Charlotte

Best of Restaurants – Beautiful Places and Spaces

The food is of course the most important element in a restaurant experience, but a close second is an ambiance.  A beautiful restaurant will make you feel transported and enhance your experience tenfold.  Here are some of my favorites!

The courtyard at The Goodyear House in Charlotte, NC

Hickory · Huntersville · Lincolnton

Best of Restaurants-Frozen Treats!

Is there anything better than a cool treat on a hot day?  Only issue is you gotta eat it fast so you don’t wear it!  Here are a list of my favorite frozen goodies:

Half Watermelon Half Wedding Cake Snoball from Pelican’s Snoballs in Lincolnton

Cow Pie Sundae at Udderly Delicious in Hickory

Lemon Vanilla cookie sandwich with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream at Cookies with an Accent in Huntersville

Charlotte

Cousin’s Maine Lobster

Cousin’s Maine Lobster

Last night Cousins was at D9 brewing for their summer concert series, along with 4 other trucks.  We decided on them because Lobster.

We placed our order from the pretty extensive menu (considering it is a food truck) and paid.  Our order was ready super fast!  I got a combo with a  Maine Lobster Roll (with mayo), tater tots and a water.

The Lobster roll was served cold, which I was fully expecting.  It was refreshing on the hot night and was good.  Not great, but good.  The tater tots were delicious, hot and fresh.  The bottled water was warm, so that was disappointing.

Had my buddy not given me a taste of her Lobster quesadilla, I might have given this truck a 3.  The quesadilla was so good!  it was served with a fresh salsa and a chipotle ranch dressing squeezed over all.  It was rich, but really delicious.  I’d definitely get that on a return visit.

Give them a try if you love lobster!

Maine Lobster Roll

Lobster Quesadilla

Tots!

 

Asheville

Day Trip: Asheville

Asheville is most definitely one of North Carolina’s jewels.  It’s a hip city with a vibrant downtown, plenty of breweries, tons of culture and shopping, diversity galore and a happening restaurant scene.  Seriously one of my favorite day trips.  Also, my bestie from college lives there so we always have a blast!

The Sights

So much to see and do here, and I didn’t have time in one day to do them all.  I’ll share other fun stuff I’ve done (just not on this particular trip)

Biltmore Estate

If you get a chance at Christmas, you have to go to the Biltmore for a look around.  Here’s the trick: make a reservation at one of the restaurants at night so you can go in a little early and check out all of the beautiful lights!  This was one of my favorite fun things we did!  There is one area, it looks like a patch of woods that has thousands of lights draped from the tree limbs.  There are adirondak chairs in there for relaxing and many people take picnics in (I’m told these lights stay up all year long).  It has to be seen, too cool to talk about.

Food

I thought because I visited on a Sunday I didn’t really need reservations.  I was wrong.  Every place on my wishlist was reserved up on Saturday when I went to plan this last minute jaunt.  So, don’t be me.  Plan your trip so you can get in to the restaurant you want!  But seriously, everywhere is good, so even if you mess up like me, you’ll eat well.

The French Broad Chocolate Lounge

No trip to Asheville is complete without coming to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. It is iconic! We arrived 10 minutes before they opened and were the first in line!

We selected a few items to take home: Marshmallows, chocolate chip cookie and a sticker.

The rest we had at the table to sample and all were very special. We tried the liquid truffle, one in milk chocolate and the other in honey lavender. The word that leaps into my mind is indulgent. They came in espresso cups but even that was too much for one person. It was just so rich! You must at least try these once, though. My daughter liked the flavor of the lavender honey, but not the garnish that sort of ruined the smooth texture. It was pretty though.

The salted caramel cheesecake was amazing! Smooth and creamy with a brownie bottom atop a squiggle of that caramel. And the size really wasn’t overwhelming. Perfect!

We also sampled a pecan tart. The filling was so thick it was almost like treacle, but so good! The crunch from the pecan topping and the crust made this a welcome sweet sticky relief.

If you are in Asheville, make sure you stop by. They truly have something for everyone and you will feel so spoiled! Even if you aren’t hungry, they will pack it to go!

Sake Sushi in Black Mountain

Not reaaaallly in Asheville, but we hit this place on the way home from Asheville while we were doing a little antiquing in Black Mountain.  There’s a cool new community called Cheshire Village that it so cool you should just do a ride by to check it out.  While there, stop at Sake Sushi for some really great Asian food!

We had spicy crab rolls, bento boxes and garden salads with ginger dressing.  We loved the sushi so much!  Small rolls, and perfectly flavored.  The salad was refreshing with real ginger in the dressing.  The bento boxes came with a spring roll, 3 pieces of a California roll, steamed rice and your protein.  We tried Katsu chicken, Katsu fish and Shrimp Teriyaki.  We all agreed that the chicken was best.

Regeneration Station and Junk Recyclers

Do you like repurposed furniture and funky finds?  This place is for YOU!  Huge warehouse full of every kind of houseware, vintage and otherwise that you can think of.  Each booth is as different as can be so you’ll never get bored.  Plus: they let you bring dogs in, so I had just as much fun looking at pooches as I did the cool stuff.  Quirky and funky rules here!

Here’s a cool blurb from their website:

“Tyler Garrison, founder of Junk Recyclers, started a full-service junk removal company focused on salvaging unwanted items and diverting them from the waste stream. Not long after, The Regeneration Station was born as an additional way of minimizing the waste that goes to landfills and contributes to the community in a sustainable way.”

An amazing day trip with lots to see and do.  Visit soon!!

Recipe

Cheesy Ground Beef Empanadas

My brother-in-law is from Argentina and makes these fabulous empanadas for holidays when we are together.  His are from his mother’s recipe, passed down for generations and take hours to make.  Days!
These aren’t those.
These are actually pretty simple.  They use refrigerated pie crusts and the meat only simmers for 15 minutes.  Still doggone delicious!  I found this recipe at Great Grub Delicious Treats.

Cheesy Ground Beef Empanadas

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp Slap Ya Mama® seasoning
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red peppers
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp diced jalapeños
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 2 boxes Pillsbury™ Refrigerated Pie Crust
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.

  2. In a cast iron pan or large frying pan, add ground beef, chopped onions, minced garlic and cook over medium heat until ground beef is no longer pink. Drain grease and return to pan.

  3. Sprinkle with seasonings, stir.

  4. Add tomato sauce and jalapeños, stir and let simmer for 15 minutes.

  5. Unroll pie crust on a lightly flour surface. Using a 4 inch bowl, turn bowl upside down and press down to cut dough. Should be able to get 4 pieces per pie crust.

  6. Add a little water to the edges of the dough before filling to help seal.

  7. Add a small amount of shredded cheese and about a 1/4 cup of meat mixture.

  8. Fold dough over and using a fork, close up the edges by pressing to seal and place on a baking sheet.

  9. In a small bowl, whisk egg and one tablespoon of water together. Using a basting brush, brush egg wash over the top of each empanada.

  10. Bake for 15 minutes or until empanada crust is golden brown.

  11. Carefully remove from oven and enjoy.

Recipe

Checkerboard Chess Pie

More Quarantine Recipes!  This one I found in one of my old cookbooks: “Aunt Bee’s Delightful Desserts” which I probably got at a Cracker Barrel or similar.  Believe it or not, all of the Andy Griffith Show cookbooks are awesome and have great recipes that work and I love all of the trivia about the show that is included.  Give them a try if you ever see one!

Checkerboard Chess Pie

  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon dark vinegar (I used balsamic)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pie shell, unbaked

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs, vinegar, and vanilla.  Mix and pour into an unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  Serves 6-8

Recipe

Salted Butter Pecans Bites

More quarantine cooking!  This time I made it for the folks in my neighborhood who came by a block party hosted at my house with Lobster Dog and Eleven Lakes Brewery.  We all sat at a safe distance and shouted our greetings to one another!  My deal was if they showed up, I gave them treats for their desserts.  This is one I made.

Salted Butter Pecans Bites

Makes 24

Ingredients

1 cup chopped pecans
Nonstick cooking spray
12 graham crackers
1 cup packed brown sugar
3⁄4 cup (6 ounces) salted butter
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 15×10-inch rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray. 

2. Bake the pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan, stirring halfway through, until toasted and fragrant, about 10 to 12 minutes.

3. Arrange the graham crackers in a single layer in the prepared baking sheet, slightly overlapping the edges.

4. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, butter, and cream. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla and pecans. Pour the butter mixture over the crackers, spreading to coat.

5. Bake until lightly browned and bubbly, about 10 to 11 minutes. Immediately sprinkle with salt, and slide the foil from the pan onto a wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Break into bite-sized pieces.

Cat approved!

 

 

Recipe

Lemon Meringue Pie

I have NO idea why I keep gaining weight during this time of Quarantine!  What could it be???

On a completely unrelated note, here is a Lemon Meringue Pie I made today that is amazing.

 

Lemon Meringue Pie

  • 1 1/2 cup sugar (plus 6 Tbsp. for meringue)
  • 3 Tbsp. Cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp. Flour
  • dash of salt
  • 1 1/2 cup hot water
  • 3 slightly beaten egg yolks (save the whites for meringue)
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 9″ pie shell (I prebaked mine)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cream of tartar

In saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt.  Gradually add hot water, stirring constantly.  Cook and stir over hgih heat until mixture comes to boiling.  Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes.  Stir small amount of this hot mixture into the egg yolks, then add these tempered yolks to your hot mixture.  Bring back to boiling and cook 2 minutems more.  Add butter and lemon juice, mixing well.  Pour into pastry shell.  Make meringue (see below). Spread meringue over filling. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

Meringue

Beat 3 reserved egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.  Gradually add 6 Tbsp. of sugar, beating until stiff peaks form and all sugar is dissolved. 

 

Wilmington

Restaurant Review: Circa 1922 in Wilmington, NC

Clearly I visited this restaurant before North Carolina got shut down for the Corona Virus, so I’m going off memory.  Luckily for me it was one of the most memorable dining experiences I’ve had in a good long while.

The restaurant resides in downtown Wilmington, which is quaint and beautiful.  We loved the interior, and I got pictures of our cozy booth and the “vault” from where the building once was a bank.  The service we received was second to none, and the dishes came out perfectly timed.  These folks get it right.

The food is where this place owns me.  I was dining with 3 friends and we all shared each other’s food…everything we put in our mouth was just incredible.  Seriously not a bad dish in the whole lot.

The Charred Brussels Sprouts were smoky and tender with crispy edges.  The chili oil gave them a little bite while the lime crema cooled it down.  Very balanced dish with bright flavors.

The scallops were seared perfectly with a crispy exterior and tender insides.  Loved the pairing with pomegranate and cauliflower!  Perfect for sharing, too.

The Prosciutto-Wrapped Dates were oddly delicious.  The sweet date, paired with that salty prosciutto.  Just wow.  Stuffed with marcona almonds and Gorgonzola cheese made for a bite that hit every taste bud!

The Grilled Filet Mignon was like butter.  It was served with roasted winter vegetables, a potato puree and a mushroom sherry sauce.  It was pure decadence!  This was one of our favorite dishes of the night.

The other favorite was my pick: Black Truffle Pappardelle.  I’m nuts about mushrooms and these paired with truffles, handmade pasta and Parmesan cheese had all of us raving.  The pasta was perfection, as only homemade pasta can be. The sauce was drinkable.  I still think about that dish.

The Crispy-Skin Organic Salmon was different than any salmon I’ve had before.  It really did not taste strong or fishy at all.  Cooked perfect, it was tender and buttery.  It was perfect with a little bite from the horseradish.

The Pork & Shrimp Spring Rolls were also a favorite of the table.  Fried lightly and filled with tender pork and sweet shrimp complemented perfectly by the cool lime cilantro slaw.  It was served with a Thai peanut sauce for dipping.

The crab dip was the best I’ve ever had.  Chock full of sweet tender crab meat with artichokes and spinach.  The cheddar gave it a bite to cut through the richness of the cream cheese base.  Those crispy bread dippers were perfect in and of themselves.

When I return to Wilmington, this is the first place I’ll grab a reservation!