Revisiting SE Asia

Vietnam II

Earlier in the week Yelp thought I should know about a new hot restaurant in the area, Be’s Noodle & Banh Mi.  Since I have other plans for the weekend this seemed like a perfect suggestion for a Friday lunch and a use of the blog scheduler.

This little restaurant is in a popular little shopping area off North Community House road in Ballantyne.  I went during a less busy time of the day but there was still a bit of traffic in and out while I was there.  The place is very new and clean and the staff was friendly and welcomed everyone that came in the door.

This is another order at the counter and they bring it to your table kind of place.  They have a limited menu and it looks like pho is their star player followed by banh mi and some rice dishes.  The pho looked good but that’s what I had at the last Vietnamese place and as much as I loved it I decided to try something else just to expand the experience.  I went with their “original” banh mi sandwich and I got the grilled pork belly skewers appetizer just because.  The appetizer actually came out just a few minutes behind the sandwich but close enough that I still started with it.

The first thing I noticed was they jammed those skewers pretty tight so there was a decent amount of pork belly on each one.  The next was they did use real flame grilling as you can see from the little bit of char.  So let me just say this is pork belly and if you don’t like fatty meats you need to bypass this.  Don’t get me wrong it’s not all fat but hey, it’s pork belly.  Now that we’ve gotten past the caution, on to the taste test.  It passed.  There was a mild sweetness added to the flavor of the grilled pork and the sauce it came with added a little bit more smoky taste plus some spicy heat.  Nice start to the meal.

The banh mi I got was the original cold cut version and had three types of pork; pork roll, ham and pork pâté.  Along with those we had some cucumber, carrot, daikon radish, jalapenos and cilantro all on a 10″ baguette.  As far as I’m concerned they could have put just about anything in that baguette and it would have been good.  It was wonderfully crusty on the outside and properly soft and slightly chewy inside.  The sandwich as a whole was good.  The meats weren’t outstanding but the pâté was interesting, in a good way.  I think I’ll try them again for the pho at some point in the future but I’m not rush to have this sandwich again.   Overall I think this is a good addition to the area and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for a quick bite.


Российские пельмени


This weekend I had the good fortune to find a couple of new restaurants representing countries I hadn’t done already.  A few months ago I searched for Polish restaurants because I was in the mood for pierogis and there was nothing to be found.  This morning I decided to just search for pierogis and I got two hits, one for a Polish restaurant I’ll be visiting later and a Russian place called Babushka’s Pierogi that was just 20 minutes away.  For the record the title says “Russian dumpling” if Google Translate did its job.

The restaurant has only been open a month so everything is new and shiny.  It’s a bit of a hybrid in that you order at a counter then seat yourself and they bring it to your table using plates and silverware instead of paper & plasticware.  They’re also a mini-market with foodstuffs with a Russian theme right down to caviar.

This place doesn’t just seem to be Russian the lady running it is certainly from the area and speaks Russian because she was conversing in what I’m going to assume was Russian with the family who got there just before I did.  Apparently it was their first time at Babushka’s as well because they asked about every single item on the fortunately limited menu.  Once I got my shot at ordering I went with the Siberian pelmeni and a cup of the solyanka soup.


I thought the soup was worth an “as presented” and an “after stirring” photo.  The soup has a touch of tomato giving it the color and as you can see from the first picture a lemon slice, some dill weed and a dollop of sour cream.  Once stirred up you can see the kielbasa and ham as well as olives, potatoes, and onions.  It was quite tasty and is the soup of the day on Saturday & Sunday so if you go in on the weekend do yourself a favor and get a cup.

Now on to the pelmeni.

The Siberian pelmeni are essentially steamed dumplings with a beef and pork filling.  You can get it served with sour cream or butter & chives.  I chose to go with the butter & chives.  Pretty simple fare but there were 20 pelmeni on the plate and it was filling as well as good.  I was trying to get a feel for how the meat was seasoned so I tried some by itself and it tasted just like salted beef & pork mixture, no big deal.  It was kind of the same with the butter, there just didn’t seem to be much there.  Of course the outer part was just as plain as you would expect.  However, when I had a bite of the combined product with some chives clinging on for dear life it was much better than you would have expected from the sum of all the parts.  The light touches on the seasoning and butter really helped the whole.  Definitely would have those again.

Before leaving perused the market and the bottle of kvas drew my eye.  It was obviously a drink of some sort and it had a monk on it and they have a good reputation making drinks like beer & wine so I figured what the heck let’s buy it and try it.

As you can see it is a dark drink and it has some carbonation as well as a very slight alcohol content.  That content is so low it’s considered non-alcoholic but it is there.  I’ve subsequently learned this is basically a fermented drink made from rye bread and the color would depend on the color of the rye bread.  Apparently there are often other things added for flavor and I’d guess, based on the taste, this one used raisins which according to my little it of research is common.  To me this particular kvas tasted like liquid raisin toast with just a hint of fizz.  I liked it but it was kind of weird.

I’d definitely recommend dropping in and supporting this new addition to the Pineville culinary scene.  If you’re a fan of potato pancakes check out the recipe on the Tell Me More page.

I Cried Tio


Image result for honduran passport stamp

The weekend started bad for the Culinary-Passport.  My first choice was going to be a repeat country but when I rolled into the parking lot there was a sign in the door that they were closed due to a power outage.  With this setback I had to get of my lazy behind and find someplace else.  OK I didn’t really get off my behind but I did some furious Googling, Binging & Yelping to find some restaurant that represented a country I hadn’t already done.  Success!  I found Restaurante Lempira which had Honduran food.  They have multiple locations in Charlotte and I opted for the one nearest me on South Boulevard.

I got there a bit after noon and the parking lot was already just about full so that was a good sign.  I walked in and immediately saw the clientele was heavily weighted towards the Latin American end of the scale.  Another good sign.  I was seated quickly and had my drink order taken immediately.  FYI they don’t do unsweet tea.  Since I didn’t know what I wanted in the first few seconds I suffered the one dip in service for the day.  The young lady who was supposed to be my server got involved in other things including an involved conversation with a coworker.

The standard chips & salsa were delivered rapido.   The salsa was a little thicker than some with chunky bits of onion and cilantro and a bit of heat. I munched on those sparingly since my intended entrée looked like it was going to be a good deal of food.  My order was eventually taken by a different lady that had an air of authority and a different uniform so I’m guessing she was a boss of some sort.

The menu has a lot of different options from the standard Mexican American fare to items from other Central / South American countries weighted just a bit in favor of Honduras.  I went with the Platillo Hondureño.  Boy was I right it was a gracious plenty.

Let’s start from the bottom left and work our way up.  We have cubed grilled steak that was lightly seasoned so you got the full taste of the beef and it was very tender.  The yucca was just a filling starch and didn’t have much flavor and by itself would have needed salt but in concert with either of the meats was just fine.  The next row had pico de gallo, cabbage salad and an avocado, onion and vinegar combo.  All of these were good in their own right and a nice way to add a little something to the meats.  The back row had an empanada and what they called fried pork skin.  The Honduran empanada was filled with a ground meat and rice combo with a few stray bits of other vegetable matter.  It was deep fried and deeply fried and didn’t have a lot of flavor of it’s own, at least not compared to the other foods.  The fried pork skin was an unexpected surprise.  I expected something akin to crackling or fried fatback and while this was definitely close it was at least 80% meat.  Now it was fried to within an inch of its life which kept the fat from being…well, fatty. There were a couple of wedges of lime to squeeze on whatever you thought needed lime.

There was easily enough food for two here and I called uncle and dropped the fork before this plate was clean.  The food was good, the price reasonable and the supervisory lady checked in on me several times during the meal so aside from the one hiccup the service was good.  I’d definitely eat here again.

Be sure to check out the Tell Me More page for a quesadilla recipe like you’ve likely not seen before as well as music, facts & top Amazon searches.

Naughty or Nice?


Image result for Vintage Christmas Tree Clip Art

This weekend I had visitors who joined me on a visit to Christmasville to grab some lunch off a food truck.  Christmasville is kind of like Brigadoon in that it’s only accessible for a short period of time, in this case 4 days once a year in downtown Rock Hill.  My visitors were my youngest sister, niece and nephew. I’m not going to spend much time talking about the festival as you can click the link and see all the details on their website.  I will say it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon with family and it had food trucks!

We walked the main street checking out the camels, polar bears, gnomes, the Grinch and listening to Christmas music from some local choral groups.  After scoping the situation I opted for Spoon’s BBQ and my nephew joined me.  I got the Jordan hot dog and he got the BBQ cheese fries.


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The Jordan dog is a grilled jumbo hot dog with, bbq pork, chili, onions, cole slaw and bbq sauce.  I chose mac and cheese as the side.  As you might imagine it was quite filling and pretty good as well.  You really get more texture than taste from the bbq pork because of the other strong flavors.  The mac & cheese was also good but would have been even better with just a couple more minutes in the oven.  I’d definitely try Spoon’s again. My nephew was quite pleased with his fries.  They came with a generous amount of bbq and cheese plus some bacon bits and there was plenty enough to fill him up.

My sister and niece, Paige, picked the Plated Palette (say that three times fast) truck.  They got the London broil cheese grill and southwest chicken quesadilla respectively.


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Both dishes were well received and per my niece the quesadillas were “soooo good”.  They both got the red skin potato salad that looked pretty simple but according to my sister was loaded with garlic.  I did have a bite of the London broil and I can confirm it was as delicious as it looked.

After a quite filling lunch it was time to stroll and after Jesse Spidermanned his way up a rock wall check out the arts and crafts.  We studiously avoided temptations like red velvet funnel cake, kettle corn fresh from the kettle, fried Oreos and some drink in an actual pineapple.  It was a tough gauntlet to run but we made it.  And to answer the title question the verdict would have to be Nice and I would definitely recommend Christmasville if you’re from or in the area next year.

I’d like to thank Dee, Paige & Jesse for joining me this week and thanks Dee for taking the picture of me with the kids.