Saturday, September 22, 2012

Food Tour of NoDa...thank goodness we were walking

Spent the weekend in Charlotte with two friends from college...of course we all still look like we did when we graduated over 20 years ago!
Julie was our hostess and picked the perfect way to spend a gorgeous first day of Fall! Tour De Food offers a variety of walking tours throughout Charlotte's neighborhoods and we headed to NoDa (north of Davidson) to check out seven of its hot spots.  NoDa is the artsy district of Charlotte...very funky and eclectic.  Though it is less than 10 minutes from downtown, it feels miles away.
We knew our guide, Scottie, was going to be good when he met us with a box of pastries from Amélie's...a French bakery.  Since the bakery was a little out of the way in NoDa, he picked them up before the tour.  Will definitely visit Amélie's on my next trip to Charlotte!

The first official stop on the tour was The Bodega.  Over the years, this spot has been a variety of establishments...just prior to its current reinvention it was the eye-sore of the neighborhood.  The current owners, one CIA trained chef, one Johnson & Wales trained chef and one banker, are keeping it all in the family.  They're still finding their identity and relying on the folks of the 'hood to help them determine what they need to sell.  In addition to made-to-order deli sandwiches, they offer a selection of prepared foods, craft beers, wine and a few daily necessities.  We had a tasting of their deviled eggs (a definite fav of Southerners), chipotle pimento cheese and haystacks...yum yum!

Next stop on the tour was Smelly Cat Coffee House.  Yes, the name came from Phoebe of "Friends"...and it is definitely the type of place you'd expect to see Phoebe. Outside of the cafe, they have a small plot of land they make available to some of the disabled members of the neighborhood for gardening...on our visit there were giant sunflowers. 
They gave a demonstration of Pour Over Coffee.  The Japanese developed this method of brewing coffee...the water is poured in a thin, steady, slow stream over a filter cone.  As someone who doctors up my coffee, I was very surprised to discover that I was able to drink the coffee black.  Pour Over definitely gives the coffee a smoother taste...of course their selection of beans plays a big part in the final product.
After Smelly Cat, we headed over for a little taste of N'awlins in Charlotte at Boudreaux's Louisiana Kitchen. We were treated to a big cup of Gumbo Ducharme...full of shrimp, chicken, Andouille sausage and crawfish.  The finishing touch was a piece of delicious sweet cornbread.  Again, glad we were walking because we were eating good!

Gumbo was followed by a Cider and Cava tasting at Dolce Vita Wine Bar. Oh and they also brought out a turkey, cheese and fig preserve panini.  There seemed to be a common theme among these small business owners...the owner of Dolce Vita is also a former banker.  This joint is not your typical stuffy wine is very unpretentious. They're all about having fun with beer and there any other way to be with beer and wine?!

As if the sweets from Amélie's weren't enough, our next stop was Tasty Yo for some fro yo.  Tasty Yo was the first frozen yogurt spot in there's a fro yo spot on just about every corner.  The owner, Michelle, started the business after graduating from college in DC where she had worked in the fro yo biz.  Tasty Yo offers a small selection of freshly made yogurts...usually 2 to 3 flavors available each day and of course there's cool toppings (even fruity Pebbles).  We sampled their original tart (de-lish) and a seasonal fav...pumpkin pie (yum).  Then she fixed each of us a small cup of the pumpkin pie with graham cracker crumbs...oh my...just like eating a piece of pumpkin pie!
The final stop of the tour was the newest member of NoDa...Heist Brewery. The building is an old mill and still has the original bricks in the Library.  The owner, Kurt, gave us a great tour of the brew room and of course there was some sampling.  Heist brews 12 different beers...I was particularly fond of their Peach Hefeweizen.  Like many of the restaurants in NoDa, they're working with local artists to showcase their talents.  Heist will unveil locally crafted beer pulls soon. Artists were commissioned to created a beer pull that would feel comfortable for the bartenders and tell the story of the beer.

Kurt has put together an excellent team sure to bring great success.  Executive Chef Rob Masone, of Iron Chef fame, has created a fabulous menu...including some amazing flatbread pizza. Brew Master, Zach Hart, is an award winning brew master...we've already established my fav.  Bar Manager, Stefan Huebner, has created a pretty cool cocktail menu. Heist opened in early September and is a great addition to the is sure to be the anchor to make NoDa a destination in Charlotte.