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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
“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
“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:
423 W Franklin St. • 919-969-8846
One of the driving forces of nature: good food.
610 W Franklin St. • 919-929-7643
110 E Main St. • 919-929-2263
121 W Trade St. • 704-372-7792
4341 E Independence Blvd. • 704-567-1049
Reid’s Fine Foods
225 E. 6th St. • 704-377-1312
Mediterranean Tea Room
2601 Devine St. • 803-799-3118
The Alley Café
911 Lady St. • 803-255-0257
900 Main St • 803-748-0540
6080 Garners Ferry Rd. • 803-647-9722
1504 Main St • 803-252-6111
2631 Devine St. • 803-799-7579
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
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
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.