Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Princeton Edition: Campestre

Campestre is a gem hidden in Princeton. Situated on Greasy Ridge Road, this restaurant is located in the Walmart Plaza. After discovering the amazingness that is this restaurant, I've had my boyfriend take me back at least once every time I'm in town. Featuring creative Mexican dishes, Campestre is a nice Mexican restaurant that stands out of all the others I've had in West Virginia so far. If you've read my blog, you know I'm not a big Mexican fan. But the restaurants I do like tend to end up on here. Campestre is different in that it isn't the typical Tex-Mex lunch combos of one taco, one quesadilla and one burrito. Or maybe two soft tacos, one hard taco and a chalupa. No, Campestre has tons of creative, unique dishes.


When you walk in, the atmosphere is not tacky and painted with bright reds and greens like favorite college Mexican restaurants in Morgantown. In fact, the interior is gorgeous and welcoming. The restaurant is impeccably clean, and it's refreshing. The booths are high and private, and a lit-up bar welcomes you as you walk from the entrance to the center of the restaurant. As soon as you are seated (there's never been a wait while I've been there), a basket of tortilla chips with both cups of salsa and queso are rushed to the table. The queso is the best I've ever had, hands down. It almost waivers on the sweet side, but the cheese and spices are undeniable.

The wait staff is very attentive and friendly. I've never had to go with an empty glass to wash down the spicy food. The menu, however, is on a whole other level. It's not written in hieroglyphics, where you have to constantly flip around the menu for definitions of what each dish is. It's largely split up into the types of meat one would like: beef, pork, chicken, seafood and vegetarian. Each dish lists what is in it, so there's no unwelcomed surprised when the dish arrives.

For an appetizer, we split a chicken quesadilla. It didn't arrive ahead of our main entrees, but the food was prepared so quickly, we weren't waiting long enough anyway. The chicken was lightly spiced and was housed in a bed of oozing white and yellow cheese. A simple dish, but delicious with just the right touches.

My current favorite entree, which I've ordered the past two times, is the "Camarones Locos," which is grilled shrimp, scallops, bell peppers, onions and zucchini on top of rice with their special cheese sauce. Essentially it's a delicious creamy cheesy rice with my favorite foods on top. The ingredients are fresh and tasty. The seafood seems like it's straight for the ocean, which is surprising for landlocked Princeton, and the veggies are crisp and add the perfect balance for the cheesy rice base. The portion is huge, and I always have leftovers. It tastes just as amazing cold as it did warm.

Chris opted for a new dish this visit, and he tried the Pork Carnitas, which were a five or six large chunks of tender pork served with a couple flour tortillas, pica de gallo, rice and beans. The poor was just falling apart, it was so tender, and he was content with his dish.

For dessert, we split an order of churro - simple fried long pastry filled with a fruity filling. Ours had an apple filling, with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and a cherry on top. Essentially, it tasted like an apple pie, but with much less mess. This restaurant is quickly becoming my favorite in Princeton with its variety of tasty dishes, fantastic service and good prices (~$35 for all that!). I will definitely be stopping by again when I'm in town.

Grade: A
Campestre on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pizza Al's

Though this restaurant is not a new one, it is one of my favorites. If not my very favorite. It'd be a close call between Pizza Al's and my hometown DiCarlo's Pizza. One of my co-workers brought up the fact that he had never had Pizza Al's before. I was shocked. Beyond shocked. I lived in Pierpont my freshman year at WVU, and Pizza Al's is basically next door. My roommates at the time and I tried Pizza Al's, and I've been hooked every since. Unfortunately, Pizza Al's doesn't deliver so that makes it difficult. In addition, the dining area is tiny and the parking spots aren't easy to get to. However, the pizza is so good that it doesn't stop most people.

Their menu is short, but that's because their specialty is pizza, and that's what you should get when you go there.

Long story short, we decided to order pizza for lunch. One of my other co-workers picked it up. They ordered the largest size, at only $13.25, with pepperoni and sausage. This is never a combination I would order for myself since meat really isn't my thing, but I wasn't going to turn down a Pizza Al's opportunity.

Before I go on, I think everyone needs to know this is true, authentic Italian pizza. Thin crust, tons of oozing cheese and a sauce that could beat out your mother's traditional recipe. Al is old-school, and they make the pizzas right there behind the counter. You can see your pizza come out of the huge over, be placed in a giant box and have Al send you off. These pies are perfect, and don't tell Al you need Parmesan cheese. Because you don't, and he'll let you know.

The pepperoni and sausage combo was surprising good. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since I've never not been happy with a pizza from this place, but it was very good! It has a lot less grease compared to other places, and the sauce and cheese is unlike any I've had at another place. I've been to Italy, and this pizza could fit in perfectly.

Grade: A
Pizza Al's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 22, 2011

$30 grocery list










At some point in every college student's life, there comes a time when the purse strings get a little tight. With moving into my new apartment and the subsequent down payments and security deposits that come with the joy of moving, my wallet was feeling a little light. I made it my goal to make a grocery list of not more than $20 worth. There were a few essentials that wouldn't make the cut, so I bumped it up to $30. The healthiness isn't ideal, but it will get me by the next week or two. Here's what I got at Kroger:

  1. Ramen Noodles (2) = $1.98
  2. Canned vegetables (3) = $2.22
  3. Bread = $1.50
  4. Cheese = $1.79
  5. Milk = $1.79
  6. Mashed Potatoes = $1.79
  7. Macaroni & Cheese (3) = $2.52
  8. Pasta = $1.05
  9. Pasta Sauce = $1.66
  10. Hot Dogs = $1.50
  11. Tuna = $0.89
  12. Lunch Meat = $2.99
  13. Canned fruit (2) = $2.10
  14. Soup (3) = $3
  15. Canned Pasta (2) = $2

24 ITEMS $28.81

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me

I just finished reading "Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me," so I wanted to share some insight. The book features Chelsea Handler on the cover, but it is actually written by her friends and family about insane lies she's told them over the years. She has written three books: My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands, Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, and Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang. I own all of these, and I knew her books are light-hearted and humorous. When you read hundreds of pages of textbooks each day, the last thing I want to read is more hard-hitting, thought-provoking prose. Instead, I opt for some mindless garbage that I can knock out in a few days. "Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me" took about three days on and off for me to complete.

The collection of short stories are from members of the roundtable to people who work behind the scenes to her brothers to her dog. Each is fairly well-written, and the tone remains consistent through each writer. A few writers have a few different lies from Chelsea to talk about, and others have just one, large one. They are all fairly hilarious and kept me entertained through the 300-page book. While reading this, you can get a sense of who Chelsea really is. A side of her shows on the "Chelsea Lately" show, but this adds a new layer. What I got from this is that she's an awful, mean liar. But she's also one of the most caring people.

Above all else, Chelsea is definitely an entertainer, and she keeps up that theme with this book. Just in time for the summer, take it along for a trip to the beach or just a few hours of downtime.The book can be purchased from Amazon for $13.08. It's 292 pages long, so it's a very nice simple book for summer.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sargasso

On Sunday, May 16, I graduated from the West Virginia University Perley Issac Reed School of Journalism with a bachelor's degree in journalism, summa cum laude. I'll also receive another diploma in the mail soon - a bachelor's of arts in English. Obviously, this called for a celebration.

My boyfriend took me to Sargasso, a place I've been dying to try and needed just that perfect occasion to justify spending $100 on a meal. I actually had to book reservations way in advance because it was graduation weekend, but I didn't mind. I knew I wanted to go there, and there wasn't much that would stop me. I had heard great things. I visited their website on April 30 and used their handy web reservation tool to reserve a table for 2 at 7 p.m. I may have been more excited about this dinner than graduation.


After the ceremony and pictures, I mingled with my parents, but at 6:30 p.m. on the dot, we were on our way. Sargasso is located on Don Knotts Boulevard, near Meineke. It's located in a building with a few other businesses, but its chic lettering of "Sargasso" on the outside definitely sets it apart. When we walked inside, it wasn't dark and stuffy. Instead, it was brightly lit, and the restaurant staff seemed friendly. This is a big switch from Stefano's, and welcome one at that. We did have to sit for a few minutes as they cleared a table, but I loved taking in the scenery.

In a State Journal article, the bar manager talks about how they got the name "Sargasso": "'The name Sargasso comes from the Mediterranean sea, its the place where the most ships have sunk so its supposed to be an unburied treasure. So that's why we're called Sargasso, we're supposed to be an unburied treasure,' revealed Curtis Gravis, the bar manager"

A very nice bar is directly to the right of the entrance, and another waiting area is to the left, where patrons can enjoy some beverages. The main dining area rests behind that portion and off to the left, as well. We were sat at a small table nearly directly in the center of the dining room. The oversized chairs were comfortable but classy at the same time, and the table decorations were modern and minimal, complete with a candle. Chris was elated over the salt/pepper combination.

As soon as we were seated, we were handed large menus and our water glasses were filled. Excellent service, to say the least.We were rushed a basket of warm, fresh-basked french bread with a small dish of sun dried tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil from Italy. I dug right in - the tomatoes were sweet and flavorful. The tiny diced veggie and the vibrant olive oil/herb/pesto sparked. It was Sargasso's version of an olive tapenade, and it was light, fresh and had me wanting more. I was excited to see what else the chef had up his sleeve.

The menu valued quality over quantity, as there were only a handful of options for each meal. However, all of the options looked mouth-watering, and sitting near the chefs as plate after plate of gorgeous, elegant cuisine was served didn't help matters. As I perused the appetizers portion, I looked for something Chris and I would both enjoy - something that wouldn't scare him off too much. I ordered the "Original Polish Pierogies" at $10. The two pierogies were stuffed with sharp cheddar spread out on a chive sour cream sauce and garnished with red onion compote and caramelized onions. As soon as I bit into the pierogi, my mouth was overwhelmed with warm, savory cheese. Combined with the cool sour cream sauce, it was a modern form of a strong dish that was better than any traditional Polish pierogi I've ever tasted. The outside was slightly crunchy, and the mouthful was bursting with flavor. The onions on the side were sweet and pickled, but I used them sparingly. It was presented like a masterpiece, and I said a few times, "It looks like it's from Top Chef!" as Chris shook his head in disapproval. Sargasso's signature "fusion" style was making an impression on me -- first bread with a modern tomato spread and now pierogis with a new twist.

For my entree, I chose "The Perfect Salmon." What an understatement. From the menu: "Baked Loch Duart salmon with an olive oil mousseline sauce and sauteed green beans and chanterelle mushrooms over three-cheese and pea risotto. This fine dish costs $26, and it is oh so worth every last dime. The large piece of salmon was just so tender, it fell apart by the forkful. It was tasty and the white sauce complemented the flavor. The flaky fish was fresh, cooked perfectly and the sauce had a hint of sweetness that made it taste amazing. The risotto was fantastic. Cheesy, thick and filling. The peas were a perfect fit, and there's simply no describing it until you taste it.

Chris got the ribs, which were tender, though I tend to stray from red meat. And, he had asparagus and mashed potatoes. He was thrilled with his dinner, as well. I had a bite, and if you're a fan of red meat, this would be right down your alley. 

Our waiter was fantastic, too, as he came over frequently enough to where we could have our glasses refilled, but not so frequent that I felt he was a third dinner mate. He was very knowledgeable, and he gave his recommendations when solicited. His friendly tone made the stark fine dining atmosphere comfortable and not stuck up. He placed two dessert menus before us, instead of slapping down a check and saying they could add more to it. I decided on a creme brulee, and Chris reluctantly got a chocolate mousse with fresh fruit. His chocolate mousse was dark chocolate, not my favorite, but the berries were sweet and succulent. My creme brulee was fantastic. Two fresh strawberries garnished the top, which was a sugary hardened layer of caramel. The custard beneath was lemony and smooth. A perfect, refreshing ending to a fantastic dinner. I can't wait to celebrate something again so I can come back.


Definitely save this one for a special occasion, though. We had an appetizer, two entrees and two desserts, and our bill was right around $100.

Grade: A

More: Here's a cool promo they did when they opened: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_eUWw2mL60

Sargasso on Urbanspoon