Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dressler's (Birkdale)

For the last night of my parents' visit, we wanted to go out for a nice dinner in Charlotte. The first two choices were closed Sunday evening, so we went for a local restaurant that had a good reputation -- Dressler's.

We arrived at the restaurant, gave our reservation name, and were seated outside. It was a gorgeous day out, and we simply couldn't have picked a better evening for dinner.

We were given a seat towards the back corner -- the farthest away from the cars -- and took a look over the menu. My mouth immediately started to water once I locked-in on the "Just for the Halibut" entree. As you can guess, the main ingredient is halibut (and the guy writing the menu has a sense of humor). It's topped with crab, served with roasted red peppers and spinach. This is all on top of a chive potato cake, then drizzled with a sun dried tomato buerre blanc. Sounded good! So I ordered that along with a lettuce wedge. And my Mom ordered a bottle of wine for the table.

Our server was good, but a little pushy. My mother was taking extra time to find a bottle of wine, so the waiter came over to try to help. Big mistake. My mom doesn't want or need help in the wine department. And after she tried to give him the hint to leave, and he didn't, I asked him for a few more minutes. He was well intentioned -- but only came across as annoying and slightly pushy.

Our salads arrived, and mine was delicious. My wife had the chopped salad -- it was very good as well. Between courses, another table was served a steak entree. It smelled amazing, and I want to head back to try it. It was either the Filet Bordelaise or the New York au Poivre. Either way -- I'm going to try it sooner or later.

Next came my entree, it didn't have the alluring aroma of the steak, but man, did it taste good! The halibut was cooked to perfection. The sauce was flavorful, and a good compliment to the fish and vegetables alike. Also, there was a hint of spice on the fish. At first I thought the red powder sprinkled on the halibut was paprika -- turns out it was probably chili powder. EXCELLENT!

All in all, a very good dinner that exceeded my expectations. I'll be back.

Atmosphere: 4/5
Food: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 13/15
Price: $$$$ (salad, entree, wine and tip put me under $40)

Conclusion: Want a relaxing dinner with top-notch food in Birkdale? This is the place to go.

Restaurant Info:
Dressler's Restaurant
8630-1A Lindholm Drive
Huntersville, NC 28078
p) 704-987-1779

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Schramsberg Blanc De Blancs

First off, let me say that I know very little about Champagne. Except that 1) it's yummy. And 2) the French, and certain wine lovers with their noses in the air (a.k.a the French) get all bent out of shape every time you refer to any sparkling wine as a champagne. Apparently Champagne is a term only to be used for sparkling wines grown in the tiny Champagne region in France. Hey, don't look at me -- it's legal stuff that's outlined in the 1891 Treaty of Madrid!

Anyhow, the other day my wife and I celebrated our Anniversary with a bottle of Champagne sparkling wine from Shramsberg Vineyards (Calistoga, CA). It's a 2005 Brut; which means that it's not a sweet wine and contains less than 15 grams of sugar per liter. In addition, it's a Blanc de Blancs. For you non-frenchies out there, that means literally, "white of whites," and the term is used only for champagnes sparkling wines made with only Chardonnay grapes.

Ok, lesson done. Now for the drinking!

I'm not used to tasting champagnes sparkling wines, so it's hard to describe. The bubbles were very fine, and it had a nice finish that lingered on the tongue. I definitely got some fruit flavors out of it, apple and peach come to mind. The flavors were delicately balanced with a mild acidity that gave this bottle a crisp feel to it.

I'd drink this champagne by itself, or with a mild meal. Fish, crab, and maybe chicken. I do think that with a spicy meal that this beverage would be overwhelmed.

Heck, I'm not going to worry about calling it champagne. This Sparkling Wine from California's Napa region could easily go up against the best stuff that France could create. The name doesn't matter -- it's what's in the bottle that counts.

Rating: 4.5/5. Buy it today, tomorrow, and every day for the next two weeks. It is that good, and you'll enjoy it every time.

Price: $$$$ (about $30 - $35)

Sparkling Wine Info:
Schramsberg Vineyards
2005 Blanc de Blanc; Brut
1400 Schramsberg Road
Calistoga, CA 94515
p) 800-877-3623

THANK YOU to Wikipedia. For more information on Champagne, please visit this link:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back Tomorrow

Today I won't be posting a review of Dressler's in Huntersville. Time is short, and I have too much to do today. In fact, I'm not even writing this today -- I wrote this note yesterday because I knew how busy I'd be. So this note is from the past and to the future, even though you're reading it in the present. Think of it as time travel -- minus the DeLorean. :)

But be sure to check back in the future (i.e. tomorrow) for a Wednesday Wine review of Schramsburg Sparkling Wine! And then visit on Thursday for the previously mentioned Dressler's review.

-Lake Norman Foodie

P.S. if you're like me the DeLorean comment has you thinking about this movie....

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wrenn House (Salisbury)

With my parents in town, I've been driving all over the place trying to show them the local attractions. Biltmore? Check. Botanical Gardens? Check. Jetton Park? Check. Latta Plantation? Check. Highland Games? Check.

Oh no. Where should I go when I'm running out of ideas? {.....Thinking....} Ah - HA! The NC Transportation Museum in Spencer! Ok, so it may not be the center of the cultural universe, but my dad (and I) will get a kick out of the trains.

Ok, now where to eat in Salisbury? (about 5 mins away from the museum) I've already reviewed LA Murphs. And I don't think that my mom would appreciate Uncle Buck's. So, I decided to give the Wrenn House a try.

The Wrenn House is located in "historic" Downtown Salisbury. Build in 1839, the building has more of a home feel, than that of a restaurant. I entered the front door with my parents and after a brief wait, were told to pick a table in the non-smoking room on the right.

We did so, and took our seats, and then had a look around. We were in a large room (for a house) with wood a wood floor. It held about 10-12 tables, the walls were sparsely decorated, and there was a water fountain in the corner that was just loud enough -- with its steady tinkling sounds -- to constantly make me want to tinkle too!

The menu is large. They offer a wide array of foods. From salads and sandwiches, to pizza and pasta, they have something for everybody. Though I was tempted by the large portions of the Blue Plate Luncheon, I decided for a more conservatively portioned "Carolina Chicken Salad" sandwich.

The sandwich consists of "Our Homemade Chicken Salad Served on a Croissant, Lettuce & Tomato with our Pasta Salad." It's the first bite of chicken salad that I've had in a loooong time, but it's good! Light and refreshing, they didn't go too heavy on the mayo. In fact, their chicken salad was so good, I'm actually craving it for the first time in years! The sandwich also consisted of fresh lettuce and tomato, and was fit between two pieces of a buttery and flaky croissant. It was so big that I ate about half of it with a fork.

The lunch also came with a light, yet delicious pasta salad. And the sweet tea was good as well. Unfortunately, with a constantly refilling glass of sweet tea and the sound of the water fountain, my bladder felt like it was going to burst... thank goodness the restrooms were nearby!

Atmosphere: 3/5 (the room was clean, but lacked character -- I've been told to next visit the smoking room with the bar, apparently it has a better feel to it)
Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 11/15
Price: $$ (Sandwich, drink and tip, put me just over $10)

Conclusion: In an area with limited options, the Wrenn House has something for everybody.

Restaurant Info:
The Wrenn House Grill & Pub
115 South Jackson Street
Salisbury, NC 28144
p) 704-633-9978

Friday, April 24, 2009

Recipe Friday: Asian Style Chicken

This was the first recipe I actually used on a whole chicken. My wife showed me how do do it

Once cooked, the skin should be nice and crispy, and the meat tender and juicy. In addition, the spices and the orange make this a fragrant and delicious way to serve the chicken.

1 Whole Chicken
2-3 tablespoons Chinese 5 Spice powder (found in the spice rack at your local store)
3 garlic cloves
2 oranges

1) Preheat oven to 375
2) Wash the chicken and remove the junk (neck, heart, liver, etc.)
3) Drizzle juice from one orange over entire chicken
4) Rub powder over entire skin of chicken
5) Stuff Chicken with garlic and quartered orange
6) Cook at 375 for approx 1 hour and 30 minutes
7) Enjoy!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Prickly Pear (Mooresville) -- FINALLY!

After two weeks of polling, the readers of this blog voted that I should visit Prickly Pear in Mooresville. Prickly Pear crushed the three other competitors with 40% of the vote.

And after almost three weeks, I finally got around to visiting this unique restaurant located just outside downtown Mooresville. In addition, there was an extra bonus -- my parents treated me to dinner! SWEET!

(No, as a mostly unemployed 34 year old male, I'm not too proud to take a free meal from my parents when they're in town. I might initially protest, but in all honestly, my heart just isn't into it when my tummy is hungry!)

We entered and were seated by the hostess (who doubled as a server and bus-girl) after a brief wait -- they were seating a large group ahead of us. This former church has been decorated appropriately for this restaurant. The walls sport a feaux terra cotta finish, the floors are wood, the rafters are ancient and the chairs consist of custom iron work with a leather cushion. To me, this restaurant has a definite South West (i.e. New Mexico) feel. (The food has a South Western flavor too.)

I sat down with my parents, and looked over the menu. So many choices, and only one meal to enjoy -- I didn't know what to order. The enchiladas sounded good, the fajitas sounded better, the Marbella (tortillas filled with shrimp, crabmeat, green onion, tomatoes and baby jack cheese, served with a lobster-chipotle cream sauce) was enticing, but I went with the La Cochinita Pibil. It's a dish with Yucatan Style pork and once started, I couldn't stop eating it.

The flavors of the pork (which was served on a bed of spanish style rice) were wonderful. I tasted cumin, oregano, and I think that there was some ancho chile flavor as well. In addition, there was a sweetness to the pork, probably brought on by onions. The pork was tender and moist, as it was probably cooked in a sauce that contained the above ingredients. My compliments to the chef because this pork wasn't overly spicy, and still had TONS of flavor. I don't know what their recipe is -- but I want it!

There was only one drawback to this meal -- the pork was a little fatty. However, to taste this again, I'll happily endure a few fatty pieces of meat again.

Before the meal came, we ate a basket of chips and salsa. Unlike most mexican-style restaurants, you have to order and pay for these. The salsa was good, and the tri-colored chips threw my parents for a loop. Then came the second course. I chose the black-bean soup accompanied with a dinner roll served with Prickly Pear butter. No, the butter isn't named after the restaurant, it actually is mixed with the prickly pear fruit. It's a unique sweet taste that I wasn't prepared for. However after a few tastes, I grew to like it.

I loved this meal, and the one I had here in December was excellent as well. But this dish seriously knocked my socks off, and my recipe of Mexican Pulled Pork has been dethroned as my favorite dish. It's a blow to my ego -- but my taste-buds have spoken!

Atmosphere: 4/5
Food: 4/5 (If the pork hadn't been fatty, it would've been a 5/5)
Service: 4/5
Total: 12/15
Price: $$$ (soda, meal, appetizer and tip put it over $20)

Conclusion: It's a bit pricey, but it's SOOOOO worth it. Go here. Go now. Enjoy, and thank me with a comment.

Restaurant Info:
The Prickly Pear
761 N. Main Street
Mooresville, NC 28115
p) 704-799-0875
f) 704-799-1729

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Vinnie's (Mooresville)

Yea, I'm aware I promised this review last week. But hey, I've been busy: my parents are in town, DSL has been spotty at best, and - lets face it - the only payment I've gotten from this blog is a larger waist line! So, ya get what you pay for! :)

Vinnie's Sardine Grill and Raw Bar (a.k.a Vinnie's) in on Lake Norman, and is has the feel of a local rustic watering hole. IF that watering hole was in the mountains, and was mass produced. But the interior aside, Vinnie's has a great location, and since it's on the lake shore, the interior doesn't matter much since it really is all about the lake.

Unfortunately, the day I went there it was raining (as it was the ENTIRE first half of April), so my buddy and I were stuck inside next to the busy Golden Tee video game.

Vinnie's apparently prides itself on its seafood selection. With offerings of Crab Legs, Yellow-Fin Tuna, and Oysters, they are trying to have a menu that doesn't just offer the standard bar fare.

After looking over the menu, I selected the Shrimp Po' Boy sandwich. After all, 10 months without a full-time job -- a Po' Boy seems about right for me! (At this moment I'd like to thank my wife for all the support -- mental and financial -- she's given for the past 10 months! SMOOCHES!)

So, where was I? Oh yeah, sandwich. After a short wait, our waitress brought our meals. I had the Po' Boy with fries, and my friend got the Fish and Chips that was highly recommended by the waitress.

My sandwich was a basic shrimp po' boy. The bay shrimp were breaded and fried, and put on a bun with lettuce and tomato. No mayo, no sauce or anything else. I took a bite -- it NEEDED something else. Perhaps a spicy flavorful dressing like the one that I had on my shrimp po' boy at the Cheesecake Factory? So, I asked the waitress for some tartar sauce. Once I added that AND the Tabasco, the sandwich was passable, but not great.

The lettuce and tomato seemed to be under the heating lamp for WAAY too long, the bun was OK, but nothing special, and the fries weren't remarkable either.

But I'll be frank, the reason to go here is for the patio and drinks during good weather. Food seems to be a distant second reason to visit.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 3/5
Service: 3/5
Total: 9/15
Price: $$ (Food, tax, and tip had me around $14)

Conclusion: OK food and service. But the reason to go is to hang out by the water. I'll probably be back once the weather is better. However, I can't recommend their drink specials -- there is nothing special about the uber-cheap beer (that I last had in under-grad) Natural Light.

Restaurant Info:
Vinnies Sardine Grill and Raw Bar
643 Williamson Rd
Mooresville, NC 28117

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sunset Terrace at Grove Park Inn (Asheville, NC)

For the first time since 2006, my parents left the confines of the west coast and have ventured out to visit me and my wife. So, to make the most of their visit, and to keep my mother occupied, I took them over to Asheville to see the Biltmore Estates.

After a morning of oggling the largest house in America, and wondering how I'd redecorate it -- I'm thinking that I'd put a seven-story waterslide into the main dining room -- we decided to head over to the Grove Park Inn for lunch, and to meet up with my wife who was travelling though the area on her way back from a work trip.

It was a gorgeous day outside, so we opted for the casual outdoor seating at the Sunset Terrace. Since it was lunch time there was no sunset, but the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains were nonetheless breathtaking.

The first time we saw our waitress was 10 minutes after we sat down. She ran though the specials, and then took our drink orders. About 5 minutes later, our drinks came, and she took our food orders. I got the Bruschetta Chicken Sandwich. Which was described as a "Springer Mountain Farms chicken breast, havarti, goat cheese basil spread, prosciutto ..." For my side, I chose onion rings -- I was in the mood to get a little grease with my lunch.

After a 30 minute wait (What the #$%&$!???) our food arrived. My sandwich was a little different that I was expecting. It was large, and didn't resemble the smaller bruschetta that I'm used to. Instead, it was simply an open-faced sandwich. The ingredients were good, and I had very few complaints about it. The chicken was char-grilled and flavorful, with a hint of sweetness from a marinade. In addition, it was still moist, and not over-cooked. The onion rings were good, and just what I was looking for.

Some of the other meals at the table left a bit to be desired.

My wife's steak sandwich was VERY fatty. The only piece I tried was so fatty that I had to spit it out -- it simply was't chewable. And they forgot to put salad dressing on my Mom's lobster salad (lobster over greens). To top it all off, I had to flag down our waitress twice: Once to get a coffee refill for my Dad, and next to get salad dressing for my Mom. The thing is, our waitress was just a few feet away from us, but too busy talking with other wait staff to notice that we needed attention.

All in all, this was a disappointing experience. For the price, I had expected better service and food. Then to top it all off -- they added a service charge for only four people!! Sadly we left our waitress a small tip, because we were tired of waiting for the change. If it weren't for the view and the weather, this lunch would have been a waste.

Atmosphere: 5/5
Food: 3/5 (my sandwich = 4/5, my wife's = 2/5 so I gave the average.)
Service: 1/5
Total: 9/5
Price: $$ (My sandwich, drink and service charge came to about $20)

Conclusion: Great view, ok food, and negligent service. We would've been better served at McDonalds.

Restaurant Info:
Sunset Terrace
Grove Park Inn
290 Macon Ave.
Asheville, NC 28804
(800) 438-5800

Friday, April 17, 2009

Recipe Friday: Grilled Stuffed Flank Steak

This is the recipe that made Bobby Flay my hero. I will now do anything that the Grill Guru (the title that I've given him) asks me to do. Since I make this recipe exactly as directed, I'm not going to post the ingredients and the directions as I usually do. But I'm going to direct you to the Food Network website that contains all of that information. But I will give you a quick summary:

First you marinate a two lb flank steak in a red wine marinade. After you've pounded it flat, you place basil, fontina cheese, and prosciutto on top of the flank steak and then roll the steak onto the toppings so that they're now in the middle. You tie it up, and then place on the grill.

Once it's cooked, you slice off a roll, and you get a delicious steak stuffed with the sharp flavors of the melted fontina cheese, the sweet flavors of the basil, and the salty flavors of the prosciutto. Then this is all topped off with the savory flavors of the Cabernet reduction which is drizzled over it.

This is, by far, one of the tastiest meals I've ever had the privilege of making.

So, here's the link. Read, cook, and enjoy!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Two Posts Tomorrow...

Ok, my 2nd DSL modem in 5 days it out. Apparently AT&T, in their infinite wisdom, replaced my broken DSL modem with another broken DSL modem that was recalled a month ago. Hence, I'm writing this from the library.

So, be on the lookout for my make-up post tomorrow which will be about Vinnie's in Mooresville and the Recipe Friday post which will include one of my favorite recipes from grilling guru Bobby Flay.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Red Bicyclette Chardonnay

Monday I was hopeful that I'd have good news to share with ya'll. I was the front-runner for a full-time job that would have me commuting to Raleigh a couple of days a week. It matched my skill-set, I'd have fun doing it, and I had a good interview.

However, things did not go as I had hoped. The President acknowledged that they had planned to hire me, but the Chairman of the Board had other ideas, and insisted on hiring someone else who had less experience.

So, looking for a way to cheer myself up, I chilled a bottle of Chardonnay and waited until 10:05pm, so I could enjoy the bottle while watching the Oakland A's take on the Red Sox.

The good news: the A's played a solid game and won.

The bad news: this wine wasn't what I was hoping for.

This light straw colored Chardonnay has a very sweet and floral smell. Which had me worried at the beginning. I thought it was going to be waaay too sweet.

However, when I let the wine wash over my taste-buds sweet wasn't the main flavor that I tasted. Tart was. The wine first hit me with sweet, and just when it almost became too much, it was followed by a tart taste that actually made me squint my eyes. It's like that fake apple taste, just concentrated to such an extent that it no longer tastes good. And all that was followed by a burning in the back of my throat.

Ugh. This wine tastes the same way the Red Sox played last night. Or maybe it just tastes like socks. But either way, I won't be buying this one again any time soon.

Rating: 1/5

Price: $ (About $10)

Wine Info:
Red Bicyclette
2005 Chardonnay
Languedoc Region, France

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Taste of Buffalo Pizzeria

Though I've never been to Buffalo, I LOVE buffalo wings. The spicy and tangy flavors that wash over my tongue are amazing, and I find myself craving Buffalo Wings on a regular basis. So when a buddy offered to pay for my cat-sitting services (coming soon to a city near you) with a plate of hot wings, I was a very happy cat-sitter!

We headed over to Taste of Buffalo Pizzeria, off of Old Statesville Rd., and in the same complex as Showmars' (reviewed earlier). My friend had been there before, and on the way over he briefed me that the owners were from Buffalo and that everything there was authentic.

This means that I was REALLY excited about heading over there.

We got inside, and it had more character than I was expecting. The walls were adorned with sports memorabilia, and you could tell that the owners are proud of this little restaurant.

We walked up to the counter, and placed an order for 20 Hot Wings and two sodas. After being informed that it'd take a few minutes to be completed, we took our drinks and headed outside to enjoy the nice weather.

After sitting back and relaxing for a while, the wings arrived. I then quickly ran inside and grabbed a LOT of extra napkins. Because when it comes to eating wings, I'm messy, really messy, I resemble a two year old who has just found and eaten one of those super large chocolate bars. I'm not kidding! After I get into some wings, I'll probably wind up with sauce in my hair, and need a shower to clean-up.

No, I'm not proud of this, but at least I know what my weaknesses are! :)

Now where was I? Oh yeah, the wings. The wings were deep fried so that the skin was crispy, but the meat was tender and juicy. And the wing sauce was good, but not nearly as hot as I was expecting. These hot wings were more like luke-warm wings. Don't get me wrong, they were still delicious, but I was expecting a little more heat. Fortunately, they have still have Extra Hot and Fire Hot to try. YAAY!

Quite simply, the wings were great. In addition, they came with blue cheese dressing and fresh celery to cut-down on the heat. I'll be back to eat here again.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 3/5
Total: 10/15
Price: $

Conclusion: I really liked the wings, and I'll be back to try the pizza. This place has some quality food at a great price.

Restaurant Info:
Taste of Buffalo Pizzeria
9610 Sherrill Estates Rd
Huntersville, NC‎ 28078

Monday, April 13, 2009

Steak and Shake (Mooresville)

As you know, I like local / non-chain restaurants. They give a better flavor of the region that they serve. And not just their food, the restaurant's decor and service usually reflect the area as well. That's just my preference. Though I'm sure there are others who prefer chains because of their stability and consistency.

However, I will on occasion, go to a chain to enjoy a good meal. Hey, don't judge me -- tasty is tasty. And when my wife and I were driving on 150 through Mooresville and she wanted Steak 'n Shake I just rolled my eyes. Steak 'n Shake?? They can't even spell "and" properly!

But, my wife batted her eyelashes, and I caved in -- AGAIN!

So, we got to Stake 'n Shake, and entered. I was shocked that it sorta had a 1950's diner theme. The interior was surprisingly clean, including the men's restroom. Those are never clean!

I chose a "Single Steakburger" with cheese and bacon. I just didn't have room for an "Original Steakburger" with two patties. I also ordered fries and a Chocolate and Banana "Side by Side" Milk Shake.

There are two burger places on this planet that I revere: In-N-Out Burger and Mel's Drive-In. In-N-Out has the freshest burgers with the freshest ingredients. And Mel's is a landmark which has the best chocolate and banana milk shakes. Both have great bacon and cheeseburgers. So, I wanted to see how Steak 'n Shake compared.

While I wasn't overwhelmed by my Steakburger, I wasn't disappointed either.

The burger patty was VERY thin. In addition, it was a bit on the greasy side.... but in this case, that's a good thing. The burger was rather tasty, and I didn't need much ketchup and all. The fries were thin too. But since they were shoestring fries, that was also a good thing. I liked the fries, they weren't soggy, and they didn't need any ketchup at all. They were plenty good plain.

Then came the milk shake. It was less milkshake, and more soft-serve ice cream. The banana flavor was on the right half of the cup, and the chocolate was on the left side of the cup. I mixed them together, and took a sip.

The milkshake was refreshing, but the artificial banana flavor wasn't what I was hoping for. However, the chocolate seemed fine by itself, and I propably should have just forgone the banana all together.

But, all-in-all, it's a good meal. I was pleased with the service, the food was good, and for the price, I thought it was a decent deal. I'm not in a rush to go back, BUT I won't veto the idea of eating at Steak 'n Shake again.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 3/5
Service: 3/5
Total: 9/5
Price: $

Conclusion: It's a good meal for a good price. Not the best burger and shake in the world, but very good nonetheless.

Restaurant Information:
Steak 'n Shake
635 River Highway
Mooresville, NC 28117

Hi-Speed Outage

Sorry for the delay in getting today's post up. My internet connection was out for two days, and I'm just getting everything up and running. However, I'll be sure to have a post up by the end of the day!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Recipe Friday: Mom's EZ Lasagna Recipe

This is my Mother's easy lasagna recipe. For those of you who don't know my Mom, she doesn't consider herself to be a cook. So, if she's got a go-to recipe, you know it's easy to prepare, cook, and clean-up. The beauty of this recipe is that you don't need to pre-cook the lasagna noodles. Just throw them in all crunchy, and after one hour, viola! Soft yummy noodles in the lasagna!

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 clove garlic
32 ounces omato sauce
1 package lasagna noodles
2 cups ricotta
1/2 cups parmesean
1 tbsp parsley
3 cups mozzarella and cheddar combined

1) Heat oven to 375
2) Brown meat in skillet with onion and garlic
3) Combine ricotta and parsley (when dealing with the ricotta, it's easiest to just use your hands)
4) In a deep pan start layers from the bottom up. sauce --> noodles --> ricotta -->beef --> cheese --> sauce --> noodles --> ricotta --> beef --> sauce --> cheese
5) Cover tightly with aluminum foil
6) Bake at 375 for one hour.
7) Serve with garlic bread using garlic butter recipe
8) Enjoy!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

No Post Today

I'm posting to let ya'll know that I'm not posting today. Well I am posting. But, I'm posting to tell you that I'm not posting. -- Ugh, this circular conversation is giving me a headache! :)

But, I'm not posting a restaurant review today. However, I'll be back tomorrow with Recipe Friday. Be sure to check back!


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Napa River Chardonnay

Last week when I was on my way to Trader Joes, I was excited. Not only would I get a chance to find foods that I normally wouldn't find at the grocery store, but I'd get a chance to look over a new selection of wines too. Needless to say, once I made my way into the store, I was a very giddy Foodie!

As I browsed the wine aisle, I saw some wines that were familiar, so I skipped those. And eventually I made my way to the 2005 Napa River Chardonnay. The price was right (under $10), and I liked the description. So, I grabbed it. And made my way back home with a car-load of delectable goodies. (One day I'll be sure to mention the french pizza with onions, gruyere cheese, and ham!)

The next day I prepared dinner and needed a white wine. So, the first thing I reached for was the Napa River Chardonnay. When I poured it I was surprised by the pale light straw color. It was so light, that at first I thought it was completely colorless.

Next came the smell test. Yeah, right! With my allergies? I was lucky I wasn't sneezing into the wine glasses! To my nose the wine had a light floral aroma, but I could barely notice it with my limited sniffing capabilities. However, to be fair, my wife did confirm the light floral scent.

Then came the taste test -- yup, I was screwed. Sneezing and wine tasting don't go together. I didn't taste much. It has an initial sweetness that turns a little sour during the follow-through. However, I did detect hints of caramel and cedar. It should be noted, that my wife (who was my surrogate smeller and taster) commented about the light body and taste to the wine. It appears that the light smell and taste, and slight sweetness of this wine lends it to a summer wine.

Due to my nasal handicap this time, I looked online for some other reviews to see if I was in the ball park, and it appears that some others agree with me. So, even though my nose was giving me problems, my review is somewhat accurate.

Now, all I need is an aisle in the grocery store with wine AND Zyrtec -- I'll be in great shape!

Rating: 3/5; from what I could tell it was a relatively average chardonnay. Good, but not great.

Price: $ (under $10)

Wine Info:
Napa River
2005 Chardonnay
Napa, CA

FYI, this wine is made by Bronco Winery, the same folks who make Charles Shaw wines.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Matt's Chicago Dog (Cornelius)

Baseball season started this week (GO A's!), so it seems appropriate that I review a place that focuses on hot dogs. Think about it, hot dogs and baseball just go together. For those nay-sayers out there, yes, Cracker Jacks also go together with baseball . However, this place isn't called Matt's Chicago Cracker Jacks -- so I'll stick with reviewing hot dogs.

When I walked in I found a small fast-food style restaurant. After walking through a small seating area, I found my way to the counter, and placed my order. A Chicago Dog combo -- this includes fries and a soda.

I took my styrofoam cup, filled it with Pepsi, and took a seat. Though it's in Cornelius, this place has a decidedly Chicago feel to it. The mural painting on the wall, the Chicago-style blues playing, and the wood panel counter just felt like a place I'd been to in Chicago.

After a short wait, my meal was brought to my table. Where was my hot dog?? Oh, wait, it's underneath the HOT fries. Those fries were just cooked, and they're "dirty" (skins still on) -- just the way I like them. I gotta say, these are some great fries.

I made my way to the dog, wrapped in paper. And it had the mustard, onions, and the unique neon green Chicago-style relish. The all beef Vienna dog was good, and so was the bun which was topped with poppy seeds.

But really, the highlight to me for this meal were the fries, I just couldn't stop eating them. Now, all I need are some field level seats along the first base line (and a good beer), and I'll be in heaven.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 3/5
Total: 10/15
Price: $ (dog, fries, and drink for under $7)

Conclusion: This place has a good hot dog, and GREAT fries. I'll be going here again, and maybe the next time I'll try a sandwich or a burger. Yeah, right. Who am I kidding? I'll be ordering the same thing.

Restaurant Info:
Matt's Chicago Dog
19732 One Norman Blvd
Cornelius, NC 28031
(If you know the website, please post it in the comments section -- I can't find it.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Red Rocks Cafe (Again!)

This is the first for this blog -- I'm reviewing a restaurant that I've already reviewed. Though I've tried to keep this from happening, there are two things that I couldn't overlook.

1) I knew that my last visit to Red Rocks wasn't representative of the typical visit
2) I didn't have a chance to visit a new restaurant last weekend. (Hey, it's not like I get paid for this!) :)

So, here's my most recent review.....

My wife and I met some friends at Red Rocks for dinner last weekend. Just an informal gathering to catch up, and eat some good food in the process.

Though we didn't have any reservations, we were quickly seated and given a quiet booth. Our waitress came by and took our drink orders, and we went back to chatting and glancing over the menu.

After we got our drinks we settled down to looking at the menu, and the waitress was attentive, but not pushing us to place our orders. What was I in the mood for? Steak? Naa. Sandwich or Burger? Not again. Seafood? NOPE! So, I decided to get a pasta dish. After we made our decisions, and placed our orders, we went back to talking.

A while after we placed our orders our food came, and I was handed a massive plate filled with Southwestern Chicken Ravioli. This ravioli didn't taste like any other I've ever had. It's filled with smoked chicken, black beans, jack cheese, and jalapeno. And it's topped with a creamy tomato sauce with a hint of cilantro.

Really, it's hard to describe the flavors that washed over my palate. I tasted the sweetness of the smoked chicken balanced with the spice of the jalapenos, and the texture of the black beans was in contrast to the creaminess of the melted jack cheese. All topped with the tomato sauce that was simply delicious.

I've never had a ravioli like this, and I really hope I don't -- I like to think that it's made fresh every day from scratch at Red Rocks. And if it isn't, I don't want to know. As far as I'm concerned, this should be their signature dish.

After I devoured my ravioli like a ravenous animal, I took a chance to sit back and relax with a decaf coffee and a slice of carrot cake.

Though the carrot cake was good, and I'll probably order it again, it doesn't compare to the carrot cake at Mickey and Mooch. Nonetheless, this is a great cake, moist and sweet, and with enough frosting to make me forget I'm eating a cake -- with shredded carrots! (REALLY -- Who thought of that??)

So, all in all, Red Rocks has redeemed itself in my eyes. They still have quality entrees -- though the price is a little more than I'd expect.

Atmosphere: 4/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 12/15
Price: $$$ (Entree, coffee, dessert and tip put it at just over $20 per person)

Conclusion: I've been here several times, and this place has good food and a great atmosphere. I'll be going here again soon.

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

Friday, April 3, 2009

Prickly Pear Wins!

After two weeks of voting and almost 300 votes, Prickly Pear smashed the competition with 109 votes (40%). There was a tie for 2nd place by Dressler's and the North Harbor Club, each with 28%, and Midtown sundries was dead last with a measly 5% of the vote.

So, the readers of this blog overwhelmingly picked Prickly Pear, and I'll be going there sometime in the next couple of weeks.

You voted, and my taste buds will decide!

Thanks for voting, and check back soon for the upcoming review of Prickly Pear, and the newest poll which will decide where I will eat again!

Recipe Friday: Apricot Chicken

I got this EASY recipe from my wife when we first started dating. Now, I'll warn you -- the ingredients don't actually sound like they go together... but the flavors mix together wonderfully, and in the end you have tasty and tender chicken, surrounded by a great and thick sauce that can be poured over the chicken, and I like it over the rice I typically serve with this entree too.

4 skinless chicken breasts
1 small jar of apricot jelly
1 packet of dry onion soup mix
1 small jar thousand island dressing

1) place jelly, soup mix, and dressing into pan and mix together
2) place chicken in pan and cover with mixture
3) bake in oven at 350 degrees for one hour
4) enjoy!

See? I told you that was easy! :)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Due Amici

Every morning after I wake up, and help my wife get out the door, I sit down with a cup of coffee and review the Charlotte Observer. And recently, I've been very interested in their 2009 Tournament of Pizza. Think of it as March Madness -- but with pepperoni! Every week readers submit their votes, and bracket by bracket, the winner gets decided.

So, when I went on a "Foodie Trip"(a.k.a. Trader Joes run) and my friend recommended we hit Due Amici Pizzeria on the way there, I was game. (FYI, it sounds like this place is in the Elite Eight of the Tournament of Pizza)

It's in a blah strip mall with a Bi-Lo and a Blockbuster, off of Prosperity Church Road, and I had a hard time finding it. Once we entered, it looked like a lot of other pizza places. The seating to the side, and the counter in front. The counter had many different types of pizza, while trying to decide on what slices I was going to get (yes, they serve by the slice -- truly, a way to my heart!), I asked the guy running things, if they had any pepperoni. He said it was in the oven, and in five minutes, it'd be ready.

Pizza by the slice that is still in the oven?? SWEET!!

So, I ordered two slices, and sat with my drink and waited. I took in Due Amici, and started to like it more and more. It's not much to look at, but it's obvious that they take their food seriously. The desserts on display looked amazing (I'm still mad at myself for not getting a cannoli), and they had a good selection of calzone and stomboli.

After a few minutes the pizza was ready and I grabbed my slices. Since it was pepperoni, it had some grease on top, but not too much. After I mopped the grease up with napkins, I picked up the hot slice and took a bite. My first thoughts were: HOT!!! HOTTT!!!

Ok, so I put it down, and waited a few minutes for it to cool. Then I took another bite. It was good pizza. The crust wasn't soggy, and the crust was crispy on the outside, and soft in the middle. The cheese was good combination of cheeses, the sauce was slightly tangy, and the pepperoni was delicious. All in all, it was a darn good slice of pizza.

During the meal, I looked over the menu, and was surprised that they offered a large array of pastas, salads, and entrees. Though it feels just like a pizza place, they've got a lot more to offer than pizza. The next time I'm on my way to Trader Joes, I'll stop here again.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 3/5
Total: 10/15
Price: $ (Total meal under $10)

Conclusion: The pizza is really good, but I don't think it warrants a drive from Huntersville. However, if I'm in the area, I'll be sure to stop by again.

Restaurant Info:
Due Amici Pizza
5346 Prosperity Church Rd.
Charlotte, NC 28269
p) 704-948-1999
f) 704-947-3030

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Liberty School Chardonnay

During our brief instance of sunshine earlier this week, I thought I'd made a lighter meal, intended for warm weather. So, I made an Asian chicken dish served with a cabbage slaw, and to compliment it, I had a Liberty School Chardonnay. The meal was OK. The wine was GREAT!

I found this 2003 wine in a local Food Lion surrounded by, and priced with, the 2005 Liberty School Chardonnays. So for less than $10 I got a wine that was two years older than the others-- sign me up!

At first I was a little concerned, in my experience California Chardonnays tend to hit their peak once they're about 5-7 years old. Since this is 6, it's getting a little long-in-the-tooth. However, I typically like Liberty School wines, and I was curious to see what it would taste like.

What first struck me about this wine, was the deep golden hue -- it's one of the darker Chardonnays that I've seen. I didn't get much out of the smell, since my allergies have been killing me lately, but I thought I got a hint of apple and pear.

Upon tasting, the apple and pear flavors were definitely there. I also tasted a hint of oak and butter, which made me fall head over heels for this wine. Then came the crisp finish with just a hint of acidity.

All in all, a great wine for the warm weather, and a great buy at under $10 -- if you can find it.

Rating: 4/5; If I see it, I'll get it.

Price: $ - $$; I got it for under $10, but it's listed online for $14

Wine Info:
Liberty School
2003 Chardonnay
Paso Robles (Central Coast), California