Sunday, November 2, 2008

Chowdown at Lulu Restaurant, Charlotte – A Blast

Saturday November1st was the first Charlotte Chowdown. We met at Lulu Restaurant on Central Avenue and it was a blast. We were an intimate group of eight, most of us Chowhounds some friends and S/O’s. We shared restaurant tips, best food memories, and food stories and just basically broke bread together.

The lunch began with a few treats compliments of the Chef Marc Jacksina. We toasted each other with a festive peach Bellini and then got to sample an item that will be on the new fall menu, A pizza with duck confit, caramelized onion, barbecue sauce and cheese. It was fantastic. Some folks dined on quiche, others eggs Benedict I stayed with the duck theme and opted for the duck confit hash. I loved the crispness of the duck and the egg poached on top made for a lovely rich yolk sauce.

I believe a good time was had by all and all agreed we should have another Chowdown. We discussed Dim Sum restaurant as a possible next venue, but hey nothing is written in stone. Would you like to be part of the next Charlotte Chowdown? Where do you think it should be held? The event did prove one thing food lovers are a fun bunch of folk to hang out with.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Nolia for Brunch- Reaching Potential

I heard that Nolia is now serving brunch on both Saturday and Sunday. I just had to give it a whirl. This place is coming alive and had a pretty good crowd. The bleak white surroundings have been replaced with lots of fantastic art hanging all over this very beautifully restored old home. Mrs G. had a very nice Mushroom and spinach quiche. The Godfather could not resist the Damn Yankee omelet as he is one. That's yankee not an omelet, just to be clear. This omelet is filled with swiss cheese and some damn good real NY Pastrami. Served with excellent home fries, it did not disappoint. You can just feel the growth that has occurred. The atmosphere is inviting, the menu has evolved. The brunch offers several Benedict's that sound very tempting. The dinner and lunch menu's both sound outstanding as well. I will be checking out these meals soon. I sensed the potential the first time I was here and now they are becoming that something special that I knew they could.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pie Town - what a pity

I have been looking forward to trying the pizza at Pietown. I tried going the first night they opened and the long line and the two-hour wait kept me away. I could not wait anymore and picked up four pies for Mrs. G. a couple of friends and me. The four pies cost over $67. I can deal with that for great pizza but Godfather is very sad it feels like a close friend has been whacked. I wanted to love this place. I expected so much and I got gotz, nada zero, zilch. The crust that had been billed as world class has no class. No crunch, no crispness, no flavor. Tasted a bit like the inside of a chimney. The list of toppings is impressive but the amounts used are not generous. I literally could not taste the cheese. It's a sad day in Charlotte for GFL and all of the Queen City pizza lovers. Where can you get better you ask? GFL recommends Louisa's Brick Oven Pizza, Cafe Intermezzo and Luigi's

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nolia Revisited

Last night I attended a Grand Opening party at Nolia. When I last dined at Nolia I enjoyed the food but found the walls stark and rather boring. I am pleased to report that the atmosphere has been transformed by the addition of artwork displayed through the restaurant. All from local Charlotte artists. It definitely adds a unique personality to the restaurant, which is housed in a beautifully restored craftsman style home. I snacked on some excellent house smoked salmon a delicious fried green tomato canapƩ, some top notch Hummus and Tabouli. I believe this marriage of pleasing decor and excellent cuisine takes Nolia to the next level. I look forward to returning soon for dinner, lunch or the tempting sounding weekend brunch.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Breakfast to brag about in Charlotte

Mrs. G. and I went to Big Daddy's Burger Bar on East Blvd. this AM for breakfast that's right BREAKFAST.
I am fussy about my eggs being done right. Hard to believe huh? That’s the classic way to interview a cook is to have him or her prepare an egg.
Well, I found out the chef had a brief stint cooking at the White House for 'W" and he was asked by the chef to prepare an omelet, scrambled eggs and poach an egg. Very Cool.

My wife's omelet with Brie and tomato was fantastic and my soft scrambled eggs were absolute perfection. Up until now no one could make scrambled eggs for me better than me, well these were the best scrambled eggs I have ever eaten. Mrs. G. had hers with fresh fruit and I had the sausage and potatoes. That’s why she is the cute one.

Breakfast is a new weekend thing at Big Daddy's Burger Bar - Saturday and Sunday AM only. It was strange to see the place less than packed but word of breakfast is just sneaking out. The lines they have at lunch will be forming for breakfast soon. Sadly Charlotte does not have many quality breakfast options. When word starts to spread about breakfast this good you better be their at 8AM when they open to get a good table.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Andrew Blair's - New Kid In Town - SCORES BIG

Here is a real Godfather tip

The real deal and a must try. A brand new place on Montford Drive. It is called Andrew Blair's and they are offering what they call comfortable dining.
The owner also owns a well established bar next door called Angry Ale's. The bar business is very different from the restaurant business. Happily though he was smart enough to hire some Johnson and Wales recent grads - Top Guns. These guy's know how to cook and are putting out some fine food.
They have several salads and sandwiches for $10 or under. I'm talking Monte Cristo, Meatloaf with melted Havarti cheese, Turkey and brie or splurge and for $13 go for a fresh lobster roll. They have some great - the Lobster macaroni and cheese or the stuffed Pork tenderloin or Shrimp Gnocchi. I had a Halibut special that just knocked me out the fish was moist and flaky yet the skin was crispy and almost cracker like.
You heard it from the Godfather first this place is going to be big. The combination of great food, truly comfortable space and amazing service is a winner.
Our waiter Donny was nothing short of flawless. His knowledge of food, the menu and his attention to detail was perfection. Word of mouth on this place will spread fast, get in there before the crowds come and they will soon.
Take it from the Godfather this is the Real Deal.
One final note - Yes I am the Godfather of LUNCH Please take note Andrew Blair's is only open for dinner Tuesday thru Sunday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nolia Has Potential

Mrs G. and I had dinner at Nolia the other evening. It was kinda sorta pretty good. What they are calling Southern Bistro. Mrs G. had a crab cake appetizer and a goat cheese salad. She reported the crab cake was excellent, liked the texture had lots of crab and a nice remoulade. The salad had beets, walnuts and goat cheese. She felt it was too light on the dressing. I had seared sea scallops with beets and requested the sauteed arugula as a sub for the mashed potato's. The scallops very nicely seared, firmed up the outside with a very moist inside. The arugula was well seasoned. The beets while tasting good were not drained and created a pink watery puddle on my plate. Other than the pink puddle which The Godfather did not like the meal was pretty decent. The atmosphere felt a bit bleak. Boring white tile on the floor, boring white on the walls, and boring white paper on the tables. I think they are going for a minimalist vibe but this felt sort of low rent industrial. The wait for the waitress to arrive at our table a bit too long, but she was accommodating once she arrived. The owner introduced herself after the meal and was very charming and eager to hear feed back about our experience, kudo's to her. Overall a pretty good meal but the place needs some tweaking. I am impressed enough to try again soon. I feel they have potential to be something special

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Grateful Growers Farm Dinner

Grateful Growers Farm Dinner
The hands that Feed You - Real Food and Real Farmers

On Saturday May 31, 2008 I had the pleasure of attending the Annual Grateful Growers Farm Dinner at the Grateful Growers Farm in Denver North Carolina.
Less than an hour from Uptown Charlotte is the 10-acre Grateful Growers Farm. While not a huge farm an amazing amount of growing happens here.

Co –Owners Cassie Parsons and Natalie Veres grow vegetables, produce; Shitake mushrooms and raise Tamworth hogs, Delaware chickens, Blue Swedish and Khaki Campbell ducks.

All of the animals are raised outdoors on rolling pastures, which are not treated with chemical fertilizers or herbicides. The diets of pasture forage and grains are highly nutritious and free from hormones, antibiotics, and meat byproducts. They comply with animal husbandry standards established by the Animal Welfare Institute, ensuring the animals are safe, free from stress, and are able to behave naturally. There are no stuffy confinement pens or waste lagoons here.
The Pigs are free to roam, root, and play in the sunshine and fresh air. The breeds they raise were especially selected for superior meat quality and hardiness for outdoor living.
The Chickens are free ranging, producing delicious, nutritious meat and eggs.
Produce is grown without synthetic pesticides, weed controls, or chemical fertilizers. As they believe food is a valuable gift, and shouldn’t be laced with poisons.

Other farms participating in the event and supplying ingredients were Laughing Owl Farm, N’ Thyme Farm, Gilcrest Natural Farm, Rosemary Pete Herbs, My Bosky Acres, Fisher Family Farms and Pecan Lane Farm.

The chef’s who participated in transforming these splendid ingredients into magnificent dishes were Ben Miles – formerly of Table Restaurant, Chris Vergili - Barrington’s, Mike Vergili- Carmel Country Club, Paul Malcolm - Johnson & Wales University, Paul Verica - The Club at Longview, Marla Thurman- Art Institute of Charlotte student, intern at Longview, baker at Downhome Bakery, Christine Strzepek - Down Home Bakery, Greg Balch and Mark Hibbs - Ratcliffe on the Green, Karl Hoffmann - Chef for executive staff, ACN and Liz Hale - The Compass Group.

Perhaps the same skills set that make for an outstanding farmer also serve to make an outstanding event planner. The organization, level of planning and eye for details made this event move like a Swiss watch. The warm greeting, the interesting farm tour, the amazing entertainment featuring singer extraordinaire Melissa Reaves and the way the food and wine flowed to the tables were all flawless.

For me all of this was eclipsed by one thing the quality of the food. Upon entering the farm our path was lined with several food stations. The smoking station offerings included Applewood smoked Whiskey brined heritage turkey, Mexican style chorizo wrapped in smoked chicken served with a mole sauce and Braised Pork Shoulder. Next the Vegetarian section with a Spring Peas salad and a Tomato and goat cheese Aroncini. The Charcuterie station featured a house made prosciutto a pork terrine and a pork rillette. The bread station had a fantastic array of artisan-baked breads. The beverage very needed as it was a very warm day served herbal tea, Belgian style white beer and Alligator ale and of course water.
A brief tour of the farm allowed us to see the area where produce is grown and the shady area used to inoculate logs to grow shitake mushrooms (who knew). We also received a personal introduction to many lovely chickens and hogs and even a few dandy ducks.

Having stretched our legs a bit it was time to enter the large white tent and begin dinner. Dinner was a magnificent tasting menu that followed a progression of light to richer dishes. Dinner included a salad with goat cheese and a light strawberry dressing. Succulent duck breast and ravioli stuffed with duck confit. Next a chicken dish with a sauce that contained bits of caramelized garlic that had become crispy and added a crunch almost like a mild garlic candy. Last was an unctuous braised portion of pork belly. It was at once juicy, smoky, and slightly crispy around the edges and just all around fantastic. Desert was not memorable and this is a shame as it is the last taste folks leave with, could be challenging to represent local ingredients well thru desert. Perhaps a simple fruit tart would fare better.

The event was truly amazing and a huge success. I am grateful for Grateful Growers Farm and all of the farmers and chefs who produce healthy, delicious and local food for us.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pio Pio for Great Rotisserie Chicken

Take it from the Godfather
Dilworth now boasts the best rotisserie chicken in Charlotte.
It can be found at Pio Pio. It’s a new place behind the Outback Steak House on East Blvd. Drive all the way to the back of the parking lot located to the right of Tally's (which is closing by the way). Pio Pio marinates the chicken for great flavor and to insure that it is nice and juicy. The chicken is offered with rice and beans, and either green or ripe plantains. If you prefer, you can have it served with a wonderful chicken soup and a salad with avocado and a light dressing. They bring two sauces to the table garlic and hot sauces both are fantastic. They also offer drinks, deserts and other entrees. Everything is fresh and very tasty. This is great food for a reasonable price. When word gets out this place will be packed. The location is tough. Two restaurants have failed there. However I predict this place will make it big time. Serve a simple menu do it extremely well and people will beat a path to your door. Word of mouth will spread fast that this chicken ROCKS. They own several restaurants in the New York area and this is the first in Charlotte. I am glad that they have arrived in Charlotte. This place is the real deal and I defy you to find better chicken. It is poultry in motion.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Godfather soon to be Famous ?

I have been a regular at Big Daddy’s Burger Bar eating lots of salads as of late in an effort to build a better godfather. Great salads topped with chicken breast, turkey burger etc.
The general manager Donny mentioned that to keep things fresh he was going to add some new items to the menu. He mentioned a tuna burger, Portabella burger to name a few. I have had the Tuna burger and it is a gem. I had it atop of mixed greens with the soy ginger dressing and it was truly delicious. The great news in addition to being delicious it’s made with no filler. It is actually good for you.
Donny asked the godfather what burger I would like to see added to the menu and I of course said the godfather burger, as I am a shy and unassuming kind of guy.
Well asked Donny “what is a godfather burger?
Burger with marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese I explained. To which Donny replied, “done”
Today as a lunch special low and behold there it was!!
The Godfather – Prime Angus Burger cooked to your desire topped with mozzarella and marinara sauce with your choice of side. WOW I am deeply moved. Well I just had to go for it. I didn’t go totally nuts. I had it on a whole-wheat bun, with a side of the chopped salad and a UN sweet tea. What a tasty tribute. What a thrill to eat myself and to my delight I am a very tasty treat indeed. Donny tells me it is a great seller and people are raving about it. I am truly touched just ask anyone.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

crisp 7th Street Cafe - Salad Sensation in Elizabeth

First I like the name. It conjures thoughts of fresh and vibrant ingredients. Next I enjoy being in the space. The dining area has a green leaf design on the walls that creates a vibe that is serene and cool. The food prep line from which you order your food attractively shows off the wholesome array of spring mix, spinach, butter or romaine lettuce and a choice of interesting toppings. You also can select a protein choice that includes grilled flat iron steak, herb marinated grilled chicken, herb roasted turkey and grilled teriyaki shrimp. The day I was there the specials were a salad with pesto marinated shrimp and turkey, black bean chili. I opted for one of the house designed signature salads. The steakhouse salad consisted of romaine lettuce, grilled flat iron steak – cooked to order, portabella mushrooms, tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles, grilled red onion and balsamic vinaigrette. Very impressively prepared. Your order is taken and custom made to your liking right in front of you. Salt and freshly ground pepper are added to your liking and the protein is married to the salad at the end of line. Its dressed and served in a hefty bowl. Get your beverage from the case near the cashier, settle your tab have a seat and enjoy. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. All of the veggies were bursting with flavor and freshness and yes crisp. The steak was prepared just as I ordered it and the quantity was enough to be satisfying but not so much as to ruin the whole idea of having salad to begin with. Most importantly it was tender and delicious.

While on the road to building a better godfather I will be consuming many salads. I am sure a good many of them will be enjoyed at crisp. It is a tribute to crisp that I look forward to trying all the many salad options that they and I can come up with.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Fiamma my favorite Italian Restaurant

The Godfather and Mrs.G had a wonderful dinner at Fiamma - my favorite Italian restaurant located in the former Reinland House at the other end on the parking lot from Rusan's. We shared an appetizer of seared sea scallop served over pureed cauliflower with porcini mushrooms and a balsamic reduction. It was sublime, the scallops perfectly done and the puree the best thing to ever happen to cauliflower. The porcini cooked to edge of crispness to maximize flavor. Between courses we were served a lovely lemon sorbet a refreshing palate cleanser.
Mrs. G. had Chilean Sea Bass served with spaghetti squash with pignoli nuts and pan-fried artichokes. The fish was simply broiled and perfectly done, the artichoke crispy on the outer leaves and buttery inside. The spaghetti squash had a hint of truffle oil to enhance its earthy and sweet flavor. I had the homemade taglionni pasta with bay scallops, calamari, mussels and shrimp with a light garlic and oil sauce. The pasta was perfection and all of the seafood was pristinely fresh and delicious. The garlic use was restrained so that the flavors of the seafood and the pasta were not overwhelmed. The food, service atmosphere and the graciousness of host Alex all add up to a terrific evening of dinning.

Fiamma on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 1, 2008

Magnifico Mexican in Charlotte

Magnifico Mexican in Charlotte
Earlier this week the Godfather lunched at one of his favorite spots Big Daddy’s Burger Bar on East Blvd. On the way in I said hello to Frank Scibelli the owner of not only Big Daddy’s but also Mamma Ricotta and 2 locations of Cantina 1511.

Frank offered a nice hello and to my surprise knew I was the GFL and about my postings on Chow Hound.
So he asked – you don’t like my other two restaurants? Why? First I expressed my surprise that he read the postings on Chow Hound to which he replied of course its important to be aware of what people are thinking and saying. Straight away he won my respect and admiration! I explained that I thought the food was too Americanized. Frank asked me to give it another try; he explained he travels to Mexico and studies with Mexican Chefs and that he uses many authentic ingredients. They even use lard to make the house made tortillas. I thought his request was very reasonable and agreed to check it out soon.

The Godfather is a man of his word so the next day GFL and three other hungry hombres arrived at Cantina 1511 for lunch. To my delight my former feelings are out dated and we had a truly great meal.

The quality of the food and the authenticity of the ingredients were impressive.
The menu has a strong Oaxacan influence, which insures a more sophisticated and vibrant experience
My base line for checking out Mexican places is Taco’s. Not the fried yellow things but rather the soft tortillas served at countless Taqueria’s here and in Mexico. I had the corn tortillas rather than the flour but both are available. I had several taco’s the Taco al Pastor- slow cooked pork with shredded cabbage, habanero crema and fresh cilantro, the Guadalajara style- shrimp tacos with masa tempura batter, cabbage, radish, pico de gallo & lime, the Carnitas taco- braised Pork with avocado habanero salsa, and the barbacoa de puerco- Slow cooked, braised, shredded pork. Each was fantastic! Fresh, high quality ingredients prepared in an authentic and delicious manner. Accompanied by cilantro rice, charro beans, and tortilla slaw. The most spectacular was the Barbacoa de Puerco - so very tender, juicy and bursting with the flavor of Mexico. Lunch was exceptional and I plan to be back often.

I have leaned an important lesson. Before this lunch the last time I ate here was shortly after they opened. I will keep in mind that the best restaurants like the best people continue to grow and develop. This is the case at Cantina 1511 they have grown and developed into a authentic Mexican restaurant where you can experience both traditional street foods and genuine Mexican fine dining while enjoying both a great atmosphere and attentive first rate service. I strongly recommend you give it a try. The Godfather knows it’s the real deal!!!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

This place is going Wok and Roll!!!!!

The Observer recently reported
Grand Asia Market coming to STALLINGS --This western Union County town is getting a large Asian grocery market, the first in Union County and one of the biggest in the state. Grand Asia Market, which has operated a 30,000 square-foot grocery store, bakery and in-house restaurant in Cary for 10 years, plans to open in the former Winn-Dixie in Potters Square by the end of the year, according to co-owner Alice Chang. The Winn Dixie building, at Old Monroe and Potter roads in Stallings, has been vacant since 2005, despite efforts by town officials, residents and business owners to recruit another grocery store to fill the space. “So what is the big deal?” you may be asking yourself. The Godfather had done a bit of investigating and this place is going Wok and Roll!!!!!

Grand Asia Market has been providing the community of Cary, North Carolina with the highest quality Asian groceries since 1997. The Cary store carries thousands of products from China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. They have bulk packages of Thai Jasmine rice, fresh soymilk, chrysanthemum tea, and ginseng from Mainland China, Japanese seaweed, miso paste, bamboo shoots, tamarind paste, various chili sauces and cooking sauces, Asian snacks and other imported foodstuffs. Asian vegetables in the Produce department include fresh bok choy, bean sprouts, leek, ginger, gailan, lotus root, cilantro, basil, lemongrass, fresh mint, and mustard. In the Meat department, they carry items such as goat, duck, livers, blood, tripe’s, and Chinese sausages. From the aquariums, they sell a variety of live fish and seafood: tilapia, catfish, clams, crabs, lobsters, and oysters, just to name a few! Delicacies such as sea cucumber, and shark fin are also available. They also carry cookware and dinnerware. You will find an assortment of Japanese rice cookers, Asian-style bowls, plates, spoons, cups and woks. These items are also popular as gifts.
Grand Asia Market is also home to Andy's Bakery and The Joy Luck Club Restaurant. Andy's Bakery not only sells Asian bread, pastries, cakes and cookies baked right on the premises, but also prepares many flavors of bubble tea and smoothies. Andy's Bakery is the only fresh Asian bakery in the community. The Joy Luck Club's specialty is authentic, home-style, Chinese cuisine. You can even purchase live seafood from Grand Asia Market and have The Joy Luck Club prepare and cook your seafood to your preference right before your very eyes!
If the new store slated for opening in Stallings is going to be on the same level as the one in Cary it will be a true culinary destination for foodies throughout the Charlotte area. I’m eager for them to open. I really have a Yen to shop here.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Scintillating Salmon

Scintillating Salmon / A Poem and Recipe

Take a salmon filet and spread it with mayo.
Spread it thick so it looks all white.
I know it’s a lot of Mayonnaise but hey it’s all right.

Now sprinkle the top with lots of dried dill, just keep on sprinklin its part of the thrill.

When you’re done sprinkling you will see only green, thats ok you’ll see what I mean.

Turn up the oven high as she goes. Bake about twenty minutes but stay on your toes.
The salmon is safe inside of the mayo. Hiding inside, as not to get dry it stays nice and moist, so give it a try.

Flavorful and tasting of dill you’ll give people pleasure and one heck of a thrill and of course a peek at your skill.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Big Daddy's is the “Real Deal”

Big Daddy's is the “Real Deal”

Big Daddy’s Burger Bar – Located on East Blvd, in the former location of Jaimama.
The atmosphere is cool and casual, sort of industrial, with comfortable booths and stainless steel on the walls. I felt a kind of a Macs vibe. They feature an awesome beer list and more importantly Charlotte’s finest and cheeriest waitress Cassie. If she can’t make you smile you no doubt have had a lobotomy.

The basic concept here is to build your own burger or salad. They use 100% grass fed hormone free beef. Or you can go for one of the meat substitutes. You can pick your meat, chicken breast, black bean, turkey or my favorite Buffalo Burger. Buffalo not only tastes great it is also healthy. It has half the fat and cholesterol of beef. Have it on a whole-wheat bun and it’s a healthy choice that tastes amazing.
Choices include some great bread options, cheeses such as Swiss cheddar, pimento blue, veggies; interesting sauces and premium toppings like apple wood smoked bacon, avocado, sausage, ham, jalapeƱo bacon and fried egg to name a few. All burgers are served with a choice of French fries, sweet potato fries, onion straws, tater tots, black bean and corn salsa or a chopped wedge salad. On the weekend they have French fries cooked in duck fat. Pretty exotic huh?
I am pleased to report the bun was fresh the burger juicy. and delicious. I am talking one first-rate top notch all American Burger.
I am pleased to proclaim
Big Daddy’s Burger Bar is indeed the” Real Deal” The Godfather will return very soon. Save me a seat in Cassie’s section.