Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tapas & Cocktails in NoDa

In the nine plus years I’ve lived in Charlotte, I’ve always been drawn to the NoDa neighborhood.  That’s short for North Davidson for anyone outside of Charlotte currently reading this blog.  It has a simplicity you can’t find in any other part of this city.  The vibe is great and the people watching is even better.
In the past year, the NoDa neighborhood has started to see change that leaves some local residents begging for it to remain as is.  However, the positive side of the change is new restaurants to experience.  Davidson Street Public House is one of those new spots.

Specializing in tapas (small plates), Davidson Street Public House makes for a great group outing where you can share several dishes.  The first item I saw on the menu was PBLT Sliders.  If you are wondering what the PB stands for, it is Pork Belly.  Pork Belly is a menu item that used to scare me strictly because of its name.  Once I pushed past the fear, I was able to enjoy a delicious part of the “other white meat.”  This PBLT also includes a fried green tomato and pimento cheese.  So, basically, it embraces all things Southern in one bite.  Each order comes with two sliders which was perfect for my friend and I to each have one.  For a small sandwich, they are very hearty.

The next item we chose to order was the Corn and Jalapeno Fritters.  I don’t know if I can actually explain just how great this item is.  Inside of the crispy exterior is a creamy and spicy ball of cheese.  I found the spice to be very minimal, but some might notice the jalapeno more than I did.  The creaminess is exceptional.  We sort of paused after each bit to embrace the taste and texture.  This dish is served with five fritters.  They are so great that I could have eat all five by myself.  Just my luck – my friend thought they were amazing, so I had to share.

An order of Bruschetta appeared at our table.  It was mistakenly ordered for our table.  We explained to our server and she allowed us to keep it.  We lucked into a great dish.  This bruschetta was beautiful in its presentation atop a black serving board.  The bread slices were topped with tomatoes, red onion, red bell pepper, lemon and goat cheese spread, asiago, and a basil and balsamic glaze.  All of which was flanked by arugula.

You may be thinking we didn’t order anything else, but there is more tasty food to tell you about.  We also ordered the Roasted Brussels Sprouts.  It was served in a cast iron skillet on top of a white serving plate.  These Brussels sprouts had a surprising spicy kick to them that I really enjoyed.  This vegetable is another item that I avoided at a younger age, but have learned that with the proper seasoning and preparation are really incredible.

We completed our food order with the Heaven and Hell Deviled Eggs.  There is jalapeno in the creamy egg mixture, so this spice has become a welcome constant in many of the dishes we ordered.  Topping off the deviled egg is candied bacon which added some crunch and an extra dose of sweet and salty.

All of the tapas we ordered were under $10 each.  We were able to get enough food (actually more than enough as we left a few bites) for an incredibly reasonable price.

In addition to the incredible food, Davidson Street Public House has an extensive drink menu.  In fact, the food menu is one page while the drink menu is nearly five pages.  They serve a variety of wines, specialty cocktails, and craft beers.  The beer selection is pretty impressive as many of them were new names.  The local breweries in Charlotte are also well represented on this menu.  Because there are so many great beers available at this restaurant, I’d love to see flights as a purchase option in the future.

The entire dining experience was flawless.  Shout out to our server, Monique, who helped guide us through the menu, gave us extra time to decide, and split our checks with no issues.  These qualities in addition to the great food and drink made for a perfect Friday night dinner.  With the group style food selections and TVs placed at the bar and along the back wall, I can see this restaurant being a great place to watch an away game for the Panthers.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Catching up with Friends at Lily Bean Coffee

With so many restaurants, bars, and coffee shops in Uptown Charlotte, you rarely have to look outside of Center City to find a place to dine.  I recently decided to take a day trip to Charlotte’s neighbor to the west, Shelby, to expand my knowledge of some of North Carolina’s small businesses. 

The focus of my visit was on Lily Bean Coffee.  I became aware of Lily Bean through a high school classmate, Meghan Stout, who just so happens to own the shop with her husband, Chad.  Maybe that makes me a little biased, but I was impressed the moment I walked in.

Lily Bean Coffee is located at 108 East Warren Street in the heart of Uptown Shelby.  Who knew that a city other than Charlotte referred to their downtown as Uptown?  While I love our city, I was pleasantly surprised by being able to park on the street for free while I checked out the coffee shop in Shelby.

As I entered the shop, I noticed that they had a large crowd for a Saturday morning.  While some customers were settled in to booths, there were also a few at the register deciding on their purchase.  The green walls were decorated with artwork created by local artists.  The art can be purchased at the shop and pricing is listed discreetly beneath each creation.

The furniture throughout the shop varies from soft seating to high top cocktail tables.  While this Saturday morning had a laidback lounge vibe, the space could also be utilized for a small business meeting or job interview.

I kept it simple and ordered a latte during my visit.  It was the first weekend in September, so a Pumpkin flavored coffee would have been the obvious choice.  I mentioned this popular Autumn flavor to Meghan and she told me they serve it all year round.  I repeat – Pumpkin flavored coffee all year round!

My latte was prepared at the perfect temperature to consume immediately.  None of that waiting around and blowing on it to get lower than the temperature of the sun.  I must add, though, that it remained warm through consumption and didn’t cool off to a point where it lost its appeal.

While enjoying my coffee with Meghan, several customers stopped by to say hello on their way in or goodbye on their way out.  I definitely got the feeling that they see a lot of regulars.  It was like the bar where everyone knows your name.

Since I know Meghan has a degree in Communications and holds a full time job in Marketing and Advertising (in addition to a few part time gigs), I had to ask “Why did you and your husband decide to open a coffee shop?”  Her answer may surprise you.  She said she gained interest after searching the internet on how to brew coffee beans. 

She started doing the research and experimentation on her own.  Admittedly, some of the first batches weren’t perfect, but the interest was there and she kept trying it.  As her roasting technique improved, she decide to take the plunge and open a coffee shop with her husband.

They made the decision to open a coffee shop at the beginning of the week and took ownership of an existing space by the end of the week.  That monumental week was nearly five years ago.  They are now in a larger space (the previously mentioned 108 East Warren Street) and have recently expanded to a second location.  This second location is drive thru only in Midtown Shelby at 711 East Marion Street. 

If coffee isn’t a part of your daily routine, you might also be interested in the fact that Lily Bean Coffee occasionally partners with Newgrass Brewing Company.  Newgrass is another small North Carolina business located in Shelby.  They are just around the corner from Lily Bean at 213 South Lafayette Street.  The close proximity makes for the perfect partnership.  While the brewery’s selection often rotates, you can likely find the Lily Bean Golden “Stout” on the menu.  This golden beer is infused with cold coffee extract from Lily Bean as well as cocoa and vanilla flavors.  While it may not have the typical coloring of a stout, the name just made sense based on the coffee shop owners’ last name.

My time in Uptown Shelby was well spent.  Not only did I get to see a classmate that I haven’t seen in over ten years, I was able to experience their laidback culture and dining.  When you live in Charlotte and need your coffee fix fast, you’ll likely go to the closest shop.  However, if you find yourself in Shelby, stop by Uptown or drive through Midtown for the local flavor of Lily Bean.

Monday, September 12, 2016

My First Mammogram

I am thirty-six years old with no breast cancer history in my family.  Even though, I decided to get my first mammogram back in June.  Early detection is key to so many chronic illnesses, but especially Cancer.

Before this blog goes too far, let me start by saying that everything turned out fine.  I want to use this post to explain the process of a mammogram in hopes of lessening the fear in some women.

Here are a few things to know before you go:
1. Don't wear a dress.  Upon arrival at the office, you'll be taken to a changing room where you can take off your shirt and bra.  You'll put on one of those delightful paper gowns that opens in the front.  It only goes to waist level, so you can stay dressed from the waist down.
2. Don't wear lotions, perfumes, and deodorant to your visit.  Now, let's get serious for a minute.  No deodorant?  If you are wearing any of these things, you can use wipes they have in the changing room to remove any traces.
3. Leave your modesty at home.  The technician is going to see, touch, and adjust your breasts.  They are doing their job - not judging your size.

Is it going to hurt?
For me, the process didn't hurt.  It did feel sort of uncomfortable, though.  You have to "plop" your breast (one at a time) up on the imaging surface.  The technician will move it as needed and also adjust the machine so that it squeezes down on your breast.  You can hear the electronic noise as it clamps down and sort of see it happen.  I did notice more uncomfortableness on my left breast compared to my right.  You are only in the squeezed position for about ten seconds.  I had to take two images per side.  Overall - quick and mostly painless!

Getting a call back
The technician was very thorough with me (which I love!) and explained that most women get a call back after their first mammogram.  The reason is that they haven't reviewed images of your breasts before, so anything that might be perceived as abnormal, will be.

Even though I was warned, I still panicked a little bit when I got the call back.  I wondered what they saw; how long "it" had been there; and if I was going to lose my breasts (totally normal reaction...). 

At the call back, the process was very similar.  The technician this time had to take a few additional images of both breasts.  She explained that the doctor was on-site to review the original images again as well as the new images.

I waited in an exam room while the doctor reviewed the images.  The technician came in about ten minutes later and said they needed to take one more image of my left breast.  At this point, I was fully convinced I had cancer.  I knew everything they were doing was routine, but the mind starts to wander while you sit in an empty exam room wearing an open front paper gown.

After I completed the additional image scan, I was able to wait in that same room while the doctor reviewed it.  She came in a few minutes later and told me I had a great baseline.  (Thanks girl.  You too!).  To clarify, a baseline is the first round of images they take when there are no known issues.  They can use those images to compare and contrast in the future.  She went on to say that I don't need to come back until I am forty years old unless my doctor and/or I notice any changes.

Peace of Mind
I'm glad that I went ahead and checked "get a mammogram" off of my to-do list.  Knowing everything is ok at age thirty-six is much better than waiting until forty.  I recommend scheduling your appointment sooner than later.  Make sure you share your story with other women (and men).  The more we educate each other, the better things will be!