Tag Archives: Charlotte

Charlotte Memories…


Because you can never capture an entire trip without writing a book, here are some images from the rest of our vacation in Charlotte last month…


Ever wonder how the city of Charlotte got its name? Well, now you know. (Click to enlarge.)


More Craft Beer


Southern Fast Food Breakfast. Hey, Southerners, do you prefer Bojangles..?

…or Chick-fil-A?

Chick-fil-A was the winner for me!

Chick-fil-A was the winner for me!


U.S. National Whitewater Center

A place for adventure sports and where American Whitewater Olympians come to train!

Shadow with her daddy

Shadow with her daddy 🙂

Can you guess what game we were playing?

Can you guess what game we were playing?

And lastly, a little something from the trip that keeps me laughing:


I think that’s a nice note with which to end. Don’t you?

 Where are you spending your next vacation?


Heist Brewery Brunch


Brewery Stop #5 – Heist Brewery

After our tour of the Charlotte breweries the day before, we were all brewed out. But that didn’t stop us from going to brunch at Heist Brewery!


I think this is one place Tay and Brendan knew that they wanted to take us before we even arrived in Charlotte. And they knew they wanted us there for brunch.

Now I know why!

We arrived at about 11:30am, knowing there would be a wait…

What I found interesting is that in North Carolina (or maybe just Charlotte or even that particular county), alcohol cannot be served until noon. Forget the fact that, in MN, we pay 9.5% sales tax {plus more in certain cities} on alcohol or that we cannot buy alcohol in stores on Sundays. At least we can have a good Bloody Mary on a Sunday morning! 😉

Looking around, it was odd to see people dining in the bar area drinking coffee and orange juice. However, when the clock struck 12:00, a bell was rung and servers with readied trays began delivering bloodys, mimosas and brews throughout the room. It was quite festitve! I decided on a Bloody, which doesn’t come with a beer chaser in the south. Rob decided to try a Craft Beer Cocktail. That’s something I’d never seen before! Check out the menu:


I know some wine connoisseurs don’t like to use good wines to make mixed drinks. What do you think about Heist using their beer to create cocktails?

While we didn’t take a look at the regular menu, Brendan said we could still order from it. But we wanted to see what all the hype was about regarding the brunch here, so we stuck with the buffet.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get many photos of the food! It turns out that it’s hard to take photos with an iPhone while you are carrying a plate. But let me tell you, it was worth the wait!

But here’s a list of a few of the things I can remember on that buffet line that day:

  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Sausages
  • Cheesy Grits
  • Biscuits & Gravy
  • A huge wheel of melty Brie
  • Chocolate Donuts
  • Muffins
  • Hard Boiled Eggs on Toast with some sort of meat
  • Pasta topped with Chicken Wings
  • Omelet Station – I had one made personally for me and it was one of the biggest ever!

But the best thing for brunch could be found at the Waffle Station. These waffles are the best ever! They are made with meringue and sooooo fluffy. I don’t normally order waffles, but I wanted to try these because Tay said it was absolutely necessary. And she was right. Best. I’ve. Ever. Had. I didn’t know that waffles could taste like that!

And of course, there were more items that I can’t remember, nor did I have enough room to try!

Oh yeah. We enjoyed some sangria with our brunch as well as sampled their Oatmeal Stout – one of the best beers of the trip! It’s a good thing we don’t live there because that place could be very dangerous… {In other words, we kinda liked it.}

We left Charlotte that day, after such a wonderful long weekend with friends. Aside from the small flatbread Rob and I split at the airport, knowing we wouldn’t be home until after 9pm, we didn’t eat a single other thing. Such is the way with brunch sometimes. 😉

What is your favorite brunch food, drink or place to enjoy it?

Have you had anything unique for brunch lately?


How Mellow Are Those Mushrooms?


While BBQ sauce is something I didn’t grow up with, and it took until approximately 15 years after college to find one I like, mushrooms are another story. I did grow up with them.

And I hated them.

However, they were the canned kind. The slimy ones that have that distinct smell. Ewwwwww! Whenever we’d have frozen pizzas in our house, my mom would amp one of them up, even if it was already a pizza with “the works” on it. She’d add fresh onions, fresh green peppers, canned mushrooms and extra thick slices of cheddar cheese on top. It was for this reason that I always thought I hated mushrooms! Although, thinking back, adding that fresh stuff and extra cheese was such a creative and easy way for a full-time working mom to better a frozen pizza. Too this day, I love fresh onions, fresh green peppers and thick slices of cheddar cheese!

I’m not sure when in my adult life that I discovered that I absolutely love mushrooms. All I know is that the discovery was made when I had fresh ones… when they were sauteed in olive oil and imparted such a wonderful earthy, sometimes even meaty, flavor. To this day, I’ve been known to ask that they’d be added to pasta dishes, even if they aren’t already in the dish. They happily oblige at Sul Lago, a fave local restaurant of ours, where they stock more than just your average button.

And when I order pizza now,  I always order mushrooms as one of the toppings. But I always ask, first, if those mushrooms are fresh!


Side note: A couple of years ago, at a local pizza place, I asked if they had fresh mushrooms. The server said, “Yes, we can do that!” When my pizza arrived, it had raw mushrooms on the top. The server was so proud. She said, “Good. They put the mushrooms on fresh at the end for you!” I didn’t have the heart to tell her what I really meant. 😉 Now I ask if the mushrooms on hand are fresh or canned.


So, when we were visiting friends in Charlotte, North Carolina, last weekend, and they mentioned that their favorite pizza place was called Mellow Mushroom, Rob and I were on board! Yes, this place is a chain, but mostly in The South and nowhere near where we live. Anyone want to sponsor us so we can open up a franchise hear in the Midwest? 😉

Mellow mushroom

Mellow Mushroom has a sort of psychedelic feel, even though they don’t serve that kind of mushroom!

The first thing that was of note to us was their extensive beer list:


I first tried the Triple C Brewing Cajun Stout. I liked the little kick of cayenne in the finish. It was unique, but not overpowering. There were a lot of new-to-us beers to try that night! In fact, I learned something new. Check out the note on the side:


We soon learned about all of these craft breweries in North Carolina! Stay tuned next week….

There were also unique-to-us southern cocktails on the menu:


Cocktails with Moonshine? If I wasn’t too busy trying beers, I would have tried the Reggae Moon or the Bloody Moon!

The four of us started with an appetizer:


Muffaletta Cheese Bread – French bread topped with freshly made three-olive tapenade, melted mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and baked.

We decided we would also try share two medium pizzas. To decide, Tay and Brendan told us that their latest favorite was the Holy Shitake Pie. After we read the description, it was a no-brainer that that one would be our favorite too!


Holy Shitake Pie – Olive oil and garlic base with Shiitake, button and Portobello mushrooms, carmelized onions, mozzarella and Montamore cheeses and drizzled with garlic aioli and black truffle oil, garnished with fresh chives and shaved Parmesan. Duh!

Brendan also suggested that to even things out that we order our second pizza with protein. Good idea. We decided on:


The Mighty Meaty – Red sauce based with mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, ground beef, ham and Applewood smoked bacon.

Oh. Dear. God. Were these pizzas delightful. Tay had mentioned that the crust was out-of-this-world. However, when she said that it was a whole wheat, I knew Rob would be skeptical. In fact, if I’m using whole wheat pasta, I don’t tend to tell Rob, because he’ll have the preconceived idea that he won’t like it. So I was ecstatic when he agreed with me that this is probably one of the best pizza crusts that either of us had ever had! We can’t stop thinking about that Holy Shiitake Pie.

We thought back to what our favorite pizza place would be in the Twin Cities and nothing in particular crossed our minds! Isn’t that sad?

We want more! (I keep thinking of that AT&T commercial where that little girl wants MORE!) All I can say… is that Tay and Brendan have great tastes and really know where to take out-of-town guests!

What is your favorite local pizza joint?

Name something you eat now that you didn’t like as a kid.


BBQ – A Confession


I have a confession to make….

I don’t like barbecue sauce.

I know. Gasp. I live in America. For many Americans, it’s the essence of summer. {Although I’m not feeling very summerish around these parts with snow in May.} And since I write a blog titled Season It Already!, you’d think I’d have the best sauce to recommend!

I could blame it on the fact that I didn’t grow up with it. Our cookouts included hamburgers, hotdogs, potato chips and potato or noodle salad. If we were really lucky, we’d have a yummy steak on the grill.

But that probably isn’t why I don’t like barbecue sauce. I mean, my brother, who grew up in the same household as I did, loves it. And there are plenty of things that I didn’t really grow up eating that I adore now: asparagus, spinach, shrimp, scallops and black beans, just to name a few.

I’d  rather have a burger or fried chicken any day over barbecued chicken, barbecue pulled pork or baby back ribs slathered in the sauce. I don’t detest the stuff completely. I just choose not to order or eat it. I guess it’s kind of like me and ketchup. And that I loved as a kid, but I rarely use it now.

So when pondering why I don’t like the stuff I came up with the following:

  • It’s often too sweet.
  • If not, it’s too tangy. {Likewise, I prefer my cucumbers plain rather than marinated in that vinegary concoction people seem to love.}
  • I don’t like the smokiness. {I don’t like smoky flavors in general. Okay, now I’m really wondering if the title of my blog is appropriate.}

All of that being said…

I found one that I really enjoyed last weekend!

We were lucky to be visiting some friends in Charlotte, North Carolina. Immediately after picking us up from the airport Thursday evening, they took us to one their favorite barbecue joints: Mac’s Speed Shop – Beer, Bikes and BBQ.

First, Rob fell in love with the beer list.


Mac’s Speed Shop Draft Beer List – April 2013

While he sipped some beers that he’s never/rarely been able to enjoy on tap {i.e Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Stout!}, I stuck to trying the local ones. {Little did I know that we’d be checking out some of these breweries throughout the weekend! More on that to come.}

While the rest of the crew ordered Pulled Pork BBQ, I chose the Beer Can Chicken:


Beer Can Chicken (1/4) with collard greens, mac & cheese and Texas toast

This chicken was moist and juicy. I loved it! The sauce on the side was the VTX Chipotle. I chose it because it was said to be spicy, but it was still too smoky for me. The collard greens and mac and cheese here were just an afterthought compared to that perfect chicken.

Little did I know, the Pulled Pork BBQ didn’t actually come with any barbecue sauce on it. Apparently, in Carolina, they like to cook their meats low and slow to infuse a smokiness into the meat and the sauce is added later. If only this photo would have turned out a little clearer. I was more focused on visiting and catching up with our friends than taking stellar photos.

Pulled pork

Pulled Pork BBQ with onion rings, mac & cheese and Texas toast

The pulled pork was excellent. It reminded me of a great one that we get at Costco, but better, of course, because it was just cooked. This is a bit of smokiness that I don’t mind! {Are you confused yet?}

And that photo doesn’t depict the batter/breading on those onion rings well enough. My husband knows that I’m not a fan of onion rings. He always wants me to try his and I decline. They just aren’t worth it to me. I love onions, but I want to taste onion, not just batter with something slimy in the middle.

But I grabbed one of these onion rings off of his plate.

Why? Because you could see the spices in the batter! It looked really good – like the coating on good fried chicken {which he has never had, so he doesn’t know what he is missing!} And that is exactly what these tasted like! These are onion rings I would not only eat, but I would order.

Then there was an accompaniment of sauces on the table that you could pour onto your meat. I tried a couple, and found one that I liked so much that I dumped more and more on my plate for which to dip my chicken!


This Carolina BBQ Sauce has won me over!

I texted that photo to my friend Jen, and knowing full well my disdain for the sauce, her response was, “There’s hope for you yet!”

What makes it Carolina BBQ sauce and why I liked it, I have no idea. Okay, so I have some idea. When I google “Carolina BBQ sauce”, it appears that the Carolina stuff is mustard and vinegar based as opposed to many ketchup and molasses based sauces.

However, one of the other sauces we tried at Mac’s was the SC Mustard Sauce, which was very different and much more mustardy. So now I’m a little confuzzled. I think what I liked about this sauce was not only that it was balanced {not too sweet, not too tangy}, but also that it had a little kick at the end! {Or maybe it was just all ambiance and the fact that I was in Carolina!}

I was so turned around by that sauce that while we were out shopping one day around Charlotte, our friend Brendan pointed out this sauce and said that if we are going to take one back with us, we needed to get this one:

I bought a bottle of bbq sauce!

And so I did. Jaw dropping yet? This one looks like it will be different than the one I loved because it is sorghum-based, so I think it’ll be sweeter. Still, this Carolina trip opened my mind. I’m willing to try. When we cook with it, I’ll post the results! Aren’t you proud of me?!

Thanks, Tay and Brendan for a wonderful introduction to Charlotte!

What is your favorite BBQ Sauce?

The sharing of brands, styles and recipes is encouraged!