Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Noble's Grille

I first went to Noble’s Grille in high school when a good friend was the hostess, and I enjoyed many a Caesar Salad, thanks to my babysitting money and immature palate. My most recent visit ten years later secured it as one of the best restaurants I’ve been to as a “grown-up.” The long, wooden bar and open view of the kitchen invites you in, and believe me, you’ll want to stay a while.

A 2010 Terrazas Argentinian Malbec was a great precursor to the evening. Tablemates chose Absolut Martinis and Bombay Sapphire G&Ts. It was a fun night. Sliced Italian Bread is served with high-quality Olive Oil, and Balsamic Vinegar was served alongside upon request. I like a little salt and acid with my oil. Fried Duck Wings, a nightly special, sounded better than the actual execution of the dish. What was called a Spicy Chili Aioli tasted like mayonnaise, and the duck wings were too moist inside the overly-salty breading mixture.

The Fried Oyster Salad presents eight beautiful Fried Oysters on a bed of greens with Bacon, Egg, Roasted Red Peppers and raindrop-shaped “puddles” of Balsamic Vinaigrette. The fried oysters blew the fried duck wings out of the water. The not-too-heavy crunchy coating is a perfect match to the fresh oysters, and the balsamic gives it a nice tang.

Cast Iron Scallops are perfection, and the sides that come with it round out the dish beautifully. Two plump Scallops (three if you order the larger portion, which I thought was a bit odd) lay on a bed of Wilted Spinach, Cubed Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Corn Nage (sauce), Toasted Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and house-made Chorizo, which took it over the top. The smoky, salty richness of the meat highlighted the slight sweetness of the scallops. I am enamored with this dish.

Pan Seared N.C. Flounder has a fun Southwestern flair. Gold Rice, House Andouille, Blistered Red Peppers and Smoked Tomato Nage infuse the flounder with striking flavors. The fish tasted like it was encrusted with homemade salty tortilla chips, which was awesome. The 14-ounce New York Strip is Hickory Grilled, served with Sweet Potato Puree, Broccoli and topped with a killer Shallot Thyme Butter. The salty crust on the steak and herbed butter are a succulent combination. The steak was tender, a perfect medium rare.

In the battle of the steaks, the Cast Iron Filet Mignon surprisingly comes in second. Served with a Yukon Gold Puree, Wood Roasted Vegetables and Bordelaise, the steak had a wonderful crust, but was cooked a little longer and therefore wasn’t as tender.

How could I possibly have room for dessert, you wonder? I have 28 sweet tooths. Coconut Cake has a pound cake-like texture, topped with Buttercream Frosting (a bit lacking if you ask me), Chantilly Cream and Toasted Coconut. Perhaps my taste buds were numb, but it left a little something to be desired. A pinch of salt may have brought the dish together.

Vanilla Crème Brulee is rich, with a tasty, crunchy, burnt sugar topping. It came with a dollop of Chantilly Cream, but fruit would have been nice for a little acidity and texture. The Caramel Cake was my favorite of the desserts. Caramel Sauce, Homeland Creamery Butter Pecan Ice Cream and Candied Pecans are a wonderful supporting cast, but the Brown Sugar Frosting was the star of the show. I gave up ice cream for Lent, but I imagine it was a wonderful addition.

Chef Jim Noble is the owner of 4 restaurants, located throughout Charlotte and Winston-Salem. The man knows what he’s doing. I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the food, though a bit more attention to detail would have made it impeccable.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Easy A

Starring: Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Lisa Kudrow, Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci.
Director: Will Gluck
Running time: 92 minutes
Rating: PG-13

When Emma Stone received a Golden Globe nomination for her role in “Easy A,” I regretted not seeing it in theatres. Now that she’s all over Hollywood, I decided to hop on over to Blockbuster (YES, I’M THE ONLY ONE KEEPING THEM IN BUSINESS) and check it out. In the film, Stone plays an accessible and relatable teenager who uses social media to prove she isn’t a slut.

The concept was fresh, though a bit silly: the heroine accepts bribes from bottom-of-the-totem pole boys at her high school to spread rumors that she’s slept with them. This in turn boosts both the boys’ and her reputation. Sounds like a win-win! The boys pay her with gift certificates, which start pouring in, until one “customer” gives her a 10% off coupon to Bath & Body Works and she realizes, for more reason than one, that this façade is no longer worth it. She decides to come clean to the school (and the world) via YouTube, and tells her side of the story.

Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson lend their brilliance to this film and shine as they did in “The Lovely Bones,” and “Friends with Benefits,” respectively. (Note: Tucci does not play a child molester in this film, but Clarkson once again plays a liberal, hippie mom – she does this effortlessly.)

The strong supporting cast is further backed by Lisa Kudrow as a high school guidance counselor who is having an affair with a yummy Cam Gigandet. Kudrow’s moment of realizing the implications of this affair is a great display of her dramatic acting chops, which we rarely get to see, due in part to her eternal connection to Friends Phoebe Buffay.

Amanda Bynes steers away from her usual slapstick, wiseass comedy to play a devout Christian worried for Stone’s reputation. Bynes is better than this role. Penn Badgley is Stone’s love interest in the film, who sticks by her side instead of being repulsed by her actions. Badgley plays the nice guy well, similarly to his character on “Gossip Girl,” (RIP) but without Dan Humphrey’s hipster flair.

“Easy A” makes for a fun girls’ night in. With this many big names attached, you know you’re in for a treat.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Undercurrent has been a Greensboro favorite for years. Sheer curtains that drape ethereally over the walls, a romantic bar with hardwood floors and upscale "farmer’s market" cuisine make for a vastly enjoyable evening. I really appreciate when places offer small plates, especially smaller servings of entrees. This allows you to try more things without filling up too quickly, or dropping too much cash. After sharing three small plates, I definitely got my fill, and my wallet wasn’t too sore either.

Winos, be warned: you will adore the huge selection. I opted for a 2010 Decero Malbec from Mendoza, with ample berry notes present. Two styles of bread are presented, and I preferred the wheat – there was a cheesy element I couldn’t place! – to the crusty Italian. A bottle of olive oil, a dish of whipped butter and a bowl of parmesan shreds are served alongside the bread. What I thought was a random trio turned out to be a pretty irresistible combination.

Vegetable Napoleon stacks Herbed Phyllo with Butternut Squash Medallions, Smoked Onions and Brie, and is topped with a whimsical Arugula Salad that’s dressed with a Sea Salt-Honey Glaze. The salty and sweet balance is perfection. The brie melts beautifully on top of the butternut squash, and the herbed phyllo provides nice flavor and crunch. I wish this had been stacked to the ceiling.

The small version of the Grilled Carolina Rainbow Trout is plenty. Approximately 6 ounces of trout lays on a substantial bed of Ricotta Gnocchi, Kale, Roasted Butternut Squash and White Balsamic Aioli. Thankfully, the gnocchi didn’t disintegrate, as it tends to when made with ricotta, and the white balsamic aioli is the kicker here. Much like mayo, but tangier, this was a wonderful match to the Parsley-Sunflower Seed Pesto that was drizzled on top. I enjoyed the epicurean flavors here.

Shrimp and Bacon Tart is an appetizer special that I would eat any time of day. This was much like a quiche, but lighter and airier with a buttery crust. Greens are dressed with an almost too-sweet pomegranate vinaigrette, though it provided a necessary acidity.

Head to Undercurrent to share some small plates, or save up for one of their delicious-sounding entrée features. It's a spot to take your parents when they come visit, a second date, or a treat with your friends.

Monday, March 4, 2013


Starring: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly
Director: Roman Polanski
Running Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Rated: R

If you’re a fan of theatre of the absurd - Samuel Beckett and the like - look no further than Roman Polanski’s film “Carnage.” Though it features an all-star cast, I knew the film had high expectations to live up to, as the play “God of Carnage” received much praise after its premiere in 2006. Translating stage to screen isn’t always easy (though it’s become quite popular to do so: “Hairspray,” “Doubt,” etc.) but Polanski transforms this bizarre story into an entertaining, albeit stressful dark comedy.

A little juicy history for you: In 1978, Polanski fled the United States after being convicted of sexual assault on a minor. It’s a shame such a brilliant director (namely, “The Pianist” and “Chinatown”) could be so twisted. He currently resides in France, I believe, and still knows how to make a masterpiece.

The entire 80 minutes (save for the opening and closing credits) take place in a Brooklyn apartment. Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly are a liberal, art-enthusiast couple, whose son was “attacked” by the son of an uptight power couple, played by Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz. And by “attacked,” I mean a twig threw a twig at another twig. Though the children resolved their petty disagreement almost instantaneously, the parents end up investing much more in the situation. Their attempt at handling the issue maturely turns into utter chaos – carnage, by definition means “bloody slaughter.”

Among the absurdities: One-sided cell phone conversations that last moments too long. A five minute discussion of cobbler – granted, it really made me crave some. Kate vomits on Jodie’s precious art book, and John C. Reilly attempts to dry it with a hairdryer. Christoph’s cell phone gets tossed in a bowl of water, and Reilly and the hairdryer run to the rescue again, to which Jodie hysterically exclaims “my husband has been drying things all afternoon!”

The always-astounding Kate Winslet plays an excellent drunk. Though she’s wound tightly, we feel sorry for her being stuck in a loveless marriage. Christoph Waltz’s sexy Austrian accent was slightly noticeable – I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be or not. He seemed natural as a workaholic. Character actor John C. Reilly starts out as a likeable peace-maker among the couples, but later completely loses his mind. During the entire film, Jodie Foster’s head looks like it’s about to explode. This is the most outrageous character I’ve ever seen her play and she was obviously the standout, though it’s because she was given the best part, with the most material to work with.

It would be impossible to be married to any of these self-indulgent, egomaniacal characters. You could smell the tension, and knew that at any minute someone would pop. The film is increasingly frustrating. The ending credits show the two children playing outside, completely over the situation, while the adults just cannot find peace.

It’s obvious this was originally written for the stage; some of the lines just felt awkward. And it’s a good thing this movie was only 80 minutes, because I don’t think I could handle much more of their squabble. You definitely don't get bored with the story, just be prepared to get stressed out, with the occasional laugh.