Sunday, August 31, 2014

WVU Farmers Market

                - WVU Downtown Campus Farmers Market
Saturday - Morgantown Farmers Market

It's sponsored by WELLWVU and Dining Services. It will be set up from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of the Mountainlair. The first one was this past Thursday, and there were a handful of vendors - Mountain People's Co-Op, Garcia's Latin Market, Real Juice Bar and Dining Services with samples and info.

Wavy farmers market

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Montreal, Canada Edition

MoishesI traveled to Montreal, Canada, recently to present my master's thesis as part of the AEJMC conference. It was an incredible experience where I met people conducting similar research, and, of course, there was a lot of food. I wanted to try what the locals loved, so I followed this list as closely as I could (plus some extras). Joe Beef was closed for vacation, but the rest of them I got!

Schwartz's Deli
Schwartz's was No. 1 on my list. I trekked to this side of town via metro and then by foot, waited in line until it was finally my turn and told them it would be just one. They squeeze you in whereever there is space, so it's likely you'll sit next to someone you don't know. I actually was seated at the bar. I asked for the Schwartz's Special - smoked meat sandwich (lean, medium or fatty) - I went with medium. Served on bread with mustard. It's a giant pile of meat, but it's tasty. Just very hearty. Before I was even done, they put the check in front of me. This is a no-lingering type of place. But I kind of liked that.

Grade: B
Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Moishes Collage
This was my first time eating at a fancy place alone, so I couldn't tell if I was more uncomfortable or if they were at Moishes. But I sat in this white tablecloth, upscale restaurant and ordered their filet mignon. It comes with their special potato, as well as cole slaw, pickles and bread as complimentary appetizers. Slaw was an oil base, and pickles were tasty. The steak was good. It was medium and tasty, and I definitely ate the entire thing. Maybe I was expecting something more for $50? I can tell you the "special potato" was amazing. Creamy, cheesy, amazing.

Grade: B
Moishes on Urbanspoon

Beauty's Collage
Beauty's Luncheonette
Beauty's was a nice quick stop for breakfast. I awkwardly waited at the door for what felt like an eternity before someone waved me back to a small booth so I could place my order. The Beauty's Special is cream cheese, tomato and smoked salmon atop a toasted bagel. It's a combination I haven't really had much of, but I really, really liked it. And I especially liked the bagel - how they're more crunch and not big and doughy. Lots of cream cheese and a fresh tomato slice made this one a perfect brunch for me to start my day.

Grade: A
Beauty's on Urbanspoon

St-Viateur Bagel Collage
St. Viateur Bagel 
There's an inner-city bagel war being waged between St. Viateur and Fairmount. So of course I had to try both. St. Viateur was up first since it was the furthest away. I walked in, ordered one all dressed, plus an individual cream cheese. After I received my small brown paper bag, I found a park bench and devoured it. They're not that big, thick bagels I'm used to. They're smaller, more dense and crunchy. Delicious. And little flakes of everything fell all over the place as I ate this. No shame.

Grade: A
St-Viateur Bagel & Café on Urbanspoon

Fairmount Bagel Collage
Fairmount Bagel
The rival! Okay - had to go with the all dressed at Fairmount, too. But I didn't see anywhere I could get an individual cream cheese, so this one was naked. And when I pulled it out of the bag, half of my toppings were MIA. Not as good of a showing as St. Viateur -- plus there was so much more fennel on this one! Meh. Overall, though, still good. But having them back to back, I think I prefer the first.

Grade: B
Fairmount Bagel on Urbanspoon

Wilenskys Collage
I went out of my way to get a flat sandwich with salami and bologna and mustard from Wilensky's. Plus I added cheese. I know it's iconic and simple, but I just didn't quite get it. It was boring to me. The old-fashioned soda fountain was awesome, though. They add syrup to a glass then fill it up with carbonated water, so it's mixed right there. Just neat. And their black cherry soda was great. They are a local landmark, though, as evidenced by the numerous newspaper articles. And even a photo of Anthony Bourdain on the wall.

Grade: B
Wilensky's Light Lunch on Urbanspoon

Au Pied de Cochon Collage
Au Pied de Cochon
Au Pied de Cochon was on the list for their fois gras poutine, which I already knew I was ordering. But Bob ordered a few more - a tuna tartar and a prosciutto plate. Fois gras poutine was good - a little different. But I liked it. Tuna was way better than I thought it would be. Fresh, firm, delicious. The prosciutto was tasty - and it even told us that our pig was fed on pumpkins! And for dessert, I had a creme caramel, which was just a flan. Good all around.

Grade: A
Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon

Dic Ann Collage
Dic Ann's Burger
Dic Ann's is a fast food chain in the area, so it's in stark contrast to my prior meal. I went in early, and it wasn't busy. I ordered their burger, and it is this small little flimsy thing that sticks to the plate - so they give you a popsicle stick to plop it off with. It's sitting in a sauce that adds some flavor. But it's an odd little thing. Tasty, though. Just a little messy.

Grade: B
Dic Ann's on Urbanspoon

Jeff de Bruges Collage
Jeff de Bruges
Ice cream is my fav, and after a successful presentation, Jan took me for ice cream at Jeff de Bruges. It's a standard weight, so you can get as much stuff on it as you want. I went for a caramel + strawberry ice cream with caramel, cookies and cream dots, crunchy meringue and little chocolate candies. So delicious.

Grade: A
Jeff de Bruges on Urbanspoon

Toque Collage
I spent 2/3 of my money on two meal: Moishes and Toque. The other meals were all pretty cheap. But Toque was the most expensive, by far. I spent around $100 here. But it was my last dinner in Montreal, and I was rewarding myself for a successful presentation, and damnit, kind of proud of myself for navigating all around this huge city, that speaks mostly French, and only getting slightly lost. There was bread and butter, which was tasty. A gift from the chef was this mousse and melon, which was super refreshing. My appetizer was princess scallops - which were raw scallops, daikon radish, beebalm mouse and berries water. And they were made to drink all in at once. It was odd to drink this water because I felt like it was perfume or something. But really, really tasty. And for my main course, I went with the suckling pig loin, which was artichoke, eggplant, tomato, chanterelle mushrooms, corn, roasted garlic puree and smoked sauce. So, so incredible. The pork loin had the best sear - almost crunch - on the outside and it was so juicy and perfect inside. Touches of artichoke added a little tang when necessary, and the mushrooms and garlic puree added the perfect earthy flavor I wanted. The smoked sauce, zucchini and other vegetables just were prepared absolutely perfectly. AND the chef sent out a petit fours that were like blueberry muffins with a toasted marshmallow topping, but the bread was a thick sugar crust almost. Amazing. Most expensive meal. Best meal.

Grade: A
Toqué! on Urbanspoon

Orange Julep Collage
Gibeau Orange Julep
Okay, totally opposite here now. Gibeau Orange Julep is a giant orange. I got off the metro and wasn't sure where to go - but I just followed the giant orange in the distance. It produces this sweet orange juice from these tubes that come down from the ceiling. I'm OK with it. Pretty tasty.

Grade: A
Gibeau Orange Julep on Urbanspoon

Decarie Hotdogs Collage
Decarie's Hotdogs
For my LAST meal in Montreal, I had to try one of Decarie's hotdogs - and some more poutine. I ordered two steamés, all dressed, which had mustard, onion and sauerkraut. It's not really sauerkraut though - more like cooked cabbage. Pretty good. And the poutine - huge! But amazing. I love the cheese curds and fresh cut fries. Plus the guy knew West Virginia and John Denver. And he made me feel super at home once I told him I was traveling alone. He served me and chit chatted until I was on my way.

Grade: A
Decarie Hot Dog on Urbanspoon

So, yeah, Montreal was incredible. Lots of amazing food. On the last day, I half bused, half hiked up their to their giant park - Mont Royal - with everything I had brought with me to Canada on my back (since I was taking a bus back to the airport afterward) so I could finally see. Montreal is super walkable (and hipster awesome), but no matter where I was, I could see this one mountain in the distance. So I figured out what metro/bus combination I'd need and made my way there. And the view was incredible. you could see literally everything for miles.

I think I was most impressed that I dined by myself, went far far away without being able to rely on GPS and only use my handheld map, used public transportation in a language I usually didn't understand and rocked my presentation. Couldn't really have asked for a better trip.

mont royal

mont royal

Friday, August 29, 2014

Morgantown Edition: Provoloni's Italian Grille

Provolonis CollageAfter Colasessano's quietly closed, a new restaurant called Provoloni's Italian Grille took its space over in the Pierpont Landings area. It's difficult to find any information out about it - even a phone number - but I drove by one day when they looked like they were open. It turns out they were hosting a rehearsal dinner, but they would open the following Wednesday (Aug. 27). Of course, I went.

Lots of parking in this area of town, which is nice. When we walked in, the first thing I noticed was the overhead art and name of the restaurant. The inside has a nice high ceiling and open dining space, but with small tables nestled around for a cozy environment. I dig the feel.

Provoloni's Italian GrilleProvoloni's Italian Grille

Provoloni's Italian GrilleProvoloni's Italian GrilleProvoloni's Italian Grille

The menu is quite large. I've attached the photos here, and you can click on them to see them larger. But they have cheese boards, flatbreads, pasta, beef dishes, seafood dishes, chicken dishes and sandwiches. I'm pretty sure they probably have something for everyone.

Provoloni's Italian GrilleFirst we started off with an appetizer of meatball sliders. Three homemade meatballs smother in sauce and served on artisan bread and ricotta cheese. I feel like you can tell a lot about a restaurant by their meatballs.

And these were good. Well-seasoned and a tasty combination of spices. Could be ground a little finer. The bread was a bit too thick/not toasted enough and was just too big for the small slider. But good.

Provoloni's Italian GrilleA salad was my next course, and I was pleasantly surprised. No shredded iceberg with a tomato here. Nice fresh spring greens with a few slivers of onion, some kalamata olives and tomato. Dressing was on the side. I'm sure they have labels on the top to differentiate, but taking those off would make it seem less take-out-y. But happy with the quality of this salad. Simple - it is a house salad after all - but with good ingredients. Yes.

For my entree, I couldn't pass up the pasta section. One of their house specialties was the rigatoni alla vodka, which s a house specialty from Chef Allesandro of Montecatini. It has Italian bacon, plum tomatoes, onions sautéed in a vodka marinara cream sauce with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. You can get a large for $15 or a medium for $11.

It was good. Nice creamy tomato flavor. The sauce was a little thick - and I would like it to have been a little bit more sauce; a little pool at the bottom to sop up some extra sauce with my rigatoni would've been perfect. But solid flavors, fresh flavors.

Provoloni's Italian GrillePair that with a basket of warm, homemade bread and some olive oil and spices, and the meal was really, really good.

I think a few different men came over to us to ask how everything was. One in particular was especially helpful and gave Vicki an extra dose of parmesan to go atop her spaghetti carbonara after she said she wasn't sure how it was supposed to taste. The man - I'm guessing one of the owners - said their version is a more traditional type, whereas other places treat a carbonara as a thick, creamy - almost alfredo - sauce. But theirs was lighter. The extra parmesan on top really made her dish great.

Provoloni's Italian GrilleThe chef would also come out occasionally and asked how our meal was. That was special. And you could tell he was working his ass off. That really made me like the place. He really cared how people were liking his food. That was awesome.

Our server was new and young, so you could tell she was a little nervous. But she did well. And honestly, this was probably the smoothest opening day I've been to. I was stunned how nice it was, how good the food was and how well the servers were trained.

For dessert, I went for the cannoli. Homemade every day! The cannoli was a chocolate flavor - like a chocolate mousse - and the outside was actually soft. Like a waffle cone soft. I don't think it was bad, just different. Very rich.

Provoloni's Italian Grille

Seems as though a friend I follow on Twitter, Devin Sears, her family and the chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party own this place.

For the first day, they blew it out of the park. Absolutely outstanding. As they gain some experience under their belt and work out the kinks (though there are very few), I think it will only get even better. Flavors are on point, and with a few small touches, I think it could be one of the best.

Grade: A
Provoloni's Italian Grille on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sutton Edition: Cafe Cimino Country Inn and Restaurant

Cafe Cimino collageCafe Cimino is a real hidden gem.

It's a little out of the way. I don't usually have a reason to stop in the Sutton area; I'm often only passing through. But, Sutton was a destination recently, as Vicki and I attended the Fiesta tent sale. And, of course, we decided to treat ourselves to a great dinner. Lots of big life changes - in the best possible way - deserve to be celebrated.

And celebrate, we did.

The GPS took me through town, and at the end of the street just stood this massive house with a wraparound porch. We arrived a little early and toured the property. A few helpful staff members were more than happy to take us around and give us some history of the bed and breakfast.

Cafe CollageI had made reservations the week prior, and when we went inside, a small placecard with my name sat atop our table. It was already exciting - a warm, but elegant dining room with fresh flowers, white linens and hardwood floors right in the front of the building made for a welcoming feel.

We started out with some wine. I had an Albarino, which was excellent. Shortly after our waters and wines, we received an aperitif made of club soda, bitters and apple cider. It was so cool and refreshing. I was thinking cider would be heavy, warm and fall-like. But this was crisp and a little zesty with the orange. Awesome.

Cafe CiminoWe were first started off with a little gift from the chef. It was an endive heart with local heirloom tomatoes, some cheese shavings in a light reduction. Crunchy, light and cool.

Cafe CiminoOur waitress was incredibly knowledgeable and rattled off an amazing list of special appetizers for the day. One that caught our attention was their antipasto platter. It had just about all of the listed appetizers in one dish, so we went with that.

Dear god, this set the bar real, real high. Just look at that photo.

Toasted bread, grapes, two kinds of olives, roasted red pepper, gouda, goat cheese, roasted eggplant, caprese salad (with green, red and yellow tomato and fresh mozzarella), pickled carrots, pickled fennel, hard-boiled egg and shrimp. And this was a huge platter. We devoured the entire thing. Everything was incredible - even the fennel, which I tend to not gravitate toward in the dried format, was awesome. It was pleasant. More like an artichoke, more mild in flavor.

Then, we moved on to our next course of the night - salad. I have low expectation when it comes to salads, because most places throw a bad of shredded iceberg and two cherry tomatoes together and call it a meal. Not the case here. Not at all.

Cafe CiminoNice quarters of local red, yellow and green striped tomatoes topped with kalamata olives, crumbles of feta and some balsamic vinaigrette. My mouth is watering reliving this moment. It was so good. So fresh. So perfect.

Then, a palate cleanser before our main meals: cucumber, mascarpone and strawberry. Simple, but refreshing.

Cafe CiminoMy main entree was one of their specials - mushroom gnocchi. The flavors were not as vibrant as the previous dishes, so maybe my palate was a bit off. But it was definitely more understated. Gnocchi was getting a little mushy, but maybe I'm splitting hairs at this point because the appetizer and salad were amazing. Just more mild in flavor.

Cafe Cimino

Vicki had the shrimp and grits, which she loved.

Cafe Cimino

Oh, and there was bread and olive oil with our main courses!

Cafe Cimino

Cafe Cimino

For dessert, I ordered this toffee spice cake with vanilla ice cream. It was to die for. The cake had absorbed this toffee, so it was super moist and just full of sweet deliciousness. And it was just swimming in this pool of caramel, while my ice cream sat off to the side. I mean, I'm not sure I could've created a better dessert if I wanted.

Cafe Cimino

On top of all of that amazing food, we were sent out a petit four of homemade dark chocolate.

Cafe Cimino
I couldn't have asked for better service - from them showing us around the property when we first arrived, to the duration of our dinner with a super accommodating server, to meeting the owner. Everyone truly worked hard to make an incredible dining experience. And they really did. Plus the food - local, so fresh and creative. And the just overall genuine attention to how a meal progresses. One of the best meals in West Virginia I've ever had.

Grade: A
Cafe Cimino Country Inn and Restaurant on Urbanspoon