Saturday, April 30, 2016

Robert James Gavin 1937 - 2016

Born to Thomas and Frieda, he was the youngest of three children including sister Eileen and brother Thomas.  He was the proud parent of Kathy, Sean, and Patrick, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren (including Eli, the most recent great-grandson born just three days before his passing).

Grandpa always enjoyed spending time with his children and grandchildren.  This was evident up until the end, when on one of his last days he repeatedly said "so proud" when looking at a picture of Royce and Erin with their newborn son.

Grandpa loved nothing more than a big holiday meal, always accepting a second helping and leaving not a single morsel untouched.  When given the choice of restaurants, he selected Mexican every time, and could have made an entire meal out of chips, salsa, and cheese dip.

After spending the majority of his life in Florida, he and Grandma moved north to the Atlanta area years after retirement.    Although he seemed to enjoy the area, there was nothing he disliked more than the winter weather.  His favorite hobby was reading, and at times he would finish a book every week.  His loyal companion, Happy, could always be found in his lap or curled up at his feet.

After more than six months battling cancer with family at his side, I'm quite positive Grandpa is glad to be done fighting.  Gone is the cane that he so adamantly refused to use, the multiple monthly doctor visits which frustrated him to no end, and medications that dictated his daily schedule.  Instead, I'm pretty sure he's reading lots of great books, eating dessert after every meal, and soaking up the sunshine.  Robert James Gavin - "Grandpa" - you will be missed by us all and will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Taste of the Nation 2016

Another Taste of the Nation Charlotte event is in the books, and it may have been the best yet!  The event started at 6pm on Monday evening under perfectly sunny blue skies.

I'll be the first to say I think the food is the most exciting part of this charitable event, but the reality is that our silent and live auction items hold the greatest fundraising potential for the local and national organizations.  From restaurant dining experiences, to weekend getaways, to a deluxe grill package, to jewelry, there were an abundance of auction items generously donated from the community.  

There were more than 100 bottles of wine valued greater than $20 that were available in the wine grab.  The gift bags were artfully decorated by local elementary school students.

Just prior to the beginning of the event, all of the head chefs gathered on stage for a group photo.  It's quite an accomplishment and honor to have twenty-six Charlotte restaurants participate in this event despite their very busy restaurants and special events calendars.

Second Harvest Food Bank and Community Culinary School of Charlotte were the local beneficiaries of Charlotte's Taste of the Nation.  I had the opportunity to tour Second Harvest Food Bank prior to the event and it is a tremendous organization and resource for the community.  They're always looking for volunteers if you have the time and interest!

And without further delay, here's a look at all of the incredible food that guests enjoyed over the course of the evening.  Hopefully by the time you finish reading this, you'll be convinced to buy tickets to experience it for yourself in 2017.

Mexican salads from Chuy's Tex Mex
Paco's Tacos chopped salad 
The Rosemary Lemonade from Dogwood Southern Table was refreshing between bites of food
Enso Asian Bistro's sushi always draws a large crowd

Lily's Italian Bistro was a new-to-me restaurant in Gastonia that won me over with their antipasto and seafood salads.
The roasted pig garnered lots of attention at Viviace's table.
Their pulled pork slider with a pickled kale slaw was a great combination.

East Coast Entertainment had the house rocking with live music.

The spicy tuna and avocado mousse over chocolate soil prepared by Coastal Kitchen and Bar was my pick for most creative dish of the evening. 

For vegetarians, this unique twist on cheese fondue and dippers was one of the stars of the night.  The Flipside Cafe deserves props for this addicting and unsuspecting pairing.

When it came time for dessert, the strawberry tiramisu from Vivace was creamy, sweet, and light.

Passion8 is known for their unique fine dining dishes prepared with local ingredients, and this octopus with a citrus vinaigrette was no exception.

For the carnivores, these espresso dusted lamb lollipops from Davidson Street Public House had mouths watering.  They were perfectly seared with a tender interior and paired with brussels sprouts.

Napa on Providence brought one of the customer favorite dishes - Shrimp and Lemon Gnocchi.

For those looking to indulge their sweet tooth, Johnson and Wales students brought NINE different layer cakes.

Piedmont Natural Gas Chef Doug Allen prepared several decadent bites in the Luxe Lounge, including conch fritters, a short rib pizza, and a deconstructed lobster boil.

Also satisfying guests in the Luxe Lounge were these caramel popcorn macarons, pecan bars, and assorted chocolate truffles crafted by Central Piedmont Community College

Lumiere's Duck A L'Orange was one of the most elegant plates.

By this point in the evening, my stomach was approaching full, but that didn't keep me from enjoying a slice of key lime pie from Village Tavern.

Last, but certainly not least, was Ilios Noche's housemate mozzarella stuffed with cherry tomatoes and topped with basil micro greens and balsamic drizzle.
At this point, you're either drooling, stuffed just thinking about all of this food, or asking yourself how you could have possibly missed Charlotte's best culinary event of the year.  The evening was a HUGE success, raising more than $100,000.  Considering 1 of every 5 children in North Carolina will experience hunger and regularly miss meals, this fundraising is critical to our community's future.  Congratulations to No Kid Hungry, Taste of the Nation, chefs from the 26 Charlotte restaurants that participated, local beneficiaries, and numerous volunteers and donors for their tireless work and commitment to produce an event of epic success!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Little bit of this, little bit of that

For the first time in about 8 years, my calendar of swimming, biking, and running events is looking very sparse.  In past years, I've had a coach, a plan, and been registered for a multitude of triathlons and running events.  Between trauma chiefdom taking all of my time January through March and then the anticipation of moving to Atlanta mid-summer, racing hasn't been a priority.  Last weekend, however, I decided to change that and registered for the Charlotte Race Fest Half Marathon.  Nothing like a well thought out plan to register for a 13.1 mile race six days before the event.  

Race morning was a picture perfect spring morning with temperatures in the upper 40s at the start.  I've typically been running three days per week with one of those being a 10+ mile run averaging about 8 minute miles.  Speed work has been nonexistent.  Two years ago I ran 1:38 here directly off a 2 hour bike trainer ride when I was in much better shape.  Optimistically, I hoped for a similar time or a little closer to 1:35.  Long story short, that wasn't in the cards yesterday and I finished 1:41 on a slightly long 13.3 mile course.

After an opening two miles at 7 minute pace, the effort felt too hard and I backed off slightly.  Things went fairly well until we turned onto Sharon View Road just before mile 7.  Miles 7 - 11 seemed to be a steady climb and included a winding paved path with no shortage of cracks in the pavement and low-hanging trees to navigate.  I had high hopes for my caffeinated gel to re-energize my legs, but it just wasn't there.  I saw a couple mile splits in the low 8 minute range during that stretch, but was able to pull it together to negative split the last three miles, including a punishing uphill finish.

At the end of the day I finished 5th out of 81 in my age group and top 8% overall.  More important than results though was the fact that I spent a beautiful morning running the streets of Charlotte with some very fast friends.  Congrats to Meghan and Theoden for your speedy races!

The weather has been absolutely perfect (minus the pollen) and I've been soaking up the sun and correcting my massive vitamin D deficit that was induced by 3 months of 80 hour work weeks.

Saturday afternoon we had a big ortho gathering for a crawfish boil - including 240 pounds of crawfish straight from Louisiana.

After an early morning on race day, Sunday was a morning of sleeping in, a mug of pumpkin spice chai tea, and apple cinnamon pancakes spread with peanut butter and topped with maple cinnamon apples.

I spent last weekend in Atlanta for some quality time with my family, including Grandpa who is fighting a battle with cancer.  Although the reason for the visit was bittersweet, we managed to toss some happy times into the weekend as well.

Saturday we spent the day in Atlanta looking homes in the Dunwoody area where I'll be moving in a couple months and then had a cardamom latte at Dancing Goats Coffee Bar.

We had a wandering lunch starting at Ponce City Market and finishing later at Krog Street Market.  In between we walked a few miles on the beltline to Piedmont Park to wander through the Dogwood Festival.

Lunch included baba ganoush, hummus topped with beats, pita, hand-cut french fries, and vegetarian dumplings.  Earlier in the day we had started with a roasted carrot salad, a quinoa vegetable wrap, and tomato soup.

We met Royce and Erin for dinner at The Big Ketch in Roswell one evening.  The baby count-down is now less than a week away!  Anytime now Baby E, we are ready for you!

Backing up a little bit further to Easter, I was surprised be a thoughtful gift from the Easter Bunny after spending the holiday weekend working and away from family.  The Adele CD is fantastic and I've been blasting it on high volume with the windows opened in the house!

Easter weekend breakfast post-call included a veggie and goat cheese omelet, strawberries, and a hot-crossed bun from a local bakery.

And, lastly, here are a few recent meals that were particularly noteworthy.  Now that I have my late afternoons and evenings back, I've loved spending more tim in the kitchen.

Soy-glazed brussel sprouts, beetles tips, and sautéed greens over brown basmati rice.

Citrus-marinated salmon, quinoa, and an asparagus caesar salad.
Roasted herb tofu, sweet potato wedges and mixed veggies.
This little hyacinth plant was a spontaneous purchase a couple weekends ago at Fresh Market just after I had finished my last senior call of residency.  I considered it to be symbolic spring and a return to a much more enjoyable work-life balance.  I rarely ever have fresh flowers, but the sunshine coming in the window and these flowers put a smile on my face everyday.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Taste of the Nation Charlotte on April 18th

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Taste of the Nation is hands down my favorite event in Charlotte!  Quite simply, it's an evening of decadent small plates from more than 20 of Charlotte's best restaurants, live entertainment, and a silent auction and fundraising for No Kid Hungry as well as local beneficiaries (Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina and Community Culinary School of Charlotte).

I first discovered Taste of the Nation in 2012 when I moved to Charlotte, and it's become an annual tradition that I anxiously await.  You can see pictures of the wonderful food and drink in all of my annual posts - 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.  The first year I went with a friend, but it take much convincing for my parents to make the trip from Atlanta each year for the evening of wine, food, and charity.

The small plates are impeccably prepared, ranging from sushi to pulled pork to scallops to gnocchi and everything in between.

When you purchase your tickets, be sure to splurge for the VIP experience, complete with an hour earlier entry, a seating area, and a VIP lounge with additional wine and cocktails, passed appetizers, and an indulgent spread of chocolates.

Here are all of the details for this "can't miss event."  
The Filmore Charlotte
Monday, April 18, 2016
VIP Entry at 6pm  $120
General Admission 7pm - 9:30pm  $85

Trust me, go buy your tickets, get all dressed up for a night out on the town, eat and drink to your heart's content, and share a little bit of your wallet with the silent auction and wine grab.  I ensure you'll leave with a fully belly and a happy heart.  See you on April 19th!