Monday, May 28, 2012

Vegetarian anyone?

So for the month of January I decided to go vegetarian to start the year off a little bit healthier than I ended the year before.  Given this I needed to find places to eat that would help keep me accountable.  Enter, Luna's and Fern.

Luna's - tucked into the back corner of Atherton Mills in South End, this little restaurant packs quite a punch.  I believe it's even billed as vegan but the food is surprisingly flavorful and really good.  I ordered the Fire and Brimstone quinoa veggie burger wrapped in collard greens and it has quite the kick.  It's served with a side salad and for sounding fairly blah, it was really good.  Now I don't normally seek out vegan food, but I've actually been craving this burger recently.  Luna's has other items that may not sound appealing for a meat eater but I promise, it's really good.  Veggie lasagna, salads, various hummus spreads are all good options.  The prices are also very reasonable, especially for an organic/local restaurant.  Check them out.

Fern - Another hole in the wall vegetarian place that is tucked in between a pawn shop and a garden center on Central Avenue across from the Family Dollar.  This stretch of road has some of the most randomly placed but best restaurants in town (i.e., Bistro la Bon, Soul, Midwood Smokehouse).  The sign is not lit up so it's easy to miss but once you find it, it's well worth the stop.  Fern is definitely higher end than Luna's and its menu changes seasonally.  It's somehow related to Something Classic catering and it definitely shows in the details.  The restaurant isn't big and there's not really a good waiting area so get there early or make reservations (only open Tues - Sunday).  Their OM burger is awesome (notice a theme that I keep ordering burgers at vegetarian restaurants) as is their Laughing Buddha bowl.  My friends tried the risotto and really liked it.  It's so good, there were a bunch of guys in there and there's no meat on the menu.  That should tell you something, right?  As I mentioned, prices are a little higher than Luna's and the portions are reasonable (i.e., not typical huge american portions we are used to) but the food is outstanding.  I plan to go back soon even though I'm off of my vegetarian kick.  Hope you check them out soon.

Monday, June 13, 2011

TdK Finalists and Showdown Challenge

The time has finally come to crown a tdk victor. This email went out to our four finalists to decide once and for all who will be crowned the tdk "Overall Best Dinner" winner! The other tdk participants will have the final vote. We can't wait!!

Congratulations! You four have been selected as a Tour de Kitchens "Overall Best Dinner" category finalist! After almost twenty different dinners spanning all manor of culinary experiences, Lauren and I have narrowed it down to the "best of the best"! However we feel that we are unable to select between such amazing experiences with you all. So with this privileged recognition comes an exclusive opportunity. In order for a winner to be named, each of the finalists (i.e., you all) must prepare an appetizer of your choice to bring to the TdK finale so that all TdK guests can sample and help decide on the winner. Votes will be cast on the following criteria: presentation, taste, originality and overall best app. The TdK finale has been scheduled for Saturday, July 9th at 6:30pm. So begin planning your outstanding appetizer submission and let us know if you have any questions. The TdK finale invitation will soon follow! Only one rule: must be present to win! Let the real competition begin!


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tour de Morrow - Practically restaurant quality

After a brief, but serious consideration of going vegetarian after Tour de Apple, that crazy notion quickly dissipated along our next stop at Tour de Morrow. Lauren and I were lamenting the fact that this was our last scheduled TdK dinner, and while it means the kitchen will be done soon (please Lord, please!), having dinner with our friends was proving to be much more fun than we realized. This was, by far, one of the best ideas ever!!

So Thursday night rolls around and we are eagerly anticipating the culinary treats that Chef Emily was going to serve. Emily has a tendency to play down her culinary skills, but I felt sure she was just being modest. Indeed Chef Emily knows how to plan and prepare an amazing meal and I'm so thankful to have been able to experience it. So when we arrive we are greeted by something never before experienced on tdk, waiters. Emily had actually ensured that every detail was taken care of and this included someone to serve us dinner. She had menus printed out, a full cocktail and wine list, and we were able to choose from a number of different entrees. Chef Emily really began to show off for us with an innovative chicken lollipops appetizer. These delicious apps were served with a bbq sauce with a jalapeno kick and a side of blue cheese fondue! Can you say yummy?!

For dinner, Chef Emily gave us so many options it was difficult to choose. Fortunately she had enough dinner options for every palate so we all went with something different. Lauren selected the Grouper with Lump Crab Meat, risotto and asparagus...amazing! Emily selected the Sea Scallops with a chilled pesto noodle salad and sliced tomatoes, and that too was pretty incredible. I, however, selected the best thing on her menu, NY Strip topped with melted pimento cheese and fried oysters with spring onion mashed potatoes. Wow!! Terrace Cafe couldn't have made anything this good!! Chef Emily blew us away!

But Chef Emily wasn't done here. She actually gave some amazing dessert options as well. There were so many incredible things to choose from, we had to pick two, the peanut butter and chocolate cake and the flourless chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. Whoa! Chef Emily is not only an amazing cook and baker, she also crocheted the the hot handle holder for the brownie skillet. This girl is amazing!

We were sad when this stop on TdK had to end, but Chef Emily once again proved why she's so amazing. I hope that one day everyone gets the opportunity to dine here. Thanks Em!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Veg-All at Tour de Apple

Our first Saturday night meal was kicked off at Tour de Apple with a celebration of Julie passing her NASM personal training certification! While Julie was happy to finally be out of the books, Ashley and I were a little worried that she might try out her new found skills on us. However, we ventured on with high hopes for our first vegetarian meal. We were relieved when Julie answered with a smile instead of taking on a Biggest Loser alter ego.

This meal might have been vegetarian, but it was definitely not low carb! Against Dr. Atkins advice, we lavishly enjoyed Chardonnay and nine grain bread with oil and balsamic vinegar. If bread and wine are good enough for Jesus, they are good enough for us! Take that Robert!

But, never fear, we of course saved room for our piece de resistance! This entree didn't just contain vegetables, as foreshadowed by the title, it was one big vegetable. The spaghetti squash (yes, this was Atkins approved) complete with marinara, mozzarella, Parmesan and ricotta was c'est magnifique. Even the most devout red meat eaters might be converted!

The third course has quickly become our favorite on Tour de Kitchens. Mmmm dessert...its a good thing we've started running again. After Ashley questioned the name and function of Julie's baked goods, we convinced her that Cherry Dump Cake did not contain prunes and that "dump" only referred to the process of making the cake. I then proceeded to educate the girls on every other kind of fruit that could be used to make this cake. For a quick summary, click here.

While we greatly enjoyed our bread and wine, spaghetti squash, and yes, even the dump cake, we mainly enjoyed the company! After TDK, we will be back to sign up for your personal training services. Thanks Julie!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Whip it good at Tour de Reidenouer

Tdk took a little hiatus while LW was checking out other kitchens throughout various sunny vacation spots around the continent. So while I was eating cereal and lamenting the fact my renovation was running behind, Lauren was working on her tan. Sorry, not that I'm bitter or anything but let's get to the good stuff.

So we kick of part two of tdk with a highly anticipated dinner at Tour de Reidenouer. Jon was gracious enough to reschedule after LW's last minute trip to Cancun. Now we weren't sure what to expect as we didn't know much about Jon's culinary talents. Turns out, he's quite the chef.

So the whole Reidenouer clan deserves some of the credit for our dinner as our culinary treats come from a number of old family recipes. The first family recipe was an appetizer from Jon's sister: roasted red pepper and artichoke dip with crackers. Now I'm not sure what all went into this tasty treat but it was awesome! He served this incredible dip with tasty crackers and hummus.

For dinner Jon served up one of his mom's recipes which was a shrimp and tomato pasta with arugula and lots of Parmesan cheese. However, this was not just any pasta, it was a pasta first for all of us, Oriechiette pasta (i.e., it looks like an ear).

Jon was channeling his inner Bobby Flay with this one as it was awesome! Meanwhile Jon was also channeling his inner DJ as he introduced me to Bob Schneider, the legendary musician from Austin, TX which of course, LW was already familiar with. We had a lot of fun listening to this crazy guy and his range of music talent. I highly recommend checking him out.

So after this delicious dinner, Jon brought out the dessert tray with various cheesecake options.

However, having these options was not enough. Jon wanted to really show off his culinary skills by whipping up some homemade whipped cream...without an electric mixer. Jon gets four stars for all of his efforts in whipping up some delicious whipped cream which we proceeded to put on everything. Here are a few action shots. Now I'm not going to say how long it took, only that the recipe underestimated the speed with which Jon was able to whip this cream into shape. Notice he's almost breaking a sweat.

All of his efforts were worth it (as far as we were concerned) as we enjoyed this chocolate chip cheesecake topped with homemade whipped cream and strawberries. Yum!

Even the coffee got in on this sweet dessert goodness.

A very special thanks to Jon for an amazing dinner and overall great night!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Party Pack at Tour de Grows

Somewhere between Over the Top Tour de Branch and Sanitation Grade Pending Tour de Guzi came Tour de Grows. Eugenia was a little anxious to hear that she was following infamous chef Ron, but Ashley and I decided to let those nerves motivate the Grows to create another inspirational meal on TDK. We may have "forgotten" to tell them about the food poisoning that was promised for the following night. However, I think Eugenia may have gotten her inspiration elsewhere as she sent this picture to entice us as she and Brad were "prepping" for the meal.

Ashley and I made a run for the border to South Charlotte for Tour de Grows anyway. After all, Taco Bell is still better than cereal for dinner. However, after we arrived, we weren't so sure we were welcome.

Umm, hello Grows, asking for handouts is the whole point of Tour de Kitchens! Luckily, a little cutie decided to welcome us inside.

The Grows had an awfully nice table setting on the deck for a Taco Bell dinner. As we enjoyed the 71 degree weather at dusk with our first glass of Pinot Noir, the Grill Master and the Mistress of the Domain put the final grill marks on the filet marinated in a top secret family recipe.

Little Grow was looking for something else to enjoy while Brad was working to keep all of his arm hair from being singed.

Both the arm hair and the filets were salvaged. The plates were completed with a creamy risotto and a spinach salad with strawberries and feta. This is the best Taco Bell I've ever had! Cheers!

Looks like our asking for handouts paid off. The final course of lemon pound cake with vanilla whipped cream, strawberries and fresh ground nutmeg was served just as Lucy found what she was looking for.

Thank you Grow family! Let us know when you are doing drive thru and we'll join the feast!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sanitation Grade Pending at Tour de Guzi's

So you know you're in trouble when you ask your host what's for dinner and her daughter replies, "food poisoning." Uh oh! Well this tour de kitchens was full of surprises and like none other we've experienced thus far. Lauren and I were excited about having dinner with the Guzis before they leave for their big summer sabbatical. After Taylor's reply and Jacob's comment that bug salad was on the menu, we were a little nervous about the food part. In fact I think Lauren was so nervous, she ended up having to bail in order to "work late" in Greensboro. Sure Lauren... The Guzis were gracious enough to invite a few others along for this treat so LP (not to be confused with LW), CC and Farrell came along for their first tdk guest experience. I think they were a little jealous after their first experience that none of them had come up with this idea before. Of course, I don't really blame them. TdK is AWESOME!!!

So I arrive at the Guzi's to see this posted on the door, "Sanitation Grade Pending" by the State of NC! This is not a good sign when you're planning to eat dinner somewhere. Then I walk inside to the back deck (which is incredible by the way) to see this centerpiece of beautiful flowers accompanied by Prilosec, Tums and Maalox Plus...just in case. To make things even worse, the menu was printed up and indicated we were having skewered roadkill, weed slosh and pig slop for dinner. Did I just agree to have dinner with Harry Potter?

Fortunately Grill Master Matt came to the rescue and cooked up some yummy "roadkill" that tasted a lot like chicken...thank goodness. This was served over "maggots and ears of...something". Thankfully chef Jen knows what she's doing and made these taste like rice and corn. Call it a mom thing. Then our handsome waiter brought out chocolate covered strawberries to "cleanse the pallet" before dessert. What a cutie!! To cap it all off, Taylor whipped together our dessert which was "pig slop with worms". I don't know how she did it but it tasted a lot like cookies, whipped cream and gummy worms. Fantastic!

So this tour de kitchens was quite a change from our usual "normal" menus but it was just as tasty. I never ended up having to take anything from the centerpiece, but I can't speak for everyone. Here are a few of the other guests enjoying their tdk experience.

Thanks Guzis!! I can't wait to come back after you get your "D" sanitation grade!!

Going Green at Tour de Bouts

It must be getting close to summer time because the healthy meals are coming out on Tour de Kitchens! Following up a great grilled chicken salad at Tour de Petters, Amber Bouts hosted us the following night with green veggies and broiled fish.

Amber graciously rescheduled us a day early at short notice and was pleasantly surprised by our timely arrival.

For those new to the blog and the brilliance of Tour de Kitchens, these meals (complete with fantastic company) are the highlights of our weeks! Case in point, eager to ease our Monday blues, Amber promptly served some of our favorite whites and greens.

Amidst sharing the highs and lows of the day, the sounds of Need to Breathe and the smells of our yummy entree, our hostess with the mostest used her piggy potholder to deliver a delicious Mahi Mahi.

Our plate was completed with a side of asparagus topped with a generous portion of Parmesan cheese. Chef Bouts knows how to make those green veggies taste even better! Ready to enjoy our delish meal we move to the table for a quick photo op before settling into the living area with enough room for all three of us to enjoy.

No meal, healthy or not, is complete without dessert! Amber topped off the meal with a sweet little vanilla bean cupcake with buttercream frosting. This mini-dessert was just enough to satisfy a sweet tooth and create a perfect ending to any day.