Culinary Corner: Sept. 21

It is very rare that I receive a thank-you from an owner or manager of a restaurant that I have critically reviewed. I was extremely pleased to receive this email just after the review hit the stands.
“I just wanted thank you for your review of our Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar at Phillips Place in the South Charlotte Weekly. We appreciate first of all your interest in our brand but most importantly the insights you provided to help us become a long term south Charlotte favorite. I sincerely apologize for the poor experiences you had during your visits and assure you that we are focused on refining every aspect of our business and becoming a part of the Charlotte community. We are very proud of the local staff that we have been able to hire and are committed to their success as well. Please feel free to reach out to me directly if I can ever be of assistance and thank you again. Best regards, Joe.” Joseph C. Essa, President, Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc.
Not only did Joe send me this email; I also learned that just last week Joe Essa and Wolfgang Puck himself spent an evening in the restaurant. Joe tasted the menu selections while Wolfgang worked the kitchen, making a few pizzas; and talked with all the guests in the packed eatery. I have great confidence that with the attitude, passion and follow-up this place is receiving, we will continue to enjoy a Wolfgang Puck establishment in south Charlotte.

Put up your duke! – Your left one. In Australia, that would be your Molly. For a wonderful family of exquisite wines, you may use either hand to hold a glass of Molly Dooker.  Sarah and Sparky Marquis, both left-handed, have become Australian wine making luminaries since introducing us to Molly Dooker wines in 2006.
Twenty years in the making, these wines have made a huge splash among aficionados and critics alike. The grapes are grown on the southern coast of Australia, historically known to produce grapes that lend themselves to top-tasting vino.
Fruit weight may be a new term for you. Sparky and Sarah have created a way to measure the quality of their wines. A very objective way to measure the quality of wine, fruit weight refers to how far back on the tongue, and the palate, the smoothness and sensation of the wine reaches, once it’s past your lips.
You can try this at home or the restaurant with any red wine. Take a sip and be very conscious of how far back on your tongue you experience the silky sensation before you notice the overall structure of the intricacies of the wine.
Most importantly, several of the selections go for $25 or less and are available at many of the wine shops in south Charlotte. The Scooter is a merlot; The Maître D’ is a cabernet sauvignon; and The Boxer, a shiraz. My favorite, Two Left Feet, is a blend of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Learn more at
Hungry Howie’s – Hungry Howie’s Pizza has opened its seventh Charlotte area location in the Camfield Corners Shopping Center off Elm Lane in Ballantyne. Eric Fairbanks, owner and operator of eight of the 545-plus locations around the country, is a success story in his own right.
Immediately after graduating from college, he moved to Charlotte and purchased his first Hungry Howie’s franchise from an owner who opened it as an investment and wanted out. Eric’s eighth store is in Boone for all those hungry Appalachian State students. Hungry Howie’s is the Original Flavored Crust Pizza with eight crust flavor choices; Sesame, Butter Cheese, Ranch, Butter, Cajun, Garlic Herb, Onion and Original. You can even mix and match for a unique flavor. There are plenty of other menu items like wings, oven-baked subs and salads. The menu and hours are at

Sake to me! – Yama Asian Fusion is offering exotic sakes, while they last. These six tastes of ambrosia are created in extremely limited quantities. If you’re a sake aficionado or want to become one, high-tail it over to Yama and ask for one of these five. #1: Born-Wing of Japan: Boasting a magnificent aroma; this sake was served at the State Dinner when former President Bill Clinton visited Japan in 1996. #2: Kokuryu 88; a limited production offering; typical nose of fermented rice, this is smooth and a little sweet on the palate when slightly chilled. #3: Born- Dreams Come True; fermented for five years in a very controlled temperature, many Japanese celebrities choose this sake to celebrate their achievements and it won first prize for aged sake in Japan’s National Liqueur Competition in 2003. #4: Daishichi-Myouka Rangyoku (just point to it); gorgeous and complex, this sake reaches perfection through a longer, more powerful process of maturation. #5: Juyondai” 14th generation; this sake is considered one of the best ever made and from a legendary brewery. #6: Born Hyozan – Iceberg; a pure, smooth and clean junmai daiginjo (a labor intensive brewing process), this Iceberg got the first prize at the international sake festival in Toronto.
Tasting and teaching- The Gallery Restaurant, as part of the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge, now has the great distinction of hosting a sitting U.S. president and family.  October Tastings at Gallery Restaurant & Bar offer a delicious way to taste, along with complementing appetizers. All tastings are $20 per person and begin at 6 p.m. On Oct. 12, the offering is Oktoberfest Beer and on Oct. 26 it’s Autumn Reds. You can attend Celebrate California’s Wine Crush Season on Oct. 20, 6 to 8 p.m., to celebrate the annual California Crush with Paso Robles. Gallery will feature Paso Robles wines paired with small bites, as well as educational elements.
The cost is $40 per person and space is limited. The Scotch Society of Ballantyne meets Oct. 27, 6 to 8 p.m., to explore the flavors of the boldest scotches from Gallery Restaurant & Bar’s collection.
The cost is $35 per person. This tasting is limited to 20 guests.
The great dishes at Gallery enjoyed by the first family are created by the same chefs who teach you at the Cooking School. Oct. 27, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the Cooking School focuses on barbecue and will feature how to prepare beef from local farm Baucom’s Best (excellent beef!) under the direction of Chef de Cuisine J. Kelly Morrow and Executive Sous Chef David Moore.
This is an engaging, educational and interactive class for epicureans of all levels. The cost for the session is $85 per person (plus 20 percent service charge).
All of the tasting and culinary events at the Gallery Restaurant & Bar require reservations and fill up fast.
Make advance reservations by calling 704-248-4100.  Get on the mailing list at
Monday Night Football – Wolfgang Puck’s Pizza Bar offers NFL Football every Monday night. Guests will have perfect views from private booths or at the full 20-seat bar with four high-definition screens. To make every matchup memorable, the restaurant is offering newly created calzones (available only on Mondays during the games for $10 each), nearly two dozen signature pizzas (starting at $10) and a variety of bar specials on an extensive beer, cocktail and wine list that highlights regional wineries and local area craft beers. They recently began serving lunch. For reservations, go to

Restaurant Scores? The weekly listing of local restaurant scores has disappeared from South Charlotte Weekly for the time. The Mecklenburg County Health Department has not updated its website of restaurant scores with any local restaurants since new health rating rules went into place. Scores will return to South Charlotte Weekly as soon as the county’s website is updated.

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