Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Greensboro has been needing a spot like this. With the tagline Drink.Eat.Listen, Gia is my kind of joint. The tapas (small plates) menu changes regularly, but get there soon to try what’s being offered now. Ample seating options, tall bookshelves adorned with art and hardbacks, and what one might call “Dr. Evil” highback chairs, Gia is a sexy, NYC-inspired place, perfect for happy hour or a nightcap.

First and foremost, the wine list is extensive, and the signature cocktails are delightful. The Strawberry Balsamic Martini is exactly what it sounds like – muddled strawberries and vodka are poured into a balsamic vinegar-drizzled martini glass. Don’t be afraid to try this – it’s quite light, but awakens your palate. The Sea Salt Caramel Martini needs just a little tweaking before it’s perfection. It was too heavy on the alcohol – vanilla vodka, baileys, Makers Mark – and heavy cream, not enough salted caramel.

Pineapple and Cranberry Sausage Flatbread is outrageous. Tangy tomato sauce provides a nice base to stringy mozzarella cheese, tart pineapple and slightly sweet and sage-y sausage(yay alliteration!). The flavor combination bursts in your mouth. For just $9 (!), a Petite Filet is topped with Roasted Garlic Truffle Oil, and served with Asparagus. The roasted garlic gives the truffle oil layers of flavor, and makes the tender filet even more decadent. 

The Beet Slider marries bleu cheese with red and yellow beets on a brioche bun, drizzled with a pesto truffle oil. The garlic and basil in the pesto highlight the wonderful richness of the truffle. Thanksgiving-inspired Turkey Tetrazzini features sliced turkey, that's stuffed with a roasted red pepper dressing. They decided to nix the noodles and cheese, but doused the dish in a rich lemon gravy.

Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe is a meal in and of itself. The heat of the sausage just slightly warms the back of your throat, and the broccoli rabe picks up the heat and flavor of the meat to put an exciting twist on an otherwise healthy side.

Grab your girls or your man and hit Gia. All of these tapas are under $10. This is quickly becoming my “go-to” spot.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

2013 Oscar Predictions

Award show season is coming to a close, but it culminates with the big one: the Academy Awards, aka the Oscars, aka my Superbowl. Call it what you will, I can’t wait to pull for the surprise wins and see Seth MacFarlane host. I’ve seen 8/9 nominated films this year (ACADEMY, I’M BEGGING YOU, GO BACK TO 5 NOMINATIONS!) and as always, I like to put in my two cents for the should win/will wins. Readers beware: I’m not too thrilled with this year’s nominations, so forgive the rants.

Best Picture
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty 

Should Win: “Argo.” Unquestionably my favorite movie of the year, and it blows the other nominees out of the Kodak. Why Ben Affleck didn’t receive a Best Director nod is beyond me.

Will Win: “Argo.”

Best Actor
Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
Hugh Jackman, “Les Miserables”
Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”
Denzel Washington, “Flight”

Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln.” Though the movie was among the worst I’ve seen this year, his portrayal of an icon was hauntingly real. I missed “The Master” (available to rent after the Oscars, conveniently), but DDL gave a shout-out to Joaquin Phoenix during his SAG Award acceptance speech. If there is an upset, that could be it.

Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis.

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour”
Quvenzhane Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Naomi Watts, “The Impossible”

Should Win: Ay yi yi. I’ve only seen 3 of these performances, and although I'm not sure any of them are Oscar-worthy, I suppose I’m pulling for Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty."

Will Win: Jessica Chastain or Jennifer Lawrence, though I've seen both of them in better roles. They each won a Golden Globe, Jennifer won the SAG and Jessica won the Critics’ Choice. It’s a toss-up.

Best Supporting Actor - side note - all of these nominees have won before.
Alan Arkin, “Argo”
Robert DeNiro, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”
Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”

Should Win: It’s difficult for me to pull for someone other than Robert DeNiro, but Alan Arkin steals my vote, as well as every scene in "Argo" with his excellent comedic timing.

Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones for “Lincoln.” Unfortunately, I found his performance flat and forgettable. 

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, “The Master”
Sally Field, “Lincoln”
Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables”
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”
Jacki Weaver, “Silver Linings Playbook” - I don’t know how she snuck her way into this category.

Should Win: Helen Hunt for “The Sessions.” Anyone who has to do nude scenes with John Hawkes, bless his heart, deserves an Oscar.

Will Win: Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables.” We all know you lost a ton of weight for this film, that your mom played this role and that you love your new husband. I wanted so much more from you in this film. But maybe if you win, you’ll take a sabbatical and give us all a break from you.

Best Director
Michael Haneke, “Amour”
Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Should Win: BEN AFFLECK FOR “ARGO.” Seriously Academy, what were you thinking? He won the Golden Globe and the Critics’ Choice, and the film won the Golden Globe, the SAG and the Critics’ Choice. And he didn’t even get an Oscar nod! UNBELIEVABLE. In other news, since we’ve already gone to crazytown, Benh Zeitlin should win for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” He produced a truly beautiful film with a minimal cast and setting.

Will Win: David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook.” He also wrote the screenplay, and people fell in love with the film.

Hope you all have your Oscar plans in the works! My mom and I will be watching the red carpet starting around 4, but tune in to ABC at 8:30 on Sunday, February 24 for the big show!

Friday, February 15, 2013

District Roof Top Bar and Grille

After hearing mixed reviews about District Roof Top Bar & Grille, I knew I had to check it out for myself. I was pleasantly surprised. A recent addition to downtown Winston-Salem, District is the perfect spot for a cold beer on the roof top patio, overlooking the skyline on a hot summer afternoon. Since it was a rainy 37 degrees when I went, I resigned to sitting in the dining room. The bar and private room in the "basement" provide additional seating.

Thoughtful and attentive service over the course of the evening wins major points. Warm rolls and butter are presented, alongside a light and fruity Angeline Pinot Noir. "Tiki" Scallops are served atop wilted spinach and a divine, luscious lemon butter sauce. Two plump scallops are wrapped with bacon, which heavily infuse the scallop. Succulent.

District Sticky Ribs aren’t as messy as they sound, but are as delicious as you would imagine. Four large pork ribs are slow roasted and slathered with a brown sugar barbeque sauce, with fried corn on the cob and the best macaroni and cheese I’ve had in a restaurant in a long time. The few bites of gristle didn’t distract from the ribs – there was plenty of meat on them bones. This is the State Fair, or a summer cookout, on a plate. Black Grouper is cut thick, also drizzled with that tasty lemon butter sauce, which goes nicely with asparagus. A side salad to supplement includes cucumber, red onion and cherry tomatoes, though the request for dressing on the side was not honored.

What do you get when you encrust a New York Strip steak with spicy bleu cheese and fried onions? Perfection. As if a medium rare New York Strip needed any improvement, the savory blue cheese slightly melted into the steak, making it rich, while the fried onions provided the slightest salty crunch. Red potatoes, wilted spinach and even more fried onion strings are perfect sides for this innovative “meat and two.”

Forget what you heard about District and check it out. They’ve got a good thing going, and you can look for me on the roof come May.

Monday, February 4, 2013

New Town Bistro

New Town Bistro is one of my favorite restaurants in Winston-Salem. Its inconspicuous location in a strip mall makes it that much more of an unexpected treat. Numerous visits over the years have never disappointed – the Belgian Waffle at brunch was an all-time favorite, but unfortunately has been removed from the menu (don’t worry, I’ve expressed my concern to the chef.)

The walls of the modest-sized dining area are adorned with beautiful paintings, all of which are available for purchase. The intimate bar offers additional seating, as does an outdoor patio. Freshly baked Rosemary Focaccia with balsamic vinegar and olive oil is brought to the table upon being seated. The Mediterranean Tapas Plate features authentic, well-prepared Greek favorites. Hummus and pita alongside perfectly crispy falafel are a fantastic starter. Falafel can vary among restaurants, so if you want awesome falafel, New Town Bistro is the place to go.

Oysters on the half shell can be prepared anyway you like, and are creatively presented on a bed of sea salt. I preferred the Oysters Casino’s lemony taste and breadcrumb topping to the Oysters Rockefeller’s spinach, parmesan and tomato garnish.

Kobe Beef is the highest quality of meat in the world. The few times I’ve had it in my life, I’ve been overwhelmed with its tenderness and flavor, and I didn’t feel guilty indulging in the huge Kobe Burger. (The USDA is having a tough time trying to decide whether true Kobe should be imported or not.) Not that it needed any toppings, but Garlicky Boursin Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Sautéed Mushrooms enhanced this gourmet burger, which was served on a pretzel roll. What a heavenly delicacy.

Brunch is my favorite meal, and New Town does the best brunch in town. The Bloody Mary bar offers more “toppings” than I could have imagined – pickled okra, caperberries, pickled green beans, shrimp, bacon and a variety of hot sauces are pleasing to Bloody Mary buffs such as myself. Omelets are huge, made with three eggs, and offer unique fillings, like crab and avocado. The Southern Comfort Plate is just that – top-notch cheese grits, fried green tomatoes, scrambled eggs and blackened shrimp – this will put you in a Southern food coma.

I’ve never had a bad dining experience here. I cannot say enough great things about this restaurant. Whether you go for dinner or brunch, you need to go soon, because this intimate restaurant won’t be a well-kept secret much longer. I’ll be back to try the Almond-Crusted Brie with Strawberry Balsamic Compote, and much, much more.