Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Staycation - Eats

Where should I begin with all of the glorious food I enjoyed over my four days of staycation?  Let's start from the beginning, shall we.  After hiking at the White Water Center for several hours, my stomach was more than ready to dig into dinner.  I couldn't think of any better casual dinner on a beautiful spring evening than to enjoy pizza on the patio at Mellow Mushroom.  After starting with salads, we dove into a mega veggie pizza.  Their combination of crust, sauce, and generous portions of veggies makes for my favorite slice of pizza in the city.  Sadly, as I polished off my second slice I discovered the tofu was missing from our pie.

Lunch on Friday brought us to Zada Janes.  I've heard multiple times that their brunch is the best in the city, yet I've always been deterred by the hour plus wait that is typical on weekend mornings.  On this particular day I was craving a salad and so I skipped over the breakfast items.  I chose the chopped salad, which included a bed of mixed greens, tomatoes, cuke, broccoli, garbanzo beans, carrots, corn, sprouts, and feta.  The lemon citrus vinaigrette took an otherwise ordinary salad to a whole new level.  I suppose I'll have to come back another time for the eggs and biscuits.

Dad opted for the Noda salad - baked marinated tofu with tomatoes, boiled egg, artichoke hearts, avocado, roasted corn, white cheddar cheese, sunflower seeds, sprouts and spring mix.  Based on the small taste that I had, I'd definitely get this in the future.  The tofu was perfectly baked and very well seasoned.

Following our stint as profession NASCAR drivers, it was feeding time again.  We decided that drinks and snacks were in order prior to dinner and headed over to Noda.  First stop was Heist Brewery.  In addition to cocktails - I highly recommend their kombucha + vodka specialty drink - we shared some small plates.  Their menu is filled with eclectic combinations that all make your mouth water.  Our choices included shrimp wrapped in wasabi cotton candy and their version of chicken and waffles.  

After spending an hour or so talking endlessly about our delicious appetizers, we eventually made our way just a short distance down North Davidson to Cabo Fish Taco.  I first ate here about a year ago when Royce and Erin came to visit and was impressed by their casual atmosphere and awesome selection of seafood tacos.  That night I chose a combination of the Tavarua Wahoo and BBQ mahi tacos with a side of nopalito salad.  I know it's beginning to sound as though I rant and rave about everything I eat, but seriously, these are fantastic tacos and literally packed to the gills with ingredients.

Saturday morning I prepared a birthday breakfast for Dad.  Our breakfast sandwiches included english muffins, eggs, veggie "sausage", creme cheese, jam, dijon mustard, tomato, avocado, and fresh basil.  They were a bit messy and quite the mouthful, but I think they were a hit.  Fresh fruit (pear, apple, and kiwi) provided some sweetness on the side.

I packed an "odds and ends" picnic lunch when we set out for a day of hiking at Crowder's Mountain.  The majority of the components were a random mix of pantry and refrigerator finds, but I did put some effort into making a cabbage salad.  Red cabbage, corn, carrots, and garbanzo beans were tossed in a lime vinaigrette.

Saturday night's birthday dinner had been in the works for quite some time.  I've heard rave reviews of Passion8 Bistro in Fort Mill, SC.  In fact, more than one person has suggested that it is the best restaurant in all of the Carolinas.  The meal started out well, with succulent calamari that was perfectly cooked and tossed in a honey-jalapeno sauce.

Their menu changes seasonally, and I was quick to pick several appetizers and a soup option that sounded fantastic.  Sadly, our waitress informed us that their menu was changing in the upcoming week and therefore nearly half of the appetizers were unavailable and a different soup was being substituted.  Despite the change, I was pleased with the red lentil soup, served room temperature over a duck mousse, greens, and a cucumber spiral.

When perusing the entrees, I was enticed by all of the vegetarian side dishes that accompanied the meats/seafood.  Our waitress assured me that the chef would be happy to prepare a vegetarian plate with an assortment of uniquely prepared produce and grains.  I was imagining a large plate loaded with roasted root vegetables, brussel sprouts, spring pea risotto, and several other local ingredients.  Therefore, I was a bit disappointed when this dish was placed in front of me.  It was the same as the scallop entree, but with tofu nuggets in place of the scallops.  The dish itself was lacking in flavor, moisture, and size.  To add insult to injury, I was blown away by the HUGE slabs of pork chop and steak on the carnivores' plates at other tables.

The redeeming course was dessert.  The birthday boy enjoyed a rich chocolate ganache with whipped creme and balsamic strawberries and we also shared a key lime pie mousse.  As a whole, it was a very enjoyable evening over a quiet meal, but I'd likely choose many other Charlotte restaurants before I returned to Passion8 again.

I couldn't send my guests on their way without a classic pancake breakfast.  This batch was carrot cake pancakes topped with peanut butter, banana slices, chia seeds, coconut, and a maple cream cheese "frosting."

Wow, that's a lot of incredible food over four days.  If there's one thing for sure, it's that this family LOVES to eat!

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