Friday, March 24, 2017

Morgantown Edition: Smoothie King

Smoothie KingMorgantown is now home to a Smoothie King, a smoothie chain focused on health. Located in the retail area of University Park, Smoothie King has a drive-thru as well as a sit-down area in the space next to the gym.
From the beginning, founder Steve Kuhnau started blending for a purpose – solving his chronic food allergies. Handcrafted by our blendologists, every one of our Smoothies is still blended with a purpose – yours. Power a workout, lose weight or make food choices you feel good about with the right nutritious Smoothie for your goals and Healthy Rewards tailored just for you.
Smoothie KingI've never been to this chain before, so I was actually excited to see what it's about. Their smoothies are split into four categories: slim blends, wellness blends, fitness blends and take a break blends. There are a number of "enhancers" you can add ... much of which I glossed over in favor of something that just tastes good.

Smoothie KingSo I tried the "Berry Punch," which has "Strawberries, Raspberry Sorbet, Blueberry Juice Blend, Electrolyte Mix." I tried to pick the smoothie with the most natural ingredients that I was familiar with. No extra protein powders or other stuff here. And, this was actually really good. Cool, sweet, delicious. Not sure it's something I'd do on the regular, but maybe once in a while as a nice cool treat that doesn't make me feel tooo guilty.

It's a larger chain, but I believe it's the only location in West Virginia. Has anyone else been? What's your favorite smoothie?

Smoothie King

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spring Gap Mountain Creamery

Here's a column I did recently on raw cheese creamery Spring Gap Mountain Creamery for the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Davis/ThomasTucked away in the hills of the Eastern Panhandle is a small creamery that produces rich, smooth cheeses.

Located in the town of Paw Paw, Spring Gap Mountain Creamery has been churning out cheese for about eight years. There’s just one thing: It’s raw.

The cheeses are made with raw, or unpasteurized, milk and then aged for a minimum of 60 days. Pasteurization is the process of heating the food to kill dangerous pathogens like listeria, E. coli and salmonella. Then, vitamins like A and D are added back into the milk.

The drinking — and selling — of raw milk has been hotly contested in the West Virginia Legislature in the past, with opponents saying it’s unsafe, and proponents claiming raw milk is healthier.

But Penelope Sagawa thinks it just tastes better.

“When you’re boiling the milk, you’re killing everything in it, then putting back in vitamins. With milk that comes out of a cow, it still has micronutrients in it. We use that milk and make cheese,” said Sagawa, who owns Spring Gap Mountain Creamery along with her partner Jurgen Schelzig.

“We don’t skim cream; we just take the milk and make it directly into cheese,” Sagawa said. “So the extra butterfat and the stuff naturally in the milk comes out in the cheese, making it richer and creamier and, in general, a more full flavor than other cheeses.”

It’s a loaded product — there are some political implications associated with raw milk. But, the addition of another local cheese option, especially one so rich and creamy, in a cheese-scarce state gives me pause.

Sagawa and Schelzig didn’t set out to make a political statement; rather, they left their 9-to-5 jobs in Washington, D.C., for a mountain getaway and fell in love with a property in West Virginia they decided to call home full-time.

They mulled a few ventures like vegetables, but if the crop fails, you have nothing. Fruits were nixed because an orchard would take years before bearing fruit. Chickens were risky because if they don’t lay, you can’t make it, she said.

That’s when they landed on cheese.

Cheese was interesting to them. Few people were making it, and the couple could learn the craft on their own. The pasteurization equipment, though, would cost upward of $25,000, which wasn’t financially feasible. So they instead opted to go raw, eliminating the need for costly pasteurization machinery.

Davis/ThomasThe couple buys their milk from Hedgebrook Farm in Winchester, Virginia, which has a small herd of about 25 Jersey cows; Jersey cattle tend to have a higher butterfat content than others, Sagawa said. They drive a stainless-steel milk tank to the farm after the farmer, Kitty Hockman-Nicholas, does her morning milking, and they truck 350 gallons of raw milk back to West Virginia to turn into cheese the same day. Then the cheese sits.

“The [Food and Drug Administration] requires a 60-day minimum aging process for raw milk cheese. Cheese cultures added to the milk crowd out any potentially harmful bacterial growth and is considered ‘self-pasteurized,’” Sagawa said.

After 60 days, you can purchase Jersey Gold gouda, Shenandoah Sunrise tomme, Sophie’s Select cheddar, West Virginia Blue, Farmhouse Feta and Bloomery bloomy rind cheese.

This type of cheese, which potentially raises questions of safety, also provides another locally made cheese option. There aren’t a ton of cheesemakers in West Virginia, and creating more opportunities for customers who love cheese — like me — seems like it could only be better for our growth as a state.

Do risks outweigh the benefits? That, I don’t know. The FDA considers it safe. And I’ve had my fair share and can attest to its deliciousness.

So, what do you think? Does raw cheese get a raw deal?

For more information or to find out where to purchase the cheese, visit

Candace Nelson is a marketing and public relations professional living in Morgantown. In her free time, Nelson blogs about West Virginia food culture at Find her @Candace07 on Twitter or email

Spring Gap Mountain Creamery’s Quick and Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese
Makes four servings

2 large eggs
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard dissolved in
1 teaspoon water
2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
2 cups dry pasta (macaroni, small shells, penne, etc.)
4 tablepoon unsalted butter
3 cups shredded cheese (we use a mix of Jersey Gold gouda and Shenandoah Sunrise tomme or Sophie’s Select cheddar)

Bring 2 quarts water to boil in large pot with 1 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Add pasta, stir and cook until al dente.
Drain pasta and return to pot over low heat.
Add butter and stir to melt.
Mix eggs, 1 cup evaporated milk, mustard mixture, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and hot sauce in bowl.
Add egg mixture and 2 cups of cheese to pasta and stir until thoroughly combined and cheese starts to melt.
Gradually add remaining evaporated milk and cheese, stirring constantly until hot and creamy, about 5 minutes.
Serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Morgantown Edition: Cheese Louise

Cheese LouiseMorgantown is finally home to a grilled cheese restaurant.

Cheese LouiseOh. A grilled cheese restaurant, you ask? Yes, a grilled cheese restaurant. This is a sort of ~trend~ going on where restaurants elevate the classic grilled cheese sandwich with thick artisan bread, crazy ingredients and a cool, modern twist on a childhood favorite.

Cheese LouiseAnd, I am 100% in favor of this trend. I love all things cheese, and I love all things comfort food. And, I love being able to have an excuse to eat a grilled cheese as an adult. Now, if we could just make mac & cheeseries the next big trend... 

Cheese LouiseCheese Louise is located at the top of Willey Street next to Town Hill Tavern. Parking is a bit precarious here, so just be careful. The area is right in a bend, and the parking lot isn't wide. The restaurant has some window seating and a couple high-top tables. It's quite small, so I imagine most of the business is take-out.

There was just one person working - also the owner, I believe - so there was a bit of a wait before I could place my order at the counter because there was one couple in front of me. After he got their sandwiches started, he took my order.

The menu simply has one main item - the classic grilled cheese, made with American and muenster cheese on white or wheat. Then, you can add ingredients, like mushrooms, onion, pepperoni, fried egg, etc. This concept is a lot different from other grilled cheese restaurants I've been to - like Melt in Cleveland or The Grilled Cheeserie in Nashville - where they craft entire sandwich concepts with really creative ingredients. Like a lasagna grilled cheese or a pimento cheese and fried green tomato grilled cheese.

The most creative grilled cheese on this menu was the "buffalo chicken dip," which had shredded, buffalo-style chicken dip inside a classic grilled cheese. I went with that, as well as a cup of tomato soup, and a bottle of water ($3 for a bottle of water!).

Cheese LouiseAfter a few minutes, my sandwich was packaged and ready to go. The thick bread is lightly toasted, the cheese was nicely melted, and there was ample heaps of buffalo chicken between the slices. It was good. I wouldn't hate even more cheese. I liked the crunchy pickle on the side, too. The tomato soup was tasty - perfect for dipping a grilled cheese into. Usually I like my tomato soup creamy, but considering it was paired with the grilled cheese, it was all good.

Cheese LouiseMy good friend Vicki said the thick bread comes from Breadworks in Pittsburgh, and that Grandma's Gumbo (from Biloxi) is delicious. The "smashed pepperoni roll" also looked enticing and may be my next order.

It's simple, but it's tasty. I do wish there were more creative offerings. I can - in my limited skill set - make a pretty damn good grilled cheese, and could easily add in any of those toppings. But, I want to see some more comprehensive sandwich concepts. Not just a picking and choosing. I'd love to see something a little more. I hope that that may come in time.

Grade: B
Cheese Louise Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Inwood Edition: Cider Press Deli & Grill at Taylor's Farm Market

Cider Press Deli & Grill
We're slowly ticking off places on the 101 Most Unique Places to Dine in WV list, and my latest adventures took me over toward the Eastern Panhandle in Inwood, West Virginia. This particular stop was exciting because not only did I get to tick another restaurant off the list, but I got to stop at a locally owned grocery store.

Taylors Farm marketCider Press Deli is located within Taylor's Farm Market. So, let's talk about Taylor's Farm Market first since you walk through it to get to the restaurant.

Taylors Farm marketThe market has a lot of great fresh produce like applesbakery items like pies and and fudge; dairy items like cheese and milk; honeymeats; sauces; drinksjams and jellies; West Virginia decor; salsas; mixes; candy and even a wine area. It was this wine room where I found Cox wine, which is the first time I've seen it in person and will write about it a bit later.

Taylors Farm marketIt's really a nice market to peruse, and there is a wide range of items to peruse. From fresh food to local merchandise, there's a little bit of something for everyone. It seems to be a mix of locally grown stuff and other stuff that's just relevant to locals.

Taylors Farm marketSo, I ended up getting some of that wine, as well as some marked-down Valentine's Day candy (I visited close to the holiday). Perks. And, the caramel-filled chocolates I had were divine.

Taylors Farm marketHere's a little more about the market:
Welcome to the area's newest Farm Market. We invite you to come check out what everyone has been talking about! We carry many West Virginia wines, local honey, different jams and jellies, apple butter, sauces from Oliverio’s Peppers in Clarksburg—in fact, we're so local that some of the honey we will be selling are from the bees that were in our apple orchard for pollinating earlier this spring! We have farm fresh produce, bulk candy, pies, organic ice cream, local meats, baking mixes, organic milk, local free range eggs from Gerrardstown, tomatoes, and much more in season. What we don’t raise ourselves, we are buying from local farmers when available so our customers will have different types of produce to choose from when they walk in our market. This is the best our great area produces, and our family is so happy to bring it all together to share with your family.
Taylors Farm marketAnd, If you walk through the market and toward the back, you'll find a full-service restaurant in Cider Press Deli.
Our spot right off the highway here in Inwood has been a place for wholesome, local food for a long time. This site was originally developed in the early 1920s to promote cooperation among local farmers at a time when the South Berkeley apple rush proved that prosperity required more than just luck. $100,000 was secured from the government to be used to erect a horticultural school in Inwood. A school might not sound like much of a benefit to struggling orchardists; however, with the funds, a fruit packing plant was built and a school was also conducted inside the packing house. The one-of-a-kind school taught local farmers how to grow fruit profitably. The facility led to a successful fruit grower’s cooperative and helped many apple producers save money on packing fruit before shipping it to market on the railroad. 
On a cold January evening in 1955, the building ignited in flames. Then believed to have been the biggest rural fire in the county’s history, it caused incredible damage. In time, the facility was rebuilt and later became the Inwood Farmer’s Market operated by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. 
In 2014, Robert & Ryan Taylor took over operation of the farm market realizing an old dream of bringing their locally picked fruits direct to the community. Life-long residents of Berkeley County, the father and son team behind Taylor’s Farm Market farm over 1,350 acres of row crops, orchards and vegetable gardens and operate a water hauling business for swimming pools. The current building allows more than ample space to share the freshest produce, wines, dairy, meat, handmade crafts, and bakery items that West Virginia proudly produces. Where some saw empty warehouse space inside the farm market facility, the Taylor’s saw opportunity to enhance the community. In 2016, the Cider Press Deli & Grill was born with a mission to be a great family place in Inwood serving fresh food, hand-crafted from scratch featuring seasonal market ingredients from local farms when available. 
Amidst the rustic and relaxing atmosphere, the Cider Press Deli & Grill offers amazing housemade specialties including sandwiches, salads, soups, local hand-pattied burgers, Black Dog coffee, heavenly desserts and so much more! Thanks for taking time to visit our spot! The Cider Press Deli & Grill is located inside Taylors Farm Market.
Taylors Farm marketSo, I walked in and was greeted immediately. They seated me in a small booth that wouldn't fit more than two people. The restaurant was pretty busy, which was a good sign.

Cider Press Deli & GrillThe interior is simple, with some older photos on concrete block walls. A little dark, a little chilly. But, some country touches make it homey. It's comfortable.

Taylors Farm marketThe menu features salads, sandwiches, subs, wraps, paninis and burgers - basically lots of variations of sandwiches.

Cider Press Deli & GrillFor me, I thought it was fitting to try "The Press Red White & Blue Burger," which was 8 oz. of charbroiled, local ground beef smothered with BBQ sauce, fried Vidalia onion rings and blue cheese crumbles on a brioche bun with fries on the side.

Cider Press Deli & GrillThis was one thick burger. It wasn't especially wide, but it was thick. That made for a pretty tall burger that I smooshed down to make it a bit more manageable. Despite it being so thick, it was still juicy and not overcooked (always my worry). The onion ring was nice for some crisp, and the BBQ for some tang, and the cheese for a creamy element. All together, it was a decent burger.

Cider Press Deli & GrillThe fries were a sort-of fried & battered almost. Thick, crispy and very good.

Cider Press Deli & GrillUnfortunately, I didn't get a chance to try dessert - but look at this dessert case. Looks phenomenal.

Taylors Farm marketThis restaurant + combo market is a nice little gem in the Eastern Panhandle. Good food, a nice market and a good way to spend an afternoon.

Grade: A
Cider Press Deli & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, March 20, 2017

Elkins Edition: Smoke on the Water BBQ

Smoke on the waterElkins is one of those towns in West Virginia that is just super quirky, fun, artsy and has a ton of great food. That's why there were a few restaurants located in Elkins that were voted as the 101 Most Unique Places to Dine in WV.

Smoke on the waterThat's what brought me to Smoke on the Water BBQ in Elkins. The BBQ restaurant is housed in a log-cabin-esque building situated next to a creek that happened to be roaring that day.
Smoke on the Water was established in 2011 by native Jon Magee, a longtime resident of the river and avid trout angler, to provide unique and delicious food prepared in the laid back style that embodies river living. Jon and his wife Denise have a passion for great BBQ and a desire to provide everyone who enjoys the surrounding mountains a place to relax, while we prepare you a unique taste experience to enjoy at your leisure. All our food is cooked using traditional BBQ methods and many ingredients are also smoked to provide a unique flavor in traditional BBQ favorites. Stop in and visit our BBQ Restaurant in Elkins, WV today (read more about the restaurant here).

Smoke on the waterWalking in, I noticed it had a bit of an odd smell - mildew, maybe? Reminded me of a bar that had been busy the night before and hastily cleaned up to be presentable for serving food the next day. Save for that, the space is fairly large - wooden floors, booths, ceilings - everything. High ceilings with wooden beams helped light flow through.

Smoke on the waterThe booths are wooden and not super comfortable, but since it was just me, I sprawled out and made myself at home. I looked over the menu, and the "Smoked Super Sampler" seemed like the obvious choice. It was available all day and came with ribs, wings, shrimp and pulled pork. PLUS two sides, which I opted for macaroni and cheese and broccoli salad.

Smoke on the waterThey weren't joking when they called this "Super" because it's a good amount of food! I first got small bits of each BBQ sauce that was on the table so I could try: spicy bbq, river sauce, mild bbq and Carolina mustard.

Smoke on the waterMy favorite was the mild bbq, because I'm a wimp, I guess. It was OK - pretty standard.

Smoke on the waterThe giant display of food was something! Let's start with the shrimp - these were smokey and served with a remoulade sauce. That was different, but it was also tasty. The one pulled pork slider was probably my favorite because it had some good smokey flavor, tender pork (no fat!) and I could slather all the BBQ on it that I wanted. The chicken wings up in the top right were large, but I can't say smokey chicken wings are my favorite. The skin is a bit too fatty for my liking. The ribs were good - if not quite as tender as I'd like.

Overall, I think it's a solid platter. I wished there was brisket, and I appreciate how deep the smokey flavor is. I think a few small adjustments could take this up to the next level.

Grade: B
Smoke On The Water Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato