Charlotte · Restaurants

Fiamma Restaurant in Charlotte, NC

Restaurant Week Winter 2018!!  I’ve managed to hit 3 (or will) this week.  Chillfire in Denver, The Foundry in Denver and Fiamma in Charlotte.  Oh be still my heart!  Fiamma was so worth the wait.  I’ve had it on my wish list forever!  It is authentically Italian, probably some of the best I’ve had in this area.  Their fish is flown in daily from Europe and they hand make all of their pasta.

Fiamma is also open for lunch Monday through Saturday, so you can try it during the day if you can’t make it for Restaurant week or forget to make reservations at night.  You can easily make reservations online through Open Table, though, so don’t forget.  This place is hopping!

The service here is top-notch.  I found all of the staff to be kind, knowledgeable and prompt.  I felt cared for, but never bothered.  This is a true accomplishment during harried Restaurant week!

Let’s talk about the food.  YUMMM!

When you sit down, they bring out a plate of fresh bread and crunchy bread sticks to dip in this luscious and tangy pesto.  If I had a big bowl of that pesto and a hunk of bread, I think I’d be happy.  It was so good!

St. Germain Coctail: Prosecco, St. Germain liquor, on the rocks with lemon and lime.

Refreshing and crisp, this is my favorite cocktail ever.  Reminds me of a sweeter mojito.

APPETIZERS

Burratta – fresh creamy buffalo cheese served with arugula, roasted red pepper, grilled eggplant, and prosciutto di Parma

Calamari al Salto – sautéed fresh calamari, tomato, avocado in a white wine sauce

This was a perfect hearty warm salad.  The calamari was tender and not rubbery and provided a perfect canvas for the avocado and tomato to give it such flavor.  The girls were mostly impressed with the party hat on the lemon, though.

Delizia Del Contadina – mixed greens tossed with walnuts, pears, and Tuscan Pecorino cheese in a light balsamic dressing.

This was my first course, and it was lovely!  A basic salad, but sometimes that’s just exactly what I want, a simple salad, with fresh ingredients that are all perfect.  This hit all of the marks.

Then came this palate cleanser: orange sherbet.  I was charmed 🙂

MAIN COURSE

Veal Ossobuco (Fiamma’s Specialty) – braised veal shank served with a side of saffron risotto

This was the best dish of the night.  The veal was so tender it fell apart with a touch of the fork.  The sauce it was simmered in was so flavorful and rich, you could tell it had reduced for hours.  The one blight on the meal was the saffron risotto.  It was so salty, it was inedible.  No, we didn’t send it back.  Restaurant week is super busy and we were seriously enjoying everything else so much it became an afterthought.

Branzino – Mediterranean fish stuffed with fresh seafood and served with spinach, potatoes, and asparagus

Tagliolini alla Scoglio – homemade pasta sautéed with fresh seafood in garlic, red pepper flakes, white wine sauce

This was my selection.  It was incredibly hardy.  I couldn’t believe how much seafood it had, especially during restaurant week!  They truly don’t skimp on portions.  The wine sauce was light and really let the homemade pasta and seafood stand out as the stars.  I took most of it home and it was even better the next day.

Fussili Al Toscanaccio – sautéed with chicken, mushrooms, served in a vodka pink sauce with sundried tomatoes

I tasted a tiny bite of this dish, and it was packed with flavor and the chew on the pasta was perfect!  I rank it the second best dish of the night!

DESSERTS

Panna Cotta – cold Italian custard served with mixed berries

Tiramisu – layered coffee-soaked ladyfingers topped off with a mascarpone cream and cocoa

This dessert was creamy and light, not with an overwhelming coffee flavor.  I thought it was perfect, but my dining partner wanted the coffee to be more prevalent.

Cheesecake – ricotta and mascarpone blended cheesecake, served with berry sauce and vanilla ice cream

So light and creamy, and not too sweet.  perfect with the berry drizzle.

Crema Tostada – warm vanilla custard topped with torched sugar, served with fresh berries
 This was my dessert, and despite the name, as you can see it is Creme Brulee.  Not very imaginative of me, but so good 🙂
Anessa’s Cappuccino

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Black Mountain · Charlotte · Gastonia · Huntersville · Mooresville

Best of Restaurants: Asian

Mary Ashley makes sure I get plenty of opportunities to eat Asian food.  She wears me out on it.  Upside is that I know where all of the good spots are 🙂

Pink Volcano Roll at Joe’s Asian Grill in Mooresville, NC

Crunchy Roll from Jia Asian Fusion in Gastonia, NC

The “Prime Time” Filet and Lobster Roll at The Cowfish in Charlotte, NC

Dumplings & Tom Yum Noodle Bowl at Kung Foo Noodle in Huntersville, NC

&

Spicy Crab Roll from Sake Sushi

Huntersville

Block Bistro in Huntersville, NC

Girl Nosh visited the Block Bistro with a small crowd a few months ago.  We started with 10 and had to change dates due to a family emergency.  When we rescheduled everyone had full calendars.  Such is life.

Honestly, it might have been a stroke of luck, since that was my only complaint of the night: the time it took for us to get our dinners.  We’ll get to that.

First, the place is off the beaten path.  I love that.  It is tucked back in a neighborhood, and if you weren’t looking for it specifically, you’d have no idea it was even there.  Parking was sparse.  We found some parallel parking nearby, but I can imagine on a busy night that might be an issue.

The signage when we were there wasn’t clear.  I wasn’t 100% sure I was in the right place, but went on in since nothing else was around where GPS said the restaurant was.  The signage points to the bar upstairs.

We began with cocktails.  We relied on the waiter for recommendations, and they didn’t steer us wrong.  Very good bartender!

The choices for appetizers were few, but what we had was executed well and delicious.  Our table had fried green tomatoes and crab cakes.

The salad course was a wedge salad.  This is a really well executed salad.  The wedge is lightly grilled, then topped generously with bacon, red onion, blue cheese, Roma tomatoes, drizzled with honey balsamic reduction and dressed with blue cheese dressing.  This was probably my favorite dish of the night.

Our dinners were great, too, once they arrived.  For some reason there was a disconnect between salad and main dish and we waited a very long time.  I got the shrimp and grits, which were delicious, but very rich.  The sauce the shrimp was in was made with cream, which was different from what I was used to, and made the dish a bit heavy.  It’s a solid dish, just beware: it’s a lot.  The grilled fish and the sandwich were pronounced great too.

Dessert was for me, just OK.  We split these two selections (all they offered) with the table.  I was not wowed by either, so would skip if asked again.

If you are looking for a restaurant that is a little quiet, off the beaten path and has a solid menu with dinner selections and casual choices for a pub bite, this restaurant is perfect for you.

 

 

Lincolnton

Harvest Moon Grille in Lincolnton, NC

Harvest Moon Grille is a unique eatery in downtown Lincolnton that is such a breath of fresh air.  Their website says “an adventure in freshly foraged foods” and it is an adventure.  The menu is different each time I visit.  This is because they are farmers themselves, and build the menu off of what is currently available for harvest in their own and other local farms.  And they make EVERYTHING…they make their breads, their soups, their sauces, their stocks, their dressings and their desserts.  They even have a shelf for locally made products to take home with you.  In addition to that, they cater: at their place, on site or boxed lunches for picnics lakeside.  If you’d like to learn from these tremendous chefs, they also offer Saturday classes which include lunch!

They offer breakfast and lunch, both available from open to close.  You can also get dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.  On the day we visited my son got breakfast and I got lunch.  The dining room is smallish, but you feel cozy, not cramped.  The walls are filled with art from local artists.  If the weather is nice, you should opt to eat outside on the patio.  They have a very comfortable patio overlooking Main Street.

We opted for a locally crafted soda made in Waynesville, NC.  The Raspberry Cream was fizzy with just the right amount of sweet.  It’s the best.  I love how they are served with a mason jar full of ice.

This is the child’s portion (Junior) of French Toast.  He said it was delicious!

I had a falafel sandwich and a cup of tomato soup.  The brioche bun that the sandwich came on was made fresh in house and was out of this world delicious.  The falafel was a tiny bit loose for my liking, so ended up being too messy for me.  The bitter greens brought a peppery element to the dish and the cucumber sauce (tzatziki) was tangy and cool.  I have to say, the smallest detail was my favorite.  The house-made pickles were perfect.  Just pickled enough to be tasty, but still had a fresh taste.  These chefs really know their way around the kitchen.

The tomato soup (served in a little mason jar!!) was also fresh and homemade.  It didn’t taste like Campbell’s, didn’t taste like it came from a bag (I’m looking at you, Fatz) it tasted like it was made from my grandmother’s canned tomatoes.  The drizzle of olive oil on top gave it a richness so it didn’t need cream.

 

Charlotte

Restaurant Review: Cajun Queen

So Cajun Queen.  Girls Nosh was so excited to visit.  Ah well.

As most foodies know, a large part of the dining experience is the service.  If the food is magnificent, you can get away with slightly lesser service, but Cajun Queen wasn’t tasty enough (but it was good!) to counter the experience of bad service.

The free valet is a nice touch, because parking is a beast around there.  The hostess was busy but seated us kindly.  Then the waiter showed up.  He seemed put out with us, but as the night progressed, it became clear that he might have been irritated with a loud party behind us, because he became slightly less aggravated when they left.  The second bummer of the night was where we were sitting seemed to be a hugely traveled path for people coming and going all night long.  I was bumped every few seconds all night long.  Tiresome.  Though this did help:

The food.  The food was good.  Some of us had yummier food than others, but we all agreed it was just fine.

This Seafood Gumbo should have been blowing my doors off with flavor, but instead it was just okay.  I was a little disappointed with the mildness of it.  Needed something.

I had the Crawfish Etouffee and it was really too similar to the gumbo.  I should have made a better choice.  But, it had the same problems as the Gumbo, being too bland.  I guess I just expected more.

cajun queen chicken diane

This is Chicken Diane.  It’s a sautéed breast of chicken with mushrooms, green onions, Cajun spices, garlic, butter and parsley.  All served over rice.  Though it was pretty rich, it was a solid dish.

Dessert was again, fine.  There really weren’t that many choices, so I chose pecan pie.  It was fine, presentation was pretty lame.  I know, what can you do with a slice of pie.  But 3 or 4 puffs of whip cream from a can has to be one of the least fancy ways to dress it.

We may try it again, perhaps we were there on an off night?  I do like to give a few chances before writing a place off, but this night was not a good showing for this landmark Charlotte restaurant.

 

 

Huntersville

Kung Foo Noodle in Birkdale Village

My kids wear me out on Asian food.  I love it, but not EVERY.SINGLE.TIME we get to go out to eat.  But, knowing this, I use this to get them to go on errands with me that they’d rather not do.  Give and take.

This place I didn’t mind going.  It’s new to us, it’s in Birkdale Village..and turns out it is awfully good.  Everything we had was delicious and you can bring your dogs with you and sit on the patio.  It was a perfect night for it, too.

We started with Dumplings.  The waitress advised us to get the pan-fried ones because the steamed dumplings got cold and gummy.  She was right.  Those little pork filled nuggets were warm, just crispy and perfect when dipped in the sauce.  That was a favorite.

We also tried the Spicy Wontons.  I thought wontons were like those above, but here they were steamed and very pliant.  Even though it wasn’t what we thought, these soft pillows filled with pork and shrimp were incredible and we all agreed (even our seafood hater!) that we’d get them again.

For my dinner, I had the Tom Yum Noodle Bowl.  It was so spicy and delicious!  Sour broth chock full of homemade noodles, shrimps, bok choy and flavored with lemongrass.  If I ever get sick, someone better bring me this soupy goodness.  It’s miracle healing level good.

Ty got his standard…ahem… Thai/Ty dish: Pad Thai!  He said it was sweet and delicious, with peanuts, chicken and chewy noodles.  It came with 2 limes to counter balance the sweetness of the sauce with a little added acid.  Perfect!

Mary Ashley got her standard: Sushi.  She had two rolls.  The first was called Bubba Shrimp roll.  It was tempura friend shrimp in the middle, with ebi shrimp on top, covered with shrimp sauce.  It was her favorite. She wouldn’t let me try it.  Her second roll was a Volcano roll, which was a friend roll with crab and crab salad. She did let me try that, and it was really really good.  Especially with the cream cheese inside.  Loved!

For dessert we got Bubble Tea!  The tea part was delicious, but I’m on the fence about those bubbles.  They are gelatinous masses (Tapioca pearls, I’ve heard) that are barely flavored and just make your drink chewy.  I don’t get it.  Anyway, we got Thai tea flavored and Mary Ashley got Taro.  Hers was the best…it tasted like a sugar cookie.

The service here was also impeccable.  The place is smallish on the inside, but it was not overflowing with folks when we got there.  Lots of windows and high ceilings do a lot for not feeling crowded.  We’ve found a new favorite spot.

 

Charlotte

5 Reasons you need to go to Church: Charlotte’s 5 Church

 

I’ve had my eye of 5 Church for quite a while.  Quiiiitttteee a while.  I’ve always pushed it down on my review list because the pictures looked like it was too hip.  Too young.  Too loud.  Well you know what?  It was all of those things.  But go anyway, because the food is amazing.  But while you are perusing the menu, order a drink:

#1: The Cocktails

 

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The Ivey Cocktail was my choice of cocktail for the night.  It was sweet and light, with citrus vodka, orange liqueur, grenadine and cranberry juice.  Very fruity and refreshing!  The server was very knowledgeable about the bar offerings, as well.  I told her my likes (fruity, not too strong) and she recommended the perfect concoction.

#2 The Appetizers

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Behold the Shrimp Flatbread.  Handmade dough, baked and topped with juicy shrimp, boursin cheese, arugula and red onion.  Perfectly simple, and every element is perfectly executed.  The bread is chewy with just a little bit of a crispness on the outside and a little salty.  The shrimp are tender and sweet and cut into bite-sized pieces for ease of eating.  The boursin cheese is perfect on this, adding enough herbaceousness to bring it all together.  That and a salad would have been perfect.

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My friend had this pretty salad. The Bibb Wedge.   Bibb lettuce sprinkled with grape tomatoes, peperoncini and bacon and drizzled with a balsamic reduction and a tangy gorgonzola dressing.  It was a little tangy for her, but I didn’t taste it.  Looks gorgeous, though, right?

Reason #3 The entrée

Yeah, so four of my 5 reasons are food.  Shoot me.

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The Maryland Crab Cakes are a decadent treat ; chock full of lump crab meat with just enough filler to hold it together.  And they were baked, so not oily at all.  A dream!  The cake is resting on a squeeze of red pepper emulsion and a scallion aioli.  It was served with roasted broccoli, tomato marmalade (so sweet and tangy, perfect with the delicate crab) and a pancetta crisp, which was salty and provided a nice texture.

Reason #4  The Dessert

If ever there was a “signature” dessert at a place, this is the one.  It is a S’more Trifle.  Gooey brownie layered with chocolate ganache and topped with a toasty creamy marshmallow cream and a graham cracker crumble.  It alone is worth the visit.  Simply amazing.

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#5 Celebrity Spotting

In addition to many other awards, 5 Church has been voted as being a most likely to spot a celeb spot.  Celebrity diners include Cam Newton, Brooklyn Decker and heck, the chef was on Top Chef!

Photo cred: JustJared

5Church Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato