Epicurean Charlotte

Food & Wine Magazine


Fast Facts for Navigating the Cooking Oil Aisle


courtesy Family Features

Corn may be the top crop in Iowa, but many consumers are not aware of corn oil’s heart-healthy benefits and its versatility in the kitchen.

When cooking for your family, selecting the best ingredients for a heart-healthy meal can be challenging, and there is one ingredient that is often the core of any recipe: cooking oil. However, navigating the cooking oil aisle can be confusing, so this guide breaks down everything the home chef needs to know about cooking with oil.

Heart-Health Focused
Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is important to your heart health, and when it comes to impact on cholesterol, not all cooking oils are created equal. Next time you find yourself reaching for extra virgin olive oil at the grocery store, consider swapping it out for corn oil, which a study shows can help lower cholesterol two times more than extra virgin olive oil. Corn oil also has nearly five times the amount of polyunsaturated fats compared to olive oil, and these heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats help reduce cholesterol levels in your blood. Making a conscious effort to use ingredients like corn oil is a smart, heart-healthy choice for your family.

A Gut Decision

When it comes to lowering your cholesterol and staying heart healthy, go with your gut. Corn oil contains cholesterol-blocking plant sterols—plant-based micronutrients that help block the absorption of cholesterol in your gut and work to prevent bad cholesterol (LDL) from entering the blood stream. Corn oil contains nearly four times more cholesterol-blocking plant sterols than olive oil, three times as many as vegetable oil, and nearly 1.5 times more than canola oil.

Sourcing the Best Ingredients

Today, more and more families are paying close attention to where their food comes from and prefer locally-sourced ingredients. Opting for local food can give you more confidence in the ingredients you use in your family’s meals. Mazola® Corn Oil, for instance, is produced from corn in the Midwest, including corn grown in Iowa. A lot of olive oil is imported from the Mediterranean region, while most canola oil comes from our friendly neighbors up north in Canada. But, did you know that you can get heart-healthy corn oil that’s grown and made right here in the U.S.?
Multipurpose Functionality
Whether you fancy yourself a top-notch baker, grill master, or are just starting out, each ingredient selected plays an important role in obtaining the meal’s desired taste. Extra virgin olive oil has a strong flavor that can change the taste of the foods you cook. Corn oil is an all-purpose cooking oil with a neutral taste that lets the true flavors of your dish come through, making it the perfect ingredient for heart-healthy dishes like pan-fried salmon or in a salad dressing over a bed of spinach.

Corn oil can also handle the heat in the kitchen because of its high smoke point (450°F), making it a great, all-purpose cooking oil for everything from grilling and sautéing to stir frying and baking. This is key for crafting quality meals at home, because once a smoke point is exceeded, the food flavor and nutritional value are negatively affected.

Five Kitchen Upgrades to Make Your Inner Host Flourish

published with permission from Brandpoint

You love entertaining and treating guests to delectable dishes and fun times. Unfortunately, your kitchen layout, appliances, and even the faucet are so downright unappealing that the thought of planning and preparing a party menu is equally unpleasant.

What do you do when you’re built to entertain, but your kitchen isn’t? Renovate!

Reasons to Renovate
The kitchen is a favorite room to remodel, and a minor kitchen refresh can return more than 80 percent of your investment at the time of resale, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report. But ROI isn’t the top reason people renovate kitchens. According to the 2017 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, most people who remodel their kitchen do so because they just can’t stand it anymore.

So, if you love playing host but don’t like the kitchen that stands in the way of your entertaining, revamping the room is the perfect way to make it more party-friendly.

Renovating for Entertainment

Here are five upgrades that can help make your kitchen the perfect platform for entertaining:

1. Give yourself some space. If you’ve decided to go all in for your kitchen renovation and have an older home with a closed-off kitchen, consider opening the space to the home’s main living area. If your home already has an open floor plan, consider ways to tie the kitchen more intimately to the living area, such as continuing one style of flooring through both rooms or repeating an accent color in the kitchen and adjacent common space.

2. Work smarter with a new faucet. The sink is a key point in the workflow triangle for any kitchen, and the faucet should take center stage in this performance. A contemporary faucet with task-driven spray patterns is a must for entertaining, but wouldn’t an extra pair of hands also be great to have with the flurry of pre-party activities? An easy and quick solution is a hands-free faucet, such as the American Standard Beale kitchen faucet with Selectronic technology, which allows you to turn water on or off without the need to touch the faucet. This touchless technology makes food prep easier, while also helping to prevent cross-contamination of foods.

Taking hands-free technology one step further, the addition of a sleek, European-styled GROHE kitchen faucet with Foot Control allows you to control the flow of water with a tap of your toe at the base of the sink cabinet. Now it will be super simple to fill a big pot or rinse off a large skillet, using both hands to hold it securely while turning on the water at the same time.

3. Upgrade appliances. Depending on your budget, you can find appliances to help with virtually every aspect of entertaining, from dishwashers that entirely eliminate the need to pre-rinse, to refrigerators that help compile your grocery list. Even on a modest budget, you can improve on your current appliances, especially if they are older and less energy efficient. Double stoves are great for cooking a lot of food for large groups of guests, warming drawers keep food warm until ready to serve, and beverage drawers ensure you’ll always have enough refreshments for everyone.

4. Choose cleaning-friendly surfaces. Did you ever wonder why stainless steel sinks continue to be a popular choice in kitchens, regardless of the room’s decor? It’s because stainless steel sinks not only look good, they also retain their beauty longer by resisting stains and scratches. Plus, drop-in and undermount stainless steel sinks from American Standard offer both single and double bowl options for simplifying kitchen tasks. Picking dirt and germ-busting surfaces like stainless steel, stone countertops, ceramic tile, etc., can help make it easier to keep your kitchen clean, leaving you more time for entertaining.

5. Create an island paradise. The standalone island has become a must-have for entertainment-minded homeowners. An island can serve multiple purposes when throwing a party, from providing extra workspace or hosting a second sink, to giving guests a seat closer to the action. You can even choose a multi-level island that will allow you to interact with guests while concealing work areas and sinks from view.

If your kitchen has been holding you back from blossoming into the host of your dreams, these easy upgrades can help the room better match your personality and entertainment needs.

Sweeten Up Your Valentine’s Day with Amélie’s French Bakery & Café on Park Road

by Bryan Richards
images courtesy Amélie’s French Bakery & Café

Whether you’re honoring a long-time relationship, a new fling, or your child’s classmates, the pressure of finding a creative and unique way to celebrate Cupid’s favorite day often results in one crafted more from stress than love. Sadly, that’s why many of us write Valentine’s Day off as a pointless Hallmark holiday. Who needs another red teddy bear or heart-shaped locket anyway?

Amélie’s French Bakery & Café to the rescue! The Queen City’s favorite French-inspired café can help you plan the perfect Valentine’s Day with their newest location in the Park Road Shopping Center. Not only can you indulge that special someone in your life with Amélie’s scratch-made French pastries, but the Park Road Shopping Center location also offers French wines, seasonal mimosas, and local craft beer alongside the pastries and café drinks Charlotteans have come to know and love.

“People work here because they get to create and make,” says Sarah Britton, Director of Operations at Amélie’s. “We look forward to holidays and special occasions because we get to be a part of our customers’ lives.”

Plan a night out with the special someone in your life

One of the Park Road Amélie’s most unique attributes is its proximity to all the other fixin’s needed to plan a special date night. Prefer to snuggle up in a movie theatre with your beau? Stop into Amélie’s for a pick-me-up like their spiced maple café crème—the French version of the latte—beforehand and then head on over to the Manor Theater for the latest flick.

Consider yourself a foodie? Plan a progressive dinner with stops at Rock Salt for oysters (nature’s aphrodisiac… wink, wink), DotDotDot for appetizers and cocktails, and CO for an intimate yet exotic dinner, all followed by dessert and a glass of French wine at Amélie’s. The rich chocolate peanut butter petit four washed down with the berry, vanilla, and floral notes of the Bordeaux Rouge from Château de Fontenille make the perfect end to an evening.

If your relationship has advanced to the next level fellas, pop into Brownlee Jewelers and let her shop for the engagement ring she’s been dreaming about. Amélie’s ups the ante on that proposal with a custom made “Will you marry me” Éclair. Not only will her heart melt, but the buttery, creamy dessert will melt in your mouth.

Not ready for a romantic night out, yet? Enjoy a casual Valentine’s date night at Amélie’s

As if the stress of Valentine’s Day just being Valentine’s Day isn’t enough, add to it the complexity of a new relationship. Are we ready for an intimate night out at The Cellar at Duckworth’s? Or is the high price tag of a fancy dinner coupled with awkward moments of candle-lit silence too soon? Amélie’s in the Park Road Shopping Center allows the perfect setting to test the waters of your new relationship.

Skip the tomahawk bone-in ribeye and enjoy a casual, yet still delicious, dinner of seasonal soups, salads, and sandwiches like the wild mushroom duxelles tartine (the French version of an open-faced sandwich). Wash it down with a playful orange and clove mimosa or a Hop, Drop ‘n Roll IPA from NoDa Brewing. If the conversation seems to be moving in the right direction, keep it going with a hazelnut praline café crème and a petite dessert trio, which comes with a fresh fruit tart, a two-tiered macaron, and a mini cream puff.

When you do reach those unavoidable lulls in conversation, talk about the café’s eclectic décor, which Brenda Ische, designer, brand manager, and co-founder of Amélie’s, describes as Marie Antoinette meets Alice and Wonderland. The Mona Lisa wearing sunglasses is my personal favorite.

Enjoy a special date night at home with Amélie’s

Maybe you’re like my wife and I and prefer to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a quiet night at home by either ordering in your favorite takeout or preparing an elaborate dinner. I prefer the latter, often whipping up my eggplant parmesan recipe, which takes me all afternoon to cook. I tend to fall short when it comes to dessert though. I may know my way around the kitchen, but when it comes to anything with sugar, forget it.

Amélie’s is to the rescue with sweet treats like the previously mentioned Éclair Your Love. Customize them with a personal message (requires a 48-hour advanced order). Another customer favorite is the sexy chocolate covered strawberries. With a choice between dark, milk, and white chocolate, there’s something for all chocolate lovers. Last year they sold almost 3,000 of the romantic treat.

Bring home treats for the whole gang.

Nowadays, Valentine’s Day isn’t just limited to the special someone in our lives. Many of us like to bring sweets to the office for our colleagues to enjoy, treat our important clients, or put a smile on the face of our child’s classmates. Britton recommends picking up a dozen or so of Amélie’s pâte sucrée Valentine’s Day cookies—the French version of a sugar cookie. “They’re really buttery when you bite into them but still sturdy enough to support the royal icing that delivers that Valentine’s Day touch,” she says.

Another option is Amélie’s famous French macarons. Raspberry, mixed berry, or a seasonal cranberry pistachio offers that finishing Valentine’s Day touch.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be that difficult after all. With the help of Amélie’s, make this Valentine’s Day your best one yet.