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!

Top Ten List | Fav Craft Brews of All Time

The weather is finally starting to heat up here in the Carolinas but what it is really doing is making me crave an ice cold craft brew on a picturesque patio. There, I said it. Of course there are tons of summer activities to plan like concerts, festivals and road trips…but nothing truly beats good company and the frothy, carbonated goodness of a delicious beer. So in honor of all the beer lovers out there, I have cultivated a list of my top ten favorite craft brews of all time. Some are year-round while others are seasonal – each bring something very special to the table.

Now, I will go ahead and give you my “fine print”: I am not a craft beer guru or connoisseur…nor do I claim to be. However, I would consider myself a craft beer advocate and I know what I like. So without further adieu, below is my go-to list of beers that I’ve experienced and loved. Maybe if you see one that you haven’t tried yet you can give it a go next time you’re out and about! { What are your favorite craft beers? What style of beer do you love? Share in the comment section as I’m always looking for something new to sip on! }

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 10.  Delirium Tremens from Huyghe Brewery – Belgium

{ deliriumbeer.com }

I remember the first time I picked one of these up at Common Market. I loved the bottle but wasn’t too sure what to expect regarding the beer itself. Delirium Tremens is a golden colored Belgian Strong Ale that is both fruity and hoppy with a slightly bitter finish.

 

9.  Maharaja Imperial IPA from Avery Brewing Company – Boulder, Colorado

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{ averybrewing.com }

This is a beer I have been drinking for a few years now – why mess with a good thing? Maharaja is an American Double/Imperial IPA with a very high alcohol content of 10.2%. This smooth, amber colored beer is fairly hoppy but truly encompasses the perfect blend of bitter and sweet. Maharaja definitely has some subtle notes of pine and citrus (perhaps some orange) and the aroma is divine.

 

8.  Anchor Steam from Anchor Brewing Company – San Francisco, California

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{ anchorbrewing.com }

This year-round brew is a solid go-to and I would even consider it a classic. I’m a big fan of San Francisco and as silly as it sounds, the taste of this beer reminds me of the city in every shape, way and form. It’s clean, refreshing and magical.

 

7.  Hazelnut Brown Nectar from Rogue – Newport, Oregon

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{ rogue.com }

If you’ve never experienced any Rogue beer before, stop what you are doing right now and find the closest store that carries them. I’ve been an advocate of Rogue for several years because they consistently put out a solid beer. Their Hazelnut Brown Nectar in particular is hands down one of my favorites although there probably isn’t a Rogue beer I haven’t loved. As you can probably infer from the name, this beer definitely tastes like rich, roasted hazelnuts. Sweet in flavor and copper in color, this beer is another good one to have in your arsenal.

 

6.  OMB Dunkel from Olde Mecklenburg Brewery – Charlotte, North Carolina

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{ oldemeckbrew.com }

Where do I begin with my love affair with OMB Dunkel? If it was a year-round beer, I would be in serious trouble. This seasonal brew is only around in the Winter but it will warm your soul on those frosty nights. Olde Meck’s Dunkel is a rich brown color, medium bodied with slightly sweet malts and an earthy flavor.

 

5.  Hop Drop N’ Roll from NoDa Brewing Company in Charlotte, North Carolina

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{ nodabrewing.com }

So, you need to take me seriously when I say that I swear I am not biased. I know the owners and employees of NoDa Brewing Company quite well. Not only does my husband work at the brewery part-time, but I’ve known many of the staff members for years. No words can explain my love for these people – Chad, the head brewer, knows what the heck he is doing…and the owners, Todd & Suzie? They are truly some of the best people I know. Now, to the beer. Hop Drop N’ Roll is beyond any other American-style IPA that I’ve had. It has an intricate and complex flavor profile – seriously incredible. I’m a big fan of all of NoDa’s beers but this one definitely stands out among the rest. In fact, it just took home the Gold Award at the 2014 World Beer Cup® for American-Style IPAs which is a huge deal. The best part about it all? You do not have to go the brewery to enjoy this beverage as this past year they started selling them in cans all around town. Convenience at its finest!

 

4.  Cottonwood Spiced Pumpkin Ale from Foothills Brewing Company in Winston Salem, North Carolina 

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{ foothillsbrewing.com }

If you know me, it is no secret that Autumn is my favorite season and that pumpkin flavored anything makes me the happiest girl in the world. So of course, I am pumpkin beer obsessed. However, when it comes to this type of seasonal beer, I am very particular about the taste. I’ve had some where you cannot taste pumpkin at all and some that are way too sweet…to the point of nausea. I remember first tasting Cottonwood Pumpkin when I was out having a post-work beverage with a coworker. I ordered it on a whim, not expecting to completely fall head over heels…which I absolutely did. WOW. Everyone will give you an opinion on the “best” pumpkin beer and I truly believe it’s all personal. Not everyone’s palettes are the same and what each individual is seeking is very different. But Cottonwood Pumpkin is the perfect balance of a pumpkin taste with hints of nutmeg and spices without being overly sweet.

 

3.  Cold Mountain Winter Ale from Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, North Carolina

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{ highlandbrewing.com }

I cannot even begin to take credit for discovering this beer – it was truly all my husband. Shahin is a huge craft beer guy and has been in the scene for several years now. But when it’s Winter time, all that I hear him talk about is getting his hands on a Cold Mountain Winter Ale by Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC. It’s clear as day that Asheville is a major craft beer hub and there are so many incredible breweries up there, but Highland Brewing is most definitely one of my favorites as they always put out a quality product. Cold Mountain is a deep, copper color beer with a creamy texture and subtle, soul-warming flavors such as nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. This well-balanced beer is definitely a wise choice for cold, winter nights.

 

2.  Coco Loco from NoDa Brewing Company – Charlotte, North Carolina

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{ nodabrewing.com }

Without a doubt, this is my favorite NoDa Brewing Company beer and number two on my favorite craft brews of all time. This American Porter is a rich, dark brown color (almost black) with a creamy, light tan head. What I love about this beer is it encompasses two of my most beloved things: chocolate and coconut. Let me sum it up for you…taste bud explosion! The flavor profile is ridiculously enchanting: the marriage of the slightly bitter chocolate with the sweet notes of the organic coconut (toasted on-site at the brewery) is pure perfection. It was even awarded the Silver Medal in 2012 at The Great American Beer Festival. Go…go try it now.

 

1.  Hopslam Ale from Bell’s Brewery – Kalamazoo, Michigan

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{ bellsbeer.com }

There are no words to explain Hopslam except when you can actually find it…it’s like gold. You think I’m joking, but I’m totally not. Aside from this also being a Winter seasonal beer, only a certain amount is released to specific locations. That means…if I were you, I’d start researching now how to get it this Winter because those who know which bars or pubs receive shipments do not share with others. Would it be bold of me to even say that Hopslam almost has a cult-like following? Probably not…and I’m pretty darn guilty of being a part of it myself. But y’all, it’s really that good. This beer is a rich amber color and very easy to drink and goes down smoothly. As noted in the name of the beer, it is quite hoppy. But if you’re not a fan of hoppy beers, do not let that deter you from trying this because I too once felt that way and this beer changed my entire way of thinking. The aroma and flavors are so pungent: strong grapefruit, pineapple, honey and floral notes. I recommend this beer time and time again – it is worth all the hype.

Trying to better understand what kind of beers you enjoy or wish to discover something new? Check out beeradvocate.com