With Graham’s deployment imminent, we checked off one huge item on our pre-deployment list this past weekend: a trip home to visit with family & friends. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it 20,000 more times, but our proximity to Charlotte is my favorite thing about living in Virginia. We woke up at a reasonable time, got breakfast, and headed out Friday morning. And we were still home by 4:00.
Friday night was for us. I always feel a little bit selfish having a date night when we’re only home for a small amount of time, but we’re both head over heels in love with our city, and I hate that we never got to date there. So, we always make time to try out a new (or favorite) restaurant for one night of our trip. This time, we tried out 5Church. My Charlotte friends rave about this place, so I finally made plans for us to go there.
And I’m so, so glad I did. But please forgive the horrible photos. It was so dark in there. I do understand that low lighting is more suitable for a date night, but in this day and age where everyone instagrams their meals, post reviews on Yelp, or blogs about them, I find really low lighting incredibly annoying.
We started with cocktails (I had the Ivey… actually I had two of them…) and the pork belly spring rolls. These were delicious. Super crispy and packed with flavor.
I ordered the wasabi crusted salmon with bok choy and seaweed salad. This was absolutely delicious. The flavor of the wasabi was present, but not overpowering. I wish there had been more seaweed salad, since it’s one of my favorite things ever, but it was a delicious little garnish. The salmon was wonderful. It was perfectly cooked and just melted in my mouth.
Graham had the Niman Ranch pork chop with gorgonzola fondue, and Yukon gold crushed potatoes. This was absolutely perfect. I’ve never cared for thick cut pork chops, since I always found them hard to cook. Since I’ve learned the secret, we’ve been cooking them more at home, and he’s been ordering them more in restaurants. The meat was so tender, juicy and full of flavor. The gorgonzola fondue (served as a sauce on the side), went perfectly with the flavor of the meat.
We also shared an order of brussels sprouts with bacon lardons which were delicious. Brussel sprouts have become, hands down, my favorite vegetable. And the huge bacon lardons were amazing. I could have just picked them out of the dish and called it a day.
We were both pretty full after all of that, but we couldn’t resist dessert. We went with the vanilla panna cotta, which was served with hibiscus gelee, mango curd, coconut crunch, and orchids. This was almost too pretty to eat, but we ate it anyway. And it was perfect. All of the different flavors and textures complemented each other really well.
After dinner we walked over to Romare Bearden Park. It had just reopened and it was such a beautiful night. Charlotte is such a beautiful city!
Saturday, we went our seperate ways for the day. Graham & his brother headed to the golf course, and I headed to the mall & to UNCC with my mom. It was an absolutely beautiful day, and I loved being back on campus (I needed some new school shirts). I was more than a little envious at everything the campus now offers (the huge, beautiful student union was completed AFTER I graduated…). After a day of shopping, Graham and I met back up and went over to a friends house for dinner. We do this every time we come home, and have since 2011, and it’s always my favorite part of our visit. Stephen & Heather play host, and he cooks something amazing. The rest of us bring side dishes, appetizers, alcohol, and our dogs, and we all sit around eating, drinking, talking and catching up for hours. We always do something different for dinner. Sometimes it’s fancy (for New Years Eve this past year, Stephen made an amazing roast), and sometimes it’s very casual. This time it was casual, and we did a hot dog bar. I recreated some of my favorite JJ’s dogs, and it was so much fun.
Sunday, we made an impromptu trip to Carowinds for one reason, and pretty much one reason only: Fury325. It’s supposedly the tallest giga coaster in the world. It’s taller than the statue of liberty (it’s 325 feet tall), goes 95mph, has over 6,000 feet of track, and that first drop? It drops you at an 81 degree angle. We got to Carowinds pretty soon after they opened, and immediately got in line. The temperatures the night before had dropped really low, so the grease was sticking. So they had to run it over, and over, and over, before letting passengers on. We waited in line for two hours to the minute, and it was absolutely worth it. That first drop really is incredible, because you can’t see a damned thing. You’re going up, looking at the sky the whole time, and you can’t see how much further there is to go. So, the anticipation is building and all of a sudden you come to a stop, and you know this is it. It was completely exhilarating. After the ride, we stayed at the park for several more hours and rode more rides, but mostly we marveled at how much the place had changed. Carowinds used to be owned by Paramount, but was sold in 2006. With the sale, a lot of the rides were renamed. In the past year, to highlight the new coaster, they completely revamped the front entrance. Basically, nothing looked like we remembered. I grew up at Carowinds. We had season passes every year, and went every weekend, so it definitely took some getting used to.
After we left Carowinds, we went to visit with Graham’s grandparents, then went out to dinner with our families. We are incredibly lucky, because our families not only get along incredibly well, but they actually like each other. We went to Nan & Byrons, since I knew their menu would please even the picky eaters, and had an absolutely wonderful dinner.
My mom, who is the most… vanilla… eater ever, ordered a cheeseburger. It was huge and looked delicious. My mom is also teeny-tiny, and barely touched her fries, so I was more than happy to help with those!My father-in-law ordered the pork chop with cheddar grits, caramelized pineapple, fried jalapenos, bourbon mustard glaze. I didn’t try this, but it got rave reviews from those who did try it. Graham ordered the Spicy NY strip, crushed Yukon potatoes, crispy onions, garlic confit, red wine sauce and this was amaaaaaaaaazing. I usually order seafood when we go out, but this was good enough to make me want to order red meat next time.
My mother-in-law had the pan Roasted Chicken, bacon & blue cheese popovers, sauteed green beans, blueberry marmalade, and natural chicken jus. I had a bite of the chicken, and it was moist and really delicious. She didn’t finish this, so Graham was more than happy to finish it up for her =) (Can we talk about how unfair it is that he is as skinny as he is, when he eats like he does??)My brother-in-law had four of their signature tacos. I don’t remember which ones he ordered, but all received rave reviews. And lastly, I had the pan seared scallops, oven roasted sweet potatoes, caramelized Brussels sprouts, red wine bloomed cranberries, spiced candied walnuts, brown butter. This was absolutely delicious, even though the plating was completely atrocious. Even Graham commented that for the first time, my dinner was the ugliest. The appearance of this was definitely disappointing, since you eat with your eyes first, but everything was so good. Brussels & cranberries are one of my favorite things, and I can never turn down a good scallop, and these scallops were excellent.
So, yeah. Short, but wonderful visit home. Now I’m going to be completely selfish for the next few weeks and soak up as much time with my husband as I possibly can.