If you haven't been to Creative Loafing's Food & Drink blog Eat My Charlotte lately, you're missing a lot of tasty treats of the verbal variety. One popular feature on the site is Best I've Had All Week, a regular post in which CL food writer Tricia Childress singles out items that pleased her palate. Here, for your dining edification, are some recent columns.
Cyros Sushi: Even though Cyros Sushi and Sake Bar, 6601 Morrison Boulevard (704-919-1881; www.cyrossushi.com), has only been open a short time, the proprietors have been around the sushi block a few times. Cyros is small. This is not the kind of place with oshibori (hot towels), kimonos and shakuhachi music. But Cryos isn't a raucous kind of place, either. The only kind of vibrancy here will play out on your plate. The best I had this week was Cy's signature roll: the Avante Garde, with ahi, crab, avocado, and sprinkled with crispy microplaned bits of shallots and garlic. This is not a traditional roll; in fact, Cy will tell you (if you sit at the sushi bar) the roll has enough sauce that it shouldn't be dunked in soy, and enough heat that wasabi isn't needed, either.
Quiche Florentine at Café Monte French Bakery & Bistro: You would be surprised at how many SouthParkers battled the Yellow Season by having brunch outside. One favorite spot is Café Monte French Bakery & Bistro, 6700 Fairview Road (704-552-1116; www.cafemonte.net). Monte's interior captures the feel of La Belle Époque with tumbled Italian marble floor tiles and the lace café curtains. In fact, owner Monte Smith continuously tweaks the interior, so visiting is an I Spy puzzle experience.
Outside, tables are restricted to the sidewalk, which also hosts palm trees in gigantic containers. We wish Café Monte would "storm" the side parking lot to add more patio seating on these gorgeous spring days.
Best I had toute la semaine was Café Monte's brilliantly crafted Quiche Florentine, a rustic sacre du printemps classic, mais non? The appeal of this locally owned spot translates well into any language -- or any season.
Bánh mì at Zen International Market & Tea: Be mine, bánh mì: salty, crunchy and hot. In my family, this classic street-vendor Vietnamese-French sandwich is experiencing something close to an addiction. Although bánh mìs are available at several places around town, I like the taste, inexpensive price and close proximity (to me) of the ones at Zen International Market & Tea, 10225 Park Road (704-541-4748). My favorite is the Vietnamese barbecue pork with pickled daikon radishes, fretfully hot julienned strips of jalapeño, and a sprig of cilantro. But there are six choices on the menu, including a very good, densely packed French cold cut, and a lemongrass pork sandwich.
Line caught wild Alaskan salmon: Harris Teeter at Morrocroft had two varieties of salmon in their seafood case this week. But the Irish farm-raised salmon paled -- literally -- in comparison to the stunning vividly deep coral wild Alaskan Coho Salmon filets. I had to have this salmon. The paramount preparation of this fine seafood is to leave it alone. Forget sauces or imprisoning with a crust. No dusting, just fish. I planked the salmon on an Alder board I acquired in Seattle, then rubbed the filet with Spanish extra virgin olive oil, organic unsalted butter, Murray River salt (a rustic speckled pink salt from Australia), freshly ground black pepper, spritzed the salmon with a lemon, and then cooked it medium rare. Alder, the wood the First Peoples of the Northwest used to cook salmon, imbues a mild smokiness into this delicate sweet fish with sensational results.
Uncle Scott's All Natural Root Beer: Great Scott: a local root brew. A few sodas have their roots here in North Carolina, including Pepsi and Cheerwine. Now there's a new local Carolina soda on the block: Uncle Scott's All Natural Root Beer, out of Mooresville.
Co-owners Suzanne and Scott Ramsey and Jeff Fleenor tweaked an old-time recipe out of Pennsylvania to develop this robust brew made with certified organic sugar and natural flavors. In fact, the labeling notes licorice root, cinnamon and anise oils, and wood extract. Plus, this soda is micro-brewed and doesn't have any caffeine. Suzanne Ramsey says, "We really wanted to go back to an old-fashioned flavor." For me, it was an instant taste flashback to my grandfather's home-brewed root brew from my childhood. He was from western Pennsylvania, too.
Uncle Scott's has been on the market for three years, but in January, their company, Carolina Country Provisions, started bottling large scale and now Uncle Scott's is available by the bottle, six pack or case at many area grocery stores, specialty shops and farmers markets. To see the list of 17 Charlotte venues that carry the drink, go to unclescottsrootbeer.com.
Greens from my CSA: I've been a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for several years. The idea behind this is you buy a share of a local farm and then weekly you and the other members of the CSA are provided with equal shares of the produce. In good years, agriculturally speaking, the box is packed; in challenging years, you share the risk with the farmer. I support the idea of having local farms by being a member of a CSA. The main benefit besides eating uber-fresh food has been to learn what to do with an overabundance of specific vegetables -- like okra.
This week my box primarily was filled with greens: arugula, red leaf lettuce, romaine, green lettuce, kale and spinach. Some of my family members prefer the tomato and pepper season, but I enjoy these salad days with these first spring vegetables tasting of newly turned earth.
CSAs work best if you have others to share the bounty, and many people buy shares with friends and neighbors. Even if you do not belong to a CSA or if you are on a waiting list (many of the older area farms have these), area farmers markets currently offer these sensational greens.