Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dandy Date: Dinner at the Dandelion Market

Upon first glance, Dandelion Market looks like just another tiny bar on a side street in Uptown Charlotte.  However, once you step through the doors, you'll believe otherwise.  I first tried tapas (Spanish-inspired mini meals or appetizers) in Washington DC back in the early 2000s.  I found them to be hip, cool, and trendy at the time, but didn't realize that nearly ten years later, I would still love the concept.  It doesn't matter if your appetite comes in small, medium, or large, tapas can fit the bill for any meal.  Dandelion Market boasts a selection of delicious treats such as the "Prosciutto Crostini" or the "Lamb Lollipops".  The tapas dishes usually run from about $7-$10, so they are easy to split and they won't break the bank.  

In addition to yummy treats, DM offers $25 bottles of wine, and no corkage fee, so you can enjoy a delightful glass of Carmenere (hot new Red) and take the rest to go.  But you may want to hang around at Dandelion Market.  Whether you're downstairs in the spacious dining area, or upstairs in the bar area, you'll find the dark wood, low lighting, and pub-like feel to be inviting.  Dandelion Market is also featured on Restaurant.com right now, so grab a coupon and head Uptown for a Dandy Dinner!

Six Pence to the wind...a pub worth publishing

Coming Soon

Heaters in 100 degree weather? Must be hot yoga!

I've cursed the scorching summer dog days like most other North and South Carolina residents, but instead of opting for a frosty mug or a dip in the pool, I decided to turn up the temperature with some hot yoga...and I've never been happier. I always wanted to try the phenomenon of hot yoga (also called Bikram yoga, when adhering to a specific set of poses). I've done "cool" or "room temperature" yoga in the past many, many times, floating from gym to studio to home workout video and back. However, I truly feel that yoga is best done in the company of others. I know this idea seems a tad absurd, since amateur yogis are often embarrassed to be seen in less-than-perfect poses (a downward facing dog that looks more like a face plant road kill). I really think the fellowship of a yoga studio is as therapeutic as the stretches are themselves. So, I highly recommend the Om yoga studio in Fort Mill (Baxter).

Nestled in the heart of Baxter, Om is across the street from a maternity store The Bump, on the upper level. A fairly new yoga studio (it opened in January 2011), Om boasts an average of 8-15 students per class, depending on day versus night classes. Van, one of Om's employees, told me: "Honestly we feel very blessed that we get to be a part of this great little community (Baxter Village), and the fact that we get to come in everyday and do what we love by offering a service... that we get to make a difference and positive change in people's lives."

As soon as I walked into the studio, which my friend and I discovered online, I was instantly feeling at ease. I should have been a little apprehensive, seeing as how heaters were circling the room like a school of sharks waiting to turn my newly styled hair into a hot mess. However, I found the studio's naturally lit atmosphere to be calming and soothing, unlike the florescent lights of most gyms.  So, I felt very relaxed as I rolled out my dusty mat and prepared to find serenity.

A gentleman named Dar, the instructor, started class with a quotation about silence. This helped me to remember that yoga is not only a form of physical exercise, but it strengthens the mind and encourages peace and tranquility within as well. As an out-of-practice, often sporadic yogi, I found the class to be extremely challenging, and sweat began to form in tiny beads, soon turning to a flood (not to be gross, but more sweat than a 5K induces). Dar suggested reverting to child's pose whenever a move or stretch felt too difficult. There were several newbies in the class, and I noticed many of them following his advice, as not to tire out too quickly or experience an injury. The instruction was on point, and I learned a variety of new poses that I hadn't ever tried (Eagle and Reverse Warrior).

Throughout the class, I appreciated the soft, hip background music (Foster the People, etc.), the open blinds (which allowed for a glimpse of the setting sun and filled the room with warm, orange hues), and the reassuring voice of Dar, as he moved through each pose, in a quick yet didactic manner. I never felt rushed or forced into a pose, and at times, I paused so that I could watch others and try to emulate them. This patient, nonchalant vibe carried me through the class, when I would have considered giving up (remember, it had been a while since my dog faced downward).

The class ended peacefully with a cooling, lavender-soaked towel, and the same quotation about silence. I felt relaxed, and yet I felt a genuine sense of self-satisfaction and accomplishment. Sadly, I live about an hour away from the studio; otherwise, I would have to go back weekly to feed my new addiction for hot yoga. I will definitely make the trip once a month... but until next time, "Namaste".

For those of you thinking of giving hot yoga a whirl, Om is offering new student rates at $60 for 1 month unlimited and they always have discounts for students, teachers and seniors.  I highly recommend this hot spot for hot (and any other) yoga!  For yoga information, the phone number is: 803 396 0493.  Om is located in Baxter Village and it's website is: www.omyogasc.com.

Counter Attack at Boone Drug:" Old School" lunch counter fun

Coming Soon

Cool Penguins: Girlfriends and Grub

My foodie sidekick, Tara Gander, has been essential in my edible adventures for the last 12 years.  It started with a dream: road trip it to Gatlinburg, TN from Boone, NC in one day.  This was your classic spur-of-the-moment, let's put a 100 miles between us and your ex-boyfriend kind of college road trip...and really it's where our combined love of travel and food began.  We've come along way from two girls in a Jeep Wrangler eating a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts in one sitting.  I like to think our tastes and palettes have matured, even if we're still the wild and wonderful girls we've always been.

So, I'd like to dedicate this first Charlotte Unhitched restaurant review to Tara, in what will exclusively be known as the "Girlfriends and Grub" sector of the blog.

This wasn't our first trek to the Charlotte favorite The Penguin, located on Commonwealth near Elizabeth, across from Boris and Natasha's, Dish, and the Thomas Street Tavern.  In fact, our inaugural visit seems like a haze full of greasy goodness.  We dove right into the menu letting our eyes grow larger than our stomachs, and we ended up with a table full of food we could barely eat.  I was eager to make a second splash into the waters of The Penguin (first bad pun of the day), so we headed back for a more premeditated meal.

As soon as we walked in, I noticed that the lunch crowd was quite a variety bunch.  There were a few slightly older patrons, probably in for a regular Friday visit, a family here and there, and the most noticeable group, a rowdy bunch of college kids in a back booth.  The Penguin gears toward a younger crowd, in my opinion, with menu quips from Wedding Crashers  (Ma, the meatloaf) and Tommy Boy (wait for it...the Tommy Boy). However, the fare is classic North Carolinian fast food with grease, cheese, and chili with a twist (a black bean burger and some tantalizing salads).  I indulged in a Ma, the meatloaf on my first trek ( a hot dog with onions, chili, and slaw), but this time I tried the soy dog, the Best in Show to keep things a little on the healthy side.  I tend to do this...order a Diet Coke with a cheeseburger, a water with movie popcorn, ice cream without the cone.  I figure every little bit helps.  But I didn't skimp on the one thing that I remembered best from my last visit...the sweet potato fries.  Sweet potato fries are what Heaven is made of in my mind...literally, like Willy Wonka's candy factory, where you can eat everything.  I get all googly-eyed when I see them on my plate, standing out, bright orange, distinguishing themselves from the crowd like a short skirt at a home school convention.  They're a little bit crispy, a tad sweet, and one of the most popular side items on a lot of Charlotte restaurant menus.    "They ain't your mama's french fries... or your daddy's for that matter."  But enough about the most scrumptious starch in my food index.  I found my soy dog, fries, and the honey butter for fry dipping to be a real Friday afternoon treat.  The atmosphere of this dive is what I'd call "Diner Chic".  In other words, it eats like a good ole Carolina hot dog joint, but it looks like a Travel Channel special.

I highly recommend The Penguin, under new ownership, open seven days a week, when the generic neighborhood Sonic won't kick your need for a hot dog fix.  I'll give it 5 ice bergs, because it will really melt your appetite:)