Charlotte NC Chefs head to James Beard House in NYC

james-beard-dinnersCharlotte, North Carolina chefs continue to take the James Beard house in NYC by storm and 2017 kicks off with several big dinners featuring Queen City-based culinary talent. Last night it was my pleasure to be a guest at a practice run of a collaboration dinner between 2 of Charlotte’s finest, Chefs Luca Annunziata of Passion 8 on Elizabeth Avenue and Chef Sylvain Rivet of Renaissance Patisserie on South Blvd.

While I love seeing and tasting what chefs do in their restaurants on a regular basis, it is always nice to take advantage and attend special dinners like this to see what happens when chefs think outside the box. I particularly enjoy collaborative dinners  – there are lots on the calendar in Charlotte. I suggest you take advantage and make reservations as you see them pop up!  It is always a fun and unique experience every time.  No matter the chefs involved, their culinary talents challenge each other and play off of one another to truly bring it to the table.

 

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From left, The Butcher, chef Marc Pauvert; The Baker, chef Sylvain Rivet; and The Chef, chef Luca Annunziata

The Charlotte chef and the pastry chef were joined in the kitchen last evening as they will be next week in NYC by Baltimore based Master Butcher, chef Marc Pauvert of the Four Seasons Hotel.

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Chef Philippe Haddad

Rounding out the culinary team in New York will also be Atlanta-based chef Philippe Haddad of the Cape Dutch Restaurant in Atlanta. Haddad was unable to attend the dinner in Charlotte last night, but his contributions will only add to the excitement in New York. Also lending a helping hand at the New York event ,the Carolina’s own chef Joe Bonaparte of the Myrtle Beach Culinary Arts Institute.

 So, a butcher, a baker, and a chef  (or two) walk into the Beard House kitchen—but as was experienced by a supportive and happy crowd last night, this dinner is no joke.  In New York, these culinary compatriots will demonstrate the exceptional art of whole-animal butchery in a collaborative French–Italian feast celebrating their combined heritages and crafts.

The  trial run, if you will, evening in Charlotte started with a round of passed hors d’oeuvres – creamy chicken liver pate profiteroles with berry coulis, savory beef short ribs, skewered a la plancha, spherical chicken croquettes in bamboo boats and crispy dirty rice arancini with tomato jam.

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And for me, a “HoneyBunny” and orange/vodka/honey infused craft cocktail from the Passion 8 bar.

An assortment of fresh baked rolls hit as soon as we  were seated – nothing better to me than a course of delicious bread and butter and I was glad it arrived first with time to enjoy.

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Dinner  officially started with a beautiful plate of dinner co-sponsor Springer Mountain Farms Chicken in a duo of savory bites: a tender and delicious chicken porchetta with fennel salad, extra virgin olive oil powder, and  a drizzle of vincotto; paired with a melt-in-your-mouth braised chicken scarpariello topped with shishito peppers and  house-made pork sausage – things were off to a fabulous start….

 

img_8386Next course, a charcuterie platter of sorts – duck three ways or in French, Canard Trois Facons.  On the plate, a “Yes, please I believe I will”  foie gras torchon with onion jam;  a scrumptious duck confit with apple–frisée salad; and sliced duck prosciutto with a small round of made-in-house burrata and a crisp toasted slice of fresh baked pan de mie.

 

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With such a wonderful Italian chef on the team it stood to reason there would be a pasta course. This night the small plate of tiny but tender gnocchetti verdi  ( small green gnocchi) were tossed into a tomato-y rich lamb ragù. The crunch of fried Rappahannock oysters, added texture and a thin slice of Parmigiano-Reggiano served as the perfect slightly salty finish.

 

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All of this led to the beef course where the French butcher showed his chops. So tender and perfectly grilled grass fed beef tournedos, cut from the tenderloin of beef served atop a celery root puree, garnished with  with brussels sprout leaves, and finished with a grilled half of Charlotte’s own Urban Gourmet Farms king trumpet mushrooms, and au jus – perfect!

And then there was dessert – two courses of dessert, in fact, and a take home box as well – gotta love having a French pastry chef on the team!

img_8396For me the blood orange crème brûlée echoed the cocktail I had enjoyed at the start of the evening. It was sweet but not too sweet and creamy enough to provide the perfect finish after the course of rich savory beef. The surprise here was the accompanying tuille – made  with crispy almonds and believe it or not, bacon fat..,

 

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img_8406Then, for the table (and as this photo shows, the chefs to share) a  secondary dessert course of  three types of wonderful petits fours:  miniature chocolate brownie bomb; popcorn macaroons; and petit Grand Marnier–vanilla puffs – Yes!  And as a take-home for  the-day-after-dinner breakfast ( or to eat in the car on the drive back home) a chocolate truffle and two sweet bite-sized cakes. what a fabulous finish!

 

And then this happened….Big News from Passion 8

jessicaandlucaTalk last night after dinner was not just about the Beard House ,but of some big changes to come to Passion 8 as well. In February, look for the husband and wife team of Luca and Jessica Annunziata to take their passion for all things Italian to a whole new level. Passion 8 will be changing names and styles and while Jessica and Luca will remain at the helm and the Elizabeth Avenue location will remain the same, the new restaurant name and concept will be LUCA, Modern Italian Kitchen. This talented couple will still offer a menu that is locally inspired with a focus on Farm-to-fork product, but recipes and menu features will all hail from Chef Luca’s Italian heritage.  I am proud to say I was the first food writer to ever write about Passion 8, when the restaurant was located on HWY 51 in Ft Mill and I’ve kept you up to date on everything this talented couple has done since – stay tuned… I can’t wait to tell you about it all as the new menu is revealed and name changes occurs, so that you can make your reservations at LUCA soon and, in the process, #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Want to go to the Beard House or at least see it for yourself?

img_8414The  dinner last night, billed as practice round, gave the guests an opportunity to give feed back, so that the team of chefs can tweak as needed before the big dance in New York.  Its no small production – Luca will load up all the local product and drive to Baltimore two days before the dinner. He and Marc will prep in Baltimore the day before then drive to New York for a day of cooking in the infamous Beard House kitchen the day of the dinner. Thanks to the magic of digital technology, you can follow each of the chefs involved on their individual social media streams and the night of the dinner, Friday January 27, you can stream the action from the kitchen live via the James Beard Kitchen Cam – check it out on the Beard House website 

If you’ve a mind to go, see, taste and enjoy it all in person, tickets for the Butcher, Baker & Chef dinner in NYC are still available – make your reservations here.  

charles-grill-678x1024Mark your calendars as more Charlotte-based chefs participate in upcoming Beard House dinners as well.  Chef Charles Semail of Chef Charles Catering in Charlotte will also cook at the James Beard House the end of this week, in fact,  at a separate dinner with a team of five other chefs. Chef Charles dinner will focus on The Art of Charcuterie. The dinner in New York is on Jan 20. If you can’t get to NYC for the dinner Chef Charles is participating in, then head to the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market on Saturday to buy and for a taste what Chef Charles Catering does so well.

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Then, save the date in February as Chef Jamie Lynch of 5 Church in Charlotte, Charleston and Atlanta (and Top Chef fame) present a “Take Me To Church” dinner on Feb 5, 2017.  

 

 

heidi head shot 1 -Heidi Cooks | Heidi Writes | Heidi Teaches

If this post about some of our fabulous Charlotte-based chefs inspired you – I want to know where you are eating and what you are cooking. Remember  Charlotte, Queen’s Feast: Charlotte Restaurant Week  kicks off on Friday Jan 20 – where are you going to eat?

Post  your photos and then tag me on your social media posts – @HeidiBillotto and @HeidiBillottoCooks on Facebook; @HeidiCooks on Twitter and @HeidiBillotto on Instagram   Food is always so much better when you share it with friends!

Consider me your go-to-gal for info on chefs, restaurants, recipes, cooking tips, trends and food-centric travel.

I invite you to join me in all my culinary adventures, by signing up to follow this blog. You’ll get my recipes, reviews and articles as soon as they  post, directly to your in-box.

Almost here, Stay Tuned…my list of Jan, Feb and March 2017 hands-on cooking classes posts on Monday January 22, 2017 – can’t  wait!

North Carolina Chefs Showdown

Its a food and lovers’ dream dinner. The 2016 North Carolina Chefs Showdown.

Chefs showdown logoThis is the inaugural year of the NCRLA – the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association’s North Carolina Chef Showdown and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to have played a part in putting it all together. The evening features 16 of North Carolina’s best chefs and pastry chefs as well as six of the Triangles most creative mixologists, all together at one venue at Raleigh’s 214 Martin Street/Market Hall for an ambulatory evening of sweet and savory food and drink as a part of the NCRLA 2016 Expo in Raleigh North Carolina.

The 2016 NCRLAExpo is predominantly for the culinary trade and hospitality industry and takes place in Raleigh Aug 29 and 30. The Chef Showdown event is for the trade with tickets now available to the public as well and I am telling you, no matter where you live in the Carolinas, this event will be worth the road trip.

The NCRLA 2016 Chef Showdown in this Monday night August 29; doors open at 6 pm.

You food-centric folk  are going to Eat This Up!!!

While it will be dinner and a ton of fun, its also a competition and to that end, I’ve rounded up a tremendous panel of judges all involved in the  industry, including Master Baker Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery in Cary, Chef Clark Barlowe of Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte; Chef Ryan Conklin of Rex Healthcare in Raleigh; Certified Master Chef Tony Seta of Butterball; Andrea Weigl, Food Editor from Raleigh’s The News & Observer; and Tim Parrish, Marketing Specialist at North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

This awesome panel of judges will be charged with the task of naming several awards to be announced by our host for the evening, television personality Ken Smith of Raleigh’s WRAL, including recognition for one  dessert plate and one savory dish that make the best use of a North Carolina Grown, Raised, Caught or Made product, produce or protein; One dessert plate and one savory dish  offering the most creative presentation; and then of course the big overall award – the 2016 NCRLA Chef of the Year and the 2016 NCRLA Pastry chef of the year.

In addition there will also be a People’s Choice Awards for the best savory dish, the best dessert and the best craft cocktail  and there is  also an interactive Instagram contest to boot! It’s going to be an exciting evening for sure. The chefs are ready to roll, all that is missing is you!

Don’t Miss This Inaugural Event:

Get your tickets NOW for the Monday night 2016 NCRLA Chef Showdown event with just one click right here

Have I whet your palate? Need a bit of a push – well then, this will seal the deal.. let me tell you  who will be there cooking. You won’t believe that all this culinary talent will be in one room!

2016 chef showdown chefsThese chefs are cooking in this competition without any boundaries or parameters, serving guests and judges alike, with plates that best represent their personal style and what they do on a daily basis at their restaurants. Its going to be fabulous! 

From Charlotte, Luca Annunziata Passion8; Matthew Krenz The Asbury; Tom Marlow Mimosa Grill; Matt Tilman Gallery Restaurant; Ashley Bivens Boyd 300 East and Heritage food & drink; Jossie Perlmutter Block & Grinder – Langtree; #NoellGogg The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge.

From Hendersonville, Jess Roque Never Blue

From Hickory Sam Stachon Highland Avenue

From the Triad: John Bobby A Noble Grille ,Richard Andrew Miller Graze Restaurant, #PabloDelValle Atelier on Trade,Jay Pierce The Marshall Free House

From the Triangle Chef Gerry Fong at the Dorothy and Roy Park Alumni Center at NC State University

John May Piedmont Restaurant and Christopher Scott James The Angus Barn.

Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery, by Tamara LackeySo what’s dinner and dessert without a little bread and butter?  Guests with a passion for bread ( and who among us doesn’t have that)  will be delighted to know that the evening also includes a Bread Station compliments of the talented team at La Farm Bakery.

Heidi Billotto 2008

And did I mention there would be wine, beer and  craft cocktails, all compliments of these fine Triangel based mixologists: cheers to Alex Flynn, The Haymaker, Raleigh; Kyle Hankin, Fox Liquor Bar, Raleigh; Quentin Hill, The Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill; Drew Schenck, RallyPoint Sports Grill, Cary; Jarod Sneed, Tupelo Honey Cafe, Raleigh; and Tim VanBeek, The Washington Duke Inn, Durham

Cost for the evening is $125 per person. Tickets Available Here and I will see you there! #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Farm to Fork For The Matthews Community Farmers’ Market

Six Spectacular Chefs, One Incredible Evening six chefs for the matthews market

Luca Annunziata, Passion 8 Restaurant in Charlotte, NC

Joe Bonaparte, Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach  in Myrtle Beach, NC

Tim Groody, Fork! in Cornelius, NC

Joe Kindred, Kindred Restaurant in Davidson, NC

Adam Reed, Sante of Matthews, Matthews, NC

Paul Verica, Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw, NC

 

What do these six well -seasoned North Carolina chefs have in common? A love for all things local and an abundance of culinary talent  often showcased at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market early Saturday morning series of cooking demonstrations. And now these chefs are all giving back as a part of the Matthews Market’s 25th Anniversary celebration and you are invited to join in on all the fun.

 Joe BonepartThese chefs are longtime supporters of local sustainable agriculture and lots of area markets including The Matthews Community Farmers’ Market. They are collaborating on this event to help the market raise money to meet mounting operating costs and make needed site improvements. The Matthews  Market, is celebrating its 25th season of bringing farmers and community together over locally grown food, hopes to raise $25,000 by August 1.

38c00bab-e20b-4b77-ada1-34ec19ccd227There are several ways you can support the market this year, first and foremost Shop Local every week. You’ll be amazed how easy it really is to find all the local produce, protein and product you need for your weekly shopping list and how much better tasting it is than commercially produced product.

The next way is to attend this dinner – You’ve read my blog posts before and you know I wouldn’t steer you wrong. On the contrary this is the right thing to do. You still have time to purchase tickets and, think about it, with these six chefs working together to prepare a summer feast using all local product, its a win-win. Just imagine, it’ll be like eating at SIX of your favorite restaurants simultaneously and you’ll be supporting the market at the same time.

The menu will feature the best of the seasons local harvest complete with wine pairings for each course.. The date is Monday July 18 at 7 pm. Advance reservations are a must and get excited because in addition to the dinner a wonderful silent auction will take place as well.

You are going to eat this up, quite literally, The Fun, Food and Festivity will all takes place at  Passion8 Restaurant, located at 1523 Elizabeth Avenue,  in Charlotte.

#TellThemHeidiSentYou

Cost is $150 per person.  Click here to purchase your tickets now! Don’t wait until its too late!



The Matthews Community Farmers’ Market is a taxable non-profit. Ticket purchases and donations are not eligible for a charitable tax deduction.
Want to do more? Become a “Friend of the Market” or a 2016 Business Sponsor – read more for details

What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOOD
 “Maybe it’s much too early in the game; Aah, but I thought I’d ask you just the same; What are you doing New Year’s, New Year’s Eve?
“Wonder whose arms will hold you good and tight; When it’s exactly twelve o’clock that night; Welcoming in the New Year, New Year’s Eve”

 

NYE bottleNow that I have you in the mood, humming along, no doubt; here’s the scoop on ten Charlotte area restaurants and what they are serving for New Years Eve 2015 – Take a read, make a reservation and then Eat, Drink & Celebrate  as we welcome in 2016! Cheers!

300 East –

300East_front_5_13300 East. located as the name suggests at 300 East Blvd., is locally owned and  has been a mainstay in the Charlotte restaurant scene since 1986 capping off Charlotte’s ever developing East Blvd. restaurant row in Charlotte’s Dilworth neighborhood.   If you are not up for a dinner out on New Years’ Eve – you might want to enjoy lunch instead and I’m happy to say that 300 East will be serving a midday meal on Thursday December 31 from 11-3:30.  Dinner  service on the 31st is  from 5-10PM. The full dinner menu will be available, as well as an optional 3-course package for $40. Reservations are highly recommended by calling 704-332-6507 or visit 300east.net   300 East Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A big supporter of local farms, the 2015 New Years Eve 300 East menu features product from some of my favorite places to shop local as well  – Cheers to Boy & Girl Farm, Small City Farm, Bosky Acres, Clover Mushroom Farm, High Rock Farm, A Way of Life Farm, Windcrest Farm for making the dinner at 300 East even better… and here is what the talented staff of 300 East, headed by the dynamic duo of chefs Kristine Schmidt and Ashley Boyd, is serving as we welcome in 2016!

Diners may select one choice from each category for the  $40 prix fixe pricing , or you may order a la carte – the Full Dinner Menu will  also available!

Starters:  Sunchoke & Potato Soup, Roasted Lobster

Salad of Bibb Lettuces & Roasted Beets, Almond Crusted Goat Cheese, Clementines, Champagne-Mustard Vinaigrette

Mains:  Border Springs Lamb Osso Bucco, Rosemary Mint Gremolata, Gigante Bean-Taleggio Puree, Sauteed Rapini

Persian Spiced Brick Grilled Poussin, Tahini Yogurt, Freekah with Apricots, Walnut Green Beans

Seared Hawaiian Ono, Shiitake, Maitake & Oyster Mushrooms, Rice Noodles, Asian Greens, Ginger Dashi

Dessert:  Carrot Cake, Black Walnuts, Fromage Blanc Ice Cream, New Ginger Marmalade

French Broad Chocolate Cremeux, Chestnut Sponge Cake, Popped Sorghum, Caramel

 

The Asbury at The Dunhill Hotel

Asbury LogoAs only the team of Chefs Chris Coleman, Matthew Krenz and Jossie Perlemutter can do it, New Years Eve guests are in for a treat at The Asbury with a special five-course tasting menu on tap for the evening. (The tasting menu is also quite nicely offered in a vegetarian version) Cost $75 per person with an additional $40 for wine pairings (plus tax and gratuity).  To whet your palate while you read on  The Asbury’s menu’s follow… the evening starts with Amuse, or a little bite to get your palate in the mood; gives you a pause to refresh with an Intermezzo  or midway and ends with “Mignardise”  small sweet tidbits to finish the evening. The Asbury is located adjacent to the Dunhill Hotel in Uptown Charlotte at 235 N Tryon Street. Parking in the deck directly behind the Dunhill and the restaurant will validate. For more info visit TheAsbury.com
Reservations are a must: http://bit.ly/SaveMySeatAtTheAsbury  or call 704.342.1193The Asbury Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Asbury NYE Tasting Menu:
First Course: Salad of Bitter Greens | egg, mushroom, pepper gel, charred walnut miso, carrot
Second Course: Smoked Scallop Custard | juniper + thyme shortbread, citrus, mustard, chili, kale
Third Course: Bacon-Wrapped Duck Confit | beet tartar, arugula, pickled apple relish, cranberry, spiced pecan
Fourth Course: Thyme + Smoked Peanut-Crusted Lamb Chops | cranberry chutney, whipped sweet potatoes, roasted broccoli, coffee + cocoa demi
Fifth Course: Tasting of Chocolate

The Asbury NYE Vegetarian Menu:
First Course: Salad of Bitter Greens | egg, mushroom, pepper gel, charred walnut miso, carrot
Second Course: BBQ Shiitake + Ricotta Raviolo | butternut squash bisque, arugula, pecan gremolata
Third Course: Roasted Broccoli | tofu, pickled wheatberries, cranberries, goat cheese, cashews, pear
Fourth Course: Winter Vegetables | crispy oyster mushrooms, harissa spiced root vegetables, Carolina Gold rice, charred corn + bay broth
Fifth Course: Tasting of Chocolate

Fahrenheit Charlotte –

fahrenheitNothing like watching the New Year’s Eve roll in on one of Charlotte’s most popular rooftops as the clock stokes midnight, you’ll have a birds eye view of the city and can step outside to raise your glasses high. Special menu with lots of mouthwatering choices – Chefs Rocco Whalen, David Feimster and the Fahrenheit Charlotte team and working their magic to make it a spectacular evening with a four course menu to beat the band. Selections include Dutch Harbor King Red Crab Bisque with winter truffles, Vietnamese Chicken Springrolls, Garlic Black Pepper Lobster, Kobe beef short ribs, Beef tenderloin and Moroccan Lamb loin, just to name a few. Wind it all up with bread pudding, cobbler, creme brulee or my personal fave: Dark Chocolate Jolt Cake served with Fruity Pebble Cremeux and Marshmallow Cotton Candy! Fruity Pebbles – you just gotta love it! Fahrenheit Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Complete Fahrenheit New Year’s Even menu with all the selections is up online at http://www.chefroccowhalen.com/fahrenheit-charlotte/events/

Reservations are required and must be confirmed with a credit card, Cost is $99 per person or $240 per couple. Pricing includes a bottle of Moet & Chandon White Star Champagne. Call for reservations 980-237-6718.  Located in uptown Charlotte atop SKYE Condominiums at 222 S Caldwell Street. Valet parking and adjacent lot make for easy access. For more info visit ChefRoccoWhalen.com

Fork!

forkWant to make it a farm to fork New Year’s Eve? Lots of these restaurants featured here use local product, But Chef Tim Groody, now of Fork! in Cornelius is credited with making the movement real in Charlotte when he was the first chef to ever put a famer’s name on a menu in the Queen City. You can read all about it in my culinary section of the winter issue of Charlotte Living Magazine! But first, if you live north of the city, consider New Year’s Eve dinner at Fork!

Lots of local on the menu which is prix fixe at $65 Per Person and features  your choice of two Bites, one main, & one dessert. There are sides two – for all the details visit http://www.forkdining.com/resources/NYE16.pdf  Be sure to as about gluten free options! For reservations call 704-655-7465 or visit Forkdining,comFork! Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bites

Fried NC Oysters- spicy cornmeal crusted, marcona almond sauce

Foie Gras Torchon & Smoked Duck Gyoza – persimmon, apple salad House Made Whipped Ricotta & Oyster Mushrooms – shaved burgundy truffle, pickled beet oil

Brussel Sprout & Charred Vegetable Salad – carrots, turnips acorn squash, pomegranate preserved lemon vinaigrette Kale & Baby Lettuce Salad – granny smith apple vinaigrette, spicy pecans

Low Country Shrimp Cocktail – spicy tomato granite, broccoli okra slaw, carolina rice

Turkey Neck Rillets – raw vegetables, sea salt crackers

Sweet & Sour Fresh Bacon & Scallop – preserved damson plums

Mains

½ Ashley Farm Guinea Hen

Roasted Mills Family Farm Strip Loin

Carolina Bison Hanger Steak

Pan Seared NC Seafood

Pan Roasted Dry Pack Sea Scallops

and for Dessert –  Chocolate Mousse Cake, Dark Rum Sauce Cream Cheese Glazed Carrot Cake, Candied Bacon, Apple Pecan Nougatine Spiced Pumpkin Pot de Crème, ginger bread crumble, pomegranate                                   Chapel Hill Creamery Raw Milk Asiago sea salt crackers, rosemary honey, evoo

Heirloom Restaurant – 

heirloomTucked away in Charlotte’s Bellhaven neighborhood, near Moutain Island Lake,  Heirloom is an easy drive from Uptown, South or North Charlotte, there is plenty of parking and is a Charlotte hot spot you simply do not want to miss. Chef and owner Clark Barlow is making big waves, sourcing from local North Carolina farms and producers and won’t serve anything that wasn’t “Grown. Raised. Caught. Made.” in North Carolina. He and his incredibly talented staff celebrate each season and then can, jar and preserve the harvest for use all year round.  Clark has made appearances on The Food Network’s Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay.  Before opening Heirloom, Clark worked and trained at The French Laundry in California and at El Bulli in Spain, just to mention a few of his creds,  and now he’s taking that same small plate philosophy and doing doing it in spades with all North Carolina local product. Heirloom offers a regular 12 plate tasting menu, but for the end of this year and the beginning of the next, he’s raising the bar.   Celebrate New Year’s Eve in 16 Small Local Delicious Bites to ring in 2016.

$100 per 16 course menu, savor each bite, celebrate all that is local and start your new year at Heirloom.  New Year’s Eve service from 5-10 pm.  The complete 16 course menu will be up on the Heirloom Website on Tuesday Dec 29 by 5 pm.

Always happy to try to accommodate the customer,  Clark asks that for this specially prepared holiday meal, any one with any sort of dietary restrictions needs to call before making reservations. This would include those interested in vegan and vegetarian options as well.  Reservations Are A Must, by calling 704.595.7710 or with a visit to HeirloomRestaurantNC.com. Heirloom is located at 8470 Bellhaven Blvd. Heirloom Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lumiere Restaurant –

lumiereLumiere French Kitchen is located in the heart of Myers Park in Charlotte at 1039 Providence Road. Owned an operated by Chef Tom Condron and Matthew Pera, Lumiere brings modern French cuisine to the Queen City. To read more about chef Tom Condron’s philosophy and all he brings to the table  (Pun intended) at Lumiere in the feature article I wrote in the culinary section of the new Winter issue of Charlotte Living. Then book a reservation for New Year’s Eve when Condron and staff will be offering a four course Four Course Tasting Menu with Lobster, Shrimp, Wild Boar to Dry Aged Prime Beef . For more info call 704.372.3335 or visit lumiereMyersPark.com Lumiere Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

modPALEO –

mod paleo logoHere ‘s an option for after the clock strikes midnight and you make that New Year’s resolution to take better care of yourself in 2016. Just when you thought you were going to have to go it all alone, Charlotte’s modPALEO comes to the rescue! Chef Kris Reid and the talented team are here to help and have already come up with a plan of meals prepared with local and sustainable ingredients. All you have to do right now is register for the program  Dec 26-30. modPALEO is a Carolinas-based, pre-packaged meal service that offers a modern approach to healthy eating, based on the Paleo lifestyle. They believe in maintaining balance and wellness through the power of real food, well-sourced ingredients and sustainability

Commit to Eating Clean and feeling great  with this limited time offer. The “Keepin’ it Clean in 2016” package includes 4 weeks of modPALEO meals purchased in advance for the month of January. You choose how many meals and modPALEO will deliver 4 orders throughout the month (deliveries on January 6, 13, 20 and 27). Shipping and tax are included in pricing. Save between 5 and 25% by paying up front (depending on meal plan). Everything you need to make it happen is at https://store.modpaleo.com/news/Clean2016/  JustDoIt!

Passion 8 – 

passion 8 logoMy friends Jessica and Luca Annunziata and their talented team at Passion 8 are making a night of it with a New Year’s Eve Masquerade party. Two seatings at the popular Elizabeth Avenue restaurant.  First at 6pm featuring  4 fabulous Courses for $85 ; and then the Second Seating at  9pm with  5 Fabulous Courses for $125 with Champagne. An hour before the stroke of midnight the photo booth opens up so you can capture the moment and there will be dancing and a live DJ. Complimentary Hors D’oeuvres & Champagne Toast at Midnight. its all happening at 1523 Elizabeth Ave. Complimentary Parking in adjacent lots.   Wondering what those four or five courses will be? Here you go…. and then Call for Reservations 704.910.3161 or visit http://thepassion8.com/12-31-15/  Passion8 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

To Start: Foie Steak, Peanut Butter Foam, Butter Squash, Walnuts Brittle, Apple Butter

Butter Poached Lobster,Snow Peas, Chanterelle, Lobster Consommé, Crispy Ramen

Beef Tartare, Potato Gaufrette, Quail Egg, Horseradish Crema, Winter Pickled Vegetables

-Salad / Soup-  Mushrooms Consommé,Pickled Vegetables, Truffle Bone Marrow Butter

Winter Green Salad,Goat Cheese Fritter, Sliced Apple, Candy Beets, Pecans,Whole Grain Mustard Vinaigrette

Crudo – Apple Fennel Salad, Yuzu Caviar, Shaved Radish, Micros Herbs, Wasabi Aioli

Mid Course-  Squid Ink Pasta,Snow Peas, Capers, Grilled Calamari, Fennel Broth

Exotic Mushrooms and Truffle Champagne Risotto, Shaved Ricotta Salata

Scallop,Parsnip Puree, Foie Gras Caramel Butter Sauce, Spaghetti Squash, Crispy Prosciutto

Entrees-  Poussin, Stuffed with Sausage & Truffle Bread Pudding, Jamon Iberico,

Butternut Squash Battonet, Spinach, Sage Pan Sauce

Branzino, Brussels Sprout Petals, Trumpet Mushroom, Black Rice, Fish Brodetto

Surf & Turf,Filet, Butter Poached Lobster, Pea & Macaroni Cake, Warmed Zabaione, Collard Greens, Apple Micro Salad

Elk Loin, Cinnamon Butternut Squash, Peperonata, Crispy Kale, Coffee Bourbon Reduction

Dessert-  Chef’s Duet

Village Tavern

Village tavernThe annual New Year’s Eve Party at Village Tavern on 4201 Congress Street in the SouthPark area takes place from 9pm to 1am!    Enjoy another masquerade themed evening with the sounds of DJ Chase Morgan, drink specials, delicious appetizers and party favors for all!  $20 cover charge per person, alcohol and gratuity under separate cover. Safe transportation will be available. For more information and reservations, please call 704-552-9983 or visit http://www.villagetavern.com/locations.cfm/8/charlotte-nc/ Village Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Vivace Charlotte

vivaceFinally, perhaps a taste of Italian is what you’ll want to ring in the new year. Lots of great Italian options in town for sure, but one of my recent favorites is Vivace, located in the Metropolitan shopping area between Uptown and Southend at 1100 Metropolitan Ave.

Enjoy fine food and a beautiful view of the Charlotte Skyline from the outdoor patio or the upstairs dining area. Chef Mike Suppa is doing big things there – you won’t leave disappointed and that’s for sure. also impressed that there are regularly vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options on the menu.  For New Years’ Eve its a prix fixe menu with lots of choices, among them, lobster bisque with sage gnocchi and  chestnut crema; tuscan kale salad with pomegranate, caramelized winter squash, toasted pumpkin seeds, shaved caprino and  white balsamic dressing; several pastas; rabbit lasagna with mataki mushrooms, rosemary ricotta, fontina and caramelized onions; lamb porterhouse with oregano potatoes, black olive crema, braised escarole and golden raisins; and for dessert – a host of the chefs sorbets and gelatos as well as peppermint tiramisu, flourless chocolate cake or banana budino. For the complete menu visit http://www.vivacecharlotte.com/menu/new-years-eve

Cost is $55 per person | $75 with wine pairings for each course. Dinner service begins at 5 pm.    For reservations  call 704-370-7755  or visit VivaceCharlotte.com Vivace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

NYE bottle

 

 

The problem with any sort of list is that eventually it has to end –  Know that with every list I write and every televised restaurant segment I do there are always lots more of great restaurants and chefs in Charlotte to try as well. All  doing fabulous things for New Years Eve and all year long. Make it a point in 2016 to eat local and support  our incredible local culinary community – Cheers to them all.  

 

 

 

 

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!

Battle “Pig ‘n Pumpkin” marks the last of the semi finals for the 2013 Fire in the City competition. Chef Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill vs Chef Luca Annunziata of Passion 8 Bistro. Fortes takes the win and a place in the finals!

Friendly semi final competitors, Chef Luca Anunziata and Chef Jon Fortes

Friendly semi final competitors, Chef Luca Anunziata and Chef Jon Fortes

Tuesday October 15 was the last night of Competition Dining’s Fire in the City  semi finals. The dining room at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room was packed for the competition between Chef Luca Annunziata from Passion 8 Bistro and Chef Jon Fortes from Mimosa Grill- even seats at the bar were a sellout!

Each guest there in anticipation of who would win and move into the final fire for this the inaugural year of Competition Dining’s Fire in the City.

Just an evening earlier on Oct 14 Chef Phil Barnes from Roosters won his Battle Pope & Sons Winter Squash and Cheshire Farms Pork against The Peculiar Rabbit’s Chef Brent Martin. The end of this culinary battle would determine Phil’s competition for the October 21 final Fire in the City battle.

Pope & Sons Pumpkin

Pope & Sons Pumpkin

Cheshire Farms Bacon was one of the evening's secret ingredients

Cheshire Farms Bacon was one of the evening’s secret ingredients

This night the secret ingredients were similar to the first evening of semi finals with products again from Pope & Sons and Cheshire Pork. The secret ingredients were NC pumpkin and bacon, or as guest judge Zach Goodyear so aptly phrased it “Pumpkin shined with the taste of Swine

Technology expert and creator Derek Sanderson chats with the media - Michelle Boudin from WCNC

Technology expert and creator of the Competition Dining program and app, Derek Sanderson chats with the media – Michelle Boudin from WCNC

The Pumpkin ‘n Pig Battle found everyone in good spirits although the competition between Chef Jon Fortes and his team from Mimosa Grill and Chef Luca Annunziata and his team from Passion 8 was quite serious.

To add to the excitement, the day began with cameras in the kitchen as WCNC news reported Michelle Boudin dropped by to do a great evening news story on the amazing technology behind Competition Dining.

Fire in the City semi finalist , Chef Jon Fortes

Fire in the City semi finalist , Chef Jon Fortes

Semi finalist Chef Luca Annunizata

Fire in the City Semi finalist, Chef Luca Annunziata

The smell of frying bacon puts everyone in a good mood and by mid afternoon the chefs were having a great time, but all with their eye on the win.

And so here you have it – Pig ‘n Pumpkin in six stunning courses…

Course One from Chef Luca Annunziata

Course One from Chef Luca Annunziata

The evening kicked off with the first course by Chef Luca Annunziata and team Passion 8 Bistro with a Pope & Son Farms savory Pumpkin Panna Cotta atop a bed of arugula dressed with Cheshire Bacon Blackberry Vinaigrette, a crumbled Walnut & Thyme Shortbread, Pickled Red Onion. All of the scores were  relatively high this night; but this first plate was a low scoring dish for Annunziata. While the bacon blackberry vinaigrette was of knock-your-socks-off proportions, the panna cotta lacked much of that pumpkin punch and the lack of flavor was reflected in this dish’s final score

Course two from Chef Jon Fortes

Course two from Chef Jon Fortes

Course 2  was from Chef Jon Fortes – a scrumptuous Orange & Brown Sugar Cheshire Bacon Confit  piled atop a thick flavorful Pope & Son Pumpkin “Soup”. This dish was for many diners this evening – this food writer and Competition Dining official blogger included –  the favorite plate of the nite, and a high scoring start for Team Mimosa.

A beautiful chiffonade of Collards & Apple Slaw topped the plate for a fine and fabulous finish.

Course three from Chef Luca Annunziata

Course three from Chef Luca Annunziata

Course 3 was  from Luca Annunziata – a delicious Cheshire Bacon Moussaline Stuffed Bistro Filet, accompanied by Roasted Beets, Oyster Mushrooms, Picked Herbs, Apples,  Spinach and a bold and vibrant Curried Pope & Son Farms Pumpkin Cream Sauce that was perhaps a bit too strong; but delicious and a nice foil for the rich filet.

 

Course four from Chef Jon Fortes

Course four from Chef Jon Fortes

Course 4 was from Chef Jon Fortes and was comprised of a Charred Onion Marinated Lamb Loin Makers Mark Infused Pope & Sons Pumpkin Cheshire Bacon & Red Apple Soubise. This dish was also delicious but the taste of the Makers Mark too strong for some; to my mind, as good as it was, overwhelmed the lamb a bit.

Both of the “middle courses” scored pretty evenly, and so this night it seemed the competition was between the first two plates and the last two – which were, of course, dessert….

Course five from Chef Luca Annunizata

Course five from Chef Luca Annunizata

I loved Course 5 from Chef Luca Annunizata – the rich log of Cheshire Bacon Ganache, with Salted Bourbon Caramel and cookie crust was heavenly; the  Pecans Pope & Sons Pumpkin Mousse along side the chocolate all atop a smear of Cherry Infused Molasses looked like ice cream upon arrival and when it wasn’t, it through diners off a bit. Although it was quite tasty it might have been better received and a better accompaniment to the chocolate had it been frozen.

 

Course six from Chef Jon Fortes

Course six from Chef Jon Fortes

Course 6  was a plate with “Three Bites of Dessert”  with what is becoming a Competition Dining trademark presentation from Chef Jon Fortes.  He is a chef who loves to present trios and this one worked well – the warm Sticky Toffee Pope & Sons Pumpkin Bread for me was the best bite on the plate, although the Salted Caramel Ice Cream with Candied Cheshire Bacon came in a close second – who doesn’t love candied bacon? The  Pudding Pumpkin Roll with Autumn Crema was also tasty and rounded out Fortes high scoring presentation.

Team Mimosa with chef Ref Lawrence Willard - from left Exec Chef Jon Fortes, Chef Ref Lawrence, Chef Thomas Marlow, and Chef Joseph Cornett

Team Mimosa with chef Ref Lawrence Willard – from left Exec Chef Jon Fortes, Chef Ref Lawrence, Chef Thomas Marlow, and Chef Joseph Cornett

As the scores were tallied and presented to the excited crowd, Fortes took the lead and dessert put team Mimosa over the top and into the finals against Rooster’s Chef Phil Barnes on Monday October 21. Congratulations to all of the chefs for another fabulous Competition Dining meal!

Team Mimosa with chef ref Billy Seay; fron left Chef Thomas Marlow, Chef Ref Billy, Chef Joseph Cornett and Exec Chef Jon Fortes

Team Mimosa with chef ref Billy Seay; fron left Chef Thomas Marlow, Chef Ref Billy, Chef Joseph Cornett and Exec Chef Jon Fortes

The winner of the final fire here in Charlotte will go on to the big statewide Final Fire in Raleigh – a competition of winners from 2013’s Fire on the Rock in Blowing Rock, Fire on the Dock in Wilmington, Fire in the Triad in the Greensboro area and Fire in the Triangle in Raleigh. Tickets for Final Fire go on sale at 7 pm on October 30 and will be available  to everyone who attended one of the Competition Dining dinners this year.

Competition Dining Creator Jimmy Crippen does a video interview with team Mimosa Grill just after the win

Competition Dining Creator Jimmy Crippen does a video interview with a happy but exhausted  team Mimosa Grill just after the win

For more information about Mimosa Grill located in Uptown Charlotte at 327 S Tryon St  Charlotte, NC 28202; 704.343.0700,, visit www.harpersgroup.com/mimosa.asp Mimosa Grill on Urbanspoon

For more information about Passion 8 Bistro, located at 3415 S Carolina Hwy 51  Fort Mill, SC 29715; 803.802.7455, visit www.passion8bistro.com Passion8 Bistro on Urbanspoon

Battle Joyce Farms Naked Chicken Chef Rob Masone, Heist Brewery, Charlotte vs Chef Luca Annunziata, Passion 8 Bistro, Fort Mill, SC. Passion 8 Bistro Takes the Ride into Victory Lane

Chef Rob Masone form Heitz Brewery

Chef Rob Masone from Heist Brewery

Chef Luca Annuziata from Passion 8 Bistro

Chef Luca Annuziata from Passion 8 Bistro

“If you don’t take risks, then maybe there is no reward.”

So said Passion 8 Bistro’s Executive Sous chef. Matthew Krenz after the 7th Competition Dining Battle Monday night Sept 23. It was Battle Joyce Farms Naked Bird Chicken; and that “take risks” attitude is what wowed diners with not one, but two desserts – one from each team of edgy chefs.

Like the four courses that preceded the finale for this evening’s meal, each dessert was made with chicken – who’d of ever thunk it?   More about the end of the meal later, right now lets go back to the beginning.

The teams from Passion 8 Bistro, on the left, and Heitz Brewery on the right with Competition Dining host and creator, Jimmy Crippen; as they learn the secret ingredient for the evening.

The teams from Passion 8 Bistro, on the left, and Heist Brewery on the right with Competition Dining host and creator, Jimmy Crippen; as they learn the secret ingredient for the evening. From left, Chef Matthew Krenz, Chef Evan Micek, Chef Luca Annunziata, Jimmy Crippen, Chef Rob Masone, Chef Dominique Chavez and Chef Bobby Varwick

The competitors for this evening  of Competition Dining’s Fire in the City were Chef Rob Masone from Heist Brewery and Chef Luca Annunziata from Passion 8 Bistro. Both chefs seemed pleased to have chicken as the featured ingredient, but both had obviously planned on the secret ingredient being something else. “We were thinking it would be some weird ingredient, so we were happy about the chicken,” said  Annunziata.

Masone concurred, saying they, too, thought the secret ingredient would be harder to work with;  but the  culinary truth is that sometimes the simplest of ingredients require  the most culinary skill.

Both teams served the secret ingredient well – six plates to make the meal from appetizers to desserts.

but_naked_chickenJoyce Foods “Naked Chicken” is another excellent Got to be NC product, distributed by Competition Dining title sponsor Pate Dawson – Southern Foods.   Based in Winston-Salem. NC with farms across the Piedmont, Joyce Foods heritage breed chickens are raised on small North Carolina farms with  plenty of room for chickens to roam. The company’s trademarked Poulet Rouge breed is a slow growing, naturally raised heritage breed, raised on an all vegetarian diet with no hormones, no growth stimulants, or antibiotics and away from any pesticides; thus the moniker Naked Chicken.

But as tasty as these heritage breed birds are, the fact is that these Competition Dining chefs had only select parts of the chicken with which to work, which made this “easy” ingredient a bit more of a challenge.

Each chef was given about 30 lbs of  what is known in the industry as an airline breast – that is a boneless breast with the drummette wing bone attached; about 30 lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and about 20 lbs. of chicken skin. No extra bones, no organ meat, no extra fat – developing intriguing deep flavors without additional parts was going to be tough. But these talented chefs came through in ways you and I would have never imagined.

Course One - Battle Chicken by Chef Rob Masone

Course One – Battle Chicken by Chef Rob Masone

Chef Bobby Varwick makes the tasty pink waffles for the first course

Chef Bobby Varwick makes the tasty pink waffles for the first course

Course 1 was from the Heist Brewery team  “Naked Chicken and Waffles” featured beet waffles, topped with Chocolate & Coffee Chicken Cracklings  and a Sun Drop-Elderberry Syrup.

This dish created a lot of chatter around  the collective dining table as it was presented on the plate on a piece of stone. While the roughly honed stone made for a great visual, it may have been a move that would come back to bite Masone as there were questions about putting something on the plate that wasn’t edible.   For me , the frustration with this dish was that the tasty syrup was on the stone and on the plate under the stone – and so hard to get to and hard to taste. My fellow diners must have agreed, as the result was an unexpected low score for the first plate out from Heitz Brewery.

Course 2 - Battle Chicken from Chef Luca Annunziata

Course 2 – Battle Chicken from Chef Luca Annunziata

Course 2 was a home run out of the box, Passion 8’s  Deconstructed Wood Fired Chicken Salad with Herbs, Pickled Beets, Rutabaga Spiced Walnuts, and a Dried Cherry Vinaigrette; garnished with Shaved Johnston County Country Ham was a crowd pleaser for sure. The chicken was moist and tender with a nice balance of flavor on the plate; and the perfectly cut veggies showed an incredible array of knife skills coming from the kitchen.

Course Three - BattleChicken from Chef Rob Masone

Course Three – Battle Chicken from Chef Rob Masone

Chef Masone and his team from Heist Brewery came back strong with Course 3, an International Sushi that everyone seemed to love.

The addition of chopsticks made it even more fun.  Inside the sushi: Thai Charred Naked Chicken served with Pickled Cabbage & Pancetta,  and a hot and spicy beautifully arranged oval of Raspberry Wasabi on the plate for dipping. Delicious  and left me wanting more.

 

Course 4 - Battle Chicken from Chef Luca Annunziata

Course 4 – Battle Chicken from Chef Luca Annunziata

Perhaps the favorite dish of the evening, and as rumor has it of the competition thus far, was Course 4  of this battle. Passion 8’s Naked Chicken Thigh Mousseline Stuffed with Andouille Sausage; served with a Potato Confit and Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette with Roasted Shiitake-Asparagus Slaw and finished with Shaved Ashe County Romano  was certainly the highest scoring dish of this inaugural Fire in the City’s preliminary rounds and likely the dish that solidified  this win for Chef Annunziata and his team.

Heidi Billotto, left, and Jessica Annunziata, right

Heidi Billotto, left, and Jessica Annunziata, right

As the official blogger of this series of culinary competitions, I eat and blog; but I do not vote, as I have been in the kitchen during the day and have seen what the chefs are up to and know the ingredients with which each team is working.  I do however make a practice of surveying the crowd, questioning fans of each restaurant, as well as mothers, girlfriends and wives of the chefs to see if they have a feel for each course. Shortly after having enjoyed the perfectly prepared chicken mousseline, I chatted with my friend Jessica Annunziata, Chef Luca’s wife, to see if she had a feel for what the guys from Passion 8 were turning out. “I could go either way on some courses,” she admitted. “But this one I know – who else but Luca would do a Mousseline?”

Jessica was right and a well done mousseline at that.

And then came the desserts.

Now, I am not sure that anyone at Joyce Foods or any other NC heritage breed poultry producer ever anticipated raising chickens to serve for dessert; but these chefs felt that a sweet end to the competition was anticipated by the crowd and they aimed to please.

For this food writer and blogger, a chicken dessert is a hard thing to swallow ( pun intended), but Chefs Masone and Annunziata did their best to make  it a palatable finish.

Course Five - Battle Chicken from Chef Rob Masone

Course Five – Battle Chicken from Chef Rob Masone

Chef Masone plates 120 portions of his Battle chicken dessert

Chef Masone plates 120 portions of his Battle Chicken dessert

The first dessert of the evening came from Chef Masone and the team at Heist Brewery – Course 5 was a Half Moon Naked Chicken, with AB Vannoy Country Ham Fire Roasted Apples, Forest Mushrooms Sweet Potato Mascarpone Icing, all topped with Candied Ginger Torched Marshmallow . While the concept was an interesting one I personally thought it to be poorly executed – the marshmallow topping was cloyingly sweet, and  grainy with sugar. For me it was much like eating Thanksgiving dinner all in one bite – poultry, ham, apples, and sweet potatoes with those tiny little marshmallows on top – too much of a good thing.  I would have preferred this ending plate as a starter, perhaps with a pour of Heitz’s lastest Autumn brew, sans the sweet finish on top.

 

Course six - Battle chicken by Chef Luca Annunziata

Course six – Battle Chicken by Chef Luca Annunziata

The second dessert was the evening’s final plate and came in the guise of Course 6 by the Passion 8 team and Chef Annunziata. Chicharones on top of and a line of, Pomegranate Molasses under a Smoked Pistachio Mousse, accented with Cocoa Dusted Parsnip, and garnished with Picked Thyme.

Personally I liked this dessert much better; but then, I am a sucker for fried crispy chicken skin. Playfully called chicharones here, its what my brother and I grew up calling  gribenes and this part of the plate brought me right back to my childhood. Have to say though, that the majority of the sold out crowd packed into the Bonterra dining room for Battle Joyce Foods Naked Chicken did not agree; as this dish, like the dessert from Heist, garnered lower scores than either chef would have liked.

Jimmy Crippen with Chef Luca Annunziata and the team from Passion 8 for an after-the-battle interview.

Jimmy Crippen with Chef Luca Annunziata and the team from Passion 8 for an after-the-battle interview.

Jimmy Crippen interviews Chef Rob Masone on his thoughts after Battle Joyce Foods Naked Chicken was done.

Jimmy Crippen interviews Chef Rob Masone on his thoughts after Battle Joyce Foods Naked Chicken was done.

In the end, scores tallied, it was the team from Passion 8 Bistro that celebrated with  the proverbial chicken dance down Victory Lane.

Both teams worked hard and worked together and certainly had fun in the process. Their efforts were  appreciated by the crowd who had a fabulous time from beginning to end. Kudos to the chefs from both teams for a battle well played.

Chef Luca Annunziata and the team from Passion 8 will go on to the Quarter finals to battle Chef Vincent Giancarlo and the team from Cantina 1511 on October 8.

For more information on Passion 8 Bistro located at 3415 S Carolina Hwy 51 in Fort Mill, SC  29715; 803.802.7455, visit www.passion8bistro.com

For more information on Heist Brewery located at 2909 N Davidson St #200 in  Charlotte, NC  28205; 704.375.8260, visit www.heistbrewery.com

For more information on Joyce Foods Naked Chicken visit www.joycefoods.com

Battle Goat Lady Dairy “Julian” Aged Gouda with Chef Jon Fortes, Mimosa Grill vs Chef Sam Stachon, King’s Kitchen. The sixth battle of the series and Fortes takes the cheese!

Chef Luca Annunziata from Passion 8 Bistro

Chef Luca Annunziata from Passion 8 Bistro

Chef Rob Masone from Heist Brewery

Chef Rob Masone from Heist Brewery

As I write this post it is early morning on Sept 23. Chef Luca Annunziata and his team  from Passion 8 Bistro are preparing to meet  Chef Rob Masone and his team from Heist Brewery on the culinary battlefield that is, for this competition, the kitchen at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room in Charlotte’s historic Dilworth neighborhood.

The Kitchen at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room

The Kitchen at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room

Chefs will meet around 11 am or so to get a feel for the lay of land in the kitchen, check out the mobile pantry full of excellent product and produce from title sponsors Pate Dawson – Southern Foods; and put together their individual strategies. Around noon they  will find out the secret ingeredient for this Battle 7 of the inaugural  Fire in the City competition dining series.

As the competition’s official blogger,  I’ll be there to cover all the action  – during the day today and again during dinner tonight

The Official Blog of Fire in the Coty

The Official Blog of Fire in the Coty

Follow me on Twitter @HeidiCooks and on the Heidi Billotto Cooks Facebook page throughout the day today for updates; and then I’ll meet you back here with the play by play and photos in  the comprehensive post tomorrow morning.

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North Carolina's own Goat Lady Dairy aged Gouda goat cheese

North Carolina’s own Goat Lady Dairy aged Gouda goat cheese

But first, time for a recap on Battle 6 held just over a week ago. On the table – the secret ingredient, goat cheese, local goat cheese from Climax NC; Goat Lady Dairy “Julien” gouda, to be more exact.

Just six dinners in and this food writer is running out of superlatives – somehow the words “wonderful” and “fabulous” just don’t seem enough to describe the Sept 11 evening of Competition Dining, although the evening was every bit of that and more.

Chef Jon Fortes and the team from Mimosa Grill

Chef Jon Fortes and the team from Mimosa Grill

Chef Sam Stachon and the team from King's Kitchen

Chef Sam Stachon and the team from King’s Kitchen

In the kitchen battling it out – Chef Jon Fortes, Executive Chef of Mimosa Grill with his team and  Chef Sam Stachon, Executive Chef of The King’s Kitchen with his team.

As is the case with nearly all of these dinners, the day was fun-filled from the very beginning. These two chefs met through Competition Dining, but hit it off from the get go.

“We both wanted the win,” said Sam Stachon of The King’s Kitchen. “But pretty much from the beginning, it was like we were all working together in our own place.”  It’s this good nature of friendly competition that makes these Fire in the City integrated dining events so much fun.

Sam Stachon , left and Jon Fortes enjoyed the competition and working with each other from the beginning

Sam Stachon , left and Jon Fortes enjoyed the competition and working with each other from the beginning

John "JD" Duncan and  Charlotte Fire Fighters

John “JD” Duncan and Charlotte Fire Fighters

Captain Rob Brisley and the Charlotte Fire Fighters enjoyed and every course

Captain Rob Brisley and the Charlotte Fire Fighters enjoyed and every course

As it was Sept 11, it was a special night. Early on, weeks before the battle, Chef John Fortes told me he thought the historic date would yield a smaller than usual dining audience; but no, this night played to a sold out crowd.

Host, and Competition Dining founder and creator Jimmy Crippen started the evening off with his video presentation as always; but this night included a special tribute to 9/11 with a moving rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by The Charlie Daniels Band.

To make it even more moving, John “JD” Duncan, owner at Bonterra played host to his neighborhood fire station, as he does each and every year since the 9/11 tragedy. Captain Rob Brisley of the CFD was there too, and delivered the fire safety message that has become the mantra of Competition Dining – The leading cause of home fires and burn injuries is cooking; so Keep your kitchen safe and make reservations to dine out at your favorite Charlotte restaurant!

The dinner was delicious – here’s the plate by plate , play by play…

The first course by Chef Jon Fortes

The first course by Chef Jon Fortes

My plate at the end of  the First Course

My plate at the end of the First Course

Course 1 set the tone of the evening for me – this “cheese plate” with  a trio of offerings was, as it turned out, from Chef Jon Fortes and included  “Goat Lady Julian Cheese Trio” Bacon Wrapped Julian with Port Wine Reduction; Goat Lady Biscuit with Heirloom Tomato & Chorizo Soup; and Whipped Cheesecake with Brown Butter Pine Nuts and Country Ham

The Second Course by Chef Sam Stachon

The Second Course by Chef Sam Stachon

In Course 2, Chef Sam Stachon took advantage of a product that had been the secret ingredient just nights before – the very delicious A.B.Vannoy Country Ham  and did it proud, serving it with  Fingerling Potato Hash, Pepperonata,  all topped off with a Goat Lady Julian Frico

The third course by Chef Jon Fortes

The third course by Chef Jon Fortes

Course 3 was the highest scoring course of the evening. Chef Jon Fortes’ Goat Lady Julian & Parsnip Gnocchi, Creamed Sweet Corn, Tasso Ham, Mushroom Conserva

 

The Fourth Course by Chef Sam Stachon

The Fourth Course by Chef Sam Stachon

Course 4 Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale Braised Manchester Farms Quail Warm Julian Cheese & Farro Salad with Charred Cabbage – while the cheese and faro salad was extraordinary, the quail and cabbage didn’t hold their weight and consequently, this was Chef Stachon’s weakest course and may have been what finally decided the battle

The Fifth Course by Chef Jon Fortes

The Fifth Course by Chef Jon Fortes

Gotta love cheese grits and in Course 5, Chef Jon Fortes brought it with Confit Cheshire Pork Roulade, Goat Lady Julian Grits Soufflé, Dried Apples, Smoked Blueberries

 

The Sixth Course from Chef Sam Stachon

The Sixth Course from Chef Sam Stachon

A high scoring Course 6 in the guise of a melt-in-your-mouth dessert was a hit for Chef Sam Stachon and the team from King’s Kitchen. On the plate – Julian Cheese & Apple Tart with  Mascarpone Chantilly Spiced Caramel Sauce  – a delicious end to an excellent an most memorable evening!

Chef Jon Fortes, Center with Harpers' Group's Steve Seitz, left and Tom Sasser, right

Chef Jon Fortes, Center with Harpers’ Group’s Steve Seitz, left and Tom Sasser, right

Chef Jon Fortes and his team from the Harper’s Group Mimosa Grill will now go on to compete in the quarter-final battle on October 7 against Chef Brian Mottola and the team from e2 Emeril’s Eatery.

Tickets are sold out so, live vicariously and follow this blog for the bite-to-bite action on the dinner and the day of the battle

For more information about Mimosa Grill located at 327 S Tryon St  Charlotte, NC 28202;   704.343.0700; visit www.harpersgroup.com/mimosa.asp Mimosa Grill on Urbanspoon

For more information about King’s Kitchen located at  129 W Trade St  Charlotte, NC 28202;  704.375.1990; visit www.kingskitchen.org/ The King's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

goat lady dairy

Our Friends at Goat Lady Dairy

For more information on Goat Lady Dairy Goat Cheese in Climax NC, visit www.goatladydairy.com/

For a great video on Competition Dining’s Fire in the  City check out the  video coverage that aired a week or so ago on WCNC’s  Charlotte Today – reporter Davyee Sutton was at the A.B. Vannoy County Ham Battle and got an insiders look on all the action! Thanks Davyee!!