Thursday, April 30, 2009

Deals of the week

This week's best beer and drink bargains all coincide with major events:

  • UNC Charlotte students who are pulling all-nighters to prepare for final exams can take a night off from the library and head to Buck Wild for cheap drinking: 50-cent domestic bottles; $1 imports; $2 well drinks. This Friday-only promotion runs through the summer.
  • In honor of the announcement that Cosmos Cafe is opening a second location in Ballantyne next week, thought it might be a good reminder that the bar-restaurant's delicious martinis are always half-price on Wednesdays (regularly priced $7-$10).
  • And with Cinco de Mayo coming up on Tuesday, La Paz is throwing a huge fiesta: $25 all you can drink with tons of drink specials and live music. Can't make it next week? Stop in on any Monday or Tuesday and enjoy $2 margaritas.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Perfect summer cocktail

Temperatures for this weekend are forecast to be well into the 80s and a new cocktail recipe I made last night for a dinner party is the perfect way to cool down.

Sgroppino (a traditional Venetian after-dinner cocktail)

Makes 2 servings

4 scoops lemon sorbet (I used sherbet)
2 ounces chilled vodka, citrus vodka or limoncello (Italian lemon liqueur)
2 ounces Prosecco or other sparkling wine or champagne
2 sprigs fresh mint

Blend lemon sorbet on low speed and pour in vodka or lemon liqueur in a slow stream. Add Prosecco or champagne. Pour into chilled martini glasses and serve garnished with a sprig of mint.
(Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray)

What's your favorite warm-weather treat?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mixing it up in Ballantyne

Speaking of after-work parties, Ballantyne Village kicks off its weekly Mix at Six series tonight.

Drink specials provided by Village Bistro, D'Vine Wine Cafe, Jade Asian Fusion & Sushi, Dilworth Coffee and Outland Cigars.

Live music from Simplified out on the plaza from 6-9:30 p.m.

Here's the rest of the schedule for the next few Wednesdays:
  • April 29: Coconut Grove
  • May 6: Moonshine Racers
  • May 13: S&D Specialty
  • May 20: Simplified
  • May 27: Coconut Grove

Here's the lineup for PTC After Five

SouthPark's new Wednesday night after-work party starts on a Friday this year (May 1) for all the Quail Hollow Championship fans. On May 6, it resumes its weekly Wednesday schedule.

Here's the schedule for the all new Piedmont Town Center After Five:

May 1 – Surprise artist/Ticketed event from 7-11 p.m. (Tickets are free and you can get them  from event sponsors. A full list of sponsors is available here.)

May 6 – The Embers, 5-9 p.m.

May 13 – Band of Oz, 5-9 p.m.

May 20 – Breakfast Club, 5-9 p.m.

May 27 – Liquid Pleasure, 5-9 p.m.

June 3 – Too Much Sylvia, 5-9 p.m.

June 10 – Dave Mathews Tribute Band, 5-9 p.m.

June 17
– The Backbeat, 5-9 p.m.

June 24
– Black & Blue, 5-9 p.m.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bartenders battle it out for charity

The best of Charlotte's bartenders came out from behind their bars Monday night to raise money for AIDS Walk Charlotte.

Alley Cat hosted Bar Wars 2009, a cocktail competition that pitted our area's master mixologists against each other in the categories of Best Martini, Shot, Three Olives Cocktail and Red Bull Cocktail.

I, along with five other judges (Brittney Cason of Creative Loafing, Joey Hewell of JStudio and Uptown Magazine, Steve Caldwell of Elevate Lifestyle, Breezekat from the Ace & TJ Show, and drag queen Roxy C. Moorecox), had the tastebud-testing job of rating dozens of drinks on a "Yuck-to-Awesome" scale. (and yes, the drinks that came later in the night seemed to skew higher on the judges' ballots -- coincidence?)

I've got to give a couple of the guys (where were the female bartenders this year? Only two competed) credit for their creativity: Zack from Philosopher's Stone made a spicy, curry-infused martini with shrimp as a garnish, and Lenny from Loft 1523 decorated his blue-hued "Duck in a Pond" with a bright yellow Peep.

The big winners for the night:
  • Bryan from Apostrophe for his Cantaloupe Martini.
  • Tim from Cosmos Cafe for his Cherry Tootsie Pop shot.
  • Zach from Philosopher's Stone for his Three Olives cocktail called -- ahem -- Sex on Your Face.
  • J.T. from Thomas Street Tavern for his Brasco Red Bull cocktail. (A fellow judge and I had a hard time deciding this one. Red Bull cocktails inevitably all taste like Red Bull.)
  • Suite's Todd Bayley blew the crowd (and the competition) away with his high-flying tricks in the flair competition.
  • And the staff at Forum deserves special recognition for raising the most money.
All told, Bar Wars 2009 raised more than $6,000 for AIDS Walk Charlotte. Want to participate in the two-mile walk through uptown's Fourth Ward? It's May 2. For more information, click here.

To see video from the competition, click here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Purgatory's last stand

"It's like an S&M Renaissance festival."

That was my friend minutes after arriving at the last Purgatory party.

(This is Deirdre McGruder, co-author of the We Can Relate blog and a guest speaker here to tell you about the final Purgatory at Amos' Southend. Saturday night was packed with events and Sarah couldn't make it.)

Back to the Ren fest comment: it wasn't meant to be derogatory toward S&M or Renaissance festival aficionadoes, there were just obvious similarities. People who embrace a concept wholeheartedly and go for it on the outfits. Tables with stuff for sale. Games (although in the case of Purgatory, the "games" were a lot more ... intense.)

Downstairs there was a stage for bands and performance artists; when we arrived, there was a band clad in Viking helmets playing death metal. There were tables along the sides with stuff ranging from jewelry to sex toys and DVDs. Near the back was an open space where two guys took turns tying up willing females in Japanese rope bondage, then swinging them from a chain. (I wondered how the women kept from barfing and/or passing out from the blood rush to their heads. ) A constant stream of onlookers watched.

Upstairs is open at Amos', so you can gaze down on all the action below. Along the sides were S&M stations with skilled "punishers" for whipping, paddling, caning, shocking (literally) and tickling (I thought it was a massage station, but closer inspection proved me wrong). Outside people talked and smoked and a tent with techno music drew dancers.

The place was packed with attendants in various stages of undress. A lot of women were in see-through mesh tops or topless altogether, with electrical tape criss-crossed over their nipples (I suspect legalities prevented them from baring all). I saw a couple chicks in thong panties, little "X"es of tape ... and that's it. Another woman wore a thong covered by a "skirt" a mere inch or so long and a bikini top -- the better to show off her pregnant belly. Men were less willing to show skin, but there were a few standouts, like the guy with the equivalent of a hairnet over his genitals and not much else.

Besides with standard fetish gear (corsets, cuffs, chains), I found the outfits broke down into five cinematic categories. There were the "Mad Max" people, clad in mismatched, apocalyptic getups, with clunky boots and dreads. Then there were the "Conan the Barbarian" people, strutting around in fake fur pelts and fuzzy legwarmers or slave-girl fabric scraps. The "Hellraiser" people wore disturbing full-face masks with spikes and such. The "Matrix" folks swirled around in long black coats. The "Underworld" contingent sported lots of shiny black latex and dark makeup.

At one point I was standing next to a chick in a tight, short dress who danced wildly. I smiled when she glanced over at me. She leaned in to shout, "Isn't this the best people-watching ever?" Indeed. Because ultimately, what Purgatory boiled down to was a place to see and be seen -- a place where you could wear whatever you like and do whatever you want. The crowd was super-accepting and super-diverse when it came to ages, body types and fetish preferences. I wouldn't say it was a place for those into hardcore S&M; it seemed like most attendees were young dabblers who liked to dress up and be provocative. Nothing wrong with that.

Actually, there was nothing wrong with any of it -- and I think that was the goal of Purgatory during its eight years in Charlotte. It's leaving a hole in the city's party scene, that's for sure.

First PlayDate sells out

Judging by the line wrapped around The Big Chill on Saturday night, Charlotte's first PlayDate was a huge success.

Inside, more than 600 adults channeled their inner child with games of Checkers, Connect Four, Jenga, Cranium, Taboo, Operation and so on. Basically, any game you can think of, the organizers had -- including Pac-Man on a tiny old-school TV and Wii bowling on a giant projection screen.

PlayDate started in Atlanta in 2005 and has since spread to more than a dozen cities nationwide, including Austin, Seattle and Nashville, attracting as many as 800 partygoers each month.

Charlotte organizers Shenan Robinson and Latrina Harris of Unique Affairs wanted to offer an alternative to Charlotte's usual bar/club scene. A mix of couples, singles and groups of friends turned out for the unique event.

And despite the kid-oriented games being played, there's definitely an adult twist to them. Hula-hoop contests pitted hip-shaking women against each other while Beyonce provided the soundtrack. (Who knew people could still hula-hoop past the age of 8?) Commentary full of sexual innuendo followed a giant game of Twister on the dance floor as participants found themselves in more than one compromising position.

It was all light-hearted fun with a great crowd of people who couldn't keep the smiles off their faces about being a kid (well, cocktail-drinking kids) again.

May's PlayDate is still TBA, but no doubt Robinson and Harris will be looking for a bigger venue thanks to Saturday's sell-out crowd. I'll keep you updated.

To see video from Saturday night, click here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Download the Bad Decision Blocker

Users of Apple's iPhone know of the phone's amazing capabilities -- and thanks to the never-ending stream of commercials, non-users have an idea of what it can do, too. (I've documented my undying love for my iPhone here.)

One application those commercials won't tell you about? The Bad Decision Blocker.

Everyone's been there: out late, one Sweet Tea vodka too many and before you know it, you're calling your gym crush or ex-girlfriend at 2 a.m.

The recently released Bad Decision Blocker saves you from your post-party drunk-dialing shame by allowing you to block yourself from calling or texting selected contacts for a pre-determined period of time.

Gmail offers its users a similar function called Mail Goggles. Before you send a late-night e-mail, you must answer a few math problems correctly.

Who needs self-control when 21st-century technology does it for you?

Farewell, Wachovia Plaza

First sign Alive After Five is back: girls in sundresses are spotted walking shoeless around uptown as early as 8 p.m. (Ladies, for a refresher on my dressing do's and don'ts for AA5, click here.)

Wachovia Plaza was filled to the sidewalks last night with a couple thousand young professionals standing shoulder-to-shoulder to celebrate the after-work party's eight-year run on South Tryon.

Next week, it moves permanently to the EpiCentre.

But for one last time, Liquid Pleasure got the plaza party started with a little Montell Jordan (nothing brings back the tortured memories of middle school like "This is How We Do It" or is that just me?), the infectious "Cupid Shuffle" and summer singalong favorite "Brown-Eyed Girl."

Next Thursday inevitably will be packed for the EpiCentre's first Alive After Five. To avoid the long lines for drink tickets, buy them online ahead of time. Tickets are $2 each. Beer is two tickets; wine is two or three; mixed drinks, three to four.

Local mag names best of Charlotte nightlife

Charlotte Magazine released its Best of the Best awards this week, naming winners in categories ranging from best pizza to best service.

Here are the mag's picks for the best nightlife (my picks are in parentheses, but for the most part I think they got it right):
  • Best Reason to go to the EpiCentre: Howl at the Moon (Howl at the Moon)
  • Best Lounge: Tutto Mondo (Tutto Mondo)
  • Best New Bar: Mez (Mez)
  • Best Place to Chill: Ed's Tavern (The Thirsty Beaver)
  • Best Live Music Venue: Neighborhood Theatre (Visulite)
  • Best Dance Venue: Suite (Suite)
  • Best Place for After-Dinner Drinks: Chima (Blue Restaurant)
  • Best Outdoor Patio: Selwyn Pub (Loft 1523)
  • Best Wine Bar: Dolce Vita (Yn Cafe)
For a full list of winners and to see readers' picks, click here.

Now, what the magazine left out was a category for best bartender. Luckily, AIDS Walk Charlotte has our city's master mixologists covered with Bar Wars 2009. Stop by your favorite participating bar this weekend and with a $1 donation to AIDS Walk Charlotte, you can cast your vote for your favorite bartender in a variety of categories, including hottest, fastest and funniest bartender.

On Monday night, a panel of celebrity judges (Breezekat from the Ace & TJ Show, Brittney Cason from Creative Loafing, Joey Hewell from Uptown Magazine, Steve Caldwell of Elevate, drag queen Roxy C. Moorecox and yours truly) will sample concoctions in the tastiest cocktail competition. Added bonus: cutie Chad Rock from Kiss 95.1 will host.

And you won't want to miss the flair competition at the end of the night when bartenders will attempt to defy gravity by tossing bottles a la Tom Cruise in "Cocktail."

It all starts at 9 p.m. Monday at Alley Cat. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Deals of the week

In honor of Charlotte Beer Week, I bring you a sampling of the best beer deals going on around town:

  • After Alive After Five on Thursday, head over to The Attic for 100 Pint night, courtesy of RockHouse Events. The first 100 pints of beer are free -- just mention RockHouse at the door.
  • In honor of the "Beer Wars" nationwide event on Thursday, the Flying Saucer is hosting a pre- and post-premiere party. Reps from local distributors and breweries will be on hand, as well as the founder of Pints for Prostates. No cost to party, and it's only $5 to ride the party bus to Concord Mills for the movie screening (free beer on the bus!).
  • And speaking of the Saucer, I checked out the University City bar's popular trivia night for the first time Tuesday. It was a full house (and I heard it wasn't even as crowded as usual) of UNCC students and young professionals. No cost to play and first-, second- and third-place finishers win $50, $30 and $20 gift certificates respectively.
  • Big Daddy's Burger Bar is hosting a special Sweetwater Pint Night on Monday. Buy a pint and keep the glass for only $3.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Gov't Mule set to play new Fillmore club

The new Fillmore at the N.C. Music Factory has its first confirmed act: Gov't Mule, on July 24.

Though the venue is scheduled to open in June, the Southern rock band today became the first to officially be booked at the 2,000-seat music venue. Live Nation expects to host about 80 shows a year at the Fillmore, which will be styled in the tradition of the original San Francisco location.

According to the press release:

"The new Fillmore will feature the iconic music venue’s trademark d├ęcor, including red oak hardwood floors, red painted interior, vintage posters of legendary live music performances, magnificent chandeliers throughout, state-of-the-art lighting and sound, as well as, stadium style tiers that create great sight lines from anywhere in the venue, a VIP area and more."

Tickets to the Gov't Mule show go on sale April 18 at 10 a.m. at, select Blockbuster stores or charge by phone at 877-598-8698.

Hom closed (again)

OK guys, I know you're fed up with reading about the drama over at Hom, and trust me, I'm sick of writing about it. But it looks like this could be the last update for a while for those who still care.

After reopening as an "upscale, urban club" last weekend, the club was closed again this weekend.

New employees were apparently blindsided about the decision not to reopen in an e-mail sent on behalf of owner Stefan Latorre.

Even managers seem unsure of the future of the club -- one told me on Saturday, "I really have no idea what's going on ... but at this point I don't expect it to be open anymore."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Deals of the week

Taste of the Nation is a week away and I've got a special deal for my dear readers. From now until 5 p.m. Monday you can mention Paid to Party and get your tickets for $40 (regular price is $60). You can either buy and pick up your tickets directly from Second Harvest Food Bank Metrolina at 500-B Spratt St. (to eliminate mail time/or will-call pickup) or you can call 704-376-1785. (This offer is not available online.)

And, if you factor in the 14 gift certificates (average price $10) to area restaurants that you get in the event's program, you've already made your money back (and then some). All proceeds benefit Second Harvest Food Bank, Community Food Rescue and Community Culinary School of Charlotte.

The best deals this week come courtesy of the Charlotte Knights, who open their 2009 season tomorrow.
  • All-You-Can-Eat Mondays: At every Monday night game there will be an all-you-can-eat-section. Cost is $19 for adults and $14 for children (3-12). Promotion includes a general admission ticket along with all-you-can-eat hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, peanuts and small sodas.
  • Bi-Lo Two-for Tuesday: Buy one ticket and get another free for any Tuesday game when you present your Bi-Lo Bonus Card to the Knights ticket office.
  • Harris Teeter VIC Card Wednesdays and Ball Park Franks Dollar Hot Dog Nights: Fans can buy one ticket and receive another ticket free with their Harris Teeter VIC card at the Knights ticket office. Once inside the stadium, hot dogs are just $1.
  • Friday Fun Pass: Print out a Friday Fun Pass and receive: two general admission tickets, two hot dogs and two Blue Bunny Ice Cream Cones for $10.
This week's hot tip:

Several area clubs offer free entry via text message. For Tempo's Flirtatious Fridays hosted by, you can text TEMPO to 95495. Forum offers a similar text promotion for its popular college night on Wednesdays. Check your favorite venues' websites for similar offers.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A tasty southern treat

For its first time catering Taste of the New South, Pinehurst Resort put out a spread that won't soon be forgotten among Levine Museum members and guests.

The annual fundraiser for the museum was held last night, and despite the steep ticket prices ($85 for members, $100 for nonmembers), about 500 people turned out to sample the best of Southern cuisine.

I've heard from past Taste visitors that Wednesday's event was one of the best parties in recent years.

For those of you who haven't been, each year a regional resort or inn invades the museum and through decorations, floral arrangements and cuisine (and wine, lots of wine) showcases its style.

Food tables were posted throughout the museum and rooms had different resort themes: Weddings, Golf, Spa, etc.

In the weddings room, faux wedding cakes dripping in crystal were the centerpiece of the main food station where chefs prepared such delectable treats as foie gras, day boat scallops and crawfish bisque.

In the "golf academy," lounge seating and candles ringed a food station serving up oysters on the half-shell, seafood martinis, pulled pork with warm brie cheese and mini kobe beef burgers.

And upstairs, Pinehurst's aestheticians showed off their skills, giving free chair and hand massages to partygoers.

By the end of the night, large groups went in search of the dessert room where mini trifles were beautifully displayed around a chocolate sculpture and bouquets of fresh flowers.

All told more than 30 dishes -- from bite-size hors d'oeuvres to ceviche shooters to a chocolate fondue fountain -- stuffed partygoers silly.

I heard that the Biltmore raised the bar for the event in 2007 -- I think Pinehurst just took the title from them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Fray headlining new uptown amphitheatre

After years in the making, the N.C. Music Factory will finally be hosting live music acts this spring.

Live Nation announced Wednesday that The Fray will be playing the first concert June 13 in the new outdoor boutique amphitheater at the entertainment complex. Tickets go on sale Friday.

The Uptown Amphitheatre at the Music Factory will have a capacity of 5,000.

Also opening in June (date to be determined): a Fillmore music venue with a capacity of 2,000. The Fillmore opener has not been announced.

Live Nation will exclusively book both venues -- about 25 shows annually at the outdoor amphitheater; 80 shows annually at the Fillmore.

From the Live Nation press release:

"The Uptown Amphitheatre is situated in a beautiful outdoor setting with soaring views of the Charlotte skyline, elevated lawn seating, traditional outdoor seating, premium box seats with food and beverage service, and an indoor VIP area with private restrooms, private bar and views of the stage. The concession area has a 'bourbon street' feel with multiple permanent restrooms with pedestal sinks, full length mirrors and private stalls."

For more information, visit

(Another) update on Hom

Promoters can't get their you-know-what together over at the new Hom. After postponing the grand reopening last Friday to this Friday, the club has again postponed it until Saturday.

You follow?

So, Hom reopens Saturday with DJ Dice (Redman's DJ) and DJ Magic from Power 98.

At least they're giving more than same-day's notice this time.

All this postponing makes for a bad omen.

Deals of the week

Great live music deals this week:

  • The New American Voices Tour, featuring Texans Rodney Hayden and Drew Kennedy, stops at the Rusty Rudder in Cornelius tonight at 8. It's a free show, and for those who want a preview of the music, a free 6-song download is available here.
  • The Cash Bash is back for a sixth year. For $10, you can see 10 bands -- honoring the late great Johnny Cash -- over two nights this Friday and Saturday at the always rockin' Puckett's Farm Equipment. And PBR cans are always $1.50 at Puckett's.
And speaking of things that are $1.50:
  • The Common House in Plaza Midwood has $1.50 PBR pints and Miller High Life bottles every night.
  • Coors drafts are $1.50 every night at Ed's Tavern.
  • BlackFinn offers a special $1.50 price on its burgers every Wednesday starting at 9 p.m.
Other great ongoing deals:
  • Margaritas are $2 at La Paz Sunday-Tuesday.
  • The Common Market in Plaza Midwood hosts free beer tastings every Wednesday at 6 p.m. (The market's new South End location opened today at 1515 S. Tryon St. They plan to host similar tastings in about a month after they get the kinks of opening a new store out.)
  • Nix Burger & Brew offers an early burger special every day from 4-6 p.m. Burgers are half-price.
  • Arpa hosts a monthly "6+6" event. (They're doing it twice this month, tonight and April 15.) Enjoy six tapas samplings with six wine pairings for $12. Runs from 5:30-8:30 p.m.