Amazing food in Rock Hill, SC? Yes, it’s true! Try Culina!

Greetings!While I may live in South Charlotte, with quick and easy access to many a great restaurant, my parents chose to live just over the border in South Carolina in the city of Rock Hill. It takes me a good 45 minutes to get there from my house. Just close enough and just far enough away!

Unfortunately, because it is away from town, the culinary choices close to home that are not a chain restaurant are very limited for them. So imagine how happy they were when they discovered Culina!

Culina, modern comfort food, is located at 295 Herlong Ave, #404. If you are familiar with the area at all, it’s in the same shopping center as McAllister’s or Talbot’s. It’s a neighborhood gem and the food is amazing!

Here is a link to their website.

This is a tale of two trips really, first my initial experience there and second the amazing supper club they have at the end of each month.

My first trip…

was with my parents and some new neighbors, who are also from California. I think my parents wanted to show them “see there is good food in your new neighborhood”.

It’s a small plates joint so we ordered a ton of stuff and shared. Here were some of my favorites!

First up is this amazing salad. It had amazing local tomatoes, with a wonderful and light vinaigrette, and obviously some shaved red onions. Their menu tends to be very seasonal and this was a summer salad that is no longer on the menu.


What is still on the menu is…THIS!


If you read my New Orleans Jazz Fest post, you’d know about my love of Crawfish Monica, which is essentially a mac and cheese, with crawfish. At Culina, they serve a Smoked Crawfish Mac and Cheese, with pancetta, garlic and shallots and it is a very close cousin to Crawfish Monica. Upon eating it I told my server to tell the chef I loved my Crawfish Monica. When she came back, she asked if I was from NOLA, confirming indeed this was inspired by my Jazz Fest favorite.

Another amazing staple on the menu, the Tomato Pie.

tomato pie

This dish was really delicious and since there were five of us, we ordered two. It has tons of fontina cheese, they make the dough in house. Super yummy.

Another great dish for sharing was the Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups.


These had a wonderful curry in them that delivered just enough spice. No mayo in here. Just delicious wonderful local flavors.

The Supper Club…

is a fun, intimate, limited seating dinner they do on the last Sunday of each month. It’s $75 a person (I think that’s what my Mom told me) and that includes your wine pairing with each dish. We attended Super Club #3 at the end of September.

The first dish was Ceviche. As a fan of Ceviche, which is raw fish w/ citrus (the acid cooks the fish) and veggies, I was pumped to see what they did after looking at the menu. It was described as day boat scallops, plantain chips, and olive oil powder.

This is what it looked like…


and no joke it was DELICIOUS. The olive oil powder was really light. The flavors were amazing.

Next up was North Carolina Amberjack, which is a white fish from local waters. It’s kind of like a Sea Bass. I had it at a restaurant recently and when I didn’t recognize it…I asked. Don’t be afraid to ask about something you aren’t familiar with on a menu.

This Amberjack was pan seared, with charred baby leek and squash blossom (yes you can eat the flower of the squash), red oak (a great local lettuce) and romesco.


The romesco (the orange sauce) was so flavorful. What is a romesco?

Wikipedia says:

Romesco is a nut and red pepper-based sauce from Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain. It is typically made from any mixture of roasted or raw almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts, roasted garlic, olive or sunflower oil, bitxo peppers and/or nyora peppers

Also worth noting was that they served this with a Rose wine, which I normally don’t enjoy. However this one, a Badenhorst Secateurs Rose from South Africa, was lovely. It wasn’t as sweet as I expect a Rose to be and that is why I liked it and bought two bottles. carries it…check it out for $17 bucks.

While we are talking wine, I thought it was super smart of the owners to pair the food w/ such moderately priced wines. I am much more likely to buy them and so are the nice people of Rock Hill.

The next course was not my favorite. I wanted it to be but in all honesty it just fell short.

It was described as a root beer braised short rib with a rosemary grit cake, pumpkin pooridge with lobster butter. The chef told us how he had slaved over it and how it had braised for hours. It looked and smelled amazing…


but at the end of the day…your short rib should be succulent and soft and you should NOT have to use a knife. This was tough. Everyone has an off night.

The wine for that course was a french wine called, Domaine La Casenove, “La Garrigue”. It was very much like a nice Cabernet, again I bought two bottles.

Dessert was an adventure!

It was titled “The Miracle Berry Experiment”. Everyone was poured a glass of the Simonet Blanc de Blancs Brut from France (a champers if you will) and then this was put in front of them.


Say what? Why did you just serve me a plate of lemon, lime and other citrus?

Well what you can barely see is a plate in front of my plate that contains a red miracle berry tablet. I’ll be honest we were all a little skeptical. However, the chef came out and said, they had tried to find miracle berry in another form but this was all they could find. He instructed us to sip our drink, and make note of the taste, which was not sweet. Then, he instructed us to put the tablet on our tongues and let it dissolve. He told us to get it all over our palate.

Then…try the drink again. This time…it was SWEET!

He said, now try the lemon or the lime…ALSO SWEET.

Such a fun way to make dessert interactive and fun!

Here is a link to the tablets if you want to try this at your next dinner party.

All in all, they are doing some really creative food at Culina. It’s a local spot that needs your support! So please give it a try!


Have you been to the New Orleans Jazz Fest? Make the answer… YES!

The Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, LA is my version of heaven on earth. Amazing music, amazing local food, and an amazing mix of all of the cultures that make New Orleans a fabulous city. For more on the city…see my earlier blog post about New Orleans from July.

When asked this year about how many Jazz Fests I had been to I had to think about it really hard…and I have no idea. I’ve been more than a few times, but not as many as some of my friends.

My first, was 2005, just a few short months before Hurricane Katrina. I went with two of my girlfriends and I instantly fell in love with the city and the Jazz Fest. My first day at the fest, was a Thursday of the second weekend and Jack Johnson played on the Acura Stage. It  wasn’t very crowded, the sun was shining, and it was a really fun day.

After watching that great city get hit so hard later that year, I knew I had to return the following festival in 2006. I actually, ended up going by myself that year. I had equally as much fun and ended up hanging with my then boss, Ramsey and his friends. I was proud that I had made it back and helped the economy in my own little way.

After that it becomes a bit hazy. I don’t think I went in 2007, because I had just moved bought a house. I think I went in 2009, 2010…and then again in 2011. I had totally forgotten about 2010 but knew there had to be another year because my friend Kelly went to the Pearl Jam year…which was 2010. So that makes 2013…my sixth time! My colleague Chuck just said to me “that’s a lot of times to go to the same place”, to which I replied “that’s how fun it is Chuck”.

In fact, here is a photo of me (not the best but I wanted to capture the relaxed look on my face) during Billy Joel’s set on the Acura Stage. It was a gorgeous New Orleans day, not too hot, a nice breeze, and I was a happy happy girl.


So a big fun factor about going to the fest is the FOOD! Both at the fairgrounds and in the city.

We started our trip at the Parkway Bakery, home of the best Po’ boy sandwiches. I had an Alligator Sausage Po’Boy with sweet potato fries w/ blue cheese. YUM!

po boy

With that in my belly…we headed to the Jazz Fest! I started the day on the Gentilly Stage with my main man Anders Osborne, look him up, trust me. After that I headed towards the big Acura stage and listened to some Dr. John before John Mayer. After a few beers, and enough of John Mayer,  I decided to wander  and then on my way to see Terrance Simien at the Fais Do Do stage…but I got sidetracked by some Crawfish Monica and the sweet sounds of George Benson playing “Breezin”. Amazing Song. Great moment.

And because festers are the best…here is You Tube link to that actual moment.

Oh and this is what I was enjoying, Crawfish Monica photo courtesy of, my favorite NOLA radio station. It’s a public radio station so please send them a check. 🙂


I meant to take my own photo…but I was too busy enjoying the moment. It was a really good moment.

That night we headed to Le Petite Grocery. It’s been on my list for a while. It was unique and delicious. But I took no photos. Fail. The owner chef is currently on Top Chef: New Orleans. His food is amazing.

The next morning it was all about a trip to the mecca of fried dough…Cafe du Monde. Again, took no photos but it is a must do in New Orleans. This picture, courtesy of is why…


After this we shopped a bit, stopped for a few cocktails…and then boarded the bus for the Fest.

That day…it was all about my favorite fest Po’ Boy…the paneed chicken po’boy. I took a photo of this years ago and can’t find it…so here is a photo I found on a link to Chez Pim’s blog.

She has a great gallery of jazz fest food, including the Cochon du Lait po’ boy which is my second favorite sandwich.

That night…it was all about my dream man, John Besh. Besh is a New Orleans Chef who I started reading about right after the storm. He is an amazing chef, easy on the eyes, and a wonderful humanitarian. Here is a NY Times article about him from 2007.

Now, he’s famous and on Top Chef and the Today show, but check out his show on PBS stations, Chef John Besh’s Family Table. Be careful, you will fall in love.

I had tried August, and Domenica but this night was about Luke. It’s a french brassiere type restaurant and it’s just as amazing as the others. It’s casual and relaxed.


We started with the most gigantic and amazing roasted Oysters. I am very partial to Drago’s bbq’d oysters and always try to have them at some point during my stay but these were unbelievable.


I mean seriously, how good do those look?

For my entrée I had the Croque Madam. I am a sucker for a Croque Madam and it just sounded girl. It was a good call. Check this out.


My friend ordered this amazing bread pudding as dessert. It was sinful. Another amazing meal courtesy of the dreamy John Besh. You see why I love him don’t you. 🙂

We were up early the next day because it was all about Dave Matthews Band that day. Sure I went over to the Congo Square stage to meet up with some friends and dance my butt off to my buddy Big Sam’s Funky Nation. Sure, I had another helping of Crawfish Monica. But it was all about Dave…

Unfortunately, the weather was no bueno that Sunday in New Orleans.

We got there early to secure a spot in my favorite part of the Acura Stage grass (or that day mud). On the right side, close to the lane to the track to the bathrooms and the beer, both are key to the operation.

Here is where we decided to make camp…


As you can see it was already muddy…and bout 15 minutes after I took this shot…the skies opened up. After retreating to a tent and then to the Miller Lite hospitality area, we ventured back to camp. Most of the afternoon ended up being dry…until it was time for Dave.

I color treated this photo just a touch…but this was the sky just as Dave and the gents were about to begin.


I love this photo. It’s the background on my iPhone.

And then…it RAINED. HARD.

Check out Dave’s shirt in this You Tube video. This was about half way thru the set.

And the people…well we just danced and danced. In the mud.

It ended w/ Ants Marching in the POURING rain. It was awesome even though it was cut short due to lightning. Nobody likes lightning.

This user had the best passes ever and was on the stage, but check out the crowd.

Here is a photo of my friend Teena and I, with a photo bomb by my friend Reed…


and here is Teena’s cash drying out when we got home and both took the most amazing showers of our lives.

photo (7)

That night it was back to a John Besh spot…my FAVORITE…Domenica.

It’s his Italian restaurant and it’s hands down my favorite spot in the entire city. That’s a crazy statement with all of the amazing food in the city..but look at these photos.

This was the fried kale.


These were the most amazing lamb ravioli

lamb ravi

and this was my gnocchi which was good but by far not my best choice there.


I just wasn’t expecting it to be a soup really. Oh and nice photo bomb by the Brussel sprouts! They were awesome.

My favorite appetizer there is the roasted cauliflower with whipped goat cheese. It’s stupid good.I took no photo but can do even better. Here is the recipe!

I have made it using this recipe…it’s as advertised.

The next day…it was a New Orleans tradition…Brennan’s for Breakfast and a Bananas Foster. I am so glad we went as Brennan’s has been temporarily closed since July due to some family and real estate issues, only in New Orleans, and this dish is their dish!

YUMMY goodness! Butter, bananas, brown sugar, banana liqueur and rum.


I love New Orleans. I love the Jazz Fest. It refreshes my soul.

So…I am headed there for all 10 days of Jazz Fest in honor of my 40th birthday in 2014!

Consider this an open invitation to join me in my music and culinary adventures! Come for a weekend, come for the entire time, whatever works! I’ll be there. Eating. Dancing. Refreshing my Soul. You should join me…and make the answer YES!