Lifelong Friends Open Strudel Shop in Optimist Park

Food

An online exclusive about two friends who opened a takeout bakery in the neighborhood they grew up in.

Photo by me

In the Strudel Shop’s kitchen, Kevin Kelly stretches a sheet of dough over a stainless steel counter and shakes it in a motion that resembles the rolling of ocean waves. Soon the dough will make up the crust for an apple strudel, which he’ll sell from a sliding window on 15th Street in Optimist Park. But for now, Kevin needs a few extra hands to finish the job.

“Dee, grab that corner,” he tells Dee Huang, co-owner of the Strudel Shop and Kevin’s childhood best friend. Dee chuckles and responds, “Yes chef!” Kevin directs his grandmother Ginger to another corner and me to the last corner. Together we pinch and tug on the flour-covered dough and drape it over the edges of the table until it’s so thin, it looks like tablecloth.

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Global Feast: 50 Dishes for Adventurous Eaters

Food

Just a few decades ago, finding pho or a gyro was near impossible in Charlotte. In Charlotte magazine’s October issue, I contributed to this massive list of Charlotte’s global options today.

Photo by Peter Taylor

Abugida
Abugida Feast with Injera

“Growing up here, I got asked crazy questions, off-the-wall questions,” says Yodite Tesafye, who owns Abugida Ethiopian Café & Restaurant. She was 15 when her mother moved her and her three siblings from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to the United States. As a student at Independence High School, Tesafye says many classmates had a false image of her life in the African country. “They all assumed I saw animals running around … or that we didn’t have food.”

Today, the 35-year-old co-owns Abugida in Plaza Midwood, where she corrects those stereotypes. “For people to learn somebody’s culture, food is the best way.”

Tesafye opened the restaurant in 2017 with her brother Zemaf, who runs the kitchen and serves the city’s best injera, a spongy flatbread made from teff flour. The menu has two “feast” options—one with meat ($18), one without ($12)—that come with a sampling of dishes that include gomen (chopped and seasoned collard greens) and yemisir kik wat (split red lentils cooked with berbere sauce). Berbere is the most common seasoning used in Ethiopian dishes; it’s a mix of cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and 19 other spices.

With its many flavors and dishes, an Abugida feast represents the diverse neighborhood around the restaurant—the neighborhood Tesafye calls home. “I think we’re lucky because we’re right in Plaza. Most of this generation, like the people who live around here, they are very adventurous,” she says. Tesafye teaches them to ditch silverware and use injera as a utensil, and to sip strong Ethiopian coffee poured from an ornate clay pot called a jebena. “They want to try new things. So we’re lucky in that sense.”

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Our Barbecue Story

Food

North Carolina has a strong barbecue tradition—but what about Charlotte? In Charlotte magazine’s June issue, we recall the history of six beloved barbecue joints—old and new. I wrote two of the stories for the package.

Photo by Peter Taylor

Courtney’s BBQ

GENE COURTNEY talks about his 20-year-old barbecue business in terms of two eras: before the recession and after. Before 2008, Courtney’s BBQ won just about every regional competition it entered. Business was good: Gene and his wife and co-owner, Janice, had the money to travel from Clover, South Carolina, to Kansas City in 2007 for the American Royal Invitational, where their ribs placed eighth, and keep Courtney’s open only three days a week.

After 2008, regulars who would drive 45 minutes south from Charlotte, Gene’s hometown, to Clover stopped coming. Courtney’s stayed open seven days a week instead of three, but Gene struggled to fill the 160-seat, wood-paneled food hall and its long, community-style tables. Six months after the recession hit, he greeted a smiling customer. He turned to his employees and said, “You see that person smiling? I ain’t seen anybody smile in six months.”

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Restaurant Review: Loyalist Market

Food

A restaurant review from Charlotte magazine’s April issue about a gourmet cheese shop and café in Matthews, North Carolina.

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Photo by Peter Taylor

“ANY OBJECTIONS?” a server asks after taking my order for a cheese board. What a silly question.

I give her some of my preferences—harder cheeses like pecorino Romano over brie—but cheese is cheese. I have no objections.

On any given day, The Loyalist Market offers more than 40 cheeses and 20 charcuterie options, and owner Chris Sottile can tell you about each of the selections displayed in the glass case. “I get chocolatey bacon notes,” he says, as if he’s just taken a bite of the Bayley Hazen Blue cheese. “A little bit of licorice and earthy notes on the back end … It’s got a little bit more funk on it than some.”

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Inside a Night Out at Sophia’s Lounge

Food

Interiors of Sophie's Lounge.  food and drink smoked shrimp tuna tatami beef tenderloin on rye bread SpíIn cocktail  in Charlotte, NC Photographed on 20OCT17. Photographs by Peter Taylor

SHARING FOOD IS a heated subject with my friends. Some shield their dishes and fuss if you ask for a bite. Others (me) place their plate smack in the middle of the table, passing out food like Halloween candy.

But, I’ll admit, the last thing I want to do at Sophia’s Lounge is share.

READ MORE: http://www.charlottemagazine.com/Charlotte-Magazine/December-2017/Inside-a-Night-Out-at-Sophias-Lounge/

Photo by Peter Taylor

Cajun Contradiction: A Visit to Wu’s Cajun Seafood, Charlotte Magazine

Food, Magazine

A review I wrote about Wu’s in Charlotte for Charlotte magazine.

WHEN I WALK into Wu’s Cajun Seafood on South Boulevard, I have a lot of questions.

Red, Asian-inspired, gaudy tiles line the ceiling from the entrance to the back booth, with silver chandeliers and gold mural archways. But the menu emphasizes the restaurant’s Louisiana-style boils, from crawfish to shrimp to snow crab.

READ MORE: http://www.charlottemagazine.com/Charlotte-Magazine/September-2017/Cajun-Contradiction-A-Visit-to-Wus-Cajun-Seafood/