How do we know the Lake Norman food scene is taking off? Because it has its own blogger. Lake Norman Foodie — www.lakenormanfoodie.com — is actually Tom Gardner, a 30-something transplant who moved to Huntersville from Washington, D.C., two years ago. “This is the first time I’m confirming to the world who the Lake Norman Foodie is,” he jokes. “But I’ve started interviewing chefs, so it was going to happen eventually.” In D.C., Gardner was a communications professional who worked in media relations and did Web work for nonprofits. His wife was from South Carolina, so they moved to be closer to her family. Unfortunately, they also moved just as the job market got tight. Despite being a social media consultant for a local marketing firm and doing some freelance writing, Gardner had some time on his hands without a full-time job. “The PR market in Charlotte is very different from the PR market I left behind in D.C. So food became my outlet to keep the creative juices flowing.” Gardner loves to cook, which he sometimes blogs about, but his main activity is finding and writing about Lake Norman-area restaurants. He’s also putting his skills to work organizing the first Lake Norman Wine and Food Festival, planned June 5-6 in Kenton Place near Birkdale. Look for details and ticket information at www. lakenormanwineandfoodfestival.org. So what are some places in the area that he really likes? “Please put down that it’s hard for me to pick out one.” But OK: He likes XO wine bar and Killington’s Gastropub in Huntersville, because they both try different things. “I find Dressler’s to be great. There’s Prickly Pear in Mooresville, which has Southwestern. Eez, an Asian-fusion restaurant in Birkdale, has some really unique sushi rolls.”
Maple Pork ChopsAdapted from the cookbook “Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking.”Gardner serves it with rice and extra sauce.1/4 cup flour1 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon ground pepper4 thick pork chops, preferably bone-inVegetable or canola oil1 large yellow onion, chopped1 clove garlic, chopped2 teaspoons chili powder3/4 cup chicken broth3/4 cup real maple syrup (not pancake syrup)3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar2 tablespoons Worcestershire Place 2 to 3 tablespoons oil in a deep skillet or pot and warm over medium to high heat. Place the flour, salt and ground pepper in a large plastic bag. Add the pork chops to the bag and shake to coat. Increase heat under skillet to medium-high. Place the coated chops in the skillet and cook a few minutes, until brown on each side. Remove the pork chops and set aside to keep warm. Add the onion, garlic and chili powder to the skillet. Cook until the onions are soft, then pour in chicken broth to deglaze the hot pan. Stir in maple syrup, vinegar and Worcestershire and bring to a boil. Return the pork chops to the skillet and cook over very low heat for at least two hours (preferably three or more), until the sauce is thick, moving the chops around occasionally to make sure they’re covered with sauce.