a day in the life

I am fortunate to have an established career with global corporation that allows me the freedom of a flexible schedule. Being able to extend my days off into more than just two days has given me the opportunity to create a life in the food community here in Charlotte.

Over the past two years,  I created a food blog at the advice of a friend and became the girlfriend of a beer and food photographer. Without knowing exactly what was missing, these two things were the answer. They launched me into the person I have wanted to be for so long. Supporting local restaurants, brands and leaders has always been important to me. I am honored to be considered an influencer in this great city.

Taking advantage of my three days off takes some planning. I typically map out a plan to go uptown for some photos, eat at a new place for breakfast and lunch, go for a run on the greenway, stop in Trader Joe’s and then try to make it home before rush hour. Eating at a new place on my days off is sometimes challenging. I have favorite spots I like to visit, it’s nice to keep to what’s familiar when you’re rushing around.

I need to wear comfortable clothes, stay hydrated, and have all the necessary things for me to have a successful day of hopping around town. My Apple Watch is my only real accessory and at times I forget what it’s like to have a “regular” watch. Please tell me you’ve had those “ghost vibrates” on your wrist when you aren’t wearing it, right? It’s strange and a clear realization that maybe I should give my wrist a break from the constant updates. Here enteres my new addition, a sleek and super cool wooden watch, by JORD.

A Walk Uptown & Lunch

Sushi is one the most fun things to eat, probably because of the chopsticks and dipping everything in sriracha. Both sriracha and chopsticks are not technically in the “proper” rules of eating sushi. I know that we are not in Japan, but I would like to pretend sometimes. My top three sushi restaurants in Charlotte are Pisces, CO and RuSan’s.

For a breakdown of the said rules of eating sushi, check out this great article. What I learned most from reading Lisa’s piece was that it is considered rude to rub your chopsticks together after breaking them apart. I simply do this to avoid splinters, apparently it comes across as you thinking the utensils are under quality. I will still rub them together, mainly because I don’t want a splinter and because the restaurants here don’t whittling their own chopsticks. As much as I eat sushi, I should invest in my own pair and carry them around in my purse.

Greenway Run & Craft Beer

My two favorite things about Charlotte are the Little Sugar Creek Greenway and all the breweries we have. The greenway is a great way to get exercise in nature without having to leave the city. Once finished it will be over nineteen miles.

Wooden Robot is one of the best in my opinion. Offering a fantastic selection of IPAs, sours, ales and a food vendor that makes every item on their menu with one of their beers. To top off the experience, you have a great view of uptown Charlotte. A couple of my other favorite Charlotte breweries are Birdsong and Sycamore.

Unique Style of JORD Watches

If you’ve enjoyed my “day in the life of a food blogger” little story and want to know more about my new cool watch, here’s a close up photo and a link to see other men’s and women’s styles. The watch I’m wearing in these photos is from the Frankie 35 series, “Dark Sandalwood and Mint”.

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All photos by Eric Gaddy Casting Shadows Photography


dilworth tasting room

Meet the new face of an old Dilworth neighborhood favorite.

Keeping true to the original structure and character of the longtime neighborhood pub of 35 years, Dilworth Billiards, you can tell the moment you walk through the front door that it has been upgraded into a beautiful and spacious new gathering place.

Owner Jaffer Kovic, and his father Hase, remodeled almost every inch of the interior. What you will notice first is the two large red leather couches facing one another, a long mustard yellow leather bench wrapping the street facing wall of tables and another huge black couch along the side wall. Secondly, you’ll see a gorgeous bar lining the back wall that is back-lit with vertical rows upon rows of wine bottles.

Kovic has extensive knowledge in the wine industry as an advanced sommelier. He also understands exactly what it means when a new venture just feels right. By chance, he and his family drove by a “For Lease” sign posted in front of Dilworth Billiards. Owner of the building, Eric Sprouse, was pleased to enter a leasing agreement with Kovic and is excited about what he has done with the space, keeping it as open and welcoming as it was before.

 

The Decor | The bar is custom made by Kovich’s father Hase, mahogany wood with handcrafted copper accents as well as the columns and wine racks. An exposed brick wall is adorned with empty square picture frames. Soft round light fixtures hang and fill the 2,800 square foot room. You will also find some artwork created by Kovich’s young daughter. A warm and comfortable atmosphere with a knowledgeable staff creates for a great night of learning and indulging.

 

The Food | Created by Ivana Bekavac to compliment the wine and beer menu, simple and elegant, and approachable.Heavy on superior quality meat and cheese, small bites and snacks like mixed nuts and burrata, four styles of bruschetta, three panini options and a plethora of combinations to choose from to create your own charcuterie spread. Keep an eye out for new additions as their supply will change on a regular basis.
My recommendations would be the Roasted Grape Bruchetta and the Burrata with Basil Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes.

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The Drinks | As written on Kovic’s business card “In every empty wine bottle is a story.” the drink menu was designed with you in mind. A craft beer list twenty-nine deep from around the world, fourteen white wines and twenty-four reds, plus a handful of champagne and sparkling wines. The staff is unbelievably knowledgeable and asks the right questions to help you find a wine that suits you when undecided.
I was graciously assisted by our waitress to find my favorite of the evening. She gave me three different wine samples so she could learn my taste. We found that Four Vines “Naked” Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County, CA 2015 was a winner.

 

The Patio | The original koi pond still exists. Lush trees and flowers surround private bistro table nooks with brick walkways leading to each around the pond. String lighting and paper lanterns shine above. This patio is the ultimate date spot.

Swing by Dilworth Tasting Room as soon as possible for a girls night, date night, quick drink and a light snack. You could also make a night of it with your family or coworkers visiting Charlotte, show them something new.

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beer & cheese pairing

Forget wine and cheese, pass me the beer and cheese!

I’m not much of a wine drinker. The ladies of Charlotte Food Bloggers seem to like beer as much as I do so all of us were pumped to experience a BEER and cheese pairing. Wine and cheese is old news anyway right? We are in the fastest growing craft beer scene in the nation after all.

CFB partnered up with The Unknown Brewing, Orrman’s Cheese Shop and a couple other local restaurants for a 5 course dinner pairing. The ticketed event was held in Unknown’s taproom. Owner, Brad Shell, gave us a tour about halfway through our tastings to mix things up a bit. If you’ve never been on a brewery tour with Brad, please do so as soon as possible. He is quite enjoyable to watch when he gets excited about the brew process. Hops like to make babies, that is all (ha!).

This wasn’t the first pairing event Unknown has been a part of. They hosted a sushi and beer pairing with O-Ku, see my story here.

All of the bites were put on display at the community table in the taproom. Flatbreads from Craft Growler Shop around the corner, boneless chicken wings from Duckworth’s down the street, homemade mango salsa, bacon wrapped dates, chocolate brownies and five different cheeses. My sweet tooth was thankful for the brownies among all of the savory plates!

When you’re with a group of food bloggers this is what you can expect…

Depending on how many of us there are, we can spend up to thirty minutes staging and photographing the food.

It’s a team effort too. Everyone is willing to hold up their iPhone flashlights or ring-light adapters to give just the right amount of light for that perfect photo. We are also patient with each other. Knowing that we are all here for the same reason, to take your turn, and not to worry about the food getting cold. Yes, we care about that too but…

Whether food blogging is your job or a just a hobby, documenting the food and supporting these local companies is what comes first. It’s why we do what we do. Food brings people together.

Beer, Cheese and Accoutrements

Ginger Wheat | Landaff | Mango Salsa
Pre Game Pale Ale | Flory’s Truckle | Flatbreads
Over the Edge IPA | Barren Country Blue | Buffalo Chicken Bites
Dirty Commie Heathen Russian Imperial Stout | Fourme d’Ambert | Brownies
Raisin the Roof Belgian Quad | Toggenberger | Bacon Wrapped Dates

A big thank you to Ashley, LeAndra, Brad, Scott, the other members of Charlotte Food Bloggers and our local vendors for a wonderful evening. Now, I will always suggest beer with my cheese instead of wine. Cheers y’all!

Connect with everyone on social media by clicking the links throughout this post.


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!

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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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evoke | spring

It’s that time again for a flood of new seasonal menu’s to taste and promote. I was graciously invited to attend Evoke’s new Spring Menu tasting, for the third time! Joined by other food blogger friends and magazine representatives we were all immediately asked what we would like to drink. The other two tastings I’ve attended, the staff was attentive and friendly. They make sure your drink and water glasses are full and that you always have a clean fork. This time was no exception. It is a fantastic place to dine.

Evoke is located off of McDowell in the lobby of Le Meridian hotel. Their goal is to offer chic, new-age menu items that focus heavily on house-made pasta, dry-aged steaks and fresh crudo to set your palette soaring with new flavors to taste.

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Their new Chef de Cuisine, Rodrigo Velazco, came into the dining room to speak with us before the tasting began. He is charismatic, passionate, humble and serious all wrapped in one chef’s coat. Coming from a life in Venezuela, he has experience and commitment to sourcing locally so that he can show his roots on the plate in the revamped spring menu launch. You won’t catch him without his two golden spoons!

6 Course Menu Tasting

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Yellowfin Tuna | sea beans, saffron pickled fennel, arugula, crispy onion, lemon oil

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Burrata Salad | heirloom peeled tomato, brioche crisp, black olive vinaigrette, basil

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Lobster & Sweetbreads | peas, mint, lemon, tarragon jus vinaigrette

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Pimenton Rigatoni | braised rabbit, fava beans, morels, mint gremolada

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Sturgeon | white asparagus, fennel, pearl onions, grapes, di vitello jus

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Corn Cheesecake | burbon mousse, rosemary, blueberry

As a parting gift they had four different sea salts to choose from – Porcini, Smoke, Chipotle, Lava. Each was paired with their own miniature golden spoon like what Rodrigo carries around.  It was the perfect touch!

Pictured | Jess @sliceofjess Check out her awesome home-made recipes!

Connect with Evoke on social media and make a reservation for your next date night!
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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

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