Friday, September 30, 2016

Summersville Edition: Long Point Grille & Bar

Long Point Bar & Grill
A chilly, wet day couldn't stop me from finally seeing Kirkwood Winery's 25th Annual Grape Stomping Wine Festival -- and, of course, finding some good local grub afterward.

Long Point Bar & GrillAfter stomping on some grapes, we headed out to Long Point Grille & Bar in Mount Nebo at Summesrville Lake. The wooden cabin-esque building was a nice refuge from the torrential downpour.

Long Point Bar & GrillAnd as soon as we stepped inside, the server greeted us and told us to have a seat wherever we'd like. I, as per usual, selected a booth near the window (better for photos). The inside is charming, in a sense. Lots of light wood, and it seems to be a nice deck outside for when the weather is nice.

Long Point Bar & GrillLong Point Bar & GrillLong Point Bar & GrillThe menu has some fried appetizers, like jalapeno poppers (this is when I discovered heather's love for jalapeno poppers). They have sandwiches and salads, as well as a bunch of different kinds of pizzas and calzones - and the pizzas can be made into calzones!

Long Point Bar & GrillHeather ordered the jalapeno poppers, and she may have uttered the word "life-changing." These did not have cream cheese - rather, they had cheddar cheese and the jalapeno was chopped up into bits instead of one large piece.

Long Point Bar & GrillShe let me steal one, and they were pretty tasty.

Long Point Bar & GrillFor my entree, I ordered a calzone with crispy chicken (I saw this as an option on one of the pizzas) and mushrooms. You can also opt to turn one of their pizzas into a calzone, which Heather did with the Greek pizza (hers has a balsamic glaze that you can see in the photo at the top of this post). I also got a side of mac & cheese because of course I did.

Long Point Bar & GrillAnd my calzone was really good. Large, perfectly light crisp dough on the outside and hot and fresh inside. Tons of delicious pieces of chicken and mushrooms, and I asked for a side of marinara dipping sauce, which just combined everything perfectly. The mac & cheese was a doctored up Kraft - cheesier. Not even gonna complain about that.

Long Point Bar & Grill
For dessert, I went with a piece of peanut butter pie. Wow. Delicious. I think I set this restaurant up to achieve, between the calzone, mac & cheese and peanut butter pie. But they hit it out of the park on all three. That, and our server was one of the best. So kind, accommodating and on her game. I'd definitely go back while in the Summersville Lake area.

Grade: A
Long Point Grille & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pittsburgh, PA Edition: Altius

Altius
The best seat in the house - or city - belongs to Altius. The Pittsburgh restaurant sits atop Mount Washington, overlooking the beautiful buildings and rivers that converge in the center of the city.

Altius
Altius translates to 'higher' in Latin. The name speaks not only to a location overlooking the City of Pittsburgh, but also a desire to offer a fresh new concept with higher standards for food quality, creativity, design and hospitality. Altius strives to use environmentally responsible practices in all aspects of operations, including the use of sustainable, organic or local products when possible in both cuisine and libations.
AltiusIt's important to make reservations - and I found this out as I tried to look a few days before we wanted to go and found nothing available. But, I lucked out the day before and saw a dinner slot opened up! And while you can't reserve a window seat, we ended up pretty close.

AltiusThe dress code is dressy casual, but it's clear this is more of a special occasion restaurant. We saw some folks at the bar wearing jeans, but most everyone else looked to be professional or celebrating anniversaries.

"The chef-driven menu features the very best our region has to offer and features seasonal, sustainable products whenever possible."

AltiusThe menu has a little bit of everything: duck steamed buns, oysters, beet terrine and grass fed steak tartare for starters. Entrees include options like scallops, lamb rack, Chilean sea bass and zucchini blossom risotto. And, they have options to share at the table: purple potato puree, white speckled grits and fried green tomatoes.

Altius

Chef Jessica is always on the hunt for America’s truly great foods, such as Berkshire pork, artisanal gorgonzola, and grass-fed beef. Her menu ranges from fun, whimsical dishes like “Duck, Duck, Goose” and “Tongue n’ Cheek” to approachable, familiar dishes. Finally, in always keeping our guest’s needs at the top of our minds, we offer healthy, creative dishes including gluten-free and vegetarian options.

AltiusBut, before any of that, we were served popcorn. Yes, popcorn. This is a complimentary gesture that changes daily. On this day, they offered breakfast sausage popcorn. And, yes, it really did taste like breakfast sausage. It was a light bite with a heavy flavoring - definitely interesting.

AltiusTHEN, more gifts. Fresh bread. The fresh bread service is one of my weaknesses at any restaurant. It's this old-school treat that isn't offered much anymore, so I'm giddy at the thought - especially when it's good bread, which this was. I took the server up on the rosemary chive focaccia, which was complemented with a delicious garlic butter and sundried tomato pesto. Both were just fantastic.

AltiusBUT WAIT, there's MORE. A small gift from the chef came in the form of this goat cheese cone. This was entirely unexpected, but wow - it's just like a nice creamy goat cheese on a cracker. But, in this case, it's wrapped in the cracker. A really lovely, light first bite.

AltiusOK, now let's move on to entrees: I ordered the Hokkaido Scallops, which came with popcorn puree, chili lime aioli, Cotija, swiss chard, tarragon oil, and aleppo pepper. I was a little surprised to see so much ~stuff~ on scallops. They're a pretty delicate flavor, and they usually shine all on their own. That said, I don't hate the additions because, hell, they taste good. This was really good.

AltiusI now interrupt this post to say that I saw a proposal happen! It was right across from our table, and my mouth dropped open when I saw it happening. That was sweet, and it was a nice moment where the entire restaurant applauded. OK, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

Altius

For dessert (somehow I was still eating), I ordered the macarons. The are three, chef's choice. On this day, they were a cinnamon apple, maple pecan and chocolate cherry. The maple pecan was quite good, and the others were decent. Macarons are difficult to make, and they're not found in many places in Morgantown so I always get excited to try them when they're available. Pretty good.

AltiusAnd, we had a little gift to take home. A toffee, chocolate cookie. I think this is such a special touch because it keeps you remembering that experience after you're home. It's more than just a meal, it's a memory.

I didn't even touch on the incredible service. Servers crumb tables and tend to napkins, and my water never ran dry (even if it did cost $3). Again, they are crafting an experience, and it works.

AltiusIt's clear this restaurant is the ultimate crowd-pleaser (see here and here and here). I don't know that it's entirely inventive with its options - and I know that's intended to please a wide audience -, but I do know that I had some damn good food, incredible service and a lovely time. I think it's a great option for a celebration dinner with some of the best views of the city.

Grade: A
Altius Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Pittsburgh, PA Edition: Cure

Cure
Pittsburgh's Cure restaurant has consistently been ranked as one the best in the city by various publications.

CureAnd as per their website, Cure is a neighborhood restaurant with a small menu focused on local urban Mediterranean food. Justin Severino's vision of Cure is for it to be a reflection of the seasons in Western Pennsylvania and its local farms.

Cure
Severino, a three-time James Beard Foundation award nominee for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic and a 2015 and 2014 winner of FOOD & WINE The People’s Best New Chef Mid-Atlantic, is a skilled whole animal butcher who brings an extensive charcuterie program and flavors of an Italian-American upbringing to his menu.

Cure

Cure opened in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh in December 2011. In 2015, Pittsburgh Magazine name Severino Chef of the Year. In 2012, Cure was named one of the Top 50 Best New Restaurants by Bon Appétit magazine and one of the 25 Best Restaurants in Pittsburgh Magazine. Morcilla opened in December 2015 just a few blocks away from its older sibling, bringing Spanish-style charcuteria and traditional pintxos to the neighborhood.

CureWe had a reservation right at their opening time, and we made our way in just as they unlocked the doors. I already knew I had my eye on the "salumi," which is a platter of homemade charcuterie bites: duck speck, fiocco, guanciale, salami fernet, finocchiona, salami negroni, nduja, pate campagnola, ciccioli, and accompanying mustards, pickled veggies and crostini.

CureWow. This is really my kind of dining - lots of bites to choose from with wildly different - but complementary - flavors. A beautiful display. I had a bit of everything and then some. The pate was especially tasty, and the pickled veggies add the perfect acidic contrast.

CureThis is how it should be done, folks. We have some top-notch snacks in the house, and it's unlike anything I've had before. Just quite lovely, and I can't wait to try their future charcuterie offerings.

Grade: A
Cure Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pittsburgh, PA Edition: Caffe d'Amore

Cafe amourWhile in Pittsburgh, we were a little early for our dinner date, so we had a midday coffee break. Caffe d'Amore was right next door and had a few stools with our names on them.

Cafe amourThis shop is the absolute cutest. It's small, hipster and eclectic. I dig it. A few others were working away on their laptop at the counter, and there was a small table or two outside for those who would like to do so as well, plus add a little Vitamin D.

Cafe amourI looked up at the menu and saw a salted caramel latte - so I ordered that iced, because why not?

Cafe amourThe drink came out in this cute mason jar, and it was pretty damn good. I don't think it tasted like salted caramel - because I never think coffee drinks taste like what they're supposed to taste like - but I liked it. Strong, roasty, but not with the harsh edge of a black coffee. 

Cafe amourBetween the cool vibe and the tasty coffee, I really liked this little spot. I could see myself spending some time here.

Grade: A
Caffè d'Amore Coffee Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pittsburgh, PA Edition: East End Brewing Company

East End Brewing CoWell, no trip to a city is complete without a look at a local brewery. East End Brewing Company was highly ranked, so we made our way over to check it out.

East End Brewing CoThe red building is located along a residential street, but we found some parking a little further down. Outside, there are two rows of picnic tables in a concrete parking lot behind a fence for brewery-goers to sit, and inside, there were a number of tables as well.

East End Brewing CoYou can get a flight of three for $8, so I went with Strawberrye, Monkey Boy and Big Hop, their flagship. We took these outside and sipped away. I liked the strawberrye, which didn't so much taste like strawberries as much as it smelled like it. A bit sour, which I like. The Monkey Boy is a hefeweizen, which I typically love. This one was decent, a little heavier than I anticipated. And the Big Hop is definitely hoppy and a bit bitter. Overall, not bad.

The ambiance leaves something to be desired. Picnic tables on concrete, behind a fence, while you stare at the house across the street. Any sort of greenery or some sort of view would make this feel like something other than a concrete jungle. But for decent beer, I think people make do.

Grade: B
East End Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato