The July 4 holiday always means time to celebrate our country’s early beginnings with friends and family. For us, this year, the week included an out of town catering gig, followed by a short, but oh so sweet, midweek holiday get away from it all. Once we were back home we enjoyed a Saturday lunch and dinner at two Charlotte restaurants, one new, and one an old favorite. All of this cooking, and eating and drinking is what shapes “The What I Eight” this week, a tasty list which includes a couple of adult beverages, two seasonal summer recipes and the need-to-know for two great Charlotte restaurants.
The What I Eight: Fried Green Tomatoes, recipe included
I love grocery shopping at local farmers markets all year round, but this time of year the options are definitely intensified. On my list this week, green tomatoes, Uno Alla Volta Ricotta cheese, limas, corn and ripe tomatoes, too. One the menu, two of my favorite seasonal go-to’s: fried green tomatoes and summer succotash.
Several years ago, my husband Tom Billotto and I ate at a cute little farm to fork bistro in Fernandina Beach. Fla. where they served fried green tomatoes slathered with local goat cheese and served in a stack with ripe tomato slices on a bed of greens. It was a brilliant presentation. This holiday week I copied the idea spreading the slices of green tomato with Uno Alla Volta’s ricotta before I slipped them through the standard breading procedure process of flours, eggs and panko crumbs. Instead of a stack, this year, I served the crispy slices up on the party buffet in a cast iron pan for a fun and easy to help yourself presentation. You can find my basic recipe for fried green tomatoes here along with my cheese-y variation on the theme; and then if I’ve gotten you in a tomato-ey mood, check out my recipe for tomato pie, complete with a how to video from tomato seasons gone by.
The What I Eight: Summer Succotash, recipe included
I can’t say how happy I am that the summer tomato season is finally in full gear. I dare say we’ll see some sort of tomato dish on each of these weekly What I Eight lists from now till the first frost!
Until then, let me share another way I love to use summer tomatoes – in succotash! This traditional blend of fresh corn cut off the cob, fresh shelled limas or butter beans, fresh minced parsley and a drizzling of olive oil, doesn’t need much more that a couple of juicy ripe tomatoes diced and added to the mix to be one of my favorites summer sides. Succotash is good all on its own, as a side for grilled burgers and dogs as we served it for the Fourth; or as a base for grilled salmon featured in one of the very first recipe post from the early years at HeidiBillottoFood.com. The recipe is still a keeper and you will find it here – enjoy!
The What I Eight Libation: Oak City Amaretto Spritzer with Mint
With the midweek holiday, Tom and I got away for a few days in the mountains where I very much enjoyed this liquid version of “The What I Eight” overlooking the beautiful Toe River in Celo, NC.
I so wanted to take the bottle and glass down to the rocky riverbed and snap a photo there, so I could use the socail media tagline “Oak City Amaretto on the rocks, on the rocks.” Thank you, pun intended.
But, it didn’t seem prudent to take glass into even slowly rushing river water, so I settled for a shot on the deck overlooking the river. No matter where you photograph it, one thing is for sure, a pour or two of North Carolina’s own Oak City Amaretto on the rocks with fresh mint and a splash of plain seltzer makes for a refreshing way to sip away a hot and sunny summer afternoon. Oak City Amaretto, made in Raleigh, is available at ABC stores across the state. The local liqueur was a part of one of my Eat Local Drink Local round ups at the first of this year and I’ve been enjoying it ever since. Read more about it here.
The What I Eight: Debby’s Salsa Stuffed Avocado
One of the great things about spending the holiday with family is that everyone always brings something different to the table. The evening before the Fourth, we grazed through a variety of tasty appetizers instead of a coursed dinner. Our repast include seared shishito peppers from Tega Hills Farm, Roasted white Barbee Farm potatoes served with Weeping Radish curried ketchup for dipping ( read more about Weeping Radish in my What I Eight List from last week) and these grilled avocados stuffed with your favorite salsa and served with your choice of chips.
The recipe came via an episode of television’s The Chew. Now named for the person who shared it with me, my dear friend Debby Sacra, the recipe is an easy fix you are going to love as much as I do. Just drizzle a halved avocado with your favorite EVOO and then season with salt and pepper. Place the halves cut side down on a grill grid and grill for a few minutes, until the edges are slightly charred and the avocado is warm and tender. Drizzle the grilled avocados with fresh squeezed lime. Stuff the cavity of the avocado with your favorite salsa and serve one to each guest with chips on the side for dipping. Brilliant, simply brilliant!
The What I Eight: Summer Soup and Salad at the new Renaissance Patisserie in Charlotte, NC
Renaissance Patisserie, formally located on South Blvd, has found wonderful new digs in Charlotte’s SouthPark neighborhood, nestled in the inner courtyard at Specialty Shops on the Park just off Morrison Blvd.
I ran into Renaissance owner, chef Sylvain Rivet at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning. Rivet has a booth in building B where he sells the bakery’s fabulous sweets, pastries and breads. Our chance meeting reminded me that I had yet to visit his new shop – now almost two months old. Located next door to Toscana Ristorante’s longtime courtyard location at Shops on the Park, the two restaurants now have side by side patios for dining al fresco. The door to the bakery is just beyond the bright yellow umbrellas and inside you’ll find cafe seating, glass cases of sweet tempting pastries, baskets of fresh baked bread and the counter at which to place your order.
Savory options at Renaissance are available from the menu till 3 pm each day; otherwise the bakery is open from 7am – 7pm Monday – Saturday and 8-5pm on Sunday. #TellThemHeidiSentYou
We very much enjoyed a coffee and a tea, and two lovely salads. First, the Lyonnaise, with arugula dressed in a mustardy French vinaigrette, bacon lardons, boiled potatoes and a fried egg on top; and the Mediterranean Salad with a mix of tomatoes, olives, onions, greens and goat cheese, again tossed is a light French Vinaigrette.
I ordered a side of delicious homemade tomato soup and warm fresh baked bread came with both orders. Even as I type this is seems rather ridiculous that I went into a French bakery yesterday and today I am writing about the soup and salad and the wonderful bread and not about the pastries.
Truth is the bread was so good, we ate it all and once we were done, there wasn’t room for more. We considered taking pastries home, but decided to leave that fun for another day.
Each flakey pastry and perfectly detailed tart looked better than the next and I can assure you there will be much to write about, when we return to Renaissance next time for a little taste of something sweet. Get more info here.
The What I Eight: and the Sazarac I sipped at Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte NC
For the last night of the week, we decided to enjoy and evening over drinks and dinner sitting at Charlotte’s Heirloom Restaurant!
Chef Clark Barlowe and his talented team at Heirloom have a fabulous summer menu featuring, as they always do, all the best North Carolina has to offer. And, there is a wonderful cocktail promotion going on right now, as well.
At Clarke’s invitation, about a month or so ago, a group of Charlotte-based bloggers each came up with an idea for a signature cocktail brought to life by the bar staff at Heirloom. For each signature cocktail purchased, a portion of the proceeds goes to a specific charity as indicated by each individual blogger. My cocktail is this deliciously pink “Heidi’s Sazarac” and the proceeds go to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina’s kids backpack program.
As Heirloom makes it their business to only work with food and drink from North Carolina, the usual Absinthe called for in a Sazarac was not available for use. And so, my Sazarac captures the floral flavors of Cardinal Gin, distilled in Kings Mountain, NC with a splash of the earthy herbal cordial called Beetnik created and bottled by the Brothers Vilgalys Spirit Company in Durham, NC. The gin and the cordial are blended with an anisette and a Cheerwine simple syrup both crafted in house and together they yield the most wonderful rosey pink version of a Sazarac. You simply must try it for yourself! #TellThemHeidiSentYou (Note worth remembering: Vigalys also makes Krupnikas, a spiced honey liqueur and a long time favorite of mine as well.)
Heirloom Restaurant is located at 8470 Bellhaven Blvd. and is open for dinner only, 5-9 Tuesday – Thursday; and 5-10 Friday and Saturday. Call 704.595.7710 for reservations.
The drink promo ends July 19, the day before the summer Queens Feast Charlotte Restaurant Week begins, so make Restaurant Week plans for sure, but first stop by Heirloom this week for drinks and dinner to enjoy “Heidi’s Sazarac” before the promo is done.
Pair your cocktail with any one of a number of wonderful seasonal eats from the Heirloom menu. We very much enjoyed the Marshallberg Farm’s Sturgeon “bacon” BLT sliders to start, followed by a mix of Jarrett Bay Oysters and then shared two wonderful entrees.
First, the Hen of the Woods “Fried Chicken” with garlic crushed potatoes, ramp gravy and local braised greens. Pictured above, this dish is Clark’s foraged wild mushroom vegetarian salute to classic Southern Fried Chicken and it is delicious! Our second entree was one of the sustainable local seafood selections on the Heirloom menu. Plated is a beautiful presentation, the seared NC Yellowfin Tuna steak here is served stacked atop a bed of bamboo rice, topped with a crisp and colorful seaweed and radish salad all lightly dressed with a red miso vinaigrette. It was an excellent choice and one I will most definitely order again. Its the final “What I Eight” this week, and is pictured below.