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

 

 

 

Four Day Weekend:Greenville, SC…Yeah, That Greenville WOW!

In need of a September vaca? On the lookout for more food, drink and music than you can shake a stick at? Well, you’ll be glad to know that just an hour and half or so drive south of the Queen City is where its at! Greenville, SC is a great three or four day weekend getaway.

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Shoeless Joe Jackson statue in Greenville

Greenville, SC is the home of Duke’s Mayonnaise, baseball’s Shoeless Joe Jackson (you can visit his home, now a museum); Fluor Baseball Field, modeled after Fenway Park with its own smaller version of the “Green Monster”;  Furman University, and The Liberty Bridge, a suspension pedestrian bridge that stretches over the Falls on the Reedy River which flows through the city.  

Greenville, SC is also just a stones throw from the high tech BMW manufacturing plant (where tours are also available) in Spartanburg SC in one direction and Clemson University ( home of Clemson Blue Cheese) in the other. Add all that to the  fact that the city’s annual extravaganza dubbed euphoria is right around the corner – the weekend of September 22-25 to be exact – makes timing for a Greenville Getaway practically perfect!

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You can still get tickets to this  four-day weekend that features celebrated chefs (including Chef Chris Coleman from Stoke restaurant & Coco and the Director at the Marriott Uptown, Chef Clark Barlowe from Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte and Chef Joe Kindred from Kindred’s in Davidson); plus lots of beverage professionals, celebrity singers and songwriters, and a diverse offering of wines, craft beers, and spirits.

euphoria 2016 offers over 30 all-inclusive events – from a tasting event appropriately named Feast by the Field to a food truck rodeo to multi-course dinners with wine pairings. Certainly something to fit every foodie style! 

Get your tickets to euphoria 2016 and then plan a Greenville getaway while you are there.

Three of my favorite places to stay in Greenville include a great little B&B, a historic hotel and a contemporary getaway just outside of the city

IMG_1932The Swamp Rabbit Inn, 1 Logan St, Greenville,  is located just two blocks off Main Street and as is the case with most B&B’s offers a  great alternative to a regular hotel stay. With a half dozen rooms, several with private baths, this fun & funky, colorful comfortable home offers guests a full kitchen, shared living room space and great back deck. In addition, you are welcome to bring your bicycle or rent one here.

If you didn’t already know Greenville is a town of cyclists and the owners and staff at Swamp Rabbit Inn & the adjoining Bike Shed can help you plan your route and get you hooked up with anything you need. If you’d rather not cycle, the convenient location is an easy walk away from everything happening on Main Street.

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For more conventional hotel lodging, stay in the historic Westin Poinsett, 120 S Main St, Greenville, SC.This elegant hotel  is right in the midst of  all the Main street actions an each walk from The Peace Center performing arts venue or to Falls Park on the Reedy. The hotel’s 1920 roots remain in the stunning foyer of the hotel while the rooms offer a taste of modern day luxury.

If you just need some space, but still  want to be close enough not to miss out – then book  room at Hotel Domestique10 Rd of Vines, Travelers Rest, SC,homefullwidthjust 30-40 mins outside of Greenville center city . This stunning European villa is owned by world renowned cyclist George Hincapie, and while programs and activities are geared towards bicyclist enthusiasts, bike or no, its a wonderful place to take a day or two and get away from it all. A salt water pool, yoga classes and on property massage services are just a few of the amenities.And while you are there be sure to make dinner reservations at the hotel’s  Restaurant 17.

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Overhead view of the Sobe’s open kitchen from Table 301

For dining in town, just stroll down Main Street to check out all of your options. Several of my favorites are all a part of the Table 301 group which includes The Lazy Goat, Passerelles Bistro, located right at the entrance to The Falls at the Reedy and the restaurant that started it all, Soby’s. At Soby’s, upstairs with a perfect view of the open kitchen and the rest of the restaurant is the original Table #301, the best seat in the house,, for which the ever growing restaurant group is named. When you make reservations ( and yes, you do want to make reservations) at Soby’s, be sure to ask for Table 301.

IMG_2018If you are in shopping mode, you can’t miss Beija-Flor Denim Salon.  Actually this shop is worth the drive down to Greenville in and of itself and while you can purchase these jeans online, its worth taking a looksee in person at the Greenville, SC Beija-Flor  located  at 618 South Main Street.

The graphics on the window offer a quote saying “These jeans changed my life” and indeed truer words were never spoken. The concept was started by two women who wanted other women to look and feel good in what they wear. To that end, they work with sustainable and sometimes recycled denim to make the best looking, best fitting jeans ever. I’m sold – you really just have to see for yourself, visit them when you are in Greenville or check it all out online. They really do offer the perfect fit.

IMG_1836Set and looking good in your new jeans, as you walk down Main Street in Greenville, you’ll pass the entrance to Falls Park. Each time I visit Greenville, I like to start my day with a walk around the falls, its peaceful and centering way to start the day. Start with a stroll across the Liberty Bridge and then wind your way along the river. Lots of public art and bronze sculpture all around the city; and beautiful sculptured gardens en route- even under the overpasses.

IMG_1838And if you have to work -what better place than in a park – when need a break from the flourescents – take your laptop outside and check email while you sit along side the river, as the entire center city is wifi-ed.

If you are out to exercise, walk or bike all or part of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Developed with a grant by theGreenville Health System, the 19 and some mile Swamp Rabbit Trail links the cities of Travelers Rest and Greenville. Directional signs and maps abound so its hard to loose your way.

swamp-rabbit-cafe-greenville-scAlong the trail, or by car, just a short drive from Main Street, be sure to include a stop at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery.

IMG_2147Great sammies here all make on fresh baked Stecca Bread. If you’ve a passion for local foodstuffs, this is the place. Part old fashioned grocery, part farmers’ market, part sandwich and coffee shop – take it all in and enjoy.

IMG_2165And finally, while  we are talking local and while you are in the Greenville area; follow my lead and take the circuitous route back home vis a vis a stop in Belton SC at the wonderfully infamous Grits & Groceries restaurant.  The restaurant is really between Belton and Due West, SC but for GPS purposes Belton will be what pops up. Run by husband and wife team Heidi and Joe Trull, the Grits & Groceries concept really deserves a blog post all its own, and I promise one is in the works, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include it here and truth is – one most really experience a meal at Grits & Groceries, rather than just read about it,  to truly appreciate it all.

The restaurant’s tag line is “Real Food. Done IMG_2168Really Good.” and that about says it. Pretty much, Heidi cooks, Joe bakes; and with each dish is a big heapin’ handful of oh so Southern Hospitality from these talented and just plain friendly folk. The couple traveled the world sharing their culinary craft as they went, but when it came time to raise a family, they decided to come back to the country to settle down.

The restaurant is in an historic building, once home to an old country store at Saylors Crossroads,  at the junction of South Carolina state highways 185 and 284. Get set to enjoy a fine taste of all that is local in this part of South Carolina from Heidi’s pimento cheese balls to Joes fried pies.

If you’ve got a hunger  for more before you can make the pilgrimmage, pick up a copy of the Trull’s newly released cookbook, you can order one here. But then just plan a date to enjoy a weekday breakfast or lunch or weekend brunch  and get on the road. How do you know when you are there? Just look for Rudy – the Giant Rooster on the corner – the restaurant stands right behind him

When 2 Chefs are Better than 1: A Chefs Collaborative Dinner

chefchriscoleman-copyThe Asbury Restaurant located in the Dunhill Hotel in Uptown boasts a creatively crafted menu of Modern Southern cuisine. The underlying mantra of each meal and seasonal menu is to honor the past, celebrate the seasons and to keep looking forward. Under the direction of  Charlotte native Chef Chris Coleman, food and beverage director at The Dunhill and at the helm since The Asbury’s inception in 2014.

The restaurant now operates with what most would call a dream team of chefs. With Coleman, Chef Matthews Krenz, chef de cuisine and pastry chef Jossie Perlemutter are at the restaurants core. The trio heads a great culinary team of line cooks,  service staff and beverage aficionados who make a culinary concept that features  regional heirloom ingredients as well as specialty items grown by small, family farms throughout the region, work Chef Coleman searches out the best quality he can find—much of it coming from within the local region work, in spades.

Just after The Asbury’s first anniversary in 2015, Coleman thought it would be fun to reach out to farmers and friends and feature them at special monthly dinners, and so began The Asbury’s  Collaborative Series. After all what could be better than two great chefs working on one dinner together?

low country dinner prep“I’ve wanted to do this since I was first hired by The Dunhill, even before the Asbury concept became a reality,” Chris explained. “I’ve got a lot of friends in the industry and to plan a time that we can take a day and cook together, makes it fun. I love what I do on a daily basis, but bringing friends into the kitchen is  a great way to learn from each other,  share new techniques, and see what I do every day from another chef’s perspective.”

Each dinner in the series has a separate seasonal theme and  brings together chefs, food lovers, farmers, and artisan food makers together to celebrate the bounty of our state and region.

IIMG_8221 was delighted to attend the first Asbury collaborative dinner of 2016 with pooling the talents of The Asbury’s Chris Coleman and Executive Chef Ben Harris from Poogan’s Porch Restaurant in Charleston, SC.

It was a night of Lowcountry feasting and fun and even now as I write, I can still taste the nuances of every individual dish. I knew that any evening that started with Chris and Ben shucking oysters in the bar was going to be great and my hunch was not wrong. I’ve noted a couple of my favorite courses from that memorable Taste of the Low Country dinner below, and if you weren’t there, you be sad to know what you missed.

But just so that doesn’t happen again, you first must know about a similar opportunity TONIGHT you will not want to miss…all of the info you need to know to be a part of tonights  exciting beer -centric dinner is at the end of this post. Meantime here is just a taste  of the Lowcountry dinner and what you can anticipate from this wonderful chef’s Collaborative concept.

 

IMG_8228Back in March the dinner started with serve-yourself bright briny  local oysters  served on the half shell and no one was shy about helping themselves. Accoutrements included hot sauce, lemon and a fermented cabbage or sauerkraut mignonette of sorts that was to die for. Truth be told I could have bellied up to the oyster bar all evening,  and finished off the jar of sour cabbage and the remainder of the oysters all by my lonesome; but as the crowd was called into the dining room, I knew I didn’t want to miss the culinary adventures that waited ahead.

IMG_8240The First Course and the third plate were both tired and true Chris Coleman. To start a picnic plate  comprised of boiled farm eggs, pickled okra, Benton’s ham, chicken liver mousse, pimiento cheese, spiced nuts, and olives. A recent trip to Charleston inspired the platter shared at our table. Each little bit was in and of itself a wonderful way to begin the post oyster repast. Coleman’s second plate, the third course, was Hoppin’ John. It was simple and delicious, and I could have eaten bowlfuls. With a nod to the heirloom varieties of rice and beans

IMG_8238The second plate of the evening was Ben Harris’ She-Crab Soup with NC Roe, Sherry and Cultured Butter . This plate came with all of the soup’s core ingredients artistically arranged on the inside  rim of the bowl and then the warm rich broth was poured tableside.

A presentation like this seems to often leave the diner puzzled; questioning just how best to eat this veritable work of art in the bowl. At first we sipped the broth and took a small taste of each of the components – the row, the butter, the foam, but in the end, found the best way to enjoy this as it was intended was to stir the ingredients to blend the individual flavors into one. The result was nothing short of spectacular.  I must admit, I thought I had come to the place were I was over the presentation of a deconstructed plate, but this bowl of soup may have changed my mind.

It was a playful presentation allowing us to experience each of the components of the dish before they were rolled into one. With a simple stir each dinner guest turned sous chef  as we found ourselves compounding the flavors in the bowl. Whats fun for the chef is fun for the diner as well – gotta love  the opportunity for a bit of interactive dining.

IMG_8242Chef Harris also presented the fourth course, this one a bit more traditionally  presented  but full of fresh and refined flavors. Harris’ Shrimp and Grits was served with Jimmy red grits, house made tasso, an incredible Burnt Tomato, preserved lemon and benne. If you needed a reason to go to Charleston and see what Ben Harris is doing at Poogan’s Porch, this course might be it.

The dessert course brought out another talent from the Asbury kitchen as it will again tonight.  Whatever The Asbury’s Pastry Chef, Jossie Perlmutter creates is always a crowd pleasing sweet finish to the evening.

Tonight, Tuesday April 26 The Asbury’s Chef Chris Coleman invites Hickory’s Highland Avenue Chef Kyle McKnight and Durham’s Fullsteam Brewery for a night of Carolina feasting and fun. Chris and Kyle are just coming off two separate dinners served at the James Beard House in New York, so the stories these chefs have to tell should be worth the price of the admission alone. Add to that this incredible 5 course meal, each course paired with pour of Fullsteam and well, if you are not planning on being at The Asbury tonight then you will really be missing something! Its not too late to make a reservation…  Cost is $65  Reserve your seat now: http://bit.ly/SaveMySeatAtTheAsbury or call 704.342.1193

 

IIMG_8983 was fortunate to meet Chef Kyle McKnight from Highland Avenue in Hickory, NC just last month at his annual Kyle and Friends extravaganza.  Here we are with Chef Sam Stachon, formally of Kings Kitchen here in Charlotte and now baking up a storm in Hickory at Highland Ave.

Chef Kyle McKnight says a need for new sneakers landed him in a restaurant kitchen. As a teen, the Woodbridge, Virginia native needed money for a pair of Adidas and found work washing dishes in a local restaurant. The creative, high-energy atmosphere filled with camaraderie inspired McKnight to pursue a career as a chef.

A graduate of Johnson and Wales University, McKnight’s career led him through Europe, Charleston, Miami, St. John and Argentina. In 2012, McKnight was named Best Chef America for his commitment to the Slow Food movement and his advocacy of local farmers while at manna in Wilmington, N.C.
McKnight moved to Hickory, N.C. in 2013 to assume the role of Executive Chef on the opening team of Highland Avenue, the farm-to-table destination restaurant on the second floor of the beautifully renovated Hollar Hosiery Mill. His proud achievements include designing the kitchen, menu development and establishing the restaurant’s unique charcuterie program. Under his direction Highland Avenue has been named one of “The South’s Best Restaurants” by Southern Living.

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Kyle tonight at The Asbury and see what he is cooking up with Charlotte’s own Chef Chris Coleman and Fullsteam Brewery’s Sean Lily Wilson. Sean is owner and Chief Executive Optimist of Fullsteam, a “plow to pint” brewery and tavern in Durham, NC.

Its going to be spectacular and it is after all, NC Beer Month, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate! Hope to see you there.  Cost is $65  The link for reservations again is: http://bit.ly/SaveMySeatAtTheAsbury or call 704.342.1193

 

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
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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

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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

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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

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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

 

Weekend One of Charlotte’s 2014 Spring Show Cooking Stage: Recap & Recipes

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgIt is, each and every year, my great pleasure to coordinate the chefs and host the culinary action on the Southern Shows Spring Home and Garden Show cooking stage in late February and then again I do the same in August for the Southern Shows Ideal Home show.
This year the spring show ran two consecutive weekends in a row and with nearly 60 different chefs, sous chefs, foodies and farmers making appearances on stage, every hour on the hour, the action was hot!

With so many different chefs I made the decision to make the stage “paperless” this year – so aside from coupons, business cards and menus for the crowd to pick up and share, there were no printed recipes.

bannerInstead of all the paper,  my good friends at Charlotte Living magazine have created a Southern Spring Home & Garden cooking stage landing page where readers will find an index of all the participating chefs, links to their printed recipes and further links to restaurant, chef, farm and shop websites. the link to the recipe index from the first weekend is at the end of this post; recipes for the second weekend will be up next week and I’ll soon write a recap blog post for that as well –  but first a brief recap of the first weekend of fun, food and flavor!

Heidi and Tom in the Booth  spring show 2-14

Heidi and Tom Billotto in Charlotte NC at the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show 2014

As I mentioned, this year, The Southern Spring & Garden show ran Feb 22 – Feb 24 and Feb 28 – Mar 2, While I was at the Cooking Stage, my very talented husband Musician Tom Billotto, was performing instrumental and vocals in the show’s gardens. We sold his CD, Two and A Half Guitars, at the Heidi Billotto & Friends booth directly across from the  cooking stage and then we played it between chefs  –  the crowd seemed to enjoy the blending of food and mood.

If you missed purchasing Tom’s CD for a little food and mood of your own – its available through his website – look for the link at the end of this post.

So what follows is the low down on the line up of first weekend chefs, farmers and foodies that I am proud to call my friends and colleagues as they shared their skills, tips and techniques with the audience. – Thank you every one!

 

Heidi Billotto with Cantina 1511's Vince Giancarlo and Greg Balch

Heidi Billotto with Cantina 1511’s Vince Giancarlo and Greg Balch

Chefs Vince Giancarlo, Kyle Biddy and Greg Balch from Cantina 1511 kicked things off on Feb 21 at 11 am preparing Al Pastor Pork from Cantina’s new spring menu.

Al Pastor Pork on a griddle fried corn arapas

Al Pastor Pork on a griddle fried corn arapas

This delicious little bite is one you should certainly request when next you eat at either of Cantinas two locations – the big news is that the East Blvd. location will soon be moving to Park Road Shopping Center – stay tuned on these blog pages and on my Facebook page for details as they happen.

Paul Verica and his son Alex from Heritage Food and Drink

Paul Verica and his son Alex from Heritage Food and Drink

Baby bacon Doughnuts from chefs Paul and Alex Verica

Baby bacon Doughnuts from chefs Paul and Alex Verica

As it turned out it was a pork-centric beginning to the day as Chef Paul Verica and his son Alex followed with his version of the story of  “The Three Little Pigs” done Hertitage Food and Drink style with Maple Glazed Pork Belly, Pulled pork with old school biscuits and  Bacon Doughnuts, oh my!

A big supporter of local farmers and farmers markets, Paul has spent the last 20 years developing his personal style of New American Cuisine, and  the opening of Heritage Food & Drink in downtown Waxhaw NC  the culmination of years of hard work and dedication – like all the restaurants featured in this post Heritage is well worth your consideration next time you plan to enjoy dinner out!

Heidi with Chef Bill Bigham

Heidi with Chef Bill Bigham

Then the day on the stage took a turn toward poultry with Private chef Chef Bill Bigham who shared his quick and easy recipe for Mojito Chicken.

Chris Coleman from The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel

Chris Coleman from The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel

Bill was followed by Chef Chris Coleman from The Asbury at The Dunhill Hotel, a modern southern restaurant that honors the past, celebrates the seasons, and looks forward serving break fast lunch and dinner 7 days a week. Chris followed the poultry theme  preparing Cured and pan roasted duck with NC peanut Farro Risotto using local duck local peanuts and local farro – Chris is another big believer in the farm to fork concept and the menu at The Asbury reflects this philosophy.

Heidi Billotto with chefs David Moore and Kelly Morrow from The Gallery

Heidi Billotto with chefs David Moore and Kelly Morrow from The Gallery

North Carolina Peanut

North Carolina Peanut

Chef David Moore from The Gallery at Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge was also inspired by all things local and Southern as he too worked with NC peanuts, crafting the legume into a delicious brittle that sported quick a kick as he added South Carolina’s now famous hot sauce, The Grim Reaper, grown and produced by the Puckerbutt Hot Sauce Company in Ft Mill, SC. The Grim reaper chili has recently been classified as the hottest Chili in the world by the fine folks at Guinness who keep all the records!

Private chef Jill Aker-Ray

Private chef Jill Aker-Ray

Rachel Klebaur from Orrman's cheese shop

Rachel Klebaur from Orrman’s cheese shop

Private chef Jill Aker Ray lightened things up a bit with her easy Primavera sauce and I followed with Rachel Klebaur of Orrman’s Cheese Shop, making my recipes for Local Bosky Acres goat cheese fondue and beer cheese stuffed jalapenos.

Greg and Subrina Collier from The Yolk in Rock Hill

Greg and Subrina Collier from The Yolk in Rock Hill

Later, I took the stage once more to share perfect pairings of Pour Olive ultra premium extra virgin olive oils and artisan Balsamic vinegars and then Chef Greg Collier put a cap on the evening as he entertained the crowd while he prepared a twist on a breakfast classic – steel cut oats. Instead of making a sweet oatmeal, Greg transformed the oats into a melt in your mouth mushroom risotto – what a way to end our first day and one reason you should definitely check out the breakfast menus at The Yolk located in Rock Hill, SC!
 

 

Heidi with DJ Ivey and Jon Fortes form Mimosa Grill

Heidi with DJ Ivey and Jon Fortes from Mimosa Grill

The action Continue at a fever pitch on Saturday, Feb 22 with appearances by four of Charlotte’s top restaurant chefs one right after the other:

Carpe Diem's Chef Paul Ketterhagen with his biggest fan

Carpe Diem’s Chef Paul Ketterhagen with his biggest fan

Chef Paul Ketterhagen from Carpe Diem, a fine dining restaurant and catering company
located at 1535 Elizabeth Avenue  in Charlotte delighted show goers with recipes for  a springtime farro salad with a duo of vinaigrettes – look for creative dishes like this one on the carpe diem springtime menu

Chef Sam Stachon from The Kings Kitchen

Chef Sam Stachon from The Kings Kitchen

Then Chef Sam Stachon from The Kings Kitchen a not for profit restaurant in Uptown , with a mission  to help and feed our city’s hungry and homeless, brought it all back home with his melt in your mouth biscuits and sasauge gravy. Kings Kitchen is now open for breakfast and these biscuits are featured on the breakfast and lunch menus.

Chef Tim Groody from Fork! in Cornelius

Chef Tim Groody from Fork! in Cornelius

Smoked pork potstickers by Chef Tim Groody

Smoked pork potstickers by Chef Tim Groody

Show goers were ready for more as Chef Tim Groody from Fork Restaurant  on Main Street in Cornelius, a farms to fork restaurant supporting dozens of local farms in the Carolinas, put an international spin on a bevy of local ingredients to make his tasty smoked local pork pot stickers!

Creole stuffed hushpuppies by chef Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill

Creole stuffed hushpuppies by chef Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill

Chef Jonathan Fortes, winner of the 2013 Fire in the City Competition dining series,  and his team from Mimosa Grill located in Uptown Charlotte, wowed show goers with his  creole stuffed hushpuppies – the crowd, quit literally, ate it all up.

Nada Vergili of Nada's Italy

Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy

a beautiful presentation of homemade Boursin cheese by chef Jill Aker Ray

a beautiful presentation of homemade Boursin cheese by chef Jill Aker Ray

I made real Italian biscotti while Italian travel expert Nada Vergili  expounded on all that is wonderful about traveling in Italy; while private chef Jill Aker-Ray stepped up for  the first of  three separate time slots on stage over the course of the show  sharing her recipes for  primavera sauce, boursin cheese and southern pesto.

On Sunday Feb 23 – The crew from the Papi Queso Food Truck was unable to attend as scheduled, so I stepped in sharing a few tips I’ve learned from Papi Queso and others on making superlative grilled cheese sandwiches  -the big trick is to use real mayo instead of butter on the bread for a truly golden and crispy finish ( the brand is your call but my go-to is Carolinas-made Dukes) – other than that, use interesting breads and fill with your favorite combinations of cheese, fruits, meats and veggies and you’re good to grill!

Heidi Billotto with Chef Nathan Volz from the Ritz -Carlton in Charlotte

Heidi Billotto with Chef Nathan Volz from the Ritz -Carlton in Charlotte

Profiteroles with foie gras filling from Chef Nathan Volz

Profiteroles with foie gras filling from Chef Nathan Volz

I was followed on stage  by a new, very talented, chef in town. So glad to have Nathan Volz, executive sous chef at Charlotte’s Ritz Carlton join us on stage.  Nathan’s “taste of the Ritz- Carlton” this day were bite sized pistachio profiteroles filled with a foie gras mousse – ah – what a way to start the day!

Heidi Billotto with Chef David Lucarelli from The Cowfish

Heidi Billotto with Chef David Lucarelli from The Cowfish

After the foie gras, amuse, so to speak, Chef David Lucarelli from The Cowfish, sushi burger bar, gave the crowd a rundown on making the very best burgers and  cheeseburgers and shared recipes for some of his favorite sauces.

Mary and Ray Roberts-Tarlton with enough fresh picked certified organic spinach  to feed the crowd!

Mary and Ray Roberts-Tarlton with enough fresh picked certified organic spinach to feed the crowd!

Next things took a light turn as Windcrest Farms’ Mary Roberts  joined me on stage to talk about al things organic and to tell guests int he audience how to grow from their own organic gardens.

Windcrest Organic Farms spinach - just beautiful!

Windcrest Organic Farms spinach – just beautiful!

Mary and her husband Ray brought along two huge bags of fresh picked organic spinach which we served to the crowd paired with organic strawberries for a  light spinach salad and then backed with Bosky Acres goat cheese and grated parmigiana reggiana for a rich warm spinach soufflé. We also sautéed this wonderful seasonal green with organic chick peas and tomatoes to create a tasty simply side dish as well. 

Heidi Billotto and chef Ben Philpott

Heidi Billotto and chef Ben Philpott

Inspired by Ben's mustard recipe I went home and made my own local mustard! - seeds soaking here....

Inspired by Ben’s mustard recipe I went home and made my own local mustard! – seeds soaking here….

That afternoon  I welcomed Chef Ben Philpott from Block and Grinder to the stage . At Block & Grinder, Ben makes delicious charcuterie and so he brought some of his duck ham to share with the cooking stage crowd and then he made a homemade mustard to go with. Keeping true to the philosophy that the show must go on, Ben persevered through an explosion of his blender and the fact that the fire alarm in the building went off in the middle of his demo.  After the all clear, we all realized that sometimes you just have to laugh and keep moving on.

Scott MacCabe from the Savory Spice Shop Southend

Scott MacCabe from the Savory Spice Shop Southend

Heidi with Scott and Amy from Savory Spice Shop Southend

Heidi with Scott and Amy from Savory Spice Shop Southend

The weekend ended with a presentation from Amy and Scott McCabe from The Savory Spice Shop SouthEnd  – my go -to place for all spices and herbs sweet and savory. Scott cooked up a rigatoni pasta dish while Amy handed spice samples out to the crowd – the perfect cap off for the evening and the first weekend of the show..

For all the recipes from this talented line up of first weekend of chefs at the cooking stage at the Southern Spring & Garden Show in Charlotte click on over to http://charlottelivingmagazine.com/spring_show_2014/Spring_Show_Recipes.pdf

Each of the recipes on the Charlotte Living site offer links to the chef restaurants and websites… recipes from the second weekend of chefs will be up and online mid March 2014. 

Meanwhile, for more information about any of our first weekend chefs  – just follow these links to get to their respective websites ….

For more information on me, Heidi Billotto and my cooking classes – friend me on Facebook at Heidi Billotto or follow me on Twitter at @heidicooks  and follow this blog and all the details will come to you as I post…

 

Feeling Romantic? Six Sensational Spots to Dine with Your Valentine

This photo is from the first restaurant segment I did for Charlotte Today in August 2013 - now, happy to say, it has turned into a monthly segment with show hosts Colleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway

This photo is from the first restaurant segment I did for Charlotte Today in August 2013 – now, happy to say, it has turned into a monthly segment with show hosts Colleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway

As many of you know, each month I present a “where to dine” restaurant segment on WCNC’s Charlotte Today program. Every 4-6 weeks the show’s producers and I select a topic or theme  and I choose 5-6 restaurants to chat about on air. As February is the month of hearts and flowers, this month’s challenge was to gather a group of Romantic restaurants to share with Charlotte Today viewers and this Blog’s readers.

There was a time in here in Charlotte  that gathering this many outstanding chef driven restaurants may have been a daunting task, but in 2014 there are lots of wonderful restaurants I could have put on this list – I chose the six that for me ( and my hubby Tom Billotto) have come to be the most romantic. For me, a part of that is that these are all chef-driven establishments, with chefs, sous chefs pastry chefs and line chefs who all cook from their hearts. That love and passion is conveyed in the cuisine, making dining out a true pleasure for the mind, body and soul.

No matter if you are just kindling or trying to respark the fire, Romance doesn’t just happen on Feb 14 – enjoy a romantic dinner any night of the week and know that  these fine dining establishments run wine tastings and dinners, special cooking classes and prix fixe menus at all different times of the year, as do many of Charlotte’s chef-driven and independent restaurants.  I’ve added notes about upcoming February events at each post as well as links to all of the restaurant websites at the end of this article, so start making plans now and plan  to try them all – There was never more wonderful time in the Queen City, with more possibilities  for  delighting in dining aux deux, than now…enjoy!

Behind the scenes: finished plates sit atop a Rubbermaid hand cart until it was time to shoot the restaurant segment

Behind the scenes: finished plates sit atop a Rubbermaid hand cart until it was time to shoot the restaurant segment

To enhance the video and the chat with show hosts Colleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway, I ask restaurants to prepare a plate that I can pick up and assemble at the studio – its like having something special to share for show and tell.

Many thanks to all the featured restaurants chefs and sous chefs for helping me out with product for the February segment.  I wish I had taken more behind the scene shots this time. Chefs, sous chefs, pastry chefs and restaurateurs gave me each component of the dish as well as a hand rendered drawing or quick tutorial at pick up as to how to assemble it all.

through the magic of television, these plates would soon be up and center for their close up

through the magic of television, these plates would soon be up and center for their close up

As this segment was on a Monday morning and most of these restaurants weren’t open on Sunday, chefs came in early Monday morning or prepped things for me late on Saturday night or actually came in on Sunday, to help it all come together.

I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of their extra efforts to help me boast about the quality and high caliber that is now standard in the Charlotte restaurant arena . While these are not the only great restaurants in the Queen City, this group of six is great representation of all Charlotte has to brag about.

All of these restaurants are ranked at the top of lists of kudos, yielding recommendation’s not only from this food writer,  but from the likes of Zagat, AAA’s Four Diamond Awards in North and South Carolina, Open Table, the Wine Spectator, DiArona, The Food Network, AOL restaurant rankings, and more. Check individual websites for all the accolades.

From the set of Charlotte Today with hosts Colleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway

From the set of Charlotte Today with hosts Colleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway

To that end, it goes without saying that service, atmosphere and cuisine, too, are all spot on at each and every one of these places;  no such thing as a bad choice here.

Here is my short list of a half dozen of my favorite Romantic restaurants in Charlotte. The video from the Charlotte Today segment follows.

As I mentioned in the video, poet Ogden Nash wrote a little two line verse which said, “Candy is Dandy but Liquor is Quicker!” take those two lines to heart and intertwine a dinner at any one of these restaurants and with a little help from Cupid, you’ll hit a home run for sure…

Bonterra logo

First on my list is Bonterra Dining and Wine Room. This may be the most romantic restaurant here for me because I met my husband Tom at a mutual friend’s wedding at Bonterra and my life has been a wonderfully romantic whirlwind every since. In fact, while we were married out of town, we had a big party after our wedding at Bonterra. Many couple in Charlotte have weddings, rehearsal dinners and big engagement parties at Bonterra. The historic building, refurbished and owned by John “JD” Duncan, was once an old church and simple has an air of romance about it. The dining room offers open seating at tables for 2 to 8 and can accommodate larger parties as well.

The NC cheese plate with Bonterra's hummus and olives along with offerings from Goat Lady Dairy, Chapel Hill Creamery and Looking Glass Creamery paired with 1 or 2 of the 200 wines by the glass is a great way to start an evening at Bonterra

The NC cheese plate with Bonterra’s hummus and olives along with offerings from Goat Lady Dairy, Chapel Hill Creamery and Looking Glass Creamery paired with 1 or 2 of the 200 wines by the glass is a great way to start an evening at Bonterra

Seating at the bar as well with over 200 outstanding wines offered by the bottle and by the glass. Its fun and romantic to each order a different by-the-glass pour and then share sips along with something from the bar bite menu or a cheese tray before dinner. The bottle of Robert Foley Petit Syrah is one of our favorites and I included it in the photo as a shout out to our good friend Bob Foley, winemaker extraordinaire!

With small tables au deux tucked in the alcoves, a  private balcony upstairs and a wine cellar downstairs for private dinners there are plenty of places to sit snuggled away from the main dining area if you would like a bit of privacy while you dine.

Coming soon at Bonterra – a “Girls Night Out” wine dinner on Wednesday Feb 5 featuring Ponzi Wines; regular bar specials each night; and a Thursday night wine dinner as a part of the upcoming Charlotte Wine & Food Weekend in April.

Bonterra Dining and Wine Room is located at 1829 Cleveland Ave. at East Worthington Ave.  Reservations: 704-333-WINE(9463).   Bar opens at 4:30 pm Monday-Saturday The Restaurant opens for dinner at 5:30 pm Monday-Saturday. For more info and to get on Bonterra’s newsletter list, visit www.BonterraDining.com  Bonterra on Urbanspoon

The McNinch House in Charlotte's historic Fourth Ward

The McNinch House in Charlotte’s historic Fourth Ward

Next up, for a romantic evening on the town, the McNinch House Restaurant. Located in Charlotte’s Historic Fourth Ward neighborhood, this Victorian-era house was originally home to  Charlotte Mayor Sam McNinch; now for the past 22 years it has been the McNinch House Restaurant.

Each table at McNinch is set with antique china, crystal and silver

Each table at McNinch is set with antique china, crystal and silver

Beautifully appointed, the home is owned by Ellen Davis, a front runner on Charlotte’s ever growing culinary landscape. McNinch House recently won its 16th consecutive Four Diamond designation from AAA, is listed as one of the top “extraordinary” restaurants in America by Zagat’s Dining Guide. Davis was Charlotte’s original street vendor,  back in the late 1980’s early 1990’s as she sold hotdogs from a cart while the house was being renovated to become a restaurant on the main floor with her private residence on the floor above.

Rack of lamb with mushroom risotto from McNinch's Chef William Parham

Rack of lamb with mushroom risotto, one of McNinch’s most popular entrees, from McNinch’s Chef William Parham

There are no menus at the McNinch House. When you make a reservation, you order your entrée on the phone and then the rest of the meal is built around your selection using seasonal produce and proteins.

The restaurant offers several selections of prix fixe menus: A classic 7-course  menu which includes appetizer, soup, salad, sorbet, entrée, cheese and dessert for $99 per person ( plus beverages, tax and gratuity) or a 5-course  menu at $79 per person ++.

For Valentine’s they are offering an  all-inclusive package for two with a 6-course chef’s menu with wine pairings, for $450 per couple

McNinch House Restaurant is located in uptown Charlotte  at 511  N. Church St.  Phone:  704-332-6159. Open Tuesday – Saturday Reservations Required.  Seatings available  Tuesday-Thursday On the half-hour, 5:30 pm-8 pm;  Friday-Saturday On the Hour    5:30 pm-8 pm.  For more information visit, www.mcninchhouserestaurant.com McNinch House on Urbanspoon

Zebra 2My third suggestion for Valentine wining and dining is Zebra Restaurant in the SouthPark area.  Zebra offers fine continental cuisine with French influences. Since Inception, Zebra has been recognized with numerous honors and awards of distinction.  including OpenTable Diners Choice, Zagat Best Restaurant, Wine Spectator Magazine Award of Excellence, and AAA Four Diamonds for eleven consecutive years.

With two adjacent dining rooms the restaurant also offers seating in a small intimate room off the bar  and when weather permits out on the beautiful, newly decorated patio. Owned by Chef Jim Alexander, Zebra serves breakfast lunch and dinner, is a great spot not only for romance but for the corporate breakfast and lunch crowd as well; and in addition Zebra is hosting several monthly wine dinners in the next several months. Zebra also offers on and off site catering for private parties and events – call the restaurant for details.

The signature salad from Zebra Restaurant

The signature salad from Zebra Restaurant

In the Charlotte Today  segment we featured Alexander’s signature salad at Zebra – a delightful presentation that will make your sweetie smile! Zebra sous chef Chris Wriggle gave me a quick tutorial on how to put it together and I believe I did Zebra proud. Local organic greens gathered in a tuille vase, dressed with a raspberry vinaigrette and  honey Dijon and finished with a garnish of local Tega Hills Farm’s micro greens. As delicious as it is beautiful.

Entertainment at Zebra – music always sets the mood for romance; so its nice to know that on most Friday nights in February, Zebra features live guitar music in the bar with a bar bites menu and tasty $12 wine flights. This month guitarist Harry Bell  performs on Friday Feb 7; and my favorite musician in town, Tom Billotto on guitar and vocals on Friday Feb 21 and Friday Feb 28 from 6-8 or 9 pm. if I am not working, I am usually in the crowd – the official groupie in the room – so I hope to see you there!

On Wednesday February 19, 2014 come to Zebra and enjoy a four course wine dinner featuring SCHWEIGER Vineyards.  The evening starts with an hors d’oeuvre reception followed by a four course dinner with wine pairings for just $75 per person ++.  RESERVATIONS REQUIRED, 704-442-9525

Zebra is located at 4521 Sharon Road, across from SouthPark Mall. For reservations and gift certificates, please call 704-442-9525. For more information visit www.zebrarestaurant.net Zebra Restaurant and Fine Catering on Urbanspoon

The Dunhill Hotel in Uptown Charlotte

The Dunhill Hotel in Uptown Charlotte

Fourth on my list of six is  a new restaurant run by a very talented long time Charlotte chef. After making a name for himself and honing is own sophisticated Southern style at The McNinch House,

Chef Chris Coleman

Chef Chris Coleman

Chef Chris Coleman is now the executive chef and director of food and beverage for The Asbury at The Dunhill Hotel. Named in honor of Louis Asbury, Sr., the Charlotte architect who designed the Mayfair Manor—now The Dunhill Hotel—in 1929, The Asbury celebrates the best of what the South has to offer in ingredients, technique, creativity, and, of course, hospitality. The Asbury is a tribute to Chef Coleman’s southern roots and the culturally diverse community of the New South from which he draws inspiration.

Cheers to The Dunhill's bartender Pete Ladino who makes you feel right at home

Cheers to The Dunhill’s bartender Pete Ladino who makes you feel right at home

What could be more romantic? Its a fabulous hotel dining experience where you can whisk your Valentine away after dinner and maybe a nightcap a the bar to a hotel room right upstairs if you’ve got  a mind; and then go and enjoy the restaurant all over again with room service or breakfast downstairs in the morning. In fact, with a great baby sitter and tickets to a show or concert uptown  you could make it a one stop weekend for Valentine romance!

The Asbury boasts a wonderful little bar where bartender Pete Ladino  makes everyone feel right at home.  Go old school and enjoy a cocktail or  sip on a glass of wine and preview the cuisine with something from the bar bites offerings.  Once seated for dinner, you’ll be wowed with Chris’ eclectic Southern menu in the restaurant featuring as much local product as Chris can source.  And then be prepared to be blown away by the talent that is Asbury pastry chef Patty Greene.   Unable to select just one, I featured two of Patty’s desserts on the show – first a unique take on raspberry cheesecake and then a chocolate espresso cake, my oh my!

Patty Greene's chocolate Espresso cake at The Asbury

Patty Greene’s chocolate Espresso cake at The Asbury

Patty Greene's raspberry cheesecake at The Asbury

Patty Greene’s raspberry cheesecake at The Asbury

The Asbury serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.  In addition to the ground floor restaurant space, The Asbury caters unique, private dining experiences and hosts special events throughout its intimate second floor   Located in The Dunhill at 235 N. Tryon Street, the parking entrance for The Asbury and the hotel is just off 6th street. Call 704-342-1193 for dinner reservations or more info. For room reservations at The Dunhill call 704-332-4141 or visit www.TheDunhillHotel.com  The Asbury on Urbanspoon

Fifth up, another newbie for Charlotte diners from a much loved and admired chef – Bruce Moffett’s newest jewel in the Moffett Restaurant Group triple crown – Stagioni! After much success with Barringtons and Good Food on Montford Moffett opened Stagioni about a month ago now to rave reviews. The menu is decidedly Italian, with an all Italian wine list of delicious pours.  Moffett and his team lead by executive chef Larry Schreiber have kept true to traditional Italian recipes like porchetta, arrancini, homemade pasta, and wood-oven baked pizza but have  put their own little twist on things here and there.

A tray of Stagioni's snacks and spreads for the two of you to share

A tray of Stagioni’s snacks and spreads for the two of you to share

The menu at Stagioni – “four seasons of food”, is of course, seasonal; and as I have eaten my way through winter I cannot wait to see what’s in store for spring. For the Valentine segment, we features a board of Stagioni’s snacks and spreads, such as fava bean  spread, liver pate, puree of cauliflower with truffles, stuffed peppadew peppers, tapenade and more with flat bread toasts and delicious fried chicken skin “chips” – perfect for the two of you to share while you make your dinner choices.

The historic house was once home to  Blanche Reynolds-Gourmajenko who loved to entertain and the villa traditionally served as a grand place for people to gather at the parties and dinners Blanche hosted.  They say that Blanche loved the home so  much that she hasn’t left and her spirit haunts the estate.

Banche Reynolds -

Banche Reynolds-Gourmajenko

All I can say is that Blanche must be very happy having people gather round the tables in her home once again surrounded by good food and drink.  The softly lit small bar and dining room with open kitchen and seating in front of the wood burning pizza oven are all beautifully designed to keep the integrity of the original home, while offering a modern spin on dining out.

Stagioni is located at 715 Providence Rd. in the Eastover neighborhood. Call 704.372.8110 for reservations. For more information about the menu, the history of the home and links to Barrington’s and Good Food on Monford, Stagioni’s sister restaurants, visit http://stagioniclt.com/  Stagioni on Urbanspoon

passion 8Finally, the last of these six romantic dining spots, Passion 8 Bistro – the name says it all. A place that is passionate about local farms, food, and service. Owned by chef Luca Annunziata and his lovely wife Jessica, Passion 8 Bistro has plans to soon move from its tiny home in Ft. Mill to bigger newer but every bit as romantic, digs in Charlotte on Elizabeth Ave.  The group is still waiting for permits and construction to be finalized, but until the move Chef Luca and his culinary team Chef Matthew Krenz and chef Evan Micek, are still cooking up a storm in Ft. Mill, serving an all market menu every evening,  supporting nearly 50 local farms in North and South Carolina.

A scallop starter from the Valentine menu at Passion 8 Bistro

A scallop starter from the Valentine menu at Passion 8 Bistro

Get caught up in the passion this Valentine’s Day with a special prix fixe Valentine’s Day Dinner menu Friday, February 14th from 5:00pm to 10:00pm; 4 courses with choices for each course. $140 per couple. make your reservations now by calling 803-802-7455. For the Charlotte Today segment we shared one of the first plates from the Valentine menu – a perfectly seared scallop atop a rounded cake of grits, topped with a red cabbage slaw, crispy pancetta and Tega Hills Farm micro greens surrounded by a pool of Charon sauce – a béchamel flavored with tomato.

If you and your sweetheart enjoy cooking together, then start sharing the passion this weekend at a special Valentine’s cooking class at Passion 8 -Saturday, February 8th from 11:00am to 2:00pm  3 courses for $75 per couple with a champagne toast.

from left, chefs Evan Micek, chef Matthew Krenz and chef Luca Annunziata make their Food Network debut on Feb 19 at 9 pm

from left, chefs Evan Micek, chef Matthew Krenz and chef Luca Annunziata make their Food Network debut on Feb 19 at 9 pm

On the Charlotte Today segment I announced that Passion 8 would be featured on a new Food Network show  – Buy This Restaurant – to air Monday Feb 3. My mistake – the show premiered on Monday, but the Passion 8 segment actually airs on Wednesday, February 19th at 9:00pm on the Food Network    http://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/buy-this-restaurant.html   Don’t miss it!

Meanwhile, to make your reservations at Passion8 Bistro simply call the restaurant at 803-802-7455. Passion 8 is currently located at 3415 Hwy. 51 North – just three miles past the tiny historic downtown of Pineville, NC. For more information, visit http://www.passion8bistro.com/ Passion8 Bistro on Urbanspoon

Cheers to the February Romantic Restaurant segment

Cheers to the February Romantic Restaurant segment

Now, that you’ve read all about it,  click here to watch the video from my Valentine segment on Charlotte Today. I’ll be back for my monthly cooking segment on Charlotte Today on Thursday Feb 13, Channel 36 – 6 on cable –  with three great Valentine recipes for Fondue au Deux! See you then! Cheers!