Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chuy's Charlotte: Talk & Taste

My foodie heart was broken when Zink closed its doors last year and I have not been able to bring myself to try Chuy's, a tex-mex restaurant that went into the empty space. I had so many great memories at Zink that and I was afraid that the replacement would not be as good. The mixed reviews only fueled my preconception.

I love being proven wrong.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a Talk & Taste event with fellow Charlotte foodies. We were treated to all the salsas on the menu (and one that isn't!), samples of specialty margaritas, and full entrees. The food was great, but the attentive service was what won me over. The fact that everything is made from scratch, daily, made it difficult not to instantly become a fan.

Below are all the noms that we got to enjoy:


Getting sauce-ducated.


New Mexican jalapeƱo margarita


Blackberry Margarita


Sangria (made with tequila!)





"Big as yo'face" beef burrito


Chicken tortilla soup. Amazeballs!



My lovely date, Katy of girl and the good.


There's no photographic evidence of the amazing tres leches cake because my husband and I devoured it before it could be documented.

Huge thanks to Gwen and everyone at Chuy's for a great night!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Nearby Eats: Sakura Japanese Restaurant (Gastonia)

You never forget your first time.

I was fourteen and my friends urged me to try it. After some coaxing, I put it in my mouth and grimaced. I'm sure I wasn't the first to do so.The cucumber and imitation crab were not new to me, but the seaweed, avocado and cold rice were. Add the wasabi and soy sauce and it was quite the experience.




salmon hand roll, spicy tuna, octopus sashimi, tuna sashimi
Jam Session (NoDa Brewing)


Sakura, hidden in Phase 4 of Franklin Square, was the first sushi restaurant in Gastonia. For me, it holds memories of prom dates, best friends, and special occasions.

The restaurant still looks the same as it did when it first opened. The menu recently received a makeover and it's...jarring. Thankfully, the food remained the same!

My favorite menu item (outside of sushi) is the pecan crusted grouper. Get it! The sashimi has never disappointed either and the spicy tuna roll is my all time favorite.

If you ever find yourself in Gastonia, Sakura is a must and won't break the bank.



Friday, March 21, 2014

Authentic Ramen in Charlotte


For the college student or anyone on a "ramen noodle" budget, it's survival. For the Japanese, it's comfort food. 

I have fallen into both categories at different stages of life with different types of preparation.

It used to be a cup of noodles, poor the hot water in, and three minutes later you had a meal. Then I learned to buy the kind in a wrapper and cook it with miso paste and other spices, throwing out the packet of flavoring. Then it was my first trip to Tokyo where the true love affair began.

I was tired, weary. It was my first time traveling half way around the world. It was my first time traveling that far alone. I arrived at the Imperial Hotel and was greeted by a warm hug from my mom and a hot shower after a day of travel.



After unpacking, we set out to find dinner. We were both exhausted and finding a full fledged meal with no knowledge of the language seemed daunting. After a few misses we found a hole in the wall ramen restaurant with one broken English menu. It was perfection: delicious broth, tender meat, and slick noodles. 

One never forgets their first authentic bowl of ramen so when I heard about Musashi's I knew I had to give it a try!

A bowl of ramen was the perfect dinner choice after spending the afternoon celebrating St. Patrick's Day. The husband and I met up with the #EpicEaters and their dates and quickly separated ourselves, the men at one table and the ladies at the other. 

We gabbed, drank sake, and snacked on light appetizers. And then the ramen came and the nine of us got really quiet. 
 


Miso Ramen
Japanese egg noodle, roasted pork slices, bamboo shoot & green onions

It was delicious and the closest thing I've had in Charlotte that resembles the ramen that I had had in Tokyo years ago. 

The restaurant is 35 minutes from the house but is definitely worth the drive for those days when I crave the taste of Tokyo.





Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Charlotte is on the Verge

Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably have seen the sad attempt at satire on Huffington Post about Charlotte and local publications and bloggers stepping in to defend the Queen City.

You should really read Jeremy Markovich's article in Our State instead of the Huff Post article. It's beautifully written, although lengthy, and shares the sentiments I have towards Charlotte.

"And right now, at this moment, at this point in history, that is Charlotte. We’re on the verge of something.

We’re lucky. Some towns in North Carolina are locked into what they’ve been for years. There are beach towns. Furniture towns. Mill towns. Farm towns. Suburbs. Mountain getaways. Interstate oases. Tobacco towns. When the realities of a new era force them to change, sometimes they have a hard time doing so. Some places dry up. The stores close. The weeds grow. The people move. The heritage is so strong that it’s hard to stop living in the past. People point at those towns and say, I know who you are.

Not Charlotte. They say we’re nice. But we know we’re more than that."

***

Today I had a beautifully exhausting day. I met with amazingly talented women here in Charlotte who are doing big things. I walked away from both coffee meetings feeling more confident about what I want to do and the paths I need to take. It's not going to be easy and I like it that way.

I also made a pit stop at a dim sum restaurant for lunch... My heart yearns for travel and an epic foodventure.

 
Foreign currency adorns a door at Smelly Cat Coffee.





Dim Sum on Central Ave.



Latte art at Central Coffee


I'm spending the rest of the week prepping for a new venture and tagging clothes for the Green Jeans Sale. I may also do the dishes and finish laundry from last weekend.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SEED 20, Class of 2014

I really enjoy live tweeting, whether it's the Bachelor season finale, a marketing webinar, or a fantastic local event.

Last Tuesday I did the later at the SEED20 competition. Not only was it a an inspiring event that I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to attend but I also got to see my friend Katie win the grand prize for her non-profit, PlateShare.

If you get the urge to get inspired to change the world, add this event to your "must attend" list in 2015!







Learn more about the non-profits that are part of SEED 20's Class of 2014:

Behailu Academy
Bottles N Bottoms
Camp Blue Skies
Charlotte Speech and Hearing
PlateShare
Project Energy Transition
Project Scientist
Queen City Mobile Market
Youth Development Initiatives
F3 Foundation
Make It Work
ourBRIDGE
Patriots Path
Pearls for Creative Healing
Refugee Support Services
R.I.C.’s Market
The Arts Empowerment Project
The Sandbox
UrbanPromise Charlotte


in the Kitchen - Greek Chicken Kabobs

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I love to cook and recently started using #callmemarthasteawart hashtag to instabrag. It happens. ;)

Cooking gives me the ability to create something that also benefits others (unlike when I paint it only truly benefits me). Not only is it a creative outlet, but it also feeds my geeky scientific side.

Last Monday I made one of my favorite dishes that is also super easy to make, Greek chicken kabobs. I used this recipe for inspiration but put my own twist on it (as always!) and used ingredients that I had on hand without going to the grocery store.



The Instructions (based on 1.5 lb of chicken):
  • Cut the chicken breasts into one inch pieces and put them into a large zip lock plastic bag
  • In a bowl, mix the following ingredients: 
    • minced garlic (3-5 cloves)
    • dried oregano (2 tablespoons)
    • crushed pepper (1 tablespoon)
    • salt (1 tablespoon)
    • juice of one lemon
    • olive oil (1/2 cup)
    • red wine vinegar (1/3 cup)
  • Pour the mixture into the bag with the chicken and let it marinate for a minimum of two hours
  • Meanwhile, soak the kabob sticks in water (to reduce the chance of your sticks burning while you gril the kabobs)
  • Cut one red onion and one large red pepper into one inch pieces
  • Build the kabobs by alternating the onion and red pepper with the chicken
  • Grill the kabobs on an open fire for the best flavor

Serve with couscous and homemade tzatziki sauce.







Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ides of March

Sometimes, dreams turn into nightmares and you are forced to wake up to make it end.  I'm awake, slightly terrified, and mostly excited about what the future will bring.



The past two weeks I've slept in, done some soul searching, new full time job searching, and started working on the foundation for what will one day become my own business. I have also celebrate life and friends and have had amazing and inspiring days (so long as I didn't get lost in my head and start going down the wrong path).

I'm excited to turn my attention back to this blog. I've built the in the Queen City brand and now it's time to take it to the next level. I'm once again toying with the idea of moving the blog over to Wordpress so that I could start advertizing. There's still a lot of research that needs to be done, a lot of learning, and tapping into the expertise of others.


The Ides of March was a turning point for the Roman Empire... this is definitely a turning point for me and I can't wait to see what the future brings.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What to Wear to Front Row Charlotte's Spring Show

It's that time of year where all of Front Row Charlotte attendees freak out because no one knows what they're wearing. Or they did and then Mother Nature decided that it should be freezing on March 5th just to wreck havoc on everyone's plans.

Thanks, Mother Nature!


This year, just like last year, I have reached out to my social networks to help decide what to wear and I thank everyone who has helped thus far!

Last night I dug through my closet and went for the black-and-white trend. What I really wanted to wear was all black and a parka and calling it a day.

Round 1:

A) black sparkly sweater, white pleated skirt, classic pointed toe pumps
B) grey halter, white jeans, open toe platforms + leather biker jacket
C) purple (even though it looks blue) top with sparkly shoulders, pleather leggings, open toe platforms


Today I felt like a brand new person and went into the mall with a mission to find a cute spring top to go with my leggings. I found that, and a whole lot more (thanks to Anthropologie!).

Round 2:

D) neon green tank, stripe jacket, circle pattern navy skirt with a peach underskirt, dark purple suede pumps
E) variation of D but with a matching peach tank and open toe slingback platforms
F) peekaboo floral bra, semi-sheer peach button down, faux-leather leggings, and matching I'll-take-any-excuse-to-wear Choos.

So, which outfit should I wear to Front Row tomorrow?

This year Front Row Charlotte's beneficiary is Baby Bundles, a non-profit that helps clothe newborns. Visit their website to learn more on how you can help.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2014

I have yet to set any goals for 2014 or come up with New Year's resolutions. May be it's because I don't wait till "January 1" to get started on what is important. Last year brought the change and the growth that I craved so badly. I want more of the same this year. Just less pain and heartbreak this time, please and thank you.

After two months of non-stop activities, the calendar for the month of January is guarded like a sacred artifact. It's a much needed lull before things pick back up in the spring.

I spent the weekend tucked away in my office upstairs. We haven't used the room in years as an office because it has been used as a storage for those times we didn't have time nor energy to clean. It's all clean now. Theo enjoyed spending time in the office with me while I organized my life, and he especially enjoyed the squirrels in the tree outside the window.

Hope you have had a fantastic start to a new year and cheers to 2014!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Giveaway: Yogafest 2013

Most of you that know me know that I don't yoga well. I'm the awkward one in class that eventually gives up and finds herself in child pose for the last thirty minutes of the class. Or outside of the classroom chugging water like my life depended on it. It's safe to say I may have been over my head during those classes and should have taken a few beginner lessons, but I regress...

For those of you who enjoy or even LOVE yoga, Yogafest is not an event to miss! Even I'm willing to get past my awkwardness to support a good cause because I know no one judge me. That's the beauty of yoga: come as you are.

So what is Yogafest? It is an all day event that supports the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. For $10 you get 10 classes! That's a dollar per class and it's for a good cause. The classes vary in difficulty levels so there is really something for everyone. The class I'm most excited about is Meditation at 3:30pm because it'll be an opportunity for me to showcase my amazing form in child pose in a pair of $100 lululemon pants. That, my friends, is dedication.

I have partnered up with the folks over at Yogafest for this amazing giveaway:

Two tickets to the event and two $50 gift cards to Trysports.

You can enter up to five times by doing the following:

1) Like at least one of the following pages on Facebook:
in the Queen City
YogaFestCLT
TrySports
prAna
JDRF

2) Leave a comment listing the page(s) that you liked in #1 and what your favorite yoga pose is.

The contest ends at 12:00pm EST on Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 and one winner will be randomly selected.

Good luck!

What: YogafestCLT
With amazing yoga instructors, massage booths, traditional henna paintings, local food vendors, and more!
Who: Sponsored by Trysports and prAna.
Why: 10 classes for $10 for a good cause (benefiting JDRF)
Where: Morrison Square at Southpark
When: Saturday, October 19, 2013
How: Buy your tickets here.