Kickin’ It Into Gear

For those of you that read my blog regularly, you know that I have a section called, “America Dreaming.”  I started this segment of my blog to shine a light on people who have stretched beyond their comfort zone to live out their dreams.  My criterion was simple, the business had to be wine-related and had to have been started during the economic down turn.  All of the people I interviewed were happy.  They were doing what they wanted to do.  They had their piece of the pie.

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So I have decided that it is time to chase my own dream, to have my piece of the pie.  Through my writing I have been living vicariously through others.  Now it’s my turn.  I created a Kickstarter campagne to help raise money for the build out.  We found this great space in Bluffton, SC (just outside of Hilton Head) that we fell in love with and feel certain that it is the perfect location for the bar.  The bar will be in Old Town Bluffton, a historic district that has been revitalized and is alive with people and activities.  The bar is on Calhoun Street in the Promenade area.  People park at one end of the Promenade and walk to all the quaint little art shops, restaurants and bars.  If you walk to the end of Calhoun Street, you actually end up at the May River which dumps into the ocean.  The setting and the atmosphere of the whole area lends itself to fun and community – to meeting new friends, to living the American Dream.

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I just sold my Mercedes last night to free up some cash for the build-out of the wine bar.  I am a little sad this morning thinking about letting the car go but I am trying to keep my eye on the prize – Latitude Wine Bar.

We have two weeks left on our Kickstarter campagne.  Please check it out – give us “kick” to keep us moving in the right direction.   Help me achieve the American Dream and have your name posted on the “wall of fame” at Latitude Wine Bar.  I have decided to have dedicated space for everyone who pledges to the campagne.

Thank you all for being part of the dream!!!

Grapes and Small Plates Returns

Grapes

Grapes and Small Plates returns to Winston Salem during the month of April for its second annual food and wine event.  This culinary event is an opportunity to try a great local restaurant at a really reasonable price.  Last year we discovered Cimarron and The District, both of which became immediate favorites during Grapes and Small Plates.  So as soon as I saw the event advertised again this year, I started scoping out all the new restaurants I could try.  This year’s event goes to a new level by partnering with local wineries and creating pairings for their menu.

The event started Tuesday, April 2.  There are 11 participating restaurants and five participating wineries.

We started this year’s event by going back to Cimarron.  To my surprise, they actually had someone from Childress Vineyards there pouring samples of the wines they had on the menu.  They were pouring the Childress Merlot, Chardonnay and Syrah as well as “3”.

Hubby ordered Prime Rib for his “small plate” and paired it with Childress Syrah.  His dinner was served with Au Jus, Horseradish Cream Sauce and Sautéed Vegetables, served with warm bread and a fresh basil olive oil dip.

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I selected Flank Steak marinated in a Sriracha, Lime, Cilantro and Cumin Sauce, then grilled.  This was served with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Mashed Sweet Potatoes.  I also paired mine with the Childress Syrah.

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Each of our menu items was only $12.  The wine was $6 per glass.  We had a gourmet dinner for only $36.  The great thing about Grapes and Small Plates is that each restaurant prepares a special menu for each week, not just a special item.  You have several choices at each restaurant and the menu changes weekly.  It has been my experience with “Restaurant Week/Month” that each restaurant only offers one item for each night so this is a real treat.

Another added feature this year is a kiosk set up at each participating restaurant for donations to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

I already have a restaurant picked out for next week, but you will have to wait.  It is a surprise, and I have never eaten there so it should be fun!

For more information on Grapes and Small Plates, please visit:

Carolina Epicure:  2nd Annual Grapes and Small Plates

My post from the inagural Grapes and Small Plates

Chef’s Table, A Carnival Cruise Special

We have just returned from our first cruise.  I have been excited for months about doing this.  We have heard from so many people how much fun cruises are and how much there is to do while on a cruise.  I just couldn’t wait!!!  Hubby, however, had some reservations about the whole thing.  He’s not much of a gambler so he knew he wouldn’t enjoy the casino and he was just leery about how he would occupy his time on the days that we were at sea.  So I made it my mission to ensure that he had fun and that he had things to occupy his time.

One of the things that hubby and I really enjoy as a couple are wine dinners at local restaurants.  Well, turns out Carnival offers a similar experience on their cruise ships.  It is called the “Chef’s Table” and consists of seven courses along with a couple of wines.

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The evening started with our confirmation for the dinner reservation being slipped under the door of our stateroom.  This confirmation included a recommendation that you avoid wearing high heels.  This wasn’t an issue for hubby, but I had to change my whole wardrobe for the evening.  😉

There was a group of eight people attending the dinner.  We all gathered in the lobby and after a brief introduction to “Chef De Cuisine Santosh Kumar,” we headed to the galley.  (No pictures allowed in the galley.) Hors d’oeuvres  were served with champagne while we listened to the Chef tell us about the ship, the numerous kitchens and the various chefs required to pull off feeding 2,600 people for dinner.  (They actually have a person whose main job is to crack 1,000 eggs each night!)  From the galley tour, we met with one of the pastry chefs so we could learn the secret to making Carnival’s most popular dessert, Chocolate Melting Cake.  Just so happened he needed a couple of volunteers to help mix everything together for the cake and I was lucky enough, along with Suzanne – another lady attending the dinner – to be one of those volunteers.  Fitted with our very own chef’s hat, we stepped behind the prep table and promptly went to work.  Once the cake was in the oven, our tour was over.

Chef's hatWe moved as a group back through the dining room to the private room they had set up for our dinner.  There were only eight of us but we had two servers and three chefs, including Chef Santosh and were treated like royalty the rest of the evening.  Our first course was simply tomatoes – but there was nothing simple about these tomatoes!  We had aerated tomato juice (and you thought the only thing people aerated was wine!) which was thick and served on the plate to be eaten with a fork, cocoa butter coated tomatoes and Chardonnay poached tomatoes.  None of these tasted anything like the tomatoes that come from my garden and were all so delicious.  (If anyone reading this has a recipe you want to share with us, I would be glad to post it.  Would love to learn how to prepare the cocoa butter coated tomatoes!)

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The menu consisted of tuna, Cornish hen, bavarois (spinach, green peas, warm turnip and apple juice), salmon, short ribs, and a dessert called “Chocolate 88F” as well as the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake that Suzanne and a I helped make.  Each of these was served as a separate course and paired with a Merlot and a Pinot Grigio.

Bavarois

Bavarois

The tuna was coated with lemon bread crumbs and served with sesame crisp and miso cream avocado gel – great pairing of foods and really good.

The Cornish hen was caramelized and served with butternut squash and was delicious.

The salmon was quite good especially since I (typically) don’t eat fish.  It was served with an herb pesto to dip it in that was heavenly, cured tomatoes and condensed beets.  I will taste any food served at a special event just to say I did, but let’s be clear on this one, after a really bad experience as a child and being forced by a teacher to eat beets, I don’t eat them now.  However, I decided to taste these.  they actually looked like fruit roll-ups so I popped one into my mouth.  But only one – and it is probably the last time I will ever try beets!  Everyone else seemed to like them which indicates it was just me.

The short ribs were from Wagyu, an aged Kobe beef and were served with potato pebbles and pumpkin fudge (probably one of my least favorite items on the menu after the beets – definitely doesn’t taste like it sounds!).

Overall the dinner was great and the evening was fun.  The cost for the Chef’s Table is $75 per person – about what you would pay at any restaurant for a good wine dinner.  Unfortunately we were not offered the option of purchasing any of the wines to bring home, but it was a fun experience with some great people (who shared these pictures with me) and new friends.

New Friends

New Friends

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