Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Prior to my recent to trip to Blowing Rock and Boone, I perused John Batchelor's book Chefs of the Mountains (I actually saw it for sale in a store up there!) and was instantly sold on Boone favorite Vidalia. Being that it was a Saturday night, on MLK weekend, the chances of getting a table looked pretty slim. Luckily, the waiting list opened up and we got a table - at 5:45pm! That was just fine with my sweetie and me - we had spent the afternoon walking around, working up an appetite, and dropping by the new Appalachian Mountain Brewery (note - they don't open until 3pm, so you're in good company at 2:59 in the parking lot!).

My eyes got wide when I read Vidalia's featured appetizer of the evening: Foie Gras Pate Hushpuppies. That's right - fried balls of Foie. (Try saying that 5 times fast.) Look down all you want, but us Southerners love Hushpuppies, and THIS Southerner loves Foie in any form. (Foie Gras is the fattened liver of a goose, and is rather sad when you think about it, so don't.) The crispy batter was sweet, the texture inside smooth and buttery. This is a bite of absolute heaven. It's one of those moments where you're shocked food can really be that good.

I opted for a Deconstructed Chicken Pot Pie, because it featured some of my favorite words (Sweet Potato, Gnocchi, Parmesan). Tender Chicken bites and Sweet Potato Gnocchi Dumplings are married together in a White Wine Sauce, with Peas, Carrots and Celery providing nice texture and color. The sauce is indulgent and creamy, and shreds of Parmesan take it to perfection. I loved this rendition of a classic.

My sweetie's ears perked up upon hearing the entree special - Salmon with Black Rice and a Blood Orange Gastrique. For a non-Salmon fan (I know, I know, call me crazy) it was was tender and not too fishy, and paired with the al dente Black Rice, it was a really great bite. I was surprised at the sweetness of the Blood Orange Gastrique, hoping for a bit more of the bitter acidity you find with the fruit, instead of the addition of sugar. It seems all of Vidalia's dishes are topped with Microgreens (all three of ours were), but that didn't bother me - who doesn't love an edible, healthy (not to mention cute) garnish?

If you find yourself in Boone, you should also check out the Come Back Shack. Burger aficionados (you know who you are), college students and anyone looking to indulge in that perfect trifecta of flavors - fries, ketchup, milkshake - you'll love this spot. Intriguing toppings range from Pineapple to their awesome Come Back Sauce, and the Oreo milkshake will have you practically eating the straw.

Shout out to my aunt and uncle for hosting us and feeding us more Margs than I could have possibly dreamed of. It was a fabulous weekend.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Dishcrawl: Paleo

My second Dishcrawl event was every bit as exciting as the first! Much like a Progressive Dinner (but better, since you get 3 courses at each stop!), I was really excited to go "Paleo" with the Dishcrawl Greensboro crew, but really didn't have any idea as to what I should expect from the menu. It too, was a secret. The Paleo, aka Caveman diet, is grain-free, dairy-free, legume-free, and it's also free of refined sugars. For a cereal, cake and cheese-loving gal, I was surprised at how satiated and satisfied I was by the end of the night. It was really fun to talk to people who follow a 100% Paleo diet, or like one woman in particular who said she is "100% Paleo, 80% of the time." I admire this, but my mantra is still "everything in moderation" (including moderation!)

Photo Courtesy of Dana Dillehunt
49 of us gathered for a New Garden Paleo tour, beginning at the beautiful Imperial Koi. Wednesday nights offers $5 Martinis, so I sipped a Cosmo and only answered to the name of "Carrie." Just kidding. The menu was printed on a delicate piece of paper, and my mouth began to water as I read over our courses. The Asian Pear and Beet Salad was served with a Lemongrass Vinaigrette, saltier than I imagined, and was good, but would have been excellent with some Gorgonzola cheese! (As suspected, the standard dinner menu offers this salad with Feta! Not tonight though! I'll have to keep dreaming...) We were given two pieces of sushi - the first, riceless: a Salmon Mango Wrap with sliced Cukes and Mango, surrounded by Salmon Sashimi, topped with Avocado and Flying Fish Tobiko. The Citrus Spice Roll hit on the umami notes of your palate, but did in fact include rice! Spicy Tuna, Oshinko (Japanese Pickle), Cukes and Avocado are wrapped in Nori paper, and topped with Spicy Salmon, Orange Segments and Tuna Sashimi. Both were super fresh and savory. We followed this with spicy Basil Chicken with Bell Peppers, Onions and Asparagus in a Thai Basil, Chili Oil and Ginger sauce. We essentially dined and dashed, so props to the kitchen for being so timely!

Trying to improve my photog skills!
Forgive my shadow!

We braved the frigid weather (20 degrees is cold, people!!), and made our way to Reel Seafood Grill, operated by the owner of former Greensboro staple Bert's Seafood Grille. A warm bowl of Oyster Stew (more like a soup) was the first thing we sampled. Unfortunately, I only got one oyster, but I needed to save room for what was to follow. Lemon Poached Shrimp on Arugula with Honey Blueberry Dressing was so refreshing - a perfect summer cookout dish! The third course topped it though, and was my favorite of the entire night. Smoked Rainbow Trout had wonderful smokey flavor, reminiscent of Bacon (!) and was served with Roasted Root Veggies, and a tart Apple, Cranberry, Walnut topping. The dish had terrific balance. Six small plates later, I was beginning to feel pretty full, and I hadn't even missed grains or dairy!

Photo courtesy of Dana Dillehunt
Photo courtesy of Dana Dillehunt
Good thing there was some trekking involved, because we had one more stop to go! I was under the impression that this would be a dessert trio, or even one dessert, which would have been PLENTY. Instead, Gia greeted us with three more courses! My colleagues and I decided to take advantage of the half-off bottles of wine special. When your colleagues include food & wine expert and Greensboro celeb John Batchelor, you let him do the picking. He suggested a 2012 Sonoma County Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc, perfectly crisp and subtly sweet to finish off the evening. Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus tastes so much more indulgent than it actually is. The Asparagus was so tender and the flavor burst in my mouth! The second course was a Chicken Kabob, a juicy piece of white meat hugging a caramelized Cipollini Onion, giving a jam-like consistency. Sauteed, garlicky spinach served as a bed for the Kabob. Finally, the dessert course. I was stuffed, but so ready for this. We were served a spin on Mexican Flan, and its consistency was flan-ish, but the fact that it was made with Almond Milk left the dish just a little lacking. Citrus Honey Brittle and Powderized Chocolate were a fun peek into molecular gastronomy, a growing trend. I always love ending the night on a sweet note.

The event filled up weeks in advance, and the waiting list was added to right up until the kick-off! Don't worry - there are future Dishcrawl Paleos in the works. Still hungry for more? Join me at Battledish, Saturday, February 8! Tickets are on sale now for what's sure to be an awesome afternoon. Get involved, people! Dishcrawl is a seriously cool thing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dishcrawl Winston-Salem: Secret Supper

I had the pleasure of attending Dishcrawl Winston-Salem's first Secret Supper last night at 1703 Restaurant and Catering, after a wildly successful Secret Supper by Dishcrawl Greensboro last month. Along with some fellow foodies (all photos used here are courtesy of my very talented friend, Dana Dillehunt!), I settled in for an outstanding meal and evening.

Amuse Bouche: Slow-Poached Hen Yolk
1703 Restaurant reserved the entire space for event participants. It was fun to see so many people interested in fine dining like me, and everyone's face lit up while reading the "Global Eclectic" menu. Each course was a tip of the hat to a different country, and many included Southern-American spins. It was also inspiring to see so many NC-based products and meats! The Amuse Bouche (bite-sized hors d'oeuvre) looked like something from the TV show "The Taste." A beautiful slow-poached Hen Yolk rested in an Oyster Shell, and was dressed with a Sambal Oelek Vinaigrette, topped with Coconut Caviar. Molecular gastronomy is the science behind this "caviar," which made delicate pearls from oysters and coconut milk.

First Course: Buttermilk Fennel Panna Cotta

The beverage pairings (from Mutual Distributing) were spot-on. It's definitely worth the extra cash to add the option. Experiencing an expertly-matched beverage to such exotic courses was surreal. Mother Earth Brewing (in Kinston!) offers a delicious wheaty beer called Weeping Willow Wit, which was a perfect match for the first course, Buttermilk Fennel Panna Cotta. You'd traditionally find Panna Cotta on the dessert menu of an Italian restaurant, but this savory rendition was fabulous. Mango, Cucumber, Tomato and Greens topped the custard, and the Buttermilk flavor really tasted like elevated comfort picnic food. Lamb Pancetta was also sprinkled on top, but I was disappointed that this tasted and looked more like Peppercorns.

Second Course: Monkfish over Spicy Octopus Stew
I was slowly and steadily pacing myself, but one look and whiff of the second course and I knew I was going to have to re-think the whole "pacing" concept. I was particularly fond of this ode to Spain - Monkfish over Spicy Octopus Stew, which paired beautifully with a Napa Valley Chardonnay Reserve. The fish was especially tender since it was wrapped in Joyce Farms Poulet Rouge Skin (a red chicken, found in the Piedmont, NC region.) The Stew was pretty sweet, but the acidity and tartness in the Avocado Salsa, Scallions and Radish helped cut this a bit.

Third Course: Turtle Stout Pie
I keep wanting to make a joke about the Tortoise and the Hare, and how the Tortoise wasn't quick enough, so he ended up on our plates. Everyone was super excited to try the Turtle Stout Pie, and was surprised at how incredibly tender turtle meat is. This was definitely a first for me. The Foothills' Brewing People's Porter Stout comes through the gravy noticeably, and was paired with the dish as well. Unfortunately, the Puff Pastry pie top got a bit too soggy and took on a gummy texture. The accompanying salad of Micro Greens, Baby Beets and Pomegranate-White Balsamic Vinaigrette was a nice touch, but didn't seem to really go with the Ireland-inspired dish.

Fourth Course: Braised Goat

At this point, any normal person may have been starting to feel full. But us Dishcrawl foodies? Nope. We had 4 more plates to go! My table loved the fourth course so much that we asked for seconds. Braised Goat from Yellow Wolf Farm in Walkertown, NC blew me away. This was essentially a build-your-own sandwich dish with warm Milk Buns, spicy Serrano Peppers, cooling Curry Yogurt, Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms, Cucumbers and Harissa Sauce. This was my introduction to Harissa, a North African hot chili sauce, and it's safe to say that I'm now an addict. I enjoyed the cooling, crisp Mohua Pinot Gris that was paired with this course, though some at my table remarked it was an odd choice. I shamelessly wiped every container clean here, and dove for the additional Milk Buns when they were delivered to our table. I may have lost some friends here, but it was worth it.

Intermezzo: Pineapple Haupia, aka Heaven
Ah, the Intermezzo. Typically, this dish is used to cleanse your palate and therefore heighten your appetite, and it made perfect sense following the spicy, savory Goat dish. The Pineapple Haupia tickled my taste buds in all the right places. Much like a runny pudding, it highlighted flavors of Pineapple, Lime and Vanilla, and a colleague remarked that it even tasted like citrus cake batter. I would have been happy to end the meal here, but adjusted my leggings and prepared for the final two courses!

Fifth Course: Corn Flour Dusted Quail

I noticed a bit of lag time between the Intermezzo, fifth and sixth courses. I was beginning to settle into my food coma, so I'm not sure if the kitchen wanted people to have this break, or if there was actually an issue back there. I have mixed reviews about the Corn Flour Dusted Quail. The bird was seasoned and cooked perfectly, with the Fish Sauce Caramel really highlighting the flavor of the tender dark meat, but the Papaya Salad with Kale Jus and Mint turned everything green. Granted, it was gorgeous, but not appetizing. The potent earthiness of the Kale overpowered everything, and the Coconut Creme Fraiche didn't stand a chance. What started as Fried Shallots quickly became soggy. The Large Reserve Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley did a nice job balancing the dish, but I believe too many Asian cuisines amalgamated here.

Sixth Course: Cardamom Goat Cheese Tart
The sixth and final course of the night had everyone buzzing. Cardamom Goat Cheese Tart is a savory, peppery version of Cheesecake that took a few bites to really get into, but the Creme Anglaise (made with Espresso from Krankies), Rosewater Berry Coulis and Hazelnut Lace Cookie were superb matches to this dessert. Each highlighted a different element and flavor, my favorite being the caramelly, Hazelnut Cookie. An edible pansy petal was delicately dusted in sugar and set atop the tart. I would have eaten a whole bouquet of them. We weren't told the country inspiration for this dish, but I would guess India. The Saracco Moscato D'Asti from the Piedmont Region in Italy is insanely sweet on its own, but paired with the peppery cheese tart, it was delightful.

If you read this and thought "AWESOME, I want to do that!", you should buy tickets now for Battledish, Dishcrawl's next event in Winston-Salem on February 8. You can look forward to more Secret Suppers and exciting events like this, as long as you follow Dishcrawl (and me!) on Facebook and Twitter. Don't wait to get tickets though - these Secret Suppers won't be so secret for long!

Photographer Dana Dillehunt & me!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


“An Egyptian culinary revolution” – their tagline says it all. I have been thoroughly impressed with both of my visits to Cleopatra on Westover Terrace in Greensboro. The quaint dining room is cozy and the delightful Egyptian music will add to the authentic experience. To make up for not selling alcohol, they offer a wide variety of rare and intriguing sodas and juices. The Iron Beer Soft Drink is the love child of Cheerwine and Vanilla Soda. Not having had a regular soda in a while, the sweetness is potent, but a sure treat.

Our server Billal sold us on the lunch buffet, offered weekdays from 11:30-2:30. It’s without a doubt the way to go. This all-you-can-eat option introduces you to so many Egyptian flavors. The difference between many of these Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines is the spice combination - Egyptians use a heavy hand with Cumin and Garlic. The lunch buffet feast begins with a fresh salad topped with crisp veggies (Red and Green Peppers, Tomatoes and Onions), dressed in an addictive vinaigrette. A cup of hot Lentil soup accompanies the salad. The soup is smooth, not chunky, and I detected a sweet note – perhaps Carrot or Butternut Squash. The pairing of these is essentially a meal in itself. 

I requested Pita, which we definitely didn’t need with the food volume we had coming our way, but I loved the in-house made bread. The yeast flavor really shines here. Be sure to ask for some. Cleopatra's buffet is a different interpretation of the word – yes, it’s eat-til-you're-stuffed, but the server brings a plate built for you! So if you’re worried about germs at buffets and hate the idea of everyone breathing all over the food as they look at it, fear not! Cleopatra’s does you right.

The Lamb Kofta Kabab is out of this world delicious. Texturally similar to a sausage, the meat is juicy and the flavor hits you hard – one bite and you’re hooked. Three varieties of chicken – Chicken Kabab (un-skewered and very moist); Chicken Shawerma, shaved breast off a rotating slow broiler; and a baked Breast. Moussaka is rich, marrying Eggplant, Tomatoes and Bell Peppers. Grilled Veggies and two Rice dishes – one with Vermicelli and one with Golden Raisins and Almonds – round out the plate.

I signed up for LoyalBlocks, a free app for smartphones, and received a free slice of their heavenly, buttery Baklava. (Other restaurants and shops will give you incentives for downloading this app. Neat idea.) I also got a slice of their Gaber Konafa, a pastry filled with lightly sweetened cream cheese, coated with thin orange "hair" (surprisingly not carrots), topped with pistachios. Cleopatra's is not to be missed. You will not be disappointed. Check it out soon.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Saving Mr. Banks

Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti
Director: John Lee Hancock
Running Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Rating: PG-13

"Saving Mr. Banks" will make you laugh and cry. You will be frustrated and you will empathize. You will reminisce and you will tap your feet. What an incredibly unique concept for a film, and a true story! Rather, a stretched re-imagining of the true story of P.L. Travers, the author of beloved “Mary Poppins,” and the lengths it took to get the film made. Emma Thompson shines in this role, though it is difficult to watch someone so closed off emotionally, and not understand why until the end. “Banks” casts a dark shadow over the entire "Poppins" process, with a few moments of song, dance and laughter in between.

The film bounces back and forth between present day and Travers’ magical, yet tragic childhood. I was very impressed with Colin Farrell’s portrayal of Travers’ father, who encourages his daughter to always be a dreamer, all the while drinking himself to death. The slow reveal of this explains much of Travers’ adult behavior, so we ache for her as she copes with this past.

Though Thompson is the star, she has help from her incredible supporting actors. Tom Hanks could play the dictionary and I’d believe it, so I love him as Walt Disney, who has one heck of a time convincing Travers to sign over the rights to her book. But thankfully, he didn't take "no" for an answer. (Well, he did several times, but she eventually came around.) B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman portray the Sherman brothers, who created the iconic “Mary Poppins” soundtrack. I forgot how awesome the songs are! Their debut of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” will have you wanting to jump out of your seat and soar around the theatre. We also see Paul Giamatti in an extremely likable role, as Travers' driver. Referring to her as “Mrs.”, he is able to break down a few of her walls, giving the audience a reason to look for a good quality in her, and allowing her to find a friend and confidant.

Though it isn’t necessarily a kids’ film, it might make you feel like one. If you don’t watch “Mary Poppins” prior to seeing “Banks,” you’ll want to watch it after. This film has gotten some criticism, that P.L. Travers was much worse than depicted here, or that she wasn't actually a lonesome crab, but all complaints aside, it is a heart-warming movie worth seeing.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Running Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Rating: R

It’s pretty startling to see Matt McConaughey’s appearance in “Dallas Buyers Club.” From our introduction, Ron Woodruff (McConaughey) is an incredibly offensive character, but the journey he goes on (emotionally and physically) is extremely powerful. A hero in the world of AIDS treatment, “Dallas Buyers Club” tells the story of a homophobic, hard-partying, HIV-positive electrician who finds success, and inner peace, by smuggling drugs to sell to other people with HIV.

Though he disgusts us, it’s clear how smart and devious Ron is. He gets around the FDA by selling legal, non-toxic drugs. The only problem is, they haven’t been approved. When Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) begins to see the positive effects of these drugs as opposed to the heavily-pushed AZT, she supports Ron and tries to help any way she can. Unfortunately, she appears pitiful in a male dominated hospital.

Coming to grips with his diagnosis is incredibly difficult for Ron, and after losing all of his “friends,” he finds an unlikely new support system: a transvestite. As Rayon, Jared Leto is more believable dressed up as a woman, than when he dresses up as a man. He has a heartbreaking scene with his father, and though the tabloids didn’t seem to be as obsessed with his weight loss as McConaughey’s, both men are jaw-droppingly emaciated. Leto’s performance is brilliant. When Ron defends Rayon in the grocery store to his homophobic ex-friend, we see how proud Rayon is: changing one person’s mind about the gay community is enough.

Oscar loves recognizing actors who ruin their appearance for the sake of a film (see Charlize Theron in “Monster,”) but at times it almost seemed too easy for him to be playing a smooth-talking, cunning Southern man. That being said, McConaughey will give any actor a run for the Oscar in this film.
Photos courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times and Taste of Cinema
This is a beautiful story, but the first 20 minutes are hard to watch. You’ll applaud his drive and “can’t stop, won’t stop” approach toward getting these drugs to help people, though his first motivation is clearly money. We don’t see the selflessness until nearly the end of the film, but when we do, it’s powerful.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Upcoming Dishcrawl Events

Foodies of the Triad, there are some really exciting events coming up that you should take note of. I'm excited (and honored!) to attend and blog about them! Tickets are on sale but going quickly (one is already sold out!), so if you want to join me, get them purchased ASAP.

1) Secret Supper - Monday, January 20 in Winston-Salem, specific location and menu TBA - that's why it's a secret! The Triad's inaugural Secret Supper took place last month in Greensboro (read John Batchelor's article about it here). This time, Chef Curtis Hackaday, head of the culinary team at 1703 Restaurant and Catering takes the wheel (and his eaters) for a fantastic ride. I can only dream about what the menu will be, but I'm salivating over the theme, "Global Eclectic."

2) Paleo in the Park - Wednesday, January 22 in the Lindley Park neighborhood in Greensboro. Also known as "caveman," the Paleo diet fad has really exploded in the past year. 4 Lindley Park restaurants push the boundaries, with Paleo pizza and desserts expected to be featured! Unfortunately, if you haven't gotten your tickets already, you'll have to just read my review and wait until the next one!

3) Battledish - Saturday, February 8 in Winston-Salem. Six downtown restaurants will present small dishes and a cocktail in the hopes of becoming "King of Downtown Winston-Salem." Being a WS native, I'm extremely excited to see who will reign. Check out the official press release below to see who's in the battle!


Battledish Debuts in Downtown Winston-Salem An international culinary competition in search of the best chef!

Winston-Salem, NC – January 6, 2013 –  Battledish, an international chef competition, comes to Winston-Salem this February!  Chefs across North America will compete for various titles such as most delicious, most creative, best modern, best cocktail, and most authentic dish. 

Battledish will kick off its first North Carolina event in Downtown with six lucky chefs on Saturday, February 8 at 2pm.  All ticket holders will have a chance to vote for their favorites in the competition along with an esteemed panel of featured guest judges.  Only one chef will emerge King of Battledish!

Take a look at the restaurants featured in this epic battle:
Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar--Chef Tim Grandinetti
Foothills Brewing--Chef Shane Moore
Small Batch Brewing--Chef Tim Walker
Carolina Tap Room--Chef Stuart Ford
Artisan Restaurant--Chef Kevin Reddick
Bib’s Downtown--Pitmaster Mark Little

More info and registration at

About Dishcrawl
Dishcrawl is a company dedicated to providing you with amazing culinary experiences.  Make life delicious. For more information, visit our website at, check out our facebook page and follow @Dishcrawlwnsm.
Contact Information
Kristi Maier
Dishcrawl Ambassador Winston-Salem/Greensboro
336-337-4084 (direct)

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie
Director: Martin Scorsese
Running Time: 2 hours, 59 minutes
Rating: R

"The Wolf of Wall Street" has taken my #1 spot as movie of the season, if not the entire year. As brilliant, soulless money-schemer Jordan Belfort, this is Leo at his finest, but if it weren’t Leo, I'm not certain I would have loved the movie quite as much as I did. It's hard to believe that this is a true story. The supporting cast rocks, and the film is classic Scorsese. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT watch this film in awkward company (ie. parents, first date, younger siblings). The things these characters do and say will make your cheeks burn with embarrassment. As for the lengthiness of the film, every scene is appropriate, so it’s hard to tell you a time to get up and go to the bathroom. Everything is pertinent. Scorsese made the final cut 2:59, cutting an hour’s worth of film, which I'd actually really like to see.

As per usual with Scorsese, we are thrust into a chaotic moment, then the scene freezes and we are introduced to the narrator - "My name is Jordan Belfort," and we know who we'll be dealing with for the next 2 hours and 59 minutes. The film is also saturated with slow-motion shots, and Belfort continually breaks the fourth wall with his direct talking to the camera. One typical Scorsese element was missing: the use of "Gimme Shelter" by the Stones.

Belfort arrives to NYC bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to jump into a career on Wall Street. Matt McConaughey is memorable in his 10 minutes of screen time, teaching Belfort the attitude he needs to survive as a trader - and surprise! - it includes lots of booze, drugs and sex. It's the sign of a good actor when you can't tell one is acting, but every movie I see McConaughey in, it seems he appears as his usual cocky self. Not that that's a bad thing.

Belfort is a genius, incredibly smart and driven, but we are absolutely disgusted with him. We can't imagine what he will get away with next. It's hard to fathom this amount of greed, luxury and wealth, but we can't look away. I suppose the folks who walked out of the theatre could in fact look away, but if you don't like classic Scorsese - "Goodfellas," "Casino," "The Departed," "Gangs of New York," - then why did you think you'd like this movie?

Newcomer Margot Robbie is Leo's match as Naomi, the first woman he leaves his wife for, but definitely not the last woman he conquers. As his business partner, Jonah Hill's comedic timing is impeccable, even in dramatic moments. We want to see more scenes with him, though it gets difficult to tolerate their behavior when the drugs begin to consume their sanity (note a crazy 5 minute scene featuring Leo crawling towards his car after popping one too many "ludes"). Playing the good guy as always, Kyle Chandler is FBI agent Patrick Denham, and the only one that really challenges Jordan, ultimately bringing about his demise. 

The film is indeed very long, but it is so fascinating and it’s a tour de force by DiCaprio. Leo will be robbed if he doesn't win the Oscar for it, but he won't. Each time the Academy snubs him, he comes back better than before. I type this with a sense of urgency - see this film. You'll want to see it again.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

American Hustle

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner
Director: David. O Russell

Running Time: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Rating: R

I've decided that I enjoy David O. Russell's directing, but I can't get into his writing. "The Fighter," which he directed, is one of my favorite movies of the past 5 years, but I couldn't get on the "Silver Linings Playbook" bandwagon (which he wrote and directed), and I'm not about to board the "American Hustle" train (which he co-wrote and directed.) I may be one of the two people in the world who didn't salivate and flip over his latest production, but I felt like it was entirely too long, and the story arc got bigger than it needed to. Had the movie stayed like the first 20 minutes were, focusing on the characters and their relationships, I would have been a very happy camper. Instead, I couldn't wait for it to end, and wanted it to get to the point already. (Spoiler - it doesn't). The film isn't as good as the critical acclaim and publicity it is receiving.

If you loved the movie, are you sure that you didn't just love the performances? Because indeed they are incredible. You can tell Russell likes to play favorites, having worked with Bale, Adams, Lawrence and Cooper before. Christian Bale is flawless as per usual as con man Irving Rosenfeld. Bale nails his roles every time, most notably in "The Fighter," for which he won an Oscar. Bradley Cooper is possibly at his best as off-the-walls FBI agent Richie, who gives Rosenfeld and his lady love (Amy Adams) a chance at skipping jail time if they help him catch, ahem, frame, four other "con men." This includes bribing the innocent mayor of Camden, NJ (Jeremy Renner). Already, too many plots within a plot happening.

I got pretty tired of Amy Adams and her fake British accent, but I wanted to see more of Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Rosenfeld's sorry excuse for a wife. As a colleague said, Adams is always a bridesmaid, never a bride. JLaw is the comedic relief in the film, but it's because her character is more dynamic. The story gets too complicated here, bringing in fun cameos as well as a lot of wordy dialogue. The plot just gets too thick and loses me.

With the database of classic disco music to use as a soundtrack (the film takes place in 1978), I was underwhelmed with the selection. I really think that my expectations of the film were so high, that anything other than exceptional was a disappointment. I hope people see other films that are currently in theatres before falling all over themselves for this one.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reel Seafood Grill

Happy New Year! In 2012, my New Year's Resolution was to start this blog. I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it!

Reel Seafood Grill opened in June 2013, by the folks who co-founded Bert’s Seafood, a former Greensboro staple. The interior is casual and inviting; a welcoming bar and patio provide additional seating. I’m glad there is another seafood restaurant in Greensboro, and Reel is much more accessible than others in the area. Most entrée prices range from $15-$30, but you get a ton of food (2 or 3 sides with each entrée!) and the menu is flexible, if you'd rather have one of their unique sauces atop a different fish than the menu reads. Plus, Reel got a soaring review from N&R Food Writer John Batchelor, so you know it's a top spot.

I was slightly thrown by the menu – it’s on two chalkboards on the walls – but it makes sense, considering how frequently they change it depending on the availability of fresh fish. Our friendly server was extremely helpful, describing the entrées when requested, since the chalkboard doesn’t leave a ton of room for adjectives and descriptors.

The Singapore Tuna is glazed with a spicy Wasabi Sauce. It is delicious, and for heat-seekers only. Each bite gives you the rush you look for when using Wasabi. It really cleans out the sinuses. This is served on a bed of greens, so the delicious glaze becomes a dressing. As mentioned, entrées come with three sides, thankfully, because all of them sound fantastic. I chose Baked Acorn Squash (slightly sweet, one of my favorite veggies of the season), Quinoa (notes of Vinegar, with Asparagus and Feta – my favorite of the sides) and Steamed Broccoli. Why Broccoli, you ask? It’s post-holidays. Have to Reel (ha!) in the splurging sometime.

My dining partner was weary of the heat and chose to have her Tuna sans sauce, which you can do with any fish. The three sides sampled with this dish were Garlic Cheese Grits (love that this is offered as a side, but a pinch or two more of salt would be an improvement), Potato Latkes (essentially like shredded Hash Brown Cakes, with wonderful onion flavor) and Hush Puppies, because it is a fish joint after all. Hush Puppies are round and slightly sweet, just the way I like them.

What really sold me on this place was the dessert selection. All desserts are made in-house, and the owners encourage the chefs to stretch their imagination and offer unique varieties, including White Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding, Cookies’n’Cream Cheesecake and the one I sampled: Butterscotch Coconut Almond Pie. OH MY LORD. This Pie. Served warm, a la mode (per our request) with whipped topping, it is one of the most outstanding restaurant desserts I’ve ever had. And I know my desserts. The consistency is much like a Chess Pie, studded with Butterscotch Chips, topped with crunchy slivered Almonds. I couldn’t decide if this is heavenly or sinful. It’s both. How can you really decide when something is one or the other?

Definitely pay Reel a visit. These guys know their seafood. It’s a really funky menu, and the patio in the summer will be a blast. As long as they keep churning out unique dishes and executing them this well, they’ve got me “hooked.”