Category Archives: Restaurants

Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf

The pinot grape is the focus of the Willamette Valley of Oregon, and thus the feature of the Willamette Valley Vineyards recent wine dinner hosted by Greg Norman’s Australian Grille in North Myrtle Beach, SC. The Pinot Noir is a black skinned fruit, typically associated with the Burgundy region of France, and grown in the cool climates of California’s Sonoma Valley and Oregon which is at the same latitude and with similar climate as Burgundy. The Pinot Gris, a white wine made from the gray-skinned fruit, is sometimes referred to as the child of Pinot Noir. It’s the same as the popular Pinot Grigio if Italian. The Willamette Valley Vineyard produces 60 wines, all from the valley’s locally grown fruit, and all are Oregon certified sustainable wines. Jim Bernau, a sixth generation Oregonian, began with the winery in 1983 and in 2011 was awarded the first-ever recognition as Hero of Salmon for the implementation of the high-impact Salmon Safe Sip Save campaign. The vineyard has been a pioneer in moving the Oregon vineyard industry toward greater ecological sustainability in helping to restore the salmon watersheds so that native salmon can spawn and thrive. The first lesson delivered by Mandi Silver, the vineyard’s eastern regional sales manager, was the pronunciation which is Will-am’ette with the emphasis on the am syllable to rhyme with damit. The dinner opened with Chef Jeff Edwards' samplings of fried artichoke hearts with a spicy dip, pulled duck on flat bread and crab in buttery crust.   The appetizer course was perfectly paired with the chilled Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling 2009 which is a semi-sweet medium bodied German-style wine. Guests were seated for the second course of Crepe of Forest Mushrooms a La Normande which was paired with chilled Pinot Gris 2009. The third course was Salmon with Marionberry Glaze served with Willamette Valley Vineyards Cluster Pinot Noir 2010. This versatile light fruity wine was described as “liquid fruit salad in a glass.” The marionberry, a hybrid blackberry grown only in Oregon and named for Marion County in the Willamette Valley, was hand delivered directly from its source as another distinctive highlight of this dinner. Venison Meatloaf with Winter Squash Puree and Celery Root Au Jus was paired with the Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008. This rich and refined wine scored 90 points in the Wine and Spirits February 2011 issue, and the winery was named the magazine’s 2011 Winery of the Year as well as the Wine Press Northwest Oregon Winery of the Year. The Estate Pinot Noir 2008 was the elegant pairing with the Herbed Elk Medallion with Strawberry Fig. This lively spicy wine was selected from the few remaining cases of a small production. Finally, dessert of Curried Mango, Pineapple Upside Down Cake with served with Willamette Valley Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2007, an explosively sweet and intense chilled wine from the limited production of only 58 cases. Six courses including such features as duck, crab, salmon, venison and elk, each with unique presentation, added up to more than your mother’s meatloaf dinner. Greg Norman’s Australian Grille is frequently recognized among the best fine dining establishments in the Myrtle Beach area and received the Wine Spectator magazine Award of Excellence in 2011. The restaurant is celebrating its twelfth anniversary with a continuing series of monthly wine dinners and additional tasting events. Whether a connoisseur of fine wines or a novice sipper, meat and potato lovers and persnickety diners alike can easily select a favorite wine or an exotic entrée created by the award-winning culinary staff.

French Connection Dinner

The FRENCH CONNECTION DINNER ~ Celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau is a special event at The James Beard House in New York November 18. Chef Jean-Stephane Poinard is the honored chef preparing a 7-course dinner for eighty guests. The best of Georges DuBoeuf 2011 Wines will be paired with his modern French cuisine. Think of some courses including beef tail, frog legs or duck for a truly rustic meal. Friends of Chef Poinard can purchase dinner tickets at the James Beard Foundation member price of $130 per person. The general public price is $170. Chef Poinard owns Bistro de Leon in St. Augustine, Florida. He is one of the top 100 chefs of France, and this Florida restaurant resembles his five restaurants in Lyon with casual ambiance and local produce and seafood selected daily for an ever-changing menu. His wife Valerie contributes her family’s winery savoir-faire to the dining experience. If you can't make it to New York, maybe we'll see you in St. Augustine. Choose weekend breakfast, lunch some days or dinner any day for all-French and all excellent. Check out the three-course meals in the French tradition and enjoy the important breads. Reserve for Thanksgiving, where it's turkey or ham or vegetarian. Don’t even think it’s stuffy or expensive there – not at all!

Wining & Dining in Church

Not really, but the Parson's Table does take its name from its original use as Little River Methodist Church. Ed Murray Jr. thrives on the stress of creating delicious plates of food for hungry diners six nights a week. The executive chef and owner of Parson’s Table in Little River, SC has been cooking for 35 years and still loves the kitchen. He maintains an optimistic outlook about the economy and the accompanying challenges. He thinks of the Little River area as a “dining destination” with the fine dining presented by the Brentwood, Chianti South and his Parson’s Table. The trio attracts a loyal following of golfers and locals, and more visitors are discovering these great finds. Murray’s philosophy is promoting “break the chain” by eating local. Murray has always emphasized fresh local seafood and produce, even before the concept was such a trending phenomenon. His fish selections echo the catch brought in to the dock just minutes away. This week it’s sea bass which is prolific, as well as some trigger fish, all of which are line-caught with respect to protecting the sea turtles and any endangered species. During his 18 years at this restaurant which he bought from his parents, changes have included more attention to dietary needs, more glazes rather than heavy sauces, half portions/small plates and an expanded appetizer selection. But there's still a big batch of cornbread stirred up daily! He calls the menu eclectic, as it ranges from curry dishes to traditional veal marsala or wiener schnitzel, along with the emphasis on regional and coastal dishes. One of the long-time favorites, which will probably always remain on the menu, we hope, is the Little River Shrimp and Scallops. Steaks, lamb and prime rib are also special. Murray also has expanded the wine list and has a sommelier on staff and years of recognition by Wine Enthusiast magazine and Wine Spectator. Murray has been named among 80 of the Best Chefs in America, a group distinguished by such notables as Wolfgang Puck, and the restaurant has received the Mobile Travel Guide award and the Diners’ Choice Award from Open Table. From Chicago, by way of Boston, Albuquerque, Las Vegas and Daufuskie Island, Murray relishes his first and only job of cooking and enjoying the heat of summer in the kitchen. The other heat he loves is that of a marathon run which is one of his other passions. Antique cypress doors, beautiful stained and beveled glass and the main chandelier were collected from a variety of sources by the original owner. The small rooms offer privacy for groups as well as additional displays of the furnishings. Take a little tour here:
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Spanish Wine, French Chef, Southern Hospitality

Bonjour!

It’s no secret among area food lovers that Brentwood Restaurant & Wine Bistro in Little River is the place to be. This is a lovely upscale restaurant, voted the Best French Restaurant on the Grand Strand last year and in the running in the current competition. The restaurant is in a restored circa 1910 home visible from U. S. 17, just minutes north of Myrtle Beach, although sitting back from the highway and facing a side street. The mood for fine dining is enhanced by the architecture and the seating in several small rooms, as if it’s still a private home hosting a few guests for dinner.

Kimberlee and Chef Eric Masson

The French chef/owner Eric Masson has classical training, three degrees from a noted French culinary school and extensive experience which is reflected in the delicious and creative entrees. His wife Kimberlee is popular for hosting the Wine Club which meets monthly for themed tasting events. The couple is increasingly recognized for their culinary contributions to the Grand Strand scene. Chef recently hosted a private dinner for celebrities Aaron McCargo Jr. (left) of Food Network TV's "Big Daddy's House" and Guy Fieri, (right) also of current Food Network fame.  Seven courses, a lot of wine, a few beers and about five hours later, the guests raved about the hidden gem of a restaurant. Daily choices are a light menu at the upstairs wine bar, a four-course prix fixe or a diverse les viandes (meats) and les poissons and fruits de mer (seafood) menu. The chef grows his own herbs and chooses fresh seafood brought from local waters. The discriminating seafood lover will be happy in this one local place which does not serve a single fried seafood platter. A recent wine club meeting showcased a five-course menu with tastings of 20 Spanish wines which members brought.  The Chef’s Amuse Bouche was Indigo Farm Organic Fig with Fresh Goat cheese and Applewood Smoked Bacon. The chef actually goes to the nearby farm and picks his own figs too. The next course was the Paella de la Casa with local shrimp, imported Chorizo, grilled chicken, sautéed peppers and steamed mussels in a Spanish saffron rice. You can't eat this without saying Yummmmmm! The next plate arrived, and most diners abandoned knife and fork for the finger-licking good lamp chops, Chuletillas de Cordero con Mermelada de Pimientos de Piquillo. That was followed by Tapas of Spanish cheese. One of the chef’s specialties was presented for dessert: Cinnamon Scented Crème Brulee. I've sampled his various flavors of creme brulee on other occasions and loved every one of them. The wine club dinner meetings are limited to an intimate gathering of 20 with reservations required, and the conversation flows as freely as the wines. Masson’s previous successes as executive chef include Marché at 74 State Boutique Hotel, Albany, New York; owner of Saratoga Lake Inn & Bistro, Saratoga Springs, New York which was voted Best French Restaurant by the Metroland in the first year of business.  He also was the Iron Chef Competition Winner in 2004 for the local competition sponsored by the March of Dimes.  He was executive chef/operations manager/owner, Ferrandi’s Restaurant, Amsterdam, New York which was voted Best French Restaurant by Metroland three years in a row.  He was awarded the 40 under forty by the Capital Region Business Review in 2000. His French experience was as executive chef, Chez Mary de Rosay,Megeve, France;  executive chef/partner, Restaurant Le Quincampe, Paris and executive chef, 5 Infanterie Regiment, Paris. A little bit French and totally lowcountry in warm hospitality, this is a dining experience to repeat often. For information about the wine club, cooking classes or special events: TheBrentwoodRestaurant.

Pancetta, Polenta and Panini in the Lowcountry

Panini's has been our favorite Beaufort, SC restaurant for years. There's no better view of the sunset over Waterfront Park and no comparable pizza for sure. Always trying to top their own success, they're serving new specialties this weekend for the Beaufort Shrimp Festival. The People's Choice winner for so many years  we all lost count, and we'll see some serious competition again. The historic bank is a lovely building, easy to find downtown on the corner of Bay Street and within walking distance from any of the bed and breakfasts and a couple of  hotels. Or walk up from the park to the back  for casual outdoor dining during almost any season . The pizza and pasta have been my favorites, although the big salad and crusty focaccia have kept me happy for about a hundred lunches. Of course the panini needs no explanation -- plenty of varieties on the menu. Hoagies are on the new fall menu, and I'll be tasting the blackened flounder hoagie with caper remoulade sauce on my next lunch visit. The new menu features even more local seafoods with Nick's special touches. His heritage is Italian, and his thinking is Italian albeit with South Carolina lowcountry accents. My small plate order of peel and eat local shrimp, lager steamed with old bay, was a big meal for me. Nothing small about it. Plan on plenty of napkins and cold beverage too! It's spicy and just right. As an experienced critic of all things shrimp, I can promise the shrimp bisque on the starter menu is some of the best ever. The Italian taste is pepperoni. What a great combination! Any of the seafood tapas are tasty too, with more variety and unique presentation that you will find anywhere in town. Our friends who eat calamari everywhere they go will be right at home with the almond crusted dish and spicy aioli plus fra diavolo sauce. For dinner, everyone loves the Mediterranean Shrimp and Grits. It's simply made with pancetta polenta which is an improvement over many traditional recipes. One of my personal favorites is the new Flounder Francaise with lemon butter and almonds, plus pancetta polenta.  If you crave paella, this is the right place -- the only place to fall in love! Know about my favorite dessert? Well, two or three actually, and they're here! Creme brule, tiramisu or chocolate panini, just for me. Yummmmmm Guess we'll be here a lot to sample more new dishes, but never too far from a mac and cheese (5 imported cheeses) or a Mediterranean pizza fresh from this brick oven. Hope we'll see you too!

Dinner with Art in Olde Englewood

We made a return trip to Dearborn Street in Olde Englewood for dinner to fill our bellies at the tropical-themed Mango Bistro. Mango Bistro is owned by an energetic and friendly couple, Marie Laforge and Ricardo Roggero who hale from France and Brazil respectively. Their hospitality was marvelous, and we enjoyed wine and conversation with Ricardo while Marie personally crafted our delectable fare.
I thoroughly enjoyed my Black & Bleu Crepe which featured tender beef, bleu cheese, yummy horseradish sauce, crispy bacon & tomato (I had them hold the onion). I will absolutely order that again! It was such a rich, while not overpowering, and creamy deliciously unique flavor, unlike anything I have ever tasted! A fresh side salad with house dressing also accompanied my crepe. I was hesitant, I admit, not being the most adventurous eater, by far, and having only ever had dessert crepes, I didn’t know if I was going to like it. What a pleasant surprise! All too often I regret ordering out of my comfort zone, but was so delighted with my choice that I will certainly entertain the idea of being slightly more adventurous on future menus! My friends agreed that the food was excellent and all enjoyed their choices as well. For dessert we treated ourselves to something small since we were all full from cleaning our plates, but we couldn't resist when the waitress stopped by with a tray full of already prepared “Mini-Delights” in flavors including Tiramisu (which I jumped right on), chocolate mousse, Almond Joy, and others. The tasty little temptations are a brilliant idea! She comes over with the cute and harmless looking little glasses, hardly bigger than a shot glass, and they are so pretty with layers of chocolate yumminess--how can you say no? They are so small and cute! We were entertained the entire time by the live music and dancing on the covered front porch. Ricardo was full of interesting stories including the birth of Mango Bistro from Marie’s dream and love of crepes and French cooking combined with his small computer business and how they persevered following a flooded shop, remodeling troubles and battles over business permits. His Ph.D. in biology from the University of Kansas seems hardly relevant to this unique business. Marie's lovely art exhibit is almost as enticing as the food. She designs on canvas, converts to digital and has them produced in China to create silk sarongs. The food, the music, the making of new friends….This dinner was the perfect end to a day spent exploring the Olde Englewood shops and beautiful area beaches. We look forward to stopping in Englewood again and visiting with Marie and Ricardo over another bottle of wine.

Eggs and More at WaterScapes

WaterScapes at the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes reflects Executive Chef James Clark’s emphasis on sustainable foods. He’s particularly proud of the eggs. An omelet, scrambled or fried egg at WaterScapes is made with a hormone free and truly free ranged egg. The weekly delivery of 30 dozen from Travis Hughey’s farm brings a rich flavor to breakfast dishes as well as desserts. The Hughey’s Red Star chickens are a breed famed for big brown eggs. One breakfast entrée specialty is the Shrimp & Crab Omelet which combines sweet bay shrimp, jumbo lump crab, scallions and roasted red pepper coulis. Another tasty treat is the Bananas Foster French Toast with butter- and brown sugar-caramelized bananas glazed with dark rum. The chef’s favorite on the breakfast menu is Biscuits with Andouille Sausage Gravy. Andouille is a bold flavored sausage which lends an interesting twist to sausage gravy. WaterScapes serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with indoor or terrace seating facing the poolscape and marina.

Marina Inn

Marina Inn was recommended as a luxury choice in our book Myrtle Beach: A Guide to South Carolina's Grand Strand published by Channel Lake in the 2010 Tourist Town series. The restaurant was not covered, but it's a fine choice with the breakfast of special note plus lunch and dinner entrees also being fresh sustainable choices such as the Seared Grass Fed Beef Tenderloin or the Wood Grilled Pork which is accompanied by Carolina Barbecue Sauce. The fresh fish board changes daily with such features as mahi mahi or a Whole Crispy Black Bass.  The wine list is equally impressive. Be sure to save room for the dessert specialties created by Pastry Chef Tina Spaltro. She's Italian American, and her passion for food combining Italian and American flavors is reflected in her work.  My favorite just might be the Trio of Creme Brulee. Dining is possibly surpassed by the view of the marina on the Intracoastal Waterway. What do you think?

Introducing the Cosmic Dog

We had driven past this place about 500 times.  However, without the misfortune of several dozen careless people driving north and south on US 17 we would have probably passed it one more time. As we headed north out of Charleston and into Mt. Pleasant toward Myrtle Beach the traffic began to look as if it were 5:15 pm on a Friday. People getting off work and trying with all their driving skills to weave in and out of traffic and get through those amber lights before they turn red is a horrible problem on this stretch of 17. (Charleston may be the most polite city, as judged by some questionable authority, but they have some the worst drivers south of the Mason Dixon Line.) But this was not a Friday afternoon. This was a normal Wednesday afternoon around 1:20. What was going on? Cars were switching lanes as the left lane started to move slightly slower than the right. Then the right lane came to a complete stop, and the same drivers decided to switch back to the “fast lane.” As we approached, the pink-trimmed yellow building seemed like a Welcome Center for people who were traveling at a snail’s pace. So an executive decision was made, and I pulled into Jack’s Cosmic Dogs. After all my wife and I had not had lunch yet and this seemed to be written in the cosmos. The front parking lot was nearly empty so I saw no need to heed the sign on the building that alleged “more parking in rear.”  Upon our entrance I first looked for a table. Then I noticed a sign above the counter that told customers to “order here.”  So I started a line at the cash register.  As soon as the line was formed I was asked by a young female attendant with a pad and pencil what I wanted.  It was then that I noticed the menu above me. I was taken aback a little because I had never really heard of an Astro Dog , a Blue Galactic  or an Atomic Dog. Luckily there were explanations beside each item. I felt that I was on the clock to place my order since the young girl never left my side and the pencil never left the writing position.  My eye quickly scanned down to the Orbit City Dog. This was my kind of dog: chili, cheese and spicy mustard! The only thing it lacked I thought was slaw, but what the hell -- I had been on a time limit, it seemed. My wife had the advantage of my ordering first to have time to find the dog that she loves, although she had never called it a Krypto Kraut dog.  We added a bag of chips and unsweetened iced tea to our order, gave them our name, paid and found a seat. It was not hard because the place had only about 10 customers who occupied five or six of the 15 or so tables and counter stools.

Here's Jack mingling and keeping things in order.

After taking our seats we began to check out the place more carefully. There on the wall were articles from various magazines that had written about Jack’s.  Among the most notable was an article that had been in Southern Living. I didn’t catch the date, but we all know that if it was in SL it has to be right, right? We continued reading the menu. If dogs are not your thing, you can always order a tofu dog with any of those same trimmings, or a fried carrot or Mercury Meat Loaf. So Jack’s is just not for dog lovers.  It was then that we noticed that we had arrived at Jack’s at the right time. The line that I had started no more than five minutes ago had grown to six other parties of various sizes. Someone yelled out “Mitch” and I stepped up to pick up our order. Neither of us was disappointed. In fact, we were downright impressed. Maybe the best dog I have had since high school, when I really was a dog lover! Our time had been well spent in Jack’s Cosmic Dogs. We got a great meal, and the traffic was now back to its normal Talladega Speedway pace.  Slightly half a mile up US 17 we saw the reason for our full stomachs and new experience. A van with a crunched front end had tried to climb up a telephone pole and only made it about ten feet up. Two other cars must have been looking at the van’s attempt to get to the top because they each had bashed-in doors, trunks and hoods.  We kept our eyes on the road and continued north -- better for our experience at Jack’s. Now we’re planning when we might be passing that way again.