Carpe Diem, Charlotte, NC

I had to fast yesterday due to the annual physical. The appointment was at 2 PM so fasting from 6AM until then was for the most part, pretty easy. I did drink a cup of coffee with agave and half and half, only one, and then drank water the rest of the day.

The hardest part of fasting was doing lesson plans, reviewing recipes, and writing lecture notes all about food and not being able to have any.

So when the coast was clear after the physical, my friend June and I decided to go out to a restaurant we had never been to before.

We chose Carpe Diem in the Elizabeth area of Charlotte. While passing the restaurant nearly every day, I had never been in to eat. I met some friends there once for a glass of wine and actually it is surprising how long it took me to get back to try the food.

Carpe Diem is quite charming.

The decor is art nouveau style with mahogany doors and window frames, pristine marble floors and copper lighting features. The staff is knowledgeable, friendly, enthusiastic and are well trained professionals.  The restaurant itself is clean, charming, well located and the food is downright outrageously good.

We each ordered a glass of wine, the water glasses were kept full, and even though we came in at 5 PM (I was starving!) we weren’t the only early birds there. The Elizabeth neighborhood actually had lots of people strolling, walking through various shops, eating ice cream from Elizabeth Creamery (another post… also well worth blowing your diet for), it was all very engaging.

Fresh warm ciabatta bread was brought to the table. Crispy, chewy, if only the butter had been softer. Perhaps it would have been had we come later. I have often wondered why restaurants serve cold, hard butter with delicate warm bread. Isn’t it easy enough to remove the butter from the refrigerator about 1/2 hour before it goes to the table?

We did get a second piece and by that time the butter was soft and perfect.

We shared a house salad with Dijon Balsamic dressing. I knew I wouldn’t eat the whole thing and an entree too so June and I split the salad. Paige, our server, was great in that she had the split done in the kitchen. As you can see, even the split is a generous portion.

The tender greens were accented with a surprise of shaved fennel, sweet grape tomatoes, crisp cucumber, carrots, and beets lightly and perfectly dressed in the vinaigrette.

Our entrees were the Mushroom Bolognese over Tagliatelle Pasta. This is a vegetarian dish. Traditional bolognese sauce is made using diced wild mushrooms instead of meat. The pasta is hand made, cooked al-dente and more delicious than I can ever describe. On the side of the dish were three crispy slices of grilled bread.

Mushroom Bolognese

The smokey grilled flavor only deepened the richness of the mushrooms and tomatoes. Absolutely wonderful with the Malbec chosen to drink with the rich, deep comforting flavors.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Breasts with Shallot Black Pepper Cream, Mashed Potatoes and Sauteed Spinach was the second dish we ordered. Talk about comfort food! Just reading it on the menu made me feel like sitting on mom’s lap helping shell peas on the porch.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Two golden brown, crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, chicken breasts set on top of a bed of fluffy mashed potatoes, nestled next to brightly green sauteed baby spinach. This dish was also very well done and satisfied every taste receptor known to humankind.

The potatoes were creamy, light and fluffy and actually tasted like potatoes; the spinach freshly cooked, tender and not a stem in sight. Taking a fork of each separately, tasting the flavors of each single item, then filling the fork with every combination of the creamy, crispy goodness for each bite allows the diner to experience the dish from many angles. From simple to complex, your taste-buds will be delighted in the play time they get from eating this dish. Believe me when I say buttermilk does magic things to chicken.

Dessert temptations were vast, from white chocolate pound cake with lemon curd and fresh berries, peach and cherry cobbler, vanilla bean creme brulee to chocolate ganache in a toasted pecan crust with raspberry coulis and spicy caramel sauce. We couldn’t resist the chocolate and ordered two more half glasses of wine.

Carpe Diem has half glasses of wine!

Chocolate Ganache in Toasted Pecan Crust

You must have red wine with chocolate like this. Rich, smooth dark chocolate, crunchy toasted pecans, the counter of the slight bitter-sweetness of the raspberries takes your tongue on another journey that makes your eyes roll back in your head.

We started out wanting to just go get something to eat but ended up with a wonderful, amazing culinary adventure at a terrific restaurant on 1535 Elizabeth Avenue in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The menu features several vegetarian options, fish, poultry (chicken and duck) and beef items on the menu. Each and every one sound very good. It was hard to choose which is a good thing since it means I will be back, and soon.

If you want a light snack or linger over wine in the lounge, they offer appetizers, salads, lighter fare and a cheese platter which I was tempted to order just because I wanted to see it. Sometime soon, I’ll find a reason to meet some people in the bar for a glass of wine and share that cheese platter. It sounds too good to wait very long.

The prices are quite reasonable so don’t let the fine dining appearance keep you away. If you like food, you owe it to yourself to get there sometime real soon.

Carpe Diem, simply stated, GO! Don’t miss it.

Here’s their website:

I almost forgot, between courses we were treated to an amuse bouche of passion fruit sorbet.

Served in a frozen glass dish as a palette cleanser (this will be discussed another time), the flavor exploded in your mouth. It was so good I forgot to take a picture of it.

Happy Eating!