Andrew Blair's on Montford Drive has recently attained some heavy-hitting top chefs: Executive Chef Blake Hartwick, formally from Bonterra, and Marc Jacksina, former owner and chef of LuLu. Both chefs come from restaurants that have been on my "favorites list," so I expected nothing less from the combination of the two chefs at Andrew Blair's.
While sitting out on the restaurant patio soaking up the beautiful weather, my eating buddy and I tried Mussels Diablo (a big bowl of mussels with chorizo, garlic, and white wine that was perfect for sharing), cornbread and pimento cheese fritters, Shrimp and Grits, and their famous Carpet Bagger entrée (a generous portion of short ribs served over mashed potatoes and topped with creamed spinach and fried oysters). The Carpet Bagger was incredibly big just check out the photos below. As one of the chefs' favorites, be sure to order the dish sometime.
For dessert we got a sneak peek of the dessert Hartwick created for their Highland Beer Dinner that is going on tonight, Wednesday, March 31. The warm grilled poundcake paired olive oil ice cream and served with a side of bananas foster was the perfect ending to the great meal. ...And if that wasn't enough, we were treated with a couple of truffle-like bourbon balls before we rolled out of the restaurant.
There are a few spots open for the Highland Beer Dinner tonight, so hurry if you are interested. The cost is $35 for four courses and beer. Call Haley Thompson at 704-499-9097 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations.
Andrew Blair's, 3/30/10
1600 Montford Drive
Charlotte, NC 28209
We here at Creative Loafing love us some organic "this" and locally grown "that" and everything, but every once in a while we dig chilling out and chomping on a big-ass juicy burger ... and so do you.
That said, the good folks at Hardee's recently hit us up about a giveaway they're sponsoring. The chain famous for its Thickburgers is giving away a free Happy Star Slanket (kind of like a Snuggie and pictured below) to help you chill and free Thickburgers to help you grub.
Wanna win the booty? Shoot an e-mail saying why you deserve the Slanket and burgers to email@example.com and put I want a Slanket in the subject line.
Good luck you lazy bastards!
*Update: 4/7/10: The contest is now over. We gave away the Slanket! Thanks to all who played.
The Flying Biscuit Cafe, the chain restaurant from Georgia that touts itself as "a taste of heaven," opened its second Charlotte location at Park Road Shopping Center on Monday, March 29.
The cafe has a casual vibe with bright colors splashed all over the walls and tablecloths. The lunch crowd today was a mixed bunch consisting of mommies with children, older couples, and people looking to hang out in the good weather (they have a patio area).
Known for serving breakfast all day, their menu takes a while to peruse with a bazillion menu options (OK, that's an eggs-aggeration, but almost) to choose from. Their "Breakfast All Day" menu highlights eggs. Lots of eggs ... omelets, scrambled, sunny-side up, on the side, and over hash.
In addition to breakfast, they serve up salads of all sorts, burgers, burritos, pasta, pot pies, quesadillas, and more. (See why it takes so long to read their menu?)
The biscuits were delicious like a hybrid of a bread roll and a biscuit, really. Each are dense and big, but didn't have the greasy feel of a butter-laden flaky biscuit. Topped with a little sugar, they were slightly sweet. I can see this place quickly becoming a hot spot Sunday brunch.
Flying Biscuit, 3/30/10
The Flying Biscuit Cafe
4241 Park Road
Charlotte, NC 28209
The brunch buffet at Hotel Charlotte is ridiculous. It made my eyes bulge wide seeing the spread of biscuits and gravy, muffins, pancakes, Trailer Park Casserole, broccoli and sausage casserole, potato casserole, mac and cheese, and delicious fried chicken. You can get it all for little under $14.
If fat kid breakfast isn't your thing, there is always their regular menu too with eggs benedict, pancakes, salads, sandwiches and the like. I tried the Southern Salad with spiced roasted pecans, goat cheese, Parmesan, dried cherries, red onion and poppy seed vinaigrette. (Of course, along with a few bites of the rich casseroles from the buffet. Who could resist?) The poppy seed vinaigrette was absolutely delicious. Chef Andrew explained they make it fresh in house each day with a few simple ingredients.
Hotel Charlotte is an oldie, but goody. It's been around for more than 25 years.
Their Sunday brunch runs from 11 am to 3 pm. Check it out:
Hotel Charlotte, 3/28/10
Hotel Charlotte Restaurant
705 South Sharon Amity Road
Charlotte, NC 28211
Do your ears perk up when you hear "cake"? Mine do. Well guys, have I've got a cake for you.
It looks so sophisticated, this cake's got me feeling like Miss Fancy Pants baker girl. It's called the Perfect Party Cake, courtesy of baker extraordinaire Dorie Greenspan and her book Baking: From My Home to Yours.
Four lemony layers of white cake are married together with raspberry filling, lemon hot meringue buttercream, and finished with a feathering of shredded coconut. Nothing makes my mouth happier than lemon and raspberry cake combos. The cake is "perfect" because the crumb is delicate, the flavors are fresh and bright, and the presentation of the cake is beautiful. The cake also lends itself to many variations with alternate frostings and fillings.
This was my first time making a hot meringue buttercream, and I'm a convert. It was so thick and silky smooth zero grittiness from the sugar because egg whites and sugar are melted over a double broiler before getting whipped into an oblivion. Yes, it did require three sticks of butter, but it's amazing, so I'm willing to overlook that. Plus, who wants a cake that is skimpy on the frosting?
At first I was a bit concerned because the butter, egg, sugar mixture was a big liquidy mess. There was no possible way it'd come together and thicken ... or so I thought ... but after 6 minutes of whipping, it started getting shiny and thick. Almost mayo-esque. It's ok if your frosting comes apart mid-whipping. Just keep on going and it'll pull together. (Tip: You might have to drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to keep the frosting from flying out and spackleing your kitchen.)
Once baked, the two cakes had to be halved to make four layers, and as you can see, one of my layers is a bit thicker than the others. Oopsies. Anyway, moving on ... here's how to assemble the cake: Layer of cake, layer of raspberry, layer of buttercream, repeat another two times. Layer last piece of cake on top, smother entire cake with buttercream, press shredded coconut all over cake. Easy! Now just cut, eat, repeat.
Party Cake, 3/26/10
One restaurant closes, and another opens. That's how it goes in the Charlotte restaurant scene.
From the restaurant group that brought us Manzetti's Tavern, San Antonio's Modern Mexican will open this spring at SouthPark Mall where Morton's steakhouse used to be.
San Antionio's is described as an upscale fusion of Mexican, Tex-Mex, Southwestern and Classic American.
Look forward to traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex fare as well.
This recipe for Braised Chicken with Shallots comes from the Martha Stewart Living Magazine cookbook Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast.
Yes, the dish was fresh ... but it wasn't flavorful, and it wasn't fast.
I felt it needed a "kick" of some sort because it turned out slightly bland. Not sure what would have been good. Perhaps honey? Or some sort of spice. It was just a so-so dish. I don't think I'll be making this again, but hey, if you like shallots more than a fat kid likes cake, then go for it.
Braised Chicken with Shallots
From Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast
8 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound small shallots (about 12), peeled and halved
5 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Fresh tarragon leaves, for garnish (optional)
1.Season chicken with salt and pepper; coat with flour, shaking off excess.
2.In a Dutch oven or 5-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat oil over medium-high. Cook chicken until browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove; set aside.
3.Add shallots and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add wine; cook until evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in mustard and 1 1/2 cups water; bring to a boil.
4.Return chicken, bone side down, to pot. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until chicken is tender and cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate; loosely tent with aluminum foil to keep warm. Add tomatoes to pot; season with salt and pepper. Cook on high until sauce has thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, and return chicken to pot; cook until heated through. Serve, garnished with tarragon, if desired.
Libretto's Pizzaria is opening their Ballantyne location on Friday, March 26. In celebration, they will be giving away free pizza for a year at their grand opening.
Yep, that's right the first 100 customers through their door on Friday will receive free pizza for a year. Doors open at 11 am. Get ready!
Check out these yummy cupcakes from Tizzerts that landed on my desk the other day. I got to try Vanilla cupcakes filled with pastry cream and Boston Cream cupcakes. Beautiful and tasty. Don't you wish you were my deskmate so I could share these with you?
St. Patricks Day gives everyone an excuse to be reacquainted with the dark delights of Guinness, but it is the making of Irish Soda bread which makes me feel akin to some of my ancestors.
In the past I have tried the breads sold at area grocers, but they were too sweet - like the hot cross buns on the shelves now. Fortunately, soda bread is easy enough for a six-year old to make since it has only three primary ingredients: flour, buttermilk and baking soda. Spiffed up recipes add butter, sugar, even raisins to the mix. But the original bread is quite plain and the directions are simple: mix all the ingredients in a bowl until blended and then knead. Shape into two-inch thick circle on a baking sheet (no need for a cake pan) and cut a cross into the top.
I studded my loaf with caraway seeds. Irish Soda Bread is the kind of fare which needs to be made, baked and eaten in fairly quick order and is best straight from the oven and slathered with butter.
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