Archive for June, 2009

1900 Mexican Grill & Tequila Bar (Dinner) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Mexican
Ambiance: Comforting-Festive
Address: 5110-1E Park Road, Charlotte, NC 28209
Neighborhood: Southpark
Phone: 704.523.1554
Web Site: 1900 Mexican Grill on Yelp
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • Drink: Dirty Margarita – similar to a standard margarita but much better – watch the rim, I think it has cayenne pepper on it!
  • Entree: Chicken Fajitas – great seasoning, plenty of chicken, onion, and green pepper. Hubby and I can easily make a meal of this with a side of queso.
  • Entree: Go for a combo and be sure to get the Chicken Chimichanga – nice crispy outside, hot gooey inside with pulled pieces of tender chicken and veggies. Yummy cheese sauce tops the dish perfectly

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Best For
: Casual Date, Group Outing (with friends or co-workers)
What to Wear: casual to dressy-casual
Fave Points: Consistently delicious food, quick service, great drink options (they recently redid their drink menu which has a tequila list that reads like a wine list along with many new mixed drink options). Besides being a great restaurant, I love how the owner is super nice and a wonderful supporter of the local community.
My Fave Dish: This is a toss-up between the fajitas and the chimichanga – it depends on my mood. I love the fajitas most days, but I usually go for the chimchanga when I want something more decadent and comfort-food-like.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

Hubby and I have frequented 1900 Mexican Grill for a few years now and it is one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in Charlotte. For me, 1900 offers a nice midpoint between the every day Mexican restaurant and the fancier places like Cantina 1511 .

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We really enjoy the casual, comfortable, and festive decor inside 1900 Mexican Grill.

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The carvings on the booths always make me smile.

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Chips are quickly delivered to the table…

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…along with 2 types of salsa – standard tomato-based salsa and a corn-based chunky-salsa.

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Hubby and I always get a side of queso, too – it’s too hard to resist that cozy, melty cheese. Every once in awhile, the cheese comes out a bit on the cool side, but our waiter/waitress is always happy to quickly heat it up for us.

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1900 Mexican Grill recently redid their drink menu. At first glance, I thought I was looking at a wine list, but I soon realized the extensive list was chock full of various tequilas…how cool? The other side offered an assortment of tequila-style cocktails (and some other non-tequila options). I asked the waiter which drink he thought was best and he recommended the Dirty Margarita“This one cleans up nice! 1800 Silver tequila, Cointreau, our margarita mix, and fresh tamarind nectar. Served on the rocks.”

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I was a little afraid of the Dirty Margarita because of the name, but it was fab…I think I have a new favorite kind of margarita!

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The taste wasn’t altogether vastly difference than a regular margarita (not like a strawberry margarita would be, at least), but the subtle differences in flavor were welcome. Just watch out for that rim – I think the bright orange is cayenne pepper! Oh, and the drink is more price-wise than a standard margarita, but I think it’s worth the extra cost for the quality of the drink.

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Hubby almost always gets Combo #2 – your choice of 2 items from about 6-ish standard options (like tacos, burritos, etc). Hubby usually gets a burrito and enchilada. The combos are served with re-fried beans and rice.

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As for me, it’s always a toss up between Chicken Fajitas (so sizzly-delicious) and a Combo #2 with a must-have Chicken Chimichanga. For this meal, I went with the latter option and was not disappointed with my chimichanga and enchilada – delicious!

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I love the way they do the Chicken Chimichangas here – nice, crispy-crunchy outside and tender chicken and veggies inside – all topped with a hot cheese sauce. The balance of textures and flavors is so good. Add a side of re-fried beans and side of rice..yum!

Final Dish

1900 Mexican Grill is one of our go-to restaurants when we want a laid back meal with simply delicious food. This neighborhood spot is popular with the locals probably for the same reason we love it so much – the consistently tasty food and that most-impressive tequila & cocktail list. We love how 1900 offers quality Mexican food with a reasonable price tag and comforting ambiance. Speedy service, waiters who recognize you, and a smiling owner nice touches, too.

Ru San’s Japanese Sushi + Cuisine (Dinner) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Sushi + Japanese
Ambiance: Fun + A Bit Rowdy
Address: 2440 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28203
Neighborhood: Dilworth
Phone: 704.374.0008
Web Site: http://rusans.com/
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • Sushi: Like shrimp tempura (or maybe just new to sushi, in general)? Try the Crunchy Mui Bueno. Like tuna? Try the Olympic Five Ring. There are many, many more great options…so hard to pick favorites.
  • Appetizer: Tiger Shrimp – so yummy, firm, and spicy and served over a chopped “salsa” – these are some of the best shrimp I think I’ve ever had.
  • Drink: Like sake? Try one of their flavored sakes (like Asian Pear) or go for a saketini like the Sake Pomegranate.
  • Dessert: Baked Mochi – If you either 1. like red bean-based desserts or 2. like experimenting with new flavors, then check out the Baked Mochi – chewy, fried dough with a sticky-sweet adzuki bean sauce.

Best For: Casual Date, Group Outing (with friends or co-workers)
What to Wear: casual to dressy (I see a wide range of attire here)
Fave Points: Ru San’s has that “Cheers” feeling for me, not to mention a great assortment of unique sushi combinations.
My Fave Dish: Crunchy Mui Bueno – ok, so many people won’t consider a sushi with shrimp tempura “real” sushi, but what can I say except that I simply love the combination of the crunchy shrimp tempura, crisp cucumber, and smooth avocado. Sometimes you just like what you like, no?

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

Hubby and I went out for a casual weeknight dinner to one of our fave Charlotte spots – Ru San’s, a regional chain restaurant that feels like a one-off.

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We have been going to Ru San’s for a few years now, and we always have a great time visiting this local sushi hot spot.

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I love the ambiance inside Ru San’s – the sushi chefs greet you with cheers/happy-yelling and smiles when you walk in the door.

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They’ve also somewhat recently grown their seating area and sushi bar area and added some chic new decor.

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Normally, when I go to Ru San’s, I get either a flavored sake or just water, but on this night, I decided to try a saketini.

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I got the sake pomegranate, which was really tasty. I didn’t see them make my drink, but it tasted like they used real pomegranate juice because it had that slight tartness to it.

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For starters, we got miso soup and a house salad with ginger dressing. I’m a big fan of miso soup and enjoy the one they serve…except I’ve always found the noodles in the bowl a bit strange. I usually just eat around those. The salad is much like the ones they serve at teppenyaki restaurants, which I love for that delish ginger dressing.

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Hubby wasn’t in the sushi-mood, so he got some of the tiger shrimp appetizer.

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The shrimp were nice and tender and had a really amazing spicy flavor to them that paired well with tangy, fresh-squeezed lime juice. The shrimp were served over a chopped “salsa” with tomatoes, onion, and avocado. I sometimes feel silly ordering non-sushi items at sushi restaurants, but these are just so good…I’ll definitely be getting these again.

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The sushi menu is quite large, but I have my favorites.

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For sushi, we got some pretty Americanized-items: Crunchy Mui Bueno (my fave – shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado, crunchies) and tempura asparagus.

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The tempura asparagus roll is a great appetizer to get for groups – it’s simple and a steal at right around $2-3.

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The Crunchy Mui Bueno (a Ru San’s specialty roll) is one of my all-time favorites. I realize it’s cooked and not very authentic, but I love the texture of the crunchy tempura with the other ingredients and the overall flavor.

Final Dish

Ru San’s has consistently remained one of my favorite sushi spots in all of Charlotte. I’ve been told that there are restaurants that have fresher fish, but 1. I’m not sure if that’s true and 2. I don’t care. I’ve always found the food at Ru San’s to be quality, and I love going for the fun ambiance, smiling sushi chefs, and upbeat music. I also really enjoy trying their interesting sushi combinations. Though you can get the standards like Spicy Tuna or Ebi, Ru San’s also offers some really intriguing specialty rolls like the Olympic Five Ring or the Godzilla Roll.

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If you’re not sure what to order, check out the sushi rolls on display by the front door – they always put out 4 or 5 different plates so you can see what the sushi actually looks like – I love checking this area out when I’m looking to try a new roll. Those new to sushi will probably also appreciate the display.

If you go on a weekend night, expect to wait. Weekdays are usually pretty light on traffic, but this place is a popular spot with the locals, so they’re usually pretty busy, in general.

Next time you’re craving sushi, check out Ru San’s to see why the locals love it so much.

D’Vine Wine Cafe (Dinner) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: American + Tapas
Ambiance: Intimate Chic
Address: 14815 John J. Delaney Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28277
Neighborhood: Ballantyne
Phone: 704.369.5050
Web Site: http://www.dvinewinecafe.com/
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • Small Plate: Lobster, Crab, and Corn Fritters – $11 – Sort of like crab cakes with lobster, served with warm apple chutney – this is a great tapas-style plate for sharing.
  • Small Plate: Apple and Fig Toasted Bread + Melted Brie – $6 – This savory/sweet combo makes a great appetizer or tapas-style plate for a group. The flavor combination is simple but tasty and the melty brie is the best part.
  • Drink: Wine Flight – prices vary – When in Rome…if you’re in a restaurant that has “wine” in its name, you should probably go with the wine. If you like to sample, go for a wine flight. Otherwise, make a selection from their extensive wine list. Owner Terry Miller is a wine collector and medal winning wine maker, so he really knows how to pick the cream of the crop.
  • Dessert: Cheesecake – $6 – Three mini cheesecakes in Vanilla Bean, Black Berry, and Chocolate. I had a hard time picking a favorite flavor because they were all so good, but I had a good time trying.

Pricing Samples (Dinner):

  • Small Plates: $6 – $11
  • Main Course: $5-$19

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Best For: Romantic Date, Group Outing (with friends or co-workers)
What to Wear: nice casual (not tennis shoes) to dressy
Fave Points: Huge wine selection, delicious eats, cozy chairs in the lounge area
My Fave Dish: Those yummy cheesecakes – they were relatively light for cheesecakes, which is always impressive, but the flavor combos really got my attention.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

I met up with five of my girlfriends for a group outing to D’Vine Wine Cafe for a special birthday celebration over good eats and great wine.

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Inside D’Vine there was wine everywhere proudly on display…what a selection!?

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The tables were simply decorated and the ambiance was tastefully modern.

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We all ordered wine to start our meal, with most of us ordering flights to get a good feel for some new wines.

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I ordered the Interesting Whites Flight.

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The wine flight carriers were unlike any I’ve seen before – so neat.

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Though there were some interesting entrees on the menu, we decided to go for a tapas-style dinner by sharing a few different dishes. We started with the spinach salad. We got 2 orders and the restaurant kindly split the 2 orders among 5 bowls – 1 for each of us.

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They even put the dressing on the side. The salads were really good and I enjoyed the dressing.

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After the salad, we ordered a bunch of different plates.

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A cheese plate (you get your choice of 3 from a list of 6 options from around the world)

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Hummus – 3 flavors served with warm pita. I normally shy away from things I think I can make at home, but the flavors in the hummus were really intriguing – I’d definitely order this one again.

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We got extra bread.

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Apple and Fig – loved this savory/sweet combo with the melty brie cheese.

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Lobster, Crab, and Corn Fritters – served with warm apple chutney. I’m a big fan of crab cakes and these were sort of like crab cakes with a slightly different flavor but same great concept. Go for this if you like crab cakes and lobster.

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Seared Scallops – in a Thai coconut sauce. It’s hard to go wrong with scallops to begin with, but the sauce really made this dish extra yummy.

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The sliders (kobe beef, turkey, and tuna) served with your choice of bean salad or chips. Again, I’m loving the flavor options and ability to try different flavors in one dish – beef to turkey to tuna…nice. Go for the bean salad if you want something more unique – the chips are pretty tried and true.

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A birthday dinner wouldn’t be complete without dessert. We first ordered the Kilwin’s Chocolate Tasting, which contains an assortment of chocolates from the Ballantyne Village chocolatier, including fudge.

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My personal favorite was the cheesecake trio – 3 cheese cakes in chocolate, black berry, and vanilla. All these flavor are different and delicious at the same time. I loved the presentation of the cheesecake mini-towers with fresh berries and chocolate pieces. The cheesecakes were the perfect end to our meal.

Final Dish

D’Vine Wine Cafe is more than a wine bar, this place has an incredible selection of eats in addition to their amazing collection of wines. Whether you’re looking for some small plates to snack on over wine or a full-on dinner, D’Vine has you covered with some truly delicious options, from crab cakes to cheesecakes.

If you’re looking for some interesting and unique flavor combinations, give D’Vine a try and maybe go for the Wild Boar Tenderloin or the Chocolate Dessert Sushi – you’re not easily going to find that elsewhere in Charlotte.

If you’re looking for a quiet evening, hit up D’Vine earlier in the week around Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday through the weekend is usually chock full of exciting events – from wine tastings to live bands. For more action, visit the restaurant closer to the weekends and check out D’Vine’s event calendar to learn more about their special events like the American Cancer Society Benefit this Thursday, 6/11/09, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Join the Connoissuer Club to be kept in the loop of D’Vine’s latest happenings.

From entertainment, to great wines, to awesome eats, D’Vine Wine Cafe has a lot to offer.

Taste of Charlotte 2009 »

General Event

I caught the tail end of Taste of Charlotte 2009 today, 6/7/09, when hubby and I decided to venture out to the festival for lunch.

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We didn’t feel like paying for parking, so we just found some free street parking a few blocks away and walked down to the event.

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We arrived at the end of the festival at 6th St where there were plenty of samples being given out.

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We first picked up some tokens and a pamphlet containing a list of vendors and booths.

We also came prepared with a big bottle of water so we could use the tokens we spent last year on drinks on more food…or dessert…whichever we felt like eating.

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The day was beautiful – sunny with blue skies and white clouds.

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It was also super hot outside, though it did feel pretty pleasant in the shade.

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The first thing we had to eat was actually free – a Bagel-fuls sample in the plain flavor. The sample was way better than I thought I’d be and would certainly be easier to eat on the run than a regular bagel with cream cheese.

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Further up there were more samples to be had at The Other White Meat booth.

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They gave me a lovely pork sample that was actually quite tender and well-seasoned…I should have gotten the recipe they were offering.

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We walked around the event noting various dishes that sounded interesting.

As we walked around, I took note of the event. There were things for the kiddos, like this huge pair of slides.

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There was also a climbing wall. Not sure if this is kids-only, but I’ve only ever seen kids on it in the past couple years we’ve attended this event.

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There were events on the center stage – when we walked by there was a dance group performing.

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There were also some quirky gimmicks like this Land O Lakes creamer-box-backpack.

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This nice young man was giving out Honey Bunches of Oats samples out of his sample bicycle.

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There was also a living statue in the middle of Tryon. We didn’t stay long enough to see if they moved.

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There were some craft booths set-up in the middle of the event – you can always tell the crafty booths because they’re the ones that are in the center of the road with their tents backing each other.

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The balloon guys are always popular at these events.

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Oxygen was also recruiting for its new TV show – Dance Your Ass Off. No, I didn’t try out…I thought about it, though, because it looked like fun.

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We walked all the way down to the other end of the event before turning around to start picking out dishes to taste.

Main Eats

Village Tavern

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First up, we decided to try a local favorite of ours – Village Tavern.

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Normally, I like to try restaurants I’ve never been to before at events like these, but we didn’t see a whole lot that we were dying to try, and I always get steak at Village Tavern, so I was curious about their crab cakes.

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Hubby and I thought the crab cake was really good. I think I’m going to stick with the steak at Village Tavern, though, because it’s just that good! I was glad to have tried the crab cakes in case I ever feel like going red-meat free for dinner.

Outlaw BBQ Shack

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Next, we visited Outlaw BBQ Shack.

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Outlaw BBQ Shack was a XLI Super Bowl Vendor. Pretty cool, no? Hubby and I are always on the lookout for good BBQ – my personal fave BBQ joint is in Greenville, SC, and I haven’t found anything to top it yet.

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I have to say, this BBQ Pork Slider came close…it was darn tasty and the meat was nice and tender.

Caribbean Hut

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Next up, we visited the Caribbean Hut booth to check out the first tasting that caught my eye…

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Jerk Chicken with Peas Rice. The chicken was extremely tender and served on the bone. Between the chicken and the rice, the flavor was very good and a bit on the spicy side, which I liked. The rice took me back to our visit to the Bahamas last year with its similar flavors to the rice and peas we commonly found on the Island.

Flat Rock Grille

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For our last savory dish, we hit up the Flat Rock Grille booth.

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We decided the barbeque shrimp sounded really interesting and had to wait just a couple minutes while they finished cooking a fresh batch. I love getting food at its freshest, so I was happy to wait.

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When I read the name of the shrimp dish on the menu, I envisioned shrimp slathered in ooey-gooey, sticky-sweet barbeque sauce, and was happily surprised with the concoction they had prepared. We got 3 shrimp, a slice of lemon, a slice of tomato and a piece of green onion, doused in a semi-spicy sauce. I thought the shrimp were really flavorful and well-cooked.

Sweet Eats

Amelie’s French Bakery

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The first sweet we decided to try was a selection from the Amelie’s French Bakery booth.

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Since I studied French throughout school and did an exchange in high school to France, I have an affinity for French flavors, especially French desserts like those commonly found in the patisseries.

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I decided to get a macaroon and tried the Cinnamon Chocolate macaroon upon flavor-recommendation (they had 3!) from the guy in the booth. He was so right – this was amazing! Loved it! The flavor of the cinnamon was nice and light and I really liked the texture of the macaroon.

Black Finn

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The last tasting we tried was one that caught our eye early on in the Black Finn booth.

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The girls in the booth had been nice enough earlier to show us what this curious-sounding dessert dish looked like, and we decided to revisit the booth to get it.

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I present the cookie slider.

The cookie slider was deceptively simple but oh-so-good. The cookies were homemade and since they were stored in the freezer, they were slightly frozen along with the ice cream. This dessert was delicious and helped cool hubby and I down from all the walking around in the heat. It was really the perfect end to our afternoon of good eats. After cooling off with our cookie sliders, we headed home happy and full.

I’m already looking forward to Taste of Charlotte 2010!