Monday, January 16, 2017

Clarksburg Edition: Primanti Brothers

Primanti Bros - ClarksburgWe know the legacy of the giant Pittsburgh sandwiches stacked with fries and cole slaw. Primanti's is known for those white bread sandwiches piled high with your choice of protein - bologna, egg, hot sausage, ham, bacon, pastrami, corned beef, turkey, roast beef - and tons of others.

Primanti Bros - ClarksburgBut, it's time we talk about another Pittsburgh specialty: the french fry salad.

Primanti Bros - Clarksburg

That's right. A pile of greens, veggies, chicken or steak and french fries. I took my latest visit to the Clarksburg Primanti's location where I met up with best friend and college roommate Kayla (and that new baby!) to espouse the greatness that is the french fry salad.
One possible origin for the salad, as noted in Serious Eats’ culinary history of Pittsburgh, is Jerry’s Curb Service, a drive-in originally located just north of the city, which claims that "on a fateful night in the early 1960s… a customer placed a rather unusual order — a steak sandwich, hold the bun, add fries and salad dressing." Donna Reed, Jerry’s wife, made a version for herself but "placed her sliced steak, fries, and salad dressing atop a fresh bed of lettuce." Jerry’s however, simply calls this "staple in the restaurant industry" a "Steak Salad." Like any restaurant dish whose highly convenient origin story involves a quirky customer order or a chef/owner’s inventive use of constrained ingredients — see: the negroni, the Caesar salad, Buffalo wings — the tale is hard to definitively disprove, but of course, no one really knows (Eater).
Primanti Bros - ClarksburgThis Primanti's location is fairly new, and modern - like most of the branch locations. A nice open area, dark colors and the same humongous sandwiches (and french fry salads!) that the area has come to love.

Primanti Bros - ClarksburgI ordered the Sirloin Steak Salad with Fries - seasoned strips of sirloin steak, house salad mix, tomato, chopped egg, roasted peppers, bacon, crumbled and creamy bleu cheese and housemade croutons.

Primanti Bros - ClarksburgThe salad came out on a humongous plate with a flat grilled beef amalgamation covering the bed of iceberg lettuce, slivered tomatoes, red onions, and not-quite-crispy fries. For the most part, I'm super into this salad. I feel like it's reasonably healthy with a bit of indulgence. The nice salty fries make for a tasty combination with the creamy dressing and crunchy veggies. It's a classic of the Pittsburgh area, and I know some friends who even specifically seek out this dish at restaurants. Gotta try it - at least once!

Grade: B
Primanti Bros. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Highland Food & Farm Market

Davis/ThomasDavis/ThomasWest Virginia has a few locally owned, independent grocery stores that sell local products, and my good friend Lisa is doing some research into them. While talking with her, I was inspired to seek some nearby ones out and encourage folks to support them in my upcoming column for the WV Gazette-Mail.

Davis/ThomasDavis/ThomasThe Highlands Food & Farm was one of the first on the list. Here's some info from their Facebook page:

Funded through Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and Tucker Community Foundation. In-Kind support provided by Tucker County Convention & Visitors Bureau, WVU Extension Service and Tucker County Development Authority. 
The Highland Market opened with the help from a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant. Inventory will fluctuate, depending on availability, but wholesome goodies have consistently been on the shelves. We’ve been offering a constant flow of farm fresh eggs, dairy and goat cheeses, seasonal and greenhouse produce and are seeking a wider variety as much as available. Frozen vegetables are in stock as well as frozen grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork, lamb and chickens.

Other items include fresh breads, granola bars, honey, maple syrup, soups, hummus, granola, coffee, organic spice blends, jams, mustard, pinto, kidney black beans, polenta, spelt, millet and rye flour. We also now stock items from Frankferd Farm Foods on a monthly basis. These items include non-homogenized milk, butter, organic yogurt, and other goods that are otherwise unavailable (ie organic Tamari, organic grains and unsulphured dried fruit); please call for availability. The search will continue as we acquire more items to provide full diet ingredients. 
We NOW accept EBT (Food Stamps)! We also accept local checks, cash and Credit/Debit (minimum purchase of $15). 
One of our goals is to help local producers, while helping residents and visitors eat more nutrient rich, unprocessed foods. Because of this, we deal with many individual producers and, in most cases, 70-85% of the purchase price returns to the farmers!
Davis/ThomasDavis/ThomasDavis/ThomasThe shop is quite lovely! They have meats, cheeses, coffee, honey, syrup, breads and a some grab & go items made from ingredients from local farms.

Davis/ThomasI picked up some raw milk cheese from Spring Gap Mountain Creamery because I had never tried ti before. I got the gouda, and it's definitely a bit stronger than I anticipated. But, not bad.

Davis/ThomasI also got these bleu cheese and spinach wontons from the grab & go portion. They included Firefly Farms' bleu cheese and a handful of other ingredients from local farms. How cool is that? These, I'm sure, are even better warmed up and toasty, but I popped them in my mouth before I could actually get home. So tasty!

Davis/ThomasI love the idea behind local groceries. It's a small store that genuinely cares about the products they're putting in their community. Our farmers are being supported -- we have all these folks right in our community, yet we're buying products from super far away. Plus, it's healthier for us, and we're helping our local economy. Win, win, win, win.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Shops in Thomas, West Virginia

ExtraThe Davis/Thomas area is one of my favorites, and when I went there recently to do some research for an upcoming column, I walked along East Street in Thomas (one of the coolest streets in the entire state) taking in all the amazing shops.

Thomas shopsThere are some great artist galleries like The White Room Art Gallery, Lamplight Gallery and Creature (which I have fallen in love with). I also gotta mention nearby Davis has the WV Highlands Artisans Gallery, which is also great. There's Three Castle Antique and the Christmas Shoppe & More. There are also a bunch of shops that cater to all your foodie needs.
Thomas shopsThomas shops
Thomas shopsThomas shops
Thomas shopsThomas shops

Thomasyard is a florist, with garden and gifts, and also has lots of specialty food items - chocolates, fresh produce, wine, cheese, crackers, cookies, honey, apple cider, apple juice, apple butter, apple sauce. Plus, yummy samples and popcorn!

Thomas shops

Thomas shops

Thomas shops

Thomas shops

Riverfront Antiques has West Virginia wines - and tastings! - in addition to other local novelties.

ExtraAnd, then, I stopped by the smallest church in 48 states because why not! :)


Friday, January 13, 2017

Follansbee Edition: New Hong Kong

Hong KongI have a soft spot for Americanized Chinese food -- I always will. That first bite of an eggroll in Pittsburgh as a kid opened my eyes to a whole different world of food ... one that didn't exist in Wellsburg at the time.

Hong KongSo when nearby Follansbee got New Hong Kong, I was ecstatic that some sweet & sour chicken, eggrolls and General Tso's chicken were at my fingertips. And, yes, I understand there are other dishes besides these ultra artificial ones -- but let's be honest, we're not going for authentic here. We're going for tasty. It's sweet, sticky, comforting and makes me happy.

Hong KongThey have your typical dishes: chow mein, foo young, sweet & sour chicken, lo mein, beef & broccoli, General Tso's, Sesame Chicken, etc. You know, what you'd expect from a standard Chinese joint.

Hong KongThey have a dine-in area, as well. This came in handy when I wanted to meet up with Kaitlynn on Christmas Eve to exchange presents. We came in, browsed the menu overhead, and I decided on one of their specials: honey chicken.

Hong KongIt sounds overly sweet, salty and everything I wanted. Perfect. We walked around to the back, sat at one of the booths and awaited the food. A few minutes later, we were presented with tasty dinners - and this is perhaps the first time I've seen their food on real dishes and not just the plastic take-out containers.

Hong KongFried hunks of chicken tossed in a sweet sauce? I mean, it doesn't take much to make me happy. It essentially tasted like a diluted honey was coating the dish. I'm not complaining; it hit all the right spots. The eggroll on the side was just fine - a bit too crunchy on the outside, and no real exciting filling inside, but fine.

Hong KongSo, no, this is definitely not the best Chinese food I've had. However, bonus points for the fact that it's the only game in town. Also, I got exactly what I wanted, so how can I complain? Plus, I got to spend a portion of my Christmas Eve at a Chinese restaurant. It only seems fitting.

Grade: B
New Hong Kong Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Davis Edition: Barrels Brewhouse

Davis/ThomasI visited Blackwater Brewing Company a while ago when I wrote a piece on the brewery for the magazine. I met with Lincoln and fell in love with not only his beer, but also the inventive dishes he was churning out.

So, I was surprised when I learned of "Barrels Brewhouse" taking over the restaurant portion of the business. Barrels Brewhouse is a sister restaurant to "Bricks and Barrels" in Charleston, which I dined at during Restaurant Week last year and became a fan.

Davis/ThomasIt's definitely a touch upscale with tall barrel tables, wood-paneled walls and TVs on every wall. The music was quite loud, and the place as empty - save for the handful of staff hanging out when I entered. Since I had my pick, I took up a larger table over by the window. I had a number of different servers bring menus, list what's on draft and question what I was taking photos of. I think because there were so many of them and only one customer, they had all their attention on me -- and toting a giant camera attracts attention.

Davis/ThomasThe menu is quite different with lots of great options: truffle tots, pimento cheese fries, burgers, and some entrees like chicken, shrimp & grits, and bourbon & brown sugar flat iron steak. Some really nice options that are classics but with a modern twist.

I ordered the pimento burger, which is a custom-blend burger topped with housemade pimento cheese and bacon. I also upgraded my side to truffle tots - white truffle oil, Parmesan cheese, garlic aioli.

Davis/ThomasI mean, wow. The burger was perfectly medium done. And the pimento cheese just oozed out overtop the burger, creating this cheesy, sweet, spicy layer of goodness. Crisps bacon on top for some salt and texture. Piled into a bun. It's pretty simple, but it's indulgent. Think of a thick, juicy burger and ask yourself, 'self, how could this be better?' Add southern favorite pimento cheese to it. That's how. I'd be lying if I said I didn't add a little ketchup, though, for some extra sauce. The tots were also quite good with the truffle oil, but some extra would've been even better. If you're gonna go all out, GO ALL OUT, amiright?

Davis/ThomasI'm curious to see if the local community turns out for the restaurant, because it has a more commercial appeal - flashy items, but tasty ones. I enjoyed my meal, and the staff was very friendly. I think a little time, and once word spreads that the food here is good, it won't look quite as empty.

Grade: B
Barrels Brewhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato