Monday, August 10, 2009
If there ever was a perfect night, my birthday was it. Kris kept his plans for the evening a secret until we arrived at our first destination -- Ratcliffe on the Green. A 5-star restaurant known for using fresh local ingredients for a farm-to-the-table approach to fine dining, head chef and Mark Hibbs was recently named a semifinalist for the national and prestigious "Best Chef" award by the James Beard Foundation, which is one of the top honors that a chef can receive in the United States. Our dining experience not only confirmed this but surpassed any expectation or reputation that preceded our dinner visit.
The restaurant was once a historic flower shop dating from the 20s.
The neon sign was the first of its kind in Charlotte.
Photo Source: PhotoCharlotte.com
The more than 100-year-old restaurant was decorated richly with realist still life paintings and the original Tiffany stained glass windows of Ratcliffe's Flower Shoppe, which has been a part of Charlotte's cityscape from the 1920s on. The romantic ambiance of the restaurant is intimate and warm, and the tall spiraling pillars that flank the dining area when coupled with the old-fashioned, over-sized glowing ceiling lights make the main room appear as though it's a stage ready for a performance that's been done time and again, so much so that it's been perfected and one can expect an evening that will impress them time and time again. And really that's exactly what this room is -- a center stage for a repertoire of course after course composed of only the freshest and finest ingredients which are cooked, seasoned and arranged just so for a symphony of tastes that are perfectly in harmony.
The ambiance of Ratcliffe on the Green is like an old dinner theatre
except the food is the star in this delectable performance.
Photo Source: Flickr
While entrees are available separately as a more economical option, I recommend taking the dive and splurging on the chef's tasting menu so that you're able to sample several different dishes. For our first course, I selected the scallops, which were cooked in a white wine beurre blanc sauce over sauteed spinach while Kris sampled a trio of mini crab cakes each served with a different sauce - pico de gallo, Korean BBQ and a creamy remolade. The sea scallops were tender and savory, pan seared to perfection, and the crab cakes were heavy on the crab and light on the bread for a pure taste complimented by the series of sauces.
When our main course arrived, we were really in heaven. We both decided upon the grilled lamp chops, which were served with a blueberry port reduction over wilted spinach and baby golden potatoes. Our dish was perfectly presented on plate and in flavor as the buttery spinach and potatoes complemented the tender lamb, which once again was cooked precisely to order.
After these two magical dishes disappeared before our eyes, a third soon arrived -- dessert. My crème brulee was simply phenomenal. The sweet creamy custard was slightly cool in contrast to the warm golden brown crackling layer of caramel above. Then, amazingly our waiter divulged the Ratcliffe secret for "world-famous crème brulee" to me -- using fresh eggs that are only one to two days old.
Kris' dessert somehow rivaled my selection, his Grand Marnier Souffle was full of spoonful after spoonful of a delicious and sweet, warm bread pudding-like dessert accompanied by a warm and rich sauce flavored with fine liquor. I simply don't think our taste buds will ever be the same.
Then, to top off the evening, as we exit the restaurant hand-in-hand, a horse and carriage are waiting to take us for a ride around the city. Kris and I had the night of our lives being escorted around town by Winston, our trusty steed, and Bridger, our driver and incredibly knowledgeable tour guide who filled us in on the history of Charlotte. He even took us for a ride through the Fourth Ward, the original residential district of the city, which has colonial style homes that date back to the 1800s. We were transported back in time by the sight of the beautiful historic homes, that is until you see the skyscrapers all aglow rising stories above this tucked away part of town that started it all.
Kris and I smile for the camera after an amazing ride around Charlotte
by horse and carriage!
Photo Source: Self
It simply was an unforgettable evening that will live on as a fond memory to cherish and someday far in the future share with children and grandchildren as the night Kris and I felt like king and queen of the Queen City.