Fall is the time to enjoy the sensational heirloom N.C. mountain apples coming into the farmers market around town. Buy these in the morning, as they tend to sell quickly. Apples you should try are Arkansas Black; the highly prized Grimes Golden, a cooking apple; Sheep's Nose; Yellow Newton Pippin; and Limbertwig. Remember, the best way to preserve heirloom foods is to consume them.
Fall is also the time a passel of restaurants is slated to open.
The third location of Taco Mac — the Atlanta-based mega-sports bar, not a Latino restaurant, dear Best Of Charlotte voters — opens late September in Huntersville, 8700 Sam Furr Road. The success of this chain has prompted another Atlanta-based restaurant group to come to town. Owners Raymond and Anna Hsu will open AZN Restaurant in Piedmont Town Center in SouthPark first quarter of 2012. Anna Hsu knows the owners of Taco Mac through the Georgia restaurant association. The Hsus own Pacific Rim Bistro and Hsu Gourmet Chinese Restaurant in downtown Atlanta and AZN Restaurant in Naples, Fla. AZN's menu will have dishes from China, Japan, Thailand, Korea and Vietnam, as well as a full sushi bar.
Meanwhile in Uptown, doors are flying open. The Levine Center for the Arts complex on South Tryon Street that extends to the Duke Energy Center will offer a variety of new dining venues. The most prominent is the opening of celebrity chef and Johnson & Wales grad Emeril Lagasse's restaurant. According to a company spokesman, construction is scheduled to begin soon. Recently, Lagasse and his team were seen dining out and about in Charlotte.
Chef Marion Buhrmaster at her Sunflour Baking Company, 2001 East 7th St., posted this on Facebook: "Emeril wants our croissants and bread for his new restaurant." Further news from Sunflour includes the extending of hours into the evening (beginning mid-October) with their new wine and beer license. Tentative hours are until 11 p.m. weekdays (closed Mondays) and until midnight weekends.
Other eateries opening in the Duke Energy Center this fall include Emzy Asian Sushi Bar; Mizan, a Mediterranean restaurant owned by Nabeel Kweider, co-owner of The Kabob Grill in Dilworth and Stonecrest; and Energy Café, a fast-casual restaurant. Look for pizza expert Peter Reinhart to partner in a pizza venture opening first quarter 2012 in that neighborhood.
On Aug. 29, Chang Ha opened Hasaki Grill, a fast-casual restaurant with hibachi meals and a full sushi menu in the Ally Center, corner of Church and Martin Luther King Boulevard. Hours are Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Also to open this fall in the Ally Center is the first of two American Roadside Burgers, a concept from Smithtown, N.Y. The second location, in SouthPark, opens later this year.
In the center of downtown, The King's Kitchen, 129 W. Trade St., is expanding next door into the former Havana space to open a bakery. Will they make King Cakes?
On the other end of Tryon, Delta's has been slated to open in the old GW Fins' location in September. However, according to a restaurant Tweet, the Delta in New Brunswick, N.J., is under water from Tropical Storm Irene. Delta will offer live jazz and R&B as well as soulful food favorites.
Finally, Raffaldini Vineyards, located at 450 Groce Road in Ronda, N.C., will celebrate their Sixth Annual Festa Italiana on Saturday, Sept. 17, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event celebrates Italian culture, food, art, music and wine. Admission is $15. The Raffaldini family has been making wines since the 14th century in Mantua, Italy. Raffaldini currently produces five single varietal wines and several proprietary blends, including Vermentino, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Sangiovese Riserva and Montepulciano. For more information about this event: www.raffaldini.com.