Friday, February 24, 2017

Charleston Edition: Adventures Bar & Grill

AdventuresAs soon as I saw a ~new~ restaurant on Charleston's Restaurant Week list, I was like a moth to a flame. Adventures Bar & Grill just opened a few months ago and already committed to participating in the annual weeklong event. Stoked.

AdventuresThe biggest draw for Adventures Bar & Grill is that it's literally atop a mountain, so the views are amazing and you can see from one end of town to the other. It was dark, but I tried my best to help capture the views facing toward the Capitol.

AdventuresThe biggest drawback is that the restaurant is within a gated community, meaning you need to know the passcode to enter the gate. You can simply call the restaurant for this code, but my friend already had the inside scoop, so no worries there.

AdventuresThe gate opens back toward the car, which was odd, so make sure you don't pull up too close. And, then we began the ascent. You wind up this mountain before seeing the restaurant, which is set off by its giant windows and nice outdoor space. Too bad it was chilly this evening. When we entered, they were crazy busy. We had reservations but had to wait for a bit -- which, really, is a good problem to have for a new restaurant. Glad to see they're getting lots of business.

AdventuresTheir restaurant week menu offered some tasty options influenced by Greek and Mediterranean flavors; I went with deep-fried goat cheese, Maryland lump crab cakes with remoulade sauce, brussel sprouts and croquette potatoes, and pistachio stuffed baklava.

AdventuresOur server was a bit flustered, but I was pretty excited once the deep-fried goat cheese came out. This giant ball housed creamy, delicious goat cheese, and it was sprinkled with powdered sugar and honey. I loved the sweet and creamy. The pita chips were nice and crisp. This was a good appetizer, if not a bit heavy. Very tasty.

AdventuresMy entree of crab cakes was pretty good. Just a touch dry, but it had some good flavor. That sauce was crucial; a bit more could've helped with the dryness. I've never had brussel sprouts shredded in this way, and the potatoes were just fine. A little more seasoning would've made them perfect. Not bad, not bad.

AdventuresThe dessert was the least exciting part. Served on a small plastic plate, it was dry and just not very exciting. Drizzle that ish in honey or something.

Overall, not a bad addition to the Charleston food scene. I'd be curious to see what's on their regular menu and stop back at a time when maybe they aren't so busy. I gather that a lot of folks had a similar idea as I did. New restaurant? Restaurant Week? Perfect time to try it out at a decent price point. Either way, especially for being so new, they did a good job on a crazy busy evening.

Grade: B
Adventures Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Charleston Edition: Cafe Crema

Cafe Crema

I'm beginning to notice there are a lot of cafes named "Crema." This West Side coffee shop, Cafe Crema, in Charleston is my third.

Though, I do appreciate this one's story. It was opened by a mother-daughter duo, wherein the daughter struggled with the decision to stay or leave the state -- ultimately deciding to stay to help her father who isn't in the best of health.

Cafe CremaThe cafe serves espresso drinks, pour-over coffee, teas, fruit smoothies, shakes, as well as waffles, grits, oatmeal, sandwiches, soups, salads and some desserts.
Cafe Crema, named after the brownish foam on top of a well-made, freshly pulled espresso, features a high-tech Nuova Simonelli Italian espresso machine. But the cafe also offers low-tech, high-taste coffee options not found in many coffeeshops. 
These include “pour-over coffee,” which makes use of the Chemex coffeemaker invented in 1941 by Peter Schlumbohm. Made from borosilicate glass and fastened with a wood collar and tie, the hourglass shaped device — whose design elegance earned it a place in New York’s Corning Museum of Glass — brews coffee through a filter without imparting any flavors of its own but for the coffee. 
“It has a very smooth taste and texture,” said Abdalla, who serves pour-over coffee in two caffeinated versions, Ethiopian Jimma Agaro and Wayfarer Blend, and a Tired Goat decaf blend. “It’s used in a lot of the more independent coffee shops.” (Charleston Gazette-Mail)
Cafe CremaThe one drink that stood out to me the most was the frappuccino because most coffee shops stick to more traditional drinks - americano, latte, etc. Frappuccino is actually a trademarked Starbucks drink, but many have taken the coffee+milkshake concept and made it their own. It is essentially a coffee base, blended with ice, this one added salted caramel syrup and was topped with whipped cream.
Frappuccino is a trademarked brand of the Starbucks Corporation for a line of blended coffee beverages that are served cold. It consists of coffee or other base ingredient (e.g. strawberries, bananas, cream), blended with ice and other various ingredients, usually topped with whipped cream and sauces. Frappuccinos are also sold as bottled coffee beverages in stores and from vending machines.

Frappuccino is a portmanteau of "frappe", the New England name for a milkshake with ice cream, and cappuccino, an espresso coffee with frothed milk. The word was coined and trademarked in Boston, Massachusetts. In the Boston area, a "frappe" (pronounced "frap" and spelled without the accent) is a thick milkshake with ice cream,[2] derived from the French word frappé. 
The recipe is a fusion of various cold beverages, including the coffee frap (similar to iced coffee) and the frappe (blended ice cream, syrup, and milk), with the Italian cappuccino
In response to the success of the Frappuccino, several of Starbucks' competitors have developed similar drinks with similar-sounding names: Cinnabon's Mochalatta and Caramelatta (1998); Coffee Break; Gloria Jean's Chillers.
Cafe CremaSo, it's a pretty basic white girl drink, so of course I ordered it. The woman behind the counter seemed a bit overwhelmed with how busy the cafe was, but after a few minutes, she had my order ready. One - this is very tasty. Two - that's because it's very sweet. I wasn't expecting a coffee drink to be so sweet, or maybe I've gotten used to not drinking super sweet coffee -- but it's tasty! I think I could've eased up on some of the sugar and replaced with some espresso, but I'm sure this would be well-received by many non-coffee-drinkers.

Cafe CremaOverall, though, it's good. I didn't see anything on the breakfast menu that I was overly excited about, so I opted for just the coffee this time. Not bad, not bad.

Cafe Crema

Grade: B
Café Crema Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Charleston Edition: Rock City Cake Company

Rock City CakesThere's a new bakery rocking Charleston. Rock City Cake Company, located along Capitol Street, is putting out some of the tastiest cakes, cupcakes, cookies and other treats in town.

Rock City has a cool, alternative vibe going on, which I can appreciate. Think tattoos, black T-shirts and rock & roll posters. The bakery actually first started in Logan but because of its sluggish economy, they decided to move to Charleston to try their luck.

Rock City CakesThe space is pretty cool with brick interior, musical decorations and a few tables and chairs for customers to enjoy their tasty, tasty treats.

Large glass cases display gorgeous cupcakes, cake balls, "long john" donuts, fudge and more. The offerings change daily, so there is always something new. While there, a woman was placing an order for a custom cake - their specialty.

Rock City CakesSo, I browed the case, intending to get one item to sample and ended up getting five. FIVE. Ugh. The first: a lovely chocolate-covered peanut butter buckeye. The peanut butter - mixed with a ton of sugar I'm sure - is so much better than regular peanut butter. Delicious.

Rock City CakesAnd,  also got one of their "long johns," which is the Spring Hill Pastry version of a "hot dog" or Quality Bake Shoppe's version of a "Mad Dog." This is basically a long donut split down the middle with cream added to the center. The one available this day was a Bavarian cream. Tasty? Oh yes. But, wait, there's more.

Do you see that upside down ice cream cone? That is a giant cake pop with a cone filled with more cake pop. Good god, this was amazing, huge and overly indulgent. And I enjoyed every minute of eating it. Ridiculously good.

That caramel cookie had a marshmallow filling. It had sticky caramel all over it. Definitely on the messier side, but so sweet and perfectly salty, sweet chewiness. Delicious.

Rock City CakesThe fruity pebbly cupcake was also quite good. Though, I think my favorite was that cake pop ice cream. It was just so over the top and beautiful and sweet. Just good.

Rock City Cake Company is located at 241 Capitol St. It's open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

For more information, visit Rock City Cake Company on Facebook or Instagram.

Grade: A
Rock City Cake Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bad Shepherd Brewing

Bad ShepherdWest Virginia's newest brewery is up and running; Bad Shepherd Brewing in Charleston is churning out its own brews and, soon, its own branded growlers.

Bad Shepherd Brewing replaced what used to be Charleston Brewing Company. Charleston Brewing Company opened in 2013 as both a brewery and pub. A year later, the pub portion was bought out by Black Sheep Burritos, and then just a few months ago, Black Sheep's brewery, Bad Shepherd, took the place of the brewery portion.

Bad ShepherdSo, I made a trip back to check out the new brewery and new brews. The interior is still pretty standard; we went to the back to sit at the bar and look over the options.

I got a sampler of the Sheep's Bane, the Guard Llama, Bad Shepherd and EZ Tiger. Every single one of these was really good! The Guard Llama, their hefeweizen, was my favorite. But I could've guessed as much. But, I actually really liked the milk stout AND the IPA. These beers are done very well. Very good flavor, and very well balanced. Can't wait to see what else they churn out!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Morgantown Edition: Heather's Original Philly Cheesesteaks

Pop Up Cheese Steak Place - Heather's Original Philly Cheesesteaks
Photo by Sher Yip
My trip to Philadelphia gave me a newfound appreciation for the philly cheesesteak. Before, I was like... eh, it's a steak sandwich with cheese. So? But, there's a fine art to the sandwich. When all those high-quality ingredients are combined together, it creates a beautiful, tasty offering that takes on a life of its own. The thinly shaved meat, the slightly caramelized peppers and onions, and the cheese that coats it all - it's a thing of beauty.

Heather's Original Philly Cheesesteaks
So, when I saw that a local pop-up called "Heather's Original Philly Cheesesteaks" claimed to bring a little Philly to Morgantown, I kept close tabs. Heather hosts her pop-up tent outside Mundy's in First Ward from time to time, and I recently was finally able to catch her.

Olive Or TwistThere's a nice little parking lot right across from Mundy's, so it's super easy to swing right in. We got here a little late in the evening and just so happened to snag the last cheesesteaks. She sold out! More than 100 that evening! But, after I thankfully was told they had enough for me, I paid my $9 (they do take card!) and went inside Mundy's to wait for my order.

Heather's Original Philly CheesesteaksAfter a few minutes, one of the women brought my order to me - which includes my sandwich with onions and peppers, a side of chips and a pickle for $9. The only thing that would be nice is if there was an option to add a water. Though, I gather the idea is to go into Mundy's and get a beer.

But, these are actually pretty good! Stuffed full of meat, plenty of peppers and onions, I could always go for more cheese - but that's just me. I was impressed! These are the real deal. Good bread - not too much, like other places. Good proportions, which made for the perfect bite. Already excited to see when she's back.

Grade: A