Charlotte · Uncategorized

Restaurant Review: Halcyon in Uptown Charlotte

Halcyon has been on my wishlist forever, but sometimes parking in Uptown Charlotte is a hassle.  It definitely was yesterday afternoon, but we persisted.  We circled the restaurant maybe 7 times, each time finding a parking lot with a “Full” sign.  On our 8th trip we found a parallel spot a few blocks away and got in in only 2 tries 🙂  Nerve wracking!!

It was worth the concentration and anxiety.  Once we walked to where GPS said Halcyon was, we wandered around another 10 minutes trying to figure out where the heck it was.  We followed signs, we went down an alleyway….I eventually gave up and asked another patron walking around near the Levine Center where the heck it was.  Turns out, you go up this gigantic staircase into the MInt Museum (there is an elevator on the inside of the building!) and there the restaurant is in all its glory.

The restaurant is beautiful, as you’d expect. When we walked in, I was struck by all of the organic decorative touches.  The hostess station sits atop the most beautiful wood table I’ve ever seen.  I couldn’t quit rubbing it.  I slipped around the hostess and snapped a quick picture of a long dining table waiting for patrons because it was so beautiful and simple.  The light fixtures look like a nest of twigs.  I was really wowed.

Look at that gorgeous table!

Huge windows overlooking Downtown Charlotte and check the light fixtures!

Love the organically shaped plates.

Despite the beauty inside, it couldn’t hold a candle to the beautiful fall weather we had yesterday, so we opted to sit on the patio.  Unlike many places, the outdoor furniture was comfortable and also lovely.  And the view!  Could not be beat.

View of Uptown Charlotte from Halcyon

The food was just as amazing as the view.  We scoured the menu and tried to order something different from each other so we could taste everything possible!  With so many delicious choices, that was easy.

Lunch Menu

First we ordered tea all around.  It comes unsweetened and they serve it with a simple syrup.  So, I was charmed the first time this happened to me, but now I despise this trend.  I can never use enough to even taste it.  Just give me some Sweet and Low and I’ll be happy.

My food, however, was without flaw.  I ordered the Local Catch of the Day which was pan seared Snapper.  They placed it atop a mix of summer veggies with a roasted red pepper vinaigrette on the bottom.  Seriously one of the best things I’ve eaten in a very long time.  The fish, though prepared simply, was so flavorful and flaky; cooked perfectly.  The skin was crispy and the inside was white and tender.  The veggies were sauteed lightly and the broccoli was charred so that was a perfect contrast of flavors.  Finally, that vinaigrette sauce: I wish I could come home with a cup full and slather it on everything.  It was tart and perfect when you dragged your fish or a vegetable through it.

Local Daily Catch with summer veggies, charred broccoli atop a puddle of roasted red pepper vinaigrette

My friend Paula got the Pork Belly BLT.  It was gorgeous!!  It’s this open-faced sandwich made on a brioche bun and stuffed with thick cut heirloom tomatoes, pimiento cheese, pork belly and drizzled with herb aioli. The fries are in a class of their own.  So crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside and seasoned to perfection.   Paula was very happy with it!

Pork Belly BLT with fries

My friend Jennifer got the Open Faced Lamb Sausage Pita, and she let me take a bite of the sausage!  It was just so spicy and tangy.  The pita had spinach, the sausage which looked to be spiced with a tomato confiture, topped with tzatziki sauce, herbed goat cheese and a beautifully fried egg.  Served with those amazing fries!  Superb.

Open Faced Lamb Sausage Pita

We were all so darn full from our delicious lunches, but we did decide to indulge in one small truffle 🙂  It was just a ball of ganache, rolled in cocoa powder and served with a few blueberries.  But it was oddly rich and perfect.  Just the little bite of sweetness we needed to end our perfect lunch.  Jennifer also got a latte which she said was great!

The perfect bite: Chocolate Truffle with blueberries

Latte

This restaurant is perfect for an al fresco dining experience with a beautiful view, or a date night when you want to impress someone.  Take a moment and look around the museum while you are there!

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Charlotte · Denver · Hickory · Lincolnton · Micanopy FL · Morganton · Myrtle Beach · Winston-Salem

Best of Restaurants: Sandwiches

Not your girlfriend’s sandwich.

Chicken Salad Croissant from Croissant’s Bakery in Myrtle Beach

Chicken Salad Croissant, Broccoli Cheddar Soup & Ambrosia Salad

Club Sandwich and Pulled Pork Ban Mi from Hatch in Hickory

Club Sandwich at Village Tavern in Winston Salem

Smoked Turkey Club Sandwich at Crepe Cellar

The Cuban at Sports Page in Denver, NC

Chicken Salad Sandwich from Harvest Moon Grille in Lincolnton, NC

Basil Grilled Chicken Sandwich at The Crispy Crepe in Charlotte

Hot Fried Chicken at Root & Vine in Morganton, NC

Cuban Sandwich at Root and Vine in Morganton, NC

The Cuban at Old Florida Cafe in Micanopy, FL

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.

 

Asheville · Charlotte · Davidson · Denver · Gaffney SC · Lincolnton · 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

Crepe Suzette from Crepe Cellar

Milk Chocolate Liquid Truffle from French Broad Chocolate Lounge in Asheville, NC

Pecan Pie a la mode at Alton’s Kitchen and Cocktails in Cornelius, NC

Coconut Cake from Chillfire in Denver, NC

Nutella and Strawberry Crepe from The Crispy Crepe in Charlotte

Apple Cobbler a la mode at Carolina Cafe in Gaffney, SC

Milk Bread Cinnamon Rolls at Kindred in Davidson

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Strawberry Basil Shortbread from Crafted Southern Speakeasy in Lincolnton, NC

Doughnuts from Reigning Doughnuts in Charlotte, NC

Bourbon Brioche Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce & Vanilla Ice Cream from Bistro La Bon in Charlotte

 

Asheville · Charleston SC · Charlotte · Cornelius · Davidson · Destin · Isle of Palms · Lincolnton · Morganton · Rock Hill SC · 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:

Spinach and Artichoke Crostini from Crafted Southern Speakeasy in Lincolnton, NC

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

Smoked Tuna Dip from Louisiana Lagniappe

Prime Rib Stuffed Mushrooms from Alton’s Kitchen and Cocktails in Cornelius, NC

Escargot with Lemon and Sweet Pea Risotto from Flatiron Kitchen and Taphouse in Davidson

Crispy Pork Rinds with Pimiento Cheese and Valentina Hot Sauce from Root +Vine in Morganton

Shrimp Cocktail at the Pump House in Rock Hill, SC

Charlotte · Restaurants

Restaurant Review: Mert’s Heart and Soul

mertswall

Mert’s Heart & Soul is located in downtown Charlotte.  When you walk through the doors, however, you forget that fact.  You feel like you are in an out-of-the-way hole in the wall establishment.  I love it.  The walls are filled with personal pictures and other interesting memorabilia.

mertsdjandme (2)

Some of the criticisms we’ve heard of Mert’s is that the service is lacking. We found that not to be a concern at all. Our waiter, DJ, took care of our large party perfectly. He even posed for a picture with me!

mertscornbread (2)

Sincerely, I should put these cornbread cakes down there in the desserts.  Especially when  you slather them with this amazing honey butter.  But, alas, they bring them before the appetizers, so I feel I must insert them here.  This is what everyone talks about.  These tender pones are just sweet enough to satisfy the Yankees, but still savory enough to tempt the Southerner.  (I don’t know about your family, but my people call yellow, sweet cornbread “Yankee” cornbread.)  Whatever you call it, it is glorious.
Mertssoulrolls

Mert’s has a limited selection of appetizers.  Everything we tried was delicious, but my favorites were Mert’s Soul Rolls.  These egg rolls have a unique spin:  they are filled with seasoned rice, black-eyed peas, collard greens and chicken.  They are served with a spicy honey mustard sauce that has just enough punch to elevate this crunchy favorite.

mertsfriedgreentomatoes

Every Southern/soul food place worth its salt has Fried Green Tomatoes on the menu and Mert’s is no different.  The tomatoes themselves were sliced perfectly (not too thick) and fried crisply.  The remoulade sauce that dressed them was tangy and a little spicy.  It was a good dish.  But honestly, it is one of those things, much like calamari, that is on every menu, and there isn’t enough variation in taste from one to the other to really justify getting it and forsaking the trying of a new dish.  But hey, I understand cravings.  If you are just jonesing for some FGT, then by all means, enjoy.  But branch out!

mertswingsmacblakeyedpeas

For dinner I got the Fried Chicken Wings with Winston-Salem Sauce.  They were maybe the best pieces of fried chicken I’ve ever had.  Crispy, not greasy, and seasoned perfectly.  The sauce is merely hot sauce dowsing it, which was perfect.  The macaroni and cheese was perfection and the black-eyed peas were creamy and well seasoned.  I’d get that exact same plate if I went again.  So good.

mertsfriedwhitingmacgreens

Laurie got the Fried Whiting on the recommendation of our waiter, DJ.  She said it was amazing!  The fish was crispy on the outside, tender and flaky on the inside.  The macaroni and cheese was the best any of us had ever eaten.  Cheesy and creamy with just enough crusty edges to add a little texture.  The collard greens were braised perfectly, and topped with fresh tomato and onion: mixed together to make a perfect bite!

mertssalmonpattiescollardsmac

Erika got the Salmon Patties with macaroni and cheese and greens.  She said the patties were fine, but nothing special.  Next time she’d try something else.

mertsfriedchickencatfishmaccheeseyams

Anessa got the Fried Catfish and Fried Chicken Combo with Yams and Macaroni and Cheese.  The chicken and fish were fried and seasoned perfectly.  The yams were slow cooked in brown sugar and butter…how can that be bad?  And the macaroni.  Yeah, we’ve already talked about how life altering that is.

mertslemonpoundcake (2)

The lemon pound cake was tangy and had a good flavor.  Anessa reported it was a little dry, so next time she might try another dessert.

mertspeachcoobler

My peach cobbler came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.  It was decent cobbler, but my mom’s is better.  Not overly sweet, but not overly flavorful either.  The best dessert of the night was this:

mertsbananapuddingcake

This is the banana pudding cake.  It was moist, cakey and full of banana flavor.  I never even thought I liked banana pudding all that much, but this cake…what a great twist on a classic.

Here’s the real deal:  No matter where we go, or what we eat, we always ALWAYS have a blast together!

mertsnosh (2)

Mert's Heart and Soul Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Davidson · Restaurants

Restaurant Review: Kindred in Davidson

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Girl Nosh goes to Kindred on Halloween!  Not only were we adorable, but we were well fed.  Kindred is the real deal, people.  We decided to bump Kindred up on our list due to this article in Bon Appetit Magazine:  Kindred, Davidson NC.

Kindredericaandanessakindrederickasuzanne

I had a large group of ladies able to attend on this night.  So large that I had to call the manager and arrange a special table (I think there were 10 of us) since the place is a bit small and seating is limited.  I thought it worth the extra trouble.

kindredtoastThe place was PACKED.  When we arrived, we did have to be patient and waited around for nearly 30 minutes for our table to be set up and ready for us.  They were gracious about the delay, and allowed us to sit at separate tables until the party beside us was ready to leave, allowing us to push these two tables together so our whole party could be together.

Googling dishes, of course
Googling dishes, of course

 

The Deal

This establishment serves small plates.  Everything is a la carte, so the server recommended we each get 2 or 3 items, not including dessert.  Some of us liked the small plate concept, and some of us did not.  One of our party members thought that this concept should have been explained better, and felt that we were a bit condescended to when we didn’t quite know how to order.

We all agreed that people who post pictures of their food are the best people.  As you can see from the photo at the right, we Googled dishes we wanted to try to see what they looked like.  Wish I’d have Googled the crudo before I ordered.

The Food

kindredbread3

When we finally sat down (after standing in the bar for a bit) the server brought us this most amazing Milk Bread.  It reminded me of the rolls we used to get at school (when they were homemade) only better.  Lighter, fluffier and sprinkled on top with chips of kosher salt.  Served with a side of REAL whipped creamy butter…I’d go back just for that bread.  All of us are STILL talking about that darn bread.  Be warned, they don’t serve it at lunch, only dinner.

kindredfriedoysters

The Crispy Oysters were a favorite of the table.  Lucky for me, Laurie thought they were too spicy and traded her oysters with my crudo.  The oysters were perfectly fried in a light batter and they sat atop a puddle of dill aioli and Calabrian chili oil.  I thought it was the perfect balance of heat and a nice cool down from the aioli.  This dish is a hit!  As good as the oysters were, I was just as charmed by the plate they served them on.  I felt like I was at my grandmother’s house…my gourmet grandmother.

kindredmushroomcrudo

The biggest disappointment of the night was the Matsutake Mushroom Crudo.  Shaved Asian pear slices, Matsutake Mushrooms and Parmesan cheese, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.  Not one bit of skill needed, unless you count the mandolin?  The idea is that the ingredients paired work well, and the quality of the ingredients are allowed to shine.  But the mushrooms tasted like dirt.  And I NEVER met a mushroom I didn’t love.  One person at our table loved it, but the rest of us…no.

Kindredcheeseboard

Another nifty thing they offer is the Farmhouse Cheese Tray.  They give you a selection of four and each cheese is $4.  It is served with thin baguette slices.  It was good, the cheese was great quality, but you know…it’s a hunk of cheese.  Get something the chef makes.

kindredsalad

The Apple Salad was pretty and tasty, too.  Hazelnuts, sliced apples and Serrano ham all nestled on a bed of peppery arugula made for a fresh start to dinner.

kindred guinnea hen pasta

See above?  That’s called Pappardelle and it is the best thing you will ever put in your mouth.  It is a perfectly seasoned hand-made pasta tossed with a guinea hen ragu.  Guinea hen tastes suspiciously like chicken, but this is so good, I don’t care if they tricked me.  You see those little shavings that look like mushrooms?  Those are fried chestnuts, for crunch. They used a tiny mandolin, shaved little chestnuts and then deep-fried them, just to give you a little crunch with your pasta.  All I could say was thank you.  Amazing.

kindredbuccatiniscallops

So, the other not-as-lucky folks at my table opted to try the Bucatini.  I snuck a bite of Erika’s, just for the purpose of this review, of course, and while it was yummy, it wasn’t as good as mine 🙂  This bucatini was in a buttery sauce with bay scallops, miso, shishito peppers and black truffle.  It was rich and spicy and it was yummy…just not AS yummy as the papardelle.

kindredchicken

Anessa ordered the Pasture Raised Chicken.  She also got that with a side of Creamed Mustard Greens with Bread Crumbs. The chicken was baked to perfection, very tender and juicy and it sat atop a pile of polenta, collards and guanciale. Guanciale is an Italian cured meat or salami product prepared from pork jowl or cheeks. I know this because I just Googled it.  So, the chicken was great.  The mustard greens?  Well….not so much.  Anessa enjoyed them, but they were so bitter I had to spit them out.  I’ll admit I’m not a “greens” lover, but this was too much.

kindredcookiesandicecream

Dessert…aaaahhhh.  We were pretty full, but we took one for the team and ordered dessert.  We actually ordered dessert with our meal, since we were informed they might run out.  No sense taking chances like that.  First up is the Cookies with Cinnamon Ice Cream.  The cookies were thick and chewy and the ice cream was perfectly creamy with just a warm hint of cinnamon.  So perfect.

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But the most perfect dessert was the Roasted Apple Galette.  Sugar sprinkled flaky pie dough enfolds sweet yet tart apples, on a puddle of milk jam (tasted like caramel to me) and topped with buttermilk ice cream.  That weed on top?  Sugared thyme.  I might have sucked on a leaf or two.

Kindredpumpkinmousse

The Pumpkin Pot de Creme was a most requested dessert that night.  They ran out!  It was a smooth, spiced pumpkin custard (like a super smooth pumpkin pie filling, elevated) topped with Chantilly cream and hazelnuts.  It was perfect, light and refined.

This was one of my favorite restaurants that the Girl Nosh group has been to.  We had a few snags, but the experience was so unique and so personal, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it.  kindredgirlnosh

Kindred Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato