Charlotte · Isle of Palms

Best of Restaurants: Appetizers

Appetizers are my very favorite part of the meal.  Not a big commitment, you can be adventurous and not break the bank.  Here is a list of my favorites:

Caramelized Gnocchi from Aria Tuscan Grill

Fried Green Tomatoes at Huey’s Southern Eats in Isle of Palms

Mert’s Soul Rolls at Mert’s Heart and Soul in Charlotte

Homemade Lime Tortilla Chips served with Pineapple Mango Salsa from Caterer extraordinaire Food Junkie

Spinach and Artichoke Dip from Food Junkie

Filipino-style Pork Eggrolls with Spicy Apricot Dipping Sauce from Food Junkie

Funghi Repieni at Caruso’s in Mooresville

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Nashville · Places · Restaurants · TN

Travel: Nashville, TN

My kids and I took a trip to Nashville, TN last year to see Avenged Sevenfold in concert.  It was our first trip with just the three of us after my divorce and it was mag.ni.fi.cent.  We had the best adventure ever! We leisurely toured the city and busied ourselves with shopping, fun and food in the city that friends recommended we hit.  Here’s a snapshot of our long weekend.  Or as I like to call it, the best road trip ever.

So, the reason we visited this awesome city: A7X.  Avenged Sevenfold.  The band that bridged the communication gap between myself and my daughter after that divorce.  Yeah, I love them.  So, they get top billing in this blog post.

We had great seats.  The best I could find.  We caught one of Johnny’s guitar pics at the end of the night.  Yes!!

Airbnb

We booked our apartment through Airbnb, and it was so much better than a cramped hotel room.  The owner told me that the apartment was formerly owned by Kris Kristopherson.  Pretty sweet!

The Grand Ole Opry

“The Show that Made Country Music Famous” began in 1925 and is the longest running radio broadcast in US history.  It is a weekly music stage concert that attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world.  I’d call it the hub of Nashville.

Parthenon

Built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, the Parthenon is a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece.  Today it serves as a museum with tons of sculptures and portraits, but truly it is a wonder in itself.  Don’t miss the huge statue of Athena that culminates this gorgeous tour.

 

Loveless Cafe

This one is a little ride outside of Nashville proper, but go on and make the drive.  It’s worth it.  We waited about 30-45 minutes, and really, it was just breakfast.  But you still gotta go.  I mean, it’s good breakfast.  Don’t get me wrong.  And they ply you with biscuits and jelly.  Still..eggs, bacon, grits…it’s breakfast.  They do have a cool store, but by the time we were done eating I was peopled out.

Pancake Pantry

If you visit Nashville, you must visit the Pancake Pantry, dubbed Nashville’s best pancakes. Founded in 1961, lines are usually long and you’ll wait, but it will be worth it.  It’s an institution here.  They get their special blend of flours from local sources and make their batters and syrups with a secret recipe fresh daily.

Mafiaoza’s Pizza

After the amazing concert, we decided to go get some pizza at this late night joint.  Luckily for us, they were open and kind enough to serve us.  I’m sure we looked like death warmed over.  All I know is my mascara was all down my face and I was drenched in sweat, I could barely hear the waitress from the loud concert and we were all shaking with hunger.  Smart move, not eating before the concert.

Anyway, we ordered the pie and laid our heads on the table like heathens until it got there.  It was delicious, with a soft crust and tangy sauce.  We’ll have to go at a more decent hour next time.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

Nashville’s coolest and most delicious ice cream…as far as I’m concerned.  It was blazing hot in Nashville when we were there, so we ducked into Jeni’s while shopping for a snack.  What we found were fancy flavors and ice cream made with the finest ingredients.  Perfection.  The purple here is wildberry lavender.  I *think* the one below it is Savannah Buttermilk.  Read between the lines, that one was less memorable!

 

Charlotte · Restaurants

WP Kitchen in Charlotte

Our Girl Nosh May 2017 was supposed to be an super-hip restaurant Stoke.  Because it was on my birthday, we had a wonderful turnout…so much so that Stoke couldn’t accommodate all of us in their regular dining room.  We were going to have a private room and forced to order family style off of a very limited menu.  We decided that we wanted to try Stoke with a smaller crowd and started looking for a restaurant that could take us all.  Hello WP Kitchen!  You can thank Open Table for that realization, Wolfgang.

First, let me say they were so kind to us.  You can book a table for 12 online (nice!) but the group began to grow.  When I hesitantly said I needed a table for 20 they didn’t miss a beat.  They sat us outside in an air-conditioned patio that was private AND allows dogs.  It was raining that night, so the valet was a welcome service.

The decor is a mix between rustic and industrial.  I know that sounds conflicting, but it works.  They have the wooden accent wall that everyone loves so much right now, and then all of these industrial fixtures and utilitarian furnishings.  I dunno, I like it.

The cocktails were strong and they were delivered quickly 🙂  We all agreed that our food was amazing.  Even the simplest dish, like pizza margarita, was done with such care it was top notch.

Caesar Salad, my old favorite.  This one was tangy deliciousness!

What a special treat: soft shell crab!  This was crunchy on the outside, briny crabby on the inside…perfection!

Gosh, by the time desserts arrived I was so full I wasn’t too interested.  It was my birthday, though, so had to indulge 🙂  I chose the creme brulee, as per usual, and it was sweet, creamy and perfectly executed.

Myrtle Beach · Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach Hits and Misses

The Gay Dolphin Gift Shop.  Lots of stuff.  I mean, a lot.

Myrtle Beach Skywheel.  Tip: buy those tickets online.

Pirate’s Voyage.  Here’s my review on Yelp.  Dinner with a show!

 

Captain Juel’s Hurricane Restaurant.  Here’s my review on Yelp.  Sushi and Seafood with a view!

You’re here!
Full view of restaurant
Gorgeous Oaks near restaurant
Hushpuppies
Oysters on the half shell
Crab Dip
Spring Rolls…eh
Spider Roll
Sushi

 

Side Salad (look at that crouton!)
Gumbo
Crab Legs

Croissants.  Here’s my review on Yelp.  Best food in Myrtle.

Croissants
Acai Bowl
Strawberry and Nutella Crepe
Eggs Benedict, Potato Casserole and Ambrosia
Fish tacos
Chai Latte
Cinnamon Sugar Muffins
Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffin
Chicken Salad Croissant, Broccoli Cheddar Soup & Ambrosia Salad

Hamburger Joe’s.  See my review on Yelp!

Cheeseburger

MISSES 😦

Baron’s Steaks and Spirits.  Here’s my review on Yelp.

Filet Mignon with potato casserole
Chocolate Cake
Creme Brulee with Caramel Sauce

Margaritaville.  Here’s my review on Yelp.  It’s not horrible, but once was enough.

Margarita Hurricane
Watermelon Margarita
Crab Dip

Lava Lava Shrimp & Calamari
Taco Salad

 

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 😉

 

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

Charlotte · Restaurants

Restaurant Review: Rooster’s Southpark

mixing

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.

cocktails

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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.

roostersbread

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

roostersbresaola

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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.

roostersfrenchonionsoup

springtime

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!

baby-arugula-chevre-pears

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!

wedge

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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.  

joyce-farms-natural-chicken

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

lamb

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!

beef-short-rib

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.

oysters

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

roosterscheeseburgeronionrings

Amazingly simple spaghetti.  Perfectly balanced and flavored.

roostersspaghettitomatobasilparm

Buttery seared scallops.  Oh my.

roosterssearedseascallops

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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!

grilled-sunchokes

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.

mixed-mushrooms

Macaroni and cheese: soupy and creamy…yum!!

roostersmacandcheese

 

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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!

apple-tartme

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

roosterschocolatemilkshake

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