While my sister dines at très chic restaurants off Regent Street in London, I have dinner at the races in Charlotte. Nope, not of the Ascot type but more of the Nascar kind.
My husband and I recently came to be in possession of two tickets to a corporate suite at the All Star Nascar Race last night. I had been to a race five years ago, but we were in the stands. The culture shock of severe mullets, beer hats, back-of-the-truck barbeques, and drunken rednecks was too much for me (all due respect to rednecks....) and I had sworn that I would never return to a Nascar race. The fact is that the face of Nascar had changed over time here in Charlotte to a more civilized one (or I have localized quite a bit over five years) and if I was going to enjoy it, it was going to be from a corporate suite.
Dinner was served in the suite and I had been looking forward to it. It was Southern barbeque - pulled pork, Southern-fried chicken, beans, sweet potato and buns. I usually enjoy a good pulled pork, when it is seasoned well and tangy with vinegar. It was a decent meal.
I did enjoy the cucumber and fennel salad. Fresh and crunchy with both the fennel root as well as the feathery leaves, it had the overtones of summer and was simply delightful. It actually had a yogurt base and reminded me of an Indian raita.
For dessert, a simply superb Strawberry Shortcake - firm pound cake, sweet and tart strawberry compote, extra berries and some whipped cream. I enjoyed it so much, I went back for seconds.
The best part of the meal was the hotdog which was served in between the two races that night. Good sausage, hot chilli, onions and mustard in a warm and fluffy bun. The perfect late night snack.
What I realize is that as Truffle's dining options in London evolve to higher levels of sophistication, the ones that are open to me seem to be unwinding into the simplicity of the past. As much as I complain to Truffle that I wished Charlotte had the breadth and depth of London restaurants, I realize that I have to remind myself how fortunate I am to live in this city. We have been blessed with "La Dolce Vita" here in Charlotte, and so what if we don't have as many haute cuisine options. I also have to remind myself that as important as it is to enjoy complex tastes and ingredients, it is still important to remember the simple things in life and to remember how to enjoy them.
Back to Nascar - the real highlight of the evening was the pit tour we were taken on before dinner. For those who don't watch Nascar and haven't seen the movie Cars by Pixar, the pit is where the cars stop to refuel and get their tires changed. It was very cool to be on the tarmac and to see all the gear that was all set up, ready for the race that was to start in a few hours.
Tires, ready to get changed. See how the yellow lug nuts have been glued on, ready to be bolted on with air guns? Every second counts in Nascar.
Car being moved manually.... They don't start their engines until the race.
Jimmie Johnson's car. It's usually numbered 48 but it was 5 for this particular race - to let Lowes customers know about the 5% discount they get when they use a Lowes credit card- interesting marketing strategy, I thought!
The evening was overall very enjoyable. It was a nice way to spend it with Prince Charming, who (shock horror) is a Nascar fan. This fact, by the way, was not divulged before the wedding in San Francisco 11 years ago and was a point of contention for a number of years.
Here are a few more photographs that captured the evening. I hope you enjoy them!
Gentlemen, start your engines! A view from above.
Evening sets on the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The whoosh of the cars! The picture doesn't capture the thunder of the engines. You feel it in your chest even up in the suite.
Finally, the largest HD TV in the world! 200 ft x 800 ft. It truly was exceptional to see the drivers and the race on such a large TV. It was unveiled for the first time at the event.
Here's to enjoying all things local! Nascar, I salute you. This Charlottean enjoyed your All Star Race.