First Taste of Spring at The SavorNC Cooking Stage

4452defe-d5bd-4fc1-9cc8-2289ed2d4211Tomorrow Friday Feb 23, 2017 marks the first day of all the food flavor and fun at the SavorNC Cooking Stage at the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show at the Park Expo in Charlotte NC. The show runs for 6 full days – this weekend of Feb 23-26 and then again the weekend of March 3-5. Attendance at the SavorNc Cooking Stage is free with your ticket to the show and we will be located right by the show entrance, so you can’t miss us!

 

savorncI happily play the part of host of the cooking stage and have invited over 40 restaurant chefs, private chefs, caterers, farmers and other food-centric folk to be on stage with me cooking with tons of local produce, proteins and products.  The North Carolina Department of Agriculture has come on as the title sponsor of the stage, so we are the SavorNC Cooking Stage and each day we have a different local day sponsor involved in all the action.

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The cooking demos each day start at 10:30 am and run every hour on the half hour. Chefs will be cooking, sharing technique, tips about buying local and handing out complimentary samples at each and every demonstration.

At the end of each demo, we’ll ask a couple of fun trivia questions pertaining to what each chef said, and where ingredients might have come from and the winners will get great prizes which will include gift  bags of swag from the NC Department of Agriculture, gift certificates from the participating restaurants and special samples and or coupons from our day sponsors.

Recipes from each day of demos and a photo recap of the day will be posted on these blog pages each evening of the show, so stay tuned for the word on lots of local eats and how to make them in your kitchen over the next ten days. Consider these two weekends a first taste of Spring with all the wonderful local ingredients this, my favorite season of the year, brings.

Here is the line up of chefs for each day  and a little bit about our GotToBeNC Day Sponsors for this first weekend of the 2017 Southern Spring Show… Look for a similar article next week on the line up of all the action for the March 3-5 weekend or check here for a link to the complete list of participating chefs

img_7229Goodnight Brothers Country Ham from Boone North Carolina kicks off our list of day sponsors this year on Friday February 24, 2017. Throughout the day chefs will be hamming it up with Goodnight’s all natural line of thin sliced dry cured ham (I like to call it North Carolina’s answer to  Italian prosciutto) as well as Goodnight’s classic Country Ham. Goodnight Brothers has sent me two HUGE boxes of  sample sized packages of ham to hand out to the crowd and at 12:30 I will be on stage with Bill Goodnight of Goodnight Brothers, cooking with both varieties of this locally cured ham and talking about the history of this family owned company and how they do what they do.  if you have ever eaten a ham biscuit at Bojangles, then you know how wonderful Goodnight Brothers Ham really is – take this opportunity to come to the Spring Show on Friday, to try, taste and learn more about it.

Cooking onstage with me Friday February 24, 2017 –

10:30 am
Springtime Favorites

Chef Blake Hartwick, Bonterra Dining & Wine Room

11:30 am
WCCB Everyday Eats Hamming It Up

Chef Troy Gagliardo
WCCB Charlotte

12:30 pm
Cooking with Goodnight Brothers Country Ham
Cooking Stage Host Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto and Bill Goodnight from Goodnight Brothers Country Ham

1:30 pm
The Sweet & Savory Sides of Eating Local
Chef Paul Verica and Chef Ashley Boyd, Heritage Food Drink, Waxhaw NC

2:30 pm
It’s Cookin’ at The Cowfish

Chef David Lucarelli, The Cowfish Sushi & Burger Bar

3:30 pm
Charcuterie and Cooking with Beer 

Chef Terra Ciotta and Chef Philip Lloyd, The Art Institute

4:30 pm
Dinner from the Springtime Garden

Chef Michael Rayfield, U.S. National Whitewater Center

5:30 pm
Gluten Free Vegan and Vegetarian

Chef Beverly McLaughlin, Beverly’s Gourmet Foods

img_7234On Saturday February 25, 2017 Parla Pasta from High Point North Carolina is our day sponsor and you won’t believe all the delicious Pastabilities we’ll have on hand. Simone Drake from Parla’s parent company Drake’s Pasta will be with us all day and is bringing a wonderful pasta salad for show goers to snack on between demos as well as plenty of coupons to hand out, so everyone can go and buy their favorite variety of Parla Pasta from their grocer’s freezer case after begin inspired by the culinary action onstage. Again, chefs will be cooking with the different varieties of Parla Pasta throughout the day and at 12:30 Simone and I will take the stage together to cook and talk pasta. Parla Pasta is available at grocery stores across Charlotte – find it in the freezer section at your favorite locations of Harris Teeter, The Fresh Market, Publix, Ingles, and Lowes Foods.

And here is who will be cooking onstage with me for Saturday February 25, 2017:

10:30 am
Little Plates, Big Flavor with Stoke Restaurant’s infamous Pork Ragu

Chef Chris Coleman, Stoke at the Marriott

11:30 am
Sweet Springtime Dreams

Chef Ashley Boyd and Chef Miranda Brown, 300 East

12:30 pm
Ah, The Parla Pastabilities

Cooking Stage Host Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto with SImone Drake of Parla Post

1:30 pm
It’s Got to Be NC!

Clark Barlow, Heirloom Restaurant

2:30 pm
Kale Yeah!

Heidi Billotto cooks with the Greens that Grow at Tega Hill Farms

3:30 pm
Entertaining on the Fly: From Zero to Party in under and Hour
Susan Murray Innkeeper and Cookbook Author, Carolina B&B, Asheville

4:30 pm
Pasta and Prosciutto with Springtime Style
Chef George DiPaolo from the Community Culinary School of Charlotte

5:30 pm
Risotto From the Springtime Garden
Chef Geoff Bragg from the Community Culinary School of Charlotte

cloister-honeyOn Sunday February 26, 2017, our friends Randall York and Joanne di la Rionda from Cloister Honey are in the house with their entire line of sweet and savory locally raised honey. Cloister Honey will be available to sample and purchase throughout the day right at the cooking stage. Many chefs will be incorporating the line of Cloister Honey into their recipes and  in the 12:30 time slot this day, I’ll be cooking with Cloister and Randall and Joanne will join me onstage to talk about raising bees, how they came to build a hobby into a company and we might even get  Joanne to share her secrets ( well some of them) on how she develops her delicious honey blends and flavor infused varieties. Cloister will be giving away samples as a part of each prize package during each of the chefs demos throughout the day  – its going to be a sweet way to wind up this first weekend of fun and local flavor on the SavorNC Cooking Stage at the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show.

On the SavorNC Cooking Stage Sunday, February 26, 2017:  

10:30 am
Sunday Brunch Fresh from the Farm

Chef Kevin Woods cooks with  Two Moons Family Farms

11:30 am
The Art of Japanese Cuisine From Yama, Yama Izakaya and Baku Restaurants

Chef and Sake Specialist Birdie Yang

12:30 pm
Catch the Buzz – Cooking with Cloister Honey

Cooking Stage Host Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto with Cloister’s Randall York and Joanna de la Rionda

1:30 pm
Jamie’s Favorite Top Chef Recipes

Chef Jamie Lynch of 5 Church and Top Chef Charleston contestant

2:30 pm
Donuts: Not Just for Breakfast
Courtney Buckley, Your Mom’s Donuts

3:30 pm
Wine Pairings with Local Favorites 
Josh Villapando, Assorted Table Wine Shop

So Many great local GotToBeNc products to feature on the Savor NC Cooking Stage this first weekend of the show, and so many chefs to help create the show. I’m proud to say we have a truly great line up of award winning and nationally recognized chefs here in Charlotte and our surrounding areas and  I am thrilled to promote them on the SavorNC Cooking Stage this weekend and next.

charlotte-living-winter-2017-coverIn addition to recipes and samples and all the fun you’ll have at the Savor NC Cooking Stage, remember to also pick up a copy of the new issue of Charlotte Living Magazine. That beautiful dish on the cover was prepared by Chef Thomas Marlow of Mimosa Grill in Uptown Charlotte.

As many of you know, In addition to this blog, I also am the food editor at Charlotte Living and this first issue of the year is our annual food issue. So excited to see my “100 + Restaurants Worth Your While Restaurant Guide” finally done and printed up in living color. A TEN-PAGE spread of great places to eat in Charlotte and a word or two about many chefs who make this such a wonderful food-centric city. Pick up a copy of the magazine at the SavorNC Cooking Stage and enjoy the guide, articles on Mimosa Grill in Uptown Charlotte and Highland Avenue Restaurant in Hickory as well as a piece on local Moorseville woodworker Jeffrey Mathews of Old World Moulding Company who creates incredible cutting boards for chefs around the world; and  a section on 6 ways to open a package, box, bottle or jar to Eat Local and more. Can’t wait – you can check out the Restaurant Guide and some of these other articles online at CharlotteLiving.com

 

 

 

A Bite of GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte from Behind the Scenes

DSC_0655As many of you know I travel with the GotToBeNC Competition Dining series organizers across the state of North Carolina – promoting chefs and their culinary prowess as they participate in  dinner events set up like a live version of a mix of Chopped and Ironchef.

Slide95My job is not to cook, but  instead to tell the tale of chefs and farmers, restaurants and featured products; and in addition to handle all the social media, the sponsors and relationships with our competing chefs.

I love what I do and have met some very cool people in each city, but have to say I am so happy to be in Charlotte this month as The GotToBeNC Competition Dining series kicks off a seven night series in the Queen City.

 

Team Radical Range Riders

Team Radical Range Riders

Monday Aug 8 was evening one. This first preliminary battle saw chefs Paul Verica from Heritage Food & Drink; Ashely Boyd from 300 East and Heritage Food& Drink and Joe Bonaparte from the International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach on Team 3 Cooks up against chefs Adam Reed from Sante of Matthews, Terra Ciotta of the Art Institute of Charlotte’s Artisan Restaurant and Jess Cochran from CPCC’s culinary school who came to play as Team Radical Range Riders.

Team 3 cooks

Team 3 Cooks

The concept of a dream team of chefs – all from one restaurant or from three separate restaurants is new to the GotToBeNc Competition Dining Series this year and the chefs and the audience are loving the experience.

I, too, had a blast yesterday. I have had the pleasure of knowing all of these chefs for years – save for Jess who I just met the other day and am looking forward to getting to know.

Its been great watching all of them grow, hone their skills, make their marks both individually and together to help carve a place for the Charlotte culinary community in the statewide, regional and national spotlights.

Yesterday was no different and the fact that all six of these chefs were good friends with similar cooking styles, made it all the more fun from the Chefs’ Breakfast at the start of the day to the announcement of the winning team about 9:30 Monday night.

images-2One of this year’s Competition Dining sponsors, Alsco, treats the chefs in each region across the state to a relaxing breakfast as a start to the day and in Charlotte our breakfast spot is @Dawn, located at 2130 Ayrely Town Blvd at the intersection of I-485 and South Tryon Streets, the relatively new breakfast concept brought to you by Greg and Subrina Collier of The Yolk, a great  little breakfast spot in Rock Hill. After a family style meal of local eggs cooked to order, two kinds of grits, pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage, biscuits, fresh local fruit, coffee tea and more and some fun photos the crew all headed over to Bonterra Dining & Wine Room, our home base for each of the Charlotte events.

chefs at the reveal

Chefs meet each day with Chef Ref Chad Blackwelder for the Secret Ingredient and Mystery Basket reveal

Back at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room, located on Cleveland Ave in the Dilworth neighborhood,  Competition Dining Chef Ref Chad Blackwelder from Sanford, NC, sets up a refrigerated mobile pantry, sponsored by Pate Dawson Southern Foods full of great items for the chefs to cook with and make a part of the meal. The pantry has all the basics and includes lots of North Carolina product.

 

 

In addition Chad UPDATED - NCDAalso shops at local markets in each city so that the end result of each six course meal features a good mix of  local farmers, NC  Produce, product and proteins as well as a mix of other regional and seasonal items.

At the reveal each morning of competition, chefs learn of the secret ingredient they will be working with – to be featured in each of their 3 courses to make a 6 course meal. In addition, they have a group of mystery basket ingredients to choose from that they must include somewhere in the meal.

To that end, the first Charlotte preliminary  dinner featured Black Mountain Chocolate cocoa nibs and Dominican Chocolate as well as several varieties of local chiles and peppers.

The chiles and peppers came almost entirely from the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market from my friends Mark and Mindy Robinson at Tega Hill Farm and from Cathy and Eric McCall at As Hot As Possible Hot Pepper Herb Farm. Poblano chiles were from Coto Farms at the Atherton Farmers market and the spicy Thai Chiles were from Ma Cha at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market

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Chef Paul Verica | Heritage Food&Drink

From the  Mystery basket selections, chefs were limited to two proteins – duck from Joe Jurgielewicz & Son – a fourth generation sustainable duck farm in Pennsylvania and one of the leading Pekin duck suppliers in North America ; and Greenbrier Farms pork, a farm I discovered and was happy to bring to the Competition Dining table and to the attention of Pate Dawson when we competed in Greenville SC last year.

DSC_0561

Chef Adam Reed Sante of Matthews

Also in the Mystery Basket this first night of Charlotte competition, other local favorites from the Savory Spice Shop in Southend and from Charlotte’s own, award winning Cloister Honey. Basics in the kitchen also came from lots of local farms all of whom sell at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on Saturdays including watermelons, onions, and more from A Way of Life Farm; cucumbers, blackberries and more from Burton Farms; Tomatoes and Peaches from Lincoln County; Blueberries from Blackwood Berries, a farm located not far from Fayetteville, NC

These six chefs did both secret ingredients and all the mystery basket and pantry items proud in six courses that featured flavors from an rich Manchamanteles sauce served in The Radical Range Riders course 3 to a light NC Peach and Thai Chile sorbet a part of the plating for Team 3 Cooks course 6. The intriguing mix kept the crowd guessing all through the evening as to which team made which plate, but as Competition Dining host and creator Jimmy Crippen always remnds guests, it is always best not to guess who made what, but instead to simply vote your palate.  For final results of this first battle and a detailed description of each plate visit the Results Page at the Competition Dining Website

In the end, it was an excited Team Radical Range Riders who took the win and will go on the compete in the Thursday August 11 semi final round.

They will go up against the winner of tonights August 9 battle which will find Team Bistro 127 from Hickory NC with chefs Shawn Bank, John Edwards and Jeff Croft all going up against Team Vicious & Delicious with chefs Ryan Forte and Phillip Platoni from Southminster in Charlotte and chef Brigitte Oger from Craft Cakes of Charlotte. Check out these pages on Wednesday Aug 10 to see the results of the  Tuesday Aug 9 nite event.

As I write this Monday night recap, chefs are in the kitchen with 2 very cool secret ingredients, one a local seasonal favorite and the other one you might be surprise to find is an ingredient produced in the state of North Carolina.  Here are all of the Aug 10 chefs at the

 

Its anyone’ game. Tonight’s  preliminary battle and the August 11 semi final battle are already sold out with a waiting list, but tickets to the  Aug 22 and 23 preliminary battles are still available.  Treat yourself to a night of North Carolina’s favorite culinary sport and join us, if you will.

Tickets for the preliminary events are just $74.78, exclusive of beverages. Here are the direct links:

August 22 between Team Lucianos Charlotte and Team Fahrenheit CLT

August 23 between Team Heirloom and Team Trois Petit Cochon with chefs from The Fishmarket in Ft. Mill and Cafe Montes in Charlotte

Don’t miss a single bite of the action – if you can’t make it you can follow along on all the social media – I look forward to seeing you there – Cheers!

 

2016 GotTobeNC Competition Dining Series Comes to Charlotte

BlackCompDiningLogoIts called Competition Dining – The GotToBeNc Competition Dining Series – to be exact.  Its a series of interactive dining events held across the state of North Carolina.  Think of it as what you would get if  you combined the cooking and competition premise of  the television shows Chopped and  Iron Chef and then add in the fact that YOU get to be the judge as teams of talented area chefs create a number of courses centered around a “secret ingredient” each night of competition.

As many of you may know, I work and travel across North Carolina with the Competition Dining team headed by the uber-enthusiastic host and creator or the event, Jimmy Crippen.

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODI absolutely love what I do as the face behind all the #CompDiningNC social media, newsletters etc,  coordinating relationships with local, regional and national sponsors; helping to connect local farmers and chefs and in general making sure that our dinner guests have the most fun possible as we competing across North Carolina, this year with regional series in Durham, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh, Charlotte and Wilmington.

Its fun to travel meeting talented chefs across the state, but I am particularly excited to be home in Charlotte next month as the competition kicks off August 8, showing the state what Charlotte chefs bring to the table. Excited, too, to be the first to share the news in this post as to which Charlotte-based chefs are competing and when they will be in the GotToBeNC Competition Dining spotlight, that’s right – you heard it hear first!

bring your own battery packs - CopyAs a dinner guest at any Competition Dining event, you and your dining companions will enjoy a six course meal, but you won’t know which team of chefs prepared which course. You’ll have fun voting on the specially designed app on your phone, voting and posting on your own social media if you would like, as you enjoy each sweet and savory forkful. In the end, your votes are tallied, the teams come out to meet the crowd, the scores are reveled and one team wins and the other goes on the cook another day.

UPDATED - NCDAThere really is nothing else like it... with the NC Department of Agriculture as the title sponsor, The GotToBeNc Competition Dining series comes with a focus on promoting local NC and for this series Charlotte area produce, proteins and products.

Here’s how it all works – Every GotToBeNC Competition Dining Series dinner event includes two chef teams battling it out, each preparing three courses centered on a featured North Carolina ingredients  – its like simultaneously eating at two of your favorites restaurants.

bonterra_thumbnailIn Charlotte all of the  events will take place at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room, located at  1829 Cleveland Ave. We book out the restaurant on the days of competition; our chefs start early in the  morning with the reveal of the secret ingredient or ingredients, cook all day and then plate and serve guests at the event that night. Doors and the bar open at 6 pm and the show starts about 6:45.

verica in actionWhile the chefs are cooking in the kitchen, as ticketed guests, you can get in on the action as well, savoring a full-service, six-course meal without knowing which chef prepared which plate.  As you enjoy the dinner, you’ll vote on each dish using the free app, and ultimately help determine who moves on to the next round and who goes home. Guests attending the finale in each region receive a gift bag of coupons, swag and samples compliments of our Competition Dining Sponsors.

While the Charlotte Food-centric crowd has been enjoying the competition for several years running now, its always fun to have a new twist. New to GotTobeNc Competition Dining for 2016, the creation of All-Star Dream Teams allows chefs from different restaurants to partner together for the three-person teams, upping the potential caliber and creating a more fun and competitive atmosphere for all.

In just a few weeks the Queen City series kicks off. In Charlotte, 24 highly competitive chefs on eight individual Dream Teams go up against each other for the regional Charlotte win.

The Charlotte series will take place in two heats, the first with 2 preliminary Battles on August 8 and 9 and a semi final round on August 11. The second heat sees preliminary battles on August 22 and 23  and a semi final round on August 25.

The Charlotte Finale will take place on Sunday August 28. The finale is already sold out. No doubt that each of the preliminary rounds and the semi final showdowns will soon be sold out as well. I don’t want you to miss out on all the fun – check your calendars, call your friends and make your reservations TODAY .

Here is the lineup of talented Dream Team chefs  all are in contention for the big Charlotte win…. I don’t want you to miss a single bite of the action, so to make it easy, I’ve included the brackets with competing teams plus links to tickets sales for each battle. Can’t wait to see you there! Just click on the red dated link to purchase tickets for each individual battle

Aug. 8 GotToBeNc Competition Dining Charlotte Prelim Dinner:

Team 3 cooks Comp dining cltTeam 3 COOKS from Waxhaw: Paul Verica, owner and chef at Heritage Food & Drink; Joseph Bonaparte, executive director at the International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach; and Ashley Boyd, pastry chef at Heritage Food & Drink and 300 East in Charlotte.

Radical Range Riders comp dining CltTeam Radical Range Riders from Matthews: Adam Reed, owner and chef at Sante of Matthews; Terra Ciotta, culinary instructor and chef at Artisan Restaurant in Charlotte; and Matthew Sganga, owner and chef at the Stone Table in Monroe.

Team Bistro 127 Comp Dining nc CLTTeam Bistro127 from Hickory: Shawn Bank, executive chef at Bistro127; John Edwards, sous chef at Bistro127; and Jeff Croft, assistant sous chef at Bistro127.

ViciousandDeliciousTeam Vicious and Delicious from Charlotte: Ryan Forte executive chef at Southminster; Phillip Platoni, chef de cuisine at Southminster; and Brigitte Oger, owner at Craft Cakes in Charlotte.

 

Aug 11 GotToBeNc Competition Dining Charlotte Semifinal Dinner sees the  Aug. 8 winning team versus Aug. 9 winning team

 

Aug 22 GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte Prelim Dinner:

Team LucianosTeam Luciano’s from Charlotte: John Soilis, executive chef Luciano’s Ristorante Italiano; Daniel De Dios Guerrero, chef de cuisine at Luciano’s Ristorante Italiano; and Giovanni Bassi, sous chef at Luciano’s Ristorante Italiano.

team black mamba 2Team Fahrenheit Charlotte from Charlotte: David Feimster, executive chef Fahrenheit Charlotte; Rachel Child, pastry chef at Fahrenheit Charlotte; and Lewis Carter, sous chef at Fahrenheit Charlotte.

 

Aug 23 GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte Prelim Dinner:

Team Heirloom comp dining cltTeam Heirloom from Charlotte: Clark Barlowe, chef and proprietor at Heirloom; Zack Gragg, executive sous chef at Heirloom; and Ann Marie Stefany, pastry chef at Heirloom.

Team Les Trois Petit Cochon comp dining cltTeam Les Trois Petit Cochon from Fort Mill: Neil Bratton, executive chef at Fish Market Bar and Grill; Jon Ernst, executive chef at Café Monte in Charlotte; and Wade Waller, former executive chef at Standard Brewing Co. in Maryland Heights, Missouri, now relocating to Charlotte

 

Aug 25 GotToBeNc Competition Dining Charlotte Semifinal Dinner sees the  Aug. 22 winning team versus Aug.23 winning team

August 28 GotToBeNC Competition Dining Charlotte Finale – Winner of the Aug 11 semi final goes up against the winner of the Aug 25 semi final for the Charlotte regional prize package including the coveted red chefs jacket compliments of Alsco, a check for $2000 in cash and prizes from Pate Dawson Southern Foods, an autographed book from Master Baker Lionel Vatinet of La  Farm Bakery in Cary NC and a hand forged knife from Charlotte Bladesmith Steve Watkins of Ironman Forge…and then of course there are the braggin’ rites and entree to the November Battle of Champions.

 

Ten of NC (and VA’s) best, take NYC by Storm

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODThis weekend, April 16-18, a bit of Southern charm, flavor and a lot of local culinary talent is headed up to the Big Apple.  Ten chefs will share the flavors of our region at the James Beard House in two separate dinners, the first A Taste of Charlotte on Sat April 16, and the second, Small Towns, Big Flavors on Monday April 18.
In  the second half of this post you’ll find a beautifully filmed  presentation of the local Charlotte production called order/fire by videographer and photographer Peter Taylor and chef Marc  Jacksina. The focus of this most recent edition of order/fire is the group of five Charlotte-based chefs and their journey this weekend to New York City where they have been invited to cook at the James Beard House on Saturday night April 16, 2016.
Taylor and Jacksina explain the order/fire project as “a lighthearted, conversational approach” to filming the life of someone in the culinary industry. “Each episode aims to get to know the area’s leading culinarians, mixologists, restaurateurs, purveyors and farmers to paint them in a more multidimensional light.”
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Heidi with the five chefs featured in the April 16 James Beard dinner along with Bonterra sous chef Mike Long and 300 East Assistant Pastry chef Miranda Brown

As a food writer of several decades in Charlotte, I have watched these chefs grow through the years, define their technique and style and even at their young age become a part of the old guard in the Charlotte culinary community.  I am so proud of this group of five representing Charlotte in such a big way and even prouder of the fact that they are bringing locally farmed and produced product of so many local and regional farms and farmers along for the ride. Watch the video and see how many local products you can count!
Go and show them how it done Chef-Chris Coleman The Asbury; Paul Verica, Heritage food & drink; Ashley Boyd, 300 East; R Blake Hartwick, Bonterra Dining & Wine Room; Bob Peters The Punch Room, we’ll be here rooting for you!
But that’s not all…here are five more reasons for us to take pride in our regional cuisine. That’s right, it’ll be a double dose of the Carolinas ( and a bit of Virginia) for the food-centric New York City crowd as chefs Kyle Lee Mcknight, Highland Avenue in Hickory; Nate Allen, Knife & Fork in Spruce Pine, NC; David Bauer, Farm & Sparrow Bakery in Candler NC; Ian Boden, The Shack in Staunton, Va; and Harper Bradshaw, Harper’s Table, Suffolk Va bring together their incredible pool of culinary talent to present a five course dinner  April 18, 2016.
Click the links in the first paragraph of this post to see what both of these talented teams will  be cooking in NYC and then file the info below when you are ready for a short road trip for some great eats… #TellTheHeidiSentYou
mcknight_kyle
Chef Kyle McKnight, Highland Avenue, 883 Highland Ave, Hickory NC  For reservations, Call 828.267.9800 or visit www.highlandavenuerestaurant.com

Highland Avenue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

allen_nateChef Nate Allen, Knife & Fork Restaurant, 61 Locust Ave in Spruce Pines, Nc, For reservations call 828.765.1511  or visit KnifeandForkNC.com Knife & Fork Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

baeur_davidChef David Bauer, Farm & Sparrow Bakery in Candler Nc  Call 828.633.0584 or visit Farm and Sparrow.com

 

boden_ian_photo_sera_petrasChef Ian Boden, The Shack, 105 S. Coulter Street, Stauton VA, Call 540.490.1961 or visit TheShackVA.com The Shack VA Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

bradshaw_harperChef Harper Bradshaw, Harper’s Table, 122 N. Main Street, suffolk VA, Call 757. 539.2000 or visit HarpersTable.com Harper's Table Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

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Heidi with Chefs Sam Stachon and Kyle McKnight of Highland Avenue in Hickory NC

“To be in New York celebrating Highland Avenue’s success with our culinary team is an honor and a privilege. We believe in the mission of the James Beard Foundation and we believe that food, philanthropy and community will build a better tomorrow for all.” says Meg Jenkins Locke, owner of Highland Avenue. While not  mentioned on the Beard site, Chef Sam Stachon ( formally of King’s Kitchen in Charlotte and now at Highland Ave.) will be with Kyle and the Small Town, Big Flavor chefs as well.

So you can’t get to NYC this weekend, but still want in on all the action on Saturday and Monday nights from the comfort of your own home? The dinners start at 7 pm both nights, click on the James Beard Kitchen Cam  just before that and I think you’ll be able to watch all of the chefs in action…
And now on to the order /fire video featuring the Taste of Charlotte chefs learn more about their excitement and a bit about what local flavors they are bringing along. Its going to be a great weekend for these 10 culinarians… New York City prepare to be WOWED!. Kudos chefs – To each and every one!

(This post and video as originally seen on the order/fire website.  Credits to Peter Taylor and Marc Jacksina)

This Saturday night, if you’re in NYC and if you’re lucky enough to have one of the tickets to the dinner, you can have a Taste of Charlotte at the James Beard House.

4 Charlotte chefs, all past and future guests on order/fire, and one Charlotte mixologist, (arguably one of the best in the world) Chris Coleman from the Asbury, Blake Hartwick from Bonterra, Paul Verica from Heritage, Ashley Boyd from 300 East and Bob Peters from the Punch Room. These guys will be doing their best to wine and dine and impress in New York.

A couple of weeks ago order/fire stopped in as they prepped for their shake down dinner, a preview of the same dinner they will serve at the JBH, at Bonterra. We talked to each one a little about what they will be doing and what it means to get to cook at such a revered place of honor. Check it out here!

If this weekend whets your palate for more here is where you can go next week to find each of these talented Charlotte-based chefs and taste for yourself!! #TellThemHeidiSentYou

coleman_chris

Chef Chris Coleman

Chef Chris Coleman, The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel, 235 North Tryon Street Charlotte NC Call 704.342.1193 for reservations or visit TheAsbury.com The Asbury Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

hartwick_blake

Chef Blake Hartwick

Chef Blake Hartwick, Bonterra Dining and Wine Room, 1829 Cleveland Ave, Charlotte NC Call 704.333.WINE for reservations or visit BonterraDining.com Bonterra Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

verica_paul_t

Chef Paul Verica

Chef Paul Verica, Heritage Food | Drink, 201 West South Main Street, Waxhaw NC  Call 704.843.5236 for reservations or visit HeritageFoodanddrink.com Heritage Food & Drink Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

boyd_ashley

Chef Ashley Bivens

Chef Ashley Boyd, 300 East, 300 East Blvd, Charlotte NC Call 704.332.6507 or visit 300East.net 300 East Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  Ashely is also the pastry chef for Heritage Food | Drink

peters_bob_2

Mixologist Bob Peters

Mixologist Bob Peters, The Punch Room (in the Ritz Carlton) , 201 E. Trade Street, Charlotte NC Call 704.547.2244 or visit twitter.com/THEPUNCHROOM Punch Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

blog headerKeep up with my latest restaurant finds, cooking class schedules and recipes too as well as some three day weekend travel ideas with tips on where to eat drink and sleep and what to see while you are there. Simply subscribe to HeidiBillottoFood.com in the space provided in the side bar on the home page. In the meantime, follow me on Facebook at Heidi Billotto and Heidi Billotto Cooks; on Twitter @HeidiCooks; on Instagram  at Heidi Billotto and on PInterest @HeidiBillottoFood

 

Hurry, Hurry…Read All About It

Lots to read about in the culinary sections in both the Fall and Winter issues of Charlotte Living Magazine – ICYMI ( In Case You Missed It), today I wanted to share links to my recent culinary, giving back , art and travel articles 

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODIn between cooking classes and catering, articles and recipes on HeidiBillottoFood.com and posts on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, I write four times a year for a fabulous publication in Charlotte: Charlotte Living Magazine.
These perfectly bound glossy pages pair my words with wonderful photos and give me a chance to write in more detail about many of my favorite people and places.
You can pick up a copy of Charlotte Living Magazine at lots of places around Charlotte, including The Savory Spice Shop in Southend, EarthFare, Whole Foods, and The Atherton Mill Farmers’ Market, just to mention a few; or you can read it online in it’s flipbook format at CharlotteLivingMagazine.com.
The Food and Entertaining section online offers links to archived articles I have written over the past year on Kindred Restaurant in Davidson, The Fig Tree Restaurant, Bonterra Dining and Wine RoomPassion 8 Restaurant, Chef Bruce Moffett’s Trio of Restaurants: Barrington’s, Good Food on Montford and Stagioni , a piece about three ever favorites: The Heirloom, The Asbury and Fahrenheit Clt and more.
While a portion of the content in these archived articles may be dated by seasonal references,  the basic information is still current and it is important to note, that these restaurants continue to be places to put on your dining out radar.
over shot for fall recipesOn these pages you’ll also find stories about local product such as Charlotte’s own Cannizzaro Sauces.read more here…. and  a fun story on a new beverage category hitting bottle shops and grocery stores all over the southeast: Islander Ginger Beer.
What makes it new, is this is Alcoholic Ginger Beer and what makes is pertinent to you and Charlotte is that this Ginger Beer has North Carolina roots!
I won’t print any spoilers here – just…read more here… and then I know you’ll head out to buy a four pack for your next batch of Moscow Mules, Mimosas, or perhaps a Dark and Stormy or two. Islanders are available in Harris Teeter’s across the state and locally in Total Wine and Earthfare too.
2015 Fall issue of Charlotte Living
In the Fall 2015 issue we put an incredible dessert by Chef Ben Kallenbach, executive pastry chef at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge on the cover and the cover story is about the hotel’s Gallery Restaurant and the talent Chef David Moore and his team bring to the table. Read more
This fall issue also includes a Three Day Weekend article all about Winston-Salem, the gate way to the North Carolina wine country and home to a host of great places to stay, eat and explore, such as Graze Restaurant, Atelier On Trade, Meridian Restaurant and more …Read More
2016 Winter issue of Charlotte Living
The culinary section in the Winter 2016 issue  is filled with places and products  you simply must try sooner than later if you haven’t already! Pick up an issue as you’ll want to devour each and every page. This issue is on newstands now, but until you have the issue in hand, I’ll tease you with a taste and a link back to my featured stories:
On Chef Tom Condron and his modern take on French cuisine at Lumiere French Kitchen in Charlotte’s Myers Park neighborhood… Read More

On Chef Tim Groody and his farm to The Fork! fare in Cornelius… Read More…in addition to nightly dinners, be sure to check out Fork’s Sunday brunch, too!

elizabeth ave Charlotte Living story heidi with chefsOn the all new Elizabeth Ave corridor in Charlotte, The Queen City’s first streetcar in 77 years  and the chefs ( Luca Annunziata of Passion 8, Paul Ketterhagen of Carpe Diem, Marc Jacksina of Earls Grocery, Trey Wilson of Customshop, Jose Garcia of 1900 Mexican Grille and Tequila Bar and Sun Jae Kim of Elizabeth Creamery) that are making this two block stretch Charlotte’s newest restaurant row… Read More… A big shout out to all of these chefs who came to help a writer out when I called them on a cold and rainy November Monday to come out for a photo at one of the Elizabeth Ave street signs – they all happily obliged and I couldn’t have been more thrilled – here is one of the shots I jumped in for fun just before Jose got there!

And speaking of Charlotte chefs, hope you will enjoy reading a recap I put together on a great giving back effort coordinated by the Charlotte-based Piedmont Culinary Guild and lead by chefs, farmers and people who cared  when our neighbors in South Carolina were affected by the October 2015 flooding. They all pitched in, not for publicity, but because it was the right thing to do, but I wanted to give them a little love and tell the story…Read More

Looking for a great way to Eat Local at home? Don’t miss the detes on my new favorite with Take and Bake product: frozen scones from Charlotte’s own The Scone Shop ( and YES, there is a package in my freezer, even as I type this – so you now I practice what I preach)… Read More

Food is art they say and it was my pleasure in this issue to write about the very talented Loren DiBenedetto, a Charlotte artists who paints the food you love to eat ( You’ll see when you…Read more… that Loren also paints detailed pet portraits, so if you have four legged friends, you’d like have captured on canvas, you might want to reach out to Loren for details. We own 6 of Loren’s charming paints ( 4 cats, a pear and a study of figs) and we love them every one.

blossom shop logoFinally, I would be remiss if I didn’t share one link for an advertisement in this Winter issue – its the back inside cover ad for The Blossom Shop. The Blossom Shop is owned my my dear friends and family by marriage Ted Todd and Debby Sacra. It’s been my go-to florist for years ( even before I married Tom and info the family) and I can’t say enough good things about the work they do – always making every special event in life even more memorable.  Call them, you’ll be thrilled you did.

Heidi Billotto 2008

To see The Blossom Shop ad now, follow this link – which will take you to the  online flipbook, then flip over to page 83. Here you’ll see a wedding photo of my my niece and new nephew from their September 2015 nuptials. As you will see, the bride and groom, Kendel and Chad Parks, were dazzling and the flowers were stunning!

Cheers to photographer Critsey Rowe for capturing it all on film and to the talented staff at Charlotte living for transforming it all into the best ad ever!

Competition Dining Heads to Greenville, South Carolina

Logo500x200 - laurel wreathThe Competition Dining Series Greenville, a single-elimination tournament highlighting the best of the state’s food, agriculture and culinary talent, will pit 14 highly competitive chefs against each other in its upcoming series in the South Carolina Upstate. After  years of competing across the state of North Carolina, the summer of 2015 marks the first foray for Competition Dining across state lines into South Carolina. Each  of the 13 interactive Greenville battles will be hosted at Larkin’s Sawmill from Aug. 3 through Sept. 7. Tickets, info on participating chefs & more are available online. at the Competition Dining website.


travelers rest frms market signAs many of you know, I travel with the Competition Dining team, as the voice behind all of Competition Dining’s social media; as a liason between all of our  current and potential sponsors; and as a connection between the chefs and literally hundreds of North and South Carolina farmers. I love scouting local farmers markets and niche grocery stores in each region in which we compete, looking for great product to feature in  battles in Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, NC and now in Greenville, SC, too!

greenville sat market photoThe Greenville farmers’ markets are the bomb, from the Downtown Greenville TD Saturday Market to the market at Travelers Rest. If the crowds are any indicator, its a sure thing that Greenville locals know that shopping Local is the only way to go!  I can’t wait for Competition Dining Greenville guests to taste all the great LOCAL Certified South Carolina product we’ve found to feature in each of the Greenville Battles; and I can’t wait to see how our 14 Greenville series chefs showcase it all!

 

comp dining promoCompetition Dining is the Carolina’s favorite culinary sport. At each dinner, two teams of chefs battle it out, each preparing three courses centered on a secret featured regional ingredient. Ticketed guests from across the Carolinas arrive the evening of competition to savor a six-course meal without knowing which chef prepared which dishes. Unlike any other cooking competition, attendees vote on each course using their smart device and a specially designed app, and ultimately help determine who moves on to the next round and who goes home. It’s addictive and you’ll most certainly want to come & experience it more than once!

 

 

Greenville chefs FB cover Best                                   The Greenville  SC Series Brackets:

Quarter Finals:

Semi Finals:

  • August 31 Dinner: Winner of Aug 19 Battle versus Winner of Aug 25 Battle RESERVATIONS
  • September 1 Dinner: Winner of Aug 24 Battle versus Winner of Aug 26 Battle RESERVATIONS

       Grand Finale:   September 7 Dinner: Winner of Aug 31 Battle Versus Winner of Sept 1 Battle                                                                                             RESERVATIONS
OwnerJimmyCrippenindiningroom“Since we started these battles, Competition Dining Series has hosted hundreds of chefs and thousands of community members in North Carolina,” said Jimmy Crippen, Competition Dining Series founder and host. “We’re thrilled to do the same in Greenville with the launch of our first South Carolina series. We have chefs from here in Greenville and all over the region, and it’s sure to be a highly competitive tournament.”

 

 

By the end of the 2015 season, the Competition Dining Series will have hosted 80 individual teams of Carolina chefs in three regions of North Carolina: Raleigh, Winston-Salem & Charlotte as well as the series in Greenville, SC.

Graze team shrineUltimately, five regional winning chefs will have received a grand prize of $2,000 and a handmade chef knife by Ironman Forge and each winning team member will have been awarded with Competition Dining’s coveted Red Chef Jacket.  Additionally, all five regional championship teams win the right to move on to compete in the Battle of Champions Final Fire held in October in Raleigh, NC.

Winners and winning teams so far for the 2015 season include: Chef Ryan Conklin and team REX Healthcare in Raleigh; Chef Joe Cornett and team The Flipside Restaurant in Rock Hill, SC and Chef Brent Martin and team The Summit Room in Charlotte, NC and most recently Chef Richard Miller and team Graze in Winston Salem.

Who will the Greenville, SC winner be? Only time will tell. But time goes fast, so if you want to come and see for your self, make your Greenville reservations now!

An interactive culinary experience, Competition Dining is unlike any other dining event in the country. and as host Jimmy Crippen is fond of saying, “Its the most fun you can have on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night!”

Make Your Reservations Today Online at CompetitionDining.com; click on the Greenville Icon OR SIMPLE USE THE RESERVATION LINKS IN THIS POST. I’ll be at each and every Greenville Battle – Hope to see you there! 

For more information: visit www.competitiondining.com or get in on the conversation at www.facebook.com/competitiondining and @CompDiningNC on Twitter or Instagram

 

 

Making a list, Checking it Twice – Heidi Billotto’s Restaurant Guide of Great Charlotte Spots to Wine and Dine

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODA Few of my Favorite Finds

When I moved to Charlotte nearly 40 years ago, if you wanted wine or a cocktail with dinner it meant brown bagging and there was no such thing as pizza delivery or valet parking. Now, as we end 2014 and  move headstrong into 2015, Charlotte’s culinary skyline continues to expand and the nation is starting to pay attention.  Great chef-driven restaurants abound in every neighborhood; new locally-owned restaurants are opening every day. 

The list in this post was first published and is up online in the current issue of Charlotte Living magazine. It started as a Baker’s Dozen round up of 2014 – a bakers dozen to give myself a cushion from only listing a top ten. But then 10 grew to 20 and, well, you know the story. This list is not a finite one, but a work in progress.

The problem with a list of any kind is that once you write it and publish it, a new place opens or you rediscover old favorites you want to add. So this list starts as a post  and then next week  it will be become a page on my blog at HeidiBillottoFood.com under its own tab.  In the weeks and months ahead, I’ll add to it with updates of new finds, old favorites and don’t miss places in a dedicated blog post out each week on Wednesday or Thursday with enough time for you to make weekend plans..

My hope is for it to grow into a list of great places to simply eat or wine and dine your way across the  Carolinas.

It is in alphabetical order and offers something for everyone, suiting every palate and pocketbook. Most of these restaurants opened this year or late in 2013, but some are old favorites I just had to mention.  

Your favorite places on my list may vary from day to day depending on your mood but  I can promise there is not a wrong choice in the bunch. Take the tasting into your own hands and check back weekly for additions and updates and even some video from my monthly Charlotte Today restaurant segments.

Enjoy! – Heidi Billotto

 

The Asbury – Off the lobby of the historic Dunhill Hotel at 235 North Tryon Street. Call 704.342.1193. Visit DunhillHotel.com/Dining. Under the watch of executive chef Chris Coleman the Asbury offers modern southern cuisine with a farm to fork approach with a menu that honor the past and celebrates each seasons supporting local farms, farmers and producers along the way. Private dining rooms separate bar area and lounge The Asbury on Urbanspoon

Baku Robata Bar and Lounge – 415 Sharon Road, Call 704.817.7173. Visit Baku-restaurant.com        Japanese cuisine featuring  Robata and Yakitori grilled seafood and meat specialties as well as unique presentations of sushi and sashimi. All of it beautifully done. Tapas style serving, so go prepared to share items at the table. At the bar, an extensive collection of premium sake, wines , beers and craft cocktails – this writer’s favorite – the kumquat infused Sazerac made with candied kumquats, Russell’s reserve rye, Absinthe and lemon juice Baku-Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Bonterra Dining and Wine Room – 1829 Cleveland Ave, Charlotte, NC 28203  Call 704.333.9463. Visit BonterraDining.com.       The band is back together again at this old Charlotte favorite reinvented  in the fall of 2014 with the return of Chef Blake Hartwick doing great new things  and taking the menu back with a whole new and delicious farm to fork vibe along with pastry chef  Jason Lemon and sous chef Mike Long.. Nightly  food and drink bar specials, incredible desserts, excellent service staff, lots of room and great opportunities for private events. Private rooms, wine cellar dining, catering, great venue for weddings and receptions Bonterra on Urbanspoon

Dean & DeLuca Wine Room – 6903 Phillips Place Court, Charlotte, NC. Call 704.643.5152; Visit Deananddeluca.com/aboutus/northcarolina  Made in America  wine comprised of many tasty selections all available by the bottle, the glass or the taste. Red and white flights, plus a long list of domestic and imported beers. Enjoy the a menu of delicious fresh made options many featuring local ingredients. For something light, think snacking and sharing and turn to the list of cheese and charcuterie (complete with several vegetarian pates) or small plates. For something more, there is a short list of flavorful entrees and desserts to help finish it all off in style. Gift Baskets, Catering, Patio Dining Dean & Deluca's Wine Room on Urbanspoon

E2 emerils eatery – 135 Levine Avenue of the Arts #100, Charlotte, NC. Call 704.414.4787. Visit emerilsrestaurants.com/e2-emerils-eatery           Chef de Cuisine Brian Motola at the helm of the talented team in this Uptown eatery channeling  owner  and creator Emeril Lagasse’s take on  New Orleans-inspired American cuisine. Motola uses many local and regional products on the menu which changes seasonally. Top notch wait staff will make you feel right at home.  For a quick bite at breakfast or lunch patrons can also enjoy e2 to go and to make it more convenient you can order ahead online ( via computer or mobile device) and pick up within 30 minutes. But at dinner plan to go, relax and take it all in course by course. The tuna crudo, beef carparcio and wood roasted oysters are great ways to start. Salads and entrees delicious, too; but be sure to pace yourself and save room at dessert time for the banana cream pie, oh my!        Separate bar area, patio dining,  private rooms, wine dinners,  catering E2 Emeril's Eatery on Urbanspoon

Fig Tree Restaurant – 1601 E. 7th Street, Charlotte, NC Call 704.322.3322; Visit CharlotteFigTree.com        Fine seasonal cuisine with French and Italian influences.  This beautifully restored building  is The Lucas House, a registered historic landmark home and a fine example of a 1913 Craftsman Bungalow nestled at the corner of 7th street and Louise Ave in the charming Elizabeth neighborhood. Top notch staff with attention paid to every detail. Owned and operated by chef and proprietress Greg and Sara Zanitsch. Award winning wine list – you will leave wanting for nothing but to come and enjoy it all over again.    Private Rooms, patio Dining, separate bar area, wine dinners, annual game dinner, catering The Fig Tree Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Heirloom Restaurant – at 8470 Bellhaven Blvd.  Charlotte, NC 28216; Call  704.595.7710; Visit HeirloomRestaurantNC.com           Chef Clark Barlowe’s flavors are intricate, texture is key, and each plate a work of art as good to look at as it is to eat! Tasting menu’s are fun and a great way to try it all.  It’s nearly impossible to make a recommendation as every dish in this all local from North Carolina restaurant changes from day to day, but guests at Heirloom will delight in knowing that they are enjoying any given menu item at the height of just harvested flavor. Private dining room, cooking classes and farm dinners. Heirloom Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Heritage Food and Drink – 201 W, South Main Street, Waxhaw, NC 28173 . Call 704.843.5236 . Visit HeritageFoodAndDrink.com           Chef Paul Verica’s vision for Heritage? To bring the idea of tradition back to life and to celebrate the bounty of our region and the seasonality of local product . Verica’s  personal take on New American Cuisine style finds his menu featuring the best in each local product. Supporting farms and producers from around the region, Verica incorporates molecular gastronomy’s powders and sprays in a way that simply feels right. This baker of biscuits and doughnuts also serves small plates layered in Mason jars, just for the fun of it. Big flavors make for a very satisfying dining experience, indeed. Catering Heritage Food and Drink on Urbanspoon

Fahrenheit  Charlotte – Fahrenheit Charlotte is located  at 222 S Caldwell St in the Hyatt Place Hotel, Charlotte, NC 28202;  Call 980.237.6718; visit ChefRoccoWhalen.com                                                                                      One of the Queen City’s newest and highest dining establishments. The venue – 21 floors up – undoubtedly has the best view in the city. The menu, which changes quarterly, lives up to the striking atmosphere with an air of creative yet comfortable sophistication. I’m crazy about the ramen noodle appetizer , but don’t miss the short ribs, the potato starter or any of the seafood entrees –  the level, quality and presentation of each dish delights. Nightly specials Private rooms, catering, separate bar Fahrenheit on Urbanspoon

Flipside Café – 3150 Highway 21 North, Fort Mill SC, 29715. Call  803.802.1711.  Visit theflipsidecafesc.com      This little casual café in the Regency Park strip mall in Ft. Mill is owned and operated by a talented husband and wife team of chefs: Jon and Amy Fortes . The Flipside kitchen  is turning out big flavors – lots of them local and all of them fresh and delicious. Check it out -Breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner – great kids’ offerings with tasty rather grown-up, well seasoned choices. And even though Amy’s palate may be pork-centric, there are lots of vegetarian selections on the menu too!  Chef Jon Fortes was the winner of the 2013 and 2014 Competition Dining Fire in the City Championship and went on take the 2014 state wide title as well.  Catering The FlipSide Cafe on Urbanspoon

Fork! – 20517 N Main St, Cornelius, NC Call 704.655.7465 Visit ForkRestaurantCornelius.com                      Fork! is home to chef Tom Groody, a true frontrunner among chefs in Charlotte, Tim was the very first here to ever put a farmers’ name on the menu. Groody’s style is clean and uncomplicated ; paying homage to the vast array of locally sourced ingredients on his menu.  Menu changes daily and featured items change with the season. This old home turned restaurant is a charming venue  with on the porch seating in suitable weather. Separate bar area. catering Fork! on Urbanspoon

 Kabab Je Rotisserie and Grill – 2233 Matthews Township Pkwy. Sycamore Commons  Mathews NC.  Call 704-845-0707.  Visit kababje.com         This great little place just keeps getting better and better, from classic Hummus  to stuffed grape leaves to the grilled lamb and chicken shawarma. Don’t miss the Za’taar “pizza”, the roasted cauliflower, the falafel and the chick pea and broad bean appetizer called Ful Mudammas.  With a host of sweet syrupy Middle Eastern desserts, a tiny cup of Lebanese coffee made with cardamom is the perfect finish.  Patio dining and Catering, too! Kabab-Je Rotisserie and Grille on Urbanspoon

Little Spoon Eatery – 2820 Selwyn Ave, Charlotte, NC 28209 Call (704) 496-9908  Visit LittleSpoonEatery.com/ “ the little spot right on the corner”, this neighborhood spot for breakfast and lunch is taking the Myers Park neighborhood by storm,  chef Miles Payne at the helm using local ingredients and supporting local farms in almost all of his breakfast and lunch offerings. Its all good, but I can’t get past the homemade pop tarts, the bowl of frothy cappuccino and the over easy eggs with toast. Weekends are packed, so go on a weekday and take the time to relax and enjoy before you start your day. Patio dining, take out

Lumiere French Kitchen – 1039 Providence Rd Call 704.372.3335 Visit lumieremyerspark.com The newest culinary adventure by  Chef Tom Condron and restaurateur Matthew Pera. These two long time Charlotte culinarians, owners of the very successful gastropub, The Liberty on South Blvd, have taken a more formal turn at Lumiere. Don’t miss the Wild Mushroom “Lyonnaise” salad or the Mediterranean White Sea Bass with roasted with olives, basil and lemons, beluga lentils, mushrooms and herb butter. Excellent staff, tremendous wine offerings and a host of classic French dishes with Chef Condron’s modern twist. Taking it up a notch in Charlotte,  Lumiere French Kitchen is located in the heart of Myers Park bringing modern French cuisine to the Queen City. Wine dinners, Cooking classes, catering Lumiere French Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Mama Ricotta’s  – 601 S Kings Dr, Charlotte, NC; Call 704.343.0148. Visit MamaRicottasrestaurant.com Great neighborhood spot for classic Italian and  American Italian fare, all exceptionally well done. From scratch sauces, homemade cheeses and sausages, fresh baked bread and from scratch pastas made from high quality imported Italian ingredients.  Competition Dining semi finalist chef Tom Dyrness heads the team as executive chef and menu favorites include:  the meatballs or Polpette Al Forno, the grilled salmon and arugula salad, any of the pastas and the pizza hot out of the wood burning oven. Mama’s is the flagship restaurant of owner Frank Scibelli’s FS Foods chain that includes Midwood Smokehouse, Pacos Tacos,  and a huge catering division as well.   Patio dining, full separate bar, catering Lumiere French Kitchen on Urbanspoon

 

Passion 8 -1523 Elizabeth Avenue Charlotte, NC, 28204. Call 704.910. 3161. Visit ThePassion8.com                   Owned by chef Luca Annunziata and his lovely wife Jessica, Passion 8 Bistro moved  from its tiny home in Ft. Mill to bigger newer more sophisticated digs in Charlotte on Elizabeth Ave. in Charlotte in late October. While the surrounds are new, Chef Luca and his staff continue to supporting nearly 75 different local farms across  North and South Carolina and serve their own contemporary style of farm to fork cuisine.  Looks for special theme dinners and cooking classes too.  The new interiors are soft and sophisticated yet warm and inviting; with the same family friendliness and incredible local fare and flair that has always made you want to come back for more. Make your reservations now for the weeks and months ahead – its gonna be a hot spot in town, for sure. Now serving lunch as well! Private rooms, chefs table, catering, craft cocktails, separate bar Passion8 on Urbanspoon

The Summit Room1531 East Blvd. Call 980.237.2227 . Visit thesummitrm.com         In a clever and creative move, The Summit Room owners also own the adjacent restaurant The MayoBird and the two dining establishments share this picturesque porch and patio. The MayoBird is open for breakfast and lunch, while The Summit Room with Chef Brent Martin at the helm in the kitchen is open from early afternoon till the wee hours of the evening. But at night, the space at MayoBird is available for private events.   Chef Martin has come into his own at the helm of this kitchen, doing some really innovative things with the menu. Love that the menu changes at his whim, with the weather, and with the availability of local product. Specials are always great – the hand cut fries are incredible!  Private rooms, seating at the bar, catering The Summit Room on Urbanspoon

Stagioni   – 715 Providence Rd. in the Eastover neighborhood. Call 704.372.8110. Visit stagioniclt.com       Stagioni, the third jewel in Chef Bruce Moffett’s triple crown of restaurants including Barrington’s and Good Food on Montford opened  to rave reviews and  standing room only crowds. The menu, which changes with the seasons, features deliciously done Italian classics with a fresh, modern twist. The food, like that in each of the Moffett Group restaurants is beyond reproach; and the atmosphere at Stagioni is, well, the Moffett website says it best, “The Moffett’s know from experience that life’s greatest memories unfold around the dinner table. Stagioni ( is the perfect place) to bring family and friends together.” Separate bar, catering Stagioni on Urbanspoon

 

Terra – 545 Providence Road, Charlotte NC; Call 704.332.1886; Visit TerraCharlotte.com.  A quaint little neighborhood French café you’re going to love. The menu changes with the seasons, the service is very personal and the feel is classic French right down to owner Thierry Garconnet, who is living his dream of bringing a taste of his home town in Paris back to the states. This charming little bistro is tucked away at the end of a small strip right next to Starbucks, but don’t let the casual surrounds fool you, the food is the real deal. Daily specials include: Tuesdays: All you can eat Mussels; Wednesdays: Pasta Special and Thursday: Half price wine  Patio Dining Terra on Urbanspoon

 Va da Vie Gelato – 4203 Park Road  Call 980.201.9159. This free standing building  with the little patio offers big flavors inside –flavors like homemade, almond,  pistachio, coffee bean, chocolate hazelnut, lemon ricotto, local strawberry and blueberry and pineapple and mango! It’s all in the guise of homemade gelato by owners John and Wendy Paglia  who use all local product to make their Piedmontese style gelato and sorbet. No bases or mixes just local Homeland Dairy milk and cream and real fruit, fair trade coffee, local cheese and imported Italian nuts –  no chemicals or preservatives.  As this product doesn’t travel well – you can’t really take quantities to go – just gotta eat it there and savor the moment

Wolfgang Puck’s Pizza Bar – Phillips Place Call 704.295.0101 Visit wolfgangPuck.com                  Charlotte’s WP Pizza Bar is Puck’s flagship Pizza Bar Restaurant and offers  a relaxing getaway from to enjoy lunch and dinner. While the menu offers an assortment of appetizers and pasta dishes, for me this place is about the pizza done in Wolfgang’s signature style a la an aromatic wood burning oven.  Puck is in town occasionally but day to day it is the talented Chef Scott Whallen and staff who channel Puck’s vision and creative juices into beautiful  and delicious plates for lunch and dinner. Our go to order is the arugula and asparagus salad lightly dusted with grated Parmesan, teamed with any one of the lists of pizzas – our current faves are the mushroom pizza with rubiola cheese and the slightest drizzling of truffle oil and the margarita pizza – simply perfect for two to share. Wolfgang Puck Pizza | Bar on Urbanspoon

 

Your Moms Donuts – 11025 Monroe Rd, Matthews, NC 28105 Call 803.280.5720 Visit Yourmomsdonuts.com    I’ve talked about these wonderful square-shaped locally-made donuts throughout the year.  The company is owned by Benjamin Frye, chief donut maker and his wife Courtney Buckley, manager of everything else. These truly  gourmet donuts are made with locally sourced ingredients, including organic, NC grown flour , grass fed dairy, local pasture eggs, and the donuts are fried in freshly rendered  leaf lard!

The best news of 2014 is that Your Moms Donuts is now operating out of its own bricks and mortar location on Monroe Rd. Donuts are available every day but Monday for breakfast and lunch or until they sell out.  Check the website or follow on Facebook @yourmomsdonuts and Instagram @yourmoms_donuts for the daily list of flavors. Large orders in advance. Complimentary delivery is available. Your Mom's Donuts on Urbanspoon