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Cornelius Cooks

Rob Rickard pairs a nice wine with a steak, Brussels sprouts


Years ago, before there was an I-77 in Lake Norman, Highway 21 was a local road that wound its way South to Sam Furr Road, and on into Huntersville. You can still see the old highway on the back side of the Augustalee property, which, back then, was one of the Cook family’s farms.

When I-77 was built, a chunk of Cornelius was left to the north and northeast of Birkdale Village. One of those neighborhoods there is Stratford Forest, a little isolated, nice and quiet. Robert “Rob” Rickard likes it that way.

This neighborhood, which really lies just south of Westmoreland Road, has easy access to Birkdale Village, Whole Foods and the greenway that runs from Birkdale to Westmoreland Road.

Rob is a past president of the Stratford Forest Homeowners Association, an avid cyclist and a member of both the Bike! Cornelius committee and the Cornelius Architectural Review Board. He’s also a volunteer and committee member for Big Day at the Lake.

He’s also a dad—the father of five-year-old Parker Alan Rickard. They enjoy fishing golf, gardening, camping and just being together.

Rob moved here from Pittsburgh, Pa., in 2010. In nearby Girard, Pa., where he grew up, he was one of six children, four boys and two girls. Rob has played basketball and soccer almost all his life, winning the boy’s state basketball title in 1988. The Rickard kids grew up on typical American food: Stuffed peppers, lasagna, hamburgers and hot dogs and goulash,  not to mention trout, venison and other game meats.

A graduate of Pittsburgh Technical Institute, he has more than 20 years experience in civil engineering, designing and implementing plans for interstates, bridges and airports. He’s lived and worked in Panama, where he worked on the sustainable development of the Panama Canal. He is now a project manager at TransCentra Inc.

A wine aficionado, Rob likes to entertain when the weather is good. The centerpiece, of course, is a good steak, but he likes to start with a lighter red wine, bruschetta, goat cheese with honey, and olives.

One of his favorite side dishes—some make it a main dish because of the bacon—is called Bella’s Brussel Sprouts with Bacon. “I do them with an aluminum foil boat on the grill and a balsamic reduction at serving.”

His advice for a successful dinner from the grill: “Pair this New York Strip Steak and a Carmenere, Tannat, or other full bodied dry wine.”

Bella’s Brussels Sprouts with Bacon


  • 1/2 pound bacon, diced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
  • 2 cups chicken stock


Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until evenly browned, but not crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving the grease in the skillet. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease and stir in the olive oil, butter, onion, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the onion softens and the garlic lightly browns, 5 to 7 minutes.

Stir in the balsamic vinegar and bring to a simmer; cook until the liquid has reduced by 1/3. Add the reserved bacon, the halved Brussels sprouts, and the chicken stock. Stir, then bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the Brussels sprouts are tender, yet still slightly firm, about 10 minutes.