Friday, June 10, 2011

Who wins Taste of Charlotte?


I do! I win the endurance contest, anyway. Observer features editor Mike Weinstein and I took on the challenge this afternoon, joining several sets of judges in 90-plus heat. What a coincidence: We had to go from booth to booth and judge roughly 93 offerings.

The actual winners were announced last night. See results below.

In the meantime, a few observations about the Taste of Charlotte event if you're going:

1. It's gotten better. In the first few years, the lineup was more generic festival food. But in the last couple of years, it's really increased the number of local and non-chain restaurants. For those who remember the original Taste of Charlotte back when it was in 4th Ward Park, this is a good trend. This year's roundup included Harvest Moon Grille, Caffe Siena, Divine Pies (hi, Agnes!), Mert's, Dixie's Tavern, RiRa and Outlaw BBQ. Also, there was a good representation of international restaurants, including Woodlands, Namaste and Brazas.

2. Good turnout. I thought expected it to be deserted during the judging hours of 1 to 3 p.m. on a Friday. But even in the heat, it was pulling in a good crowd. And people seemed to be relaxed and having a good time.

3. Pulled pork. And more pulled pork. Even restaurants that aren't known for it were serving it. Understandable: It's a crowd-pleaser, and it's easy to do from a booth with steam tables. But by the 4th -- or was it the 5th? -- we were no longer squealing with delight.

4. Don't miss: Caffe Siena's Sea Bass Cake with Chipotle Slaw, Outlaw's brisket slider, Brazas' bacon-wrapped chicken, Polka Dot Bakery's Tuxedo cupcake, Flying Biscuit's BLT wrap, Mai Thai's Ginger Chicken Wing and Ri Ra's Guiness wings.

The official winners:
Best overall: Harvest Moon Grille, for Moonitas.
Best entree: Caffe Siena, Sea Bass Cake
Appetitzer, Modern Mexican, jalapeno shrimp
Dessert: Polka Dot Bakery, Tuxedo Cupcake
Most unique: Mert's Heart and Soul, Soul Roll
Display: Newk's Express.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Flying Biscuit's chocolate chip pancakes are the best! Come on down people, there were no thugs there at lunchtime today. Probably because they have to pay to get something and there are no freebies, so they most likely won't show at all.

Anonymous said...

Agreed on the chocolate chip pancake. It was incredible. Bravo's pasta diavlo was great too, and you get a really large serving for the number of coins it costs.

Anonymous said...

THis is funny. Reporting on thugs like its the weather or insects or something. lol.

As I look out of my office building in the heart of uptown, the coast is clear folks. No trouble makers in sight. Please come on down. Rift raft not going to pay money to eat down here. Believe that.

Anonymous said...

With a name like "A taste of Charlotte", you'd think there would be more local restaurants and less chains.

What a disappointment.

J said...

It might be better than previous years, but the organizers have to do more about involving more small local places and less chains. I went up and down ToCharlotte about 4 times and was underwhelmed (oh look, Buffalo Wild Wings. Oh look, Coldstone Creamery, Oh look, Fuel Pizza).

The best things I had were the "Soul Roll" and the Ribs Sampler. The pulled pork was mediocre from everyone, even from Harvest Moon, which I ordinarily like. As far as desserts, the banana pudding from the soul food booth and the tiramisu from the italian booth were the two winners. Not surprisingly, the best food came from places I didn't know.

But since there were so many chains (on which I refused to spend tokens) and home improvement booths, I actually left with some tokens left over.

J said...

Also, for those making the racist thugs comments, yes, there were lots and lots of thugs! So please stay away and never come into the Charlotte uptown. That just means less racist rednecks around so that regular decent people can enjoy themselves.

Anonymous said...

Hey "J", the racist rednecks didn't start the fun at Speed Street last weekend; the "regular decent people" at the Transit Center did. This redneck will stay home so enjoy, enjoy.

ncvol

Anonymous said...

IF the coast is clear of thugs, I'll be there tomorrow! Heard one booth was giving away free spatulas, so probably should stay clear of that one... I was uncomfortable at speed street a couple of Saturdays ago and luckily had left by the time the fireworks started.

Anonymous said...

You want to keep the thugs away from the uptown street festivals? Just have a free giveaway across town at the same time, and that will distract the troublemakers.....

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous @ 3:08AM: I agree that talk is cheap, however it is unwise to attempt to shove anything up anywhere, when your opponent is armed....and resolute. Apparently, that's what happened last week @ Speed Street, and people ended up leaking. Some advice: don't doubt the rednecks, and don't give them an excuse.

ncvol

Anonymous said...

"J" has much to teach us about illegal immigration as well. We should all listen to him...*burp*...

Anonymous said...

$10 for 7 tokens. No refund for left over tokens. Unless you want to eat 3 and a half hotdogs, you will pay $10 for a hot dog. or $10 for 3. Not worth it. I just ate in the local places.

george said...

When I look at this I am consumed with what if concern. Have these vendors been inspected and certified by the state or city? If I got sick on bean sprouts and decided to go to court, would the city have a bond to cover that, all u wide eyed dreamers?

J said...

@Anonymous 9:00 A.M.

Glad to see you're a fan! Did you enjoy the event or were you too afraid of boogeymen created in your own mind to leave your house?

Kathleen Purvis said...

George, I've put up a blog post to answer your questions about inspections. Thanks for asking such a good question.

Anonymous said...

There weren't THAT many chains. It was a good mix of local places and chains. Next year I would love to see a lot more local places. I enjoyed many of the items, Harvest Moon Pulled Pork and Moonitas, the Tuxedo cupcake. I went all 3 days and tried a lot out. I definitely plan to visit Harvest Moon, Mert's, and a few other places as well.

H Miracle said...

I just loved this year's event. Lots and lots of some very good and creative cooking there.. delicious i must say!