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.
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 🙂
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!
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 🙂
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
#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!
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.