Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How Not To Handle A To-Go Order - Bricco Bracco, Mt. Pleasant

"The Toss"
I landed at Bricco Bracco just off Hwy 17 in Mount Pleasant a bit
after 6:00 p.m. after running a few errands.  I thought I would grab quick to-go order and call it a day. 

I sat at the bar and the one bartender working, took my order.  I ordered a Zinga, their house specialty pasta dish made with black olives, peppers, sausage, marinara and rigatoni and a Caesar salad with anchovies and dressing on the side. Nothing difficult.

As I waited I chit-chatted with a few guests and noticed the bar get busier. Our bartender was clearly in the weeds.  

'Don't know if you're watching a new show called "The Slap", but there is a defining moment that changes things for many people.  I'm going to call mine, "The Toss".  

I watched as the bartender was given a to-go order at the bar.  Because he was very busy he literally turned around and like an Olympian hurling a shot-put, tossed the order a few feet to land on the back bar.  Fifteen minutes after "The Toss" I asked, "Is my order coming any time soon?" He said, "Soon".  

He then started this frenzied dance, almost in a circle, trying to add things to the dish that had been tossed and sitting right behind him the whole time. 

Ironically enough I was sitting directly in front of the salad maker and when he finished my Caesar he tossed it to the bartender who stuffed it in the bag.  It gave a whole new meaning to "tossed salad".
Salad, no side dressing, 6 croutons
By the time he set the bag down in front of me it had looked like it had been thrown out of a car. I told him that the order was sitting right there for the last 15 minutes.  He said, "I bought your beverage hon." 

Long story short I asked to speak with a manager, who was cooking and unavailable.  A nice server came to my aid and asked if I'd like the pasta dish remade, which I did.

I then sat and waited another 5 minutes or so and was delivered my order.  Which was now missing the bread that originally had come with it.  So I flagged down the expediter and she replaced it. If you're keeping track I'm now into this small order for 40 minutes.

When I got home I unpacked our dinner.  The salad was so warm that we had to put it in the freezer to cool down.  And the salad dressing on the side? Not so much.  No dressing at all. 

All in, the pasta was good but the experience was painful enough to have me just about lose my appetite. 


Two plates, hon.



Bricco Bracco on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cannon Green - Charleston, SC

A Welcome Addition To The Neighborhood

Located in the up and coming Cannonborough-Elliotbourough neighborhood Cannon Green is without a doubt one of the new shining stars in a trendy area.

Even though I had seen posts on line that spoke to how pretty Cannon Green’s was, I was still surprised.  We were met with a warm welcome from the hostesses, very high ceilings and a contemporary, yet warm feel to the restaurant.

As we were waiting for our server and looking around we noticed that there was a large outdoor courtyard that we would need to explore.  And then, I looked up and there was the front of a house right in front of me. For a moment I thought it was an optical illusion.

It’s literally an 1840’s Charleston single home façade that has been restored and lines an entire wall of the restaurant.  The odd thing is that it’s subtle. My husband did not have the vantage point that I did and if I hadn’t pointed it out, I don’t know if he would have noticed it.  As you make your way up one of the two staircases the front door is also the gateway to the restrooms and kitchen.

Our server took our beverage order and we were encouraged to tour the outdoor courtyard. Cannon Green is set up to host weddings/functions for up to 200 people.  The palm tree lined courtyard with its hushed water features is striking.  The Old Trolley Warehouse, which is its adjoining building, also completely refurbished, would be a lovely venue for any event.

When we returned we began to peruse the menu.  It’s made up of the usual Charleston suspects: charcuterie, pate and cheeses and then lists their “provisions” in a very unique way.

“Garden”, “Water” and “Pasture” are the menu headings. In each section there are 4-5 items, some tapas like and a few that are entrees.

We chose several small items to sample.  The Brussels Sprouts are a dish you must try.  Roasted sprouts in a small casserole with spearmint, caramelized orange, garlic aioli and pomegranate seeds that are put in at the last minute to, as the server told us, “add flavor and pop”.  The melding of tastes was delicious.
Brussel Sprouts with pomegranate seeds
The Baby Beets Salad – yellow beets, prosciutto, toasted hazelnut ubriaco cheese nestled on herb pesto was not only beautifully plated, but heavenly.  Who knew that beets and Brussels Sprouts could be such a palate pleaser?
Baby Beet Salad with prosciutto picante
My husband’s Grass-Fed Beef Carpaccio was the best he’s ever eaten.  This is no small feat as he had held up Bonaratti’s (a restaurant in Virginia), Carpaccio as the one to beat for the last 20 years…
Grass-Fed Beef Carpaccio
My Little Gems Lettuce, although tasty, fell into the category – with so many unique items on the menu, what was I thinking?
Little Gems Lettuces with apples and marcona almonds

For my entrée I chose one of the newer dishes on the menu (as per our server), the Cioppino. He described it as a San Francisco style stew created back in the day when fishermen “chipped in” items of the day and collectively made a stew.

It was a delicate dish with a nice piece of flounder, a few clams and fennel in a light tomato broth.  Although good-tasting it was tepid at best, which I felt took away from the dish.
Cioppino
The Carolina Calico Ceviche was an over-the-top beautiful presentation of avocado, Jicama, radish, jalapeno, grapefruit and crispy yucca.  A true fan favorite at the table.
Carolina Calico Ceviche
The Raviolo (sic) was described as house made thin pasta encasing a small duck egg.  It was to sit on a light sauce and when you cut into it – bam!  The egg would cascade into the dish.  This sounded sexy but didn’t deliver.  There was no sauce, the egg was over cooked and although also tasty, this dish did not live up to the duck egg explosion promise.
Raviolo
The Cox Farms Beef Medallions were served with grilled trumpet mushrooms atop of Chimmichuri and topped with pine nuts. A beautiful, savory dish that could have used a better cut of meat.  Just sayin’.
Cox Farms Beef Medallion
The portions at Cannon Green aren’t over the top so we decided to sample two of their desserts – the Meyer Lemon & Olive Oil Cake and the Mexican Chocolate Pot de Crème.

The Chocolate Pot was an ever-so-delicate mousse with Guajilo chili, hazelnut crunch and mascarpone.  It was fabulous.  So was the Cake, served with thyme gelato and a vin santo reduction.
Mexican Chocolate Pot de Creme

Meyer Lemon & Olive Oil Cake
Classically Italian trained chef Amalia Scatena and the Cannon Green owners have a big win on their hands.  As they continue to hone and develop the menu offerings and their delivery, rest assured that you are in great hands with the service team in the restaurant. Our server was quite possibly one of the best we’ve ever had in Charleston.

We look forward to our next visit, which I’m certain will be in the not-too-distant future.

We gave Cannon Green 4 out of a possible 5 plates.





Cannon Green on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chef Vinson Petrillo – Zero Cafe +Bar, Charleston, SC


Recently the San Pellegrino, reached out to me to see if I wanted to spend some time with Chef Vinson Petrillo, who is hot off his win in San Pellegrino's Young Chef Competition and will represent the United States at Expo Milano in June.

Chef Petrillo had to beat out 9 other chefs from across the country to claim this
title.  The judges, Chef Paul Qui of qui in Austin, Texas, Chef Blaine Wetzel of Willows Inn in Washington, Chef Wyllie Dufresne of NYC and Chef Amanda Freitag, co-star of the Food Network's "Chopped" were more than impressed with the level of innovation and creativity that Chef Petrillo demonstrated. 

In order to prepare for the next step of the competition, Petrillo and Wylie Dufresne will head to Milan to strategize for the Expo competition. The 20 finalists, all from different countries, will be paired by Vogue Italia with a rising fashion designer. Each pair will collaborate to create dishes and clothing designs that complement one another. The cuisine and couture will be judged independently and as a pair.

Meeting Chef Petrillio
Zero George is quite simply a lovely, boutique hotel at the corner of East Bay and George Streets.  Their small placard "0" at the front entrance can easily go unnoticed, but I actually thought that it added to the charm of the place. There is nothing that screams, "Hey, here we are", but their attention to detail and quality appears to be impeccable. 

As I entered the hotel I was quickly ushered to meet the Chef.  He was working with what appeared to be small, spun sugar items that would probably garnish an item for the evening’s fare.  He said “hello” and never moved from his stance and task at hand.  He then went on to finish something else in his workspace of this very tiny, 110 sq. ft. kitchen.

When I sat down with him Chef Petrillo was quick to say that what he thinks distinguishes Zero George’s restaurant is that it’s not “southern”.  It’s a mixture of “contemporary awesome and unexpected ingredients”, not heavily laden with batter, sauces or gravies.

The restaurant seats about 40 people and they literally serve 8 people every 30 minutes. He creates 3 appetizers, 3 entrees and 3 desserts each evening. Because, as the Chef noted, “everything has to be perfect.” 

Chef Petrillo’s early memories of cooking go back to his Italian heritage and when his mom and dad both did the cooking - Sunday dinners were a “big deal”.  When asked what some of his favorite dishes were he smiled as he talked about his mom’s Chicken Francaise, which “really wasn’t Chicken Francaise”, but it was a “wonderful, clean dish served over rice”, which he still remembers with much fondness.

His dad’s eggplant parmesan was second to none.  “It was so thin, so delicate, that to this day I am still not able to replicate it, try as I might.”
Chef Petrillo’s style of cooking clearly continues with this “clean” approach.

Not a trend follower, Chef says he doesn’t like the phrase “farm to table” as he believes that’s the way everyone should be cooking (he has a point there), and waits to be inspired to create his menu that changes weekly.

On the day that I met him it was his first day back since the birth of his daughter, Sawyer a few weeks ago. It was mid-afternoon and I asked him what would be on the menu that evening.  “I’m not sure, “ he said. Chef then went on to say that fresh cod had been delivered that afternoon but the dish, if he was to use the cod, would be “clean and beautiful, and the cod would then be added.” He did not want to create the dish around the cod, “why bother?”

My time with Chef Petrillo was inspiring. This 30-year old chef seems un-phased by his successes to date.  His passion for cooking shows in his clean, simple, yet elegant dishes.  If you haven’t had a chance to experience his creations, I suggest you do so soon, as you can then say you sampled his fare before he won the San Pellegrino's Young Chef Competition in Milan.

Good luck Chef Petrillo!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint - Mount Pleasant, SC

10 Minute Pizza Served With Love

I was invited to Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint's pre-opening VIP party and while at first I was hesitant to go, who doesn't like free pizza? 

Designed in the style of Moe's (Uncle Maddio’s CEO was the co-founder), Chipotle, Qdoba and Your Pie – where the customer walks down a straight line building their own pizza, I wondered what would make this new-ish brand stand out?

Located in the Mount Pleasant's Town Center (1795 N Hwy17) it was a bit difficult to find.  Even our GPS system had us going in circles.  To eliminate the mystery, it's across from Lowes, case closed.


When we entered we were greeted by a team member (who, as I found out later, is on the corporate marketing team), who explained they were offering three things – pizza, paninis and salads and that everything was free.

I can see that there might be a bit of a log jam at the front door when it gets busy.  The entry way is small and that's where the menu boards are.  After we decided what we wanted we made our way to the queue. 




Although I'm certain this can be attributed to the team member’s fine-tuning their skills, the ordering process was a bit confusing. I ordered a create-your-own pizza and told the first gentleman what I wanted.  I didn't realize that he was just the sauce and dough guy – there are three types of dough and six sauce options, I then had to tell my order to the next guy who was standing right next to him.  I imagine that once they have a rhythm this process will be improved but it was a speed bump to our experience.

We sauntered down the line and took a few of the free fresh baked daily cookies and cannoli's (delicious) and found a seat.

 Uncle Maddio's layout and design is user-friendly and upbeat.  Orange and red walls dot the interior and the stools and booths are very colorful.  Clearly a kid-friendly place the families that were there seemed to be having a blast.


Advertising "10 minute" pizzas ours arrived in just over 13 minutes.  Not bad, but I would worry with a lunch or dinner rush this could be a problem for their execution. Again, most likely a fine-tuning issue that will get better over time.

The food runner greeted our table asked who had which pizza and said, "These were made with love", which is part of their branding slogan. She then asked if we needed anything, smiled and was on her way.  Nice job.



Our pizzas were terrific.  The thin crust, light sauce and cheese allowed my spicy sausage (they offered three types of sausage), to shine.  My husband's Buffalo Chicken signature pizza was dotted with spicy tomato and buffalo sauce, mozzarella, grilled chicken, blue cheese crumbles, celery and homemade ranch dressing.  This too, could become my new favorite.  I also want to mention that menu is not expensive.  My pizza was $7.99 and the Buffalo Chicken was $8.99.  We could have easily split a pizza and it would have been enough for a meal.

The question that I posed at the beginning of this blog, "what would make Uncle Maddio's different" without a doubt centers on the owner, David Moulton.  

A former Domino's guy, this whirling-dervish-uber-passionate gentleman was a

delight to speak with.  He explained in detail that what makes his restaurant different is "everything is made with love".  

David believes 3 things will make Uncle Maddio’s successful:
  • Great food
  • Fair prices
  • Great service
David will also do anything to make his customers happy.  Customer first came to mind as he was speaking.

Everything at Uncle Maddio’s is made in house, dough, sauce, you name it they make, chop, shred, and slice it there.  There are only a couple of items (ciabatta rolls as an example) that are NOT made in house.  They make everything by hand.  There are no freezers or microwaves.  

In a day and age where many things in "chain restaurants" revolve around speed and ease of execution, Uncle Maddio's is "old school", which is refreshing. It also shows in the quality of their products. 

David has already given back quite a bit to the community but is offering something very special on this Saturday, February 14th.  From 11:00 a.m. To 2:00 p.m. David will give a way free pizzas to any/all customers in line.  “No strings attached".  You don't have to buy a beverage, cookie or salad, (although it would be nice if you did…), he just wants to meet his customers and give folks a chance to try his great food. 

Although we might not visit on Saturday, Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint might be a nice place to take your valentine!



We gave Uncle Maddio’s 5 plates and highly recommend you give them a try the next time you’re in Town Center.
Uncle Maddio's Pizza Shack on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

SOL Partners with Lowcountry Orphan Relief to Give Back this Holiday Season


SOL Southwest Kitchen & Tequila Bar’s Kitchen Karma program is raising money for local children now through January 5

After reaching their goal of raising $10,000 for local charities within their first year in business, SOL Southwest Kitchen & Tequila Bar looks to a second year of fundraising with its newest Kitchen Karma partnership. Now through January 5, SOL is partnering with Lowcountry Orphan Relief, a local charity organization that provides services and aid to meet the needs of Lowcountry children identified as at-risk or suffering from abandonment, abuse and/or neglect.

“Giving back is part of our mission,” said David Clark, owner of SOL, “and we’re honored to have the opportunity to work with our customers to help raise money for local kids who need our support.”

SOL raises these funds through its Kitchen Karma program where the restaurant pairs up with a local charity to raise funds for that organization for a period of about six to eight weeks. With this program, SOL chooses a featured dish and a featured cocktail and donates $1 from every featured item purchased at SOL within that fundraising period. The featured items for the Lowcountry Orphan Relief partnership include the Cranberry Spiced Margarita and Christmas Chimichanga. The Cranberry Spiced Margarita is made with classic holiday flavors, including fresh cranberry, cinnamon, all spice, clove, and tequila, with a lime sugar rim. The Christmas Chimichanga received its name from the red and green chile sauces used to make the dish.

For more information on SOL Southwest Kitchen & Tequila Bar and the Kitchen Karma program, please visit SOLMtPleasant.com, or find us on Facebook at SOL Mt. Pleasant. For more information about SOL’s current partnering charity organization, Lowcountry Orphan Relief, visit LowcountryOrphanRelief.org. 

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