If you called me up and extended an invitation to breakfast, I'd probably give you a really good
excuse reason as to why I just couldn't make it...I'm out of town on business, I'm scheduled for a root canal, or I have to give my dog a bath. There's just something so inside the box about breakfast. I mean, once you breach the subject of scrambled or over-easy, links or patties, white or wheat, there's not much else to get excited over.
Brunch, on the other hand, is a different story. The combination of a late breakfast and early lunch lends itself to all sorts of creativity. It's standard practice to see breakfast fare like eggs and waffles listed right beside pizza and seafood on a restaurant menu and it's perfectly acceptable to go either way with your menu choice. There is no right or wrong with brunch.
Recently, the Good Eats and Meets! Charlotte group hosted Sunday brunch at Cafe Monte, located at 6700 Fairview Road tucked away behind the Hampton Inn in the Allen Tate building. In addition to brunch, the French Bakery and Bistro also serves lunch and dinner and the menu choices are excellent and the portions are impressive. I chose the crab and lobster crepes even though I was slightly apprehensive about the tarragon creme sauce because I'm not a huge fan of heavy cream sauces. It was divine! The sauce, light but rich with flavor, was loaded with succulent pieces of crab and lobster and did not overpower the delicate crepes.
There were eleven people in our group and every single menu choice looked delicious. And with prices ranging from $7.95 to $15.95, you're not going to break the bank by indulging just a bit. Quaintly decorated with photos of people and places from 1900's France, the dining area seats 120 and while it was certainly crowded and full the day our group was there, the noise level was still comfortable enough that we could talk to each other across and down the length of the table.
Based on data collected from OpenTable diners, Cafe Monte was voted one of the best 50 restaurants for brunch based on feedback from over 4 million reviews from more than 10,000 restaurants in all 50 states. Receiving the 2010 Best Diner's Choice Award for Best Brunch is truly a proud accomplishment for this Charlotte jewel and I can guarantee that if you called me up and extended an invitation for brunch at Cafe Monte, I'd beat you to the table!
The folks over at POM Wonderful spent $34 million in medical research just so they could tout how healthy their tangy pomegranate juice is with no added sugars, preservatives or colors, gluten-free and loaded with potassium.
And what do I do with it?
Leave it to me to take something so healthy good-for-you and turn it into something so sinfully delicious and artery-clogging by turning it into a rich and creamy cheesecake slathered with a gorgeous ruby red pomegranate glaze that just begs to be dived into.
Seriously....look at that. Couldn't you just swim in that pool of pomegranate?
The cheesecake is the most excellent one from last year's Daring Bakers challenge and the glaze is a very simple combination that is also perfect for serving over vanilla ice cream. It will thicken up after it cools, so plan to either thin it with a bit of warm water or additional juice or just nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds to loosen it up.
It ain't healthy, but it sure is good!
If you'd like other Pom Wonderful recipe ideas, visit these links:
Pomegranate Glazed Cornish Hens
Cheesecake with Pomegranate Glaze:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, melted
2 tbsp. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
3 large eggs
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake
2 cups of Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice
3 tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, top with pomegranate glaze and serve.
To prepare the glaze:
In a medium saucepan, mix the cornstarch with the sugar. Slowly stir in the pomegranate juice and mix well. Cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce begins to thicken and darkens to a deep wine color, and the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and let cool. The sauce may be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. When ready to use, thin to desired consistency with water or additional pomegranate juice.
It's not polite to ask a lady her age, but I don't mind telling you that I can distantly see the next big "0" milestone in my peripheral vision. It's lurking in the shadows of a dark alley, waiting to rob me of my youth and even though I still have another year before I get thumped on the head and left for old, I've been thinking alot about age.
I've never thought of myself as old ~ up until this past year, I never believed myself to be old enough to have children and I've thankfully been blessed with relatively wrinkle-free skin thanks to the
preachings kind, caring words of concern from my mother to stay out of the sun. But I'm starting to notice some things....like the fact that the grocery store clerks are starting to refer to me as Ma'am and are more insistent on helping me to my car with my groceries. I'm no longer getting carded when I order an alcoholic beverage in a restaurant. But most of all, I'm starting to notice how my views on dating men have changed. I've always fished in the geriatric pool of men. I was voted "Most Likely to Marry Someone With Kids Her Own Age" amongst my peers. But as the years creep up on me, I find myself thinking more about the young tadpoles swimming in the kiddie pool of men.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of keeping the company of a fine, younger piece of eye candy. It was THE. FIRST. TIME. EVER. and the evening truly went down in history. I was so nervous about the evening that I wound up
sipping slugging an entire bottle of Polka Dot Riesling that I found hiding in the back of my refrigerator. By the end of the bottle, I no longer felt the need to remind myself that I was older and wiser than he because he had me giggling like a school girl all evening long.
I very much enjoyed the sweet, fruity flavor of the pink polka dot, but if crisp and dry is your thing, perhaps the green dot is more your style. Priced at $9.95 a bottle, you won't break the bank by exploring the taste of both. Check out their website for entertaining and pairing ideas as well.
I don't know if another evening with the company of a youngster is in the cards for me ~ I must admit I fear that in the throws of passion I'd kill the mood by wondering if he had his homework done or if he had to be home by 10pm curfew.
The phrase heart attack on a plate generally refers to a pile of greasy, fried food guaranteed to send your ticker into electrocardiogram malfunction quicker than you can tear off a paper towel to blot the grease from your lips. But I can't help but think of that phrase every time I serve this Stuffed Chicken with Crab Sauce.
One of my last gigs as a caterer was a wedding rehearsal dinner for 75 guests with this entree on the menu. We were scheduled to serve food at 7:30pm and amongst the excitement of catching the overhead canopy on fire with a tiki torch and finding out that some of the equipment in the facility's kitchen didn't work, we also realized at 7:15 there were no guests in the dining room eagerly awaiting our food.
Panic set in..were we in the wrong place? Did we have the wrong date? And after the reassurance that we were in fact where we were supposed to be and when, we found a lonely and forlorn guest wandering around and inquired about the wedding party. It seems that in the middle of practicing his nuptials, the groom-to-be started experiencing the classic signs of a panic attack himself ~ raging heartbeat, dizziness, sweating, shaking ~ so much so that he had to be taken to the hospital. He was eventually able to come to terms with the fact that his bachelorhood days were coming to an end and joined us for dinner a couple of hours later. I often wonder if the bride had the wedding planner stash a defibrillator in the corner during the ceremony the next day.
This rich and saucy dish hails from one of my favorite cookbooks that I picked up in Charleston, SC some years ago called Big Mama's Back In The Kitchen. It's loaded with Cajun-inspired and low country recipes rooted in the Deep South and it's guaranteed to bring about a fluttering of the heart simply because it's so, so good!
Stuffed Chicken Breast with Crab Sauce
6 boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup butter or margarine (melted)
3 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cooked ground pork sausage
1 (6oz) box stuffing mix (I used Stove Top)
1 stick butter or margarine
1/4 cup chopped onions
3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 bay leaves
1 (6oz) can crab meat
Pound chicken breasts with a wooden mallet to flatten.
Combine melted butter and seasonings. Spoon over chicken breasts. Set aside.
Grind sausage in a food processor for extra fine texture. Prepare stuffing according to package directions. Add sausage. Spoon stuffing along center of breasts. Roll up and secure with toothpicks. Place stuffed breasts (seam side down) in a greased baking dish.
Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
To prepare crab sauce, melt butter in a small skillet. Saute onion 2 minutes. Stir in flour until blended and cook 3-4 minutes. Add broth. Blend until creamy. Add remaining ingredients.
Simmer 10-15 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Spoon hot sauce over stuffed breasts.