Category Archives: Charlotte

REVIEW: Amelie’s French Bakery – Charlotte, NC

If you have been to Charlotte but not to Amelie’s French Bakery, shame on you. This 24-hour bakery in the NoDa neighborhood of Charlotte is perfect for a lunch date, a late-night macaron craving or Sunday brunch – if you’re willing to wait in line. The pastries and the decor will fight for your attention as you walk in. A chandelier made of pots and pans, a translucent lamp shade, Parisian themed photo montages and the tempting bakery case.

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You will be tempted to try one of everything, but the prices may steer you away from that – $1.99 per macaron is a steep price for a small delicacy, but it is worth it. Amelie’s prepares their pastries around the clock, ensuring that everything is fresh. I had the salted caramel hot chocolate last weekend and it was one of the best hot chocolates I have had. What can beat a delicious hot chocolate, a reunion with an old friend and all the board games you’ve ever wanted in a coffee shop?

Macaron vs. Macaroon – One is a chewy coconut treat and one is a crispy merengue. The delicacies pictured above are macarons. They have a crisp outer shell with a ganache-like filling.  My favorite flavor is rose, but you cannot go wrong with chocolate. While macarons have more of an almond flavor, macaroons have a coconut flavor. You can read more about the ingredients and find some recipes here.

If you don’t have a bottomless stomach or wallet, order at least one macaron and one salted caramel brownie. Or take some goodies home with you! But stay at Amelie’s long enough to enjoy the creative interior design. You will be hard-pressed to enjoy all the nooks and decorations in just one trip to Amelie’s.

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I suppose I should have mentioned the “real food” before dessert. Amelie’s has a selection of sandwiches, salads and soups. My favorite dishes include the spinach asparagus leek soup and the turkey and brie sandwich – roasted turkey, brie and seasonal compote on a baguette. These light dishes are satisfying while still allowing room to try some of the desserts.

I try to make it to Amelie’s whenever I am in Charlotte and no matter if I get the same flavor macaron every time, it is always a different experience. It’s probably a good thing I don’t live in Charlotte, otherwise I’d never leave Amelie’s! It is open 24 hours, after all.

Cheers!

-Haley

Amélie's French Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Review-The Blue Taj in Charlotte

Outside of the Blue Taj

Even as you enter the Blue Taj, you get the feel of a modern, upscale restaurant.

Last weekend my husband and I traveled to Charlotte to see some friends. When it was time for dinner, we had a plethora of places to choose from. We finally settled on trying out a place in Ballentyne Village, in the southeastern part of Charlotte called the Blue Taj.

This is a mixed-use community with a thriving commercial center that features a movie theatre, lots of unique shops and restaurants.  Tucked inside the lower level of the circular building where the movie complex is located is the Blue Taj. Even from the outside, we knew this place was going to be special. The blue lighting gives the place a techno feel. The Blue Taj specializes in food from Northern India.

The orange room in the Blue Taj

The restaurant is modern, yet cozy.

Upon entering the restaurant, there is a huge wine cellar encased in glass in the front. The flowing orange drapes and the cream and orange colored walls give the place a modern and upscale feeling. The source of the blue glowing lighting comes from the bar, which is situated in the back of the restaurant. We later discovered that there are different rooms with different themes in each part of this restaurant. There is even an outdoor seating area for times when the weather is decent. This place was buzzing with activity, even though we didn’t arrive until after 8pm. In fact, the place kept getting more crowded as the evening went on.

One of our friends had never tried Indian food before, so we knew this would be a treat. The waiter was one of the best wait staff I have seen in a long time. He took time out to explain many of the dishes to our friends and gave suggestions from each page of the menu. He never had to write down our order and was very attentive throughout the night.

cauliflower florets served in a zesty garlic and scallion sauce

Our appetizer of Masala-Chili Cauliflower Florets was a great choice.

We started our meal with the Masala-Chili Cauliflower Florets. The cauliflower was roasted in the oven and coated with a garlic, soy and scallion glaze. It had enough heat to make your mouth buzz just a little bit. We all wanted more, but knew the best was yet to come. Two of us also had to have a mango lassi, which is a drink made of mango juice and keffir (an ingredient similar to yogurt). It is like a mango smoothie. They were so tasty that we both finished the drink before our entrees arrived.

My friends had the Chicken Makhni, which was chicken thighs in a tomato sauce. The thighs were pounded to make them more tender, then roasted in the oven with some spices. This was the person who had never had Indian food, so we encouraged him to order the mild version. He loved it.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

Our other friend had the Chicken Tikka Masala, which was big pieces of roasted chicken breast meat and a mixture of vegetables served in a creamy tomato sauce and scented with fenugreek. The spices were a nice combination that didn’t overwhelm your senses, but had a good zap to it.

My husband had the Lamb and Goat Curry, which featured a coconut-curry leaf flavored sauce. It was a combination of the sweetness of the coconut and the heat of the curry, but was again not too overpowering in the heat department.

Chicken Korma

Chicken Korma

I ordered the Chicken Tangdi Korma. I love a good korma. This is chicken thigh meat that has been simmered in a cashew cream sauce and cardamom. The menu said it had Iris essence as well, though I could not discern a taste of Iris in the dish.

We ordered some Naan bread for the table as well and the bread was very fresh and soft. It was a great tool to use to sop up some of the great sauces each of us had.

There were a great assortment of vegetarian dishes, and some very interesting sounding desserts and a whole selection of Tawa, and Tandoori dishes, but we just didn’t have room to try anything else that night. Maybe this is a good excuse to travel back to Charlotte to try some more food at the Blue Taj.

We were interested to find out that the owners of the Blue Taj are related to the people who own the Mint in Chapel Hill (review coming soon) and the Saffron in Greensboro.

The Blue Taj is definitely a great place to take someone out for a date, or a special night out.  The prices were on par for an upscale Indian restaurant. The Blue Taj is open seven days a week for dinner and six days a week for lunch (no lunch service on Saturday).

The Blue Taj is located at 14815 Ballantyne Village Way, Suite 170, Charlotte, NC 28277. Call 704-369-5777 for reservations or for more information.
Blue Taj on Urbanspoon
 

Review – Thai House at Tower Place in Pineville

Thai House exterior

We traveled to the Charlotte area this weekend to see some friends and while we were out and about we decided to go out for dinner. We decided to try out the Thai House in Tower Place. There are also two more locations, one near the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and one in Gastonia.

From the moment we stepped into the restaurant we knew we made a good choice. The decor immediately transports you to Thailand. There are lots of intricate wood carvings all over the restaurant and the bar area. The waiters and waitresses are dressed in beautiful Thai silks. There is a feeling of opulence in the air.

Interior of Thai House

wait staff at Thai House

The friendly wait staff at Thai House

Our friend ordered the Tom Yum soup to start out. The broth has a hint of sourness to it from the lemon grass and the lime juice. It had nice big pieces of chicken, mushrooms, tomatoes and red pepper in it as well. It was a comforting soup that was not too filling.

Green papaya salad called Tom Sum

Tom Sum salad

We had the Som Tum salad. This is a typical Thai green papaya salad. It had julienned pieces of green papaya and carrots with raw green beans, tomato and a splash of fish sauce, lime juice and a hint of thai peppers. Chopped peanuts were sprinkled over the top.  It is a very refreshing summer salad. Perfect for the hot days ahead!

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Both of our husbands ordered the Pad Thai, which was made with nice thick rice noodles stir fried in a bit of Thai fish sauce, tamarind sauce and red chilli peppers. One person ordered it with seafood and the other ordered it with chicken. It also had crispy bean sprouts, onions, eggs, nice pieces of green onion and chopped peanuts. It  had a nice tangy taste to it, which is most likely the tamarind sauce.

Goong Rad Prig

Goong Rad Prig

My friend had the Goong Rad Prig, which was a shrimp dish with bamboo shoots, green bell peppers, green beans and crushed Thai basil leaves  in a thin red curry sauce that had a nice kick to it making your mouth hum for awhile. The pieces of shrimp were large and very generous. It was served with a side of white jasmine rice.

penang duck dish

Crispy duck penang

I ordered the crispy duck penang dish. I love penang. It is a creamy curry sauce that is made with the thick part of coconut cream and is much thicker than a traditional red curry. It is also much sweeter than a traditional red curry. The duck was fried in little balls with duck meat, but I quickly found out you have to look out for bones. I had two little bones in my dish and was lucky I didn’t choke on them. However, it was very delicious. The dish was served in a duck bowl, which was quite delightful. It had snow peas, broccoli, tomatoes and had the fragrant smell of kaffir lime leaves. It was topped off with chopped peanuts. This dish also came with a side of jasmine rice.

For those of you unfamiliar with kaffir lime leaves, it is an ingredient used in many southeast Asian countries, but particularly in Thailand. My husband and I have a kaffir lime tree that was given to us by a Thai friend of ours. We love to crush the leaves and put them into curry dishes and into chicken broth. It is the aroma of these leaves that make many Thai dishes so special.

After such a big meal and two glasses of chardonnay, we just did not have any room left for dessert, but the restaurant offered some enticing choices such as coconut ice cream, and a mango flavored rice dish.

One more puzzle about this restaurant was the large flat screen television that was on the wall. It was clearly out of place in such a fancy restaurant. No one was watching it and the only reason to have it there would be for the wait staff, so my recommendation is to move it to the kitchen or into the bar area.

Thai House at Tower Place is located at 8652 Pineville Matthews Rd.

Thai House at Tower Place on Urbanspoon

 

The Big Brew Ha – April 15th – Charlotte

What is better than breakfast for dinner…and beer? I can’t think of much. That is why I am pretty stoked about The Big Brew Ha event happening in uptown Charlotte on April 15th (Friday) at the Mint Museum Uptown. They will be serving local beer, coffee and tea as well as gourmet breakfast items from Charlotte eateries like Amelie’s French Bakery, the Harvest Moon Grille, the Healthy Home Market, Dean & DeLuca Market Cafe and The Flying Biscuit Cafe, If the weather permits, they will be serving the breakfast under the moonlight on the terrace.

There will be some fun things to do at the event including a balloon pop where attendees can win prizes like restaurant gift certificates or tickets to events like Opera Carolina’s H.M.S. Pinafore. They will also be having a “Brew Pong” tournament with a grand prize (T.B.A.) and will have some live music. The details are still being worked out so stay tuned for updates.

Tickets to The Big Brew Ha cost $60 and can be purchased on the website: http://www.thebigbrewha.com but you have to be 21 years old to attend. Attendees will receive a pilsner glass or coffee mug to fill up throughout the evening…go ahead lock me in for a pint glass! All proceeds from this event will go towards the preservation of St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Tryon Street which is one of the oldest buildings in the neighborhood and the oldest on Tryon Street.

 

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