Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Disaster! (Almost)

Christmas Cake: Attempt 1
 Here's a photo of my wife's first attempt at making a carrot cake for Christmas.  Now, before you say, "Foodie, you're bashing your wife's cooking??"  No, I am not.

However, I am saying that I'm a man.  And with that comes a short attention span -- unless there's: A) Something shiny and sparkling; or B) Nudity. (Why do you think I like Vegas so much??)

Unfortunately, at the Harris Teeter, there's neither.  So, when I took a short look for All Purpose Four, and I reached for the flour, I didn't realize that I had picked up Self Rising Flour.

My bad.

So, this necessitated a last minute trip to the CROWDED grocery store.  There I procured some All Purpose Flour.  Got home, and saved the day!  (Which I almost ruined.)

Christmas Cake: Attempt 2
So, now here's a photo of the delicious final product.  And do you know why I LOVE carrot cake??  Because it has carrots, and therefore it is health food!  And that expanding waist line of mine?  It's ALL MUSCLE!  :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

International Wine of the Month Club

Looking for the perfect gift for me?  Or for somebody who likes good wine, food, beer, cheese, chocolate or flowers?  Go to my newest sponsor, the International Wine of the Month Club at ttps://www.winemonthclub.com/

Their offerings look absolutely amazing and affordable!  Once you try them, be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Wine, Beer AND Chocolate??  What more could you want??

Thursday, December 16, 2010

All I Want for Christmas is a Wine App!

You may not know this, but I don't have an iPhone. Yes, I do love tech. And I think iPhones, iPads and iPods are cool.

But I just can't bring myself to actually buy any of them... mostly because I'd rather spend my wife's money on wine and smelly cheese.

But that said -- I'm relly tempted to get an iPhone for Christmas because of THIS new app. By simply taking a photo of the wine label, the Snooth Wine Pro app will allow you to (according to their website):
• View the stores closest to you that have the wine in stock
• Compare prices and view maps and directions to nearby stores
• Add the wine to your Wishlist or Virtual Cellar
• Purchase the wine online through the Snooth retail network
• Read expert and user reviews and post your own
• Browse for similar wines by winery, region, or varietal
The app is $5. But for easy access to Snooth's database alone, it's worth it. For more info here's their website: http://www.snooth.com/iphone-app/

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Pepper is 270x Hotter Than Jalapeno

Yup.  You read that right.  The new Naga Viper chili pepper -- created by British farmer Gerald Fowler -- has been scaled as having a SEARING 1,359,000 Scovilles (the units used to measure spicy hotness).  Now to give you an idea, not only is it about 270 times hotter than the jalapeno (about 2,500 - 5,000 Scovilles), but it's also over 300,000 Scovilles hotter than the previous record holder.

In fact, it's sooo hot, it can peel paint and has even been reviewed by the defense department for it's potential for weaponization! In fact it's soo hot, it's ALMOST reached my level of hotness.  (GASP!)  Yeah, it's THAT hot.

Click the jump to see the poor bastard who actually eats that thing.

Monday, December 6, 2010

New Menu at Galway Hooker

Today the Galway Hooker at Kenton Place in Cornelius, unveiled it's menu.  Some things are the same.  Some are definately different.  It looks like they're trying to go in the direction of the Gastro-Pub movement -- much like Killingtons in Huntersville and Jack's Corner Tap in Cornelius.  However, the Hooker's menu has some decidely Irish foods -- as you'd expect.

Here's the link to Galway's new menu.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Man on Twinkie Diet Loses 27 lbs in 2 months!

CNN is reporting that Kansas State University Professor Mark Haub has lost 27 lbs while eating a diet of Twinkies, "Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos."

He lost weight by carefully measuring his caloric intake.  By removing 800 calories from his daily diet, 2,600 cal/day to 1,800 cal/day, he was able to drop serious poundage while eating pure junk!  Somebody give this man an award!  And the keys to my heart.

Strangely, none of his other health indicators took a hit: "Haub's "bad" cholesterol, or LDL, dropped 20 percent and his "good" cholesterol, or HDL, increased by 20 percent. He reduced the level of triglycerides, which are a form of fat, by 39 percent."

I really can't tell you how happy I am that this information came out!  I'w I'll eat bacon, fried tomatoes, biscuits and gravy every day!  (Until my wife finds out and I get into some serious trouble.)
Here's the link: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/index.html

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mooresville Beer Festival

Just got word of the upcoming Mooresville Beer Festival.  It's being held November 13, behind MJ's Bar and Grill at 279 Williamson Rd, Mooresville, NC 28117.  Sounds like a good time!  Here's the link


Monday, October 4, 2010

What's up with animals in food??

Usually, I'm all for animals in my food.  After all, you can't have bacon without pigs and you can't have chili (mmmm, chili) without cows.  But recently, there have been a WHOLE LOT of unwanted animals in packaged food.  YUK!

Recenly a UK man found a mouse in his loaf of bread. (Typing that last sentence gave me the heeby-jeebies)  It's sorta nasty -- the poor little guy got sandwiched between the bread and the plastic wrapper.  Sorry for the pun, but it was necessary! 

And while looking for that info, I ran across this: A woman in Minnesota found a gecko in her Planters trail mix. This one seem a little wierder to me.  A mouse in a bread factory makes sense to me.  A gecko in a trail mix facility seems a little off..... I wonder if he had insurance!  :)  (Admit it -- you saw that coming!)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Maddi's Closing!!! (Say it ain't so!)

According to the e-mail in my inbox, and the article by Helen Schwab, Maddi's Southern Bistro is closing.  In addition, it looks like the art gallery part of the restaurant will be closing down and will be re-integrated into it's Dilworth location.

This is indeed a sad day for the Foodie.  I really enjoyed my meals there, and the gallery was fun to browse.  Now where will I go to get some decent fried green tomatoes and smoked gouda mac & cheese???

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Restaurant Review: TOTS

Last weekend I ran across an article by Joe Marusak describing the offerings at TOTS (Taste of the South).  Offering southern fast food fare, in a more casual setting, this "Healthy in a Hurry" restaurant piqued my curiosity.

Off of exit 33 and located in the old Showmars Building, it's really easy to get to.  So I drove up, parked, and walked in the door.

I've gotta hand it to them, this place is pretty sweet.  In particular, the flat-screens being used as menus really caught by eye.  Is there any way they can deliver those to my home??

After being mesmerized by the spectacular menus (I think I was drooling!), I decided on the Southern Fried Chicken Platter.  This consists of fried chicken tenders, waffle-cut fries and coleslaw.  Unfortunately, they're working out a few kinks at the checkout.  (the cashier ran out of change, and it took a while for the manager to run into the back and come out with the extra change.)  But aside from that, the staff were wonderful, my drink was refilled and my plate was cleared (though I could have done it myself).

The meal was massive and I didn't get a chance to finish it.  But lets look-over the food, shall we?  The chicken was fried REALLY crispy.  The batter was really good, and crunchy -- probably has a fair share of corn meal.  The chicken was quite good, though a little on the dry side.  The waffle cut fries were nice and crispy (not a soggy one in the batch!), and the coleslaw was quite good -- still crisp with a slight tang of vinegar.

After my plate was cleared, I got up to have a slice of their Chocolate Dipped Key Lime Pie.  As I approached the register I noticed the VERY long line that went out the door.  So, not wanting to wait in line for a small order, I walked back to my table to gather my things and leave.  Well, the owner must have noticed my sad face, because he came over and asked if he could help with anything.  I mentioned what I was going to get a slice of Key Lime pie, but wasn't going to worry about it.  He said, "Wait here for a minute."

A few seconds later he appears with a slice of the pie!  This dessert is actually Chocolate Dipped Key Lime Pie on a Stick!  (I LOOOVE food on a stick -- no plates to worry about!) This dessert was awesome.  The chocolate, the filling and the crust were fantastic, and are a MUST if you ever visit this restaurant.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 4.5/5
Service: 4.5/5
Total: 12/15

Price: $
Kid Friendly: Yes

Conclusion:  TOTS is a notch or two (or three) above the standard fast-food chain.  The army of staff were always busy, and very helpful.  In addition, it was nice to actually meet the owner of a local fast-food(ish) restaurant.  Through him, I learned that all beef at the restaurant is Angus and the chicken is hormone free. In addition, the prices are very cheap.  This place is definitely worth a visit.

Restaurant Info:
129 Gateway Blvd.
Mooresville, NC 28117
p) 980-613-0537

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

THIS is How You Celebrate a Holiday!

When I eat, I do it right!
I hope you all had a good Labor Day!  Now that we're all back at the tedious and mundane tasks that define our lives, I wanted to share this photo with you. 

It is a Point Of View Photo of my Labor Day meal!  That's one of my (not so) famous hamburgers.  And it includes 1/3 lb of beef, with thick-cut bacon, three slices of cheddar cheese, pickles, tomatoes, onions and ketchup.  In addition, you'll also see on the plate an extra slice of bacon, macaroni salad and some garlic fries.

Yes, I ate like an oinker.  And if you combine that with my vacation next week, you're going to be seeing a VERY pudgy Foodie!  Thank goodness I'm (sorta) anonymous!

But to counter the pudge, I'm going to be taking drastic measures.  So, be ready for it -- in about two weeks I'm going to start chronicling a diet.  Why?  Because I keep losing pants to my ever-expanding tummy, and I can't afford to buy more pants!

But don't worry, I'll still be checking out and eating great meals.  However, I'm hoping the pressure of doing this publicly will make me get my butt out of the chair and start working out.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Recipe Friday: Hummus

Yesterday I tweeted that I enjoyed making hummus at home, and shortly thereafter a few Foodie
readers mentioned that they'd like the recipe.  So, here it is, based on the recipe from my favorite cook book, The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

15.5 oz caned chickpeas.  (I usually find two 7.75oz cans at Harris Teeter)
Slightly less than 1/4 cup tahini (a.k.a. Sesame Paste).  (I found this near the peanut butter at Harris Teeter)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 garlic clove (use garlic press)
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp lemon juice
pinch chili powder

Rinse and drain the chickpeas, and add all the ingredients into a food processor (I don't recommend using a blender -- I think the consistency of the hummus is too thick for that.) and turn it on until you reach the desired consistency.  I find usually about 45 seconds to 1 minute works just fine.

Serve with pita bread, and you're all set!  For some garnish, drizzle some olive oil onto the hummus and add some kalamata olives to the side.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Food Trend: Blind Dining??

Yesterday the Observer carried an Associated Press article about the latest dining trend -- Blind Dining.  This is when the customer eats a pre-prepared menu in pitch black.  The whole idea is that you are not distracted by the sights of the restaurant and food, and the only things you experience are the taste, smell, and texture of the food.


But really, I just don't think this is for me.  Though, I enjoy trying new foods and new experiences, I really like to see my food.  It allows me to inspect the food: Was it prepared correctly?   Was there any pride in the presentation?  Did I get what I ordered?  These are questions that I ask when I see the food.  Heck, just looking at pictures of food can make my mouth water.

I get the reasoning behind the idea, and time will tell if it will actually catch on.  But for me, at least for now, I'll take my food the ol' fashioned way -- with light.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wine Wednesday: Blackstone Rubric

It's easy to find a winery!
During this past August, my wife and I traveled around Sonoma, Calif., wineries with a friend. We had a great time trying, drinking, and occasionally buying some of the great wines of this region. There were many wines that I would be happy to drink (and drink, and drink) again. But none captured my heart like the 2006 Blackstone Rubric.

First, some background: After visiting the huge, gorgeous, and slightly overly-landscaped Chateau St. John the three of us made our way across the street (literally) to Blackstone Winery.  Blackstone has a completely different vibe.  The tasting room consists of a small farm house (at least that's what it looks like) with a small deck and modest landscaping.  And standing behind the counter we found Erwin. 

Erwin is a great guy.  Originally from Germany, he eventually made his way across the pond - and then across the continent - to where we found him.  He was very personable and extremely knowlegable about wines.  I certainly learned a few things from him. (See below for the video of him showing us the vineyard)

I was enjoying the tasting that Erwin was pouring, but when he brought out the Rubric he had my attention.  I had never seen this varietal before.  What was it?  What does it taste like?  And more importantly -- what's the alcohol content??

As it turns out the Rubric is a combination of the following wines: 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 8% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petite Sirah, and 2% Tannat.  And what a combination they make.  This wine had a wide variety of flavors, from cherry and blackberry to coffee and chocolate.  LOTS of chocolate.  The Rubric is so dark red, it's almost black and it has a soft, but lingering, silky mouth feel despite having 14.5% alcohol!  I enjoyed this tasting more than any others, and if it wasn't for the fact that I'd need to pay to ship it home, I would have bought several bottles. (Yeah, I'm cheap. I know.)

From what I understand, the Rubric isn't available in N.C. stores, and due to limited production, it isn't even available on their website -- I looked.  So, if you're ever in Sonoma and want to try an amazing red, give the Rubric a chance.  It's one of the best wines I've ever tasted.  For these reasons, and many more, the Rubric gets a perfect score!

Wine Rating:

Score: 5/5

Price: $$$ (Over $20)

Wine Info:
2006 Rubric
Blackstone Winery

8450 Sonoma Highway
Kenwood, CA 95452
p) 800-955-9585

Here's the video of Erwin showing us around the vineyard.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Fabulous Foodie Giveaway!

Free stuff you can win!

Q: What happens when your little food blog gets noticed by a national restaurant chain?? 

A: You get free stuff, that's what!

A little while ago I was contacted by a Noodles and Company representative, asking if I wanted some swag (a.k.a.  free stuff).  So I did what any other underemployed PR professional / Foodie would do -- I said "Yes please!" (At least I said please!)

A few days later, I had a Noodles and Company T -Shirt, mood rings, mini football, and Free Bowl coupons.  Fortunately for you, I'm the generous sort.  So, mi free stuff es su free stuff.  (That's Spanish for my free stuff is your free stuff.)

Now, you're probably asking yourself -- "How do I get the free stuff?"  Great question!

Answer: Send an e-mail to me at lakenormanfoodie@gmail.com with Free Stuff in the subject line. Be sure to include your name and address (so I can mail the stuff to you). In one week I'll pick the winners and send it out.

Items to win include:
1 T-Shirt (medium)
1 Mini-Football
3 Free Bowl coupons
5 Mood(le) Rings (Mine says I'm "Upbeat and Passionate," and that I should be eating Mediterranean food -- no joke!)

Rules and Details:
  • Only one e-mail per person per day.
  • Additional e-mails from same e-mail address per day will be deleted.
  • Winning names will be picked by the Lake Norman Foodie through chance, luck, and blurred vision due to excessive wine drinking.
  • You may not win anything.
  • If you win one (1) item, you will no longer be able to win additional items.
  • The Lake Norman Foodie reserves the right to send you an occasional e-mail (which you can unsubscribe from.)
  • In addition, your e-mail address will probably be donated to the Lake Norman Wine and Food Festival, which will only use your e-mail address for an occasional update (which you can unsubscribe from) as next year's Festival approaches. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Restaurant Review: Mint (Mooresville)

It's been a while since I had the chance to review a new restaurant in the Lake Norman area.  Backed up by projects and travel, my taste buds have been screaming for something new.  So, I did what any other Foodie would do -- I traveled up the road to try a place that I've been wanting to visit.  This day I wanted to visit Mint Indian Cuisine.

Found in the large strip-mall that houses Best Buy in Mooresville, Mint is relatively easy to get to.  However, if you take 150, be ready for a long drive.  With all the lights and traffic, the short distance can feel like an eternity.

I walked into Mint and was immediately seated.  Since I was there for the lunch buffet, I gave my drink order to the host (who also was the bus-buy and waiter) and headed to the prominent buffet tables found in the back corner of this small restaurant.  To my surprise, the selection was larger than I was expecting.

I'm having a hard time remembering the extensive array of foods, but it included a chicken curry (Chicken Tikka?), rice, coconut rice, a spinach curry, tomato soup (I was a little surprised about that selection), onion salad, pickled vegetables, Naan (lots of it!) and many other selections.

I helped myself to many of the items listed above and took my seat where my soda was waiting.  But before I took a bite I decided to take a look at the place.  The restaurant is clean but it gives a clinical vibe.  Unlike many of the Indian restaurants I've before, there is very little clutter and the restaurant feels just, well, clinical.  I probably got this feeling from the bare walls.  But, aside from a few things near the cash register, there is nothing that distinguishes the interior of the restaurant. 

But enough with the atmosphere -- let's munch!

Since I'm not a big fan of vegetarian curries, I went straight for the chicken curry that I believe was Chicken Tikka.  The chicken was plentiful, moist and tender, while the curry sauce was nice and thick. But the flavor was a little lacking.

** WARNING -- RANT AHEAD ** Unfortunately, this lack of flavor is something that I've noticed in many of the ethnic restaurants of the area.  It's like the restaurants are trying hard to appeal to such a broad spectrum of people, they choose to make the food on the blander (is that a word?) side.  This is just a bad idea all the way around.  If you're new to the cuisine, you're not actually getting a chance to experience all the flavors.  And if you're experienced at eating this type of food, all you're left with is an empty feeling where the taste is supposed to be.  Come on restaurants of Lake Norman, don't tone down the food!  I'm an adult, I can handle the flavor -- I promise. Rant over.

Aside from the previous rant, the food was good.  Nothing was over-cooked.  Nothing was under-cooked.  There was plenty of food, a large selection of food, and the different sauces and desserts were the Indian standards and perfectly good.  In addition, I'm a huge fan of Naan, and I just couldn't stop eating the stuff.

Atmosphere: 2.5
Food: 3
Service: 3
Total: 8.5/15

Kid Friendly? Yes.  High Chairs are available, and the linoleum floor will take whatever your kids can throw at it.
Price: $

Conclusion: It's one of the few Indian restaurants we have in the area, and the lunch buffet has something for everybody.  If it's your first time trying Indian food, give it a shot.  But if you're experienced with Indian cuisine and not there for the buffet, make sure they know it. I'm sure they'll be able to kick the flavor up a notch.
Restaurant Info:
Mint Indian Cuisine
591-N River Highway
Mooresville, NC 28117
p) (704) 660-8899
e) mintindiancuisine@gmail.com

Friday, August 27, 2010

Deep Fried Alcohol -- Beer and Wine Make it to the Deep Fryer.

I need to categorize this in the "Where there's a will, there's a way" category.

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that some of the newest deep fried goodies include beer and the frozen margarita.  (YAAY!  Finally, somebody has found the best (a.k.a. easiest) way to win my heart!)

Sealed in dough, these "Beer Blasts are still made with a top-secret process that seals beer inside of a "pretzel-like dough pocket that's shaped like ravioli." The process is so secretive, that the creator is awaiting a patent for the process.

The deep fried frozen margaritas are a little more traditional.  They are made with funnel cake batter that is mixed with tequila or tequila-flavored wine then dusted with margarita mix and served in a salt-rimmed plastic glass.

I don't know about you, but I now have two very important reasons to make it to the closest fair!  Now, all I gotta do is actually find one!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another Wine Bar Opens!

Observer Columnist Joe Marusak had a nice blurb about Mooresville's newest wine bar, The Wine Dive. 

The owner, Thor Chitow, describes The Wine Dive as a "wine saloon," as it offers 40 wines by the glass -- but also has an extensive selection of beer on tap.

The Wine Dive already has some stiff competition in the Lake Norman Area.  At my last count (let me know if any of these have closed -- or if I'm missing any) other wine bars in the area include: Corkscrew, XO Tapas and Wine Bar, The Wine Cellar, The Wine Loft and 202 North Main Street.  It's sorta a crowded field, but I wish them luck -- as far as I'm concerned you can't have too much wine in ANY area! 

Here's the info:
The Wine Dive
807 Williamson Road, Suite 101
Mooresville, NC

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pardon the dust . . .

As you might have noticed, the Lake Norman Foodie is undergoing a re-design.  Over the next few days (hopefully not weeks!) things will be moving around and changing.  Just please bear with me, and this will be over soon.

Until then, if you want to cook, please check out my recipes, or if worse comes to worse, get my favorite cook book (The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, Heavy-Duty Revised Edition) and try to make your own culinary masterpiece!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tri-Tip Coming to the East Coast

Below is an article I ran across in the Sacramento Bee which talks about a cut of beef that I grew up with -- tri-tip.

When marinated and thrown on the grill, this cut of beef is absolutely delicious. Found between the bottom sirloin and round, this triangular cut (hence the name tri-tip) of beef will be found at almost every backyard grill and every street fair during the summer in California's Central Valley.

Below is a part of the article, with the link to the full story. Apparently tri-tip is growing in popularity and is found in a few restaurants on the east coast. Yay!

Tri-tip is 'California's Cut' -- and a gift to the nation
Wednesday, Jul. 21, 2010

When it comes to beef, tri-tip rules as the king of the California grill. Now this humble, easy-to-cook cut is gaining a toehold in other parts of the nation and is even wowing diners in the Big Apple.

Sporadic consumer demand outside California has spurred Costco, other national chains and regional grocers, to supply what the California Beef Council has officially dubbed California's Cut. The council has fielded so many requests from people in other states longing for tri-tip that it posted a meat-cutting chart on its Web site (http://www.calbeef.org/).

"These are people who moved out of California or who tasted tri-tip during a visit here, and they can't find it where they live," explained Laura Norman, marketing director for the Sacramento-based council. "Now they can take our chart to their butchers and have a tri-tip cut especially for them."

While these grass-roots appeals caught some grocers' attention, they hadn't caused a ripple in any dining meccas. Then, earlier this year, Northern California tri-tip czar John Pickerel introduced New York City to California's Cut at his Tri Tip Grill. Ever since, New Yorkers have lined up there for a taste. . .

Click here for the rest of the article.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Foodie Travels: In-N-Out Burger

Heaven. Pure Heaven.

This was the thought that went through my mind when I ended my In-N-Out Burger drought, and bit into my food in Petaluma, Calif. The meal consisted of a burger, fries and a chocolate shake. However, the burger and fries weren't your standard menu items. In fact, you won't even find the following terms on the menu -- but trust me, the "Animal Style" burger and "Well-Done" fries are just two items that can be found in the In-N-Out Hidden Menu. (This is a topic that is worthy of its own post.

The "Animal Style" burger has a beef patty that was cooked in a mustard sauce (trust me, it's delicious), grilled onions, ripe tomatoes, crisp lettuce, pickles, cheese and a thousand island sauce. The "Well Done" fries are fries that have been cooked extra-long so they are very crispy.

The "Animal Style" burger was slightly messy -- the Thousand Island sauce dripped onto my fingers. And the high-quality produce - crisp lettuce and ripe tomatoes -- was a nice contrast to the texture of the burger. In addition, the grilled onions added a hint of smokey sweetness to the burger. Simply delicious.

The "Well Done" fries were very good. They were very crispy -- not a soggy fry to be had. In addition, the potatoes were cut and fried in front of my eyes -- you just can't get a fresher french fry.

The chocolate shake was good. They claim it's a 100% ice cream milk shake. But it's more like the standard fast food soft-serve milkshake -- like a Wendy's frosty, but just a little more liquid. Don't get me wrong, it was still delicious, but a far cry from a real milkshake.

After all was said and done, I finished the burger and shake but ate only about half of the fries -- there were a LOT. I love In-N-Out, and my allegiance has only grown since I moved to the east coast over a decade ago. Cookout and Five Guys are good -- but IMHO, this is better.

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

Price: $
Kid Friendly: Yes

Conclusion: A great burger made only better with fresh produce and REALLY fresh fries, make this a delicious meal. If you're ever within a 30 minute drive of one, be sure to drive and try it. It's worth it.

Restaurant Info:
In-N-Out Burger

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Foodie Travels: Sonoma Wineries

Last week, with only a moment's notice, I decided to grab a last-minute flight and join my wife in Sonoma County, Calif., for a convention she was attending. If you don't know about Sonoma, think wine country next to Napa. So, I hopped on a flight, and about 7 hours and one connection later, I was in San Francisco International. YAAY! I know. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it. :)

After meeting my wife at the airport and eating our way through San Francisco, we made it to the convention hotel. The next day, we joined her friend and headed up the road during some convention down-time to try some local wineries that distribute wines all the way to North Carolina. The next thing I knew, we were exploring the grounds of Chateau St. John. WOW, what a place!

The estate is gorgeous and HUGE. But in some ways its a little over-done. The wine-tasting room is easily larger than my entire house. It was stuffed with trinkets, books, hats, sweatshirts, and lots of wine displays --one display had over a thousand bottles of wine. The only thing missing was a water fountain filled with wine! (If you know the movie Sideways, think Frass Canyon.)

But that said, it WAS quite nice -- and the seating area outside was remarkable. LOTS of tables, chairs and umbrellas from Restoration Hardware were inviting us to stay, relax, and enjoy a bottle of Chardonnay.

Who am I to decline such gracious hosts??

So, the three of us sat back and relaxed for a little over an hour. Surrounded by rose bushes and vine-covered walls, while enjoying the warm sun and a cool breeze, we thoroughly enjoyed our first winery.

It should be noted that the Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay was perfect for the summer day. With hints of pear and apple, this slightly oaky chardonnay had an awesome finish of spices and clove. Light but not too light. Absolutely the perfect drink for the perfect afternoon.

More about the next winery, Blackstone, to come....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

McNuggets Made with Silly Putty Chemical

This comes from the "I'm not at all surprised" category. It's come to light that McDonalds' Chicken McNuggets have an ingredient that is commonly found in -- wait for it-- Silly Putty.

That's right, McNuggess contain dimethylpolysiloxane, "an anti-foaming agent" also used in Silly Putty. Just when you thought it was safe to have those tasty little nuggets, you might also want to know that they also contain the chemical preservative tBHQ, tertiary butylhydroquinone, a petroleum-based product.

I've always been somewhat worried about the stuff actually found in fast food, but this is just a little ridiculous!

Here's the original article:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Crispy Creme AND Cheerwine in ONE!

The Charlotte Observer is reporting tonight that some Crispy Creme donuts got a little freaky with a bottle of Cheerwine, and here is the product of that union.
Crispy Creme has unveiled its Cheerwine donut. It's donut filled with a "Cheerwine creme", and coated with chocolate icing and sprinkles. Now, I'm not the biggest Cheerwine fan, but this sounds sorta good!
Not only does it sound sorta good -- but really, what is more Southern? I mean, this is more Southern than a fried green tomato at a NASCAR race!
UPDATE: Ok, I tried this thing, and really, it was WAAAY too sweet for my taste. The wierd thing is that they REALLY nailed the Cheerwine flavor in the creamy, whipped frosting filling. It tasted exactly like Cheerwine. The bad thing is that it, well, tasted exactly like Cheerwine. Let's face it, when was the last time you had Cheerwine and donuts? Never?? There's a reason for that.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Restaurant Review: Zoes Kitchen

If you've been cruising around the back side of Birkdale, between Qdoba and Dicks Sporting Goods, you're probably run across a new restaurant: Zoes Kitchen.

I'd been expecting it for a while, and when I stopped by two weeks ago it was finally open and my stomach was ready for business!

Zoe's seems to be another addition to the Fast Casual style eateries that have begun to pop up. You order your food at the counter, and then after about 5 minutes a server brings the meal to you. Forks and knives are actual metal, wine can be enjoyed, and the atmosphere is relaxed. And the price -- definitely not resembling a fast food restaurant.

The first thing I noticed when I entered Zoes were the large menus on the back wall -- there is no questioning where you need to place your order. The menus were a little overwhelming, and it took me a couple of glances to figure out that the stuff listed on the far left were family size meals meant for 4 people. Yeah, I almost tried to order one of those for myself!

Zoes food has a decidedly Mediterranean flare with pita, hummus, and feta appearing throughout the menu. However, they do have steak roll-ups and grilled cheese sandwiches too. So, you can pretty much find something for everyone.

The first time we went to Zoes, I ordered The Olympus. This sandwich has a mountain (get it?)of turkey with tomato, lettuce, onion and a feta parsley spread on foaccia bread. The spread was good, the veggies were fresh, and the turkey delicious. The only bad part of this sandwich was that it was quite dry and the spread did nothing to moisten it.

The second time, I ordered the Greek Chicken Pita, and substituted a side item with hummus and pita. Again the veggies were great. The grilled chicken delicious, and the caramelized onions were a great and flavorful addition. But again, this sandwich was dry.

Fortunately, I found a GREAT way to fix it -- I put a couple splashes of their salad dressing (olive oil, red wine vinegar, and spices) onto the sandwich, and viola! Instant yumminess!

It should also be noted, that the hummus and pita rocked! And the limeade was delicious.

All in all, a great addition to the Birkdale area. The food is filling, yet light. The perfect addition to summer dining options in the area. As for the interior atmosphere, I really can't remember it as we ate outside and only ventured indoors to place the order. However, we found the patio area to be spartan but nice and relaxing.

My wife and I have enjoyed Zoes twice over the past two weeks, and we'll be going back again.

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

Kid Friendly: Yes. Lots of tykes abound. And there is a children's menu (includes the grilled cheese mentioned above).
Price: $$ (entree with drink will push you over $10)

Restaurant Info:
Zoe's Kitchen
Birkdale Village
16735 Cranlyn Road
Suite D
Huntersville, NC 28078
f) 704-655-2639

Monday, June 21, 2010

Huntersville Toast -- The Story Behind the Closing

Joe Marusak with the Observer has a great piece about the story behind the closing of the Huntersville Toast. And it's worth the read.

It mostly confirms what I'd been hearing around town. But here's my summary WITH conjecture and rumor! (Hey, if I were a legitimate news source, I'd have a press pass where this food stain is!)

But scuttlebutt has it that the old Toast Huntersville manager and the landlord were in cahoots, and decided to try to take over the Huntersville Toast location. They figured that while the Toast owner was out of town in New York for personal reasons, they'd close down Toast, and re-open it as "Taste". Same menu, same wait staff, same furniture, and even the same freakin' font! And hopefully nobody would be the wiser.

Fortunately, the Toast owner heard about what was going on, and with the help of his attorneys, was able to get that debacle stopped before it got started.

If the rumors are right, I'm glad that the old manager and landlord weren't able to try to cash-in on potential customers lack of attention. Trying to mislead the customer and stealing a brand at the same time is truly despicable.

Can't wait to try the new Toast at the Discovery Place in Huntersville!

And I can't wait to try the almost "Taste," now called Cafe 100. I'll try to keep an open mind... but if I can't, I'll let you know!

Also, when was the last time you saw "scuttlebut" and "cahoots" in a blog post?? A FOODIE FIRST! :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Whew! Glad that's over!

The Lake Norman Wine and Food Festival was a huge success! Raising over 700 lbs of canned goods for local charities, over one thousand attendees ate new foods, tasted new wines, and got to check out local vendors.

Photos can be found here: http://pundithouse.com/2010/06/lake-norman-wine-food-festival/

It was a lot of work, and I'm glad to be a part of this Festival. But the people who REALLY helped to pull of the Festival were the volunteers from Hope House, Angels and Sparrows, and the Mooresville Soup Kitchen. Without them, the Festival wouldn't have happened. So, THANK YOU for all of your help.

Be sure to check back this week for your almost regularly scheduled Foodie posts. :) I'm back with new restaurants to try!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Where the Heck Have I Been????

Ya, know. When it rains it pours.....

As many of my long-time readers know, I've spent much of my time in the area looking for full-time employment. A project here and there have arisen, but nothing kept me busy for the 40+ hours a week that I need to keep my ADD in check.

So, as a way to keep myself busy -- and help my new community -- I started working on the Lake Norman Wine and Food Festival. (Its gonna be AWESOME!!!) That job alone was giving me a full-time workload with no pay.

Then out-of-the-blue I was offered a temp job. It in exchange for working 40 hour weeks, I would actually recieve a paycheck for a couple of months. SWEET!!

But here's the rub, this means that I've been working 80+ hour weeks for the past month and a half! So, my Foodie duties have fallen by the wayside. My apologies.

But, the good news is that all my work and effort are finally coming together. The Festival is rocking at least a DOZEN wineries, each one pouring tastes of several vintages. So, if you go, you will get the chance to sample approx. 40-50 wines.

In addition, six eateries (Dresslers, Creole House, Brooklyn South, Mayo's Ristorante, Sangam Indian, and Kernel T's Korn Krib) will be serving everything from American and Italian to Indian and Cajun. THAT'S A WIDE-RANGING MENU!! And don't forget the local artists and vendors!!

So, in conclusion, I've slacked from my writing duties here, to make sure that I can benefit local charities through a kick-butt Festival that will whet your appetite for food and wine.

I hope all of you can make it. Drink some wine, eat some amazing food, and help the community at the same time. Sounds like an excellent June weekend to me!


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

El Paraiso (Cornelius)

A couple of weeks ago I finally got around to visiting El Paraiso Restaurant. Located in the Chair Factory in Cornelius, El Paraiso is the only restaurant in this small complex.

I parked the car then walked to the restaurant's entrance. While walking, I noticed a few Fire Trucks and Police cars. What the heck is going on? Did somebody choke on a chalupa? Did somebody rob the place? Did somebody rob the place AND choke on a chalupa? I had to investigate.

I made my way inside and noticed no visible commotion. Just a lot of firefighters and cops no excitement -- DARN!

The bartender told me to pick a table, and I grabbed an empty booth along a wall. The booths were black and red, and really didn't seem to match the rest of the restaurant. But hey, I was there for the food anyway.

After a few minutes, the waitress came by and took my drink order. It took me a few more minutes to look over the menu and make my decision. Hmm, I was really in the mood for chile rellenos. But I wanted to try at least one other meal -- so I did what any indecisive Foodie would do -- I ordered a combination plate!

I went with #96 (their menu is quite large). What is #96? I'm glad you asked! It's a Chile relleno and a crispy taco; I chose beef. I've gotta hand it to El Paraiso, the menu is extensive, and they offer things not usually seen in Mexican Style restaurants. Grilled Salmon and Catfish both make appearances on the menu.

My chips arrived after my drink, and were pretty good. The salsa is prepared at the restaurant, and it was nicely chilled -- I'd rather have my salsa refrigerated than just sitting around at room temperature all day. The salsa had a good consistency, and some nice chunks of tomato, onion, and cilantro. It was a little late to the table, but it was darn good.

Next came the meal. The chile relleno was huge and it was stuffed with beef, not cheese. A little different, but good! Next I tried the crispy taco. It was a standard taco shell filled with ground beef, cheese, fresh lettuce and tomato. Overall pretty good. The ground beef in both the chili relleno and taco was good, but slightly lacking in flavor -- something I've noticed with many of the Mexican Style restaurants in the area. It's like they're scared of oregano and cumin!

But that's not to slam El Paraiso. The food was perfectly acceptable and the lunch special was a deal at $6.25.

It was a good meal at a good price. If you're nearby, it's worth a try.

Atmosphere: 3/5
Food: 3.5 / 5
Service: 4/5
Total: 10.5 / 15

Kid Friendly: Yes. Kids menu and high chairs available.
Price: $ (Tax & Tip just under $10)

Conclusion: Good food at a good price make this a worthwhile visit. The wait staff was a little overwhelmed during lunch due to limited staff and a full room. But they still got me out in about 40 mins.

Restaurant Info:
El Paraiso Restaurant
20700 N. Main Street
Suite 124
Cornelius, NC 28031
p) 704-896-6064

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Peep Sushi!

Now that Easter is over, you have to deal with all those left-over Peeps. You could just shove them in your face -- but that's sooooo college! Why not add some sophistication to your diet by creating Peep Sushi!

Click here, to go to the Geekologie blog and check out more photos!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Who Has the Best Fries?

Today Helen Schwab anounced that the "Best Fries in Charlotte" come from Frans Filling Station. I've never been there and know nothing about their fries.

BUT, I do know something about Lake Norman french fries!

For me, I happen to love the Tenders fries and the Matt's Chicago Dog fries. Both are different styles and both are delicious!

The Tenders fry is a thicker cut which leaves it tender, and is fried without the skins. They have an almost robust potato flavor.

While the Matt's Chicago Dog fries are thinner, greasier, a littke crispier, and the skins are left on.

But enough about what I like and don't like -- what are YOUR favorite fries in the Lake Norman area? Leave a comment below!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Recipe Friday: Hoisin Shrimp Skewers

Here's a great recipe I got from Real Simple magazine. It's quick, easy, delicious, and waay healthier than anything Paula Deen could some up with!

I recommend serving with a Pino Grigio or a Chardonnay. Enjoy!

1 lb of large shrimp
1/4 cup Hoisin Sauce
Sesame Seeds
1 Cucumber
2 Scallions
2 tbsp Rice Vinegar
2 tbsp Canola Oil

1) Clean, peel, and de-vein the shrimp
2) Place shrimp onto skewers
3) Baste each side with Hoisin sauce
4) Cook under broiler for 2-3 minutes. Flip. Cook other side for additional 2-3 minutes
5) Sprinkle sesame seeds onto shrimp

Cucumber Salad:
1) Cut cucumber as desired (we used slices)
2) Toss cucumber with sliced scallions, vinegar, and oil.
3) Serve along side the shrimp.

Based on recipe taken from April 2010 Real Simple magazine.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wine Wednesday: Camelot Chardonnay

On my never ending search for great, yet cheap, wines, I ran across a bottle of Camelot Chardonnay. Coming in at about $7 at Harris Teeter (on sale) and with a sorta hokey name, I decided that this wine was worth a try!

Even after I read the back of the bottle, I liked it even more -- "The name Camelot evokes the magical kingdom of King Arthur's Court, where beauty, goodness and harmony prevailed. You discover those same qualities in every bottle ... "

I've never run across a bottle of chardonnay with goodness and harmony! I wonder if that's more on the oaky or the fruity side?? Either way, with this much schmaltz on the back, I HAD to give it a try.

We served the bottle with hoisin shrimp and asian cucumber salad (recipe this Friday), and I've gotta say that I was SHOCKED to find this bottle was REALLY good!

This 2007 California chard has a light mouth feel, with hints of apple and citrus. The 13.5% alcohol isn't apparent, and in no way overwhelmed the light meal we had for dinner. Coming in a such a low price, I'd have no problem with paying double for it.

I have no problem buying this wine again, and I recommend you give it a try too.

Wine Rating:

Score: 4/5

Price: $ (under $10)

Wine Info:
2007 Chardonnay
Camelot Vineyards
425 Aviation Boulevard
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sweet Cakes

After the discussions about cupcakes on this blog and on my Facebook page, I decided that I REALLY needed a to try a cupcake at Sweet Cakes.

As I made my way there, I ran across a road closing that made my trek more difficult. After some parking lot maneuvering, and walking over a grassy area covered with doggie doo, I finally made it to the front door.

Sweet Cakes is an adorable cupcake bakery, that looks just like it should. Clean, quaint, and smelling REALLY yummy. I walked in and was greeted by the mother, of the mother and daughter team that run it.

The large variety of cupcakes are on display, and all look amazingly yummy. I'm glad I don't work there -- I'd gain 30 lbs before the end of the week.

The day I visited, there were 13 (THIRTEEN!!) different flavors available. Trying to get a decent mix, I chose four cupcakes, with three flavors. I got two vanilla (one for me and my wife), a carrot cake (for my wife), and a lemon (for me).

I brought them home, and gave them a try for dessert later that evening. The vanilla cupcakes, though a little dry, were very good. A good amount of vanilla flavoring, and not too sweet. However, the large amount of frosting was a little too sweet for my taste. I'm more of a creamy / cream cheese frosting sorta guy.

The next evening, I gave my lemon cupcake a try. ZOMG! What a cupcake! The cupcake had a little lemon curd filling, was nice a moist, and the lemon frosting had me begging for more. I literally was licking the frosting from my fingers trying to get every last molecule before I washed my hands.

On the same note, my wife was in heaven with her carrot cake cupcake. I tried to get a review from here while eating, but she couldn't be bothered as she was in cupcake heaven coma. But her grin said it all. :)

Well worth the machinations it took to get to the front door!

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

Conclusion: Out of a limited sampling of 3 flavors, two were great, and one was good. I'll take those odds any day. Let me know what you think!

Restaurant Info:
Sweet Cake
20017 North Main Street
Cornelius, NC
p) 704-895-5800

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cupcakes in Cornelius!

As you can probably tell by now -- I like food. And I like almost all types of food. But nothing gets my "Sweet Tooth" going like a cupcake.

Just think about it. Cupcakes are almost the perfect dessert. It's an individual serving of a cake -- complete with frosting! You can have as many as you like. AND you can mix and match until your tummy is full -- or your glass of milk is empty. It's like being a little kid again... but better since we can have as many as we want! :)

So, imagine my excitement when I can across Sweet Cakes in Cornelius. At the corner of Catawba and S. Main / Old Statesville. They have an amazing variety of cupcake flavors to choose from, and they look delicious.

Next time I drive by, I'll have to go inside to REALLY give this place the scrutiny it deserves. The last time I reviewed a cupcake it was from Delish, and that was last summer! So, it's high time I get by butt in there and do some investigating!

P.S. Why didn't you guys tell me there was a cupcake place in Cornelius???

Friday, March 12, 2010

2010 Tournament of Fries

The Observer Food Editor Helen Schwab, is holding a March Madness for french fries. This "Starch Madness" features brackets where restaurants face off, and you vote for the winner.

It's awesome, and two of my favorite fry makers can be found. Tenders and Matt's Chicago Dog are in the Potato Bracket. I'm sad that they will probably face each other -- because I don't know who I'll vote for! In the end, there can be only one (sorry for the geeky Highlander reference).

Either way, my taste buds win!

Go vote!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

LaSpada's Closed??

I have unconfirmed reports (which means I'll treat it like it's fact) that LaSpada's Original Cheesesteaks and Hoagies, in Cornelius, has closed.

On the front there's a sign that Mama's Pizza will be opening soon.

Admittedly, I've had mixed results from Laspada's. But I REALLY hate the idea that we lost another independent restaurant. And where will I go for a legitimate cheesesteak??? Any ideas?

Thanks for the heads-up from Foodie reader Jeff.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wine Wednesday: Opus One

The movie Sideways has a notable quote: " . . . the day you open a '61 Cheval Blanc, that's the special occasion."

And I'm just going to take that quote, run with it, and say "The day you gulp slurp drink a 2004 Opus One -- THAT's the special occasion." Then combine it with my Dad's 75 Birthday, and you've got one amazing special occasion.

The Opus One was served with Filet Mignon, grilled asparagus, and fingerling potatoes. Needless to say, the meal and the occasion were phenomenal. It was my first tasting of an Opus (my wines tend to be priced around $10), so I was very excited. But was the Opus up to the task? Short answer: yes.

I was surprised to see that Opus One is given the generic label of Red Wine. Really? This is a $%$#@!&^%@*!% Opus One. Can't they at least gimme the types of grapes used? After I calmed myself, and did a quick Google search, I learned that this wine is a bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (86%), Merlot (7%), Petit Verdot (4%), Cabernet Franc (2%), and Malbeck (1%).

The wine was full bodied and with a 14.1% alcohol content, you'd best make sure that you've got a meal that can handle it. Fortunately, the Filet Mignon was a perfect choice. The wine has strong currant and red fruit flavors that are followed by hints of tobacco, leather, and minerals. The wine starts dry, but the dryness dissipates towards the end. The nose on the wine has some plum and fruit with a lingering hint of tobacco.

All in all, a great wine to celebrate a special occasion -- even if that special occasion is just opening the bottle.

Wine Info:

Wine Rating: 4/5

Price: More than I can afford. (approx $90)

Winery Info:
2004 Red Wine
Opus One Winery
St. Helena Hwy
Oakville, CA 94562
(707) 944-9442

I'm Back!

Sorry for disappearing this past week. I was in California visiting my Dad for his 75th birthday. And, since he reads this blog (Hi Dad!) I thought it would be best to just keep my big mouth shut.

However, it was by going - and opening my mouth - that I was able to partake in my first Opus One wine tasting... That review will be posted a little later today. Definitely, the most expensive bottle that I've tried!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

No Toast? No way!!!

I recently ran across an article this weekend, and today I confirmed it. Toast in Huntersville is closed. The new Toast in Huntersville is scheduled to open in the new Discovery Place building in several months. Bummer.

The rumor mill has been swirling on this one. After all why is the old Toast closing so many months before the new one opens? I stopped by earlier and looked around. The old signs are still up, but people are there working. Looks to me like another restaurant may be going in the old Toast location. How did that happen?? Stay tuned for updates...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Yet Another New Restaurant

In what seems like a recent flood of openings and announcements, Red Eye Grill and Lounge has recently opened in Mooresville.

From what I can tell, it looks like the owner of Indigo Joe's wanted more flexibility with his menu and seating, so he closed down Indigo Joe's, and has opened Red Eye Grill and Lounge in the same place.

He has added customer suggestions to the menu including tuna steak, chicken fried steak, a Red Eye Spicy Club sandwich, and some specialty pizzas.

Next door you'll still find Red Eye Martini Bar. Which has an airplane theme (the owner is an air traffic controller), and of course martinis.

Restaurant Info:
Red Eye Grill and Lounge
279 Williamson Road
p) 704-799-4690

NOTE: I can't find a website, but I found this $5 coupon with a $20 purchase from Valpak. Enjoy! http://www.valpak.com/coupons/syndicate?act=print&vpref=rmn&cpn=893981&addr=1329178

Thanks to the Charlotte Observer for information that led to this post.

Monday, March 1, 2010

New Restaurant Coming to Davidson

Flatiron Kitchen and Tap House will be opening around May / June in Downtown Davidson. Locates on Main Street, the restaurant will feature 24 beers on tap.

Chef Time Groody, whom you know from the Charlotte restaurants Sonoma and Pie Town, will be heading this restaurant venture with his partners Chat Hollingsworth and Michael LaVecchia, who is a Johnson and Wales graduate.

Now, I have just one question -- would they consider opening across the street from me?

Thanks to the Joe Marusak of the Charlotte Observer, and the Huntersville Herald for this info.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Alton's Kitchen & Cocktails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 22, 2010

If you could Photoshop your cookies...

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

Adobe Photoshop Cook from Lait Noir on Vimeo.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Recipe Friday: Bacon Cheese Turtleburger

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

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

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

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

Here's the directions:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Alton's Kitchen Opening in Cornelius

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

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

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

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

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

Get the full article here:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Midtown Sundries (Denver, NC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atmosphere: 3.5
Food: 3
Service: 4.5

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

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

Restaurant Info:
Midtown Sundries
7296 Highway 73
Denver, NC 28037-9187

Monday, February 15, 2010

Breaking News! Lake Norman Wine and Food Festival

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

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

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

Friday, February 12, 2010

Recipe Friday: Cheddar Biscuits

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

Cheddar Biscuit Recipe:

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

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wine Wednesday: Surf Point Chardonnay

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

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

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

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

Wine Rating:

Score: 4/5

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

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

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Last Week = Good Week to be a Foodie!

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 5, 2010

Recipe Friday: Super Bowl Chili!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click Read More for the details:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wine Wdnesday: J. Davies, Cabernet Sauvignon

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

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

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

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

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

Wine Rating:

Score: 5/5

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

Wine Info:
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
Diamond Mountain District
J. Davies Vineyards
Calistoga, CA

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Savor (Charlotte)

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

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

Fortunately, he was right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restaurant Info:
Savor Cafe and Catering
1404 West Morehead Street
Charlotte, NC 28208
p) 704-334-0098

Monday, February 1, 2010

Foodie Gets Revealed!

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

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

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

Friday, January 22, 2010

Recipe Friday: Chocolate Mocha Angel Food Cake

Here is the recipe for my favorite cake. Which, as it turns out, is also the cake I request for my birthday every year. Many thanks for my wife who made it for me earlier this month.

It's a doosey of a recipe. It will take over your kitchen and every bowl you own. But the soft, pillow-like texture (minus the feathers), combined with the mild chocolate and coffee flavors, will make this one of your favorite recipes too.

FYI, it's an old family recipe from my father's side. Thanks to my Mom for putting the recipe together for my wife!

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup flower
1.5 cups powered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa or hot chocolate mix (preferably Ghirardelli)
1 tablespoon instant (freeze dried) coffee (ground fine via blender or coffee grinder)
1.5 cups of egg whites (about 10 eggs)
1/2 tsp. salt
1.5 tsps. cream of tartar
1 cup sugar

Whipped Cream Topping Ingredients:
1 pint of heavy whipping cream
powered sugar
a dash of vanilla
your favorite chocolate (for shaving)

Cake Directions:
1) Pre-heat oven to 375
2) Sift together flour, powered sugar, cocoa, and coffee, then stir until well mixed
3) Beat egg whites and salt in large bowl until frothy
4) Add cream of tartar to egg whites, and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
5) Sprinkle flour mixture, a little at a time, on the egg whites and fold gently into egg whites.
6) Pour mixture into un-greased angel food cake pan.
7) Bake for 35-40 minutes at 375
8) Remove from oven. Once cool, add topping.

Topping Directions:
1) Whip the cream until it begins to stiffen slightly.
2) Add vanilla, sugar, and cocoa to taste (just a little)
3) Whip until desired consistency is reached
4) Spread over cake
5) Shave slivers of chocolate onto top of cake.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gas Station Food....

There's a great article in today's Observer about Gas Station Food.

Kathleen Purvis, the Observer's Food Editor, went on a road trip and hit some of the more recommended Gas Stations, and had some surprising (and not surprising) results.

Also, this article reminded me of an article I previously posted about the Cashion's in Cornelius, which had an amazing hamburger.

So, I ask you -- where is your favorite Gas Station Food??

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stuff Fried by Paula Deen

The folks over at FoodNetworkHumor.com recently came up with a GREAT topic:
7 Things Paula Deen Fried – And Ate.

As you may have guessed the list is pretty impressive.

Though there are only seven items listed, they run the gamut. From a deep fried cake to Fried Butter Balls (yes, breaded and fried clumps of butter and cream), just reading this post partially clogged my ventricle artery!

Is there a doctor in the house??

Here's the link! http://foodnetworkhumor.com/2010/01/7-things-paula-deen-fried-and-ate/