NO FEE Disney Vacation Planning

By Mom About Charlotte

Shoji Spa, Lodge and Wellness Center

Asheville Getaway Soaked in Bliss

Anders Ruff Workshop

Pineville and Davidson, NC

Disney Hacks

Stroller Edition

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Nana's Soul Food Kitchen - Mommy's Favorite Thing to Make for Dinner is Reservations

Good food feeds the soul, and Nana's Soul Food Kitchen serves up soul-filling comfort foods. Nana’s offers an array of Southern home cooked favorites, including fried chicken and fish, smothered pork chops, ribs, amazing macaroni and cheese - and yams the kids are still talking about.

The environment at Nana’s is very casual and relaxed. Their southern fare is served cafeteria style, on styrofoam plates. Diners are able to choose from over 15 meat entrees and over 18 side dishes. The most difficult part of our experience was trying to narrow it down to only three things per person!

I chose a small dish that included 1 meat and 2 sides plus a cornbread muffin and drink for $9.49. My tastebuds took over from there. The fried chicken was tender and tasty, I enjoyed the macaroni and cheese and the mashed potatoes hit the spot.


The kids split a small dish and had the smothered pork chop, which I also tried and was perfectly cooked and seasoned. They of course loved the macaroni and cheese and the yams were like nothing we'd tasted before - sweet and hearty - like a mini dessert. We finished with the banana pudding that got thumbs up from the kids.

Jim's Take:
I enjoy restaurants that specialize in “fast casual” dining, and Nana’s Soul Food Kitchen does it very well.  Nana’s provided a delicious dinner, served to order right in front of us.  I ordered the fried catfish with sides of curry rice and pinto beans.  Everything was seasoned very well and cooked to perfection.  The catfish had a nice crispy crust while the fish itself was flaky and moist.  The rice and beans were both very good – the rice a little spicy and the beans tasted like good refried beans that weren’t turned into a paste.  I had the opportunity to sample the smothered pork chop, the fried chicken, and the yams.  I would recommend all of them.  The pork chop was tender and the gravy was thick and rich.  The fried chicken was fresh and tasty as well.  If you’re looking for some great Southern comfort food, I highly recommend taking a trip to Nana’s.

Nana's Kitchen offers two locations - we visited the one near the airport at 2908 Oak Lake Blvd, Charlotte. Their second location is at 304 Matthews Indian Trail in Indian Trail in the Carolina Courts - which caters to family fun. You can follow Nana's Soul Food Kitchen on facebook or visit them online at www.nanassoulfoodkitchen.com.

Mom About Charlotte Disclaimer: In exchange for this review, our meals were paid for. However, our opinions are our own, and not influenced by the restaurant providing the meal free of charge.
 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

OGGI Ristorante Italiano: Mommy's Favorite Thing to Make for Dinner is Reservations -

I'm an Italian girl (don't let the red hair fool you), and since I've moved from Upstate New York I've been on the hunt for amazing Italian food like we had at home. My search had been full of meh marianaras and not as good as my Aunt Regina's meatballs.

We were invited to dine at Oggi in Ballantyne for the 'Mommy's Favorite Thing to Make for Dinner is Reservations' blog series. BEHOLD, the Italian cuisine hole in my soul was filled with fresh made pasta, to-die-for calamari, and one exquisitely tasty meatball! We had the two tots in tow and they were happily greeted with a basket filled with crayons, coloring sheets and fresh made Italian bread with butter. If my daughter had three wishes, the first would be to live on a diet of Italian bread and butter. So she was happy at the get go.


Our waiter explained that Oggi means "today" in Italian and that they chose that name because everything from the sauces, to the pastas, to the bread and desserts are made fresh at Oggi each day - from scratch. The veggies and fresh ingredients are purchased from local growers. 


We began our meal with two appetizers. First was the boconccino emiliana which were lightly fried croquettes made of risotto and filled with a decadent mozzarella, pesto, sundried tomatoes and presented on marinara sauce - de-lish. The second was the calamari & zucchini croccanti which was slightly spicy, and hands down the best calamari I've ever had. I made the mistake of taking our daughter to the bathroom while we were enjoying the appetizers and when I came back the remaining calamari had quickly vanished into my husbands stomach. Well played Jim, well played.

We requested that Eloy, the owner and chef, choose the entrees for us and he was spot on with his decision. Eloy selected the crab meat ravioli served in creamy lobster sauce for me - and oh my. The ravioli were like pillows, light and savory - it's like he knew I am a huge seafood fan. They were unlike any of the dense cheese filled ravioli I've tasted before in other restaurants. This dish has firmly planted itself on my 'must try again' list.

On our way to the restaurant I started telling S about where we were going and asked her if she could think of any foods that she had eaten that were Italian. She paused for a moment and said, "Um.. well, yea - a latte." Which left Jim and I in stitches as he asked her "When have you ever had a latte?!" She hadn't, but we all giggled and began talking about her Italian heritage and all the things we thought were going to be on the menu when we arrived.



S's favorite Italian dish is fettuccine alfredo, and score, they offered this and many more choices on their children's menu. S told me it was her new favorite fettuccine alfredo place to go. She gave Oggi two glitter nail polished thumbs up.

Our son loves marinanra, ravioli and meatballs. He inhaled his portion, exclaiming 'MMMMmm!' He's getting to be such a little person with opinions he wants to share with the rest of us at 19 months old. The restaurant was somewhat quiet because of the time we arrived (5PM on a Monday), so I was a little nervous our LOUD son was going to interrupt other people's meals with his outbursts of excitement or dislike. Luckily the restaurant began to fill as we ate and our kid's voices fell into the background of other diners talking and enjoying their meals.

Then came dessert, which was a decadent cheese flan with fresh made gelato, drizzled with caramel happiness. I couldn't think of a more delicious way to end our meal. The kids simply inhaled it as we 'shared' and I savored each bite I was able to sneak. If you go - save room for dessert - you can thank me later. 

The ambiance home-style casual but posh enough for date nights and MNO's, and the prices are quite reasonable ($15-$20 for most entrees) - especially for the homemade, fresh, quality and quantity of the food.

The only down side to our experience was the lack of a changing table in the bathrooms, something I was told the owner is looking into adding soon. The entire restaurant was clean, trendy and the taste of the food made it an absolute Italian Gem in Ballantyne. I highly recommend trying out this little slice of Italy.

Jim's take on Oggi:
Oggi is a top notch Italian restaurant.  All of the food is prepared fresh daily, and it really shows in the quality of the food.  Everything I tried was excellent.  I could have left happy after the fresh Italian bread and the Calamari & Zucchini Croccanti appetizer (fried calamari and zucchini with a spicy marinara sauce).  Fortunately we didn’t, because then I got to experience the rich, delicious Pollo Marsala, featuring a tender chicken breast, sliced Portobello mushrooms, and linguine tossed with fresh garlic.  

Many higher end Italian restaurants feature $15-$25 entrees but they usually don’t give you enough to eat.  Oggi combines high end quality with average prices and good portion sizes.  I also give very high marks for the service.  Our waiter Joe was very friendly, attentive, and accommodating.  The restaurant is located in a shopping center with an adjacent parking lot so parking was not an issue.

If you want to tantalize your taste buds check out their menu at OggiCharlotte.com, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter @OggiCharlotte and Instagram. They are located at 16646 Hawfield Way Drive Charlotte, NC in the The Shoppes at Ardrey Kell. Reservations can be made at 704-716-9400

 
Mom About Charlotte Disclaimer: In exchange for this review, our meals were paid for. However, our opinions are our own, and not influenced by the restaurant providing the meal free of charge.






Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mommy's Favorite Thing to Make for Dinner is Reservations - Chima Brazilian Steakhouse


Chima Brazilian Steakhouse was our first stop for my 'Mommy's Favorite Thing to Make For Dinner is Reservations' blog series - and what a great way to kick it off!

I've dined at Chima before and have always been impressed, but I was nervous to be bringing the kids with us. It's a classy restaurant and I was worried it wasn't 'little kid' friendly. My worries were quickly assuaged.
We used their complimentary valet service dropping our car off on 4th street. Upon our arrival the hostess placed us in a great location, close to the salad bar but with enough room for all of our belongings. The servers were on point and immediately got our drinks and asked if the kids might care for some french fries. They placed some airy cheesy bread on our table and the kids were in heaven.

Our son inhaled the bread while I brought our daughter to the salad bar. She kept exclaiming how pretty it was. She was right, it looked beautiful, crisp and fresh. There were some unique dishes, and she's a picky eater - but we were able to get several items that got her 'picky kid seal of approval'.

Their salad bar offered many eye and palette pleasing options. I'm a huge fan of fresh mozzarella, which made a beeline for my plate. I chose to taste several of their salads and my favorites were the calamari and the endive salads. But, lets be honest, I was in it for the Rodizio - which was AHHH-MAZING.


Once we flipped our chip to orange the gauchos stopped by our table offering an array of succulent meats on skewers. I sampled sirloin, ribeye, leg of lamb, flank steak, ribs, chicken and bacon wrapped chicken and filet. My two favorites were the filet and the parmesan pork loin. I thought everything was cooked to perfection and tasted outstanding. Just when I thought I couldn't enjoy another ounce of meat, they brought around the salmon and swordfish. I donned my 'Meat Queen' crown and tried a little of both - you know.. for the blog's sake ;) The swordfish was delicious and well paired with the accompanying sauce.

Throughout our meal the waiters tended to our drinks and checked in often to see if there was any particular meat we were wishing to taste, or re-taste. They were very personable with the kids and spoke directly to them, which our daughter loves. The kids both got a charge out of being able to pick the meats up from the gauchos with their tongs and place it on their plates. Our daughter enjoyed deciding if she could eat another piece of meat and if so, purposefully flipped over the chip grinning ear to ear.

The ambiance was very family friendly, staff members were singing happy birthday in Portuguese to other patrons, and our kids clapped along. While Chima is a beautiful high end restaurant, I felt very comfortable having the kids there with us - and wasn't worried they would bother other people's meals because the restaurant is spacious. The movement of the gauchos and other patrons through the restaurant gave the kids something to watch and keep their interest, which gets beaucoup props from this mama!

By the end of our meal we broke out the iPad, and the kids played a few games quietly at the table as my husband was finishing his second helping of all things Rodizio. I brought our daughter to the restroom and was happy to see how impeccably clean it was and that it donned a baby changing station.

Our experience was memorable, and one our daughter is still talking about. I'm just waiting for her to expect service on skewers at home! We will definitely visit Chima again as a couple and as a family.  


Jim (aka The Meat King's) commentary:

Chima is an excellent place to bring the family, especially from the perspective of a hungry, carnivorous husband.  The selection and quality of meats was outstanding – I think I tried all of them.  The best was a close call between the bacon wrapped filet, the regular filet, the Cajun ribeye, and the house sirloin.  OK, all the beef was good.  The only meat I wasn't in love with was the pork ribs, which I thought tasted a little dry and crunchy. The buffet features many different tasty side dishes – too many to try them all, knowing that room had to be saved for all the meat. A great finishing touch would have been if they offered grilled pineapple, like many Brazilian restaurants that I've dined at do. The wait staff, including the waiters and the gauchos, were attentive all evening with refills of drinks and meats.  The men’s room was very modern and clean, and it does have a changing table in the full size toilet stall.  Valet parking was complimentary and was quick to return our minivan to us.  All in all, if you are looking for a unique dining experience and enjoy the Rodizio style of rotating meats, come hungry to Chima and you won’t be disappointed.


S's commentary:
The restaurant was very pretty, and I liked the carpeted Cinderella stairs. Their bathroom was fancy. When I sat down at the table I was confused by what all the different things were for. The waiter told us all about it! He showed us to flip the chip to orange when we wanted the gauchos to bring us different meats, and the right way to use the tongs. I got to try some foods I've never seen before on the salad bar. It was fun when they brought all the different meats to our table and I used the tongs to help put it on my plate. I liked the filet best. I thought the people were nice and they asked me if I wanted french fries. I'm going to go back as soon as I can.


E's commentary:
E (18 months) gobbled up the cheesy bread and sampled many of the meats Dada tried eagerly. He's our adventurous eater and his little belly was filled with happiness as we left. He adored the fried bananas, and yelled out 'nana!' in amazement when he realized what it really was.

Chima offers a one of a kind, family friendly dining experience. The Rodizio buffet costs $52.50 per person and includes the salad bar, the salad bar and grilled fish option costs $32.50, kids 7-10 are 1/2 price, and kids 6 and under eat free. Chima accepts reservations and operates M-Th 5:30-9:30PM, Friday 5:30-10:00PM, Saturday 5:00-10:00PM and Sunday 4:00-9:00PM. Complimentary valet begins at 6PM Monday through Friday and at 4PM Saturday and Sunday. They are located in the heart of uptown Charlotte at 139 S. Tryon Street. You can get more information at www.ChimaSteakhouse.com and follow them on Facebook or Twitter


Mom About Charlotte Disclaimer: In exchange for this review, our meals were paid for. However, our opinions are our own, and not influenced by the restaurant providing the meal free of charge.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

DIY Valentine's Day Wreath In Less Than An Hour

Extra large DIY Valentine's Day Wreath.

Make this fast, easy and in less than an hour for under $25!


First, read this great tutorial from May May Made it on how to weave the deco mesh. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xisrAu1eHoY

Next, here are the supplies you'll need and where I found them. Using coupons at Michaels and Hobby Lobby help to make it so much cheaper! Both allow you to use mobile coupons. Your cost will vary depending on what you decide you want to include on your wreath. I used two rolls of deco mesh for a 20" frame, so if yours is smaller you may be able to use one. 

20" Box Style Wreath Frame $4. I used my 40% off coupon at Hobby Lobby. $2.40
20" Box Style Wreath Frame

2 rolls of 21" Deco Mesh reg. $9.99/roll (on sale 50% off at Hobby Lobby this week)
21" Hot Pink Metallic Deco Mesh Ribbon

2 Owls $3.49 each (on sale 30% off at Hobby Lobby this week)


1 pack of Valentine's Day hearts on a wire $1.99 at Michaels (40% off this week) $1.19

1 pack of Valentine's Day felt hearts $2.99 at Michaels (40% off this week) $1.80

1 pack of Valentine's Day heart stickers $2.99 at Michaels (40% off this week) $1.80

2 6" dowels for securing owls (had these at home already)
White duck tape for securing owls together (had this at home already)

Hot glue gun to secure decorations (had this at home already)





Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dining Out with Kids - Like a Boss.


I'd be lying if I told you each time we go out to dinner with our kids, ages 18 months and 5 years old, it's all perfect behavior and warm meals for Mom and Dad. However, for the  most part, we've come up with a plan of attack that allows us the flexibility to go out to dinner and enjoy ourselves with two in tow. Here are my quick and fast tips for Dining Out with Kids - Like a Boss.


1. Dine prepared - I have my dining out bag in my car at all times. It includes:
Bambinos Tidy Table Tray & Flexi Diner
  • Wipes/Diapers
  • Bambinos Tidy Table Tray & Flexi Diner (which I ADORE)
  • Tiny play dough, matchbox cars, crayons, a small notebook of paper
  • Snacks (This may sound odd, but think of it as an emergency appetizer if the service takes too long)
  • Ipad/Iphone for desperate times and happy parents.
2.  Strategize
  • Don't hesitate to ask for a slightly larger table, or a table off by itself, or a larger than necessary booth - this will give the kids a place for some potential wiggle room before the meal arrives. 
  • Check out the kids menu first, and order their meals when you order your drinks. This way their food comes out first and you can get them started. By the time you've cooled down, and cut up their food your meal will be on its way, so you can eat while it's hot. 
  • Eat on out on weekdays or odd hours on the weekends. If you know there will be a 45 minute wait and it's a Friday night - abort mission. 
3.  Dining out doesn't have to mean McDonald's
  • Most nicer restaurants ($15-20/plate) have kids menus and cater to families, including changing tables in the restrooms.
  • Don't be afraid to go to restaurants that have linens on the tables and  two sets of forks! Servers at these restaurants know how to meet your family's needs and are usually happy to provide a bread basket or quick munchie for kids to eat. 
  • If your children don't like what's on the kid's menu ask if you can get a kids sized portion of an adult meal, they're usually happy to accommodate. 
4. If at first you don't succeed - keep on trying!
  • It's not by accident our kids are well behaved when we go out to dinner, it's because we've done it often and they've learned 'how to eat out'
  • Don't let a negative experience  make you run in fear!
  • If all else fails send one parent to the car with the kids and get the meals boxed up. 
What are the tips and tricks YOU use to dine out with your kids - Like a Boss??