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.