg2a.blogspot.com/2010/02/super-bowl-bacon-cheese-turtleburger.html

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Alton's Kitchen Opening in Cornelius

Recently, Joe Marusak of the Charlotte Observer mentioned that Alton's Kitchen and Cocktails will be opening later this month in the Jetton III retail center -- where Mia Famiglia and Charleston Chops used to be.

A friend was recently telling me about one of the owners (or chefs) at Alton's Kitchen volunteering his time and cooking at a local soup kitchen. The dude sounds like a real stand-up guy. So this means that I will be checking out Alton's kitchen soon.

Now I just have to figure out which corner Jetton III is on. Is it the one with the Harris Teeter? The one with Brooklyn South? Or is it the other one with Norman's Grill?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Italian TV Chef Cooks CAT Casserole (meeee-yuk!)

Yeah, you read that title correctly, Chef Beppe Bigazzi was recently seen on his Italian TV show, La Prova del Cuoco, teaching his viewers how to make cat casserole. A dish, he claims, that is from his home region of Valdarno, Tuscany.

"I’ve eaten it myself and it’s a lot better than many other animals,” he told viewers.

If that's what they're serving in Italy, then I think I'll stick with Olive Garden! I'm not eating anything I've kept as a pet!

Get the full article here:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/article7029058.ece

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Midtown Sundries (Denver, NC)

At least once a week I take the short-ish drive to Denver. It's not too far away, and it's the home of my favorite locally-owned Coffeehouse. And every time I get a coffee there I drive past Midtown Sundries.

This Midtown Sundries is very new and the interior looks it. Don't get me wrong, it still the dark wood, dark ceiling, with green accents that you've come to know from the other Midtown Sundries restaurants. But the wood, tables, chairs, and carpet are all new looking, and minus the wear and tear that I normally associate with the Lake Norman Location.

The menu has many (if not all) of the same items that I've seen at the LKN location. Because of this, once I was seated and I looked over the menu, I was ready to place an order. My waitress -- who was awesome -- had already delivered my diet coke, and was ready to take my order of the Chicken Melt Sandwich with fries.

She was gone in a flash, and I settled in to read the paper. I had barely made it half way through the Editorial section of the Observer (Yes, I keep up with world events -- don't be THAT shocked!), and my sandwich arrived. The sandwich consists of tuna salad and Swiss cheese, on grilled sourdough bread. The chicken salad consists of chunks of white-meat chicken and is mayonnaise based. It was a little saucier than I typically like my chicken salad, and made for a messy sandwich, but it was good -- it had been a long time since I last had chicken salad.

Next came the crinkle-fries -- the bane of my existence. Every time I've had a crinkle cut fry it has always been soft and somewhat soggy. And since I like my fries crunchy, I was worried about this portion of the meal. But these fries were GREAT! REALLY! Cooked to a nice golden-brown, these fries were deep fried to perfection. Crunchy and still hot, I couldn't stop eating these things!

The only complaint I had about the meal was that the sandwich was still cold in the middle. The chicken salad was good, but a toasted sandwich should be warm throughout, and this took the experience down a notch.

Score:
Atmosphere: 3.5
Food: 3
Service: 4.5
Total:11/15

Price: $$ (With tip, under $15)
Kid Friendly: Yes, high chairs and children's menus available.

Conclusion:
Midtown Sundries is sorta your typical restaurant/bar combo. It has decent food for a good price, and if you want to watch the game, they've got HDTVs strategically placed.

Restaurant Info:
Midtown Sundries
7296 Highway 73
Denver, NC 28037-9187
http://www.midtownsundries.com

Monday, February 15, 2010

Breaking News! Lake Norman Wine and Food Festival

I think I'm the first website to report it -- the Lake Norman Wine and Food Festival is on!

Today they launched their website. So, go head over to http://www.LakeNormanWineAndFoodFestival.org and take a look at what they've got.

Things are still in the early stages and they still have sponsorships and restaurants to line up, but it's not a bad first step!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Recipe Friday: Cheddar Biscuits

Every now and then I run across a recipe that looks so delicious, I have to share it with you. (Plagiarism be damned!) Today, that would be the Cheddar Biscuit recipe that Carmel (a Foodie reader) posted on her blog hungryhinsons.com. She's got some good recipes listed there, you should check out her site!

Cheddar Biscuit Recipe:
http://www.hungryhinsons.com/2009/11/cheddar-biscuits.html

Ingredients:
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tbsp Sugar
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
3 tbsp Chilled Butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Green Onions, finely chopped
1 cup Buttermilk
1/2 cup Sour Cream
Cooking Spray
Muffin Liners

Directions:
In a food processor, combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, baking soda and butter. Process until coarse. Transfer mixture into a large bowl. Stir in buttermilk, cheese, sour cream and onion until just combined and moistened. Put liners into a 12 count muffin pan. Spray liners with cooking spray. Spoon biscuit mixture into liners and bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until brown around the edges.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wine Wednesday: Surf Point Chardonnay


If you've read my wine reviews before, you probably know two things about me: 1) I prefer California wines; 2) I'm easily suckered by pretty labels and marketing. So, when these two things came together in a bottle of a relatively inexpensive bottle of 2006 Surf Point Chardonnay, I quickly threw the bottle into the basket and headed for the checkout.

Because I've been suckered by pretty labels before, I was half expecting this label of palm trees, blue sky, and surf boards, to be a harsh acidic wine. I'm man enough to say when I'm wrong, and I was VERY wrong.

This wine was really good! It was a light wine, and tasted as if it was stored in stainless steel tanks. But that's not a bad thing this time. My nose detected light and fruity smells, with apple, lemon, and hints of mango. Where my tongue tasted some apple and peach. But with these tastes came a light and crisp mouth feel with very little acidic burn on my throat. Really, a very solid wine.

The Food Lion website claims that this wine is "exclusive" to them. However, a quick Google search shows that this wine is indeed for sale in other places. Either way look for this wine to be in the $10 range.

Wine Rating:

Score: 4/5

Price: $ - $$ (I bought it for under $10, but it shows for about $12 on some websites)

Wine Info:
2006 Chardonnay
Surf Point Vineyards
Graton, CA
http://www.sonomawineco.com/ (According to globalwinestocks.com, this is the company which produces Surf Point. However, I haven't been able to confirm this info.)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Last Week = Good Week to be a Foodie!

Last week I had the opportunity to indulge my inner Foodie -- I was invited to participate in a practice lunch at the new Dressler's restaurant in Charlotte. Located at the Metropolitan (sorta between Uptown and Dilworth), the new Dressler's is a very different beast than the original Dressler's.

The service is just as good as it is in Birkdale, and the food is just as delicious -- and in some cases the same recipes are used (Calamari and Cheesecake, I'm lookin' at you!). But when you walk in, the atmosphere is less laid-back cozy and more hitting the town for a night out. The new restaurant is gorgeous, with very high ceilings (15 - 20ft?), huge windows, and a feel that's, well, metropolitan.

Also last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Chef Dominic at Red Rocks to talk about an upcoming project. As you may remember, about a year ago I bashed the Red Rocks Kobe Burger. Though I've returned to Red Rocks and given glowing reviews, Chef Dom was still focused on the Kobe Burger. So, when I walked in Chef Dom walked out with a perfectly cooked, delicious and tantalizing Kobe Burger. It's awesome. I stand by my previous review, but it's becoming apparent to me that experience was the outlier.

UPDATE: Heading to the new Dressler's tonight for opening night! Will try to post the review tomorrow.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Recipe Friday: Super Bowl Chili!

As you probably know, I consider chili to be one of the major food groups. It's yummy. It's filling. And it's absolutely perfect for cold weather and Super Bowl parties!

I came to love chili while eating at Hard Times in Alexandria, Virgina. Fortunately for my taste buds (but unfortunately for my waist line), I happened to work within a few blocks of that restaurant for the better part of the decade.

I got to know their four types of chili (Terlingua Red, Texas, Cincinatti, and Vegetarian) very well. As for my favorite -- it was a mix of Terlingua Red and Texas.

For those of you unfamiliar with these types of chilis, I'll do my best to describe them:

Texas chili is cooked in it's own juices, contains no tomato, has strong chili powder and cumin flavors, and is one of the spicier chilis. Terlingua Red is slightly less spicy, and has a tomato base (which gives it the red color).

So, a while ago I decided to try to make a hybrid of these two chilis. And after several tries, I think that I've finally got this one correct!

Ingredients:
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef
1 large white onion (chopped), and additional 1/4 white onion for topping.
1 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp chili powder
1 clove chopped garlic (chopped)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
dried and crushed red pepper flakes
Tabasco
Spaghetti noodles
Shredded cheddar
Diced onions
Sour Cream

Directions:
1) In large skillet brown beef with olive oil and butter
2) Add onion, cumin, chili powder, garlic, tomatoes, and broth.
3) Bring to a boil, and then cover and simmer for a minimum of three hours.
4) Stir occasionally, and add small amounts of water if chili becomes too dry.
5) Add crushed red pepper and Tabasco to taste.
6) Serve chili over a bed of spaghetti noodles, and top with shredded cheese, diced onions, and dollop of sour cream.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wine Wdnesday: J. Davies, Cabernet Sauvignon


Shortly after Christmas I received a bottle of 2006 J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon from my parents. Ahh, the joys of shipping hooch across state lines -- it's like living during the era of prohibition!

But, you've gotta admit, this is one excellent care package!

The J. Davies wines are made by the same people who make Schramsberg Champagne sparkling wines. My understanding is that they're very new to the world of regular wine. But OMG, they have absolutely nothing to worry about. This wine was amazing!

This Cabernet Sauvignon was the smoothest that I've ever had, with no alcohol burn on the back of the throat. Consisting of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, and 6% Petit Verdot, this wine's taste was smooth and consistent, with strong flavors of currant, plum, and black pepper. Just smelling it before the first sip, my wife and I just knew this wine was going to be amazing. And it was.

Usually I stick to the cheaper wines (hey, lacking full-time employment for over a year will do that to ya!), but I can honestly say, that this wine is worth every penny. Thanks to my parents for introducing me to this wonderfully tasty and smooth wine from Napa -- my taste buds have just moved to a higher wine bracket!

Wine Rating:

Score: 5/5

Price: $$$$$$$$ (about $80)

Wine Info:
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
Diamond Mountain District
J. Davies Vineyards
Calistoga, CA
707-942-8354
http://www.jdavies.us/


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Savor (Charlotte)

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet with a friend of mine from Diamond Springs Water. (They have the best spring water around!) After we met up at the corporate office, we made a quick drive to Savor.

At first I was a little wary. The area it's in (West Morehead) is just starting to be less scary. Also, it's across the street from Open Kitchen -- a restaurant not known for its gourmet selections. So I turned and looked at my friend as if to ask, "Really?" And he reassured me that it was fantastic.

Fortunately, he was right.

Savor is a very small restaurant offering some big flavors. We walked in and were immediately taken to our table. It's small, and can get very loud; but the restaurant has a very cozy feel and the staff make you feel welcome.

After looking over their specials and the menu I decided to try one of my favorite sandwiches (when done right), a Cuban Sandwich, and I got a side of Cheese Grits.

After a short wait the food arrived, and I was happily surprised.

Both of our meals were presented well. It was simple, but well done. The ingredients appeared to be fresh (on both our meals), and the aroma was irresistible. My Cuban Sandwich consisted of "Roasted Pork, Smoked Ham, Pickles & Dijon Mustard on Cuban bread." The sandwich was grilled, sorta in a panini style, and it was one of the better Cuban sandwiches that I've had. (The best I've had is from Cafe Salsa, in Alexandria, VA.)

The pork and ham were warm and not dry. Where the pickles added a zesty tang that complimented the mustard. The roll was fresh and had a nice crust -- always a plus! The cheese grits were quite good. Topped with shredded cheddar, the grits were plenty warm, thick, and creamy. Delicious!

Score:
Atmosphere: 4/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 4.5/5
Total: 12.5

Price: $$ (with drink and tip about $15 per person)
Kid Friendly: Yes, though the crowd appears to be nearby professionals out for a quick lunch.

Conclusion: All in all, a great meal in an unexpected location. If you're ever in the area, this is a restaurant I'd highly recommend. Also, they have a catering service -- I'd use them!

Restaurant Info:
Savor Cafe and Catering
1404 West Morehead Street
Charlotte, NC 28208
p) 704-334-0098
http://www.savoronmorehead.com/

Monday, February 1, 2010

Foodie Gets Revealed!

I know I've been slacking the past couple of months. The truth is, I've been really busy. Along with a new project (look for an announcement in the next couple of weeks), I was recently interviewed for the Lake Norman Magazine by Charlotte Observer Food Editor Kathleen Purvis! (SQUEE!!!)

This means that next month you'll get to see a photo of my cooking -- and a photo of ME! Yup, that's right, I'm coming out of the blogger closet. Now I will be known to everybody who reads the Lake Norman Magazine (or to those willing to do a 10 second Google Search). So, in essence, I will remain anonymous. :)

But seriously, I really do like the Lake Norman Mag! Also , I'd like to thank Kathleen Purvis for the wonderful food discussion, and I'd like to thank the photographer David Foster for his ability to make my Maple Pork Chops look a thousand times more mouthwatering than they normally look.