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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A pizza vending machine, what?

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 10:57 AM

Coming soon, a machine that looks like a coffee machine that churns out pizza for a mere 5 euros, or $6. Yum.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Meet Aman Boyd, local food buyer/pizza maker

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 4:17 PM

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Aman Boyd, loves NoDa's vibe, but soon after he opened the neighborhood's corner pizza joint with his wife, Dena Bashiti, he realized the industry's way of preparing pizza didn't jive with the way they wanted to do things. Disappointed to find that many restaurants used pre-made, frozen ingredients, they began seeking local farmers and merchants who could help him realize his fresh food goals for Revolution Pizza and Ale House. But he doesn't stop with the groceries; he's also interested in providing the Queen City with a variety of local — meaning made in North Carolina — brews.

Creative Loafing: When you say you use fresh, local food — what do you mean exactly?

Aman Boyd: We buy as much produce as we can from local farmers, like Grateful Growers; we have our flour milled locally; we shop at farmers markets; we even asked Chef Harry Peemoeller, of Charlotte's Johnson and Wales, to create our pizza dough recipe; not only that, we make our own mozzarella, gelato and salad dressing. It's all part of the revolution; we don't want to buy pre-made, pre-shredded, frozen foods because we don't really know what's in it. I can honestly tell any of my customers that I know what is in the food on their plates and I know how it was made, and by whom. I even know where most of the ingredients came from. That bit of effort makes the quality of the food stand out. Plus, if I need supplies, I just get in my truck and go get them.

What is your favorite local brew?

It's a moving target. Right now, I'd have to say Allagash White. It's a Belgium-style wheat beer in the same style as Blue Moon. The beer being made in North Carolina can rival beer made anywhere else, and we want to feature that. It's also one of the best parts of the job, tasting the new drafts. I'm really looking forward to tasting Olde Meck Brewery's beer.

Tell me about Revolution Pizza's logo.

That's Demeter, the Greek goddess of the bountiful harvest. She represents all of the great things that come out of the ground that we harvest and take advantage of. Demeter taught humans how to grow, prepare, preserve and use grain, so she represents Dena and my take on pizza and our determination to make everything in-house.

Revolution is located at 3228 N. Davidson St. Contact them at 704-333-4440

(photo by Logan Canale)

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Food News: March 30

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 2:56 PM

* Harper's Blue Ribbon BBQ will close Wednesday, April 1. According to Tom Sasser, president and owner of Harper's, the lease ends March 31 and an option to stay open included a rent increase. Given the current economic climate, the company decided not to renew. However, Harper's To Go Go, around the corner, will remain open. Chef Minie Raynes will continue making pulled pork sandwiches, Dixie chicken, and mac n' cheese each day at the To Go Go. 121-100 West Trade St.. Hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. www.harpersrestaurants.com.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why do the black shows on the Food Network suck ass?

Posted By on Sun, Mar 29, 2009 at 10:55 AM

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It’s always amazed me that while food is one of the major cornerstones of African-American culture, the Food Network — the cable channel dedicated to all things food — can’t seem to produce a decent black-hosted show for its programming lineup.

Specifically, I’m talking about the shows Big Daddy’s House, Cooking for Real, and Down Home With the Neelys. I’ve watched all three programs numerous times and they honestly suck ass — especially compared to other more successful shows on the network.

So why don’t the shows work? Well it ain’t because they’re hosted by black people. Although the fact that they suck probably does not bode well for black-hosted shows in the future. I can just hear some idiotic programming director at a TV network saying, “Well those shows didn’t work. Audiences don’t want to see black people cooking.”

Anyway, the Food Network’s black shows fail for two main reasons: lack of personality and lack of focus.

Let’s take Big Daddy’s House. The host, Aaron McCargo Jr., is a likeable enough guy (He’s the winner of the network’s Top Chef-ish cooking show.) and he seems like he can cook, but what is this show about? One day he’s cooking sloppy joes the next he’s making a “healthy scallop supper.” Look at other Food Network shows like Everyday Italian, Semi-Homemade … hell, even 30 Minute Meals, and the focus of the show is evident from the title. The best cooking shows — from Julia Child days until now — are hosted by cooks with a singular vision. Big Daddy’s House, however, is all over the place.

When we turn the spotlight to Cooking for Real, you find a show that lacks focus and personality. The show is hosted by Sunny Anderson; she seems like a really nice person but is just devoid of any interesting personality traits. Even her clothes are drab and nondescript. On top of that, her dishes (like on Big Daddy’s House) seem haphazardly pulled together. I’m sure she can cook all types of food, but that doesn’t make for the best television.

Now, moving on to Down Home With the Neelys, I’ve gotta admit that the show actually defies both of my gripes. The show has a focus — barbecue (everything) — and it has personality. But here’s the thing, I don’t really like the hosts’ personalities. The show is helmed by the married couple Pat and Gina Neely, and the two kiss and whisper sweet nothings to each other throughout each episode. Cook dammit! As far as the food is concerned, all they cook is barbecue … and I ain’t talkin’ grilled, I mean barcbecue. As in smoked. As in pork. Lots of pork. This is definitely not a show for vegetarians or Muslims. Once, I saw them make barbecue spaghetti. That ain’t black … that’s ghetto. What’s next? Ramen noodles? With barbecue sauce?!

All that said, there are a few decent black cooking shows on TV, but they aren’t on the Food Network. One halfway-decent show is Urban Cuisine, which airs on BETJ (that’s not on basic cable). Urban Cuisine is hosted by Harlem-based chef Marcus Samulesson, who’s of Ethiopian descent. And although the production values are poor, the food on the show is diverse but still manages to stay focused on the richness of black culture … and that means soul food from America, African cuisines, Caribbean vittles and more. Tune in.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

The Coffee Cup is open again ... sort of

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2009 at 2:21 PM

You may have heard that the legendary Coffee Cup restaurant (renowned for its soul food) just opened again in a brand-new NoDa location (2909 N. Davidson).

But before you run over to the eatery to grab some of their favorite pan-fried chicken (as opposed to deep-fried), be warned: the Coffee Cup doesn't officially open until April 1. So right now, they're operating in "soft-opening" mode.

As a result, the service is a bit off; and that means it may take a while to get silverware or refills on your drinks. They don't even have a printed menu yet. (Trust me — I just got back from having lunch there.) But all that is to be expected when you're in that soft-opening mode. Everyone involved is still working the kinks out.

So if you make a visit to the Cup, don't flip out if everything ain't perfect, OK?

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Roll a big one tomorrow

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2009 at 1:51 PM

This month's cooking class at Zink American Kitchen (201 N. Tryon St.) is all about rolling a big one — sushi, that is.

March 28, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Only $45 per person.

Includes tastings and wine. Seating limited.

Call 704-444-9001

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Taste of the New South 2009

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2009 at 12:44 PM

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Celebrate southern food, hospitality and entertaining at the annual fundraiser Taste of the New South at the Levine Museum of the New South.

Pinehurst Resort will headline this year's evening cocktail reception, which will be held Wednesday, April 1. Executive Chef Thierry Debailleul will treat guests to an array of themed food stations (and by looking at the menu-in-progress, this event is not to be missed!). There are 11 food stations planned, with an extra four just for dessert. Check out the tentative menu below. (Eyes growing wide yet??!)

Tickets to this culinary feast are $85 for Museum members, and $100 for non-members (includes a 1-month membership). To rsvp and purchase tickets to the event, call 704-333-1887 ext. 232 or email rsvp@museumofthenewsouth.org.

Tentative Menu

Taste of the New South 2009 featuring Pinehurst Resort

Hot

Mango, Sweet Potato and Duck Turnovers

Curry Prawn and Collard Greens Springroll with Citrus Sweet and Sour Sauce Moroccan Lamb Lollipops with Scallion Aioli

Cold

Brioche of Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese and Fig Compote Corn bread Croustade of Smoked Pheasant with Huckle Berry Cream

The Heirloom Farm

Heirloom Beets and Tomatoes samplers.

Assembled to order

Gold Beets with White Asparagus and Green Tomato Salsa Cherokee Red Tomatoes with Blue Cheese and Walnut and Micro basil

Soup Station

Crawfish Bisque with Sea Foam

Sweet potato Duck Soup

Cooked to Order Montecristo of Capicollo and Goat Cheese on Brioche

Spa Station

Coconut Bamboo Rice Pudding with Litchee Foam

Drink: Carrot and Passion Fruit Nectar

North Carolina Cheese Makers Display

Hoop Cheese, "Goat Lady" Chèvre, Camembert, Bleu Cheese and Hickory Grove Fig Compote, Branston Pickle Dry Fruits, Nuts and Oils Artisan Breads Display, Lavash and Crackers

Seafood Station

Seafood Martinis

Ceviche Shooters with Crispy Tortilla Soup Carolina Oysters on the half Shell, Yamasa Soy and Cucumber Chow-Chow

Corn Action Station

Sweet Corns Sautéed to order 3 ways served with Stone Ground Grits Foie gras and pea tendrils, Balsamic syrup Day Boat Scallop with Lobster Essence with Wasabi Peanut Dust Smoked Tomato, Broccoli and Gruyere

Pork Station

Farm Raised BBQ Pulled Pork with Warm Brie Cheese, Wonton Cracker Raz Cherry Gastrique Micro Celery Greens

Beef Station

Mini Kobe Beef Burger on Pretzel Bun

House Composed Relish and Chopped Lettuce

Dessert Station

1. Wedding Cakes - Eclectic, contemporary, Classic, Bold, Groom's cake type

2. Chocolate Lab Station

Dry ice Chilled Granit Slab

Chocolate Fountain and Assorted Fruits and bites cakes and Confections dipped to order and Placed on the Chilled Slab

3. Small bites of Great Southern Desserts

Tarheel Pie

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Sweet Potato Pie

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Freestone Peach Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream Mini trifles and Shot Glasses of various compositions

4. Flambé Station

Almond Financier with Flambé Strawberries, Strawberry-Balsamic Sorbet and Balsamic Syrup

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TESTED RECIPE: Barbecued Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2009 at 10:16 AM

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Rachel Ray's Barbecued Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps received a decent review at my house. No standing ovation and no encore was demanded, but a repeat performance would probably be welcomed sometime in the future. The dish is healthy and pretty simple. The picture above shows the cast of characters aka. ingredients. I didn't time it, but the recipe probably did take 30-minutes, as promised by RR. The most time consuming part of the recipe wasn't necessarily cooking, but prepping. Most of the "cast" required some primping... slicing, dicing, mincing, grating. But once that was done, throwing it all together in a stir-fry was easy peasy.

I made a few changes to the recipe: I used regular mushrooms instead of Shitake, used the entire red bell pepper instead of 1/2, added some garlic chili sauce, and next time, I'll add more Hoisin sauce to add flavor.

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Get the recipe for the chicken wraps here.

For dessert I made Ina Garten's lemon cakes (I guess last night was a Food Network-themed night!). Now this recipe got rave reviews. We scarfed down half a loaf. The cake was deliciously tart and sweet, with the texture and crumb of a pound cake. Here's the recipe:

Photo from The Barefoot Contessa cookbook.
  • Photo from The Barefoot Contessa cookbook.

Lemon Cake, adapted from Ina Garten

Makes 2 loaves.

Cake:

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)

3 cups flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Syrup:

½ cup sugar

½ cup lemon juice

* Glaze:

2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

3 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans. (I sometimes use smaller loaf pans for cute little lemon cakes loaves. Make sure to shorten the baking time if you use the baby loaf pans.)

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small bowl. Microwave for one minute and stire until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the top of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

* I decided to forgo the extra glaze and the I think the cake tasted perfectly wonderful without it.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Crave Dessert Bar is coming (next week!)

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 11:50 AM

Yes Charlotte, the day you've all been waiting for: Crave Dessert Bar is opening next Tuesday. Finally, a spot in Uptown where you can just grab a glass of wine and some dessert and chill.

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Located next to CANS at 500 W. 5th St., Crave promises to be the place you go to after dinner to satisfy your sweet tooth. It'll be the lounge you visit for a signature martini or a glass of that dessert wine that's so hard to find in restaurants.

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Food selections range from cheese to cupcakes, your classic cheesecakes, smores, layered cakes. The wine and cheese selections will be "female-friendly" and they'll have already pre-selected wines to be paired with menu items.

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According to general manager Scott Vines (pictured left with assistant general manager Sean Taffe), they'll be employing many students from Johnson and Wales University. "This should really be a conduit for Charlotte to have some window into what’s going on in modern dining as well as when it comes to confection and baking on a world class level because of the Johnson and Wales students, obviously using some of their skills and newest techniques on our desserts here. It’s a real good opportunity to stay on the cutting edge here."

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Banana Pudding disaster

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 3:31 PM

Never buy Jell-O instant pudding in the banana cream flavor. It is definitely Yuck-O.

I made the unfortunate mistake of purchasing the offending product when I decided to make some banana pudding a few days ago. Figuring banana pudding would be enhanced by banana-flavored pudding, I threw it into my grocery cart, along with Nilla wafers, organic skim milk, and a bunch of bananas.

Happily, I went home and started assembling my banana pudding.

Disaster struck as soon as I started mixing the milk with the pudding mix... When I smelled the scent of banana Runts wafting towards me as I whisked the pudding, I knew the pudding would be bad. I stopped whisking and tasted the pudding. Gag. The banana pudding tasted definitely tasted like banana Runt candies -- the worst flavor ever. There was no way I was going to add the pudding to my dessert, so I dumped it out.

Now without any pudding for my banana pudding recipe and no desire to go back to the store, I decided to try my hand at making vanilla pudding from scratch. Disaster struck again! The recipe called for milk, eggs, cornstarch, butter, and vanilla. Simple enough. But the recipe never warned me not to use skim milk! arrrrg. My pudding never thickened (even after tripling the amount of cornstarch) and was a liquidly mess. I had to dump it out. Ultimate FAIL.

So...long story short, and lesson learned, and 5 cups of wasted organic milk later, I finally got vanilla instant pudding from the store and was able to make my banana pudding. Luckily, the pudding was good. So all is well.

Here's the banana pudding recipe:

-4 bananas, thinly sliced

-1 box Nilla wafers

-2 boxes instant vanilla pudding (make according to package instructions)

-whipped cream

1. Arrange one layer of Nilla wafers in a 8x8 pan.

2. Layer half of the sliced bananas over the wafers.

3. Pour half of the vanilla pudding over the bananas.

4. Repeat steps 1 through 3.

5. Top with whipped cream and serve (or chill until served).

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