cyo charcuterie

I am pretty sure there are people out there just like me who think that charcuterie is something super fancy you can only eat out at restaurants where you must also be sipping on a glass of wine. On any given day I am more interested in an IPA or wild ale over glass of wine.

While restaurants typically have a decent selection of meats and cheeses on their charcuterie menu it is always a great feeling when you can create meals just as worthy of a fancy restaurant but in the comfort of your own home. Choosing your own meats, cheeses and pickled items is highly satisfying since everything on your charcuterie board will be things you love! There will be no guilt about any uneaten pate, pickled onions or the other weird meat or cheese leftover on your board.

I partnered with Dietz & Watson to give you a walk-through on how you can create your own charcuterie board, complete with accoutrements and beer pairings. These items are all curated to my personal taste and to show you that you can create something just as beautiful and exciting as what I have made. Chef Luca at Luca Modern Italian Kitchen in Uptown Charlotte has also partnered up with Dietz & Watson to prepare a memorable meal for you and a guest for their #choosethetable series sweepstakes.

Enter the Dietz & Watson #choosethetableCLT contest for your chance to win a dinner for two on Nov 11th at 6:30 using this link. You have just 12 hours left, good luck!

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Meats

Dietz & Watson are known for their meats so I was excited about the opportunity to try something new. Pictured here is their genoa salami and summer sausage. I then added another Italian charcuterie favorite, prosciutto.

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Cheese

It is best to choose multiple styles of cheese. An herbed one, soft, hard, and medium textures. Here I have herbed goat cheese, blue cheese, smoked gouda and Dietz & Watson provolone. You could also pair a pimento or beer cheese in the mix.

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Nuts, Fruit + Spreads

You can choose just about any fruits and nuts you like. It is all based on your preferences. I would also choose different types of mustards, spicy or stone ground. Then pick your favorite fruit spreads or even flavored honey’s.

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Pickled Vegetables

I have recently stumbled upon spicy pickled brussel sprouts, which were my favorite to snack on in between bites of meat and cheese. In the cabinet at home I had pickled ramps and pickled okra, both are a great pairing.

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Breads

You want your bread and crackers to be relatively plain with no herbs or garlic oils. They are meant to be a base for your specialty meats and cheeses, not overpower them. Choosing different shapes and sizes is the best way to make your board stand out from the rest.

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Beer

Just like wine pairing you need acid to cut through the fats in meat and cheese. The right beer can accomplish the same goal. I chose three styles that I personally like that seemed to do the trick. A sour red ale, a golden saison and a chocolate-coffee porter.

Final Spread, Time to Enjoy!

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Photos by Eric Gaddy | Casting Shadows Photography


babalu

Since opening last summer, Babalu Tacos & Tapas has remained a hotspot in Historic Dilworth. East Boulevard, as we locals like to call it “Restaurant Row”, is the home to several of Charlotte’s favorite places to dine. Kid Cashew, 300 East, Thai Taste, and The Summit Room to name a few. Comfy-casual is the main theme among all of these quaint, longstanding neighborhood destinations and although Babalu does not originate from Charlotte, it has been a welcomed addition.

If you haven’t made a trip to Babalu yet, perhaps new menu items will intrigue you! They have recently launched a few new Spring menu items, revamped some favorite recipes and added two new desserts.

Keeping strong to their Latin-inspired dishes you will still see classics like the Cuban Sandwich, House-made Tacos, and Braised Chicken Tamales. By adding more contemporary plates such as Lamb Sliders, Charcuterie selections, Cayenne Chocolate Truffles and a Tres Leches Cake completes the menu with a nice finish.

b5Lamb Sliders
Rosen Farms lamb, goat cheese, pickled red onion, arugular, chipolte aioli, brioche bun

b2Charcuterie
Meats | Soppressata, Spreadable Salami, Spanish Chorizo
Cheese | Spanish Gouda, Manchego, Fresno Pepper Cheese Spread
Accouterments | Tomato Jam, Pickled Fresno Peppers, Cucumbers & Red Onions, Candied Almonds, Seasonal Fruit, Toast Points, Mustard

b8Tres Leches Cake
Sponge Cake, Citrus Whipped Cream, Blackberry Molasses Syrup

New Recipes
Blackened Scottish Salmon, Seared Tuna Crisps and house-made simple syrups for their cocktails and sangria.

Come by and enjoy their spacious patio seating at either their high tables or bright teal couches. You will see it is once again a big summer hit each time you pass by on East Boulevard. Be the person dining not driving!

Connect with Babalu on Social Media
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potbelly

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From Antiques to Sandwiches

Those two things don’t sound like they relate to one another but they do. Back in the late 70s, the owner of an antique shop in Chicago would toast his lunch sandwiches in one of the iron ovens in the showroom. His customers would come in and smell the delicious aroma coming from this oven and this eventually gave him the idea to open up a sandwich shop. Now at over 400 shops they are still full steam ahead! Read more about their story here.

Potbelly Stove

There is an antique potbelly stove in every single one of their stores, pretty much making them the largest collector of these little (heavy) guys. They were originally used in homes, train stations or even in schools to provide warmth. It is cast-iron wood-burning stove with a huge bulge in the middle, matching its given name. And a small flat plate at the top that can be used for cooking or heating water.

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Good Vibes, Great Sandwiches

There are 15 sandwiches, 11 “skinnys”, 6 salads and 7 soups to choose from. Ranging from Smoked Ham to a Pizza Sandwich and then some as simple as a Grilled Cheese or Tuna Salad. The most popular sandwiches at the Uptown location are the Mediterranean and A Wreck, their signature sandwich.

Mediterranean | zippy hummus, feta cheese, artichoke hearts, crisp cucumbers and roasted red peppers on multi-grain
A Wreck | salami, angus roast beef, oven roasted turkey, hickory smoked ham with melted Swiss cheese topped with fresh lettuce, tomato and mayo on multi-grain

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Shakes & Smoothies

If you are looking for something sweet to end you meal you have about 14 different ones to choose from. I was treated to two this time around, an Oreo and Mixed Berry. An Oreo shake is always wonderful and I’ve only ever had a single berry shake like strawberry or blueberry, so it t it was a nice surprise to have one with them all.

Connect with Potbelly and visit their uptown location or… one coming soon to your neighborhood!
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tavolo

I had an amazing opportunity a couple weeks ago with my fellow food friends of CLT Food Bloggers. We were given the chance to learn how to make our own pizzas! Tavolo, located in uptown Charlotte at the corner of 6th and College, is an Italian restaurant focusing on fresh, local ingredients that fit right in to our modern and traditional expectations of great Italian food.

General manager Anthony Cardone and Executive Chef Deacon Ovall and his team show us their pizza making ways at Tavolo. They were all very proud about the quality, sourcing and preparation of not only the pizzas but their entire menu.

Their menu is full of classic plates like Eggplant Parmigiano, Chicken Francese and Shrimp Fra Diavolo. There are more modern options like Charcuterie Boards as well as a Bar Bites Menu featuring items like Meatball Sliders, Fried Zucchini and Fried Dough Bites. It was clear they really enjoyed and valued their process of pizza making, so let’s get right to that.

Only the Freshest Ingredients

Their dough is a 50/50 flour and semolina and shaped into 8 ounce rolls. Once risen and pounded, they’re ready for toppings. Although the pizza dough is made in house, their table bread is baked by Libretto’s Pizzeria.

Tavolo uses a cheese mixture of mostly whole cow’s milk with a bit of buffalo milk shredded mozzarella blended in for that extra punch of flavor. If you’ve never tried buffalo mozzarella, put it on your to-do list! The have three sauces: marinara, alfredo and garlic oil, which are all made from scratch in their kitchen.

Ranging from house-made balsamic and cherry soaked figs to 4 inch diameter Board’s Head pepperoni and spicy sausage, all of their toppings are of the highest quality.
Fun Fact:  Boar’s Head was the only company who could accommodate their request for such large pepperoni, high fives!

As a final touch, they dust their pizzas with a spice blend made special for them by Motown Spice Provisions in Mooresville.

Wood Fired Oven

Tavolo uses hard wood cherry and white oak for their wood-fired oven. At a temperature between 700-800 degrees, the pizzas only take about 6-8 minutes to cook. We almost burned the demo pizza, so it’s obvious their pizzas require a lot of attention to make sure they come out perfectly.

The pizzas start off in the very back of the oven where the embers are hottest. Then, they are turned slightly and moved along the sides for equal distribution of heat. Once all the turns are made and it reaches the front of the oven, voila!

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My Personal Pizza

Since I couldn’t decide on just a few toppings and didn’t want my pizza to weigh 5 pounds I decided to create a half and half. One half just had to be those 4 inch pepperonis and nothing else because they are simply impressive. For the other half, I also chose spicy sausage, portabella mushrooms, fresh tomatoes and buffalo milk mozzarella. Then I doused my edges with their house-made garlic oil.

Great company, strong cocktails and amazing pizza, what a fantastic evening. See more about my friend’s Allie, Jess, Chrissie, and Tanya and their experience at Tavolo!
EatDrinkCLT | SliceofJess OffTheEatenPath | MyForkingLife | CLTFoodBloggers

Connect with Tavolo on the socials! Facebook | Insta | Web


be improper

Most of you have seen on our local Charlotte social media sites that Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives visited us this past week. Guy Fieri took some time to meet up some of the Queen City’s favorite spots, Bang Bang Burgers, JJ’s Red Hots and The Improper Pig. This episode of Triple D is appropriately named “Beef, Lamb and Pig”.

I have gotten to know the in’s and out’s of The Improper Pig over the past year from when I first started blogging about food. Everyone behind The Improper Pig is a pleasure to be around. The owner Will Bigham, GM Gavin Toth, Head Chef Dar Amidi and the awesome media team behind Stomp, Chomp & Roll, Chris Soto & Fernanda Zendejas. They all have welcoming smiles that make you feel like you’re part of their little family.

What Does #beimproper Mean?

I met with the Improper team over a year ago. During that meeting, it became clear to me what the “The Improper Pig” actually meant. With extensive knowledge of Asian cuisine from operating the former restaurant Mama Fu’s and having a passion for BBQ, a new twist on the southern staple was born.

Since their dream wasn’t going to follow the proper, expected and typical path of menu creation that would be commonly seen here in the South, naming it The Improper Pig just made sense.

Pictured from top left | No Pig Sandwich, The Cotswold Platter with added meats, Chow Bao Taco

Southern BBQ with an Asian Twist

When I saw “Asian Shrimp Tacos” on the menu at a BBQ restaurant I admit I had some doubts. The Cotswold Village is very close to my home so for the past several months I’ve made many trips here. I’ve come to love the unique options and tell everyone to come check it out for themselves.

I think it’s neat that I can order different styles of food at the same place. Menu items like BBQ Egg Rolls, Chow Bao Taco, No Pig Sandwich, Beet Salad, or even Spiced Edamame and the aforementioned Asian Shrimp Tacos. To me, it seems like there would be something for everyone. It’s more than just a BBQ joint.

They also have Burger Features, Taco Tuesday Deals, Fusion Specials, a Catering Menu and over 20 brands of Bourbon & Whiskey. View the menu here!

Homemade sauces are always appreciated right? They make all kinds of different sauces for you to choose from so there is no excuse for your meats to go naked. My two favorites are Mary B’s and Queen Bee. Other flavors are Eastern BBQ, Korean-style, Tong’s Thai, Teriyaki, General’s, Buffalo, Inferno, Jeff’s Mustard and Spicy Hoisin.

Good Luck Soup & Spicy Green Beans

My two favorite menu items are the Good Luck Soup and the side of Spicy Green Beans.

A Good Luck Soup is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day as a “good luck” meal. Since we usually need luck more than once, they’ve got it on the menu all year round! It’s their version of a Brunswick Stew with collard greens, sweet potatoes, black eyed peas, brisket and pulled pork.

Their Spicy Green Beans are, in my personal opinion, award winning for the best side item in the world. I will leave their recipe a secret so you don’t try to make them at home and come here instead! ;)

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The Bab

In case you wanted an entire meal on the top of your Bloody Mary, The Bab is for you. House made Bloody Mary mix, chicken slider, pork slider, chicken wing, smoked bacon, mini cornbread muffin, onion rings, pickle, olives, and more!

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Homemade Desserts

This little delight right here is a homemade sugar cookie with vanilla icecream. It’s served to you in one big round circle about the size of a dinner plate and cut into fours. The cookie is still warm! They also have seasonal skillet cobblers that are equally as delicious.

If you’re interested in seeing Dar say “cilantra” instead of “cilantro”, check out the details on Triple D’s visit here!

Connect with The Improper Pig Facebook | Insta | Twitter and don’t forget to follow The Oinker food truck to see where they’ll be next! 

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P.S. The Stomp, Chomp and Roll family includes some other Charlotte favorites, The Pizza Peel and The Flying Biscuit.


order/fire | kindred

I attended my first Order/fire a couple Sunday’s ago at Free Range Brewing, S2E5. Having only read bits about it online I didn’t have a clear idea of what to expect.

I needed answers to so many questions. Is this a ticketed event? Will I meet the guests? Will there be food? Does Free Range always host? Will I see anyone I know? How is the seating arranged, will there even be seating? How long is this going to take? Are they interviewing and recording it today? Ahhhh!

Order/fire is a Charlotte video web series featuring our local restaurants, chefs, farmers, mixologists, restaurateurs and the like. They provide a casual platform for their guests to give us a heartfelt glimpse into what inspired them to follow their dreams, what they’re doing now and where they see the future of their business.

Food & Beer

Turns out Free Range Brewing is home of every Order/fire episode. This particular episode featured the nationally acclaimed owners Joe & Katy Kindred for their restaurant in Davidson, NC named “Kindred”. Shortly after opening, they were voted 7th best new restaurant in the country in 2015 by Bon Appetit.

I giggled when I learned this episode would about Kindred. I have been wanting to visit Kindred since they opened 2 years ago. Everyone I know in the local food blogger community has pretty much demanded I go ASAP. And here was my chance, sort of.

After parking, I walk up to the entrance of Free Range and see Joe behind the grill cooking up dry-rub wings for everyone. I was ecstatic. So I made a bee-line to the bar, grabbed a Grapefruit IPA to hold my seat at the inside picnic tables and headed back out to get some “Wings & Beans”. I was now ready to enjoy the show!

4001Photo courtesy of Order/fire.

Milk Bread, Pickles & Beer

A little bit about Joe, Katy and the restaurant that had a name before it had walls.

When Katy starts talking on screen I was immediately in awe. She lit up the room with her fresh, natural beauty, kindness and intelligence. She opens up by describing herself as a “gypsy beat-nick kind of gal”. Traveled the world in her twenties, a design nerd, loves to mix modern and old school. Like how Kindred has an old pharmacy feel but has a herringbone-design wine wall. This is where she thrives, it’s all about the details.

She does her homework on the guests too. Claims to be a “big time stalker, but not in a weird way.” They strive to provide the best possible experience, to “break bread” with you. If they have to make two dishes so that they can pick the best one, they will. Joe likes to avoid having gnocchi nightmares and broken sauces.

Their famous Milk Bread is Katy’s creation, “an analogy of their relationship”she calls it. Her own take on a Japanese Milk Bread recipe and is served right when you sit down. It’s Joe and Katy’s way of welcoming you to their private little space and to relax. This bread is meant to recreate positive and fun memories as a kid growing up in the South with that light, airy, nostalgic flavor of a yeast roll. They also use this recipe for donuts, cinnamon rolls, and shrimp roll buns.

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Joe starts telling a story and laughs saying, “You’re going to eat it, and you’re going to like it.” when talking about spending time with his Grandfather and the pickles he ate as a kid. I grew up in Hickory, NC and we always had these “pickles”. I still make them when I get homesick.

They’re not you’re average pickles. They are fresh, thinly-sliced cucumbers submerged in white vinegar, water, salt and a few chili’s, or black pepper. The leftover brine is used in their other recipes like fried chicken, yum!

BFC

The BFC is baked for those employees showing outstanding character, kindness, amazing-ness and all of the other great reasons that justify such a dessert. I’ll leave you to decipher what BFC means ;)

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Hello Sailor

After two years they are ready to dive into restaurant number two. You can park your boat on Lake Norman and grab a bite. Joe grew up eating at this spot formerly known as Jack’s BBQ and the Rusty Rudder. He says it’s “not chefy”. They want it to be a fun, less serious atmosphere, a tiki bar-ish feel with sailor themed decor.

They were in a bidding war with some corporate restaurants and thought to themselves, let’s just go for it and put it all out there, if it’s mean to be, it will be. Luckily, the owner wanted to go with the little guy. He chose to be a part of something he could be proud of and went with Joe and Katy’s vision. High fives!

Charity

Over 250 people came to this event and raised a thousand dollars in the raffle to benefit the Lake Normal YMCA. Through these charity raffles, Charlotte has raised over ten thousand dollars! Incredible.

You can watch the entire episode here.

The next episode will be in March featuring Chef Chris Coleman from Stoke Charlotte.

Ever heard of their 1 pound donut? I can tell you first hand that it is fantastic.

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Connect with Order/fire Facebook | Insta | Web


green brothers juice

Drink up, life’s worth it!

That’s the slogan behind Green Brothers Juice. Granted you can take that to mean to drink anything liquid… like coffee, champagne, protein shakes, water, milkshakes or whatever you want really. But, we’re talking about fruits and veggies here people, so that’s where I’m going with this.

And no, their last name isn’t Green, I asked!

I met with Josh Norris, co-founder and “chief juice guru” and he gave me the rundown on all things juice. He was also super nice and let me have some samples and even gave me an energy shot to-go. Since I couldn’t drink all three smoothies, my friends benefited from his generosity, and they loved them too :)

The Green Brothers are all about making you feel your best. When you are healthy,  you feel better about yourself and are more positive about life in general. The more you take care of yourself, the more things in life work out. It’s just about giving your body things it needs rather than what it wants, like milkshakes.

Their ingredients are all natural and locally sourced. They prefer to work with local farmers and build meaningful relationships not only with them, but also with their customers. Everything is juiced on site.

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Shots!

This shot is called the Cold Busta.  It has lemon, ginger, garlic, jalapeño, beet, tumeric, oreganol and cayenne. It was INTENSE! I had no idea what was happening inside my mouth but I liked it, I think. It was totally invigorating.

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Juices & Smoothies!

If you’re tired of eating your vegetables, just put them in a blender with some fruit and call it a day. I don’t particularly like juices so I always go straight for smoothies. Mainly because they remind me of milkshakes, and I always want milkshakes ((obviously)).

It’s nice that their categories are geared toward your needs. Fresh & Easy, High Protein, Superfood, and Top Shelf. The three pictured here are Fresh & Easy, which is exactly what they were. Light, refreshing, cold and full of nutrients. With over 20 smoothies and 7 juices to choose from, you’re likely to find at least one you will enjoy.

High Five | strawberry, banana & apple juice
Greengo | mango, spinach & apple juice
Sunny Cup | mango, banana & pineapple juice

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Juice Cleanse!

I’ve personally never done a juice cleanse other than the all-to-general Lemon Juice Cayenne concontion everyone did a few years ago and it lasted about two days. Hashtag hangry.

Seeing places like Juice Bar, Luna’s Living Kitchen, and Viva Raw offering cleanse packages makes it way more appealing than trying to juice a million lemons by myself. And there must be some kind of benefit right?

I asked Josh to sell me on why I should do a juice cleanse. Here goes:  it gives your digestive track a rest and fights inflammation. It can have some potential weight loss benefits, it will give your skin a healthy glow, and will generate an energy boost in your metabolism. These all seem like things I would like, so, I might be down for trying one.

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Green Brothers Juice are currently located in the Bank of America Plaza and the Duke Energy Center.

They are looking for a spot in Dilworth as their third location within the year. They will be offering a bottling service in the new kitchen so you can refill your glass jars any time you’d like!

Stay tuned to their social feeds. Facebook | Instagram | Web

Tell me your thoughts on doing a juice cleanse! I think I need a bit more convincing.