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!

An evening at Incanto, owned by Chris Cosentino, from Top Chef Masters


I feel like I start almost every blog apologizing for being away and not posting…ah such is life. August flew by. At the end of it, I traveled home to the Bay Area for my 20th High School reunion. I am so glad I went. It was so lovely to catch up with so many old friends. Here’s a photo of some of my favorite ladies.

The day after I had brunch with some old friends that are like family…and then dinner with my friend from college Teena, who I haven’t seen since a few years post college. It was so great to see her and try a new spot.

Incanto, is a nose to tail restaurant, in the Noe Valley area of San Francisco. If you aren’t familiar with the nose to tail concept, chefs aim to use the entire animal even the yucky parts. It’s considered to be environmentally friendly as you aren’t wasting any parts.

I picked Incanto, because Chris became my early favorite on Top Chef Masters, as the charity he is playing for is the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. His uncle died of Parkinson’s and my mother suffers from it.

First of all, I fell in love with the Noe Valley neighborhood. Even though I grew up in the Bay Area, I was not familiar with this part of town. There are lots of little knooks and crannies of the city and obviously there are some neighborhoods that have transitioned. Prime example…when I was growing up you never went to the south side of the Bay Bridge, unless you were going to the Esprit outlet, because that side of town was sketch…now it’s home to a beautiful MLB ballpark and is one of THE neighborhoods. Anyway, back to Noe Valley, it’s near the Castro, so it’s diverse but yet still a fun and quiet neighborhood. Like one I would live in…

Incanto has the feeling of a Tuscan home…even thought it is tucked into a big city. It’s very warm.

Note: I took these photos towards the end of the dinner…hence it was darker.

Ok so it’s fair to say that I was a tad hungover…so my Incanto visit started with a cola. A very delicious cola I might add.

Teena and I decided to share a couple of appetizers…and we landed on the Bruschetta with red peppers and the gnocchi which was a special that night.

Both of these dishes were amazing. The Bruschetta had a tangy goat cheese on it. The gnocchi was like a yummy fluffy pillow. We crushed them.

While we waited for our entrees…we saw the “Leg of the Beast” happening in the front of the restaurant. For six to eight diners…they present a braised leg of beef…with all of the fixings, served family style. It looked AMAZING. There was a giant plate of roasted corn that passed by…and then the leg of beef in a giant roasting pan. Hoping I can convince some friends to do this with me next time I go to town for the Sonoma race.

We both ordered a pasta for dinner. Teena’s was the chilli rigatoni.

Mine was the handkerchief pasta with the pork ragu.

With my sensitive stomach…I didn’t taste Teena’s but I did love this pork ragu.

It was a great dinner with a great old friend I had missed! While I didn’t walk away thinking “wow that was amazing”, it was a casual, warm and yummy place to finish up my trip.

Miss this city…

My own personal Dinner with Bevy…

Ladies and Gentlemen…meet Bevy Smith. She’s a self-described gal about town that lives in NYC. She is a self-made woman, who left her day job a few years ago to live her life the way she wanted…and she’s doing it. She’s a former fashion editor that has turned into an inspirational speaker, brand ambassador, television host, and businesswoman.

I had the pleasure of meeting her a few years ago via a mutual friend at a conference, and the minute we met, I knew we would be pals. It’s always fun to meet successful women that you can learn from…and have fun with.

One of Bevy’s businesses, is Dinner with Bevy. She hosts intimate dinner parties, sometimes for brands and sometimes for celebrities. Recently, she started doing public events, Dining with Bevy, Life with Vision. This past weekend, she held an event in Charlotte…and I was lucky enough to have my own Dinner with Bevy.

We dined at Bernardin. Not to be confused with Le Bernardin in New York City, which is owned by Eric Ripert, although the Chef trained there. Bernardin, is located in the old Ratcliffe building and was once a flower shop. The original structure was incorporated into the high-rise condo building built on top/around it. It’s a great space…and the one Bevy chose for her event, so we did a tasting menu. I didn’t take photos of all the courses…and we changed a few things as well but here are some of the dishes from our very entertaining evening. Also joining us was her friend/colleague CJ, who I now adore, even though he “eats nothing” as Bevy stated.

Here is the menu…which we adjusted slightly.

First up was the Tuna Tartar. A bit spicy but certainly fresh and delicious.

After this they served a seared scallop over a piece of pork belly that was so delicious I forgot to take a photo.

Next up was the asparagus bisque. I had something similar there for lunch a few months ago. I think it was a cold asparagus gazpacho. This bisque was divine.

The escargot was next…which is just something I do not eat. The list of things I don’t eat is fairly small, but snails…not so much. The staff was lovely and substituted this amazing goat cheese tart and duck spring rolls for CJ. He claims he tried the duck…but Bevy and I ended up eating them.

I love goat cheese.

The sea bass was also delicious and it was then that I realized that we still had another course and that I was going to be so full. I’m glad I paced myself for this cheese stuffed chicken. We did this instead of the Kangaroo, because that might also be on my list of things I am not interested in eating.

Both desserts were also amazing although my preference was the banana walnut tart…and I could only eat a few bites. Stuffed! It was one of my favorite dinners this year not only for the food but the wonderful company. We laughed a lot at this table. Follow Ms. Bevy on twitter. @bevysmith She is full of wisdom and humor.

Still coming up is the pesto…I just forgot to upload the photos and well I’m dog sitting this weekend at my parents. This is the lucky recipient of my cooking tonight. Meet Jamie Davis.

My favorite city…New Orleans

I fell in love with New Orleans in April of 2005…approximately 4 months before Hurricane Katrina. I went for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, with my friends Debbie and Megan upon the recommendation of my friend and then boss Ramsey.

It was love at first sight.

There is so much to love about New Orleans. The people. The food. The music. The soul.The fact that you can walk around w/ an open container.  I just love it.

I have been back several times since Katrina, including the first jazz fest after it, in 2006. Each year a little bit more of the city comes back but there is so much to be done there. It still breaks my heart to think about the people who have been, and continue to be, affected by that storm and it’s aftermath. It’s pathetic that we let that happen to one of our best American cities and it’s amazing people.

Ok off my soap box now and to the food!

I recently went back for a conference and here are some of my food tales. I’ll also share some of my favorite things, that I just didn’t get a chance to eat this time.

One of my favorite restaurants in Nola, is Stella. I had tried and tried to get in there during a few jazz fests and finally got in last spring with my friend Kristine. We had the best dinner that night, alongside Mario Cantone (from Sex and the City) and the legendary Tom Jones. It was also the night that President Obama announced Osama bin Laden was dead. A momentous evening indeed! I vaguely recall taking a few photos, but I wasn’t food blogging then and the camera on my blackberry was not so good. I did take this photo of my dessert from that night (and I had it again recently) of the bananas foster bread pudding.

I know I know, that is a terrible photo. But the banana chips on top looked like Princess Eugenie’s hat at the Royal Wedding and I remember it making me laugh. It was FANTASTIC by the way. A great way to cap off a memorable night. I don’t remember anything else I ate last night. I just remember Kristine and I ordered a $300 bottle of Groth that we thought was the $80 bottle. A memorable night all around!

So when I went back to Stella recently on a business trip I tried to take better photos for you.

The first one, was the amuse bouche. If you don’t know what an amuse bouche is, it is typically a one bite teaser from the chef to show you what is in store for your dining delight! Here is the wikipedia definition:

An amuse-bouche [amyzbuʃ] or amuse-gueule [amyzɡœl] is a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre.[1] Amuse-bouches are different from appetizers in that they are not ordered from a menu by patrons, but, when served, are done so for free and according to the chef’s selection alone. These, often accompanied by a complementing wine, are served both to prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach to cooking.

Right wikipedia…that’s what I said. 🙂 So this evening’s amuse bouche was a red pepper, goat cheese and crispy rice noodle delight.

YUM! I am a firm believe that you should always try the amuse bouche.

I ordered a halibut that was phenomenal. It had some edamame and some asparagus and a lobster hollandaise. The food at Stella is impeccable and looks like art.

Additionally,  what is so fantastic about Stella is the story. And for that…you need to go to their website and click on video. You won’t get why the restaurant and the city of New Orleans is so fantastic until you do. It’s because of the PEOPLE!

Another one of my favorite people in New Orleans, although I have never met him, is Chef John Besh. I’ve been to two of his restaurants, Restaurant August and Domenica. I had hoped to get to another Besh place, Luke, this trip but didn’t make it.

John Besh, was also one of the first chefs to re-open his place in New Orleans after the storm. A James Beard award winner and one of Food and Wine’s Best New Chefs in 1999, Besh has become a philanthropist, giving loans to local farmers to stay afloat. For more here is a NY Times article. He also has a show on PBS. Check it out.

Domenica is for now my favorite of his places because it’s casual, hip and the food is amazing. I took a group of folks here on a Friday night and the place was packed. The pizza chef welcomed us personally, it’s just a great fun casual spot.

I split a pizza with a colleague to start and so sorry…but we didn’t take a photo until um…

We had the basil pesto pizza…and she added mushrooms to her half. SO good.

I also had a small plate (they have large and small on some dishes…love that) of the White Truffle risotto with pancetta crutons. Jealous? You should be!

Last, we ordered some crispy baby artichokes for the table that were so delicious. I’m going to try this at home.

Also, how do you know you are at a great spot…when you see your media friends from The Grio and the president of MSNBC when you walk in. 🙂

Here is the link for Domenica. I highly recommend it.

Now for some equally delicious but more traditional Nola spots.

Everyone should go to Mother’s for a Po’ Boy at least once. There’s nothing like it.

Also, you have to have some beignets at Cafe Du Monde.

And make it over to Oak Street in Uptown. It’s a cab ride but it’s a great street with two of my favorite spots on it.

The first is Jacques-Imo’s. A recommendation from Ramsey, this place has alligator pie, fantastic fried chicken, and many other southern delights. Jacques, the chef/owner is almost always there, in shorts and clogs, with a cocktail in his hand. However, be prepared to wait, especially when it’s festival time. Those who know me, know that I will not wait an hour to eat at a chain restaurant, but I’ve waited here over two hours, sweaty in my Jazz Fest clothes, with my backpack and chair, for this fried chicken. It’s that good.

And when you are done with dinner, sans chair, head on over to the Maple Leaf bar next door. Regulars there that perform are Papa Grows Funk, The Iguanas, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, and the Rebirth Brass Band to name a few. It’s a great bar.

So that’s enough to get you started in my hands down favorite city in the US…says the girl who grew up near the amazing city of San Francisco. 🙂

Review of 5 Church


This is my first review of a local restaurant, which seems odd to me, but I guess usually my posts have been about trips or things I make.

I had heard about 5Church from my friend Jon, also a big foodie and Top Chef fan. It’s located at 5th and Church streets here in Charlotte, go figure. It’s three investors with Chef Jaime Lynch, who was the chef at Barrington’s (special occasion place, so delicious) here in town and has also worked at Le Cirque. I did notice that evening that two of the three investors were in the house.

I had high hopes for this restaurant based on the design of the website, word of mouth, and the menu. 

The decor is very NY chic which I love. Great bar area. What I didn’t love about the decor was the leucite clear chairs. They just aren’t comfortable. I like to sit and enjoy the ambiance and these chairs make me want to flee.

Our waiter was good…but only after we asked for specials or his recommendations on the menu. I am a firm believer that waiters should help guide your experience of a new restaurant. The menu had snacks, first course, steaks, and the main course. I inquired what the snacks were and how big they were…he told me a few bites. I ordered the baked goat cheese and spinach. I kind of thought it would be more like a salad but it was more like a dip. Good and tasty, but not what I expected.

My friend Kelly, ordered the Bibb Salad, which also looked delicious.

She crushed it. I was jealous.

The boys both ordered the hummus which looked a lot like the dip I had.

I got the Maine Skate. I lovely white fish with pickled ramp brown butter and fresh veggies.

It was lovely and cooked perfectly.

The boyfriend had the lamb burger, which looked awesome.

The pink sauce was like a homemade ketchup which I tested…spicy and yummy.

Our two friends had the Hangar steak and it looked awesome.

All in all, it was a good dinner and I will consider coming back. The location is fantastic as it’s right up the street from the Blumenthal Performing Arts center…where we took in Aziz Ansari immediately following. He’s a funny guy…and a foodie too!

A few more food notes:

Try Savor on Morehead. It’s delicious. My favorite is the mojo chicken sandwich and the chocolate banana pudding. It’s amazing.

Also, try Mattie’s diner at the NC Music Factory. I had a bite of this meatloaf and it was awesome. I had a turkey wrap, which was ok…but I will be getting this meatloaf next time.

Till next time!


My own Top Chef taste test in DC

Greetings everyone!

Sorry I’ve been away a bit too long. I hope everyone had a lovely Memorial Day holiday. I spent that Sunday at my parents and my Dad made his famous ribs. He smokes them on his smoker, with a dry rub, and OMG they are good. He also does our Thanksgiving turkey on the smoker. YUM!

Here are a few mouth watering photos for you and one of the chef…

They were so good! After years of buying them at Costco, he bought them at Wal-Mart. They might have been his best ribs ever.

Ok so now to the Top Chef taste test. The first weekend of June I headed to Maryland to attend my good friend Jenn’s wedding to her beloved, Blake.

A photo of the happy couple…

After the fantastic party…I headed down to Silver Spring, coincidentally the bride’s hometown, to visit an old college friend, Amina. She made this beautiful brunch of fresh fruit, tomatoes and basil, and Quiche. Delicious! So wonderful to see her.

And then it was to DC for a few days of sightseeing. I’ve been to DC a few times, but never have done the touristy stuff because I’ve been in and out for meetings, etc.

On Monday, I hit the Air and Space Museum, the Newseum, and the Museum of American History. Also on my hit list that day was Good Stuff Eatery. A burger joint owned by Spike Mendelsohn who was on Top Chef Season 4 and Top Chef All Stars. I am a huge Top Chef fan and follow a lot of the chefs on Twitter. Speaking of which…you should follow this blog on Twitter…@whatkatetastes. Just sayin.

Anyway I knew his burger joint was on Capital Hill so I mapped it out and incorporated it into my plan. Speaking of my plan, a huge shout out to the DC Metro trains and my iPhone for guiding me in a city I wasn’t familiar with.

I took this photo en route from the Newseum to the restaurant. I would really like it if the folks that work in there could get something done and not wait until after the election.

Ok back to food! So I walked in and ordered a farm fresh burger w/ bacon and cheese. I also got a hand spun chocolate shake and village fries, which are fries with sea salt, thyme and rosemary.

It took about 10 minutes to wait for my order and that’s when I noticed they had siracha mayo and old bay mayo in addition to ketchup for your fries, etc. Definitely tried both of those. Liked the siracha the best.

I got my burger and headed upstairs where they had seating. They wrap everything like it is to go and give you a tray if you are eating there. I didn’t love that and you will see why in this photo.

My burger got kinda smushed. Now, don’t get me wrong, this was a delicious burger. Very much reminded me of my favorite In N Out burger. My fries were good, but would have been so much better if they were crispy instead of soggy. My shake rocked. All in all, it was worth the walk but I was expecting much more.

The following day, I started at the Jefferson Memorial, walked my way to the new MLK memorial, saw the Lincoln memorial and the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Very cool, very moving day. The weather was perfect for walking.

I was on such a mission that day to get going, that I didn’t have breakfast (unusual for me) so I decided to have an early lunch at my other Top Chef stop, Graffiato. Mike Isabella was on Season 6 of Top Chef and was a finalist on Top Chef All Stars. This was my second visit to Graffiato (so it kind of wasn’t a fair fight to begin with).

The last time I was there was in the fall and the menu reflected that. They had chicken thighs with his famous pepperoni sauce and pumpkin zeppoli’s that I will never forget.

I sat at the bar that overlooked the wood fire oven and the kitchen which was fun because I love to see how chef’s make things. They had a special pick three items for $20 dollars for lunch so I chose to do that and ordered the roasted cauliflower with mint and pecorino, fresh cut spaghetti w/ tomato sauce, and salmon with artichoke, white beans and capers. I knew from the last time that it is tapas style plates so I could handle three.

I also ordered myself a few glasses of white wine. That’s how I do vacation on a Tuesday.

The cauliflower arrived first and it is and forever will be the best cauliflower of all time.

I tried to watch the chef to see what exactly she was putting in there…but never figured it out. There was a bit of red onion in there. Yum. Garlic. Yum. And of course the mint and the cheese. Amazing. I cleaned this plate.

Next out was the spaghetti. Simple. Clean. So good.

The Salmon was next…and sorry I forgot to take the photo before I ate a bite. That happens a lot. I can’t help it.

The salmon was perfectly cooked with a great salty crust. The artichoke and white bean mixture it sat on was awesome. I was a very happy girl.

I was full and happy but decided to entertain the thought of dessert. My server, said her favorite was the blood orange cheesecake with passionfruit and microbasil. There are times when you just need to listen to your server…this was one of them. So good.

After I rolled out of there and got back on the Metro to Dupont Circle I stopped by Kramer books. A few friends had suggested it and it was a very cool bookstore…with…

Yup. That’s a bar. Coolest. Bookstore. Ever.

So with that my visit to DC came to a close and so does this blog.

See you all soon!

Matthews Community Farmer’s Market

When I moved to Charlotte, I knew I wanted to live in South Charlotte. The house I ended up buying was the last I looked at and is near the community of Matthews. When people ask me where I live it’s just easier to say, “near Matthews” rather than South Charlotte. Gives them a better idea of where exactly I am. What I didn’t realize when I moved here was the proximity of an amazing Farmer’s Market. It’s literally a five minute drive.

Matthews, for those of you outside NC, is a small town that was populated in the 1800’s. Here is a bit of history from their official website.

In 1879, Matthews was incorporated as a municipal corporation in the state of North Carolina. Jeremiah Solomon Reid headed a committee to secure the town charter. The town’s official name became Matthews, in honor of Edward Watson Matthews. In 1880, the official census listed 191 residents.

The downtown is at the corner of John Street and Trade Street. It’s not big…but it is quaint.

The Matthews Community Farmer’s Market is open year round, with special hours during the winter, and in the summer there is a twilight market on Tuesday nights. Everything sold at the market comes from within a 50 mile radius. Local. Fresh. Yum.

Here is a very important tip about the market…YOU MUST GET THERE EARLY. It opens at 7:15 am and by 7:45 a lot of stuff is sold out. What can I say it’s a popular market. This morning I went by Hinson Farms, as their son has his own fresh egg business, but they were sold out. I was there at 7:30. He’s still one of my favorite people in the market. He said, “sorry, they are all gone” and I replied “that’s a good thing”. He said, “well not for you”. Their eggs are so yummy indeed it was good for him but not for me.

I was on the hunt for basil, tomatoes, red onions and wanted some fresh goat cheese. I always buy goat cheese from Bosky Acres. They have plain and some flavors…my personal favorite is garlic and chive. You can also find them at Earthfare if you don’t make it to the market. I use it for my turkey/goat cheese grilled cheese (see earlier post). I also put it in scrambled eggs.

 I bought my red onions today…4 for $3 from Fisher Farms. I can’t wait to put them in my Orzo salad, which I am making tomorrow for a BBQ at my parent’s house.

They had some amazing looking purple cauliflower which I will try very soon!

A vendor I normally visit but didn’t today because I have lettuce in my fridge is Tega Hills Farms. They have the best lettuce. The bibb is my favorite. Today she even had squash blossoms! I plan to stuff those with some goat cheese and fry them up this summer.

but you have to get there early…because there is always a line!

A few other tips about the market.

They have cooking demonstrations from local chefs most weeks.

They have a large lot in the back for parking.

The ladies that sell flowers there have the best flowers. I bought some for Easter and they lasted almost two weeks. They are gorgeous and well priced.


Also, they have an email list that sends out a blast Friday morning telling you what vendors will and won’t be at market and what kind of veggies, fruits and other products they anticipate being there. Here’s the website for the market.

Last, I bought a new camera this week so hopefully I can improve my food photography. I forgot to take a photo of the tomato man…but here are a few shots of his yummy tomatoes. They are a little pricey but grown with love. He’s always at the front of the market.

Enjoy your Saturday evening! I will be in bed early after this early trip for you all…ok and for me too!

A quick trip to Asheville

So the boyfriend and I decided to do a quick road trip up to Asheville to see one of our favorite bands, Big Sam’s Funky Nation and have an early celebration of somebody’s big birthday coming up in May. If you don’t know Big Sam, please stop what you are doing (including reading this blog) and YouTube him. Or check out his website here:

He’s awesome. It’s always a party with Sam. West Coast peeps he is headed your way soon, including the Sierra Nevada brewery in Chico.

Upon arrival, we wanted to do some good old Asheville people watching and headed to what used to be the Flying Frog…which is no Solace. We sat outside and even though it was a little chilly, the people watching was as usual fantastic.

To start I had this yummy black bean soup to warm me up.

After dinner, we headed to Pisgah Brewing Company, an organic brewery in Black Mountain, NC just outside Asheville. It’s a small venue but the beer is good. It’s a bit hard to find so make sure to bring your electronic devices w/ maps on them.

We danced off our dinner to our buddy Sam, who Franklin got to meet, and had a blast.

The next morning, we got up and headed to Tupelo Honey Cafe. I’ve been to Asheville a few times, and have tried to go to this place each time unsuccessfully. The problem is, I love breakfast, I love sleeping in, and by the time I get here on a weekend…it’s an hour wait. Oh but wait…it was a Friday that we tried to go this time which meant no wait…great success!

I ordered an omelet w/ carmelized onions, basil, and goat cheese and goat cheese grits. I really love goat cheese if you haven’t already figure it out.  These grits rocked. I was a very happy girl. And again, the bad photographer, it was like bite 2 that I took this photo.

After this we did a little shopping, headed to the Grove Park Inn for a relaxing day of golf (him) and spa (me) and a lovely pre-birthday Friday night that even included some additional dancing at the Grove Park.

A trip to Vegas…

I traveled to Vegas for the NASCAR event in early March and here are some tales from that trip.

As a native Californian…I am a loyal In N Out burger fan. Growing up I was always a really picky eater, which is so weird now becasue I love food. Anyway, I was the kid that always had to wait extra time for my burger at McDonald’s becasue I used to order them plain. No mustard. No ketchup. No onions. Definitely no picke. Ick. So when I was introduced to In N Out by my father, who grew up near the first location in Southern California, I was instantly in love. Granted, I did order it at first w/ out the sauce, but now it’s a Double Double w/ Grilled Onions, fries and a Diet Coke.  In college and well post college too, my friends and I used to justify our burger intake by saying it was a well balanced meal. The five major food groups were represented. Meat, check. Dairy, check. Vegetables, check. Bread, check. Fruit (yes a tomato counts), check.

So instantly upon my arrival it was a Double Double w/ Grilled Onions, fries and a Diet Coke. Boom!

Later that night…it was legendary Rao’s at Caesar’s Palace. I knew of Rao’s from my favorite TV Chef Giada DeLaurentis. She had featured Rao’s in her show, Giada’s Weekend Getaways. It’s old school Italian and modeled after their restaurant in NYC, which another friend tells me is impossible to get into. My colleague and I were told to definitely order a meatball…we did. We also split the Penne Vodka, a Veal Parmesean (that looked like a pizza) and Chicken Scarpariello. WOW. Everything was awesome but we totally overordered. It happens. Here is a photo of our feast.

The next night…it was one of my favorite restaurants of all time. Estiatorio Milos. If you like fish…this place is for you. Full disclosure…it’s very pricey. However, it’s the freshest, most delicious fish I’ve ever had. I’ve been to both their NYC and Vegas locations. YUM. Vegas is a people watching adventure as it’s in the new Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino. My colleagues and I sat outside on the patio and had a very enjoyable evening. I can’t even really tell you the kind of fish we ate because everything is fresh and fish you’ve never heard of. They prepare it for the table, family style. Most of the fish is prepared in olive oil, lemon and and capers. That’s it. Also a must is the tomato salad. Typical greek tomato salad and SO yummy. Here is a link to Milos.

We also went back to another seafood favorite, RM Seafood by Rick Moonen. He was a contestant on Top Chef Masters and is the Master of sustainable seafood. It’s just off the casino floor at Mandalay Bay and I highly recommend it as well.

Stay tuned for more blogs!