Asheville · Charlotte · Davidson · Hickory · Restaurants · Santa Rosa Beach

Best of Restaurants: Seafood

Seafood dishes remind me of vacation.  We always go somewhere near a beach and the first thing we do is hit our favorite seafood places.  Here are my favorite dishes, some are even inland!

Seafood Risotto from Standard Oyster Company in Hickory, NC

Bouillabaisse Marseillaise at Aix en Provence in Charlotte

Fried Soft Shell Crab from WP Kitchen + Bar in Charlotte

Crispy Oysters at Kindred in Davidson, NC

Raw Oysters at Steamboat Grill 30A

Rock Shrimp at Wasabi in Asheville, NC

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Recipe

A good life

When I’m planning a trip somewhere, I do my research.  I am a list maker from way back and I get joy from checking things off of one.  I was thinking of taking a trip to Kitty Hawk in NC.  Mary Ashley and I do these “Discovery Days” where we take a city in our area and discover all there is to know about it.  Fun, and she shares stuff.  We tight.

OK, so I found this restaurant people talk about called The Good Life there.  Knocking around that website, I see that they cater.  They are custom caterers, meaning they’ll do exactly what you want.  Even your favorite FAMILY recipes.  That idea is so cool to me!  I checked the menus they had online and found one that seemed really delicious for a beach side barbecue.

 

And then I thought…I can do that!

Here’s the plan.  I’ve tested most recipes, and the rest I will end up testing before summer so I can have everything just right!

CHEESE AND CRACKER ARRAY

So for my cheese tray I’ll use a nice herbed goat cheese log from Montchevre.  I got mine at Wal-Mart of all places!  To go with the soft goat cheese, I’d also choose a sharp cheddar from Ashe County.  Pricey perhaps, but worth it.  Also, I’d include this Chocolate Lab from Asheville’s Looking Glass Creamery that uses a local beer and is rubbed with French Broad Chocolate companies own cocoa nibs. Finally, I’d use a harder cheese from the NC dairy farm Three Graces Dairy like the Goldie, which is raw aged cow’s milk cheese much like gouda.  The crackers have to be Root & Branches Seeded Wheat Flatbreads.

HUMMUS AND PITA POINTS

This hummus is life.  It just is.  It’s a recipe I got out of my New York Times Cookbook, meaning to monkey with it.  No need, perfect as written.

HUMMUS BI TAHINI

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained
    • 5 tablespoons chicken broth
    • 3/4 cup tahini
    • 1/2-3/4 cup lemon juice
    • salt
    • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
    • 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

DIRECTIONS

  1. Put chickpeas in food processor and add broth, tahini and lemon juice to taste. Blend until smooth. Add salt if needed. Add garlic and pulse to mix.
  2. Spoon hummus into wide, shallow serving dish. Sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with pita chips.

DEVILED EGGS

I’ve tried a million recipes, but you know what?  The simplest one is the best one.  It reminds me of those my mom used to make and she makes the best, that’s that.  So, here’s my recipe for that: Deviled Eggs

NC PULLED PORK BARBECUE

There are better methods I’m sure.  But, I’m not great on the grill.  It’s on my to do list, so for now, I’d cook the shoulder in a large crockpot with sauce on low for 8 hours, shred and serve with leftover sauce.  Done and done.  The trick is in the delicious sauce!  So for that you need to use: Spicy Barbecue Sauce.

ROLLS

I’m not making these when I can buy something sweetish and soft in the store.  Try these:

COLE SLAW

Purists may not like this idea, but this slaw that I made from Blue Apron is my favorite.  And that’s what I’d have with my BBQ sandwiches.  If that offends you, the next best thing is to go to Lincoln Seafood and pick up some of their slaw.  It’s the best around here.

CREAMY CONE CABBAGE AND RED ONION SLAW

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 head cone cabbage, thinly sliced ( or 1/4 head of cabbage)
    • 1 small red onion, sliced thinly
    • 1/4 cup Mexican crema or 1/4 cup sour cream
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
    • salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. In medium bowl, combine cabbage, crema, sugar, juice of 3 limes and as many of the red onion slices you’d like.
  2. Toss to combine, then season with salt and pepper.
  3. Allow to sit 10 minutes before eating.

 

BBQ CHICKEN PIECES

I know this sounds like a lot of ingredients, but you have most of it right in your pantry.  Very flavorful!

FOIL BAKED BARBECUED CHICKEN

INGREDIENTS

    • 3 lbs chicken, cut up
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/3 cup catsup
    • 1/3 cup vinegar
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 2 teaspoons paprika
    • 2 teaspoons chili powder
    • 2 teaspoons dry mustard

DIRECTIONS

  1. Salt and pepper chicken. Combine all remaining ingredients. Dip chicken into this. Seal tightly with foil. Bake covered for 45 minutes at 400. Uncover and bake 15 more minutes, basting with remaining sauce.

 

CORN PUDDING

I recently made this recipe from the Pioneer Woman for a Christmas party and it was a huge hit.  You have to try it for the corn pudding! Fresh Corn Casserole

 

GREEN BEANS

Sounds easy, right?  Wrong.  Green beans are easily one of the most bland vegetables you can eat.  You have to doctor them up to make them palatable.

COUNTRY GREEN BEANS

INGREDIENTS

    • 2 (14 1/2 ounce) cans green beans
    • 1/4 cup chopped onion
    • 1/4 cup chopped cooked ham
    • 1/4 cup butter or 1/4 cup margarine
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1 garlic clove ( minced)
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients in saucepan. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes.

 

Thoughts

Goal Digger

Some people think billboards are ugly.  Some folks don’t see them at all.  Some think that they are akin to litter to the eye.  But I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  And this beholder of a new billboard in Denver, NC is pretty darn proud.

In 2009, my family was hit by a drunk driver who broke both of my legs, ankles and feet.  We didn’t know if they’d have to be amputated.  It was bad.  Worse, the guy who did it was on his 6th or 7th DUI (I can’t remember, he had a few “dismissed”) and he was completely lacking remorse.  I won’t go through the list of indignities we suffered because of that wreck, but I will tell you that I had to leave my job as a REALTOR for 5 years.  During those years I had 10 surgeries.  I was not in a good head space.

One of the things that used to drive me nuts was hearing how the community still supported this family.  It was not easy to see my friends liking their business page, when we knew what they were really like when money was involved.  Not to mention the indignity of hearing this same man had another DUI while awaiting our own trial, in addition to other arrests for violence.  He didn’t care whose life or legs he ruined and he certainly didn’t learn his lesson.   My (then) husband used to comfort me by saying that when it was all over with, we’d rent a billboard.  We’d put his face on it to warn people since he wouldn’t police himself and no one could seemingly stop him from driving impaired.

Then something happened.  Eventually I stopped obsessing about this monster (yes, I do still think he is) and just decided that doing that wouldn’t make my legs better, wouldn’t benefit my family in any way and was out of character for me.  So, I wanted a billboard for myself.  To better myself, to benefit my family in spite of the jerk who hurt us.  So here it is, 9 years later, I finally have a billboard and I’m so proud of all it represents to me.  All I’ve made it past in these long 9 years.  It’s a promise I made to myself that I finally fulfilled and it feels amazing.

Without my team at Lake Norman Realty #RollesTeam it would have never been possible.  Lucky, happy girl!

 

 

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

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

Pad Krapraw at Thai House in Gastonia

Ginger and Garlic Miso Ramen at Ramen Soul in Mooresville, NC

Chicken Hibachi at Hasaki Grill in Charlotte, NC

Crab Rangoon Roll at Monsoon in Mooresville

Recipe

Party Menu: Bruschetta Bar

With so many people going with the trend of tapas or “small plates”, what could be easier for entertaining than a Bruschetta Bar?  I resolve in 2018 to entertain more because I love it!  And this simple menu allows guests to informally relax and make their own bruschetta, or choose from the few baked varieties I include.

This idea came to me from What’s Gaby Cooking.  She’s got the goods on what you should put on your board, what is essential for the party and even recipes for some delicious toppings.  Just click the link to check her out.  This is her picture, doesn’t it look scrumptious?

In addition to Gaby’s bountiful spread, I’m sharing some of my favorite bruschetta recipes.  I love anything artichoke, and this first one is yummy.

ARTICHOKE BRUSCHETTA

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 (6 ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained
    • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
    • 1/3 cup minced onion
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    • mayonnaise
    • 16 -18 slices of a small baguette ( 1/3″ thick)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Chop artichokes well.
  2. Mix artichokes, onion, and Parmesan cheese.
  3. Add just enough mayonnaise to make spreadable.
  4. Add garlic powder, mix well.
  5. Spread baguette slices with artichoke spread and place on a cookie sheet.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until topping starts to bubble and brown.

 

Here’s another favorite of mine.  Originally it was from the Olive Garden website.  Really delicious and simple to make and keep in fridge ’til party time!

BRUSCHETTA CANNELLINI

INGREDIENTS

    • 0.5 (15 ounce) cans white cannellini beans, drained
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons sour cream
    • salt & pepper
    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 loaf Italian bread
    • extra virgin olive oil ( to drizzle)
    • 1 garlic clove, cut in half
    • 1 small plum tomato, diced
    • 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley ( to garnish)

DIRECTIONS

  1. MIX drained beans, lemon juice, mustard, vinegar and sour cream in blender or food processor until smooth. Add olive oil slowly with blender or processor on. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate approximately one hour.
  2. DRIZZLE both sides of bread with extra virgin olive oil. Grill bread on both sides.
  3. RUB grilled bread with cut half of garlic to infuse with garlic flavor.
  4. PLACE bowl of chilled cannellini mixture in center of large platter. Stagger grilled bread slices around bowl. Garnish with tomatoes and parsley.

Now for the most traditional version.  I love this, and I’m not even a tomato lover.  That’s how yummy it is.  Another prepare-ahead marvel!

TOMATO AND BASIL BRUSCHETTA

INGREDIENTS

    • 6 Roma tomatoes, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 1/4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
    • 8 slices Italian bread, cut about 1 inch thick
    • 2 tablespoons grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk together chopped garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, and basil.
  2. When combined slowly drizzle in oil.
  3. Add tomatoes and let sit for 20 minutes at room temp.
  4. Meanwhile back at the bat cave, toast the bread.
  5. This can be done either in the toaster (if it’s got really wide slots) or under the broiler (if using this method watch closely so it doesn’t become a briquette).
  6. When the bread is toasted rub each piece, on one side, with the whole garlic pieces.
  7. Place the bread on a cookie sheet and top with tomato mixture.
  8. Sprinkle on a little cheese and broil till the cheese melts (you can skip that last broiling bit and it’s equally as wonderful).
  9. Serve immediately.
  10. The tomato mixture also makes a wonderful vinaigrette for an antipasto salad.
  11. Enjoy!

 

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.