Friday, July 31, 2009

Recipe Friday: Grilled Tilapia with Sofrito

This past weekend my wife and I did some cooking. We've been trying to be healthier with our meals. So this week we made a concerted effort to have lean meats and lots of vegetables. (Not including my Tenders visit yesterday -- chicken tender sandwich, fries, and chocolate milkshake. YUM!)

This led us to look through our assorted recipe books. And after my wife decided we needed more fish in our diet, she found a Tilapia with Sofrito recipe.

If you're like me, you're first through was, "Sofrito?? What's that??"

Turns out I've had Sofrito before, but I didn't know that was the name. Think of it as a non-spicy, but VERY flavorful salsa. It has tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic. And as it turns out, it is the PERFECT compliment to Tilapia.

In addition, if you have left over Sofrito you can re-use it for other things. Add a couple of dashes of Tabasco, and you've got yourself some GREAT salsa. Or, add an additional tomato, juice from a couple of limes, and a jalapeno, and you've got a quick and easy ceveche. Add some cooked and peeled shrimp, and you've got one yummy meal! I made the ceveche last week. It was almost as good as the Tilapia.

Below you'll find the Tilapia with Sofrito recipe we used. It's from Hannaford Supermarkets (in the Northeast). Also, here's the link.



1 medium sweet onion, peeled and quartered
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 8 pieces
1 medium tomato, quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled 2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves

4 (8-oz.) tilapia fillets
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado, peeled and sliced (optional)

1 Preheat grill to medium-high.
2) Put onion, bell pepper, tomato, and garlic in bowl of a food processor or blender; pulse until diced.
3) Add olive oil, and pulse for 5 to 10 seconds, until ingredients become a chunky purée. Add salt and cilantro and pulse until blended. Transfer sofrito to a medium serving bowl and set aside.
4) Brush Tilapia fillets with olive oil and grill for 3 minutes on each side over direct heat, or until slightly charred and just opaque in the center.
5) Place fillets on serving platter and sprinkle with black pepper. Top with 3 Tbsp. sofrito and serve immediately, with avocado on the side if desired.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cookout (Huntersville)

Since I arrived in NC, I've driven by the Cook Out restaurants without venturing in. What is a Cook-Out? What do they serve? I was a little hesitant about this unknown quantity. But yesterday I finally took the plunge, and I'm glad I did.

I don't know what the other Cook Out restaurants look like inside, but this kinda had a feel of a rustic Southern lake house. The walls had wood paneling, there were fans hanging from the ceiling, and small NASCAR car hoods adorned the walls, as did maps of Lake Norman.

Lake Norman Cook Out MenuI approached the cashier, and locked onto the first thing I saw on the menu. A hamburger. I chose the Regular size (1/4 lb), with cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, onion, and ketchup. I also got an order of fries and a Coke.

As you can tell, the menu there has a LOT of items. From burgers and BBQ, to chicken tenders and milkshakes, this place has a LOT to offer.

In just over the about the time that it took me to walk over to the fountain, and fill my cup, my food was ready! It came in a bag, so I could take it "To-Go" if I wanted to. However, I really wanted to eat immediately, so I grabbed a seat, and took at look at what was in the bag.

Cook Out MealInside I found a small bag or fries, and a burger wrapped in aluminum foil. As you can see, the burger looked pretty good! It was topped with a thick slice of tomato, fresh lettuce, and a thin slice of white onion. The burger was a very good size, and not pressed too thin. In addition, the burger bun was not squished. I was a little surprised it looked so good!

I took a bite of the burger and was pleased. It wasn't over-cooked or greasy. In addition, the fresh produce really added a nice bit of added flavor. In particular, that tomato was amazing. Really red, really fresh, and really good! The produce was such a high quality that it made me reminisce about In-N-Out Burger. (Which almost always has GREAT quality produce.)

I polished off the burger pretty quickly. So I went over to the fries. At first I was hopeful -- the fries were cooked with their skins still on. That is almost always a sign of a high quality fry. But I was disappointed when I took a bite. The fries weren't crispy -- they were just there. Not soggy, not crispy. They sorta looked they were apologizing for their sad state when picked up; with it drooping from my fingers.

That said, I really want to try their hush puppies. They've gotta be better than the fries. Any fast-food joint that serves hush puppies is a favorite of mine!

Atmosphere: 3.5/5
Food: 3.5/5
Service: 4/5
TOTAL: 11/15

Price: $ (Well under $10)
Kid friendly: Yes. High chairs and booster seats available.

Conclusion: Cheap prices, fast service, and good burgers are in abundance here. I'm not a fan of the fries. But since the burger was sooo good. I'll be back to try some other things -- including the hush-puppies.

Restaurant Info:
Cook Out
425 Huntersville Gateway Blvd
Huntersville, NC 28078
p) 704-875-0077

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Archetype Shiraz

This weekend I walked into the local Harris Teeter and was greeted by the Bargain Carts. There were two grocery carts filled with discounted (probably discontinued) bottles of wine.

Whenever I see these I feel like a kid at Christmas opening presents! What will the cart hold? Will it be something I like?? I hope it's a pony!! Oh, wait, sorry. Got carried away!

I glanced through the bottles, most of which I've never heard of -- and a few which I won't buy. But as I was looking, I ran across a bottle of 2006 Archetype Shiraz. Moderately aged -- I like that. Australia makes a good Shiraz (a.k.a Syrah) -- I like that too. It only costs $10, discounted from $15. I like that even more!

So, I bought the bottle. And last night I served it with Four Cheese Tortellini with Marinara Sauce. It was great with this meal.

This Shiraz is a little heavier and thicker than I'm used to from Shiraz. In some ways it almost seemed more like a Cabernet Sauvignon. It has strong currant, black pepper, and spice flavors with a hint of vanilla. It goes down smooth, is slightly dry, and has a mild acidic kick at the end.

Overall a great wine, and if you are fortunate to find it, I recommend you add this to one of your meals.

Score: 3.5/5

Price: $$ (Just over $10 -- on sale)

Wine Info:
2006 Archetype Shiraz
Barossa Valley

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Next Week is Pizza Week!

Next week is Pizza Week on the Lake Norman Foodie. I'll be hitting three different local pizzerias. And I'll try to hit some places that I haven't been before.

But I'll also take your votes into account. So, be sure to vote in the poll that's located in the the upper left-hand corner of this blog, and I'll try to make it to one or two of the top pizzerias mentioned. To try to compare apples to apples -- I'll only be ordering the peperoni pizzas.

So, make your voice heard! And make sure you send me somewhere with good pizza!


P.S. If your favorite pizzeria isn't listed, leave a comment below, and let me know what it is!

Positano Osteria (Birkdale)

A few weeks ago an acquaintance of mine suggested that I hit the lunch buffet at Positano in Birkdale. Though Positano has a reputation for being a little on the pricey side, I was assured that the buffet was a relative bargain, and I should give it a try.

So, yesterday a friend and I hit Positano to see what the buzz was about.

We walked in, and were asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside. Since it was sweltering, we opted for the inside option. We passed the buffet and were seated. The host asked for our drink orders, and wanted to know if we wanted menus. We declined, and said we were here for the buffet.

The interior of Positano is nice, and I found it to be relaxing. It's done in a restaurant faux-Tuscan style. Tile floor, dark woods, light colored walls, etc. It looks like a nice Italian restaurant should. Then I turned my attention towards more important things -- like the buffet!

So, we headed over and I noticed that the buffet is sorta a small about (two long tables). But here's what it offered.... Soup, Salad (spinach) with two types of dressing, two types of pizza, one pasta entree, one chicken entree, sliced oranges, and cheesecake. OK, now that I wrote it, it sounds like more than it looked like. (But, it's small when compared to the Indian restaurant in Cornelius, there were probably a couple dozen things to choose from.)

I grabbed some spinach and put the dressing on (the other option was oil and vinegar). As it turns out, the dressing was pinkish (I later learned that it was a Chianti vinaigrette), and I grabbed a slice of ham and sausage pizza (the other option was cheese pizza). I returned to the table.

The salad dressing was really amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was tangy from the vinegar, but the Chianti put a nice finish on it. It worked very well with the strong flavors of the spinach. Honestly, if I ever find this in a store, I'm buying it.

Next came the pizza. The ingredients were good, as was the sauce. I enjoyed the sausage and ham pizza slices. My only complaint is that the pizza was very soggy towards the middle. So much so that I had to use a fork an knife. Aside from the middle of the pizza, the crust was good, and I actually ate all the pizza crust (which is unusual for me).

After I cleared my small plate, I headed back to try the pasta. OK, I grabbed a second slice of pizza, THEN I grabbed some pasta. The pasta was sorta a standard penne entree with a tomato and basil marinara sauce. It was good. It didn't knock my socks off, but I didn't hate it either. Again I cleared my plate.

Now I was ready for dessert. I passed the orange slices, and helped myself to a piece of cheesecake. The pieces were small, but I didn't help myself to two slices (though I wanted to!). I took a bite, and I was surprised. It wasn't good. It wasn't great. It was pretty bad. I don't know how this happened, but this cheesecake was chalky. It had a dry granular texture to it. And it wasn't just my taste-buds... my friend thought the same thing!

To give you an idea of how bad it was -- I didn't finish it. It takes a LOT for me to leave a slice of cheesecake behind. Sadly, this was one of those slices.

The service was very good, and they were very attentive -- especially considering that it was a buffet situation.

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

Price: $$ (With soda and tip, the meal came to about $14)
Kid Friendly: Yes, they offer kids menus and high chairs.

Conclusion: The food was only OK. For the price, I felt that I was either over-charged, or the food should have been a little better. I'll head back to try dinner there one of these days, to see if the buffet was representative of their standard meals.

Restaurant Info:
Positano Osteria
8625-A Lindholm Drive
Huntersville, NC 28078
p) 704-896-2979

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bagelville Cafe Now Open

Joe Marusak with the Observer has reported that Bagelville Cafe has opened in Mooresville. Owned by native New Yorkers, Bagelville makes its bagels daily, and serves breakfast and lunch.

They can be found at:
Bagelville Cafe
247 A. E. Plaza Drive (near the Bottom Dollar)
Mooresville, NC

Get more information at:

Outback Steakhouse (Huntersville)

Last week my wife and I decided to go out and splurge a little. We craved food that was tasty, salty, and generally bad for our health. So, we headed to Outback Steakhouse for their Aussie Cheese Fries, and a piece of meat. The evening was looking good!

We walked in the doors and were promptly seated. We were given a small booth, towards the back of the restaurant. Out waiter came by to take our orders (beer) and we also placed the appetizer order.

The beers arrived quickly, and the fries not much longer after that. When the fries came out, we also placed our orders -- I decided on the Baby Back Ribs.

The fries are a standard order of ours, and again we were pleased. The fries were crispy, yet tender. Not to mention the gobs of cheese and bacon, that were then dipped with the fry into a bowl of ranch! YUM!!!

Talk about a heart attack waiting to happen! (I really need to get a cardiologist on speed-dial!)

We polished off the fries in record time, and the meal was going great. For the next course I was anticipating my order of babyback ribs! My mouth was watering, my fingers were waiting to get messy, and my arteries were dilating to accommodate the latest surge of cholesterol!

The ribs came and I dug in . These were the toughest ribs that I've ever had. Really, there was nothing "baby back" about these ribs -- they tasted like they came from the oldest and toughest beast of burden around! My knife could barely cut through them. In addition, they were topped by a huge quantity of fat. I tried to cut or pick it off, but it was so thoroughly integrated into the meat, that it was hard to figure out where the fat ended and the meat began.

The kitchen should have never accepted these ribs, let alone prepared them. I should've known better than to get ribs at Outback, they're not the specialty -- but I figure if a place like Max & Ermas can make delicious ribs, then Outback should be able to as well!

Unfortunately, I was wrong. I should've saved the $50+ and gone to 131 Main or eaten like a king at Max & Ermas -- at least those places have good ribs.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 2/5 (Baby Back Ribs were a 1/5, but the fries brought the score up one)
Service: 3/5
Total: 8/15

Price: $$$ This meal came out to under $30 per person. Over-priced if you ask me.
Kid friendly: Yes. They have high-chairs, kids menu, etc.

Conclusion: This was the first time I'd ever been disappointed by Outback, but the disappointment was so great, it'll be a while before I go there again. And I'll never order their Baby Back Ribs again in my lifetime. However, their steaks, fries, and chicken have all been good in the past.

Restaurant Info:
Outback Steakhouse
16400 Northcross Dr.
Huntersville, NC 28078
p) 704-895-1888

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Lake Norman Foodie is a Twit!

If you actually know me, the headline above is not news!

However, it also indicates that I'm now on Twitter. This means that I'm "tweeting," and you can get updates to what I'm saying 24/7, 365 days of the year.

So, if you want to know what I'm eating, drinking, or doing on the website, this is a great way to find out.

Just a word of warning.... my life is not exciting. Nor is it glamorous, titillating, "off the hook," or anything else that could be remotely considered to be cool. Reading this tweet may cause sleepiness, hunger, a painful need for a glass of wine, and the occasional "food coma."

But it's here, I've joined the technological revolution. And you can get these Tweets from a Twit here:

Recipe Friday: Tomato Sandwich

As you know, I'm new to the South. Though my wife is originally from South Carolina, there are still things that I run across which make me say "HUH??"

So, this Wednesday when Kathleen Purvis from the Observer wrote an article on Tomato Sandwiches, you could hear an audible "HUH??" emanate from my lips.

White bread with only tomato and mayonnaise? Where's the bacon? The lettuce? The yummy stuff??

Apparently, I think like those darn Yankees, who according to the article, think the same thing.

However, towards the end of the article Purvis listed some Tomato Sandwich recipes that resonated with the California Boy in me. Brie? Dijon Mustard? All RIGHT! Now, we're cookin'!

So, below is the recipe that Purvis borrowed from Cooking Light Magazine. I've made some minor modifications, so that it sounds even better to me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I plan to:

sourdough bread
olive oil
1 clove garlic (cut in half)
Dijon mustard
Brie cheese

1) Heat pan over medium-high heat. If pan not Teflon coated, use small amount of butter or oil
2)Drizzle each slice of bread with olive oil, and rub cut side of garlic on both sides
3) spread small amount of Dijon mustard on one side of one slice of sandwich.
4) Top mustard with thin (or slightly thicker) slices of brie, spinach, and slices of tomato
5) Top with remaining slice of bread
6) place sandwich into pan, about 2 mins per side. Until each side is golden-brown, crunchy, and cheese is melted.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Big League Hot Dog Company (Mooresville)

Big League Hot Dog I have several addictions in life. Most All of them legal -- depending upon the State. (Nevada, I'm looking at you!) Two of these addictions are baseball and hot dogs. So, when I learned of the Big League Hot Dog Company in Mooresville (just off of exit 33), I was destined to review it.

Just like the force that drove all those people to the baseball field in Field of Dreams (The only movie that makes me cry -- every time!!), I was drawn to the Big League Hot Dog Company. The movie features a line that says "If you build it, they will come." Much like that line... they built the restaurant -- so I'll come for a hot dot!

As you might have guessed this restaurant is done up in a baseball motif. But it's done REALLY well. They have lots of photos of the Mooresville Moors, which played ball from 1937 - 1953. There are TV's showing live baseball games. There are photos of the Red Sox (At least it's not the Yankees!), baseball cards, and other assorted memorabilia. This place is a baseball fan's dream come true!

After I looked around, I stood on home plate, and placed my order. I went for their Big League Dog, fried (not steamed), with yellow mustard, neon relish, onions, and an order of their Buffalo Fries. My friend and I got our drinks and sat down in the dugout.

This place was packed. There were only a couple of empty tables, even the stools at the counter were full -- the seats at the counter were almost filled too!! :) (my apologies to those sitting at the counter!)

Hot Dog and FriesThe food arrived after a brief wait. How the server knew the order was for us, is beyond me. But she brought it to our table, and we ate. The toppings for the dog were top notch, and the chopped white onion was fresh. The bun was steamed, but not too soft, so it didn't fall apart. The toppings were applied so that there was no need for a fork. The Buffalo fries consisted of crispy fries with Buffalo sauce poured over them. It was really good -- why didn't I ever think of that??

I took my first bite of my fried hotdog. The bun and toppings all worked together, but for some reason, I found the dog to be lacking flavor -- I really didn't taste much. It wasn't bad -- but I just really didn't taste too much. I'm guessing the dog was a traditional pork and beef mixture (which I find has less flavor than the all beef), and that the frying, while giving it a crispy skin, took some of the flavor away. Next time I'll get the hotdog steamed to see if there's any difference in flavor.

The Buffalo Fries were awesome. Spicy sauce, fried potatoes, blue cheese dressing.... seriously, why didn't I ever think of this?? I enjoyed the basket. Please note that two people would have a hard time with one basket. I didn't come close to finishing it. It was HUGE!

I really enjoyed my experience at Big League Hot Dog Company. They built it, and I'll come back again, and again.

Atmosphere: 5/5
Food: 3/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 12/15

Price: $ (less than $10 for the dog, fries, and fountain drink)
Kid Friendly: Yes. Kids menu items, and a concrete floor in case your child likes to throw food.

Conclusion: The atmosphere is waaay better than any other fast-food restaurant hence the 5/5 score. If you have a baseball lover in your family, they need to eat here. Though I found my hotdog to be lacking in flavor, I got the impression that may just be my faulty taste-buds. They place was packed for a reason -- people loved the food here. I'll be back to try it again. Next time I'll try the foot-long hotdog!

Restaurant Info:
The Big League Hot Dog Company
235 Medical Park Rd.
Suite 102
Mooresville, NC 28117
p) 704-799-6660

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Delish Cupcakes

In keeping with today's Cupcake Theme. I thought I'd post a quick note about some cupcakes I recently received from Delish Gourmet Cupcakes.

Last week was rough.

I had meetings, class assignments, a mid-term (Why, oh why, did I decide to take classes again?), and a job interview. So, when Friday afternoon rolled around, I was spent.

Delish CupcakesBut my day got a lot better when I got a little bundle of joy from the folks at Delish. That bundle of joy came in the form of a dozen cupcakes: 6 Carrot Cake, and 6 Amaretto.

As you can see by the photo, they know how to make a nice presentation. Those butterflies on top are made of edible ink on wafer paper. They don't taste like much, but they are colorful and unique -- and for some reason, my cat LOVED them!

The cupcakes are standard cupcake size -- not oversized. Which was nice; that way I didn't feel too bad for eating them. The both types of cupcake were topped with some of the best frosting I've had. It was cream cheese based, rich, and most importantly, not too sweet. This was real frosting -- not that crappy stuff they use at the grocery store.

The carrot cake cupcakes were moist and tasty. There were real shredded carrots and walnuts in them, though for some reason the carrots were bunched together in a couple of the cupcakes. However, that didn't take away from the deliciousness. These were my favorite.

The others were the amaretto cupcakes. These were unique -- I've never had a cupcake like this before. The amaretto flavor was apparent, but not overwhelming. The cupcake itself has almost an Agel Food cake consistency and was on the dry side -- at least compared to the carrot cake.

Delish certainly brightened my day. All-in-all, they offer a really well presented and delicious cupcake. Let's face it, you're not going to make something that looks this good -- and how are you gonna create the edible butterflies?? So, I think they're worth a call, or at least a visit to their website: Delish Gourmet Cupcakes.

Wine Wednesday: Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon

As you all know, I'm a sucker for marketing. And when I saw this Cupcake Vineyards bottle, my interest was piqued. So, I picked it up and noticed that it was from California's Central Coast. This bottle was getting better.

Then I saw it. Listed on the back. Livermore, CA.

Two of my favorite under-appreciated wine growing areas in California are the Santa Cruz Mountains and Livermore. Chances are, if I see a wine from there, I'm going to buy it.

So, needless to say this bottle of wine with the girly label and cute name was mine. Yeah, I traded in my Man Card to buy it.... but it was a worthwhile trade.

This 2006 Cabernet was good wine. It has a strong currant and fruit flavor that hits you the second you drink it, and it's finish is surprisingly dry -- which I typically don't like. However, this dry after-taste didn't last long; as soon as I noticed it, it began to fade.

My wife and I shared this bottle over Spaghetti Bolognese, and the bottle didn't stand a chance. This didn't taste like your typical Cabernet Sauvignon -- it lacked the spicy complexity that many have. However, it went down easy, and tasted pretty darn good.

If you're looking for a simple bottle of red that's relatively cheap and tastes good -- this is your bottle.

Score: 3.5/5

Price: $-$$ (Originally priced at $14, I got it on sale at Harris Teeter for $10)

Wine Info:
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
Central Coast
Cupcake Vineyards
Livermore, CA

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Help Support Local Businesses

A reader recently passed along this link to me It's a website that offers a discount card for $25. Restaurants and stores that take part in this program have different discounts available, and they are easily searchable on this website.

It appears that only locally owned businesses take part in this program and for every card purchased, $10 is given to a local charity.

I haven't actually bought a card, so I can't vouch for their product. But it's definitely something worth looking at.


Casablanca Cafe (University)

The other night a friend of mine suggested that we try a new restaurant in the University Area called Casablanca Cafe. I was told it served Moroccan Cuisine, and a local paper had given it a decent review. I was excited. I love Moroccan food. The flavors and aromas are so exotic and different from American dishes -- I couldn't wait.

Before I left, I decided to check out the website (link below). "WOW. This place looks fancy," I thought to myself. The I was awed by the elegantly faded photos of the restaurant, the images of delectable entrees. I grew more excited by the moment.

As I continued to browse the website I looked over the menu -- I was slightly disappointed to find french fries as a side item, and a burger under sandwiches. Really? A burger and fries and a Moroccan restaurant? That's like getting a burger at any ethnic restaurant! Sigh, as long as the food even remotely resembled the photos, I would be happy.

I made the 30 minute drive (Will they EVER finish 485?? That drive should've been 15 mins!) and arrived at the restaurant. And my jaw dropped. (Not in a good way...)

This is NOT the place that is shown in the photos (it appears that ALL of the images are stock photos). Instead of it being a restaurant with tablecloths and silverware, it resembles a small lunchtime dinner or fast-food restaurant -- minus the charm. After a few rows of tables, and some booths along left side of the room, you come to a counter with a menu on the wall behind it.
The menu is watered-down with things you can find at almost any American-ish restaurant. From burgers and fries, to shrimp penne (italian-ish), and gyros (greek-ish), the menu doesn't scream Moroccan. But to be fair, it is right next to University, and they're probably trying to make sure that the college students come in for food too.

That said, the menu does have Moroccan food. Hummus, kebabs, and kafta are available, and in fact I ordered all three! I started with a Combination Appetizer. That consisted of "Hummus, babaghaonnouj, Falafel & Taboulih served with Pita bread." Unfortunately, they were out of the babaghaonnouj (a.k.a. Baba Ghanoush), so we'd get extra hummus and taboulih.

And for my entree, I ordered the Combination Kebabs which contains "Charbroiled beef, chicken, Kafta marinated in special spices served with saffron rice and grilled vegetable." After I placed my order at the counter I sat down.

15 minutes later the appetizer came out. The appetizer had everything as advertised, but it only came with one pita cut into quarters. We quickly demolished the pita, the problem was that we were using it scoop up the food. So, no pita = no food. We were each given a fork (no knives or spoons) but that doesn't help when we're basically sharing food. I mean, come on, I don't know what type of cooties my friend has!

After a while our meal appeared -- sorta. My meal arrived -- but my friend's meal was given to the WRONG table. In fact my meal was also given to that table too, but since nobody ordered my meal, it eventually found its way to me. My friend's new meal eventually arrived about 5 mins after mine. This became a theme as his appetizer showed up AFTER our entrees.

So, with my friend looking on, I had a bite of my kebabs. I first had the kafta. Delicious! It's sorta like a middle-eastern meatloaf. There is ground meat (probably beef) with spices and onions. It was rolled into a sausage-like shape and put on a skewer. In all honesty, it sorta looked like a long doody on a stake (Yes, I said doody). But looks aside -- it was great!

Next, I tried the charbroiled beef. And it was good. Small, marinated pieces of beef placed on skewers and cooked over flame. It could've been better, could've been worse. But good, and worth eating.

Next I tried the chicken. Cooked in the same way as the beef. This time it wasn't good. It was rubbery and fatty. I didn't finish this part of the meal.

The kebabs were placed on a huge bed of saffron rice, and there were some veggies too. If you like rice, this place is for you!

As we were finishing our entrees, my friend's appetizer of Chicken Bastilla FINALLY arrived. If you've never had it before, the ingredients can sound a little weird: "Phyllo dough pie, filled with chicken. Eggs, onion, almonds, parsley. Sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon." The thing is, the flavors are unlike anything else. And if you keep an open mind, you'll like it! Fortunately, this part of the meal was one of the best. And even though the appetizer turned into dessert, it was worth the wait.

Atmosphere: 2/5
Food: 3/5
Service: 2/5
Total: 7/15

Price: $$ (just under $20 for an entree and appetizer)
Kid Friendly: Yes, they have a kids menu, and there were several children there.

Conclusion: It's the only place -- that I know of -- in the area that serves Moroccan food. Overall, the food was OK, the service and atmosphere below standard. I really wanted this to be a great meal, but the entire experience was lacking. If you're in the University area and want kebabs, this is the only place to hit. However, I don't think that I'll be driving from Lake Norman any time soon.

Restaurant Info:
Casablanca Cafe
Terraces at University Place
9609 – I, N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28262
p) 704-503-4748

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hospice Benefit at Pomodoro's

This weekend the Charlotte Observer reported that Pomodoro's in Mooresville is hosting a four-course dinner, with wine pairings, for $40. The event will be taking place July 30, from 7 pm - 9 pm.

According to the Observer: "The event will feature a four-course dinner including chilled grouper, pecan-crusted fried local goat cheese, petite beef filet and a cheese, fruit and nut plate. Each selection will be paired with a wine presented by Daveste' Vineyards of Troutman."

For reservations, call 704-873-4719, extension 4323.

Click here to get the Observer's original article by Joe Marusak.

Queen's Feast: Mickey and Mooch

Last week was Queen's Feast (a.k.a. Charlotte Restaurant Week). As you know, I encouraged all of you to go out and participate. What kind of Foodie would I be if I didn't partake in the festivities too?

So, in an effort to keep my tummy full, and not appear hypocritical, I visited the local Mickey and Mooch, and ordered from the Queens Feast menu. Now, as you know the Queen's Feast was promoted as 3 courses for $30. This was one better, it was 4 courses for $30! Yup, that's right, I could order an appetizer, salad, entree (with side), and dessert for $30! YAAAY!

My wife and I walked in, and were promptly seated. This time we were in another room, that had a door to the outside patio. This room was sorta dull and drab. Our table was next to a recently patched wall (not yet painted), and overall the room seemed to be lacking in any sort of ambiance. It was more utilitarian than anything else. Which is too bad, because I love the atmosphere in the bar -- they need to extend that atmosphere into their dining rooms!

Our waitress immediately greeted us, and told us about the menu. We asked for a few more minutes to make a decision, and looked over the menu. As I looked over the menu, I realized that this was an easy decision. Crabcakes for the appetizer. Caesar for the salad. Fillet Mignon with blue cheese coleslaw for the entree, and Key Lime pie for dessert. Combine that with a Red Diamond Merlot, and this evening was loaded with potential!

Our generously poured wines arrived first (these were at least 1.5 standard pours!), and my crab cakes quickly followed. My wife's shrimp cocktail was a few minutes behind, because they were making the cocktail sauce.

These crab cakes, were small and round crabcake fritters. Six were on the plate, and the were presented in a small puddle of tobasco butter. I've gotta say, Mickey and Mooch knows how to make a good crabcake. It was absolutely delicious, and contained a minimal amount of filler. In addition, it was fried so that it was slightly crispy on the outside, but warm and tender on the outside. My only complaint is that I had to share it with my wife, while waiting for her shrimp cocktail!

Next came the Caesar salad. It was OK. It wasn't great, or bad. It just seemed -- blah. It needed something. Maybe a little zing to the dressing, or a few croutons? It should be noted that my wife's green salad with the soy ginger dressing was much better than mine! The dressing was amazing.

Next came the Filet Mignon. All I can say is WOW. It was a 9 oz. piece of lean meat that was juicy, tender and pink on the inside, and seared on the outside. It was, literally, the most perfectly cooked steak that I've ever had. It was delicious, and I dug in.

The accompanying side of the blue cheese coleslaw, was very good. The cabbage was nice and crunchy, and the blue cheese flavor worked well with the filet.

Unfortunately, by this time my wife and I were full. Neither of us were able to finish our entree! So we took the remaining filets home, and had our desserts packed to go as well. It should be noted that we made some amazing steak sandwiches the next day. I customized mine with the coleslaw on top -- utterly delicious!

As for the dessert, it's still in the fridge, I hope to get to it later tonight.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 4/5 (the only thing that kept this from being a 5/5 was my salad)
Service: 5/5 (our waitress was very attentive and friendly)
Total: 12/15

Price: $$$$$ (including tip, this was about $45)
Kid friendly: Yes. Like most restaurants in the LKN area, you could see kids of all ages here.

Conclusion: The weaknesses of this meal were the atmosphere of the room, and my Caesar salad. Aside from that everything was amazing. Our waitress was amazingly attentive, and the filet mignon was the best that I've ever had.

Restaurant Info:
Mickey and Mooch
9723 Sam Furr Rd
Huntersville, NC 28078
p) 704-895-6654

Friday, July 17, 2009

Foodie has a Queen's Feast!

This weekend is the last weekend of Charlotte Restaurant Week. And I'll be hitting one of the participating restaurants tonight. Where will I be going? How will the food be?? Is it worth $30?? Find out this Monday!

Have a good weekend!


Recipe Friday: Pork Chops

Well, yesterday I had my exam. This morning I had my meeting. And this weekend I'll be working on my class project. This week has been challenging.... fortunately the week is over, and I've got a great recipe for you!

Below is a pork chop recipe (slightly changed) from Paula Deen that my wife and I have each made a few times. I typically am not a fan of pork chops. Often, I find them to be tough and dry. However, every time I've had this recipe the pork chops turn out moist and tender. If you don't have it already, get this Paula Deen book. It's got this pork chop recipe and many delicious options!

FYI, though the recipe looks intimidating, don't let it fool you. It's rather easy, and makes a minimal mess.


Main Dish Ingredients:
5 potatoes
1 yellow or white onion
Salt and Pepper
White Sauce (ingredients and directions below)
1 Cup flour
2 Tablespoons seasoned salt
4 Thick pork chops
1/4 cup vegetable oil

White Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 stick of bitter
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons chives

Main Dish Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350
2) Peel and slice potatoes and cover with cold water (to prevent browning)
3) Slice onion thinly and chop into quarters
4) Drain potatoes. Layer 1/2 of potatoes in greased glass pan
5) Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and spread 1/2 of onions
6) Layer remaining half of potatoes on top of onions, and then cover potatoes with remaining onions. And pour white sauce over potatoes, mixing if necessary.
7) Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 5 minutes
8) Mix together flour and seasoned salt and dredge pork chops through mixture
9) In a skillet, heat oil, and brown pork chops for 2 minutes each side
10) Place pork chops onto bed of potatoes, and bake uncovered for 50 minutes.
11) Enjoy!

White Sauce Directions:
1) Melt butter in skillet
2) Add flour, salt and pepper
3) Keep on heat and stir constantly
4) Once it bubbles and gets thicker, slowly add milk, 1/2 cup at a time, each time milk warms, add more milk
5) Bring to a boil for a few seconds, and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in chives. Then pour over potatoes

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Killingtons (Huntersville)

Last night I decided to give Killingtons a try. Nestled between Harris Teeter and Friendly's, I drove past it once. But noticed it in my rear-view mirror while driving away. So, I found a spot and walked in.

I was immediately greeted by a hostess who took me to my seat. Killingtons appears to be a fairly new pub. To the right is a bar, straight ahead, and to the left is the seating area -- where I was. It's decorated sparsely, but despite that and the high ceilings, it didn't feel cavernous. About 10 feet up, there are HDTVs (I'm guessing 36 - 40 inches) playing every channel imaginable.

The restaurant was still relatively empty, and therefore rather quiet.

The hostess gave me a menu to look over, and I barely looked it over. I was here because a friend insisted that I get the "Beef on Weck." For those of you not from NY, Beef on Weck is a Buffalo (city not sauce) version of a French Dip sandwich.

I placed my order immediately with the waitress. While waiting for my meal, I sorta lost time studying for today's exam. But I think about 7-10 minutes passed before my food was in front of me.

Killington's calls itself the "Gastro Pub of the South." I noticed on the menu that they have a different spin on many of their meals. For example the Gastro Burger is an "8 oz. burger stuffed with palmetto cheese topped with grilled onions." It sounds good, but I don't know about "gastro" that burger is -- it sorta lacks imagination. However, their Gastro Chicken Sandwich seems to fit the "Gastro" billing; it has "muenster cheese, pancetta, red onion marmalade served on focaccia bread."

Beef on WeckWhen my food arrived, I was impressed with the presentation. The thinly sliced prime rib was piled neatly onto a large Kaiser-style roll that was topped with salt and caraway seeds. The fries were hand cut and dirty (skins still on) -- my favorite. Between the sandwich and fries was a large bowl of Au Jus. The sandwich was accompanied by three condiments, which each had their own small bowl, and was aesthetically pleasing: Dijon Mustard, ketchup, and horseradish.

The sandwich was big, but surprisingly not messy. The shaved prime rib was moist and tender, with very little, if any, fat. And the roll was quite good, I loved the salt and the caraway seeds. It added flavorful interest to the sandwich. To be honest it didn't need any condiments or Au Jus. However, after a couple of bites I started to experiment with the add-ons.

First the Au Jus. Then the horseradish. Then the ketchup. Then all three! Yeah, I know... I live life on the EDGE!!! I'm a risk taker -- I can't live life any other way. :)

The fries were just the right combination of crispy on the outside, and tender on the inside. They also had a lot of flavor, and aside from some salt (which I added) they didn't need any assistance.

The only downside to the meal was the tiny, droopy, sad pickle-spear that accompanied my meal. It was really an after thought, and did nothing to help the meal. But, since I've never met a pickle I didn't like -- I put it out of its misery quickly. :)

All-in-all a great meal. I want to go back to check out some of their other options -- including their "Cola Braised Baby Back Ribs." Sounds delicious!

Atmosphere: 4/5
Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 12/15

Price: $$ (just over $12 for Beef on Weck and a soda)
Kid Friendly: Yes, their kids menu starts at $2.25

Conclusion: Unique food and good friendly service (the manager came by twice to check on me) should have me coming back for more. They're a little pricier than I expected, but worth the visit.

Restaurant Info:
10010 Rose Commons Drive
Huntersville, NC 28078
p) 704-948-3770
f) 704-948-1730

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Restaurant Health Ratings

Hey everybody, I'm swamped this week. I've got meetings today and this Friday. And on Thusday I've got an exam -- for which I have to drive to Spartanburg, SC. UGH!

So, in an effort to save some time, I'm not going to give a restaurant review today. But, since I still want to give you good info -- I thought that I'd give you a link that I recently ran across. It's the Mecklenburg County Food and Facility Inspections. These are those scores that you see in all the restaurants in Mecklenburg county.

So, if you want to know how your favorite restaurant is doing in its health inspections, give this link a try! But beware -- you may not want to know!

Monday, July 13, 2009

What-A-Burger (Mooresville)

If you've driven into, or out of, Mooresville along 115, you've seen the What-A-Burger drive-in. After I returned, I started Googling What-A-Burger to see what I could learn.

From about 30 minutes of Googling, I have learned that this What-A-Burger is one of the few remaining restaurants from the original What-A-Burger drive-in chain that began in Virginia during the 1940's.

There is another Whataburger chain of restaurants that began in Texas in 1950. It had become very successful, and stretches from Arizona to Georgia. But don't confuse the two... apparently some people are VERY adamant about which one is better.

This Mooresville What-A-Burger is designated as #11 by it's sign. So, at one point there were at least 11 of them. It's a drive-in that is stuck in time, they still have speakers to order your food, and the food is still delivered to your car.

But the years haven't been kind. I'm sure at one point it was a sparkling beacon in Mooresville, with it's huge and bright sign. Now it's more of a dive, desperately in need of a coat of paint.

My buddy and I pulled in for some lunch last week, and I think it's best to say that it was a mixed experience.

What-A-Burger MenuWe enjoyed the novelty of visiting a real and original drive-in. And apparently others enjoyed it too -- the standard parking lot was as packed as the drive-in slots. After I looked over the menu, I made my decision -- a what-a-cheeseburger, with fries and a large coke.

After a few minutes, the speaker next to the menu crackled to life, and asked me what I wanted to order. I pushed the black button as I spoke, hoping that this would allow the speaker to hear me better. It did. The speaker spoke back to me and confirmed my order. For a beat-up speaker from the 1940s, it's pretty smart! :)

We waited about seven minutes for our orders to be brought to us. Surprisingly, the food was handed to us. There was no tray to be left on our window. This lead us to place the food on the dash, drinks in the cup holders, and the four small paper ketchup cups next to the gear shift. This will be important for later in this post.

I opened the paper wrapper that was toothpicked to the burger. As it turns out, the toothpick also keeps a pickle to the top of the burger. The What-A-Burger is advertised as being bigger than the standard burger at this restaurant. It has a 5 inch (diameter) bun, and has a 1/4lb patty. My burger had lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, and mayo.

What-A-CheeseBurgerAs you can see from the photo, it was really squished and the bun was pressed so that it was really thin. As I was in to my second or third bite, I hear my friend yell "OW!" As it turns out, he kinda forgot about the toothpick.... and while taking a bite, got the toothpick STUCK UP HIS NOSE!!!

Yea, I found it hilarious too! I was trying not to laugh. But really, a toothpick up the nose? Isn't that supposed to be a nose-pick?? (I'm hilarious!)

As I was laughing, I took a bite and proceeded to chomp down on -- the toothpick in my burger. Though it was nowhere near my nose, it wasn't in straight, and apparently was pointing forward. Yup, that's what I get for laughing at the misfortune of others! Karma = 1; Foodie = 0.

I yanked the toothpick, and got back to eating. Unfortunately, the burger was only OK. I was really hoping for a delicious, juicy, and mouthwatering burger. Something equivalent to Five Guys or In-N-Out. This hope left me disappointed. The patty was just a standard fried burger patty. The produce was actually good. But the OK burger combined with a soggy and thin bun, just didn't do anything for me.

As I was thinking this, the paper wrapper gave way, unleashing a flood of mayonnaise, grease, and tomato-juice onto my lap. The paper wrapper is just that -- paper. So the entire time I was eating, it was getting soggy. Eventually it couldn't hold the liquid back, and my shorts (which I had just pulled from the dryer), were now soggy. UGH. Karma = 2; Foodie = 0. (ok, ok, I'm SORRY for laughing about the toothpick!)

I now made my way to the crinkle-cut fries. Really, these fries sucked. They were lacking flavor, weren't crispy, and overall a disappointment. To give you an idea of how much I disliked these fries -- I stopped eating them after only having three. They simply weren't worth the calories. That said, my friend's onion rings were really good and had a decent coating of batter. They seemed mass-produced and not home-made. But they were good nonetheless.

After we finished our meal, we threw away the trash, headed home. The drive was fine until I turned into my friend's neighborhood. As I made the turn I saw something out of the lower right corner of my eye fly though the air from the gear shift. Remember those ketchup cups I mentioned earlier?? Well, they were back! On the carpet of my car... UGH. Karma = 3; Foodie = 0.

I learned three things on this trip:
1) Not to expect great things from What-A-Burger's food.
2) Despite the grease stains on the dash, it's still fun to eat at a drive-in.
3) Never laugh when a friend gets a toothpick up the nose -- it could make your life messy!

Atmosphere: 3/5 (It's a dive, but it's still a drive-in)
Food: 2/5
Service: 3/5
Total: 8/15

Price: $ (Well under $10)
Kid Friendly: Yes, because they'll be in your car. No, because your children will be making a HUGE mess in your car!

Conclusion: The food is lackluster. But I recommend eating here if you haven't. Why?? Because, it's a freakin' original drive-in!! It's a piece of history, and these places don't really exist any more (with a few exceptions). So pack your car with friends, good music, and go check this place out. It'll be worth it -- at least the first time

Restaurant Info:
210 S Main St
Mooresville, NC, 28115
(704) 664-5455

Friday, July 10, 2009

Charlotte Restaurant Week Begins!

Hey everybody. Today, there will be no recipe. But that's because I want all of you to take advantage of Charlotte Restaurant Week!

I've got a page that lists the restaurants participating in the Lake Norman Area, and I've got links to my reviews of those restaurants.

It's a good deal for any Foodie, or for anyone who likes good food. Three courses for $30, is something that's right up my alley!

Have a yummy food-filled weekend!


F.Y.I. I have not received, nor will I be getting, any money from Charlotte Restaurant Week. I just think it's a REALLY GOOD deal!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

8 Perfect Fitness Foods?

Yahoo! has got a list of what it calls the "8 Perfect Fitness Foods." Included on this list are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chocolate milk.

Who knew that my childhood was sooo healthy???

Check out the article by clicking here.


La Patisserie (Mooresville)

When I first heard about La Patisserie, a friend of mine described it as a "Mexican Bakery." Once I got there and had a look around, I think that "Mexican Bakery" defines it a little too narrowly.

La Patisserie definitely has a Latino influence -- their empanadas look and smell amazing. However, they are more of a traditional bakery than I was expecting. They offer hand made pastries (croissants, turnovers, scones, etc.), desserts (cookies, tiramisu, cakes, etc.), and they make sandwiches too!

La Patisserie is located in a non-descript strip mall in Mooresville, located between the downtown area and Prickly Pear. If I wasn't looking for it -- I don't think that I would have seen it. The mall has a worn-down feel to it. Fortunately, once you enter La Patisserie, you leave that all behind.

When you enter this bakery / cafe, you're greeted by several display cases that show-off the pastries, deserts, cakes and crepes. This place just looks yummy. From photos on the walls, to the food in the display case, I think I gained 5 pounds by just walking-in!

I took a look over the menu, and though I REALLY wanted an empanada, I've missed having a decent Cuban sandwich too. So, I ordered the sandwich hoping I wouldn't be disappointed.

La Patisserie, Cuban Sandwich The sandwich arrived, and I took a bite. It was decent. It had "seasoned roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles with mustard served on fresh Cuban bread." The sandwich wasn't too dry or too wet. The pickles and mustard added a decent tangy-ness to the sandwich, the bread was good, and the meat was savory too. That said, I've had a much better Cuban sandwich before. This was good, but it didn't knock my socks off. In addition, I found the accompanying pasta salad to be lacking flavor. All-in-all, I found my lunchtime meal to be about average -- a score of 3/5.

But before I left, I grabbed some chocolate croissants and some cinnamon sticks to take home. The sticks would be dessert, and the croissants would be breakfast.

Now this was a good move!

The cinnamon sticks were HUGE. Over a foot long! They were crispy, flaky, buttery, and cinnamon-y. In addition, the glaze over the top was delicious, and after the dessert, I was licking my fingers trying to get every last crumb. Then this morning, I had the chocolate croissant with my morning coffee. It was light and buttery, with a very good chocolate filling. Not too dark, not too sweet. Overall, these are some very good pastries! This gets a 4/5.

Cuban sandwiches are a hard sandwich to master, so I'll be back again to try the empanadas. I'm going to average the food scores together for a 3.5/5.

Food: 3.5/5
Service: 3/5
Total: 9.5/15

Price: $ (lunch was just under $10, and the separate pastry purchase was just under $10, too)
Kid Friendly: Yes, they offer a kids menu. And the tile floors are made for abuse.

Conclusion: Though I found my lunchtime sandwich to be average, I found the pastries to be quite good. If I lived closer to Mooresville, I'd be here every morning for a cup of coffee and a pastry. I'll definitely be back to try the empanadas!

Restaruant Info:
La Patisserie
627 N. Main Street
Mooresville, NC 28115
p) 704-799-1631
f) 704-799-3355

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Great Article by Kathleen Purvis

Today's Charlotte Observer has an article by Kathleen Purvis that lists her favorite foods in the Charlotte area. Included in this list are some Lake Norman places too:

  • Ferrucci's Old Tyme Italian Market in Cornelius
  • Amelie's French Bakery & Café in North Davidson (I can't wait to try their salted caramel brownies!)
  • Davidson's Farmers Market

    So, I recommend that you give this article a glance -- it probably contains a few of your favorite places.... as for me, I'll be hitting Amelie's and Ferrucci's pretty soon!


  • **UPDATE:** Apparently I misread the article, and Amelie's is on North Davidson St in NoDa. My Bad. However, those brownies do sound good -- I may need to take a trip down there!

    Wine Wednesday: Rosemount Shiraz

    Last weekend I hit the local grocery store and wanted to find a red wine that I'd never tried before. I didn't know what I wanted -- but I'd know it when I found it. After a few minutes of perusing, I found it.

    A 2005 Rosemount Shiraz.

    For those of you who don't know -- the syrah and shiraz grapes are the same. Most of the world uses the name syrah. However, in Australia they like to do things a little differently -- so they use the name shiraz. Also, the bottom of the bottle is square -- literally!

    But if this wine is different -- I like different!

    This 2005 Shiraz is one of the smoothest red wines that I've had. There was never an acidic kick. It hit the tongue smooth, went down smooth, and left me wanting more. It was sort of like drinking water -- REALLY REALLY tasty water!

    This Black Diamond Label from Rosemount had a stong currant flavor, with a hint of cherry, and an whiff of leather. All these flavors mixed together well and produced a light, yet deep, red that would seem to compliment anything from pizza and pasta to steak and lamb. However, because of it's smoothness, it would also be perfect just for sipping.

    Add this to the fact that this wine is less than $10, and I've come to believe that this is a wine that everybody should have in their house.

    FYI, according to Rosemount's US website, it looks like they've got some sort of sponsorship deal with the upcoming Season of Hells Kitchen on Fox. So, this winery may become a household name pretty soon.

    Rating: 4/5

    Price: $

    Wine Info:
    2005 Rosemount Shiraz, Bkacj Diamond Label, South Eastern Australia
    Rosemount Estate
    GPO Box 753F
    Melbourne VIC 3001
    p) +61 3 9633 2000

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009

    Panera Bread Company (Huntersville)

    I've been a fan of Panera for about 9 years. One day my wife took me for breakfast, and I was hooked after I had some of their fresh bagels. As I continued to go there, I branched out to their lunch menu and desserts. So this weekend when my wife suggested that we grab some lunch at Panera, I happily obliged.

    Panera is a fast food-ish style restaurant. You place your order with a cashier, you get your own drinks, you pick-up your food, and bring it to your table. The food is prepared quickly, and once you're done eating, you are supposed to clear your table, and throw away your trash. But on top of this you're supposed to separate the trays, plates, and utensils too! (I don't mind throwing away my stuff, but separating the plates and utensils?? Really?? Where am I? Add a sink, and I'm at my house!)

    My wife and I placed our orders, grabbed a seat, and waited for our food. Panera is decorated with relaxing colors and features -- they even have a fire place. This establishment sorta looks like Starbucks would, if it started offering a full menu. In addition, they offer free WiFi. This is a huge advantage over Starbucks, and is why I spent many hours here when I first moved to the area, because I didn't have DSL yet. Needless to say, by the time I left I was hopped-up on cookies and coffee!

    But this time, cookies and coffee were not in the cards. And I ordered a Pick Two option of 1/2 soup and 1/2 sandwich. I opted for the Turkey Artichoke Sandwich and the Broccoli Cheddar soup.

    Once the food arrived, I took a bite of my sandwich. The Turkey Artichoke sandwich consists of "Smoked turkey, spinach artichoke spread, Asiago-Parmesan cheese, tomatoes & caramelized onions, grilled hot on our Focaccia." Not only does it smell amazing, but it is delicious and is easily a notch or two above standard fast food. There is plenty of turkey, and a the toasted focaccia bread adds another dimension to this sandwich.

    However, it's the Broccoli Cheddar Soup that makes me come back every time -- yes, it is that good. It is rich, creamy, and cheesy. Also, it's some of the best broccoli cheddar soup that I've ever had. I love to dip pieces of the accompanying baguette into the soup and then eat it all up.

    Also, I thought that I'd point out that the Panera website (link below) has an amazing amount of nutrition information. I was able to find out that this meal is about 560 Calories. Not great -- but not too shabby either! In my opinion -- DEFINATELY worth the calories.

    Atmosphere: 4/5
    Food: 4/5
    Service: 2/5 (Staff are friendly, but sorting out my plates is worthy of -1 point)
    Total: 10/15

    Price: $ (Just under $10)
    Kid Friendly: Yes. They have a kids menu, and according to the Panera website was "named 'One of the 10 Best Fast-Casual Family Restaurants' by Parents® magazine in its July 2009 issue."

    Conclusion: Fast food service, but food and atmosphere are much better than standard fast food. Their Broccoli Cheddar soup is what keeps me coming back.

    Restaurant Info:
    Panera Bread Company (#1217)
    Shops at Northcross (Across from the Staples)
    9905 Knockando Drive
    Huntersville, North Carolina 28078
    p) 704-655-1255
    f) 704-655-1256

    Monday, July 6, 2009

    Need Your Suggestions!

    I'm running out of restaurants to try in the Lake Norman area! So, post your suggestions below, and I'll get to them as soon as possible.


    FYI, some of the restaurants currently on my list are...

    Caruso's (Mooresville)
    Cook House (Cornelius)
    Noodletasia (Huntersville)
    Norman's Grille (Cornelius)
    Pellegrinos (Troutman)
    Portofino's (Mooresville)
    Sebastiano's (Cornelius)

    On The Border (Northlake)

    Last week my wife and I were in the mood for some PF Chang's. It's one of our favorite restaurants because of its Mongolian Beef, Lettuce Rolls, and Great Wall of Chocolate. We split each of those dishes, and we get out for a relative bargain.

    So, the other day when we went, we were greeted by a HUGE line of people. So we hopped in the car, and drove down the parking lot (Yes, I AM that lazy) to the On the Border. After all, it serves margaritas -- how bad can it be?

    We walked in the door, and were promptly seated. The place was packed, and I was surprised that we had a table, until I realized that it was the table next to the kitchen. UGH. That's always a noisy table. Well hopefully, the margarita would make everything better.

    We sat at the table, looked over the menu, and after a few minutes we made our decisions. Unfortunately, we still had not seen our waiter or chips and salsa yet. After I was beginning to think that we had been forgotten, our waiter came by with chips and salsa, and took our order.

    I ordered the Southwest Chicken Tacos, and a frozen margarita. It should be noted that I consider the Southwest Chicken Tacos to be Mexican-inspired -- NOT Mexican food. The meal consists of "Two grilled flatbread tortillas stuffed with mesquite-grilled chicken, cheddar cheese, creamy red chile sauce and crispy-fried onion strings." Yes, you read that right -- Mexican food with fried onion strings. Hence part of the reason I called it Mexican-inspired.

    The Margaritas arrived quickly, and we dove in to the chips and salsa. The salsa was surprisingly sweet. Almost a little too sweet. It's as if the salsa was too hot, so they threw in a HUGE amount of sugar to counteract the hotness. The margarita, however, was quite delicious and I started slurping it down.

    Our food arrived, and I've gotta give them credit, the meal was quite good! The flatbread soft-taco shells were yummy, and the filling (which consisted of the chicken, cheese, sauce, and onion strings) was delicious! All of the individual flavors played off of each other, and mixed together to create some amazing flavors. It had a ton of salt, was loaded with calories, and was nothing like Mexican food -- but it was pretty good. I was surprised.

    Atmosphere: 3/5
    Food: 4/5
    Service: 2/5 (We waited a long time to order, and for the check)
    Total: 9/15
    Price: $$ (Just under $20 per person)
    Kid Friendly: Yes. They have a kids menu, high chairs, and a cement floor in case your child likes to make a mess on the floor. :)

    Conclusion: It was a surprisingly good meal. It tasted like I'd imagine TGI Friday's would taste -- if they had a Mexican inspired spin-off restaurant. The food was overly salty, loaded with cheese and sauces, and tasted nothing like Mexican food. I wanted to dislike it, but I couldn't help myself and continued to eat every tasty bite.

    Restaurant Info:
    On The Border
    8315 Northlake Commons Blvd.
    Charlotte, NC 28216
    p) 704-921-1166

    Saturday, July 4, 2009

    Happy 4th of July!

    Everyone, I wanted to wish ya'll a happy 4th of July. Here's a link so you can find the closest fireworks. Eat well, drink responsibly, and above all else, have fun!!

    Friday, July 3, 2009

    Recipe Friday: Cilantro Lime Chicken

    First, I'd like to apologize that I don't have a good 4th of July recipe for you. To be honest, I'll be making these hamburgers tomorrow evening. But since I didn't want to re-post a recipe that I've already given, I thought that I'd share something that I created yesterday.

    It's loosely based on the rosemary chicken marinade that I've already posted. However, the below recipe was perfect for the grilled chicken soft tacos that I made last night.

    1 package of chicken breast (3-4 breasts)
    1/2 cup olive oil
    3 large limes (for lime juice)
    2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

    1) Combine olive oil, lime juice, and cilantro into large plastic bag
    2) Place chicken into bag
    3) Put bag in refrigerator for 4-6 hours. Evert couple of hours, massage / move chicken in bag, so that it is coated in marinade.
    4) Place chicken on grill or skillet until cooked
    5) I suggest you serve with heated tortillas, rice, salsa, and guacamole. But it's good by itself too!

    Thursday, July 2, 2009

    Salsarita's (Huntersville)

    Yesterday I was running late.

    I had just spent a few hours during the morning at the car dealership, and needed to get home to work on a class project for my online class. Since I had skipped breakfast, I was famished. This lead me to the question: What was on my way home that was also quick and delicious? I was hoping the answer was Salsaritas on Gilead.

    I scored 100% on this impromptu quiz.

    Though Salsarita's is expanding, this Charlotte-based company doesn't go any father west than Kansas, with most of it's restaurants in the Southeast. Upon first glance, Salsarita's is like any other mass-produced mexican inspired fast food restaurant.

    Salsarita's, has more of a Mexican / Spanish flare when it comes to decorating. The floor is tile, and there are wrought iron accents in the restaurant. The interior is OK, but it's nothing special.

    They have burritos, tacos, quesadillas, etc. But they have a kids menu (meals come with cookies), and they offer burritos in large and small sizes. This is an option I find quite refreshing. Typically, I have a hard time finishing a burrito from Qdoba or Chipotle. They're just too darn big. In addition, I feel guilty about eating the gazillion calories that are in those monsters. So, when I have a chance to get a burrito that is smaller and cheaper, I'm all over it.

    I ordered a small steak burrito to go. As I followed the burrito down the assembly line of extras, I was surprised to see that the rice was Spanish Rice, not the standard white rice. So, I got rice, black beans, mild salsa, pickled jalapenos, cheese, lettuce, and sour cream. This was one packed small burrito!

    When I got home I took a bite and was in heaven. Salsarita's makes one good burrito! (Though my favorite burrito ever was made at a place called Taco Joe's in my hometown. That place consisted of a taco trailer on two flat wheels.) The steak didn't have any noticeable fat or gristle, and the Spanish Rice was a nice touch which added flavor. In addition, there was an even distribution of ingredients throughout the burrito. So, I didn't encounter the standard bite of just one or two ingredients. Every bite was filled with flavor, and I LOVED the jalapenos. More burrito places need jalapenos included in the ingredient options. (Chipotle and Qdoba, I'm looking at you!)

    Atmosphere: 3/5
    Service: 3/5
    Food: 4/5
    Total: 10/15
    Price: $
    Kid Friendly: Yes, they have a kids menu, and floors that can take a pounding.

    Conclusion: Great burrito, good price, and quick service. I'll be heading back. Fortunately, I drive by this restaurant often, so it's good for a quick burrito fix.

    Restaurant Info:
    14230 Reese Blvd W
    Huntersville, NC 28078
    p) 704-875-7272

    Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    Wine Wednesday: Sawbuck Chardonnay

    When I was in the grocery store checking out the Chardonnays, I was drawn to the prominent "Mendocino County" on the label of this Sawbuck Chardonnay. After all, Mendocino County, located a few hours north of San Francisco, produces some excellent wines. Good dirt, cool temperatures. It's a grape's dream come true.

    Not only that, but it's a 2006, so the wine has aged a few years too. As long as this vineyard has a minimal amount of ability, it should be a great wine. Right?


    There are few wines that I've ever poured out of my glass. But this was one of them. The 2006 Sawbuck Chardonnay was an utter disappointment. There were no fruit, butter, oak, or citrus flavors. Just a strong acidity that overwhelmed everything.

    I couldn't believe my taste buds. So, I let it air-out. I swirled, swished, tasted, everything I could think of to coax out the flavors. But there was nothing I could do. The acid was there, and clung to my tongue. At one point I thought about licking the cat -- to try to remove this horrible taste from my tongue. But then I thought about it, and decided against it -- I didn't want to get a hairball.

    The flavors stayed hidden behind the cloak of acid that dominates this wine. I can honestly say, that I will never drink this bottle, even if it is given to me as a gift. I strongly recommend that you save your money, and avoid buying this wine.

    Rating: 0/5

    Price: $$ (Over $10)

    Wine Info:
    2006 Sawbuck Chardonnay
    Crew Wine Company
    12300 County Road 92B
    PO Box 493
    Zamora, CA 95698
    p) 530-662-1032