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Keia Is Hungry

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Eat This: Pan Seared Swordfish at Barrington’s

Posted By on Wed, Aug 13, 2014 at 2:34 PM

There are a handful of places in the city where you are guaranteed a good meal every time you walk in the door. Barrington’s (7822 Fairview Road) is one of them. The cozy 47-seat restaurant in the Foxcroft neighborhood near SouthPark is a stalwart among Charlotte’s restaurants. The first of three for veteran chef Bruce Moffett, who also owns Good Food on Montford and Stagioni, Barrington’s opened in 2000 boasting a comfortable familiarity and seasonal cuisine that has consistently delivered well-executed dishes for the last 14 years.

The standout this season is the Pan Seared Swordfish ($31), a crisp yet tender piece of mild Atlantic swordfish with European flair. Sous chef Jason Newman traipses across the Mediterranean with the components of this dish, from a French-forward side of white beans beefed up with smoky Spanish chorizo to a punchy Moroccan-inspired charmoula and decidedly Spanish tomato and olive salsa. The synthesis of flavors is comforting and rich, with components bright enough to be enjoyed on a summer night out.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Eat This: Chicken Tikka Masala at Copper

Posted By on Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 10:00 AM

The origins of chicken tikka masala are controversial, to say the least. Whole countries lay claim to the dish and long-standing lore has perpetuated a muddy genesis at best. The short story is this: A man walked into a restaurant called the Shish Malal in the 1970s and ordered the chicken tikka, which he claimed to be dry. An irked Bangladeshi chef, in order to satisfy the quintessentially British hankering for gravy on everything, dumped a can of tomatoes, spices and yogurt on top, and voila! Chicken tikka masala as we know it was born. Again, this is hearsay. There are entire books dedicated to the origins of this crimson concoction.

Chicken tikka masala has more iterations than pimento cheese and evokes the same patriotic fervor. In town, Copper Indian Cuisine on East Boulevard makes a velvety smooth version that your mouth will want to claim for itself.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Eat This: Bun No. 28 at Viet Thai

Posted By on Wed, Jun 4, 2014 at 4:38 PM

When you think of Vietnamese comfort food, it is only natural to let your appetite drift toward the piping hot, get-in-my-belly-and-heal-my-hangover-now bowl of pho. I get it. But, journey with me for a second into the realm of an equally comforting Vietnamese dish, one that soothes and slurps and fits right into the summer repertoire, thanks to room-temperature vermicelli noodles, fistfuls of fresh herbs and grilled meats. I'm talking about bun, and Viet Thai near Pineville-Matthews serves a mean and satisfying bowl with variations to suit nearly every palate.

  • John Picklesimer

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Featured Dish: Modern Duck a l'Orange at Lumiere

Posted By on Wed, May 7, 2014 at 10:00 AM

A friend of mine once told me that you eat a dish twice: once with your eyes and again with your mouth. If that's the case, I can tell you that the Modern Duck a l'Orange at Lumiere (1039 Providence Road) proved delicious on both accounts.

Executive chef Tom Condron and his business partner Matthew Pera have revived the spirit of haute cuisine inside this latest concept. Using classical techniques, the restaurant serves emblematically French dishes like escargot en croute and foie gras, but with modern artistry. Case in point: Modern Duck a l'Orange.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Featured Dish: Clams/Mussels pizza

Posted By on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 9:00 AM

To be honest, this column was supposed to be about something else entirely. However, a quick Friday night bite at Stagioni (715 Providence Road), the third restaurant in the Moffett Restaurant Group arsenal (which also includes Barrington's and Good Food on Montford), before a concert last week and here we are, ready to talk about pizza. Not just any pizza, either. The one with clams and mussels on it. I know what you're thinking.

"Clams and mussels? On pizza?"

Yes. Clams and mussels on pizza. Now, hear me out.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Featured dish: Pimento Deluxe at Common Market

Posted By on Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 9:00 AM


The Pimento Deluxe is one of those naughty sandwiches. The kind of sandwich that makes you look and then look away because it sounds so good in the really bad kind of way. It's the kind of sandwich you pass on during your lunch hour time and again, somehow conjuring up the willpower instead to once again order the sensible turkey sandwich on wheat, hold the mayo, extra side of self-restraint. It's the kind of sandwich that will make you feel less like a goody two-shoes and more like the kid who skipped class to smoke joints in the back of the parking lot.

Order it. You'll see.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Featured Dish: Pan-Roasted Guinea Hen at The Asbury

Posted By on Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 8:05 AM

The historic Dunhill Hotel recently unveiled its new crown jewel, The Asbury (235 N. Tryon St.), an upscale farm-to-table restaurant that fills the space formerly occupied by Harvest Moon Grille. The name has a swanky ring to it, no? Don't you just want to say "Asbury" in a smug English accent while holding a tea cup with your pinky out? It all sounds so dignified. And, it is.

Asbury's menu boasts locally sourced, modern Southern cuisine. At first glance, the Pan-Roasted Guinea Hen ($26) may sound fancy and is sure pretty enough to eat in your date-night getup, but it also displays the comforting familiarity of Southern dishes made by someone's granny. In fact, it has just as much heritage.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Featured dish: Chicken mole from Three Amigos

Posted By on Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 10:44 AM

The first time I had the chicken mole at Three Amigos (2917 Central Ave.), it was a revelatory accident. A plate arrived covered in a deeply rich, almost cordovan-colored sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds. A molded mountain of yellow rice studded with peas and carrots sat sentry on the plate, surrounded by a generous pool of refried beans - the yin to the mole's yang. Hunks of hand-shredded chicken swam in the thick, all-consuming sauce. One bite was all I needed to know. It was warm and intense. Complex. Comforting. My taste buds didn't know where to begin. Notes of cinnamon and chocolate permeated my palate and an ever-present heat from the ancho chiles lingered and intensified after each bite. I slogged my tortillas through the pools of sauce, completely taken aback by what I was eating. It was that good.

Mole is considered the national dish of Mexico. It is a sauce made for celebrations and typically has no less than 20 to 40 ingredients, flavor that is built on tradition passed down over generations. Abuelas (that is, grandmothers) fire up la cazuela, a giant cauldron, for holidays and tend to the pot of simmering ingredients that have been roasted, spiced and carefully combined. Mole preparation is something that is passed down through families, a legacy left for the rising generation.

HOLY MOLE: Alejandra De la Cruz holds her signature dish.

When I inquired about the mole at Three Amigos, I was told to come back another time. The person who makes the mole, 27-year-old Alejandra De la Cruz, was off that day and she is the only one who knows how to make the dish.

De la Cruz is petite, with captivating almond-shaped eyes. She had never cooked professionally before she began working in the United States, but grew up in Mexico watching her mother and grandmother cook. She learned how to make mole at around eight or nine years old and practically intuits the complex flavors of the dish. Hers is a mole poblano, a blend of roasted ancho chiles combined with garlic, onion, tortillas, almonds, peanuts, raisins, plantains, chocolate and cinnamon. She shrugs off my praise, as if anyone could coax this kind of flavor from a sauce. The recipe is in her bones, a legacy passed down from her family for all of Charlotte to taste.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Featured Dish: Scotch Egg at Block and Grinder

Posted By on Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 10:04 AM

We all knew it would come to this, didn't we? Surely it was just a matter of time before Creative Loafing capitalized on my rather obscene appetite to inform the greater good. In this new monthly column, we'll traipse around Charlotte exploring the city's most notable dishes, from the best damn bites you can eat with the change in your purse to highfalutin' masterpieces.

My first adventure took me to Block and Grinder (2935 Providence Road), where executive chef Ben Philpot recently launched a new bar bites menu for civilized noshers. On the menu is the scotch egg, a popular British snack food that could quite possibly be the most portable meal next to the Hot Pocket. I know what you're thinking: Why is this British staple called a "scotch" egg? Well, why do we call downtown Uptown? Some things just can't be explained.

Traditional scotch eggs are composed of a hard-boiled egg wrapped with ground meat, which is then deep-fried to a golden crisp. Scotch eggs were typically a working-class meal, portable and served cold, but B+G classes it up with a few twists. First, the pork is slow-cooked, confit-style, in its own fat and then whipped into a rillette-like frenzy before being wrapped around a soft-boiled egg and flash-fried. For the perfect external crisp, the scotch egg is baked off and served with a red bell pepper jelly and a flurry of microgreens over top. The confit pork makes all the difference. The first bite offers a tender crunch, and the pork, flavored with glorious fat, doesn't stand a chance of drying out. The encased egg, with the gooey (but not runny) golden center, paired with the bright acidity of the red pepper jelly takes this $10 bite straight from working class to high class.

Got a favorite dish in Charlotte? Share it with me at

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