Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Soda vs. Pop

People across the United States have different words they use for "soft drink." While this is an interesting linguistics case study, people also often engage in friendly debate about which is "correct." Those familiar with linguistics know there is no "right" answer, but instead, they're all right, according to, most often, where you are located.

I say "pop."And I do joke with others when they say "soda," because it sounds southern to me. But if you look at the map above (that has been around for 10 years now), most of the southern states say Coke. If I said Coke, it would be referring to the brand-name cola beverage. You can vote for what you say here. And if you want to see individual responses for "other," click on a state here.

Sometimes this debate goes beyond friendly, but it's definitely interesting to see how one specific term gets people riled up. But looking at the history of the soft drink, soda people may win this battle.

Quick timeline here:
  • 1798 The term "soda water" first coined.
  • 1835 The first bottled soda water in the U.S.
  • 1851 Ginger ale created in Ireland.
  • 1861 The term "pop" first coined.
  • 1874 The first ice-cream soda sold.
  • 1876 Root beer mass produced for public sale.
  • 1881 The first cola-flavored beverage introduced.
  • 1885 Charles Aderton invented "Dr Pepper" in Waco, Texas.
  • 1886 Dr. John S. Pemberton invented "Coca-Cola" in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • 1898 "Pepsi-Cola" is invented by Caleb Bradham.
  • 1919 The American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages formed.
  • Early 1920's The first automatic vending machines dispensed sodas into cups.
  • 1929 The Howdy Company debuted its new drink "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Sodas" later called "7 Up".
  • 1952 The first diet soft drink sold called the "No-Cal Beverage" a gingerale sold by Kirsch.
  • 1957 The first aluminum cans used.
  • 1959 The first diet cola sold.
  • 1962 The pull-ring tab first marketed by the Pittsburgh Brewing Company of Pittsburgh, PA.
  • 1965 Soft drinks in cans dispensed from vending machines.
  • 1965 The resealable top invented.
  • 1970 Plastic bottles are used for soft drinks.
  • 1974 The stay-on tab invented.
  • 1979 Mello Yello soft drink is introduced by the Coca Cola company as competition against Mountain Dew.
  • 1981 The "talking" vending machine invented.
And, maybe the coolest yet, is the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine that allows customers to make their own pop flavor ... 100+ different ways. Now, Morgantown is home to one. Five Guys restaurant has one. Check out my blog on that here. Maybe once we're all making our own combinations, the "soda" vs. "pop" debate will end, and we'll name each of our creations.

Can't wait to try the "Candace" pop soon.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Veggie-friendly restaurants

Last week, I blogged about the various types of diets out there. Whether you are strictly a raw veggie person or you are a vegetarian who eats fish, there's probably a certain label out there for you. And there's probably a restaurant that will help cater to your dietary requests, too. Morgantown has a handful that have developed a reputation for having dishes specifically for vegetarians or vegans, and we're not talking about a chicken salad sans chicken. Check out some of the most popular ones:

Black Bear - In addition to serving some local food, Black Bear Burritos makes some dishes with vegetarians in mind. Their rice is vegan, they use 100 percent organic Spring Creek tofu from Spencer, W.Va., they have 100% vegetarian beans, and they have separate grill from vegetarian dishes.

Maxwell's - Maxwell's has little asterisks next to items on their menu that are suitable for vegetarians. And there's quite the variety, too, from nachos and eggs to avocado sandwiches and bean burgers.

Blue Moose Cafe - As a hip, "cyber cafe," this coffeeshop offers tons of choices in that area, including organic houseblends and soymilk. But their menu is also all-natural and primarily vegetarian. Eggs (bacon or fakin'), Reubens, bean burgers, salads and other melts are all here. Blue Moose also does a good job at taking a traditional sandwich and turning it vegetarian- or vegan- friendly.

ZenClay - As an artistic mecca, this place has options like noodles, soups, "moo shu" pocket, eggplant sandwich, and many more creative, fresh, veggie-filled dishes. I like the creativity here, and you get to see some original veggie dishes.

What have I missed? I know there are some other great ones out there. Anyone have a specific vegetarian-friendly dish that is fantastic?

Monday, February 27, 2012


I went to Naticakes when it just opened up in the Suncrest Towne Centre. It's great to see businesses finally opening up there. Naticakes has a cool story about why it was started, and 10 percent of all its proceeds go to the Natalie Wynn Carter Foundation, which is committed to improving the lives of children throughout the world.

I have never been to a solely frozen yogurt shop, so I was excited to try a new place. When you walk inside, it has a Victorian-esque feel. The decorations are slightly mismatched in a very elegant way, and some of the tables are so white, they're sterile, while others are weathered and fancy.

As soon as we walked in, we were greeted. The young man explained the process to me. Basically, there are a dozen choices of frozen yogurt and a plethora of toppings to put on. He asked us if we'd like to sample any of the frozen yogurts. He had small cups that he filled with whichever yogurt we wished. I tried the peanut butter - not bad, the cookies and cream - very creamy, cheesecake - had some bite to it, the original tart - a unique flavor, and a few others. They also had some sorbet - fruity and slightly tart.

After tasting most of them, I grabbed one of the cups that are located to the left of the machines and filled it to my heart's content. Naticakes prices your dessert upon weight. So it doesn't matter how many yogurts you put in it or how many toppings you choose, it just matters what the total weight is. So, I filled half my cup with cookies and cream and the other half with pomegranate raspberry sorbet. That way I could try the fruity toppings and the chocolate toppings.

I scooted over to the toppings area. It was packed: Reese's, Snickers, Twix, Oreos, Gummi Bears, Gummi Worms, chocolate chips, M&Ms, Heath bars, Whoppers, Butterfingers, Reese's Pieces, Fruity Pebbles, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, pound cake, coconut, Junior Mints, nuts, Rice Krispie treats, sprinkles, raspberries and strawberries - I probably missed a few, too.

I scooped as much of the candy and chocolate onto my cookies and cream side, and the gummi candies and raspberries onto my sorbet side. I put it on the scale, and my total came to around $5. That's not too shabby.

The pomegranate raspberry sorbet was nice and sweet, refreshing and fruity. The small bits of fruit added another dimension with some texture. The gummi bears were fun. The cookies and cream yogurt was rich and creamy. I had a little bit of Snickers, Reese's and Butterfinger in there, which basically boiled down to the taste of chocolate chunks in the yogurt. It was fun, tasty and interactive. I'm not sure there's anything like this in town. I liked customizing my dessert, free of restriction, to my exact specifications. And it was cold, creamy and light. I'll be back.

Grade: A
Naticakes on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

2012 Ronald McDonald House Iron Chef Challenge Recap

This past Sunday was finally the Iron Chef challenge at the Ronald McDonald House. I've been building this event up for quite some time mostly because I'm excited, but also because I was a celebrity judge. Honestly, this had me really nervous because I'm just a college kid giving my (sometimes unwanted) opinion on area restaurants. Was I qualified? In their eyes, yes. One day, I received an email from MaChal Forbes asking if I would be interested in being a celebrity judge for this event, I said yes, and here we are.

The challenge began at 2 p.m. I arrived around 1:15 p.m. to get situated. I hadn't met anyone, and I wanted to make sure I was in the right spot. I arrived just fine. Steve De Jesus, executive director and CEO of Morgantown's Ronald McDonald House Charities as well as another judge, gave me a tour of the house as soon as I got in. The other judges were Nikki Bowman, editor of WV Living Magazine, WV Weddings, and Morgantown Magazine; Cheryl Jones, director of WVU Children's hospital and  Jeff Hostetler, a former WVU football player and NFL quarterback.

The Ronald McDonald House is a wonderful charity. When children have an injury or illness, the families can come stay at this house. Since the house is just across the parking lot from the hospital, it's a convenient place for families to get some rest (they have 16 bedrooms), have a meal (two kitchen areas), and just relax. For families that aren't staying long term, they have day guest services so they can have a shower, get a meal and rest. They're usually always full, I believe at 99.5% capacity. That's pretty full. So the money from the purchased tickets went back to the charity. In fact, they sold about 55 tickets, when they originally only set aside 30. This was a great way to get the community involved and be able to see the great things the charity offers.

That kitchen, though, made a perfect set for an Iron Chef competition. They were able to face off. The judges table was at the very front, and the audience was behind us. The chefs had 45 minutes to create a dish of their choice - both said that these dishes in particular are specialties. Chef McDonald of Stefano's created a shrimp and grits meal, while Chef Bruner from the Waterfront created a surf and turf dish. They didn't have a surprise ingredient thrown in. Maybe next year! They began cooking, and the moderator, Lauren Saffron, a RMHC board member, entertained the audience. She asked the cooks various questions while they were preparing. She asked us judges a few questions, and we were able to hear more about what the charity does. The chefs weren't really sweating until the very end. Chef McDonald barely finished on time.

But we were served with two delicious plates. Chef McDonald has prepared his version of shrimp and grits. He made a brie & smoked cheddar polenta (essentially Italian grits/cornmeal), topped with a roasted pepper cream sauce, with a large shrimp on top and a locally produce Italian sausage on the side. This is a dish he plans to offer in the summer at Stefano's. This dish was superb! The grits were the perfect texture, the sauce was creamy, and the shrimp was large and fresh.

Che Bruner's surf and turf had some more elements. He plated a seared filet and scallop over top of a sweet corn puree, with a wild mushroom hash and a port wine reduction. This dish, too, was fantastic. perfectly. The filet was a perfect medium-rare, the corn puree was deliciously sweet and complemented the other flavors, and the scallop was perfectly cooked.

We judged based on taste (10 points), presentation (5 points), and originality (5 points). Both were fantastic, but I gave Chef McDonald one point more than Chef Bruner simply because the wine and corn together were a little too sweet at times. But really, it was so fantastic. Chef McDonald won overall and was awarded a RMHC chef's jacket. The audience was also able to get samples of the meal, and they can vote for their favorite. The winner will be announced via the RMHC's twitter and Facebook pages.

I had an amazing time judging and mingling with the audience about their favorite dishes. I talked with one family who has a daughter with a blog. It's really interesting to see how this fun hobby has turned into this. The RMHC was so kind to give us mugs just for being judges. I can't wait to see what else they have planned, since this competition went so well!

Did anyone else go to the competition? I'd love to hear some others' feedback about the event.

To donate to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Morgantown, click here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mardi Gras Pub Crawl

Happy Mardi Gras! Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday," which refers to people eating delicious foods on the last day before the season of Lent. While not everywhere celebrates Mardi Gras like New Orleans, Morgantown is planning a small pub crawl for those interested.

Sponsored by Main Street Morgantown, this pub crawl is held TONIGHT. So if you're interested, go check it out immediately! Registration starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Waterfront Regatta Bar & Grille. The cost is $10 per person, but that includes a T-shirt, drink & food specials, and beads at all of the participating places.

The schedule is as follows:

6 p.m. - 7 p.m. Waterfront Regatta Bar & Grille
7 p.m. - 8 p.m. Mountain State Brewing Company
8 p.m. - 9 p.m. Oliverio's Ristorante
9 p.m. - 10 p.m. McClafferty's
10 p.m. - 11 p.m. Morgantown Brewing Company

The last stop includes New Orleans Cajun food & drink specials, and the High Street Jazz Band is scheduled to play at 10 p.m.

View Mardi Gras Pub Crawl in a larger map

There's a (new) restaurant in town!

Five Guys Burgers and Fries has finally opened, after months of anticipation. I hadn't had much experience with the restaurant, so I was hesitant to get too excited. But people were really going crazy over it. A few updates in the student newspaper, numerous questions to their Twitter handle, and people driving by the location to see when it opened.

Today was the day. And I was there. But since I try to focus my blog on local food, I won't go too in-depth on my opinion of the restaurant. The menu was pretty basic, as they just specialize in a few things. You get to see them make your burger. Basically, I thought it was an average burger joint. They give you a ton of fries. I'd prefer a local place like Tailpipes.

But one thing is very interesting about this place: It has a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine. What is this? Well, it's a machine that can make just about any pop that you want. You press a button for which type of pop you want, and then it pops up with variations of that pop. There are 100+ combinations. For example, if you press "Coke," you get options of "Coke Vanilla" "Coke Raspberry" "Cherry Coke", etc. The only other place to have a Freestyle machine in West Virginia was Weston's Wendys. So Morgantown has West Virginia's second machine.

I've mentioned that when I get a fountain drink, I usually mix a variety of options, including (but not limited to) Coke, Pibb, and a lemon-lime soda. It's quite tasty, and it reminds me of my younger days, going to the softball park and ordering at the concession stand. They had a drink called "graveyard," which mixed all of their pops together.

This machine is kind of revolutionary, in my opinion. It is stocked with so many different options, there has to be something there for everyone. Has anyone used this machine before? Any combinations that are rocking your world?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fujiyama Japanese Steakhouse

I was in the mood for hibachi the other day, so Chris and I hit up Fujiyama for a good time. Located on Venture Drive, Fujiyama is bit further out of the way, so I was hoping it'd be less busy. When we walked inside the restaurant, there were these tacky signs that said to make sure to close the outside doors before opening the inside. I understand the concept, I guess, it just really cheapens it before even walking in. Once we did walk in, there was a large fountain, with another sign, that said not to throw coins in it. This wasn't looking good.

We walked to the hostess stand and said we'd like the grill. They also have a simple dining area. She seated us immediately. We were the first couple on our side of the grill - the other side was already halfway through their meal. We ordered drinks as we looked over our menu. If you've been to a hibachi restaurant before, you know how it works. If you sit at the grill, you order a hibachi dinner - most of these are either chicken, steak, scallops, shrimp or fish. Sometimes a combination. These come with a side of rice or noodles and vegetables and sometimes two pieces of shrimp. I ordered the hibachi scallops. Chris opted for the hibachi salmon and shrimp. We also got an order of California rolls.

Another couple was seated at our grill. It's always a little awkward because it turns into communal dining if you're not already with a large group of people. But it makes it a fun experience, too. Our sushi came out quickly. Small rolls, but they were fine. Not entirely flavorful, but not bad either.

Next, we got our miso soup. I'm not a big fan of miso soup - it's okay. It's a warm broth with a few pieces of tofu. I had about half the bowl. It warmed me up and got my tastebuds going.

Next was their salad. If you're familiar with this cuisine, a small salad with a ginger dressing is typically served. I'm also not a fan of this. It's typical for the cuisine - it's just not my taste. I was ready for my entree.

Finally, the chef came out and put on his show. He was very chatty. He was doing all the tricks. The onion volcano, the tossing of the egg on the spatula, and the throwing the shrimp into customers' mouths. Of course, I missed mine. Both times. Our chef even had a shot (two) of sake with the other guy at our grill. He was entertaining, and we had fun. Sometimes these things can get tacky, but he was very personable so it wasn't like he was just putting on a show with us. He was very interactive. It was welcoming.

When the whole show was over, I finally had my plate full of huge scallops, a heaping pile of noodles, some vegetables and two pieces of shrimp. We had the two dipping sauces - the darker one he said is for the red meat, and the "yum yum" sauce is good for everything else. Which it was. The scallops he cooked were huge. Delicious and huge. Fresh, cooked right in front of me, and grilled to perfection. Dipped a little in the yum yum sauce to give it a kick. It was delicious. The noodles were so flavorful - the yakisoba, like lo mein, give a carb to help balance the dish. The veggies are grilled and delicious, so that layer rounds out the meal. So a balanced meal, add a couple shrimp, and you have a huge dinner that most people can't finish in one sitting. At least I can't.

It's a good meal, enough for another meal, and entertaining. A little on the pricey side - expect to spend about $60 for two, but it's food and entertainment. It's about what I expected from a Hibachi place, so no big surprises, but nothing disappointed either. Plus it's great to see exactly how your food is cooked and get a little show on the side.

Grade: A
Fujiyama on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Princeton Edition: Angelo's Pizzeria

Want to grab a great, local pizza in Princeton? Check out Angelo's. Chris and I went in recently to get a good bite to eat. The inside has some really cool wall murals that give it a homey feel. Their menu consists of pizza, of course, as well as calzones, pizza rolls, subs, pasta entrees, wings and salads.

I wanted to try a bit of everything, so we got a large pizza with olives, a large cheese calzone with mushrooms and a pizza roll. You order at the right counter, and pick up at the left side. We sat and watched their TV while we waited for it to be cooked. It has an old-school feeling, with the cooks slightly surly and not overly friendly. They were also extremely busy, but after tasting the pies, you can see why.

After our food was done, we headed home with three boxes: one medium, one large and one extra-large. On the way home, I peeked inside the top small one, thinking it'd be my calzone, but it was the pizza roll instead. If my calzone was in the next box size up, I knew it was going to be big. I waited until we got home to find out.

I opened the large box, and that was our pizza. Wait, what? So, the largest box is going to contain my calzone? Oh. Yeah. It's the biggest calzone I've ever seen. When they say large, it's literally the size of a large pizza (if not bigger) folded over. It came with three (THREE) sides of marinara sauce, if that tells you anything. It was fantastic, too - with stringy, creamy mozzarella and ricotta cheese. It was filled to the brim with mushrooms, too, which couldn't have made me happier. The marinara was tasty, tangy and a nice balance for the pounds of dairy I was about to ingest.

The pizza roll, with pepperoni, wasn't bad, either. With a doughy exterior and soft cheese, it was a nice spin on a pizza. But comparing it to my calzone, it wasn't a match. The pizza is flat, with layers of mozzarella, and ours had a more salty bite with the black olives sprinkled on top.

We had leftovers for days. And I'm already craving another ones of those calzones. This place doesn't skimp on the cheese, that's for sure. And that's perfectly alright in my book.

Grade: A
Angelo's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon