For now though, let's back up to Friday. Look who arrived!
My parents arrived to Charlotte that afternoon for a weekend split between hard work (painting, planting, installing light fixtures, and a spattering of daddy-do tasks) and fun (visiting, delicious meals, exploring, hiking). Each time they come to visit I spend a considerable amount of time researching restaurant options. Charlotte has so many incredible dining venues with enticing menus that it makes choosing a single meal very difficult. Friday night's dinner, however, was an easy decision.
Fern, Flavors from the Garden, is a vegetarian and vegan restaurant in Uptown that has been receiving rave reviews since they opened almost one year ago. I had the opportunity to sample one of their dishes at the Taste of the Nation event, and it was easily my favorite bite of the night. After scoping out some spices, art, and wine in South End, we made are way down Central Ave to Fern.
While the restaurant was small and unassuming in the middle of a strip of stores, we were immediately impressed upon walking inside. The decor was earthy and welcoming, yet so very simple and tasteful. Everything on the menu sounded incredible, which made selecting our appetizers and entrees difficult. We started with three different shared appetizers, each of which was unique and packed with mouth-watering flavors of local and seasonal produce.
Warm Kale Salad -
Wilted Kale, Carrot Ribbons, Roasted Beets, Black Sesames & Beet Vinaigrette. Served with Warm Herbed Chevre Cakes
Fern Bruschetta -
Warm Vegetable Ragu over Hearty Slices of Charred Garlic Bread
Baby Cakes -
Pan-Sautée of Garden Latkes with Minted Cream
(Unlike traditional potato latkes, these were made with zucchini and squash.)
Often, it is quite simple to select a vegetarian entree from a dinner menu. Unfortunately, it's simple because there is often only a single option. At Fern, however, there is a page full of mouth-watering entrees. After much consideration, I selected the Farmhouse Ragout. From the crushed potatoes to the savory tempeh, to the sweet carrots, every mouthful was a different mixture of bright tastes. The portion size was hearty, and even for a girl like me with a big appetite, I left with a small box for another day's meal.
Farmhouse Ragout -
Crushed Potatoes with Preserved Lemon & Unfiltered Olive Oil, Spinach
Local Glazed Rainbow Carrots, Marcona Almonds, Tempeh & Roasted Tomatoes
When our waitress offered to present the dessert selections, we couldn't resist. We selected two to share between the three of us. How often do you find vegan dessert options at a restaurant? Never.
Vegan Beer Battered Donut Holes -
Chocolate Stout Glaze and Homemade Strawberry Preserves
Vegan Carrot Cake
Coconut Creme "Cheese" Icing
We all agreed that the desserts were good, but didn't quite meet the high expectations we had given the appetizers and entrees we had just enjoyed. Nonetheless, they were good and we almost cleaned the plates.
If you live in Charlotte, you certainly need to add Fern, Flavors from the Garden to your restaurant rotation. We commented repeatedly that we wished there were more restaurants that took a vegetarian/vegan and locally sourced approach to dining. At least now I have a local restaurant that is comparable to Candle 79 and doesn't require a trip to NYC to enjoy a well executed vegan meal.