what to eat

Where and What to Eat

Its been an unusually busy first couple of weeks of June for me. There was much eating to be done and so I have lots to share on where and what to eat.

what to eat

Heidi Billotto’s “What I Eight” list for June…

Lots to share in this post, but let’s kick it off with a suggestion not so much about what to eat, but where. You can dine out in and around Charlotte and do good all at the same time. It happens on Tuesday June 18, 2019. So, call your friends and Make Plans Now!

what to eat

1. Dine Out For Kids – June 18, 2019

Eat at any (or all!) from the participating list of your favorite restaurants and a portion of the sales goes to Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, our local affiliate of the national Communities In Schools network, the nation’s leading dropout prevention organization. 

Dine out for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, and help support the CIS mission to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. Here is the list of participating restaurants: #TellThemHeidiSentYou

2. McNinch House Spring Menu

what to eat

Tom and I celebrated our 13th Wedding Anniversary on Monday, May 20, 2019. As is the case in the hospitality industry, we were both working and so postponed our toasts and celebration till the next day. So many places in Charlotte to go, but we opted for an old favorite, saying cheers with a bubbly toast on the front porch swing at the McNinch House in Uptown Charlotte. The scene was set for a taste of Chef Matthew Shepard’s springtime menu.

Chef Matthew Shepard has taken McNinch’s long lived reputation for excellence and Southern Hospitality and made it his own. The restaurant offers a 4, 5 or 6 course tasting menu with or without wine pairings.

22 Consecutive AAA Carolinas Four Diamond Awards can’t be wrong

I’ve written about this historic Charlotte home turned restaurant and its owner, my longtime friend, Ellen Davis many times. The restaurant opened in 1989, Ellen was the first chef. I met Ellen when I first dined at McNinch House 8 or 9 years later. I was doing a story about the AAA Four and Five Diamond Awards and turned the inspectors on to what Ellen was doing in Charlotte. The fine food, ambiance and decor scored Davis her first AAA Carolinas Four Diamond Award in 1997 and the McNinch House has been awarded this prestigious national award every year since!

What to Eat: McNinch House Restaurant, Charlotte NC

what to eat

There is lots to love on the McNinch house menu this season. Shepard supports many local farms and producers; sourcing from the McNinch House kitchen garden as well.

This night Tom started with the Spring arugula salad with snow pea pods, white asparagus, endive and a sensational cilantro lime dressing. I know, its a salad; but sometimes the very simplest things made with the finest of ingredients in the hands of a chef who understands flavor are the very best. Team that with a sommelier who gets flavor profiles and you know why the pairing of the Rioja, a reserve Vina Alberdi was the perfect foil.

I couldn’t resist the Foie Gras Tart. While a bit more complicated procedure than the salad, it was simple, refined and delicious – every bite. Served with Orange Marmalade, Parmesan Crisps, sliced apple and a sage demi, it paired beautifully with the Geisen Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc.

Now, here is the cool ( and slightly mysterious) thing that no one at McNinch House could have known. When Tom and I first met, we went away for the weekend. As it happens we took along a bottle of Geisen Sauvignon Blanc. No particular reason, it just happened to be the white we were loving drinking at the time.

What are the chances that the late harvest version would be a part of this anniversary celebration some 16 years later? Talk about karma!

what to eat

What to Drink?

Hard to say what we loved the most. Truly, all four courses and 8 wines we enjoyed were a delicious way to celebrate. In lieu of a bottle to share, I love the option of ordering an individual glass with each course.

And I love that you don’t have to think about it. McNinch House wine guru Anthony Wesley ( better known as “Wes”) pairs something different for each person for each course. Wes has forgotten more about wine than Tom and I will ever know and its fun to have him weave each wine’s story around the dishes Shepard creates in the kitchen.

what to eat

For more info on dinner reservations, or planning a special event at the McNinch House, visit their website here.

What I Eight: What to Eat in Asheville

Tom and I go to Asheville, NC often. It goes without saying this list of “What to Eat While You are There” is a long one.

For suggestions, check out this What I Eight Post from last Fall.

Then, look forward to another Asheville-centric post soon. It will feature a 3-Day weekend at Pinecrest Bed & Breakfast; plus more of what there is there is to see, do and eat while you are in town. Stay tuned….

The first of this month we drove to Asheville for the city’s preliminary round of the 2019 NCRLA Chef Showdown. The evening before the day of competition at our host venue, The Princess Anne Hotel. Tom and I were delighted to join members of the NCRLA and the NC Department of Agriculture for dinner at Chai Pani.

what to eat

We ate at Chai Pani for lunch during our Pinecrest stay as well. While I knew the reputation of the restaurant and owner chef Meherwan Irani, until this year I had never eaten at Chai Pani. Our first time was at the suggestion of Pinecrest owners and innkeepers Diane and Dan Rogers. So this trip, we where excited to sample the fabulous Indian street food menu again.

3.What to Eat at Chai Pani, Asheville, NC

Lots of fun choices on the menu at Chai Pani, so don’t be shy. Step out of your same old, same old, box. Time to give your taste buds an adventure. I suggest you go with friends and each one orders something different. Then share.

what to eat

If you love lamb like I do. Don’t miss the lamb burgers or the spicier shredded Lamb dish, Sloppy Jai. Both are unique delicious blend of lamb, ginger and spices.

what to eat

Two wonderful ways to start your adventure. The fried kale fritters, Kale Pakoras ( pictured at the bottom of this photo) and the Sev Potato Dahi Puri ( not pictured here) are popular favorites. This first is an Indian play on fried kale. The second, small potato and onion stuffed crisps topped with chickpea noodles, sweet yogurt and tamarind. And don’t miss the matchstick okra fries, pictured at the top of this photo – divine!

For more info on Asheville’s Chai Pani located at 22 Battery Park Ave, visit their website here.

4. What to Eat at Princess Anne Hotel, Asheville, NC

The Princess Anne Hotel offers a 2-3 course breakfast with your stay. Same goes for all of the members of the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association, . In fact, if you like to cook, you can find some of their most popular recipes in their cookbook. Read more about the cookbook, in this article I wrote for Charlotte Living magazine several years ago, pages 25 and 26.

what to eat

On the Princess Anne Breakfast menu is a little something for everyone. Here is what to eat….Tom ordered the fruit plate in the photo above. The Yogurt is drizzled with Cloister Wildflower Honey, from Charlotte, no less; and the homemade granola offered the perfect crunch.

Kudos goes out to Chef Amber Whitt. I was delighted to see all the local and regional product featured on her breakfast menu. Case in point is “The Local Plate”, photo below, which I very much enjoyed for breakfast that morning.

Pimento Cheese grits, Jackson Co Ham, 2 sunny side up eggs served with Gremolata Toast and fresh fruit. Done and Done.

What to eat

While breakfast at the Princess Anne is just for overnight guests; as is the afternoon wine and hors d’oeuvre reception, the restaurant is open to the public for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings and for Brunch on Sunday. Make reservations or book an overnight stay and learn more here

5. Smile and Say Cheese, What to Eat on your next Cheese Tray

Back Home in Charlotte, the next day it was my pleasure to cater a luncheon for The Dairy Alliance at White Rock Farm in Peachland, NC. Farmer Roddy Purser raised pigs, chickens and runs a dairy with a herd of sweet jersey cows. The group attending the luncheon were all nutritionists and dietitians on site for a farm tour and info on all that The Dairy Alliance offers.

what to eat

As it happens, tt was National Cheese Day; and so, of course, we celebrated with an all local cheese tray, accompanied by fresh baked Hickory Farms Milk buttermilk biscuits with local jams and honey.

On the cheese tray I kept it all North Carolina local. I started with a container of Uno Alla Volta Butter and a container of UAV ricotta -both right beside the basket of just baked biscuits, just out of frame in this photo, darn it!

On the Cheese Boards

To that, I featured the rich and creamy Green River Blue; the Alpine swiss style Bear Wallow and the classic Chocolate Lab – a chocolate beer and coffee washed cheese all from Looking Glass Creamery in Columbus and Fairview NC. In addition, we had two of the cow’s milk cheeses from Prodigal Farms in Bahama, NC: Spring Fever, a cow’s Milk Chevre and Fools Gold, a brilliant beer washed cheese.

What a wonderful way to celebrate. But you don’t have to wait to National Cheese Day! All of these cheeses mentioned are available at the Looking Glass Creamery tasting room in Fairview NC and at Orrmans Cheese Shop at 7th Street Market in Uptown Charlotte, NC.

6 & 7. What to Eat in Greenwood, SC

Less than a week later I was off to explore all there is to discover in and around Greenwood, SC. Take it from me, there is a lot.

what to eat

During the month of June, the community is celebrating the annual Festival of Flowers. Look for elaborate and exquisite topiary displays all up and down Main Street, garden tours and more. Still time to take it all in, the 40 + topiaries – all crafted from live flowers and growing succulents – are on display till June 30, 2019.

I knew we would have a fabulous dinner at the Inn on the Square. This is an historic property, a charming boutique hotel, right in the center of Uptown Greenwood. You simply must stay there when you go to visit.

And, I knew the country breakfast at West End Cafe would be all that a real country breakfast should be. Know that the creamy melt-in-your-mouth chipped beef on toast does not dissappoint!

What I didn’t expect was to find two surprisingly spectacular ethnic spots in town. Tiny little places, both, turning out big and exciting flavors for lunch and dinner. I can’t wait to go back for more.

What to eat

What to eat at Buenavista Latin Cafe, Greenwood, SC

When you go, don’t miss a terrific Cuban Restaurant on Main Street, Buenavista Latin Cafe where owners are turning out plates full of Authentic Cuban Cuisine you are going to love. Open for lunch and dinner where you can get great specials like this fabulous braised pork dish over rice and black beans with a side of plantains. Start with cocktails – the mojitos and the sangria are the real deal. Don’t forget to finish your meal with a cup of real Cuban coffee and a homemade dessert. If you are asking, the Tres Leche Cake is out of this world, just sayin!

what to eat

What to eat at Kickers Restaurant, Greenwood, SC

Did someone say Onion Rings ? This tower is one of the many signature dishes of Kickers Restaurant in Greenwood SC.  Chef owned, with just three guys working the line, the place is packed and the restaurant is putting out a delicious variety of internationally inspired dishes. For this stack o rings, onions are cut, battered and fried to order and are some of the best I have ever had.  I also recommend the Flirty Bird and the Pick Pocket but I’ll save the descriptives on those delicious dishes for another day,

Self-taught Chef/owner Abdel Dimiati  came to South Carolina from his homeland of Zimbabwe years ago and is making a mark! When you come to visit and don’t miss Kickers. You can check out the menu and the specials -you won’t go wrong. But just for fun, I suggest you act like a local and ask what’s on the secret menu before you make your final decisions! You can thank me later!

8. What to Eat for a great summer snack or appetizer

We end today with #8, a recipe for old timey cheese biscuits that you will love. I know I do! I also love when people share family recipes. Nothing quite like a recipe with a family history!

what to eat

You should follow the instructions to the letter – they are in fact a part of what makes this recipe so much fun – and make up a batch immediately.

We ate these pretty much upon our arrival in Greenwood. Our host, Barbara Ware, Executive Director of Old 96 District Tourism greeted us with a little gift bag of info about the five counties she represents in South Carolina.

Included was a batch of her mother’s cheese biscuits. Yes please, I believe I will.

Mimi’s Cheese Biscuits

As written by Barbara Ware…

“This recipe is over 75 years old and has been handed down to 4 generations. My mother was always having bridal parties and showers for friends. This recipe became her staple ‘go to’ for all occasions. Growing up in a small southern town, people knew about my mother’s cheese biscuits. For family gatherings, college football games, times at the SC beaches, Mimi always had to bring her cheese biscuits. Recently, her great granddaughter even showcased them at a school cooking contest and simply named them “Mimi’s Cheese Biscuits”!

What you’ll need:

A stick of real butter

1 cup of sifted all-purpose flour

1 cup of cheese you grate, not the store bought already grated! You can use store bought but the Cheese gods will not like it!

Salt to taste

Bake 9 minutes on 350.

Mimi’s Must Do’s

Simple recipe; but there are key notes to adhere to in making this recipe!

  • Leave the butter and cheese out overnight. Or at least for 4 hours so it will be easy to mix, and the cheese will be easy to grate.
  • My family only used Kraft New York State Cheese, Gold Medal flour and Land of Lakes butter. Try other brands at your own risk!!
  • ***Heidi’s Note: Barbara, we will have to talk about how to make this recipe South Carolina local, but that’s a conversation and a blog post for another day!
  • Once cooked, let the biscuits sit out and “cool down” for at least a few hours or so. Never put them in the container right after you cook them. The moisture from the heat will destroy their taste! Actual words of my mother!

Here is how to make these heavenly cheese biscuits

Grate cheese as fine as you can.  Then with your hands (you can do it with something else, but it will not turn out as well!!!) mix the 1 cup of cheese with the 1 stick of softened butter. Butter must be soft to mix it right.  Cut off a slight bit of the butter at one end. Don’t know why this is, but my mother was convinced you had to do this!

Pour 1 cup of sifted flour into the mix a little at a time. You want to be sure you are getting the cheese and butter mixed well with the flour. Add a dash of salt. Or instead, don’t add the salt until they come out of the oven and are hot. I sprinkle a little on top and some of it stays. Also, if you want them a bit ‘hot’ add some red pepper as you mix the cheese and butter.

Once you have the entire mixture completed then make a small ball, maybe the size of a tennis ball, and massage it in your hand to form a roll type mixture. I use both hands and just roll in up and down. These cylinder like ‘rolls’ you then wrap them in wax paper to store them in the freezer or refrigerator. 

“They need to be cold before you cook them.”

This just makes it easier to cut them.  I usually freeze mine and take them out about 15 minutes before I am going to cook them. This ensures you get a good slice and there is no “mushy” look to the biscuit. They are good in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Depending on how your oven cooks and gets hot, cook for 9 minutes at 350. Momma always said they are ready when the bottom is brown! And, she always, always said take them out and leave them on the cookie sheet because they will cook a little bit more on that. Enjoy!

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