THE SCOOP #1: Fake Short Ribs and other such tragedies

This article is the first in what will soon be a series of restaurant reviews, aptly named “THE SCOOP”.

Charlotte’s South End neighborhood is chock full of hip eateries, and after years of frequenting many of them, I finally made my debut visit to The Liberty last night. Located in the heart of South End, The Liberty is gastropub known for its craft beers on tap and tasty burgers. The vibe is laid back and the ambiance is rustic tavern-meets-modern local hotspot. Needless to say, I chose to begin the evening with a refreshing draft beer. This is where things start to go downhill. When I ask the server for a recommendation on an amber ale with some spice, she immediately scans the menu for anything labeled “amber”. How do I know this? She replies, “Here’s an amber that we have” and points to Bell’s Amber Ale. Then she mentions that they have a beer by Green Man that’s pretty good (huh?) and I comment, “Oh – that’s brewed in Asheville, right?”. She looks at the menu and says, “um, well – it’s a local beer”. I look down at the menu and see “LOCAL” in parentheses next to the Green Man ESB. Hmm…

So I order the Bell’s Amber along with some fried pickles, to get my week’s worth of sodium in one fell swoop. Both are happily satisfying. Although really, how could anyone screw up fried pickles? Next I order the braised short ribs. They arrive on a bed of buttery mashed potatoes, topped with collard greens. This seems to be a Southern spin on traditional French-style slow braised short ribs, and given that we’re in the South, I can appreciate this. What I don’t appreciate is that the short ribs are not, in fact, short ribs.

And now for a brief rant. When did restaurants stop using real bone-in short ribs? The Liberty is not the first establishment to do this, I’ve experienced it at Halcyon, Bask on Seaboard, and The Crepe Cellar, to name a few. Apparently, boneless beef chuck “short ribs” are now being used as a substitute for bone-in short ribs, and the results are lackluster at best. Instead of hearty, fall-off-the-bone tender meat, you have bland, dry pieces of beef that would be better served in a pot roast. Or perhaps as a snack for my dog, who is content to eat bits of plastic from her kong toy after devouring the treats inside. I realize that in a down economy restaurants must find creative ways to cut costs, but when the short ribs are the most expensive dish on the menu, they’d better damn well be real short ribs.

I digress. After wrapping up my meal with another trusty Bell’s Amber, I visit the restroom and find printed beer trivia posted on the walls. Because I’m a super-nerd for culinary trivia of any sort, this significantly brightens the evening. And so I’ll leave you with this: a fun fact about 17th century English taverns, courtesy of the women’s bathroom at The Liberty.

In old English pubs, ale was ordered by pints and quarts. When customers got unruly, the bartender would shout at them to mind their own pints and quarts and settle down. It’s where we got the phrase “mind your own p’s and q’s.”

I may pay another visit to The Liberty sometime in the future, but it sure as hell won’t be for the short ribs.


We’ve all gotta start somewhere…

… so here’s the first post on A Culinary Quest! What’s this all about, you ask? Good question. I’m not entirely sure just yet, but here’s my story…

After about a decade of climbing the ladder in corporate America, it dawned on me that no high-profile project, no big promotion, no authored article published in an industry magazine would ever be as soul-satisfying as devoting my time to culinary exploration. Not just because I love food (who doesn’t love food?), but because I’ve acquired an uncommon amount of knowledge about food and the “restaurant scene” over the years that I can share with others, presumably to their benefit.

With an insatiable curiosity of the culinary arts, I’ve dined at a different restaurant nearly every a week for over five years. Though I’m not a food expert, and am far less educated in cooking than others (like my husband who’s a culinary school-trained chef), I can offer insights into the culinary world in an unpretentious, insightful, and occasionally snarky way that should make for an interesting read. Since I’m fairly certain that an actual job revolving around culinary exploration would pay, roughly, nothing, I’ll keep my day job and begin this new journey with a simple blog.

And so begins A Culinary Quest.