Culinary Corner for May 18

by Charles Jenkin

A ‘Toast’ to taking responsibility: March 25 is a date owners and managers of this popular breakfast place will forever remember as the day guests became sick after consuming a food-borne illness. The Mecklenburg County Health Department declared that Toast Café in Dilworth was responsible for giving at least 15 people salmonella. In all, 29 people reported being sick after dining there that day.

Both Brian Burchill, co-owner, and Robert Maynard, managing partner at Toast Café, were devastated. They could have remained quiet and allowed this event to be quickly forgotten. Instead, here is some of what Robert had to say: “This has been an unfortunate and unforeseen incident, and we would like to use this time to learn, reflect and initiate changes that we hope will inspire others. Toast is not here to make excuses; a bad egg was sold to our restaurant. Our job now is to implement a course of action to ensure that it never happens again. With that said, every egg now sold at Toast will be 100 percent pasteurized. Nothing is more important to us than our customers. We have been one of the top brunch spots in the Charlotte area for over seven years for a reason. This experience has inspired us to be even better and to deliver only the best food and service one can expect from Toast. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but it’s what you do to correct and improve the situation that matters the most.”

The eggs we all buy, as well as most restaurants, are not pasteurized (unless you see the word ‘pasteurized’ or a “P” in a circle). This is the reason for the warning on many menus offering eggs prepared over easy or poached; or in a sauce like hollandaise, or Cesar salad which is traditionally prepared with a raw egg. It was the hollandaise sauce for the eggs Benedict that was the misfortune for Toast. It only takes one egg carrying salmonella to affect a batch of sauce. Pasteurization of eggs eliminates salmonella, as stated by the USDA.

I congratulate Brian and Robert, along with the folks at Toast for stepping forward and making the change. I will confidently go to Toast Café, without hesitation, knowing they have taken the necessary steps to insure a healthy and delicious dining experience. I hope you will join me.

Culinary IQ

Check please: I have received emails describing a less-than-desirable culinary characteristic. This is a portion of one email:

“Here is what a mommy friend and our two preschool sons experienced. We went for lunch at 11:30. As always service and food was wonderful, the place was packed, and everything was going nicely. Until, halfway through our entree the server puts our checks on the table and says ‘For your convenience, no hurry, I will take this whenever you are ready.’ My mouth dropped open. Now, I understand 99 percent of the diners are working and need to get in and out. The manager came to the table as a general walk through and checking in, and well, I said something. Does this mean she is finished taking care of us? The manager told me it is what the owner wants; it is what is expected of the wait staff in order to help the business people get in and out. Regardless of my extensive hospitality background, I find this practice a great way to put guests off. Trust me; if your servers can wait tables and time everything else, then I am sure they can handle getting a check properly to a guest.”

What do you think? Is it alright to bring the check when you are half-finished your meal; does it matter if it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner? Does it depend on what the server says? I would like to get your thoughts on this practice to share in an upcoming Culinary Corner. I will have spoken with restaurant owners and will share their philosophy as well as my personal opinion.

George Pappas’ Park Lanes has transformed into Ten at Park Lanes, and with that comes scratch-made comfort foods and more than you could ever expect out of a bowling alley. Photo courtesy of Ten at Park Lanes

New to the Neighborhood

Strike! When’s the last time you ordered a glass of Charles Smith Kung Foo Girl Riesling and an Oven Roasted Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Flatbread Pizza… in a bowling alley? You’ll know you’re there thanks to the giant vintage 25-foot by 10-foot neon bowling pin and the bright orange retro canopy. The popular George Pappas’ Park Lanes has undergone a renaissance, in addition to new owners and a new name – Ten at Park Lanes. The Montford Drive institution’s make-over includes a restaurant featuring scratch-made comfort food.

In addition to the restaurant and an indoor lounge and bar area, there are three separate outdoor patios and a 24-tap outdoor beer garden. The full bar features a dispensing system fabricated to resemble a modern day moonshine still. It keeps 12 bottles of moonshine on tap perfectly chilled, and includes 10 flavors and two premiums from North Carolina moonshine distillers. Who knew?

The menu’s signature item is “Mason Jar Signature Stacks” – complementary foods layered in mason jars. For example, the Mason Jar Smoke includes slow smoked Angus prime rib, creamy cheddar mac and cheese, and house smoked jalapenos. The menu also includes homespun barbecue (smoked in a custom built 400-pound smoker), Charlotte’s only short rib and brisket hamburgers inventive slider and taco combinations, flatbreads and classic hand-tossed salads. You can enjoy it all on the expansive outdoor dining deck, complete with overhead fans and flat screen televisions. I have tasted the burgers, and they are outstanding! The mac and cheese is dynamite, and the ribs… finger-lickin’ delish. It’s all at www.rollten.com.

E=MC2: Ballantyne has arrived – when it comes to boasting an Einstein Bros. Bagels shop. “I can’t think of a better way to showcase the freshness and quality of our breakfast sandwiches to the local community,” said Phil Rice, owner of the new Einstein in south Charlotte. “I am excited to offer a restaurant that will impress new and longtime Einstein Bros. Bagels fans with fresh menu options and a vibrant dining atmosphere.”

Situated on Conlan Circle, this opening marks the fourth Einstein Bros. Bagels that Rice owns and operates in the Charlotte area. He recently opened his third Einstein Bros. location in Myers Park on Providence Road. His expansion plans include opening 11 more restaurants in the coming years throughout Charlotte and Nashville. Each of Rice’s new restaurants contribute to the economic landscape through local business and construction developments in addition to employing upward of 80 full- and part-time staff members.

Einstein Bros. Bagels’ diverse menu offerings include its world famous freshly baked bagels, signature sandwiches, home-style soups, tempting sweets and bottomless artisan roasted coffee. Hours are Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information and all area locations can be found at www.einsteinbros.com.

Think you got to buy a plane ticket to get to Germany? NO! Just drive on down to Pineville for the Waldhorn. Photos courtesy of the Waldhorn

Just Beyond the Neighborhood

Just say Wienerschnitzel: In the area that some refer to as Ballantyne West, or Pineville, there is a German restaurant; the only German eatery in the Charlotte area. Fortunately it is very close to our neck of the woods. Gitta and Thomas Maier opened the Waldhorn in June 1999. For 13 years guests from south Charlotte and throughout the region have been enjoying the taste of authentic German cuisine. Gitta is from Germany, and grew up in the business; her parents own a restaurant there by the same name.

Fresh baked rye bread; in-house cooked corned beef; and superb sauerkraut made from scratch – nothing like what comes out of a jar. All the sauces are made from scratch. They even bake the breads and rolls. Sauerbraten, Wienerschnitzel and Hausgemachte Maultaschen are all made from scratch. Okay, the last one also is known as geschmelzt; traditional pasta pillows filled with meat and spinach in a homemade beef broth, topped with sautéed onions. You have to get in for lunch and delight in how divine a Rueben can taste. The desserts, also all made from scratch, are to die for; the strudel is phenomenal and the black forest cake is outstanding.

Choose from 12 German drafts on tap and another 27 German beers by the bottle. The Beer Club boasts more than 1,600 members and the annual Oktoberfest is like being in Germany. On Friday and Saturday evenings you can enjoy the sounds of the live accordion player. The Sunday brunch also is very popular. So throw on your lederhosen (leather breeches) and head over to the Waldhorn. Check it all out at www.waldhorn.us q

Questions, comments, south Charlotte restaurant openings, closings and food news, email ­culinary@thecharlotteweekly.com.

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