Hickory

Standard Oyster Company in Hickory

Girl Nosh July was Standard Oyster Company.  We picked it because it is RESTAURANT WEEK and they were close.  And I think I’ve found a new favorite place.

The whole place is a bar.  But kind of upscale.  There are bar stools only!  So, if you have issues that might be effected by that, be aware.  Still, so cool.  The place was a little warm in there, but you know…it’s summer.  I admit though I was hot to the point of being miserable and the wait staff was sweating buckets.  Hopefully just an HVAC issue and not the way they normally keep it.

We all started with a cocktail, of course.  The best of the evening was this Bloody Beast.  That’s a kicked up Bloody Mary made with Tito’s Vodka and garnished with a couple of tiger shrimp, some bacon, olives, pickles and pickled okra and a lime.  Oh, and there was some light salt on the rim.  So so so delish!  Maybe the best Bloody Mary I’ve ever had.

For my first course, I chose the half dozen oysters on the half shell.  These were small and perfect, briny and fresh!  My preference for oysters are smaller, and not those huge ones that lop over the cracker. These were served with a tart mignonette, but I still had to have my cocktail sauce.  Perfect.

Other second courses that my friends got but I didn’t taste: Kale Salad and Seafood Gumbo.  All were pronounced delicious.

We had a limited choice of main dishes, of course, for restaurant week.  All were outstanding, though.  I chose the Seafood Risotto.  It was topped with Tiger Shrimp and Scallops and had spinach studding the risotto.  This was the best risotto I’ve ever had…at a raw bar!

This one was the catch of the day, chargrilled.  It was swordfish, served with their grit cake and sautéed greens.  It was delicious.

The Queen’s feast came with dessert, or I don’t think we’d have indulged.  We were so full!  I chose the Key Lime Pie.  I took one bite at the restaurant and it was so tangy and sweet that my cheeks puckered!  I took the rest home, and might have had it for breakfast.  The crust was homemade and it was really delicious.  The restaurant was warm, as I mentioned, and it was very melty there.  Once I had it in the fridge, it firmed right back up and was perfect.

Kathy and Sienna got the Bananas Foster.  They both said it was delicious.  I could smell the liquor on them, though.  Totally didn’t burn off..they didn’t seem to mind.

Wrap up: This new discovery is a game changer for me.  I crave fresh seafood, prepared in other ways besides frying.  This is a perfect addition to the Hickory restaurant scene.  They execute every part of their craft perfectly.  Crank that A/C down to 72 and you’ve got a fan for life 😉

 

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Recipe

Souper Salads

Chop and dump.  Sometimes supper is really just that easy.  Here are a few of my favorite salads:

Bucca Di Beppo Chopped Antipasto Salad

Perfect for Italian dinner.

Bucca Di Beppo Chopped Antipasto Salad
Bucca Di Beppo Chopped Antipasto Salad

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • 1 ounce pepperoni, diced
  • 1 ounce mortadella, diced
  • 1 ounce red onion, diced
  • 2 ounces roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 ounces cucumbers, diced
  • 1 ounce gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 ounce pepperoncini pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 4 ounces Italian vinaigrette dressing
  • 3 pepperoncini peppers, whole
  • black olives
  • green olives

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl, except 1/2 the tomatoes, the whole pepperoncini, olives and dressing and toss.
  2. Add the dressing and toss until fully incorporated.
  3. Mound the salad mixture on a chilled plate, getting as much height as possible.
  4. Place remaining tomates around the outside of the salad.
  5. Garnish with whole pepperoncini and olives and serve

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“The Wedge” with homemade Ranch Dressing

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The Wedge is one of the simplest salads ever, but looks kind of fancy and is really one of my favorites.  I core one head of lettuce (bang core on counter, it comes right out) then cut your head of lettuce into 4 wedges.  Top with your favorite things:  Mine are bacon bits, shredded cheddar and chopped tomatoes.  Drizzle with this amazing dressing:

Ranch Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (combination of parsley, chives, chervil, savory, dill or celery leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

directions

Combine ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Abe & Louie’s Salad

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 head bibb lettuce
    • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
    • 1 apple, thinly sliced
    • 4 ounces blue cheese
    • dijon vinaigrette

DIRECTIONS

  1. Wash and chop lettuce. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Top with your favorite dressing.

Printable Recipe: Abe & Louie’s Salad

Hickory

Fourk in Hickory NC

Fourk was the last stop on our Girl Nosh Tour.  We had a crazy time getting there: a flat tire while traveling at 75 mph down the interstate and an hour late for our reservation.  Poor Kim waited for us at the bar 😦  But we made it and it was well worth the trouble.

Mad props to the staff.  They held our reservation for an hour and were very gracious when we finally arrived, not at all snarky.  I’ve been to other places where they’ll wait 15 minutes and give your reservation away, regardless of the circumstance, so this was a pleasant surprise, and certainly helped in turning the disastrous night around.  We sat down, breathed a sigh of relief and took a moment to look around.  The decor is the industrial/farm chic that is so popular right now.  It is very pleasant and current.  The servers are trained well and are kind, make excellent suggestions and are completely attentive to all needs.  The best service I’ve had in a very long time. But the food…that’s what makes this the perfect dining excursion.

“Daily Serving”

“Pinky Swear”

“Flaming Thai Shrimp”

“Ahi & Avocado”

“Sea ‘Pearl’ Scallop Rockefeller”

“Bruschetta”

“Baked Brie”

“French Onion Soup”

“Lobster Bisque”

“Rosemary and Lemon Chicken”

“Stuffed Chicken”

“Champagne Berry Cheesecake”

“Chocolate Cake”

So let’s talk about the food.  We each try to order different things so we can taste each other’s to form a really broad and enlightened opinion of a place.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.  The appetizers came out quickly and were so good we couldn’t wait for our food.  The scallops were cooked perfectly, but the best thing about that dish was the spinach mix served as a garnish.  So flavorful!  A surprise was the tuna and avocado. I’m not a big fan of raw fish, but this was a nice balance with the spiced crust on the seared tuna, the acidic sauce and the cool, creamy avocado made it a really outstanding dish.  The Thai shrimp were crispy with a spicy sweet sauce. The brie was a different presentation, being breaded and baked.  Buttery brie spread on bread slices, who wouldn’t love that?  Kim had to have her appetizer while she waited on us to fix our flat and get to her, so we didn’t get to sample the bruschetta, but she pronounced it the best she’d ever had, citing the balsamic drizzle as the element that tipped it over the edge.

I’ve heard it said that a simple soup is the true test of a cook’s abilities.  I’ve come to believe that.   The best soup I’ve ever made was simmered all day long, and that’s what these taste like.  Made with love, expertly.  We tried three this night.  The French onion Soup was very deeply flavored with beef stock and simmered onions.  The cheese atop the brioche is just icing on the cake.  It was a really good soup.  We also tried the butternut squash soup, I didn’t take a taste, so can’t personally comment but Megan said it was really good.  The winner of the night was the lobster bisque; it was velvety and packed a punch of flavor.  Also, seasoned perfectly.  I still think about that soup.

The main dishes were all just a fabulous as we’d hoped.  I have to say that I might have enjoyed the garnish more than the protein.  My charred brussels sprouts were a real treat.  Roasting them that way gives them such a depth of flavor.  My chicken was the airline chicken, which is where the breast is boneless but still has the drummette attached.  They then cleaned the bone so it looks fancy.  I appreciate the effort.  It was delicious!

If I had one (tiny) complaint about the experience it is dessert.  I had the small chocolate cake and it was dry and underwhelming.  I was disappointed.  My friends enjoyed the cheesecake and faired a bit better, but we all agreed next time we’d skip.  Upon questioning the waitress we learned that someone else made the desserts for them, so likely that is the problem.

Don’t let that deter you.  Go!  Lunch or dinner, both are great and very comfortable.  I can’t wait to get back.
Fourk Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Recipe

REALTOR luncheons: Chili Bar

I did a luncheon for this gorgeous home I have listed (shameless plug):

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It was so well attended, and I’ll tell you why.  The secret is to MAKE lunch.  Well, that and you have to get the word out.  But people will come if you actually MAKE your food instead of getting a Subway tray and a grocery store bakery tray of cookies.  That’s my story, anyway.  The other secret is to give away free stuff.  Angela Gribbins, you won the Fandango Gift card.

So I had the idea for a chili bar because it was cold the day I did the luncheon.  We had two types of chili, baked potatoes and corn muffins and brownies with white frosting.  The toppings I had were tortilla chips, corn chips, shredded cheddar, sour cream, chopped onions and tomatoes, jalapenos and soup crackers.

The first chili I served was White Chicken Chili.  I got the recipe off of the Pinterest and it was really delicious.  You can get the recipe here: Add a Pinch

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I also served a traditional chili.  It was really really delicious.  The secret was to cook it low and slow on the stove for hours, not the short time suggested here.  If it gets thick, hit it with some beef broth.

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I also made these yummy muffins: Vidalia Onion Cornbread from Paula Deen.  They were soooo good!  They were delicious and so…dare I use the word…MOIST!  Ugh, that word, but they were.  I found this recipe on Diary of a Recipe Collector.

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Dessert.  Everyone was crazy about those frosted brownies.  I cut them small because they were pretty rich.  Ready for the recipe?  Get your pen and paper…

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Charlotte · Restaurants

Restaurant Review: Rooster’s Southpark

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If you haven’t been to Rooster’s in a while, do yourself a favor and get over there.  We decided to go after a chef friend recommended it so highly.  She told us that the Executive Chef, Zack Renner, was amazing and that they served her farm’s pork.  That’s all she had to say, we were there.

We reserved a table for 8 so they put us in a room that looked like it might once have been the hallway of a small strip mall.  BUT they’d doctored it up with pretty twinkle lights and a nice fountain in the middle.  And then there was this adorable pig door holder we were all entranced with…and we weren’t alone.  A few people stopped to take pictures of Porky.

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Our waitress was so kind and deftly handled our large(ish) group by giving us suggestions, fixing drinks when we weren’t satisfied and delivering the bad news about dessert.  The management also stopped by a time or two to make sure our night was going well..which it very much was.

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Cocktails are the best way to begin Girl Nosh.  Rooster’s has a fine selection of wine, brews and mixed drinks.  This one (I forget the name) was muddled cucumbers, raspberry and gin.  I have to admit it wasn’t for me, but others at the table found it refreshing and light.

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To soak up all of this alcohol, they brought us an assortment of delicious baked breads with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bread was hearty and delicious.  Very nutty.

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Housemade bresaola.  I didn’t try, but doesn’t it look great?

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The French Onion soup was not one of my favorite soups.  It was hearty, but not as flavorful as it should have been for such murky and dark broth.  I didn’t opt for it on my second visit.

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The salads were all so fresh and dressed perfectly.  This one was on their daily offerings page, meaning it was what was fresh at the farmer’s market:  Whole romaine leaves topped with walnuts, tangerine slices and grated Pecorino Romano cheese.  Perfect.

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The next salad was baby arugula, chopped pears and chevre cheese. Yum!

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My salad was a wedge.  I don’t know why I’m not more adventurous.  I just love a wedge.  And this one was perfect.  The cold, crispy iceberg lettuce topped with creamy, tangy blue cheese dressing is a comfort food.  This one had some pickled red onions on top that were both sweet and tart, and really gave the salad a punch!

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When you go to Rooster’s, you must have something that was wood-fired or wood-grilled.  Shannon got the salmon, and it was perfectly cooked…charred on the outside and tender on the inside.  She was so happy with her choice!

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Other dishes I didn’t try but were reported to be delicious:  Wood-Fired Joyce Farms Natural Chicken.  Laurie said it was tender, full of flavor and really juicy.  

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Anessa got roasted veal with mushrooms and blue potatoes.  It sat in a deliciously flavored jus and drizzled with aioli.  Perfection.

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One of the best dishes for the night was Jennifer’s braised beef short rib.  Tender as a a slow-roasted pot roast, but packed with flavor.  The meat just melted in your mouth!

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I have mixed feelings about my entree.  I got the fried oysters, and while they were perfectly delicious: crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside with a nice briny flavor, I’d come to a restaurant that has “wood-fired” in its name and didn’t get something from the grill.  Supremely stupid.  You can get oysters at a fish camp.  Stick with something with the taste of fire.

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Have you ever seen a cheeseburger that looked this yummy?  And shoestring onion rings to accompany.  That’s not even fair.

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Amazingly simple spaghetti.  Perfectly balanced and flavored.

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Buttery seared scallops.  Oh my.

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You know, sometimes side dishes are predictable or dialed in.  An afterthought.  At Rooster’s the sides are at center stage alongside the entrees.  All sides here are designed for two people, but are so good you may not want (or be able) to share.

The fried corn should be your first choice.  It’s real corn.  Not from a can.  And it is pan-fried with spices that make is lip-smacking good.

The stone ground grits are another perfect choice.  Little nuggets of corny goodness are buried in them and there is plenty of heavy cream to make them rich and velvety.

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One of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth was the wood-fired sunchoke.  It sure didn’t look like much more than a ginger root when it came to the table, but the taste was amazing.  When I saw the word “sunchoke” I immediately conjured images or the artichoke.  The sunchoke, however, is a tuber, like a potato.  It was creamy and had a little bit of sweetness to it.  The wood firing brought out a nuttiness in it as well.  Very complex for such a simple dish.  One of my favorites for the night!

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Another favorite is this mess 🙂  This is a mix of mushrooms, which is probably one of my favorite foods in the world.  The table agreed that these were a favorite.  They were lightly seasoned and gently cooked, so their true flavors shown through.

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Macaroni and cheese: soupy and creamy…yum!!

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By the time we were done eating, most of the tables around us were empty.  And they’d take our top dessert choice with them: the coconut cake.  We didn’t let that stop us, though.  We all ordered the back up dessert which was an apple tarte.  The waitress called it something else, but for the life of me, I cannot remember what that was.  To describe it I’d say it was dried apples (re-hydrated, of course) placed atop a buttery and light croissant crust.  It was accompanied by a scoop of vanilla bean gelato and a spill of rich caramel sauce.  Even though apples aren’t my favorite dessert fruit, this reminded me of the fried pies my grandmother used to make.  The apples had a tart but sweet taste and were very soft.  The crust wasn’t overly sweet, so it was perfect with the gelato and the caramel.  Decadent and delicious!

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Chocolate Milkshake:  Runny and chocolately, just like I like it.

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We at Girl Nosh all agreed that this was one of our favorite places we’d been to.  That’s saying something, because we’ve been to some fine restaurants.  You will need a reservation, but you can make them on OpenTable.com.  Go on and get that done now.  You are welcome.

Rooster's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Charlotte

Aix en Provence: French Cuisine for the Queen City

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Girl Nosh went French last night.  And we are definitely going back.  And very quickly let me apologize for the poor quality of these photos.  I took a photo with the flash and got an evil glare from another diner, so I had to abort the idea of great photos.  Good manners and all.

Aix en Provence is an intimate restaurant seating 56 on Providence Road in Charlotte in the spot that was once Terra.  I wanted to try it because Open Table had it ranked #1 in their Diner’s Choice awards.  I can see why, it is fancy without being too pretentious.  It’s an experience where I felt pampered and important, but not stilted and stuffy.  I loved it, and this is exactly what a fine dining experience should be.

A little background: Our server was actually one of the owners of the restaurant.  He was so knowledgeable and precise I just knew he was invested somehow, and his professionalism was evident throughout our entire meal.  He gave us recommendations that all turned out to be wonderful choices.  Each course was better than the last.  Bryan (that’s the server, we got on a first name basis as one does) gave us a brief history of the evolution of Aix en Provence.  They opened in December of 2015, just barely making a showing at the end of the year.  His business partner and co-owner worked at Lumière and with some globally renowned chefs like Daniel Boulud and Scott Conant .  Perhaps more importantly, he’s actually from France.

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While they have an extensive wine list, we opted for the cocktail that Brian recommended to us: L’eveilleur.  So refreshing and citrus-y!  He graciously gave us the recipe, too!  It’s 1.5 oz St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur muddled with a slice of orange, lemon, lime and 3 basil leaves (muddled to a fine pulp), strained into a martini glass and top with champagne, garnish with a basil leaf.  I had two and I was feeling pretty good.

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An unexpected treat arrived with the crusty bread and European butter: an Amuse Bouche!  That roughly translates to a bite sized hors d’oeuvre (saw that on Top Chef) and they are all the rage now.  This one was stelline pasta mixed with anchovy, capers and olive oil.  It was briny and packed a flavorful punch in that single bite.  A great start to our fabulous meal!

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The Octopus a la Plancha was a scattering of gently charred Octopus with a sampling of coulis: sunchoke, hearts of palm and cilantro.  The octopus wasn’t tough or chewy, instead it was pillowy soft.  The coulis were rich and packed with flavor.  Perfect and beautiful to look at.

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The Escargot was similarly tender.  I’ve never had them when they weren’t the slightest bit chewy, but these were soft with just the right amount of chew.  They were baked in an herb butter and topped with these tiny mounds of puff pastry.  I had to use the bread from the table to soak up the herb butter, it was too good to leave.

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The Lyonnaise salad is so simple, it shouldn’t be as good as it is. But every single aspect of this salad was executed perfectly.  The fresh frisee lettuce is dressed simply with a light vinaigrette, and when you cut into the poached egg, the egg yolk adds a richness to the tart dressing.  Stab a piece of the fried lardon and it is bliss.  We all laughingly called the lardons “meat candy.”

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The Squid Ink Gnocchi was a (for us) out on a limb, but there was no need to fear; it was perfectly delicious as promised.  The gnocchi were very tender and the squid ink gave it just a hint of the ocean, but the apple slices perfectly balanced the squid ink and the lump crab.  It was topped with a celeriac creme, all frothy and wonderful.

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The Bouillabaisse Marseillaise was recommended by our server.  All of this perfectly cooked seafood: fresh fish, poached lobster, mussels and clams, just sitting on a bed of celeriac and potatoes lying in a pool of the most delicious saffron broth infused with the flavor of the seafood.  It was topped with a slice of bread spread with some divine sauce, which I used to sop up the broth.  Perfect, tender seafood, each mouthful was a delight.

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If you want to eat a decadent Chocolate Souffle’, I will warn you, you are going to wait.  But, like all good things…you know the rest.  This is no exception.  It was more than delicious.  It was beautiful, it was silky, it was…luxurious.  Though I love chocolate, this is the first time I’ve ever had a chocolate souffle’.  I could be base and say it reminded me of a molten lava cake, but it wouldn’t be true.  The differences are huge to the discerning palate.  And to me.  Perhaps the most exciting thing was when the owner came out in front of our faces, made a hole in the center with a spoon (he took it away, too, he didn’t leave that messy spoon for us to use. Classy move) and poured in the most amazing vanilla cream.  I just wanted a cup of that to sip with my chocolate.  It was so rich, I just couldn’t finish it.  I brought it home and it was a different kind of delicious right out of the fridge at midnight.  Just like my hero Nigella.

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We also sampled the Apple Tart Tatin.  It was described to us as the French version of Grandma’s apple pie.  Lies.  My grandmothers are all awesome cooks, but this…oh.  This is fancy, compact and hugely packed with flavor.  Every single element of the dessert was executed perfectly. The crust was flaky, not soggy.  The apples were tender but still somewhat crisp.  And the syrup was sweet but not sickly.  All perfect, all delicious.  Together, bliss.

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The Girl Nosh group goes out to eat every month.  And we normally go somewhere fancy and noteworthy.  This restaurant, we all agreed, was one of our very favorite trips. We will be back soon!

Aix En Provence Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lincolnton · Restaurants

Food Junkee cooks for Girl Nosh!

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One of our Girl Nosh members is married to a chef.   We kept saying when I got the house ready, we were going to hire Food Junkee (aka Joe Byrd) to cook dinner for us in-house (instead of our usual fancy restaurants) so we could linger and enjoy each other’s company for a little longer than normal without getting the side eye.

Joe arrived about an hour early to set up.  He had most of the food prepared and ready to be served.  He did prepare some dishes on site and they were so so amazing.  Everything was.  And at the end of the night, all of my guests retired into the dining room to play a raucous card game and not worry about clean up.  Seriously best night of my life.

Dinner

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Here’s the spread…all spread out.  I wanted you to have a view of how lovely it all looks in the deep bowls, filled to the brim with goodness.  Each dish is described below.

Appetizers
Homemade Lime Tortilla Chips served with Pineapple Mango Salsa is what we first sampled as Joe set up the spread for my friends.  The crispy chips were freshly made, warm and dusted with salty lime flavors that were perfect against the sweet heat of the salsa.  I think we ate a gallon.  Seriously.

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Joe also had some leftover Spinach and Artichoke Dip from stuffing our chicken, so he brought that along to serve with the extra tortilla chips.  So creamy and tangy.  I could live on it.

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Filipino-style Pork Eggrolls with Spicy Apricot Dipping Sauce was the best-loved appetizer by the masses.  Assembled and fried on site, these little nuggets were filled with a spicy pork mixture and finely chopped vegetables.  Unlike your favorite take-out Chinese spot, these were FULL of meat, and not filler.  The apricot dipping sauce was sweet with just enough bite to make you come back for more. 

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Two of my favorite dishes rolled into one: Pan-Fried Spinach-n-Artichoke Dip Stuffed Chicken.  First, the chicken is stuffed with this creamy indulgence, then rolled in bread crumbs and delicately pan-fried.  The chicken was so tender and juicy and let’s just be honest: you can put that dip on anything and it will make it 100% better.  It’s my favorite thing in the world.

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The most vibrant side dish we enjoyed was the Honey Ginger Glazed Carrots with Pistachios.  These buttery little gems were fragrant and still had a little bite to them.  As you can see by the slight char on them, they were roasted first, which caramelized their natural sugars and deepened their flavors, if possible.  These were probably the most popular side of the night, not a single leftover!

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You don’t like peas?  You just haven’t tried Joe’s Indian Spiced Peas.  Spiked with Indian spices, diced onions and minced garlic; just perfectly matched the sweet peas with a little bit of heat.  How can I go back to Lesueur peas after this?

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The Asian Glazed Mushrooms were so flavorful and substantial that we didn’t even need a starch.  They were sautéed in butter and slowly allowed to simmer in that Asian glaze that was maddeningly delicious and just different enough to make you feel like you were experiencing this side for the first time.  Can you tell they were my favorites?

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Most people get one dessert.  Not us.  We got two.  And I can’t even tell you which one was better, they were both amazing and rich.  The first was a Chocolate Chip Kahlua Cheesecake.  This is kind of Joe’s signature dessert.  At least, the number of us who’d had it before requested (begged) him to bring it for Girl Nosh.  He doesn’t disappoint.  A chocolatey rich cake bottom topped with creamy and sweet cheesecake with tiny shards of chocolate chips, all accented by the Kahlua.  And look how pretty:

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The Cast Iron Apple Brown Betty with Homemade Almond Ice Cream was a special treat for all of us.  First of all, making a dessert in a cast iron skillet?  Too rustic, too cool.  We were all so enraptured.  Then Megan sprang her homespun ice cream (made right in my kitchen while the cobbler baked!) on us and we all ate until we were sick.  No regrets.  And that was the end to our perfect evening.

Now, for the plug.  Joe and Megan are my friends.  BUT I cannot recommend their services more highly.  Joe is a personal chef who not only caters events but also prepares meals for families on a weekly basis.  Seriously, it isn’t much more than Blue Apron per meal to do this and you get to pick EXACTLY what you want.  Just check them out.  You won’t be sorry!