Oh goodness. Grab your fork and knife and unbutton your pants. The popular dining event Charlotte Restaurant Week is back on Friday, January 22 and will run through Sunday, January 31, 2010.
This fourth round of restaurant week, dubbed Queens Feast: Winter 2010," will feature 79 restaurants. Each restaurant will offer a prix fixe, three-course (minimum) dinner for $30 per person (not including tax and gratuity).
This winter's Queen's Feast will see over 20 first-time restaurant participants, such as Bonterra; Global; Aquavina; Good Food on Montford; Miro Spanish Grille; Deejai Thai; and recently opened spots including The Liberty Gastropub; Enso Asian Bistro; Vivace; and BLT Steak.
Last year I hit up 6 restaurants and gained 4 pounds in one week. Wonder if I can top that this year. With so many restaurants to choose from, I'm sure it won't be tough. My top picks would be: Bonterra, BLT Steak, Vivace, The Liberty and Copper.
Participating restaurants in the Winter 2010 Charlotte Restaurant Week are:
131 Main - Dilworth *
Las Ramblas *
Sole Spanish Grille
BlackFinn American Saloon
BLT Steak *
The Capital Grille
Chima Brazilian Steakhouse
Enso Asian Bistro *
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse
LaVecchia's Seafood Grille
McCormick & Schmick's - Uptown *
Morton's The Steakhouse
Ruth's Chris Steak House - Uptown
Zink American Kitchen
Deejai Thai *
Lake Norman / North Mecklenburg
131 Main - Lake Norman *
Kabuto Japanese Steakhouse - Huntersville
Maddi's Southern Bistro
Mickey & Mooch - Huntersville
Red Rocks Café - Birkdale Village
Midtown / Elizabeth / Plaza Midwood
The Melting Pot - Midtown
Zada Jane's Corner Café *
South Charlotte (Ballantyne / Arboretum / Pineville / Fort Mill, SC)
131 Main - Blakeney *
D'Vine Wine Café *
Maestro's Bar & Bistro
Mickey & Mooch - Arboretum
Miro Spanish Grille *
New South Kitchen & Bar
Rudy's Italian Restaurant & Bar *
The Liberty Gastropub *
SouthPark / Park Road / Foxcroft
Arooji's Ristorante - SouthPark
BRIO Tuscan Grille
Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House
Firebirds Wood Fired Grill - SouthPark
Good Food on Montford *
M5 Modern Mediterranean
McCormick & Schmick's - SouthPark *
Red Rocks Café - Strawberry Hill
Ruth's Chris Steak House - SouthPark
Southwest Charlotte / Yorkmont
The Melting Pot - University
Rocky River Grille & Lounge *
* First-time Charlotte Restaurant Week participant.
The Crepe Cellar is ringing in the new year with both food and drink specials. If you haven't made reservations yet, no worries no reservations are needed!
Drink specials include:
Additional New Year's Menu:
Stewed Mussels & Crayfish tomato, tasso white wine broth over basmati rice
Pork Osso Bucco Sesame Crusted Tuna Blue Cheese Grits Lemon Grass Risotto
Red Wine Reduction Miso-Sambal Vin
Baby Carrots Baby Bok Choy
Granny Smith Apple / Cranberry Crepe
3116 North Davidson Street
Charlotte , NC 28205
My mom nicknamed my sister and me her "bread machines" because every time we go home for a visit, she always puts us to work making homemade dinner bread rolls, wheat rolls, raisin bread, challah, or some other bread.
Making bread is a labor of love. You've got to deal with live yeast, kneading dough, resting the dough, waiting for the dough to rise, punching it down, more kneading, forming, more rising, baking, and cooling. And you've got to have a large chunk of time on your hands since the entire process can take hours. Hence, that's what my mom gets my sister and/or me to do it.
Here's my favorite challah recipe. The recipe makes two beautiful loaves and is totally worth the time and effort. Keep one and give one away, or keep both! (The leftovers make great French toast.)
Yield: 2 loaves.
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbs sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 package of Fleischmann's dry yeast
1/2 cup margarine softened
1 cup very warm tap water (120-130 degree)
4 eggs room temperature
1 tsp cold water
Poppy Seeds and/or Sesame Seeds, optional
Add yeast, water, sugar, margarine, salt, and 1 1/2 cups flour; blend well. Stir in 3 eggs, 1 egg white (reserve 1 yolk), and enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 40 to 60 minutes.
Punch dough down. Remove dough to lightly floured surface; divide in half. Set aside 1 half. Divide remaining half into 2 pieces, one about 2/3 of the dough and the other about 1/3 of the dough. Divide larger piece into 3 equal pieces; roll to 12-inch ropes. Place ropes on greased baking sheet; braid. Pinch ends to seal. Divide remaining piece into 3 equal pieces. Roll to 10-inch ropes; braid. Place small braid on large braid. Pinch ends firmly to seal and secure to large braid. Repeat with remaining dough to make second loaf. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 40 to 60 minutes.
Beat reserved egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water; brush over loaves. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seed, if desired. Bake at 400 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until done, switching positions of sheets in oven halfway through baking time. Remove from sheets; let cool on wire racks.
Start off the new year with some great food. Zink will be offering a few special NYE dishes as well as a four-course tasting menu for $49. They will be open from 11 am to 2 am on Thursday, Dec. 31.
Walnut Crusted Brie Salad
Watercress and Frisee, Bacon Lardons
Crispy apples, Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Pan Seared Shrimp
Herbed Gnocchi, Morel Mushrooms,
and English Peas, Marsala Cream Sauce
Surf & Turf
Braised Painted Hills Short Rib
and Pan Seared Scallop
Garlic Mashed Potato,
Julienne Squash and Peppercorn Demi
with Baked Meringue
Vanilla Créme Anglaise
& Strawberry Puree
Four Course Tasting Menu $49
201 North Tryon Street
Charlotte, NC 28210
Call 704.444.9001 for reservations.
If you love Ru San's all you can eat lunch buffet of sushi, salads, and more, imagine a "Super Buffet."
This Thursday, Dec. 31, Ru San's is having a New Year's Eve Super Buffet Special from 5:30 pm to 10 pm. The cost is $23.95 per person.
2440 Park Road
(In Park Square Shopping Center)
Charlotte, NC 28203
Here's my tried and true weekday recipe: Shrimp Fra Diavolo.
It's got a lotta shrimp, a lotta garlic, and a little wine. The recipe is from little Food Network's resident bobble-head Giada De Laurentiis. Seriously, she's got the biggest head ever, right? Or maybe her body is exceptionally small...
Anyway, this dish is easy enough to cook for one, yet fancy enough to be served to guests. Served with Lemon Spaghetti, it's delicious. It's been a staple in my cooking repertoire and I've been making it regularly for at least 4 years now. (Which says a lot because I rarely make a dish more than once.)
I hope you like it as much as I do.
Shrimp Fra Diavolo
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 teaspoon salt, plus additional as needed
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons
1 medium onion, sliced
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
3 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
3 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt and red pepper flakes.
Heat the 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute for about a minute, toss, and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a large plate; set aside.
Add the onion to the same skillet, adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan, if necessary, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, garlic, and oregano. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
Return the shrimp and any accumulated juices to the tomato mixture; toss to coat, and cook for about a minute so the flavors meld together. Stir in the parsley and basil. Season with more salt, to taste, and serve. (Serve with Lemon Spaghetti)
1 pound spaghetti
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the oil, Parmesan, and lemon juice in a large bowl to blend.Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the lemon sauce, and the reserved cooking liquid, adding 1/4 cup at a time as needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with lemon zest and chopped basil.
If you've got kiddos running around the house this holiday season, put them to work by having them unwrap Hershey's Kisses.
These Chocolate Pretzel Buttons are a snap to make and cute to boot. Pretzel twists are topped with Hershey's Kisses, baked for 5 minutes so the chocolate melts, and then topped with M&M candies. The pain-in-the-butt part is unwrapping all those Kisses (so this is where you put those little rugrats to work).
Pretzel Chocolate Buttons
Mini pretzel twists
A bag of Hershey's Kisses
M&M candies (You can use peanut butter ones, peanut, almond, or whatever)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Arrange pretzels on a baking sheet. Top each with an unwrapped Hershey's Kiss.
Bake for 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and immediately smoosh down an M&M candy into the middle of each chocolate. Allow buttons to cool completely before storing.
When cream cheese goes on sale at the Teeter, I can't help but buy four blocks. Why four? Four is the necessary amount blocks to make a big, honkin', at least 10-pound cheesecake.
For me, a good cheesecake is defined by a crushed cookie or cracker crust, a creamy baked middle, and THICK tall slices no puny slices allowed. And none of that no-bake stuff either. If you are gonna make cheesecake, might as well go big or go home.
Cheesecakes are finicky things. One of the challenges of making a cheesecake is getting a smooth top. In the baking and cooling process, cheesecakes tend to split down the middle like the Grand Canyon, leaving it to you to come up with a creative idea to hide the crack. Also, it tough to achieve a creamy silky cake sometimes they come out thick and dry. Some recipes require water baths, leaving the cake sitting in the oven for hours, sour cream topping, pre-baking the crust, etc. Blech, who has time for that?
Well, here is a simple, straight-forward recipe that yields a tall, creamy cake that comes out crack-free.
This plain vanilla cheesecake has a gingersnap crust and a blueberry lemon topping. Strangely, it's the easiest cheesecake recipe I've made and the results are the best yet. For a more traditional cake, feel free to substitute in graham crackers for the crust or to use canned cherry topping.
Perfect New York Cheesecake
2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese (room temperature)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
2. In a medium bowl, mix cookie crumbs with melted butter. Press onto bottom and sides of springform pan. (Tip: Use the bottom of a glass to press and flatten the crumbs in tight.)
3. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. (Tip: I use the paddle attachment on my Kitchen-Aid, not the wire beater. Also, don't mix too furiously. Beating in too much air contributes to collapsing, cracking, and a ruins the dense texture you are trying to achieve.) Blend in milk, and then mix in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, vanilla and flour until smooth. Pour filling into prepared crust.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Turn the oven off, and let cake cool in oven with the door closed for 1 to 2 hours; this prevents cracking. Chill in refrigerator until serving. Top with blueberry topping if desired.
Blueberry Lemon Topping
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in a few tablespoons cold water
Boil blueberries, sugar and water until blueberries soften. Add in enough of the cornstarch mixture to thicken topping to desired consistency.
After I took advantage of the BOGO (buy-one-get-one free, for those who don't know grocery speak) pork tenderloin sale at Bi-Lo, I ended up with 20 pounds of pork. What's a girl to do? Well, make porky dishes, obviously.
For this Chile Pork dish, you just throw it in the oven and forget about it. After 45 minutes of marinating, you slow bake the pork for 1.5 hours at a low temperature. What you get is crispy, seasoned bite-sized pieces of pork perfect for making some tacos with.
Crisp up some corn tortillas for your tacos in a pan on the stove-top, then layer on re-fried beans, chopped pork, sour cream, pineapple salsa, a little Mexican rice, cilantro and cheese ... or whatever else you'd like, mis amigos.
3 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
2 pounds pork tenderloin, cubed
1 dash ground black pepper
1. Mix together: chili powder, salt, cumin, garlic cilantro and pepper. Coat pork cubes with mixture and let sit for 45 minutes in refrigerator.
2. Preheat oven to 225 degrees F (107 degrees C).
3. Bake 1 hr 30 min to 1 hr 40 min, or until crispy.
Yes, it's only 28 degrees out, but it's never too cold for ice cream, right?
The people from Starbucks agree they are offering $1 off coupons online. Get it here! Just fill out your info and print out your coupon for instant gratification.
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