Friday, July 31, 2015

Cass Edition: The Last Run Restaurant

The Last RunCass Scenic Railroad has been on my to-try list ever since the Charleston Daily Mail's 55 unique things to do in the Mountain State article came out.

According to Wikipedia, Cass was a company town for folks who worked for West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company, logging nearby Cheat Mountain. The cut logs were brought by rail to the town, where they were processed for use by paper and hardwood-flooring companies throughout the United States. Cass's skilled laborers, who worked in the mill or the locomotive repair shop, lived with their families in 52 white-fenced houses, built in orderly rows on a hill south of the general store.

The Last Run

The Cass Scenic Railroad is the same line built in 1901 to haul lumber to the mill in Cass. The locomotives are the same Shay locomotives used in Cass, and in the rainforests of British Columbia for more than a half-century. Many of the passenger cars are old logging flat-cars that have been refurbished. The Western Maryland No. 6 is the last Shay locomotive ever built. This piece of living history still hauls thousands of passengers up and down the mountain at Cass Scenic Railroad.

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park offers train rides that take visitors to various stationsWhittaker Station, Bald Knob and Spruce. We took the trip to Whittaker Station, because it's the shortest option. It's about four miles up the track, and there's a nice little are with some display trains and a shelter. We hung out there for about 20 minutes before heading back down - and on the way back, I may or may not have had coal showered all down the left side of my face. Haha. I enjoyed the trip - and it's the first time I've ever been on a train in the United States. The only other time is when I was in Italy, and we had to take a train to Venice.

The Last Run

But before our trip, we had some time to kill so we ate at the restaurant located in the company store: The Last Run Restaurant. This restaurant is featured in WV's 101 unique places to dine list.

The Last RunThe space is actually quite large with a lot of wooden circular tables and some booth seating. It's basic, fairly worn and could use a good scrubbing. The menu consists of items like popcorn chicken, hotdogs, sandwiches and the like. Nothing fancy, but simple enough for a lunch counter.

The Last RunI went with the popcorn chicken because it was simple and safe before heading on our trip. Overall thoughts - not bad. Nothing really exciting - the chicken breading was plain, and the fries could've been a good deal crisper. It's really the only option around, and it'll fill your belly. Good enough.

Grade: C
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Thursday, July 30, 2015

SFS Farms

SFS

SFS Farms was one of the last vendors I hit up while at the Morgantown Farmers Market recently. As per usual, I chatted with Lisa to find out more about this farm, which sells vegetables, melons and fresh herbs.
SFS farm is run by mother daughter team, Susie (mom) and Heidi (daughter) Shinkovich. Susie is the farmer and Heidi does the paperwork. Susie has been farming and marketing her entire life. She can tell you stories of being 7 years old and selling on the morgantown courthouse square with her family, which I believe she still does to this day. Local to the Morgantown area and Monongalia county, farming is strong in this family. If you stop by the farmers market take a look at Susie's beautiful farmer hands - they know what it is to work hard! Within the past few years, they received a NRCS high tunnel to help extend their season, so you'll now see them every weekend at the market throughout the summer selling a variety vegetables and potted plants.
SFSI picked up this delicious squash, which I grilled with some tomatoes for a delicious summer snack. What's your favorite product from SFS?

SFS

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New Deal Festival

New Deal FestivalI attended the New Deal Festival a few weeks ago in Arthurdale. It is held annually on the second Saturday in July to celebrate the nation's first New Deal Subsistence Homestead Community of Arthurdale.

New Deal FestivalNew Deal Festival

According to Wikipedia:

Arthurdale was founded in 1933 and was the first of many New Deal planned communities established under Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration. It was intended to take impoverished laborers, farmers, and coal miners and move them to a modern rural community that would allow them to become economically self-sufficient.

The idea for such a self-sufficient community originated when Eleanor Roosevelt learned through her friend, Lorena Hickok, of a plan to relocate a group of West Virginia coal miners to a nearby farm with the intention that they could combine subsistence farming with simple industries to reclaim their economic footing. Mrs. Roosevelt was so passionate about the concept that she brought it to the attention of her husband, who decided to place the project under the direction of the United States Department of the Interior.

New Deal Festival

The festival features artisan demonstrations, a craft market, children's activities and tours of the museum and other Arthurdale buildings.

New Deal FestivalThey had a dining hall, which was serving up pulled pork sandwiches, burgers, hotdogs, fries, baked beans, cole slaw, desserts and drinks. We didn't stick around to eat here, but we did look through all the vendors. And I finally got to see some of the products from the Mountaineer Country Farmers Consignment Market.

New Deal FestivalThis place has always been a sort of mystery to me. They're a farmers market but via consignment. And they used to have store hours, but they now just visit the Ruby hospital on Wednesdays and the Arthurdale Co-Op Store on Thursdays. There were some fresh berries, plus tons of jams and jellies for sale. So, a nice little event and I'm glad to finally see what the farm market is all about.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Kirkwood Winery

Kirkwood Winery

Kirkwood Winery is a mainstay at the wine festivals around the state. They tend to have lots of fruity, sweet wines, but they also carry some others you might cook with - ramp wine or dandelion. They have apple, blush, blackberry, cherry, peach, pear, blueberry, currant, raspberry, plum, elderberry, grapple, ginseng and even more.

Kirkwood WineryKirkwood Winery is also home to the Isaiah Morgan Distillery, which is southern West Virginia's first mini-distillery that crafts rye, southern moon and grappa spirits.

I really liked the blackberry wine, the peach and the plum, too. If you like a sweeter wine, this is your place. The shop also has some other trinkets; I picked up a wine glass. Overall, a nice little stop if you find yourself in Summersville!

Tastings are free. Business hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Elkins Edition: El Gran Sabor

El Gran SaborElkins is such a cool little town. They have a neat little arts scene, a nice brewery and some great restaurants. El Gran Sabor is an authentic Venezuelan restaurant. Elkins, West Virginia, has authentic Venezuelan food? Yep. The short version: Derdlim Masten (head chef and co-owner) came to the United States from Venezuelan to visit her cousin. She fell in love with the town, met her husband and opened the restaurant.

El Gran SaborAnd we, the people of West Virginia, are so benefitting. The restaurant was pretty busy (a good sign!), so we sat outside to wait until a table was ready. I talked with some other folks who were waiting about their favorite dishes. The "cachapa" was the crowd favorite. After a 20-minute wait or so, we were seated and looked over the menu.

El Gran SaborAnd there it was - the cachapa. The menu says it's their most popular dish. You can get a veggie cachapa, a surf 'n turf cachapa, a beef cachapa, a chicken cachapa, a cheese cachapa, a pork cachapa, or a ham and cheese cachapa. It comes with a choice of latin rice and black beans and choice of soup or salad.

El Gran SaborI ordered a pork cachapa with their shrimp squash soup. At first, I wasn't super impressed with this soup. But as I tried it more, I was able to detect some more rich flavors - almost reminded me of a curry. But pretty good.

El Gran SaborAnd the cachapa was excellent. It was tender, flavorful pork encased in a sweet corn pancake. The salty and sweet combo was so, so good. Plus there were two sauces - one that was like an herb dipping sauce and the other I loved but can't remember what it was (this is what happens when I'm so behind on posts; I started to forget). This was DELICIOUS, though. The beans and rice were meh, but the cachapa had a perfect balance of flavors. Plus the sauce was like the find touch to help it all come together.

Between the cool vibe and excellent food, this was one of the better restaurants I've had in quite some time. Even if it did start out with a bit of a wait.

Grade: A 
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Harmony Farm

Harmony Farm

Harmony Farm always has one of the most beautiful displays at the Morgantown Farmers Market. With a huge, colorful display of fresh veggies, it's tough for me to walk past this table. My friend Lisa gave me some intel on Harmony Farm so we can get to know a little bit more about this farmer behind the table.
Harmony Farm (http://www.harmonywv.com) is run by Sky Harmon and located in the Cheat Lake area. This WV native devotes himself to organic growing practices and works with the Human-Animal Connection, which helps introduce kids to ag. Taking advantage of all his farm produces, Sky runs a CSA and sells strictly produce at multiple area farmers markets. To really see inside this farmers mind, check out his field notes i.e. blog on his website, which includes some lovely photos of life on their farm.
If you're interested in his CSA, visit here. Not sure what a CSA is? Check out my post about the one I tried last fall.

Harmony Farm
When I went recently, they had a huge selection of kale, zucchini, squash, carrots and spinach. I got a bag full of spinach, which served as a base for my salads throughout the week. And it's actually a good bit cheaper and lasts longer than what I get in the grocery store. So, spill. What are your favorite products from Harmony Farm?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Perseverance Farm

Perseverance Farm

I got to try some new vendors at the Morgantown Farmers Market recently! Let's chat about Perseverance Farm. I consulted my good friend Lisa to find out more about this vendor:
Perseverance Farm is run by Dr. Mary Ann Favjan, aka the Tree doctor. Their farm is mainly wooded, but that doesn't stop Mary Ann from using the cleared area to grow more niche products for the market, while also using the trees to her advantage. When not studying silviculture as a research forester or volunteering with the local MARS (mountaineer area robotics team) group, you might find her making homemade tortillas for the market. She also brings various herbs, hickory nuts, grilling wood, baked goods, some veggies, and jams. Since joining the farmers market a few years ago her market products have developed and filled a wonderful small niche gap.
Some of the products she tends to have are:
  • Vegetables
  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Herbs
  • Eggs
  • Firewood
  • Baked Goods
  • Dried Vegetables 
  • Jams/Jellies
  • Pecans
  • Hickory Nuts
  • Buckwheat
  • Fresh Flowers
  • Fresh/Dried Hops
  • Jicama
  • Hand-rolled flour tortillas
  • Hickory Wood Chips 
Perseverance FarmWhen I was at the market, she had two varieties of garlic, mint, kale and a few other things. I never really differentiate between the different kinds of garlic when I purchase it. But because it was right in front of me, I read about the Georgian Fire Garlic. She noted it had a fiery flavor when raw, but sweet when cooked.

I cooked some of this garlic up with scallions and ground sirloin from the market for a delicious filling for some cabbage wraps. But I couldn't stop myself from eating bits and pieces of cooked garlic - it's just sooo good. I could put garlic in absolutely anything (well, just about). What are some of your favorite items from Perseverance Farm?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Blueberry Ridge Farms

blueberry Ridge Farm

There's something really satisfying about plucking blueberries from the bush, dropping them into a gallon bucket and taking them home to make a delicious blueberry crisp or pie with the fruits of your labor (ha! get it?).

blueberry Ridge Farm

My friend Lisa and I went to Blueberry Ridge Farms for pick-your-own blueberries a week or two ago. Check in with their Facebook to see which days they are open - mostly 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. MWF, but also they try to do some Saturday hours. No appointments are necessary. It's $18 for a bucket or $17 if you use your own bucket or have the one from last year. Blueberry Ridge Farms provides detailed instructions on how to navigate to the farm in Fairmont:


4th of July Opening!!!We will be open tomorrow, Saturday, July 4th from 9 am until 9 pm.  We are located at the top of...
Posted by Blueberry Ridge Farms on Friday, July 3, 2015

blueberry Ridge Farm

 There's another farm not too far away, but you must set up an appointment.

blueberry Ridge Farm

So if you have a free evening after work or can catch them on a Saturday soon (while blueberry season lasts!), do so. It was nice to get out and pluck the blueberries for myself, choosing which ones I want and leaving the others to ripen a bit longer.

blueberry Ridge FarmI picked a gallon and made a blueberry crisp, ate a few handfuls and froze the remainder. I washed them of (though they don't spray at this farm), dried them, put them on a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet and froze for an hour before taking them out and bagging them up to freeze. Each morning I've been taking a handful of frozen blueberries and mixing them with some greek yogurt for breakfast.

Has anyone been? Or has anyone been to the other farm? It's a fun way to spend some time and get some goodies out of it too!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Big Timber Brewing Company

Big Timber Brewing

Big Timber Brewing, one of about a dozen breweries in the state now, opened its taproom in Elkins about a year ago. Since then, the brewery has made its way around the state - including on tap in Morgantown. I've had a few different beers in town, but it was even better to try them at the source.

Big Timber BrewingThe interior is pretty cool with lots of wooden features - tabletops, bar stools, shelving - in honor of the lumber industry that kept Elkins alive for so many years. They also have these great little coasters that list all of their social media. Very nice.

Big Timber Brewing

I ordered a sampler, which included their blonde, pale ale, porter, IPA, poplar session IPA and sluice dry stout. OH, and their root beer.

Big Timber BrewingThe blonde was easy, drinkable and would be nice for a hot day. Not too heavy and pretty clean.

The pale ale is a good bit hoppier (surprise), but I like the actual flavor. It's not too hoppy, but you know it's there.

The porter was pretty heavy, but considering I'm not a huge coffee drinker, I'm not really the target audience for this one.

The IPA, of course, took the hops up a notch. Not my favorite, but I can see why hopheads would dig it.

The poplar session IPA is up yet another notch.

The dry stout was actually not as bitter as I thought it may be.

The root beer! I don't even love root beer, if I'm being truthful (please don't shun me). But it's kind of a like a sneaky treat at the end of a beer sampler. Like, obvi it's not beer. But it's exciting to have something so sweet at the end.

Give Big Timber Brewing a visit - lots of great beer and a super fun vibe.

Grade: A
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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Oak Hill Edition: Custard Stand

Custard Stand - Oak HillThe Custard Stand is a West Virginia institution. With six locations around the state, the restaurant draws a loyal crowd - both on the chili and the custard front. The chili can even be bought in most local grocery stores in the area.

Custard Stand - Oak HillWhile traveling, we tried to stop at the Elkins location determined to get an iconic ice cream photo a la Gordon Gee. When the location was unexpectedly closed, I poured my heart out on Twitter. I was devastated that we rushed to get there and Tony wasn't going to get his first Custard Stand experience. With some swift assistance from their social media person and some refiguring of our schedule, I figured out we would be traveling near the Oak Hill location later in the week. Plan made.

Custard Stand - Oak HillThe Oak Hill location has a more modern feel with a few stainless steel table and chair sets inside. I ordered a small caramel cone; Tony ordered a small cone, as well. So the small here wasn't quite as impressive, but it worked. And it's delicious, as always! Creamy! No hotdogs on this visit, but sweet treats are always welcome.

We also managed to get T-shirts out of the exchange, which is awesome. It's a perfect reminder of our fun trip and Tony's first Custard Stand cone.

Grade: A
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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bridgeport Farmers Market

Bridgeport Farmers Market

While I'm a fierce advocate for the Morgantown Farmers Market, there's another market not too far away. My friend Kayla and I decided to check out Bridgeport's Farmers Market recently to see what vendors are there and what new goodies we could get our hands onto.

Bridgeport Farmers MarketIt was a super rainy day, and most of the vendors were hiding under their tents. One of the first tents we sought refuge from the rain was "My Little Cupcake." I hadn't heard of them previously, but they made an impression. The set-up is cute with a burlap runner and chalkboards noting the day's flavors. Chocolate covered strawberry, orange, almond ... mmm. They also had homemade ice cream for sale! I snagged an almond cupcake. I can say it's one of the best ever. Moist, sweet, nutty. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. Most cupcakes, they're good enough. They're fine. I mean a bad cupcake is still not that bad. This one? I would travel for this one.

Bridgeport Farmers MarketOne really nice thing about Bridgeport's market is they serve hot food! So you can come down, get your groceries for the week plus have lunch while you're doing it. They have Hash Browns & New Grounds on site, plus the Conference Center has a lunch menu available. There's a covered table for seating so you can be comfy while lunching (or breakfast-ing)!

Bridgeport Farmers MarketBridgeport Farmers MarketLots of veggies available, plus some sweet treats AND a hot meal while you're there? #winning, as the kids would say.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Morgantown Edition: TK's Fruit, Produce and Bubble Tea

TK's fruit, produce & bubble tea

There's a new grocer and bubble tea shop on High Street: TK's Fruit, Produce and Bubble Tea. With the exception of the Mountain People's Co-Op (now on Pleasant Street) and Vonson, there aren't many options for fresh groceries downtown. Lots of restaurant options, yes, but for the folks who live downtown, this should be a welcome addition.

TK's fruit, produce & bubble tea

TK's fruit, produce & bubble tea

There's everything from bright, leafy greens and coconuts and ginger to watermelon, grapes and garlic. It's a small space, but they have a good variety of produce and organic options.

TK's fruit, produce & bubble tea

TK's fruit, produce & bubble tea

While I don't necessarily need to buy my groceries downtown (I'll stick to the farmers market + bougie Kroger for that), I'm always open to trying bubble tea!

TK's fruit, produce & bubble teaTK's fruit, produce & bubble tea

In the back of the shop, there is a bubble tea section where you order your drinks. There are a few different options. First of all, you have to figure out if you want Milk Tea with Tapioca or Fruit Black/Green Tea with Tapioca. I ended up going the milk tea route and chose the caramel black tea with milk. 

The bubble tea is pretty good - I love the tapioca balls with the flavor of the caramel tea. It was pretty tasty. I think I'll try a fruit one next time, though. This place is a nice addition, but it's a tad rough around the edges at the moment. There were a lot of boxes and things that were a bit haphazard. Plus I think some finishings need to be in place just so it looks more put together. But that's OK, there's plenty of ambiance around town once you get your drink to walk around and see High Street. Some chairs outside would be lovely!

Grade: B
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