Friday, November 20, 2015

Futo Buta - A Gem and A New Favorite
 Fire and Ice Ramen. 

Futo Buta has quickly become one of my very favorite restaurants. Lucky for me it is within walking distance of my office so I am able to visit regularly. The ramen here is amazing, with several varieties including classic versions with pork belly, a salmon version, a ramen with parmesan cheese and even a vegan ramen. I can't wait to come here when it is REALLY cold to have a bowl and warm up. I also love the creative side dishes like the awesome brussels sprouts and shisito peppers and the raw items, featured on the fresh sheet daily. The pork belly buns are awesome too. And to top it off, they have homemade soft serve ice cream, usually green tea (my very favorite) and a second option. I am a huge fan of Japanese food in general, having spent a semester near Osaka in college; Charlotte finally has a real ramen house and I am so glad to be able to visit frequently!

Thank you to my cousin Jason and his fiancee Yvonne for some of the photos!

Salmon Belly - so smooth and delicious.

Rice crispy squares with spicy tuna on top. This was from the media opening but now it is served with a soy/wasabi sauce that is even better than wasabi alone!

Japanese Fried Chicken.

Pork Belly Bun.

Homemade Soft Serve. Yum!

Futo Buta Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series - Charlotte Edition 2015 Begins March 22

The chefs just after being announced!
The NC Competition Dining Series will once again be held at Bonterra Restaurant beginning March 23. Twenty-Four chefs from the mountains to Charlotte will compete iron-chef style with attendees voting on each dish via a free app without knowing which chef prepared which dish. The winners will face of in semi-finals and finals, with the series concluding in early May. Local NC products are heavily featured, with a particular product/food highlighted during each battle.

Last year I attended one of the battles and it was a lot of fun - ingredient was sweet potato!

This year Amy on Food will be one of the media judges in the battle between Paul Verica of Heritage Food & Drink, versus Vincent Giancarlo of Cantina 1511 on March 23. Looking forward to being in on the action but that is the beauty of this event - all diners get a say in who wins, not just the media judges!

Click here for tickets!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Baku - A Long Overdue Post

Sushi Platter from Baku

I have been extremely busy over the last few months with work and family. In June 2015 I had my daughter who is now 8 months old. Between the two kids (I also have a 28 month old son) and my thriving law practice (adoption and surrogacy) I stay very busy! But finally - now that the baby is sleeping through the night - I am committed to getting back to blogging - yay!

I have still been dining out a good bit even though I have not had time to post often. Last year I was invited to sample the menu at Baku, likely the trendiest restaurant in Charlotte and a place I have enjoyed several times. The small plates of creative Japanese cuisine, many made on the robata grill, as well as the sushi, are outstanding, both in presentation and taste. There are also some awesome drinks offered as well with 2 bars to choose from. My favorite menu items include the tempura grouper bites, the sushi platter on ice, the black cod, the coal roasted shishito peppers, the pork belly skewers and the sweet potatoes. For dessert the presentation of the truffles with cherry sauce and ice cream on ice can't be beat.

Coal Roasted Shishito Peppers.

Special maki roll with lobster.
Pork Belly robata skewers.

Tea Brined Robata Duck Breast.
Giant Madagascar Prawn.

Dessert with truffles, cherry sauce and ice cream on ice!

Baku is a worthwhile destination for a special occasion or just to treat yourself or your loved ones! Also a great destination for a business dinner or drinks. They have creative cocktails and martinis and an extensive wine list. For a while Sunday brunch was offered and I kept meaning to go but I did not have a chance to sample it. For now, brunch is not being served, but I do hope they might bring it back during the warmer months! I look forward to returning to Baku again very soon.

Baku-Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: Some of the items described in this review were complimentary.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Mellow Mushroom - Uptown Charlotte

 Philosopher's Pie at Mellow Mushroom - olive oil & garlic base, grilled steak, artichokes, olives, Portobello mushrooms, feta, provolone and mozzarella.

I recently had the opportunity to try the newest Charlotte location of the Mellow Mushroom - uptown near the new Knights baseball stadium and Romare Bearden Park. The space is airy and modern with a long bar on one side as well as booths and tables. There is also patio seating. My family really enjoyed our experienced and we sampled quite a few different items. My favorite thing by far was the Maui Wowie pizza (below) - definitely some strong flavors going on with it, which I love - especially the banana peppers and jerk chicken! The bruschetta and wings were excellent, as always, and our little one enjoyed the kids mac & cheese as well. To top things off we tried several of the freshly baked cookies - delicious. Mellow Mushroom is a wonderful addition to the uptown dining scene. They have a full bar and are open LATE too - until 11 PM Sunday - Wednesday, until midnight Thursday and until 3 AM Friday and Saturday. Definitely a great place to keep in mind for a late night snack! 

Maui Wowie Pizza - now my personal favorite! Pesto base with ham, pineapple, jerk chicken, banana peppers, smoked bacon and mozzarella - yum!!

Bruschetta - I could not resist ordering this even though I have had it before! Love the basamic glaze.

BBQ wings - very good!

Ceasar salad.

Kids mac & cheese with broccoli - the little guy loved it.

Can you tell who is behind the water wall?!

Patio, facing Knights stadium.

Peanut butter cup cookie.

After lunch we spent time at the new Romare Bearden Park adjacent to the new baseball stadium. It has some neat features including this waterfall that kids can play under and a fabulous view of the skyline!
Mellow Mushroom on Urbanspoon
 Disclosure: The meal described in this review was complimentary.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bar Cocoa at the Ritz-Carlton - Charlotte

New Eclair Selection. From L to R: classic (vanilla custard) with Ritz chocolate topper, S'mores with chocolate custard, pistachio strawberry, raspberry rose and caramel.

I was very excited to be invited to a special dessert tasting featuring the delicious sweets offered at Bar Cocoa at the Ritz-Carlton in uptown Charlotte. Bar Cocoa is the only one of its kind in the world and its corner location (Trade and College) allows both hotel guests and uptown Charlotte pedestrians to partake of pastries, gelato, coffee, chocolates and other goodies. Cooking classes, catering and custom cakes are also offered and there is even a champagne and chocolate all dessert dinner option on the weekends!

The French macaron selection is truly impressive. New flavor blueberry lavender has a subtle lavender aftertaste with strong blueberry notes. Other favorites include coconut, red velvet, honey, dulce de leche, and caramel but there are at least 10 macaroon options to try on a daily basis. 

The new eclairs are incredible - my favorite item we tried. The outside of the eclair is crisp and a little crunchy, giving way to smooth fillings - nothing at all like the soggy eclairs typically found in grocery stores. My favorite flavors were the classic and the caramel but all of them were truly excellent.

Tasty Macarons.

Gelato: Peach Mango and Honey Pecan. The new peach mango gelato is terrific for summer - flavorful, creamy and refreshing all at the same time. On Friday and Saturday afternoons you can sample the gelatos in tiny cones in the Ritz's lobby - this will cause you to dash back to Bar Cocoa for a larger serving!

The Ritz-Carlton cake - dark chocolate, candied orange and Grand Marnier. This rich, chocolatey cake is available at every Ritz all over the world. But remember, no other Ritz has a Bar Cocoa!

Lovely table decoration made from many flavors of macaron.

Milkshakes - we tried mini versions but these are sold in standard larger sizes - from L to R - chocolate hazelnut, banana caramel and cookies and cream. My favorite = cookies and cream!

Norman Love Easter Collection selections. These are peanut butter and lemon - delicious and beautiful. See the entire Easter collection here. The chocolates are the only item that is not made in-house at Bar Cocoa.

If you have not yet tried Bar Cocoa, I recommend it for a sweet treat anytime! Since it is located in the Ritz-Carlton, it is even open until midnight on Friday and Saturday - sweet!
Bar Cocoa on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: The desserts described in this review were complimentary.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Chuy's at South Park - Charlotte, NC

 Chile Rellenos stuffed with Shrimp and Cheese.

Chuy's is a Tex Mex chain with a huge following with its first store in Austin, Texas circa 1982. The Charlotte outlet opened summer 2013 and I recently had the chance to try it out. I had never been to another Chuy's before and I really enjoyed my first experience. Much of what makes Chuy's fun and unique is the atmosphere, including several kitschy / themed rooms like the palm tree room and the hub cap room. We ended up sitting outside which was a great choice since my son was with us. He was able to run around and play near the fountain, which is just outside the patio seating area. The inside is great for kids as well - in addition to the interesting decor, there is a tortilla making area where kids can watch and make their own.

Previously, Charlotte lacked a Tex-Mex presence so it is great to see Chuy's filling this niche. The menu is huge and includes several specialties that you don't see often - like Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken. We tasted all the sauces - and there are LOTS - see photo below. My favorite was the hatch chile sauce - delicious and you would be remiss not to try the boom-boom sauce on something! The appetizer platter was a crowd pleaser as well, especially the loaded nachos and the chicken flautas. I liked the thin chips and salsa - allowed me to eat more of them and taste all the sauces! My other favorites from the meal include the chile rellenos - we tried the one stuffed with shrimp and cheese but there are several options and the sinfully rich and delicious tres leches cake - one of my favorites anyway - this version really took the cake!! There is a full drink menu available including specialty margaritas which my adult dining companions thoroughly enjoyed. If you have not yet tried Chuy's I encourage you to check it out - it is located at the corner of Sharon and Morrison, convenient to all your South Park shopping needs.

Credit for almost all the photos goes to my awesome cousin, Benjamin Leder.

The outdoor seating area is perfect for families - it is right next to a giant fountain that turns on and off, a fun distraction for the toddler :)

We enjoyed the thin, crispy chips along with the salsa and other sauces (see below!)

Appetizer platter - loved this!

Sauce tour.

Steak fajitas with all the fixins!

Taco platter - fish and chicken. 


The Hubcap Room.

Tres Leches - one of the best I've ever had. 

Flan - also good!

Chuy's on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: The meal described in this review was complimentary.