Restaurant Review: Heirloom // Gone to Carolina in My Mind

A few weeks ago, my husband, Shahin, celebrated his 29th birthday! I wanted to make sure we dined somewhere special and preferably at a place we had never been before. Both of us are avid foodies but I was completely stumped on where to dine. I decided to reach out to my network of friends and family via Facebook to ask if they had any obscure and/or excellent restaurant recommendations. The funny thing about the hubs and I is that we are both native Charlotteans and if there is anyone who knows this city inside and out, I would like to think it’s us. With that said, I enjoy giving recommendations to people regarding where to shop, dine, drink, etc. but I also enjoy receiving the suggestions just as much as I do giving them! Don’t get me wrong, I can read blogs and reviews all day, but there is just something about receiving a word of mouth recommendation that is unlike any other.

Although there were several restaurant suggestions made by friends (most of which I have every intention of checking out if I haven’t already), I decided to make a reservation at Heirloom as it came highly recommended by a friend of ours that is heavily involved and respected in the Charlotte food and beverage community. He gave me the run down and almost immediately sold me. It was settled: Heirloom it was! So, why has this restaurant captured the hearts of many chefs and local foodies?

The deal with Heirloom is that it is all farm-to-fork and there is no set menu as Chef/Owner, Clark Barlowe, writes it every morning. But what is even more fascinating is that Heirloom only uses locally sourced, North Carolina ingredients, beer and wine. Now, in my opinion, it doesn’t get any more unique than this. My foodie friends have described this place as a “hidden gem” and it’s gained some attention from The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing, Cheshire Dinner Society, Charlotte Magazine, CLTure and more. Clark was even a contestant on Food Network’s Chopped (one of my favorite shows). Check out what we ate in addition to my thoughts below. Enjoy!

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{ The Heirloom Menu for 8/13/14 – accompanied with fresh clams }

What’s great about this place is that you have options. One being a 7 course prix fixe tasting for $65 (includes a glass of North Carolina vino), a 3 course dinner for $30 (you choose any 3 from the 7 course menu and also get a glass of North Carolina vino), or you can choose any appetizers, entrees and/or desserts from the regular menu. Shahin, his dad, step mom and I decided to share some appetizers first. We had this super intricate, local cheese plate with various jams, preserves and fruit to accompany it, clams in a light but tasty broth in addition to some fall off the bone/melt in your mouth ribs paired with eggplant and fried okra – wowza!

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{ Local cheese plate with preserves and fruit; Ribs with eggplant and fried okra }

For dinner, I decided on the 3 course option and chose the Heirloom Salad, 62 Degree Duck Egg Pasta and the Salem Hills Farm Teres Major (Grass fed Black Angus Beef). The Heirloom Salad was absolutely stunning and delicious. It contained Mexican Sour Gherkins, Burton Farm heirloom squash, NROG feta cheese, Cottle Farm cabbage along with a thyme vinaigrette.

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{ Heirloom Salad }

This 62 Degree Duck Egg Pasta…let me just tell you. This dish was to die for. What I also really enjoyed about our experience at Heirloom (that I failed to mention earlier) was that our service was impeccable and I felt that it was very much an educational experience. Our server was able to provide us with detailed information about our dishes, where the ingredients were locally sourced and explained the various cooking methods. She described the idea behind the 62 degree egg which is a cooking method that has been adopted by some chefs as it is said that when the egg is cooked more slowly and at a lower temperature, it creates a very unique taste and texture. The duck egg was placed very delicately on top of the fresh pasta and once you broke that soft, yolky goodness – it created a silky, aromatic and delectable sauce. So what exactly is this incredible sight below? A house made North Carolina egg yolk pepper pasta, Against the Grain Farm dragon tongue beans, capers, a West Hill Farm duck egg cooked at 62 degrees sprinkled with Gremolata breadcrumbs.

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{ 62 Degree Duck Egg Pasta }

Alright, so my third course unfortunately did not make the cut as far as pictures go – it was just a tad too dark to post (we were in a very intimate setting). BUT it was absolutely divine: grass fed black angus beef, Heart & Sole Farm Charlotte and Mountain Rose potatoes, Burton Farm heirloom squash with beef au jus.

Now, if you know me, I am a sweet eater through and through…no shame in the game! But y’all – THIS. FREAKING. DESSERT. Let me sum this up for you real quick: chocolate mousse on top of a chocolate chip cookie crust, a sweet and salty caramel sauce beneath a homemade LIQUID NITROGEN “half baked” ice cream with candied walnuts. Yes, I did in fact say: liquid nitrogen ice cream. What is it exactly? The entire idea of using liquid nitrogen is part of molecular gastronomy (a style of cuisine that mixes Science with food). What the liquid nitrogen does is create a smoother and much creamier texture of ice cream – hands down the best I’ve ever had. Since Shahin does not typically do sweets, they put his little birthday candle in my dessert.  🙂

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{ Chocolate mousse on top of a chocolate chip cookie crust, caramel sauce, candied walnuts & homemade liquid nitrogen ice cream }

Clark even came out and said hello to us, which I thought was incredibly nice. He’s down to earth, humble and just very organic and real. The space felt like home mixed with a touch of vintage farmhouse – very cozy, inviting and warm. If you can’t tell how I feel about this place, all you need to know is: GO! Go now…or tomorrow. But seriously, go. This place is unlike any other in Charlotte and really pays homage to the great state of North Carolina!

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Restaurant Review: Bistro La Bon // Cozy + Hip

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{ Exterior of Bistro La Bon – Image from Yelp }

Valentine’s Day was a couple of weeks ago (on a Friday) and the hubs and I wanted to celebrate it on Saturday night due to a. our schedules and b. to make an honest effort to avoid the insane foot traffic that restaurants would be receiving. Originally, we had wanted to make a reservation at The Melting Pot as it is one of our favorite restaurants to dine at for special occasions. Sean and I are both advocates of supporting local businesses, but it is still hands down one of our most beloved eateries – food chain or not (we literally salivate at the thought of the Mojo cooking oil – it’s really that incredible). But to our disappointment, The Melting Pot was all booked up…le sigh.

Sean wanted our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple to be special and we had both heard rave reviews about Bistro la Bon in Plaza Midwood. Being that we’re moving to that side of town soon and hearing how fantastic this place was – we needed to see firsthand what all the fuss was about. {Side note: please forgive some of these images not being my own – it was incredibly dark both inside and out and impossible for me to get good shots. }

Bistro la Bon is located on Central Avenue and resides in the same strip mall as Family Dollar and Elizabeth Billiards. Although this may seem odd to some, it really encompasses the Plaza Midwood area quite well in the sense that there is always more than what meets the eye. If you are familiar with this neighborhood in Charlotte, NC, you are probably aware of how funky and eclectic it is. For this restaurant to be placed here may be random, but then again, so is Plaza Midwood (which is what makes it so special).

We were fortunate enough to secure an 8:45 reservation for Saturday night. Now, let’s not get it twisted – Valentine’s Day is not just a day…it’s really more of a week-long celebration (so much for trying to be original by celebrating the day after). We walked into the restaurant and the first thing I noticed was the ambiance. From a lighting perspective, it was very dark inside – however, it was still incredibly lively, upbeat and boisterous. It had a hip, Portland, Oregon vibe with a casual yet sleek bar area surrounded by high top tables. The lobby area had velour couches with rich, gem-colored pillows for guests to sit on while they waited on their table. Once we were informed that there would be an additional wait tacked onto our reservation time, we decided to hit the bar for a couple of beverages. Sean ordered a craft beer (his fav) while I had one of Bistro la Bon’s signature cocktail – The Persophone (channeling my inner Greek goddess). It was prosecco, pomegranate liqueur and fresh lemon zest. I must say – it was delicious. Truthfully, I wanted to try all of the hand crafted cocktails on the menu because they all looked divine – it was difficult to choose just one. (At dinner I ended up having A Bee’s Vice and it was probably my favorite drink of the two).

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{ Interior of Bistro La Bon – Image from Yelp }

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{ Dining Area of Bistro La Bon – Image from Yelp }

We only waited an additional 15 minutes or so and were able to be seated. The menu mostly consisted of small plates or “tapas” and it looked amazing. There were also a few entrees and appetizers but the hubs and I wanted to get a few things to share. We decided on the Crispy Avocado and Asparagus, Brie Brulee, Grilled Spanish Octopus and the Lavender Chicken. We asked our server to choose the fifth small plate and to surprise us – we wanted whatever she recommended. Typically, Sean and I ask our servers what they like on the menu because who else would have better insight than the person working at that restaurant? I remember my days in the food industry (what seemed like eons ago) – we would typically sample almost everything on the menu to ensure that we were knowledgeable when a customer asked questions or our opinion on an item. Sean and I are both very adventurous when it comes to food so we were not at all fearful of what our server was going to choose for us. She ended up sending over the Crab Stuffed Peppadew with greens and lemon foam.

The Crispy Avocado and Asparagus was delicious – it was wrapped together in a light batter and then fried like a spring roll and served with a tangy sweet and sour sauce – NOMS. Both the asparagus and avocado worked together in perfect harmony – I would highly recommend this dish. The Brie Brulee was heaven – it literally tasted like a savory version of creme brulee (caramelized topping and all) and it was served with thin, crispy toast slices. The Lavender Chicken definitely had some prominent floral notes but it was balanced excellently with the chestnut gravy, savory cabbage and bits of bacon. If you are not one to like any remnants of floral undertones in your cuisine, this is not the dish for you. Although the lavender was not extraordinarily pungent, it is still present. I truly believe that you are either into that kind of thing or not – I personally love when flowers are mixed with cooking. We also really enjoyed the stuffed Peppadew peppers that our server chose for us – they had a delicate crabcake-esque filling and between that and the peppers – it was a sweet and spicy combination that worked very well together. There was only one dish I was a little disappointed about it and it was actually the one that I was the most excited to try – the octopus. It had nice flavor, however, it just was not as tasty as I wanted it to be. I think what really disappointed me the most about this dish was how chewy it was. If you have had and enjoy octopus, it has an elastic texture if not cooked properly which makes it difficult to chew and just not very enjoyable.

{ Crispy Avocado & Asaparagus }

I would say overall our experience was pleasant and enjoyable. We loved the rustic yet hip and cozy feel of this restaurant. I think many would assume that almost any restaurant in the Plaza Midwood area has to be a find and it most cases with this theory in mind, I’ve hardly ever been disappointed. On a side note – I would love to revisit Bistro la Bon for a Sunday brunch because I have heard nothing but excellent reviews. If you have not yet visited this adorable eatery – go…go now. It is a great place to dine with a group of friends or your significant other. Great drinks, delicious food, warm and trendy atmosphere and in a fun and eclectic side of town.

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