Charleston SC · Charlotte · Hickory · Restaurants

Best of Restaurants: Sides

Sometimes I think I get more excited about the side dishes of a meal than the actual protein.  Here’s a list of some of my favorites:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts from Fourk in Hickory, NC

Roasted Sunchoke, Mixed Mushroom Saute, Fried Corn and Stone Ground Grits from Roosters in Charlotte, NC

Polenta from Aria Tuscan Grill

Macaroni and Cheese and Black-eyed Peas from Mert’s Heart and Soul in Charlotte

Bacon Macaroni and Cheese from the Oak Steakhouse in Charleston, SC

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Charlotte · Davidson · Myrtle Beach · Savannah · Statesville

Best of Restaurant Desserts

Chocolate Souffle’ at Aix en Provence in Charlotte

Creme Brulee at Baron’s Steakhouse in Myrtle Beach

Roasted Apple Galette at Kindred in Davidson

Chocolate Layer Cake at Twisted Oak Bar and Grill in Statesville, NC

Rolled Ice Cream at Below Zero in Savannah, GA

Apple Pie Wontons at The Cowfish in Charlotte, NC

S’Mores Trifle at 5 Church in Charlotte, NC

Brownie Sundae at Carolina Cones in Davidson, NC

 

Asheville · Charleston SC · Charlotte · Isle of Palms · Savannah

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

Peirogies from Twisted Oak Bar and Grill in Statesville, NC

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Manchego Skillet at Tybee Island Social Club in Tybee Island, GA

Warm Pimento Cheese & Jumbo Lump Crab Cake  from Tupelo Honey in Charlotte, NC

&

Oysters Rockefeller at the Oak Steakhouse in Charleston, SC

Shrimp Flatbread from 5 Church in Charlotte, NC

Stuffed Portabello Mushroom at Chillfire Grill in Denver, NC

Beggar’s Purse with Cream Cheese and Salmon, Rock Shrimp & Fried Calamari with Vegetables from Wasabi in Asheville

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

 

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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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!

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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

girl-nosh

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.

cocktails

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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holidays

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