The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Posts Tagged ‘Restaurant Week’

Sonoma Modern American

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on February 4, 2010

Last week was Charlotte’s 2010 Queen’s Feast (or what they call their Restaurant Week).  It was originally scheduled from Friday, January 22th to Sunday, January 31st which seemed to be a great amount of time until a winter “storm” hit the Charlotte area and shut down the city during its final weekend.  While the Husband and I had reservations for Sonoma Modern American for Sunday the 31st, we were concerned about dealing with inexperienced drivers in this city.  Luckily, Sonoma (along with many other Queen’s Feast restaurants) extended their deals into this week.  Using OpenTable.com, the Husband and I easily changed our reservation for Monday night.

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Upon arriving, we laughed at the fact we had a reservation as we were the only ones in the restaurant at 6:30 (Monday nights are traditionally slow nights at restaurants).  It was nice enjoying the generally empty restaurant at first as I took pictures from our table.  Unfortunately most of them didn’t turn out! Around 6:45 or 7, a handful of other tables arrived giving the restaurant a bit more energy.

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We spent a good amount of time exploring the menu.  As the Husband mentioned in a previous post, Queen’s Feast has local restaurants provide (generally) a 3-course meal for $30.  Some menus have limited items, but Sonoma offered their entire menu.  Included in the meal would be a Conversation item (appetizer), an entree, a side dish, and a dessert.  So much to choose from!

Something fun about their menu – they actually offer 3 for $30 more often than Queen’s Feast.  Being close to the theatre (they’re at Trade and Tryon Streets in Uptown), you can have a similar meal.  On that menu, they have smiley faces next to each item eligible for this deal.

IMG_1856 To start, we both decided we’d like a glass of wine.  The Husband ordered a pinot noir, but unfortunately they were out 😦 Our waiter brought him a Merlot to try and he enjoyed it and kept it.  (Unfortunately we don’t remember the name.)

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I ordered a glass of the Santa Ema Chardonnay.  It went quite well with my meal 🙂

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After we ordered, we received a complimentary basket of bread.  The Husband dug right in as he had had a small lunch.  I enjoyed a piece as well.  The bread was crusty on the outside and warm and soft in the middle.

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For our courses, I insisted that we order all different items to ensure we’d each get to try 8 items instead of 4.  Boy am I glad I did! (The Husband and I have an uncanny similar taste and often end up ordering the same thing so planning in advance here was important!)

To start, I ordered the Escargot with Chorizo, Mushrooms, Butternut Squash Puree & White Truffle Oil. What a great way to kick things off! All of the ingredients went so well together and nothing was masked by another.  I’ve had escargot a handful of times in the past and they’re usually coated in butter.  Not that I dislike butter, but this was so much better!

IMG_1866 The Husband ordered the Kobe Beef Sliders with Gruyere, Bacon, & Pommes Frites. The beef was flavorful and fries crispy and salty.  The buns were a bit stiffer than we would have liked (potato rolls would have been awesome!), but not a bad start on his side of the table.

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For my entree, I went with the Grilled Atlantic Salmon, Citrus Peppercorn Sauce, Fennel & Orange Salad. I liked the citrus and peppery combination with the salmon along with the crunch of the fennel and orange salad.

IMG_1870 As my side, I ordered the Creamy Herbed Risotto. Yum! This was SO very good. 🙂

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The Husband had the Pan Seared Sea Scallops, Olive Oil Béarnaise & Tega Hill Micro Greens.  The bernaise was unlike anything I’ve had before and I liked it.

IMG_1872 We heart scallops…

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And of course, mac and cheese! This was the Husband’s side and we made the declaration that we believe this is the best mac and cheese we’ve had in a restaurant in a long time (if ever)! The cheese was flavorful, but not overpowering.  The cheese to pasta ratio = perfect.  And then the bit of baked crispiness on top – wow!

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Last but not least, the dessert course.  I ordered the Pear Tart with Vanilla ice cream.  I was excited at the idea of trying a pear tart, but it was just okay.  Perhaps my taste buds were pushed to a higher standard with the earlier courses.  It might also be that I’m a savory versus a sweet person so the earlier courses provided more pleasure 🙂

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The Husband ordered the Pecan Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream.  He loved it!

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I have wanted to check out Sonoma Modern American ever since our friend Kath recommended it nearly two years ago! I am so glad that we finally made it there before our big move.  Perhaps we’ll be able to sneak in one more visit for their mac and cheese before we head west?!?!

Oh, can’t forget to mention – we were quite impressed with the staff.  They were all so friendly, gave us the appropriate amount of space (didn’t come to our table too often but were always available when needed), and made our dining experience quite enjoyable.  Our waiter Allen was great!

Sonoma Modern American
100 N. Tryon Street
Charlotte, NC 28202





Sonoma Modern on Urbanspoon

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Firebirds Mountain Grill

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on January 26, 2010

With the Wife out of town last weekend, I was a geographic bachelor, and trying to figure out what to do with myself.  After sitting in my bathrobe and playing on my computers until 4, I got a call from a friend of ours who wanted to know if I’d like to join him and his fiancé for dinner and a movie.  I appreciated the pity invite, and while I might normally decline getting together, he enticed me with the reminder that it’s restaurant week, and I should use this opportunity to try something new.  After minimal arm-twisting, I agreed.

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We decided to go to Firebirds in Stonecrest, and then head to the movie afterward.  We met, and fortunately, he had called ahead for seating.  It was crazy-busy.  I don’t know how long we would have had to wait had we just walked up, but I’m sure we would have missed our movie. 

We started at the bar for a drink while we waited for our pager to indicate our table was ready.  I managed to spill his fiancé’s drink on both of us (just a little), which gave me the opportunity to relate the story of Clyde’s to them, and how my drink spilled ALL over me earlier in the week.  I then realized how much Firebirds reminded me of Clyde’s.  Both restaurants are casual elegant dining, with beautifully-appointed dining rooms. 

We probably waited 15 minutes and then headed off to our table.  The restaurant menu was, as expected, a fixed menu selection.  Everything on the regular menu was available, but not for the $30’s for Restaurant Week.  Each meal came with an appetizer, main course, dessert, and a flight of wines of your choice.  I commented in the Restaurant Week post about how Charlotte’s Queen Feast wasn’t always the greatest deal.  THIS was a good deal.

IMG_1972 I selected for the grilled chicken salad, filet (medium rare), and the lava cake.  Since we’re headed to Australia in several weeks, I selected three wines from Down Under to enjoy with the meal. 

IMG_1973 The salad was good, but not great.  It was pretty big, though, for a pre-meal salad.

IMG_1974The filet was excellent.  It was tender and perfectly cooked to order.  The crab meat on top was very tasty, but didn’t add as much as I expected to the taste of the beef.  The applewood bacon was a nice touch, but I really didn’t add much to the flavor, but did add a nice supplemental texture.  The mashed potatoes were fluffy AND creamy.  I do love asparagus, and it was well-cooked, but it certainly wasn’t the freshest asparagus… a little overripe. 

IMG_1977 Unfortunately, we were running a little late for our movie, so we had to order the dessert, pay the bill, and nearly swallow our lava cakes whole.  It was tasty, and I wish I had more time to enjoy it.  I’m not a big fan of cherries, but the wholly uninspired addition of vanilla ice cream to chocolate cake was wonderfully executed, in an explosion of flavor and texture. 

Firebirds (Rea Road) on Urbanspoon

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Clyde’s in Reston, Restaurant Week in D.C., and Beer in my lap

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on January 22, 2010

After a long day of meetings, a co-worker and I decided to grab a meal at Clyde’s in Reston.  I had been by Clyde’s in the Reston Towne Centre several times, but I had never actually been IN Clyde’s.  I was going to use this opportunity to try something new for the blog. 

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We arrived and were seated promptly.  He had invited a couple other co-workers, but he didn’t expect they would be showing up for another half-hour or so.  We got a table and sat down.  As the waitress rattled off the lengthy beer list, my co-worker, a fellow beer connoisseur, asked me what I might recommend.  He’s from the West Coast, and wasn’t familiar with a couple of the beers, since they were from East Coast breweries.  I asked him if he’d ever had anything from Magic Hat Brewing in Vermont.  He had never heard of it, so we ordered two Magic Hat #9s.  If you’ve never had the pleasure, Magic Hat #9 is a unique, crisp, lightly-hopped beer. 

Our beers came out, and I noticed my glass was very cold.  We toasted our glasses; “Cheers!”, and I took a moment to admire the clean beer and wonderful head.  I brought the glass to my nose, closed my eyes, and took a deep inhale of its wonderful aroma. 

All of a sudden, I felt a “gush” as the beer began to pour all over me.  In an instant, I opened my to see what had happened, as beer cascaded off the table onto my shirt, rolled into my lap, onto the booth, and dripped onto the floor. 

Had I broken the glass in my hand?  No, I looked at it, and it still looked fine, but conspicuously empty of beer. 

Or was it still fine?  I looked closer, and the bottom inch of the glass had “fallen off” the pint glass.  Too many hot washes and immediate placements into the bar’s freezer had left their mark hidden in the hysteresis of glass.  Adding a luke-warm beer (cool, but not cold) to the glass, coupled with our light “tink” of a toast, had set the molecular dominoes in motion to cause the glass to split under the weight of the beer, allowing gravity to take its course, leaving the glass empty, the table a mess, and me soaking wet. IMG_1961

Immediately, there was a small army of servers and bus persons, commanded by an elite officer corps of managers, orchestrating the cleanup.  My co-worker never even stood up, as the table was repaired to its pristine state from 7 minutes earlier.  I, on the other hand, just laughed.  There are plenty of things that aggravate me, cause me to get upset, cause me to raise my voice, or just cause me to tighten up.  This, however, was not one of those events.  After realizing the simple untimeliness of what was otherwise “bad luck,” I laughed, headed to the bathroom, and took off my soaking wet dress shirt, revealing my beer-stained, but mildly drier, undershirt.  There was nothing I could do for my pants.  When I came back to the table, I said, “my seat’s still wet.”  My co-worker asked if I would like to move.  I pointed out that probably anywhere I sat, the seat would end up wet.  He nodded in sympathetic understanding.

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Finally, the manager (David Smith) came over and asked if there was anything he could do.  I said that I would really like to see the glass again, and get a picture of it.  I figured it might be nice to have a little proof of what happened.  I could just imagine explaining to the police officer, “Honest, I only had one beer,” as the smell permeated the fabric in the car.  But, perhaps most immediate in my mind was the blog, I wanted a picture to show that “the bottom just fell off.” 

The manager, who was very friendly, and appropriately contrite, brought the glass back, and said, “Since we gave you a glass of beer with no bottom, we’d like to offer you a bottomless glass of beer tonight.”  He said “no pun intended,” but I didn’t believe him then, and I still don’t believe him in hindsight.  I forgave him for his polite fib, as I thought it quite clever, and even chuckled aloud.  He also offered to pay the dry cleaning bill for my clothes, which I told him was unnecessary, but I appreciated the offer.

Our other co-workers arrived after all the commotion.  We related the above story.  They ordered drinks.  We finally were able to order dinner.  As it turns out, it was Restaurant Week in D.C.  At Clyde’s they had a small selection on a fixed-menu, including one salad/appetizer, one main course, and one dessert for $21.95.  I ordered the calamari as an appetizer, and the jumbo lump crab cake for my entree.

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Our food took a little while to come out, but it was worth the wait.  The selection of salads and my calamari all looked wonderful.  The calamari was not the best I’ve ever had, but it was far above average.  It was, perhaps, a little over-breaded and not as “crisp” as the freshest of calamari usually is.  It was good, though, and the generous parmesan cheese on top certainly added to the overall flavor.

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The jumbo lump crab cake was top-notch.  Anytime I have a crab cake, and I think it’s good, I always want the Wife to try it for me.  Since she’s from Maryland, she has a particularly discerning taste when it comes to crab cakes.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t there to enjoy the meal with us, but I somehow imagined her providing her seal of approval on this particular crab cake; lots of large lump crab meat, with minimal filler, all very-lightly fried.  It was also served with a sweet potato gratin, which was better in name than in execution.

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After dinner, our server asked what would like to have for dessert.  The dessert menu was extensive, with several tasty-looking options, including a butterscotch blondie, a brownie, cheesecake, and apple pie.  I elected to have the dulce du leche cheesecake, which was perfectly-sized, and remarkably well-crafted.  It was rich, without being too rich, and thick without being heavy.  Unfortunately, it looked so good that I ate it before I remembered to take a picture.  You’ll just have to trust me on it.IMG_1967

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Clyde’s is, in many ways, a staple of professionals in the D.C.-area.  Once again, I’m surprised I managed to miss out on it all the years I was in the area, but I’m glad that I have been able to discover it as a visitor. 

Clyde's of Reston on Urbanspoon

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Charlotte Restaurant Week – Jan 2010

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on January 19, 2010

It’s that time of year again; Charlotte Restaurant Week.  It’s time for Queen’s Feast in Charlotte.  If you’ve never participated, you should really consider trying it this year.  It’s certainly an event worth making a little time for. 

Here’s how it works.  Local restaurants are encouraged to participate in what is effectively a week-long promotion.  All participating restaurants feature a three-course, fixed menu for $30 per person, from 22-31 January.  You just need to make a reservation, show up, and enjoy (and then pay). 

The Wife and I both enjoyed Restaurant Week in the Washington, D.C. area before moving to Charlotte.  As we always viewed it, it was a chance to eat at restaurants that we otherwise wouldn’t have attempted to enjoy, because it was cost-prohibitive.  A fine steak or seafood restaurant, where getting out with a $150 bill is a challenge, but we would be able to enjoy it for something like $80. 

Once we came to Charlotte, we were excited to see that the Queen City was beginning to promote a local Restaurant Week.  Charlotte’s still trying to tweak their implementation; there are a lot of participating restaurants that I don’t think $30 is a “great deal” for a meal.  There is the upside, though, that restaurants generally feature their best fares on the fixed menus, which encourage you to come back.  Also, some restaurants liberally add additional courses, in an effort to make your $30 worthwhile.  There are also a handful of jewels on the menu, where $30 is still a steal.

So take a look, and give it a shot.  A couple restaurants we are considering are Chima and Del Frisco’s.  We can recommend from experience, both Noble’s (where my company will be having an annual party this week, but I will, again, be on travel), and Upstream, both of which are in South Park.

Posted in Discounts & Coupons, Restaurants, Specialty | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »