Learn to cook from one of Charlotte's Top 5 Chefs | Cook local, healthy and sustainable food with Chef Alyssa Gorelick

January 10th, 2015
Contributed by Dan Burdi
Resident Real Estate Agent and Community Enthusiast

The start of any new year inevitably brings ambitions to better yourself with New Year’s resolutions. Many struggle with their resolutions because it’s difficult to know how or where to get started. However, if your resolution has anything to do with cooking for yourself, eating healthier, or using locally sourced ingredients, Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen may be just what you need to step into 2015 on the right foot.

Founded in 2012 by Chef Alyssa Gorelick and her business partner, Andrew Wilen, Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen features culinary classes focused on cooking and eating healthy and using local, sustainable food to do it. I first had the opportunity to meet Alyssa at her learning kitchen in the Atherton Mill Market in South End on Small Business Saturday. We followed up our initial meeting a week or so later at Craft Growler Shop where I had the opportunity to meet her boyfriend and business partner, Andrew. Within a few minutes (a.k.a a glass of delicious local beer) it was easy to see how these two had collaborated as both chef and event planner to create an awesome local business here in Charlotte.

Chef Alyssa has had a passion for food and cooking her entire life. After Alyssa graduated from the Art Institute of Charlotte in 2005 she had the opportunity to work in several restaurants in Charlotte and around the world. In 2011 Alyssa was given the opportunity to become the Executive Chef of Fern, Flavors from the Garden in Plaza Midwood. Alyssa’s experience opening Fern led her to explore the opportunities that existed with local farmers to source healthy and local ingredients. Beyond opening Fern as an Executive Chef, some of Alyssa’s other accomplishments include being named one of Charlotte’s Top 5 Chefs by CBS Charlotte as well as the opportunity to cook at James Beard House in New York City on two separate occasions.

In the Fall of 2011 Chef Alyssa met and began dating event planner and business partner Andrew Wilen. Andrew graduated from Elon University in 2008 where he studied Communications, Sport Marketing and Business Management. With Andrew’s background as an event planner working with the Carolina Panthers, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Denver, New York, Houston and Dallas, and with the Chicago Marathon, it was natural for him to work with Alyssa to combine their skills to found Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen in December of 2012.

Today, with two years under their belt running Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen, Alyssa and Andrew have a passion for providing Charlotte with a social and energetic environment where people can learn how to cook and eat healthier with local ingredients. “A cooking class offers a new and exciting alternative to what would be an otherwise traditional night out with friends in Charlotte”, says Alyssa. We here at Crown Town Living couldn’t help but agree so when January 8th rolled around we met again with Alyssa and Andrew for their Basic Meals Boot Camp.

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A New Spin on Barbecue in Charlotte | Charlotte restauranteur adds another great concept to the city's restaurant scene

December 19th, 2014
Contributed by Dan Burdi
Resident Real Estate Agent and Community Enthusiast


Not many of us can claim being “born and raised” in Charlotte. During my four years in Charlotte I can probably count on one hand the number of people I’ve met that can and those my friends are “the unicorns”. At least that’s what I call them. Just this past week I had the opportunity to sit down with Will Bigham, one of those unicorns but Will has oh so much more to claim beyond being born and raised here in Charlotte. Will is one of the city’s more prominent restauranteurs with a number of successful restaurant concepts under his belt. Beyond growing up in Charlotte, Will has grown up in the restaurant industry. It is these deep roots that have led to the passion that anyone who meets Will can see when talking about his restaurants, menu, customers and staff.

So now that you have a little bit of a background on Will, how about giving you an idea of where you can experience the result of that passion I mentioned.

Will Bigham is the man behind The Pizza Peel & Tap Room restaurants in both Cotswold and Plaza Midwood neighborhoods as well as the Flying Biscuit Cafes here in Charlotte located at the Park Road Shopping Center on Park Road as well as StoneCrest at Piper Glen off of Rea Rd. Meeting with Will helped me to understand the level of determination he has when it comes to seizing opportunities. As an example, one of Will’s very own concepts, The Pizza Peel & Tap Room, stemmed from a series of events that took Will and his staff from knowing little to nothing about pizza to now operating two locations for one of Charlotte’s greatest pizza restaurant concepts. I speak from experience on this of course; I mean who could pass up a pizza lunch buffet in the heart of Plaza Midwood!

Will and his team’s latest restaurant concept is one that I am very excited about. It’s called The Improper Pig and it’s also located in Cotswold (110 S. Sharon Amity Rd). I was thrown off a bit by the name at first but the story behind this place brings everything together.

The location for the Improper Pig was previously a franchise concept (also owned by Will Bigham) called Mama Fus, a fast casual Asian restaurant. When the Mama Fus concept ran its course Will decided he wanted to try something new, yet traditional, yet totally different. From that, came The Improper Pig, what can almost be described as a traditional southern barbecue Asian fusion. That’s right, this is the only barbecue restaurant you’ll find with a wok in the kitchen! Did I lose you? Okay, maybe an example will help. How about the Wow Bao Taco? – pulled pork, chicken or chopped brisket (or smoked tofu) tossed in a spicy hoisin sauce (always house made) in a steamed bao bun with Asian slaw. This is just one of the out-of-the-box creations that make the barbecue options here a bit improper if you will. Take a peek at some of the other items on the menu at The Improper Pig here. When I met with Will he also hinted to the possibility of some “blue plate specials” coming soon. Stay tuned.

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Incase You Missed It | Rhino Market & Deli Grand Opening

December 18th, 2014
Contributed by Dan Burdi
Resident Real Estate Agent and Community Enthusiast

This past Saturday, December 13th marked the grand opening of Rhino Market & Deli in the Wesley Heights neighborhood of Charlotte. If you’re a fan of deli food we highly recommend checking out this new “eclectic watering hole” as they call it.

The Rhino Market is located on Morehead behind the Burger Co. restaurant and is a great spot to grab fresh deli sandwiches, cold beer, wine and a variety of locally sourced items. Check out their menu here for an idea of some of the sandwiches you can snag. The deli is opened 7am – 11pm Sunday – Thursday and 7am – 12am on Friday and Saturday.

Within the last year this area has grown considerably. There has been a great deal of development recently so a venue like the Rhino Market & Deli is certainly a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Not to mention, Rob Rondolez, owner of the Rhino Market, is no stranger to deli success given his prior experience with The Common Market, a well known Charlotte staple.

Check out some of these great pictures from the grand opening that we received from fellow Community Enthusiast, Tonya Russ Price of Poprock Photography, an awesome local photographer if I do say so myself!


NoDa Brewing Run Club | Exercise and Craft Beer Go Hand In Hand at Charlotte Breweries

December 17th, 2014
Contributed by Justin Burdi
Charlotte Resident and Community Enthusiast

I think I’m like a lot of us; I want to be healthy and exercise regularly but sometimes it is hard to find the motivation and even harder to stick with it from day to day or week to week. A missed day leads to a missed week, and so on; some of you definitely know what I’m talking about. It is still to early to tell, but I’m hoping I may have finally broken that cycle for myself; I’ve just started frequenting Charlotte’s run clubs. My initial motivation; playing lacrosse again for the first time in 10 years. My current motivation is still getting in shape for lacrosse, but it has become more than that. 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, maybe even that 26.2 miler that is on so many bucket lists…these are some of goals I’ve been thinking about lately – NoDa Brewing’s Run Club can do that to you.

My first experience with a run club was about a month ago with NoDa Brewing’s weekly Wednesday night gathering (One of Charlotte’s most popular clubs). The choice for me to start there was obvious – NoDa Brewing has great craft beer and their Hop Drop ’n Roll was a 2014 World Beer Cup Gold Award Winner for American-Style IPAs (and probably my favorite IPA, period). The beer was a huge draw for me, but I’ll get back to that later, on with the running for now.

charlotte-nc-noda-brewing-run-club-1Here’s how the running aspect of the night goes down – Runners meet in the taproom sometime after 6PM for some quick announcements. We all then head outside in front of the taproom, maybe around 100 of us. As a side note, most wear bright clothes, reflectors, or blinking lights – This is a good idea since it was dark out and there are spots along the course with moderate car traffic. The sheer number of people is extremely motivational. Now is a good time to warm up, do some stretching, pop in your earbuds…and for me, decide if I was going to take the 1 mile, 3 mile, or 5 mile course (at this point, I was set on doing the 3 mile course). Each course takes you on a unique tour of NoDa with a good mix of inclines and declines, but nothing too crazy. 6:30PM came along, a couple of more announcements letting us know where each course breaks off, and then boom, we are all on our way. After the first few blocks there is someone there to let us know that the 1 mile runners should split off to the left, and the rest of use should go right. At the two mile mark there is another crossroads – I need to decide between 1 more mile, or 3 more. 3 miles was all I was planning to do that day…but for some reason I stuck with the 5-milers, maybe foolishly. I won’t lie and say the rest of the course was easy for me, but completing it felt amazing. By 7:30PM I was back in the taproom, and ready for the 2nd phase of the night.

charlotte-nc-noda-brewing-run-club-2After each of their runs, everyone starts trickling back into the taproom. There are sponsor booths and several raffles for coupons, promo items, and a grand prize for an entrance fee to an upcoming race. There is also a food truck outside, usually a really good one (we all know Charlotte food trucks are awesome). There is also lots of cold beer to be purchased by the pint with many options. I took advantage of the glorious beer until my legs stopped shaking and my heart rate slowed to normal…and until the taproom closed at 9PM. NoDa Brewing Run Club is every Wednesday at 6:30PM – Give it a try, it could just be the thing that finally gets you exercising consistently…oh and don’t forget about getting to reward yourself with beer afterwards.

Also, continue reading to check out some of the other run clubs (also yoga and cycling) happening every week at some of Charlotte’s best breweries.

WHEN – Every Wednesday at 6:30PM, rain or shine

NoDa Brewing Company
2229 North Davidson Street
Charlotte, NC 28205

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Shop Small

Shop Local and Join a South End Neighborhood Tradition | Small Business Saturday, Nov. 29th

November 24th, 2014
Contributed by Dan Burdi
Resident Real Estate Agent and Community Enthusiast

This week many will be enjoying time with family and friends around the dinner table with turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and all the other deliciousness that comes with Thanksgiving. Undoubtably we will also all indulge in the relaxation (and food comas) that comes with the holiday. For many, Thanksgiving also marks the start of the holiday shopping season. We all know about the crazy, hectic, insanity that is Black Friday, but why deal with that stress-monster? Instead, how about Small Business Saturday? The first ever Small Business Saturday was in 2010 and since then the Saturday following Thanksgiving has been marked the day to shop small in your community.  The day is an initiative from American Express to “drive shoppers to local merchants across the U.S.” and with 200 retailers in the South End neighborhood of Charlotte, they are really doing the day right!

Small Business Saturday is becoming quite the event in South End Charlotte and this coming Saturday, November 29th, local and state representatives will be at Atherton Mill at 11am to proclaim the day Small Business Saturday. To get you started we’ve gone ahead and put together a list of some highlighted small businesses in South End that you should visit and support. To make getting from place to place easier and to avoid parking hassles, a trolley will be running throughout the day with stops at Camden Road, Atherton Mill and Triple C Brewing. Triple C Brewing is actually going to be hosting “Shop Micro Local”, a pop-up shop and fashion trucks with products from throughout Charlotte and the region. Also, you’ll see that from the list below, all of these businesses are in walking distance of each other.

While you’re out and about on Small Business Saturday be sure to stop by these great retailers and others in South End:

Savory Spice Shop

Located at 2000 South Blvd., Suite 150 at the Atherton Mill location

For Scott and Amy McCabe of the Savory Spice Shop, Small Business Saturday is more than just a day to celebrate and support local businesses but also the anniversary of their own business. For that reason they have quite a bit planned for the big day and are excited to be hosting two other local small businesses from the community. From 9:30am on Saturday until 12pm Enderly Coffee Co., a local coffee roaster, will be doing pour over coffees and from 12:30pm until 2:30pm, Z-Bear Jamz will be sampling some of their great products. Additionally, the spices, herbs and salts from Savory Spice Shop make a great holiday gift for any cook in your family. As a special holiday offer you can get one free gift set of spices with the purchase of three. Be sure to wish Savory Spice Shop a happy anniversary when you stop in.

Savory Spice Shop

Blank Canvas

Located at 1800 Camden Rd., Suite 105, not far from the East/West Blvd. light rail station

For those men on your holiday shopping list this year, Blank Canvas is a men’s boutique with a handpicked selection of apparel, shoes and accessories. “Black Canvas prides itself on blending progressive menswear with contemporary sportswear”. We had the opportunity to meet one of Black Canvas’ owners, Harold Jordan. Harold has extensive design experience which he has used to create this “uniquely cultivated boutique” in the heart of South End. For Small Business Saturday Harold mentioned they would be running a special sale of up to 50% off items in the store.

Blank Canvas

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