Thursday, July 30, 2015


Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton, LeBron James
Director: Judd Apatow
Running Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Rating: R

Watch out, Mindy Kaling. Someone is itching for your spot of being the over the top, witty, pop princess of comedy. Better yet, Amy Schumer and Mindy Kaling should pair up and do a re-make of Hocus Pocus, with me as the 3rd Sanderson sister. My life would be made. Trainwreck is a hilarious introduction of Schumer to the masses, though many know her already from her several years doing stand-up comedy and her show "Inside Amy Schumer" on Comedy Central. She wrote this highly-anticipated feature film, got comedy film fave Judd Apatow to direct, and even convinced LeBron James to hop onboard in a supporting role. Whatever this chick is drinking, I want some.

Amy plays a 30-something single gal living in NYC, loving her casual relationships with men, not getting too close to anyone and indulging in whatever and whoever she wants. Her job at an alternative magazine is the closest thing she has to structure, and Tilda Swinton plays her boss - and she has NEVER looked better! (Unrecognizable, really! Out of nowhere!) When Amy is assigned an article on a sports doctor (the charming and oddly sexy Bill Hader), a plot not totally unlike "How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days" ensues. Only with a few more raunchy jokes.

Tilda, how she normally looks, vs. hot Tilda.
Photo Courtesy E! Online
There are several random albeit welcomed cameos in this film (sup Broderick!), and it's as if everyone wants to work with this fresh face of comedy. Personally, I'd like to know where she got every outfit from. That wardrobe. FIERCE. Some scenes were clearly improvised and we're intrigued to see where they take it, but others got a bit long. They could have shaved a good 20 minutes, but we get to see several different sides of Amy, including a touching scene at her father's funeral.
Amy and LeBron.
Photo Courtesy Seattle Times
Say what you will about LeBron James. His addition to the movie had everyone sit up in their seats when he appeared on-screen. Apparently his costars gave him grief for being such a natural on set, and how it isn't fair for him to be good at everything. His improvised rapping of Kanye's "Golddigger" in a scene is quite memorable. You need to see this movie. But maybe don't go with your mom. Or your dad. Men will get an eyeful into a woman's life who is definitely unafraid of her sexuality, and fans of "Sex And The City" will welcome the somewhat familiar Big Apple storyline. Amy is quite charming, and will win you over by the end if you're not already a fan.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Starring: Amy Winehouse, Mos Def, Mark Ronson, Mitch Winehouse
Director: Asif Kapadia
Running Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes
Rating: R

There's more than one "Amy" people are talking about on the big screen right now. Amy Schumer's "Trainwreck"might be sweeping the comedy train, but the documentary "Amy" is a terrific yet tragic reminder of the talent and powerhouse voice the late Amy Winehouse possessed. Seeing this film on the big screen is like seeing Amy Winehouse in concert. It’s pretty remarkable the footage that we get to see. Winehouse wasn’t just a jazz singer, she was a musician, a brilliant songwriter and thoughtful poet. The film is also a frightening reminder of how her life unraveled in the public eye, with the lack of media sensitivity. I admit that I gawked at Perez Hilton every time there was a Winehouse post – it was impossible to get enough of her personality - those catchy bluesy tunes, thick eyeliner and beehive hair. You leave this film really feeling the weight of Amy’s tragic story.
Photo Courtesy People Magazine
The producers know what we want to see. The film jumps right in when Amy is about 16, goofing off with some friends. She runs scales with her voice like others put on a jacket. Soon she is signing a record deal, trying to perfect her craft and write the best album that she can. Her success in England is pretty immediate, but it was the album “Back to Black” and the hit single “Rehab” that made her star soar in the US. It was indeed my jam. (I can’t tell you how many away messages and Facebook stati of mine in college included lyrics from this song.)

Amy's romance with ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil is portrayed much like that of Kurt and Courtney, Sid and Nancy, and the like. One party is blamed for the downfall of another, but their misery seemed to be a comfort zone for them. Just when her family, friends and managers try to intervene and help her get healthy, he sneaks heroin to her in rehab. It's suggested that Amy's troubles with men stem from an absent father figure during her childhood. It's also revealed that she had a pretty serious battle with bulimia, which ultimately played a contributing part in her death.

We know how her story ends, though we can’t help but wish it was all a hoax. She takes a turn for the better - records a duet with her idol Tony Bennett, wins 5 Grammies, catches the eye of a hot new beau - but ultimately this is not enough. The demons she battled for 27 years catch up to her. Amy is a member of the “27 Club,” which includes Brian Jones (Rolling Stones), Jim Morrison (The Doors), Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the aforementioned Kurt Cobain. Fans of Winehouse’s music will appreciate seeing this film, but diehard Amy fans may leave in tears. It’s a good film, but not easy to watch.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Graze Wins Competition Dining

I'm so proud of my friend Chef Richard Miller of Graze in Winston-Salem for winning the Triad's Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series! The featured ingredients were Joyce Farms Poulet Rouge, Poulet Rouge Eggs and Barbee Farms Peaches. Chef Miller took the title, a handmade chef knife by Ironman Forge, $2,000 and the "Red Chef Jacket." He and his team also get to compete in the state finals this fall! 
I think this photo says it all.
Photo Courtesy Competition Dining
Chef Miller defeated Chef Dion Sprenkle (of Chef Dion Sprenkle in Lexington), which was by no means an easy feat. I dined at two battles in which Chef Sprenkle competed, and he was quite the powerhouse in the kitchen. Chef Miller had an agenda though, as he was runner up to Chef Tim Thompson of Marisol last year. That makes this year's victory even sweeter.

I've had a fantastic time collaborating with Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series, one of my favorite events all year. I'm looking forward to reading about their expansion into Greenville, SC coming up next! You can read the official press release below!

Winston-Salem, North Carolina – The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series, a single-elimination tournament highlighting the best of the state’s food, agriculture and culinary talent, has named a regional winner for the Triad series. Chef Richard Miller of Graze in Winston-Salem took home the title last night in the battle of chicken, eggs and peaches. Miller defeated Dion Sprenkle of Chef Dion Sprenkle in Lexington in the final dinner competition after rising to the top of the 16-chef regional tournament that started back in May.   

In front of a sold out crowd of 160 people, the Triad championship tasked the chefs with using three featured ingredients, Joyce Farms poulet rouge, poulet rouge eggs and Barbee Farms peaches. One of the crowd favorites of the night and the highest scoring dish of the whole battle was Miller’s dessert course, which included chocolate brownie, marshmallow, marcona almond streusel, Barbee Farms peach and white chocolate anglaise, peach cinnamon ice cream and fried powdered sugar Joyce Farms poulet rouge skin. (See complete scores and dishes here.)

“The three featured ingredients required a lot of prep time, which made for a long and laborious day of breaking down chickens and peeling a lot of peaches,” said Chef Miller. “I tried to follow the list of ingredients throughout the series and had some ideas about what the final battle would offer, but I never expected there would be a trio of items we needed to use! I’m so proud of my team’s hard work and am thrilled that we came out on top after such an exciting series in our restaurant’s hometown.”

As part of his regional championship winnings, Miller took home a $2,000 cash prize, a handmade chef knife by Ironman Forge and the coveted “Red Chef Jacket” provided by ALSCO. Additionally, the Graze team, which also includes Tim Gallione and Kevin Woods, moves on to the final battle of champions in October where they will compete against the winners from the Triangle, Charlotte and first-ever South Carolina series – which kicks off in Greenville next month.

“The Got to Be NC Dining Series is an incredibly unique experience, and last night’s high-energy battle did not disappoint,” said Jimmy Crippen, Competition Dining Series founder and host. “Chef Miller consistently impressed diners with high-scoring dishes throughout the Triad series and the mouth-watering plates he put out in the final competition completely solidified his spot as the regional champion.”

In every Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series dinner event, two chef teams battle it out preparing three courses each centered on a featured regional ingredient that is revealed before they start cooking that day. Ticketed dinner guests savor a full-service, six-course meal without knowing which chef prepared which dishes. Unlike any other cooking competition, attendees vote on each course using a free app, and ultimately help determine who moves on to the next battle round and who goes home.

The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series now moves on to Greenville with battles starting Aug. 3. Additional information and ticket reservations are available at

About The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series

The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series has hosted annual chef tournaments throughout North Carolina for years with the goal of celebrating local products and agriculture, and showcasing the culinary ingenuity and talent across the state. It is sponsored by the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Pate Dawson-Southern Foods, Certified Angus Beef®, Pepsi Bottling Ventures, ALSCO, NC Egg Association, Hits Technology and Joyce Farms. For the first time ever, Competition Dining will expand outside North Carolina in 2015 with a new series in Greenville, South Carolina. For more information, visit or get in on the conversation at and @CompDiningNC on Twitter or Instagram.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Magic Mike: XXL

Starring: Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Jada Pinkett Smith
Director: Gregory Jacobs
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Rating: R

XXL doesn't even begin to describe it. I literally had to take off my cardigan in the first 15 minutes. It's everything you wanted more of from the first "Magic Mike," just with a few unnecessary scenes of dialogue. But they really gave us what we craved: shirtless men, pelvic-thrusting and gyrating to slow R&B jamz, including none other than Mike's signature "Pony." We certainly get an eyefull. I always knew Channing had moves, but Manganiello and Bomer? Out of nowhere! You don't have to see the first "Magic Mike" to appreciate all that XXL has to offer (though you should - it is also entertaining.) Tons of grammies in the audience seemed to be enjoying it too.
Items unfortunately not drawn to scale.
Photo Courtesy Cosmopolitan.
The boys reunite, this time sans Dallas (McConaughey) and head to Myrtle Beach for the male stripper convention. Along the way, they encounter drag queens, lonely housewives and Michael Strahan like you've never seen him before. Live with Kelly and Michael? More like Live with Michael's groin straddling a woman's face.

For every slow and lackluster scene (there are a handful), there is a riveting, sit up in your seat scene, most notably Manganiello dancing to a famous boy band song in a 7-Eleven and Bomer serenading a 40-something housewife to the song "Heaven." Just when you're itching for a new dance number, you get one. Also, I have a new crush on Manganiello. I resisted as long as I could, but this movie will make anyone weak in the knees for him.

This movie has a touch of lady power, though the men clearly shine. Jada Pinkett Smith is slightly annoying as Rome, a nightclub owner who becomes the boys' emcee. Amber Heard (aka Mrs. Johnny Depp) is hardly recognizable and doesn't add much pizzaz to the movie. Andie Macdowell's Southern accent is too forced, which surprised me considering she is from the South. However, her 10 minute scene is one of the more entertaining.

On a more "film studies" note, you can expect the same sepia tones as in the first film. A few scenes were even shot in the shadows, almost so dark that you couldn't see faces or who is speaking. Totally reminisceient of the indie feel of the first "Mike." Don't be shy - go see this film. There's no shame in the gratuitousness these men give. Just enjoy. Then go take a cold shower.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Recap: Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series

Happy 4th of July, everyone! While you're enjoying your cookouts and fireworks, I wanted to give you an update on the two fantastic chefs advancing to the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series FINALS!!! The final battle is just around the corner, and unless you already have tickets, your chances of getting them are slim (but you can still get on the waiting list!) This is sure to be a tough battle. It's anyone's game. (Thanks to the folks at Competition Dining for the photos!)

Monday, June 29 
Matchup: Chef Michael Harkenreader of Undercurrent and Chef Dion Sprenkle of Chef Dion Sprenkle

Featured Ingredients: High Rock Farm Chestnut Flour and fresh Blackberries

Highest Scoring Dish: Roasted Marcho Farms Tenderloin of Veal, Braised Veal Cheek, Foy Farms Crispy Wild Mushrooms, Bacon-Infused Chestnut Flour Potato Crouquette, High Rock Farm Blackberry Gastrique (by Chef Dion Sprenkle) 

Outcome: Sprenkle heads to the finals!

Tuesday, June 30
Matchup: Chef David Nicoletta of Giannos and Chef Richard Miller of Graze 

Featured Ingredients: Goodnight Brothers Dry-Cured Ham and Barbee Farms Cantaloupe

Highest Scoring Dish: Goat Lady Dairy Chevre-Cloister Honey Cheesecake, Barbee Farms Cantaloupe Gelato, Candied Goodnight Brothers Dry-Cured Ham, Cantaloupe Confit, Strawberry Reduction (by Chef Richard Miller)

Outcome: Miller secures his spot in the finals for the second year in a row!

Both of these chefs have proven that they deserve to be in the finals. Their teams want this victory so badly. I can't wait to see the featured ingredients they're given to work with! I can already feel the heat in the kitchen.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

WFAEats: Sally's Pimiento Cheese

When Amy Rogers from WFAEats: All Things Food and Culture (the online food magazine for Charlotte's NPR station) contacted me about writing an article, I couldn't have been more ecstatic. I would actually be published somewhere other than my own blog! I was so appreciative of the opportunity and set to work, thinking of what would be of interest to people in Charlotte, the entire state, and even the South!

I decided I would write an ode to one of my favorite foods in the world: Pimiento Cheese. And not just any pimiento cheese - my grandmother Sally's. This of course meant tons of research (read: eating lots of her pimiento cheese) to make sure I had the story and more importantly, the recipe, correct.
The best pimiento cheese you will ever eat.
I'm so flattered and excited that WFAEats published my piece, and I'm so proud to share it with y'all!