Category: Charlotte: Uptown

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!

Coco Osteria (Lunch) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Italian Cafe
Ambiance: Modern Simplicity
Address: 214 North Tryon Street Suite 3, Charlotte, NC 28202
Neighborhood: Uptown
Phone: 704.344.8878
Web Site: http://cocoosteria.com/
Must Taste (Lunch):

  • Secondi: Pollo Paillard – $11 – “Pan seared chicken breast, fresh spinach, apple wood bacon, tomatoes, tossed with balsamic vinaigrette” (the online menu says $10, but I’m pretty sure it was $11)
  • Dessert: Tiramisu

Pricing Samples (Lunch):

  • Antipasto e Insalata: $5 – 9
  • Paste: $12 – 14
  • Secondi: $11 – 14

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Best For
: Date, Business Lunch
What to Wear: nice casual (not tennis shoes) to dressy
Fave Points: Authenticity, simple menu with many delicious options
My Fave Dish: Tiramisu – I love tiramisu and I’ve tried many from different restaurants. This one was really good…I liked the little (I think they were) chocolate shavings on top and the creamy texture paired with those coffee-soaked lady fingers. The creamy layer was very thick, but good-thick.

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

I took my foodie friend out for a chic lunch to celebrate her last week of work before she starts a new project. I let her choose the spot, and she picked Coco Osteria in uptown Charlotte, NC. I was really excited about the choice because I’ve been dying to try this spot out for awhile now.

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Like many restaurants uptown, Coco Osteria had a decidedly modern feel to it. I liked how the restaurant had lots of tall windows that let lots of natural light in and an open, airy ceiling area. It felt very fresh inside.

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As I mentioned above, the menu had lots of great options. I think I could have eaten anything on the menu and been happy. The pasta of the day had shrimp and crab, which I thought sounded like an interesting option. I kind of wanted to go for the Chicken Marsala, but since this was my friend’s day, I let her pick, and she chose a different chicken dish (one I was also eyeing).

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After ordering, we were quickly served some warm bread with a bean mixture.

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I love these types of bean-based-bread-toppings…they are a nice change of pace from the usual dips and butters. Don’t get me wrong, I love bread and butter, too, but I also like some variety.

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My friend and I each started with the soup of the day – Pasta e Fagioli, which we had topped with a friendly offer of fresh ground black pepper.

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Inside was a thick mixture of beans, veggies, pasta and some sort of meat (prosciutto maybe?). The soup was great with just a wee dash of salt. The soup was really filling, and I almost felt too full to eat the rest of the meal. The key word here is “almost.” I was, of course, very much looking forward to the entree.

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For our entree, we shared the Chicken Paillard (“Pan seared chicken breast, fresh spinach, apple wood bacon, tomatoes, tossed with balsamic vinaigrette”). If you’ve never had a “paillard” dish, it is a meat that is very flat – usually pounded to almost a 1/4 inch thickness, which kind of reminds me of a chicken cutlet.

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I served myself 1/2 of the entree. The chicken appeared to be very lightly breaded with some herbs and was quite tasty. The balsamic vinaigrette on the spinach and tomato pieces was nice and light, yet flavorful. I also enjoyed the little salty bites of bacon that made their way to my fork every once in awhile. This was a great lunch entree if you’re looking for something on the lighter side or one with a simple combination of flavors. I was certainly happy to not eat something so heavy I’d want to nap once I got back to the office.

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Although we were pretty full from the bread, soup, and entree, us foodies saved room for dessert. I knew I wasn’t leaving the place without it. We both decided to share the Tiramisu, which turned out to be an excellent choice. The creamy layers were nice and thick and the coffee-soaked ladyfingers helped balance out that richness. My fave part of the dessert was probably the chocolate shavings on top.

Final Dish

I really enjoyed my trip to Coco Osteria. I could see myself hitting this spot up every so often for those days when I have time to take a long lunch (1 – 1 1/2 hours). It took about 1 1/2 hours from the time I left the office to when I got back, though my friend and I weren’t exactly in a rush the day we went. I’m sure if you communicated to your waiter at the beginning of the meal that you’re in a rush, they could get you out sooner.

If the weather is nice, check out the patio, which features little cafe tables with blue umbrellas – kinda cute.

If you don’t want to worry about possibly waiting for a table, go early – the place gets pretty packed at lunch.

Hit up Coco Osteria if you’re looking for a quality meal with an upscale, Italian cafe feel and menu to match. Whether you’re looking for a classic favorite like lasagna or you’re in the mood to experiment with their special of the day, you’re sure to find something you like.

ARPA Tapas (Dinner) »

The Basics

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Cuisine: Spanish
Ambiance: Modern
Address: 129-100 West Trade, Charlotte, NC 28202
Neighborhood: Uptown
Phone: 704.372.7792
Web Site: http://www.harpersgroup.com/arpaTapas.html
Must Taste (Dinner):

  • Tapas: Roasted Fingerling Potatoes – $4.50 – Great smoky flavor from the chorizo
  • Tapas: Gambas a Ajillo – $9/$16 – simple but delicious – try this if you like garlicky-shrimp
  • Drink: Pitcher of Sangria – delicious sangria – great if you like fruity drinks or wine with a sweet twist
  • Get it while you can: 6 + 6 = $12 – Arpa Doubles the Fun Each Month. Now you can join us for our popular 6+6 events every first Wednesday and third Wednesday of the month. Enjoy 6 amazing tapas paired with 6 wines for just $12. 5:30pm-8:30pm.

Pricing Samples (Dinner):

  • Tapas: $3.50 – $24
  • Flatbreads: $9-$12

Best For: Date, Small Groups (probably large, too, but I’d call to verify)
What to Wear: nice casual (not tennis shoes) to dressy
Fave Points: Huge selection of tapas with authentic Spanish flair. Where else can you order Boquerrones in the Queen City?
My Fave Dish: Roasted Fingerling Potatoes – one might think a potato too simple to pick as a fave, but the combination of gold and purple fingerling potatoes paired with the smoky chorizo flavor and tender texture of the potatoes themselves…heaven!

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

I met up with a friend (who was visiting all the way from NYC) and one of her good girlfriends for a girls’ night out. We hit up Press for a glass or two of wine and then went down the street to ARPA Tapas for some delish Spanish tapas.

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According to their web site, chef Tom Condron’s vision for ARPA is:

To truly dine in Spain is to share several small, intricate courses reflecting the rich diversity of classical and contemporary Spanish cuisine.

The bar should boast a wide variety of Spanish red, white and rosé wines, available by the glass, as well as a selection of Sherries and sangria.

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I ordered a pitcher for our table, which came out in a pretty blue pitcher. The sangria was super good and the pitcher was great for sharing.

We each picked 2 tapas to try and then shared a bit with each other. Here’s what we got:

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Rock Shrimp and Serrano Croquettes – $5.50 – with picked vegetables and saffron aioli. These were quite good but I couldn’t get over how much the saffron aioli sauce looked, to me, like mustard! I did like the flavor and texture of the croquettes, though.

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Crisp Goat Cheese – $7 – with honey drizzle, pepperanata and almond pesto. These came out nice and hot and gooey inside.

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Tortilla de Espanola con Espinaca – $5.50 – This fritatta had a nice soft texture inside and crispy texture on the outside. I wish there would have been more spinach, but it was still quite enjoyable.

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Gambas a Ajillo – $9/$16 – sizzling spicy garlic shrimp – this was one of my favorite tapas of the night. The flavors were so simple yet so tasty! Definitely try this one if you like shrimp and garlic.

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Crispy Skin Duck Breast – $12 – with sweet and sour onions and quince. The flavors of this dish are amazing, but be warned, if you like your steak well done, you should either avoid this entree or ask for it to be prepared to your liking. The center of the meat is quite rare. Another thing to note is that this picture was taken after approximately 2 slices of duck had been claimed. The portion is a little larger than portrayed.

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Roasted Fingerling Potatoes – $4.50 – with chorizo and shallots. How do you take potatoes from simple to divine? Like this. An interesting mixture of golden and purple fingerling potatoes were sliced thin and cooked with shallots and chorizo. I think the use of different potato colors paired with that yummy smoky taste really put this one over the top for me. I highly recommend that you try this if you go to ARPA!

Final Dish

I’d recommend ARPA for either a playful date (sharing food is always more fun, no?) or dinner with friends. Enjoy the patio area if the weather is nice…we did, and I really liked it out there. Don’t let the Spanish menu scare you off…just ask the waiter or waitress what the different dishes are if you are curious about something but don’t speak/read Spanish. If they’re still offering it, I’d try the $6 + $6 = 12 special mentioned above – I love a good tasting-menu-style meal!

Monticello Restaurant »

The Basics

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Cuisine: American with a Southern Flair
Ambiance: Elegant-Chic
Address: 235 N. Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC 28202
Phone: 704.342.1193
Web Site: http://www.dunhillhotel.com/monticello-restaurant/index.cfm
Must Taste (Lunch):

  • Entrees: Shrimp + Grits – $11 – a wonderful rendition for shrimp + grits; try this is you’re visiting the south

Pricing Samples (Lunch):

  • Soup: $6
  • Entrees: $9-$14

Best For: Romantic Date, Business Lunch
What to Wear: I’d err on the dressy side – probably not jeans
Fave Points: Nice and quiet, great quality of food, attentive service, excellent prices for such good food
My Fave Dish: Shrimp and Grits

Menu pricing and availability subject to change.

My Dish

A foodie-friend and I went to Monticello Restaurant last winter for a nice change-of-pace from the usual, busy, work-day lunch. Located to the Dunhill Hotel , this restaurant is in the heart of uptown.

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The inside of the restaurant was on the smaller side, but not cramped-small – it was cozy + intimate-small. The place had a steady stream of traffic, but it was also nice and quiet so my friend and I could carry on good conversation. There were a few business meetings taking place around us. This would be the perfect place to take a client (or even romantic date).

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I liked how they folded the napkins.

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The fresh flowers on the tables were a nice touch, too.

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Pre-entree, we were served some bread with a trio of delicious butters – regular, olive-butter, and (I believe) pumpkin-butter. They were all quite good – I’m a big fan of flavored butters.

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My co-worker got The Club sandwich ($9), which she had with french fries. I’m sure the sandwich was quite good, but I recommend trying one of their more interesting entrees, like these options that sound tasty: Strawberry Fields (“Fresh Greens, Driscol Strawberries, Aged Stilton, Grilled Chicken Strawberry Vinaigrette”) salad or Grilled Chicken Bruschetta (“Herb Marinated Chicken, Fresh Tomato Bruschetta, Garlic Mashed Potatoes“), unless you’re really craving a sandwich to eat.

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I went for the Shrimp and Grits ($11) – from the menu: “Harbor Banks Shrimp, Mushrooms, Peppers, Apple Wood Bacon, Cajun Cream Sauce.”

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I thoroughly enjoyed my Shrimp and Grits entree. I thought the bacon and green pepper were nice touches. The Cajun Cream Sauce had a great flavor, but the cream in the sauce made it a wee bit heavier than other shrimp and grits I’ve had. In my opinion, it’s worth the extra calories for the flavor.

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My friend and I also split the (I think it was – no dessert menu online so I can’t confirm) flourless chocolate cake. Thank goodness we split this dessert! We both thought it was delicious, but quite rich. Save room for this or plan to share. Great choice for chocolate lovers.

Final Dish

I’ve long walked by this restaurant and never thought to go in because it always looked so expensive. Though it may be more pricey for dinner (not sure, haven’t been yet), the lunch is quite reasonable. If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing, high-quality lunch for a great price, try Monticello Restaurant.