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foodie b’eat: Cinco de Muncho at YES! Weekly

Cinco de Mayo is upon us. It just happens to coincide here locally with Hope du Jour so please be sure to eat out at a local restaurant on May 5 as a portion of all proceeds benefit Crisis Control Ministries. You can read more about Hope du Jour and Crisis Control Ministries here.

And if you are having trouble making a decision, here’s a list of faves that are sure to have something to hit the spot this May. We call it our Cinco EN Mayo.

Read all about it in my YES! Weekly blog article here.

What’s your favorite Mexican restaurant?

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Recipe: Toscana Soup or Zuppa Toscana or Spicy Italian Sausage, Potato & Kale Soup

After the cold winter that we had the misfortune of enduring this past April weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to post a recipe gets requested a good bit, particularly the last 2 days. And since in a couple of days it’s going to be a little chillier than late April ought to be, with more rain (yay), it’s as good a time as any. And if you can’t bear the thought of a spicy, potato-y soup in April (why the heck not?), then it can live in your archives until you deem it cold enough. :)

This soup is a copycat of the very popular one from OG (you know where I mean). I don’t know what their recipe is. But a few chefs out there have placed their own versions on the blogosphere and mine may be just like those. All I know is that I’ve done it so many times, I don’t go by a recipe but I know the ratios well enough. I’m not writing a cookbook, so you’ll have to trust me. This recipe gives you a bit of leeway depending on the amount of sausage you want in it and how you like your potatoes. mr. foodie likes his meaty. So I double the sausage from 1 to 2 pounds. And he likes varied texture so I usually slice up link sausages and ground sausage and brown them together. It’s vital that you use HOT Italian sausage. I guess you can use sweet/mild and add heat but this way— It’s just so yummy and spicy. It will make you feel ALIVE.

Toscana Soup

1-2 lb hot Italian sausage (you can use links or go with ground. Ground is easier but links are more true to the original)
2 cloves finely chopped garlic (or equivalent garlic powder)
1 tsp. minced onion (I use dry, but feel free to sweat in some fresh)
4-5 Medium sized russet potatoes, roughly cut into bite size pieces or sliced thin. Whatever.
4 cups chopped kale (again bite size pieces or bigger if you like it rustic). The pics show a Tuscan kale, but I usually use the curly kale too that’s more common.
4 cups chicken broth or stock
1/2-1 cup heavy cream. Depending on how creamy you want it. You may replace with milk or half &     half. It just won’t be as creamy. Here’s what I do. I use a half cup of cream, then I add milk until it just hits the  top of the ingredients in the pot.
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (no lie)
salt and pepper to taste

In a dutch oven or large pot, brown the sausage. If you use links, you’ll want to take them out, let them cool a bit then slice at 1/2 inch thickness.

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They may crumble out of their casings a bit. That’s okay. You may decide to drain a bit of the grease. It varies for me. I kind of like the color that reddish bit of rendered fat gives the soup. It’s up to you. While the sausage browns, chop your potatoes. Chop or slice as thin as you like. We like it rustic and we cook it a bit longer so they get very tender but you get larger, more tender bites. You know what you like.

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Add potatoes to the sausage in the pot. Add onion, garlic, and seasonings, then kale.

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Add stock or broth and bring to a boil. Slowly stir in cream or milk. You’ll want the liquids to just graze the the top of where the veggies come to.

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The kale will wilt down a lot. Just simmer on medium low until the potatoes are tender. You can go back and mash them up with the back of your spoon or you can leave larger…again, up to you. I let mine go for a couple of hours but it will probably be ready in one hour. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. If you need more heat and you used spicy sausage then you are a bada…mamma jamma. You see, you do get a bit of rendered fat on top. It ain’t bad, I promise. Enjoy!

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Here’s picture for reference. This time I just used ground hot Italian sausage. It didn’t render nearly the fat. And it’s a more golden potato looking soup. Both were magnifico!

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Graze Burger..ain't it a beaut?

Graze (as in sip, share, savor) Restaurant: Winston-Salem

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Sometimes I think few things make people shudder than the thought of eating in a “hotel restaurant.” Granted, it’s not always the best dining experience. BUT!! The Marriott Hotel in the Twin City Quarter of Downtown Winston-Salem houses Graze Restaurant…and though technically not “locally-owned” (okay, okay I’m a bit of a badgering snob about that), the dedication to source most of its ingredients locally as well as the talents of the culinary team are enough to make all of us change our thinking.

I liked the space when it was WS Prime. But, when it was revamped into Graze in early 2014, it became more comfortable and communal. They now offer small plates, a few more salads and sandwiches and scaled down the selection of entrees. Oh and lest you think you can’t take the kids, you totally can. Grab a booth because all of them have personal flat screen TV’s, put on some kids programming and you’ll be in heaven. Or you can catch up on your own favorite.

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The Chef de Cuisine, Richard Miller, is becoming a force to be reckoned with…placing first runner-up in Competition Dining’s Fire in the Triad last year. He’s ready to battle again this summer. Really, he’s a super nice guy with a passion for exemplary food with local fare. By the way, you can see him in action at our Food and Wine University Tent on June 6 at Salute! NC Wine Celebration. He’s accepted the All-Local Challenge Entree Demonstration. Mark your calendars for that.

On a recent visit, mr. foodie and I shared an appetizer of Fried Green Tomatoes with pimento cheese, goat cheese, honey habanero and a balsamic reduction. One of my favorite salads is a Wedge of Iceberg Salad, and Graze’s is just a touch delightfully different with chipotle bleu cheese, bacon, queso fresco, heirloom baby tomatoes, grilled white corn and pickled red onion. The sweet and sour pickled red onion makes that salad top notch.

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Fried Green Tomatoes

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Wedge of Iceberg

And get this…right now and for who knows what kind of limited time, that crazy chef and his team are offering the Graze Burger. This burger. Gah! I die. A 4 oz. Certified Angus burger, with smoked gouda, cheddar, Texas Pete Cha buttermilk ranch, bacon AND AND a Joyce Farms fried chicken breast on top. If you are thinking ‘calorie buster”   “awesome protein to carb ratio,” you’d be RIGHT! :) This is not an everyday burger. This is an “I’m feeling like splurging because I’m awesome and deserve it” burger. Okay? So, get it.

Graze Burger..ain't it a beaut?

Graze Burger..ain’t it glorious?

Inside view of the Graze Burger

“Inside view” of the Graze Burger

The menu changes seasonally at Graze and Chef Richard and his team like to offer special features to celebrate our region. Know that no matter what the season, you’ll find local chicken, lamb, NC trout, NC sweet potatoes, Johnston County meats, locally-sourced veggies. For a hotel restaurant and for MANY restaurants, few support our local farmers and providers like Graze. Prices for small plates are $5-9, lunch will be from $10-15 for any number of great looking salads, sandwiches or burgers and dinner entrees are $20-28. Check back during the work week for Happy Hour specials…snacks for $5.

I will say that if you get a chance to pop these deviled eggs into your mouth, I highly recommend. They are so good. They aren’t always offered but if you luck out, you won’t be able to decide if you like traditional best or the smoked salmon or the pork belly-topped best. It’s a 3-way tie.

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“Traditional w/ Cha! & Microgreens; Pork Belly; Smoked Salmon

A couple of other interesting options, Okra Nachos. Fried Okra with pimento cheese, goat cheese, honey habanero sauce, tomato and scallions. Don’t they look yummy? There are also some good looking flat breads, one with Maple Leaf Farms Duck.

Okra Nachos (photo: Courtesy Graze Restaurant)

Okra Nachos (photo: Courtesy Graze Restaurant)

Oh and presently on the appetizer selections is Joyce Farms Fried Chicken Skin with Texas Pete Cha! Aioli. I I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want that in your belly, foodies.

I look forward to hearing back about your experience at Graze.

Have you been presently surprised by a hotel restaurant?

Enjoy eating local!

Graze Restaurant
425 North Cherry Street
Winston-Salem, NC
336.722.5232

triadfoodies “Hit List”–a good one!

I’ve been kind of getting a stockpile of places that I’ve tried and loved and been kind of busy to post them all individually so I’m going to take some time here to share some great places that you must try. A few new ones, some old faves that I’ve not mentioned on this here blog and pics and accolades to go along with them. Links and addresses are included.

Outwest Steakhouse, 1185 Highway 66, Kernersville

I must start with a restaurant in the town in which I live. A place that it’s been so long  that I had eaten there that I didn’t even want to go. It’s kind of packed on Saturday and my parents, sister…all of us and our kids got together for birthdays. I must admit, I wasn’t keen on visiting Outwest. But I was pleasantly surprised by great steaks, hot food, and all that you’d expect from a steakhouse. Believe it or not, I decided to NOT order steak because I’d heard the Tuna was delicious and I’ll have to agree. So, if you need an “in-between” the cities meeting spot that’s casual and you get there early enough, you won’t be waiting in all the revelry that seems to arrive around 7:30. It does get busy Outwest.

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98 Asian Bistro, 1800 North Main St., High Point

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This place is gorgeous. So dimly lit to completely prepare you for your Asian fare. The food is really great too. Our table had fresh Spring Rolls, Fried Spring Rolls, Pad Thai, Chicken Stir Fry, Black  Pepper Beef…and you know Mr. foodie got Curry. Each and every dish was fresh and tasty. It’s located in a little center that used to be a car dealership. Check them out when you’ve got a craving for Thai cuisine. You won’t be disappointed.

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Sushi Republic, 329 Tate Street, Greensboro

Arguably THE BEST sushi in Greensboro. There’s no other place that offers such interesting and innovative sushi with its fusion inspired rolls. And whatever you do, you MUST get the Garlic Edamame. It is incredible. The Vegetable Tempura is also very pleasing but what I do miss at Sushi Republic is the slight sweetness that typically comes with the dipping sauce that goes with tempura. It’s still really good and the sushi…I’ve never been disappointed. My favorite is still the Black Tiger Roll.

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Hops Burger Bar, 2419 Spring Garden Street, Greensboro

It’s been a long time coming…eating here. Every time I’ve tried there’s been a line out the door. So we arrived on Sunday at 4:30 because the other place we wanted to try had a line out the door. And we didn’t feel like waiting (which is weird because it was only 4:30) so we told ourselves, “Hops might not have a wait!” But they did. It wasn’t out the door…we were 2nd in line but we did have to wait. So that tells you they might be worth it. So after about 20 minutes or so we were seated. I don’t have many pics here but we all got burgers (except the kidlets, who shared chicken fingers). Mr. foodie ordered a burger with Chevre and Pepper Jelly…YUM! I ordered the French Onion with caramelized onions, gruyere cheese, garlic and thyme aioli. It came with its own jus/gravy…I didn’t think it needed it and only dipped a couple of times. I highly recommend the Garlic Rosemary Fries. Presentation is awesome and service is great. Burgers best served with any of a plethora of NC Craft Beers.

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Kabobs on Fourth, 214 West 4th Street, Winston-Salem

You get your naan to ORDER. I mean, I could stop right there! But the soups are delicious, the meats are perfectly cooked. There are a few folks who say it’s pricy for kabobs but the quality of the beef and lamb are the reason you’ll pay a tiny bit more. And I promise, you won’t leave hungry. We don’t all need enormous plates of food. Fresh and healthy and made to order naan are where it’s at here.
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West End Cafe, 926 West 4th Street, Winston-Salem

I really don’t even have to put them in here. The loyal customers that flock here on a daily basis know that one of the best places in WS to get a great value for lunch is at West End Cafe. It’s been years since we visited so on a dreary afternoon we headed there for lunch. By far, my favorite item at WEC is the Potato Pancakes. They’re served with sour cream and applesauce and they are just total yummiliciousness. I could just eat them only. But you must try the Reuben if you are there and any number of special soups for the day. Sandwiches are great and salads are hearty. There’s a reason why they always have good crowds.

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DiLisio’s, 301 Brookstown Avenue, Winston-Salem
Ahh…DiLisio’s. Awesome Italian, great prices, comfortable atmosphere…and Tony and Maria. You kind of get it all here. Check them out often
because they have specials that change nightly. They have traditional entrees like Chicken Parm and Veal Marsala…kind of famous for their Lasagna. The Shrimp Fra Diavlo will make your eyes water and your tongue tingle…but just enough to make you appreciate it’s devilish heat. Also, you must check them out when they have monthly Sunday Wine Dinners. I hear folks who’ve attended rave about them. And Mary Haglund of Mary’s Gourmet Diner said his clam soup almost made her cry. Which tells me I definitely need to try it. And so do you!  Also, please enjoy some Fried Ravioli. Yes….

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Irie Rhythms, 3252 Silas Creek Parkway, Winston-Salem
Well, well….if you need a little kick in your lunch or dinner, look no further. I am a FAN. One of WSNC’s newest additions and it’s Jamaican fare has been well received. The Jerk Chicken is SPICY…so delicious and tender that the meat falls right off the bone. I highly recommend the rice and peas and make sure you get the cooked cabbage as a side—it is crazy good. The collards are delicious too. And the fried plantains. I need to go back. I’m getting a craving already. A little bird told me to get the Mango Cheesecake (after I’d already left—not like I had room to eat dessert though). Check them out. They are great for lunch because they have specials, which include a drink. There might be a bit of a wait…it seems longer than it actually is because it smells so good in there. But it’s so worth it.

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So that’s a good size list for now. Now, foodies…you’ve got some eatin’ to do! Let me know what you think. And as always, if you know of a place that we must check out, don’t hesitate to tell us.

Until next time, skip the lines at the chains and eat local!

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foodie b’eat–Sneak Peek! Quanto Basta: Italian Eatery and Wine Bar

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After months of waiting and anticipation, downtown Winston-Salem’s newest restaurant was unveiled last night in a private event and even 8 inches of snow (give or take a few) couldn’t keep the foodies away. Quanto Basta: Italian Eatery & Wine Bar (corner of 4th and Spring Street) is a new restaurant by the partners of Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar, one of #WSNC’s most acclaimed establishments. Chef Tim Grandinetti and business partners, Lynn and Lynnette Matthews-Murphy have worked tirelessly turning Lynn’s old office building into a gorgeous and inviting restaurant with a center bar and open kitchen with a wood-burning oven.We were informed that the preliminary tasting for press, family and friends would take place snow or shine. It was a great crowd.

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mr. foodie, Mark Maier and Tim Beeman, from Tart and Tangy Triad and The Less Desirables Podcast

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Owner/Chef Tim Grandinetti and local writer, Carroll Leggett

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Chef Jeff Bacon (Triad Community Kitchen), Grandinetti and Yelp Triad Manager Holly Bertoncini

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TTT Podcast hosts Stephanie Beeman, Tim Beeman & Chef and Niksnacks blogger, Nikki Miller-Ka

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WS Journal’s Justin Gomez and Radio Personality Bob Campbell

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In the middle is local WS Journal Food Editor, Michael Hastings

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In addition to seating of all sizes, a couple of community tables and even some high seating are scattered throughout as well as a small separate seating area that I’m sure can be used by private groups. If there’s one thing the Matthews’ and Grandinetti can do, it’s make a very cozy environment in which to dine. There are great little touches that make it comfortable and fun, from the casual seating, rustic bar to the half-century old sign that once adorned Grandinetti’s grandparents’ pizza restaurant in Hudson, New York. He says he’s been holding onto it for years, waiting to find its perfect home. And it’s found itself right near a beautiful pizza oven, where Chef Christopher Fulk (formerly of Christopher’s Global Cuisine and Pintxo’s Pour House) leads the kitchen and last night, was tossing flat bread dough…

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Chef Christopher Fulk

So in just one week, you’ll get to see it all for yourself and taste what we got to taste last night!  Pizza, antipasti, salad, sliders, sandwiches and traditional Italian specialties that remind Grandinetti of his childhood. Below is just a sampling of the tastes we got to try last night…each delicious and fresh…the anitpasti…oh my!  And for the first time in his life, mr. foodie loved and I mean LOVED Eggplant Parmesan. We were served family and buffet style for this tasting. The menu has appetizers, pizza, antipasti, pasta and specialities all at a terrific price point and nothing over $17, something Grandinetti says is much needed in Winston-Salem. Quanto Basta means “as much as you need” in Italian. Sounds like an Italian Grandma, doesn’t it? We think you’ll get your fill more than once here. :)

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Chef Tim and Heidi Grandinetti

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The menu…can you read it?

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Coffee and wine bar

Opening day is Thursday, March 5. Quanto Basta will be open Monday through Saturday 3pm-until late. Beginning in summer, you can enjoy Supper at ‘Nonna’s. Family-style Italian goodness.

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To stay on top of QB happenings, follow them on Facebook.

So!  More choices downtown, foodies. When you get a chance to check them out, let us know what you think. Until then, eat local!