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≠Dining in, dining out?
The age-old question and thoughts on the subject from the Carolinas’ LGBT community

by Donald Miller

Seems like almost every night of the week I’m faced with the same dilemma when it comes to dinnertime with my partner. Are we preparing a meal at home or are we going out somewhere?

One of the many talents queers excel in:
cuisine with style.

Partner’s first response: “I don’t know. What do you feel like eating?”
My reply: “I don’t know. I was thinking maybe you had something in mind.”
Partner’s second response: “I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

How many of you have heard that dialogue before, or experienced it first hand?
There are so many options to choose from — especially in a city as large as Charlotte.
Just about every ethnic variation in cuisine can be found here — from French and Italian to multiple variations on Latin American, Asian, Ethiopian and Indian.

One option I hadn’t thought about before was having your meals prepared for you by a personal chef. My partner works in the restaurant business and quite often doesn’t feel like preparing a meal after having spent a day around food. I’m the first to admit I’m no culinary whiz, though I’m not half bad when it comes to fixing simple things quickly and well.

On those nights when you don’t feel like lifting a finger the personal chef option seems particularly appealing. In Charlotte, Chef Melissa Woods offers just such a service.
“As a service, we plan a customized menu with meal options to meet your dietary needs and requirements,” says Woods. “You can come home after a hard day to a clean kitchen and meals specifically tailored for you and your family. We accommodate your schedule and needs to provide a personal service that allows you to enjoy your family meals in a stress-free environment.”

As indicated, Woods offers meals tailored to your specifications, as well as her own specialty menu. You can get more details about her service at www.menubyme.com.
In this issue’s Q-Style (pg. 23) Edward Norman offers recommendations for some of his favorite dining experiences around Charlotte.

For this story, Q-Notes reached out to gays and lesbians in both Carolinas for their take on interesting places to dine and their favorite food items.

Chapel Hill’s openly gay town councilmember Mark Kleinschmidt, also a bust attorney for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, had this to say: “ I don’t get to cook at home very much, but when we do, my partner and I enjoy a Caribbean marinated chicken and baked sweet potatoes.

“My favorite restaurant is the Lantern in Chapel Hill. Their coconut braised pork shank — when available — is indescribable. Although it’s been open for a few years now, the Lantern is probably the hippest place to dine out. Not only are their dishes over the top in terms of quality, they have the coolest bar in the back.

“Crooks in Chapel Hill and Acme in Carrboro are two long-standing town favorites. Crooks is the home to the original Shrimp’N Grits and is quintessentially Chapel Hill.”

From Columbia, S.C., partners Bert Easter and Ed Madden shared a wealth of knowledge about area restaurants and one of their own specialty items.

“One of our favorite places to go to is the Mediterranrean Tea Room on Divine St.,” says Woodard. “They serve a broiled shrimp cooked in a white wine sauce with garlic and jalapeno peppers. It’s incredible.

Among other noteworthy dining spots popular with the LGBT set, Woodard points to The Alley Café, Hunter Gatherer, Panara Bakery Rising High, Yo Burrito and Casa Linda.
Woodard confirms Easter is the culinary brains in the family, though he confirms there are some items he can excel with, when called upon.

Easter’s the kind of guy who will find something at a restaurant he enjoys so much — he’ll go straight to the source to get the recipe.

“Ed and I visited a great Tapas restaurant called Terra Nostra while we were attending a conference in Chattanooga,” says Easter. “It was the kinda’ place that was so perfect that you wanted to visit again just to eat at this restaurant. We met the owner who gave me the recipe for these incredible Chilean Empanadas (see the sidebar for recipe).
Charlotte’s Jay Biles, this past year’s co-chair for the Human Rights Campapign Carolinas Dinner and a senior exec at Wachovia, is clearly a dedicated foodie. His favorite meal to cook at home is a rack of lamb. “I pick up the the lamb from Reids,” says Biles. When I cook it I make a crust with horseradish/olive oil, mustard, rosemary, garlic and egg.” Biles’ favored side dishes are mushroom risotto and grilled asparagus.
When it comes to dining out, Biles finds it difficult to pick a specific favorite establishment.

“That’s impossible to answer! I love food and have a favorite place for different prices, cuisines and locations. If I had to pick, currently my favorite is ARPA. It’s a Spanish tappas place downtown. The bar is great and always happening, the decor and lighting is flawless and the food is amazing. My favorite dish is the eggplant package — it’s goat cheese, pine nuts and pesto, wrapped in eggplant.”

Another Charlotte local, Jermaine Lee, the founder of the Carolinas Black Gay Pride Movement, offers his tips for goodies at home and dining out.

“At home I like to prepare Caribbean dishes — plantains, pigeon peas and rice, curry goat and jerk chicken. My favorite restaurant is Lady D’s. It’s traditional Southern Cuisine like fried and baked pork chops, corn bread, collard greens, fried squash, red beans and rice, flounder, trout —it’s unbelievable. They have huge portions, low cost, great ‘down home’ service. “It’s extremely gay-friendly. The majority of the staff is “family” and the restaurant manager is openly gay.”

See the sidebar for details on restaurants mentioned and Bert Easter’s Terra Nostra Chilean Empanadas recipe.

Dining Tips 101
In Chapel Hill:
The Lantern
423 W Franklin St. • 919-969-8846

One of the driving forces of nature: good food.

610 W Franklin St. • 919-929-7643

In Carrboro:
110 E Main St. • 919-929-2263

In Charlotte:
121 W Trade St. • 704-372-7792
Lady D’s
4341 E Independence Blvd. • 704-567-1049
Reid’s Fine Foods
225 E. 6th St. • 704-377-1312

In Columbia:
Mediterranean Tea Room
2601 Devine St. • 803-799-3118
The Alley Café
911 Lady St. • 803-255-0257
Hunter Gatherer
900 Main St • 803-748-0540
Panara Bakery
6080 Garners Ferry Rd. • 803-647-9722
Rising High
1504 Main St • 803-252-6111
Yo Burrito
2631 Devine St. • 803-799-7579
Casa Linda
7546 Garners Ferry Rd. • 803-783-3990

Bert Easter’s Terra Nostra Chilean Empanadas

2-1/2 lb steak: buy the good stuff, whatever is your favorite cut
2 Garlic cloves
3 tb Olive oil
1 Onion, minced, maybe add some green onion too.
1-2 fresh green chile pepper(s)
3 ts Cumin seed, crushed
2 tb Ground chile powder and other pepers to taste.
1/2 c Sliced black olives
1/2 c  Sliced stuffed green olives: buy good ones — this makes the dish and maybe some fresh herbs that you may have based upon the season.
Pastry Shell
1/4 c Vegetable shortening
2 tb Butter
3 c  All-purpose flour
1/2 c  + 1 tb water
1 ts Salt
2-1/2 c  Canola oil for frying

For best results, make the filling a day ahead, and reserve in the frig.
Cut meat into pieces, place in a heavy pot and cover with cold water. Add garlic. Simmer gently for two hours.

If the meat cooks over high heat, it will toughen. When the meat is tender, turn off heat and let it cool in the broth until warm to the touch. Reserve broth.
Using a knife, chop meat.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet; add the onion, herbs, and pepper — saute until softened. Stir in the crushed cumin and saute for one minute. Stir in the chopped beef, ground chile and salt. Cook for 15 minutes, adding enough of the reserved broth to make the mixture glisten. But never soggy!

Remove from the heat and stir in the olives.
Note: based upon your timing you may choose to cut a corner and pick up some phyllo dough at the grocery. By my mention of this option: I do not admit to this, but I know some folks might use this sorta’ frozen dough. Or you may make the dough using a large fork or pastry blender, cut the shortening and butter into the flour until crumbly. Stir the salt into the water. Drizzle water slowly over the flour mixture, adding just enough to make a soft pliable dough. Knead gently a floured board for one minute. The dough should be smooth but not overworked. Break off a golf ball-size piece of dough (keeping the remaining dough covered with plastic wrap) and roll into a six-inch circle. Place 1/2 cup picadillo on half of the circle. Fold over the top half, pinching over the edges; press with a fork to seal. It is important to seal the edges well so the filling doesn’t leak out during frying.

Heat the canola oil in a two-inch deep skillet. When the oil is hot enough it will ripple. Ease in one empanada and spoon hot oil over the surface. After 1-1/2 minutes, turn the empanada. Total cooking time for each empanada is about three minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and drain on several layers of paper towels, blotting the surface with more paper towels. You may choose to bake the empanadas to cut down on the frying.

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