Monday, April 23, 2012

Blue: A Restaurant Review and My Quest for the Top 25

Several months ago, I discovered a Charlotte magazine article online that details the top 25 restaurants in Charlotte and the best dishes served at each. Instantly, I was hooked. For some reason I love eating at a restaurant or just going somewhere that I have heard or read about. I think it makes me feel in the loop. So, I added to my bucket list to eat at all 25 places.

I now have seven restaurants from the top 25 checked off. I think that is pretty good progress thus far. Granted, a few I went to based on recommendations from friends or other sources and then just happened to notice I could check them off the list. One trend I am happy to report is that several of them use local and sustainably raised meat and produce. I think that this attests to the growing amount of importance placed on this, and rightfully so, in my opinion. It also shows that Charlotte has some pretty great places to eat, you don’t have to go to New York or California to get inventive food from creative chefs who care about quality ingredients.

Thursday afternoon, I was able to see where I would be working this summer for my internship and given a tour of the agency. It was really useful and got me so excited about this summer! I know that God has some very challenging but great things in store for me. Since I was in Charlotte anyway, Jerry and I agreed to meet for dinner. Little did I know that he had made a reservation at Blue, a restaurant that I have been dying to try (and also one of the Top 25).

The interior was beautiful and surprise, surprise there were hints of blue. Wavy lines adorned the walls and soft colors permeated the restaurant, making it a relaxing but elegant atmosphere. Our waitress was very friendly and helpful and I treasured the man that kept refilling our water (I drink my weight in water at a restaurant). The valet service was also a great plus. It’s free and then you don’t have to worry about parking in a sketchy or far away parking deck.

However, my main hardship was that it very hard to pick what I wanted from the menu. Blue serves Mediterranean food and Mediterranean, specifically Greek, food is my very favorite kind of food. Finally, I settled on an appetizer and a mid course. I chose the jumbo diver scallops (served over a fava bean puree with a lemon marmalade), which won Taste of the Nation Best Hot Appetizer, and the Flavors of the Mediterranean (with excellent baba ganoush, hummus, olives, dolmades, peppadews stuffed with goat cheese, white bean salad, and warm pita bread). Both were amazing! I would definitely order both again. The Mediterranean sampler was huge, Jerry and I easily split it. And, the complimentary bread must not be left out of the equation. They served big hunks of warm bread, both focaccia with cheese baked into the top and a cinnamon raisin walnut bread (I think). The two were very different, crunchy and salty versus soft and sweet. The focaccia was elevated by the housemade olive butter (kalamata olives mixed with butter). For the main course, my scallops were presented beautifully and although there were only two it was just the right portion (it was only an appetizer) since each scallop was about 4-5 bites big. I could definitely understand how it won such an award. Finally, Jerry and I agreed to split dessert. After much debate about which one to order, we picked the pumpkin cheesecake with white chocolate croquant, praline syrup and a praline crisp on top. It had warm pumpkin and cinnamon flavors and was very homey tasting. It was a great way to finish the meal.


The pumpkin cheesecake, above, was delicious and beautiful. (This is an edited version of the picture, though, meant to look kind of artsy so don’t think it is totally true to life.)

Side note: Wednesday I was lucky enough to go to Savor Café, also in Charlotte and on the Top 25 list. I tried the pad thai, which I was warned was not like any same old, same old pad thai but the noodles were covered in a spicy thai curry sauce made with coconut milk. I got the Asian veggies instead of chicken or shrimp on mine. I am a coconut hater but I loved this dish! The veggies were cooked perfectly and the sauce was a little sweet with a strong curry flavor and kick. It was quite a mound of noodles though; I took home half as leftovers. On the Top 25 list, it recommends several dishes/drinks (which are not really options to me being a pescatarian and under 21), but it does suggest to try their dessert. They are evidently best known for their banana pudding and cobbler although dessert specials change daily. The banana pudding might look slightly foreign to a born and raised Southerner at first, but all the components are there, the thick and creamy banana pudding, Nilla Wafers, and banana slices (the toasted meringue is just the cherry on top, so to speak).

Some favorites from Savor:

IMG_3533 IMG_3537-001

You could get the butterscotch bread pudding (pictured left), but the banana pudding is what they are known for and, although our table’s opinions were split, this is the better option. The swirl of the toasted meringue tops off the creamy banana pudding with just enough airiness and a hint of salt (pictured right).


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