Posts Tagged ‘restaurant review’

le fabuleux destin d’amelie patisserie.

15 June 2009

after a night spent sleeping in one’s car, waking with each passing vehicle or barking dog or imagined footstep, unable to return to sleep at dawn — the windshield glass intensifying the sun’s heat — one seeks a place to relax, indoors. the place needs to serve great food, provide free wireless internet, and, above all, never close. it’s not just a method of killing time while waiting for something else to open or just an escape from claustrophobia’s grasp: it’s a necessary step, separating one day from the next and signalling to your body that you have awakened, ready to produce.

my recommendation, if one requires such a site in charlotte, falls solely on amelie’s french bakery. they offer a selection of seasonal soups, like tomato fennel and farmhouse butternut squash and spinach asparagus leek, which are made fresh daily from local ingredients. they also serve sandwiches and tartines (basically, open-faced sandwiches topped with, for example, ham and melted gruyere cheese) on fresh baguettes.

many come here for the dessert cases, housing an array of pastries, tarts, and cakes. peering into them, you enter a dream state where apricots and peaches perform ballet, pirouetting on the counter in front of you before coquettishly dancing away; caramels following one another up a slide, then gleefully descending, arms raised, into a heated, salt-water pool where they splash around with delight; passion fruit petit fours and coconut macaroons taking turns on the trampoline or riding a ski lift to the top of a mountain, where they strap cinnamon raisin and pecan sticky buns, respectively, to their feet and expertly maneuver their way back down to the chalet.

bright colors shoot forth from every corner and you feel a spinning sensation. when your equilibrium returns, you notice a table to your right you hadn’t seen previously, a lingering symptom of your reverie. atop is a teapot, colored a pastel green, and a ramekin of creme brulee. a thin-lipped girl sits quietly, the faint trace of dimples on her cheeks, her skin pale as milk, made whiter still by the jet black of her hair, which ends just below her ears, and her dark eyes. positioned in her hand, a spoon, and you watch her close her eyes, breathe out deeply, and gently crack the crust of her creme brulee. her face becomes serene, as if an act of catharsis has taken place.

you leave, contemplating the small wonders of life and thinking of elaborate ways to impact the lives of others, becoming a sort of guardian angel, bringing them joy and satisfaction. just then you hear a ringing noise and, for the first time, notice a phone booth beside your car. you hold the receiver to your ear, but, before speaking, an old metal box catches your eye. you whip your head around, sensing that someone is watching you, but no one is there. your eyes brim with tears as you open the box and remember the tile in your childhood bathroom that you once hid it behind. you leaf through the memorabilia within, remembering happy events long forgotten, awash in emotion.

basically that’s how this place makes me feel every visit.

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have it your way.

21 March 2009

with the opening of big daddy’s burger bar in december 2007, frank scibelli’s stable of restaurant franchises grew to three, preceded by mama ricotta’s and cantina 1511. after tackling italian and mexican cuisines, the newest concept showcases the most american of foods (if you don’t count hot dogs and, maybe, apple pies), the hamburger, and allows its patrons to create one specific to their individual palates. those previous restaurants make cameos here, as a hamburger with housemade mozzarella, pesto, vine-ripened tomatoes, and olive oil, and a black bean burger with green chiles, cheddar and monterey jack cheeses, avocado, and chipotle ranch appear on the menu.

while similar burger joints exist, i think this represents the best incarnation in charlotte. while they collectively allow one to choose toppings a la carte, big daddy’s competitors do so in such a confusing way that the meal invariably costs twenty dollars by the time one is finished ordering. in an effort to combat this sticker shock, big daddy’s menu contains more suggested combinations, thus one can select an entree and add or subtract a few ingredients without worrying about being surprised by the bill. the prices also include a side (french fries, sweet potato fries, house slaw, onion straws, tater tots, or housemade potato chips). on friday, saturday, and sunday, for an additional charge, they serve french fries cooked in duck fat, which doesn’t alter the flavor much; the change is more tactile, the fries are crispier.

i’m sorry that i’m one step away from sounding like a generic website — i just need to add something like, come join us on saturday nights when the patio gets jumping. before i change directions though, i should tell you that your options include beef, turkey, chicken, and buffalo, as well as portabella mushroom caps and black beans for those who prefer something other than meat.

there is another burger bar, located in las vegas’s mandalay bay and owned by hubert keller, where one can order a kobe beef burger named after a fourteenth century italian composer whose love for fine food was legendary. the rossini is topped with sauteed foie gras, shaved black truffles, and a madeira wine reduction on an onion bun. for your sixty dollars you also get skinny fries and, i think, a blowjob. luckily for those that cannot make it to vegas (or are sane enough not to drop that much money on a burger), i’ve found a recipe courtesy of saveur.

this bacon contains no bacon.

14 February 2009

i make it no secret that, when it comes to food at least, i hate when things masquerade as something they’re not. i don’t mean the acrobatics, known as molecular gastronomy, practiced by ferran adria and his (more or less) disciples thomas keller, heston blumenthal, and grant achatz. i can appreciate their attention to detail, intense study of chemical properties, and the overall playfulness behind their creations (and their cuisines aren’t meant to be eaten daily).

instead my displeasure is focused on a trend in vegetarian cooking of using meatless meat. until recently i thought this scourge was limited to the freezer section of the grocery store, where my sister continuously finds packages of meatballs that contain absolutely no meat (doesn’t the fda require some sort of honesty in labeling these items?). to my horror, i’ve now discovered that there exist entire restaurants serving this fare. one, greensboro’s boba house, was recommended to me tonight.

there are so many quotation marks on their menu, one could mistake it for the work of john bartlett. elsewhere, they list products, which are vegetable proteins disguised as meat. i see nothing wrong with eating a vegetarian diet, but all of the reasons for pretending vegetables are something else are unsatisfactory. is this really necessary to make vegetables palatable? has the market dried up for locally-grown vegetables, prepared simply? it’s a byproduct of america’s obsession with appearances, inventing healthiness, the idea that seaweed and assorted unpronounceable things, molded into a fish filet, can both eliminate our seafood craving (because of visual trickery, i suppose) and make us healthier (because any actual meat will kill us, i am told).

the most incomprehensible and represensible item on the page is something called chicken ham. honestly, now they’re just fucking with us. it’s as if they’re saying, scott, you thought the idea of faux shrimp was bothersome, just wait until we combine two names of meat into one imitation. are we to expect chicken cordon bleu?

if meat is murder, though, then dressing vegetables in meat costumes is akin to faking your own death in order to escape. as michael pollan writes in in defense of food, eat food. not too much. mostly plants. to me, we’re better off following that message than blindly eating something with a definable shape but indeterminate ingredients.


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