Friday, December 30, 2016

Morgantown Edition: Lefty's Place

Leftys PlaceYou've heard of New York-style pizza (thin, flat slices) and Chicago-style pizza (deep, layered toppings), but what about Detroit-style pizza?
New York pizza is known for thin, crispy crust topped with a thin layer of tomato sauce, cheese and assorted toppings. Deep dish Chicago style pizza features a thick crust with an inch-deep smothering of tomato sauce, cheese and toppings (source).
Leftys PlaceSo, a new pizza place, Lefty's Place, opened up in Morgantown serving up Detroit-style pizza. Detroit-style pizza is a square or rectangular pizza that is baked in steel pans, with pepperoni, then cheese that is spread to the edges so it caramelizes against the pan and topped with sauce. The crust has a fried texture but light and chewy on the inside.

Lefty's is located on Walnut Street in the former Soul Brothers location. In addition to the Detroit-style pizza, they offer wings, salads and sides like mozzarella logs, pigs in a blanket, pepperoni rolls, chicken tenders, fries and breadsticks.
Detroit-style pizza is a style of pizza developed in Detroit, Michigan. It is a square pizza that has a thick deep-dish crisp crust and toppings such as pepperoni and mushrooms, and is generally served with sauce on top of the cheese. The square shaped pizza is the result of being baked in a square pan, which is often not a pizza pan. Rather, industrial parts trays are often used, which were originally made to hold small parts in factories.
The crust of a Detroit-style pizza is occasionally twice-baked, and it is usually baked in a well-oiled pan to a chewy medium-well-done state that gives the bottom and edges of the crust a fried or crunchy texture. Some parlors will apply melted butter with a soft brush prior to baking. The resulting pizza has a chewy texture (wikipedia).
Leftys Place

The origins of "Detroit-style" pizza can be traced back historically to Buddy's Rendezvous in 1946, which later became Buddy's Pizza. Over the next several decades, the chain grew and developed, cooks moved on, and in some cases they opened their own pizzerias. Cloverleaf, which was later founded by Gus Guerra as an Italian restaurant in Eastpointe, serves Detroit Style Pan Pizza as does Luigi's "the Original", the Shield's Pizza chain, and Loui's Pizza in Hazel Park. In 2009, both Buddy's Detroit-style square pizza and Luigi's "the Original" of Harrison Township, Mich were singled out as two of the 25 best pizzas in America by GQ magazine food critic, Alan Richman
Niki's in Greektown, Buddys, Cloverleaf, Jet's in Sterling Heights, G. Willie's in St. Clair Shores, Papa Bella's in Ortonville, Green Lantern in Madison Heights, The Gathering Place & Marinelli's in Troy, and Detroit Style Pizza Company are among Detroit's specialty pizzerias with deep dish pizza and or Detroit-style pizza in Southeast Michigan. The pizza at these restaurants is square or rectangular, with a thick crispy crust. Other restaurants that serve square specialty pizzas, similar to Detroit style, but more closely related to Sicilian style include Benito's Pizza, Cottage Inn, and Alibi in Troy (only offered in round however, making it a questionable member of the Detroit-Style market). In April 2013, Detroit-based Little Caesars launched the first Detroit-style deep dish pizza that is available nationwide; and also offered a version edging its crust with bacon.
So, I stopped in the other day to see an empty restaurant. They're doing a soft opening right now while students are away so they have time to work out all the kinks. Smart. The space has a few tables up front, booths along the wall and a bar on the other side of the counter.

Leftys PlaceAnd, I placed an order for a cheese pizza with mushrooms, and after about 10 minutes, it was ready to go. The pizza is cut into four good-sized rectangles, and, as promised, the sauce was on top. I'm not going to lie, it's definitely a bit greasy. But oh. my. god.

It's definitely thicker than flat New York-style, but it's not casserole-style like Chicago. The crust has a nice crisp on the bottom, but it's deliciously chewy inside. The crust is perfect. And, because mine had the cheese directly beside the crust, it was almost like I was eating a cheesy breadstick dipped in marinara. The sauce has a good blend of spice and sweet, and the cheese was perfectly melty.

Leftys PlaceLook, I know you're skeptical. And I know you're probably like -- what does that random girl who has typos in all her blog posts even know anyway? Well, I've had a lot of pizza, and this is damn good. Best in Morgantown? Yeah, maybe. I think it depends on what type you're in the mood for, and there's nothing quite like this. It's made a believer out of me.

Leftys Place
Grade: A
Lefty's Place Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Brew Keepers

Brew KeepersOne of the newest breweries to open in the state is Wheeling-based Brew Keepers.

Brew KeepersBrew Keepers, located behind a single orange door in what looks like a warehouse, is a production craft brewery. So, you can get samples and growler fills here, but no pints or beer to drink on premises.

Brew Keepers
Organized by longtime Wheeling homebrewer Kevin Ayres and his wife Carolyn, the seeds of this brewery project go back several years. They want to be a part of the booming craft beer market.

Brew KeepersYou can find their beer at various local restaurants (including Morgantown's Iron Horse), and I was excited to finally get my hands on a whole growler full of it. Once we made our way inside, I saw a staff hanging out and one of the men came to the counter to help us. We tried a few different beers.

The IPA was first they perfected and their flagship. The Topper Gold, a hoppy blonde ale, was quite tasty, but I went with the Suspension, which is a pre-prohibition cream ale. I had never had that before, so I went for it.
Named for the famous bridge built in 1849, this refreshing cream ale with a sweet and malty corn flavor is their take on a Pre-Prohibition style beer that represents history, which is perfect for the ambiance of Tin 202. This new craft brewery is certainly putting a spin on an American classic by combining the two concepts. “More character than your typical American Lagers, but just as easy to drink.” (Tin 202)
Brew KeepersIt is quite good. This pre-prohibition style + American classic is clean and refreshing. Nice malty flavor and easy drinking. Definitely a fan. I think the growler only lasted a day or two. If you're in the area, be sure to stop by!

Read more: Weelunk.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Hill & Hollow's Mini Pawpawpalooza

Chef Ohlinger, the chef/owner of Hill & Hollow, hosted his "Pawpawpalooza" dinner as part of his Appalachian Global Dinner Series recently. 

Paw Paw DinnerThe goal of the Appalachian Global Dinner Series is to highlight the role of Appalachian cuisine in global culture, and to bring West Virginia recognition as a culinary destination, as per the website. Chef Ohlinger would combine dishes he's learned through his travels with an Appalachian twist during the inventive dinners at Richwood Grill and now hosts them at his new location in the Seneca Center.

Paw Paw Dinner
"So, after several false starts, we will finally be getting the Pawpaw Dinner on the menu this Saturday. Because it was a terrible year for pawpaws and we just werent able to obtain enough of them to do the Pawpawpalooza we had planned on, we are simply offering a Pawpaw Puu-Puu Platter with several small bites to sample Appalachia's oddest fruit. We had intended to start tomorrow, but we are booked nearly full due to WVU Graduation parties, so we will start it on Saturday, and it will be available through next week until it runs out. Among the dishes are Pawpaw Ice Cream, a grilled Goat Chop with Pawpaw Jerk, poached Brook Trout with Pawpaw Cream, and Pawpaw Cheesecake. The full menu will be released tomorrow, because we're making this up as we go, as usual........." (Facebook)
So the "Pawpawpalooza" was reduced to a "Pawpaw Pupu Platter" due to the lack of availability. Tough year for pawpaws! BUT, I was just as excited to get my hands on the Pupu Platter.

Paw Paw DinnerConfit Duck Wing with Pawpaw Agave Yellow Curry
Not a ton of meat here, but that flavor was delicious.

Grilled Goat Chops with Pawpaw Jerk
This was a bit tougher piece of meat, but it may have been my favorite! The jerk flavor went throughout the entire chop, and I couldn't get enough.

Ricotta-Pawpaw Crepe
I love how this made an appearance because it's so different. That ricotta-pawpaw mixture inside wasn't too sweet but definitely tasty.

Poached Brook Trout with Pawpaw Beurre Blanc
Very good! This trout just melted in my mouth.

Mandazi-style Pawpaw Fritters
A little bit of something fried is perfect for the texture. A very faint pawpaw flavor here.

Pawpaw-Red Banana Cheesecake
Definitely the richest part of the meal, and it was very dense. That didn't stop me from devouring it. 

Pawpaw Ice Cream
I didn't taste the pawpaw necessarily, but it was a very creamy and delicious ice cream. 

Paw Paw Dinner
Did anyone else get a chance to go? Or which dinners are you looking forward to next year?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wheeling Edition: Casa di Vino

Casa do VinoWith a name that translates to "House of Wine," how could a place NOT be amazing?

Casa do VinoCasa di Vino, a wine store in Wheeling, has walls full of wine including local options. I just thought this little place was lovely, so I wanted to document it :)
Located in Centre Market, Wheeling, Casa di Vino is one of the premier wine shops in the area. Home of over 300 different wines, we are sure to have something to fit everybody’s taste. In addition to our great selection, we offer many products for winemaking, homebrewing, wine accessories and much more. Casa di Vino giftcards and wine baskets always make the perfect gift around the holidays, birthdays, etc. Join us on the first Friday of every month for our First Friday Wine Tasting.
Unfortunately, I was not here for a Friday wine tasting, but I did find a local wine that I hadn't hear of before! Mountain Moonlight was new to me.

Casa do VinoHave you been? what was your favorite purchase?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Wheeling Edition: Oliver's Pies

Olivers PiesOliver's Pies is an institution in Wheeling. The Centre Market pie shop has a number of different pieces and cheesecakes, and even local shops sometimes serve Oliver's on their dessert menu.

Olivers Pies
How it got started: Our son, Adam Oliver, holds a third degree black belt in Taekwondo. In 2004 he had earned a spot on the young men's Team USA and was going to South Korea to compete in the World ITF Championship Tournament. He had competed in three preliminary tournaments in Ohio, Texas and Connecticut to qualify for the team and was thrilled when he was selected to represent the United States at this worldwide tournament along with his friend, Zac Taylor, who had earned a spot on the men's Team USA. My husband, Jim, and Zac's dad, Paul, were asked to go along as chaperones. It was the chance of a lifetime for all of them, but how in the world would we afford the cost of sending two people to South Korea for 10 days? The boys' Taekwondo school, Seszko International, sponsored fund raisers, but we still needed to come up with a majority of the funds needed.

One night, at about 1:00 in the morning, Jim sat straight up in bed and said, "I'm going to bake pies." Still half asleep, I responded, "That's nice, honey," and went back to sleep. Jim learned how to bake from his grandmother when he was a teenager and has loved baking ever since, but I was more than a little skeptical about his ability to bake enough pies to get him to Korea. Within the day, Jim had purchased supplies and began baking pies. The rest of our five kids went all around the neighborhood taking orders for homemade 10-inch fruit and cream pies. Friends, co-worker's, and family all placed their orders and we were soon baking a lot of pie. In six weeks we had baked and sold over 400 pies and earned enough money to send both Adam and Jim on their way, and in October, 2004 they spent an incredible 10 day journey touring and competing in South Korea.

After returning from South Korea, Jim went back to work as a crown and bridge technician in his own dental lab, but we often got calls from people asking, "Are you still making pies?" Several even suggested that we open up a pie shop. We toyed with the idea for several months and Jim decided that he wanted to give it a try, so in July 2005 Oliver's Pies was created. We converted a spare room into a "pie room" and the pie baking quickly took on a life of it's own. Jim would work in the lab during the day, and then we would all team together to bake in the evening for the next day's pie orders. It often meant 14-16 hour long days and limited free time for the whole family.
In February 2007 we opened a pie shop located in the historic Centre Market of Wheeling, WV, which gave us more public exposure and meant we no longer had to rely solely on delivery for our customers. We quickly became known as "The Pie Man" and "The Pie Lady" - word of mouth was an amazing thing. 
A year later in February 2008 we moved the entire baking operation down to Centre Market and then things really took off. Jim had given up his crown and bridge lab at the end of 2007 so that he could concentrate on the baking of Oliver's pies and the entire baking process can be observed by any visitor to the Centre Market. The smell of fresh baked pies is obvious the minute you walk through the door of the Upper Market.
Whole 10-inch pies and 7-inch "half pies" available Monday through Saturday, along with individual slices. We now offer homemade cheesecake, as well. Jim's love for his craft, his love and his respect for his grandmother, and his dedication to his family are found in each and every pie that is baked at Oliver's Pies. By the way, the kid who started it all, Adam, came home from South Korea as a world champion, placing first in the patterns competition, bringing home the gold medal. He returned home in December 2008 after serving a two-year service mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Salta, Argentina Mission.
Olivers PiesThe shop is inside the main building, with a few tables placed nearby. It's small, intimate and also a bit crazy busy.

Olivers PiesWhen we walked in, I immediately picked up a menu to see my options. Mmmm peanut butter or chocolate peanut butter. Or Old Fashion Egg Custard? But, mmm pecan. I had to. I got a slice of pecan pie and ... oops ... may have taken a bite before I even got a photo ... BUT, that's a testament to how good this thing is. Light, flaky crust with a rich, chewy center and delicious sweet pecans.

Olivers PiesSo, so good. The only thing that could have made it even better is a glass of cold milk to wash it all down. Ahh, you owe it to yourself to indulge a bit nd get a sweet treat.

Grade: A
Oliver's Pies Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wheeling Edition: The Market Vines Wine Bar & Grille

Market Vines

And on this episode of me eating my way through Wheeling, I visited The Market Vines Wine Bar & Grille. This restaurant is located in the Centre Market area of town, which is one of my absolute favorite areas with all the little shops, boutiques and restaurants.

Market VinesMarket Vines is actually fairly small, with a bar and few high-tops at the entrance, and a few lower tables toward the back. It's mostly one open space with basic features and furnishings. Less of a wine bar, more of a simple restaurant that also serves wine.

Market VinesThe menu has a few options: deep-fried appetizers (pickles, cheese balls, zucchini, onion petals, breaded ravioli, etc.), chicken wings, salads, wraps, burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches (including Coleman's Fish!).

Market VinesSo, I ordered the bacon cheeseburger:

Bacon Cheeseburger $8.99
Burger with your choice of cheese, apple-wood smoked bacon, lettuce and tomato.

Market VinesOur server said it was one of the most popular items, so I figured 'why not?' I got a side of sweet potato fries. And a side of pinot grigio. And, I think it was pretty decent. The burger was juicy - but a bit too greasy - and the nicely grilled Texas toast was a lovely touch. The fries were fine. 

Nothing too inventive or different, but a decent basic meal in a sort of neighborhood pub-style establishment. The wine wasn't my favorite - it seemed slightly metallic or as though it had been opened for too long. But that's just me.

Market VinesOverall, a nice little stop for lunch, but there are certainly many other great places nearby that I'll be sure to get my hands on. 

Grade: B
Market Vines Wine Bar and Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, December 12, 2016

Feast of the Seven Fishes - Festival Cucina Cooking School

Festival Cucina

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian celebration on Christmas Eve that features dishes made with fish and seafood. Seven dishes (often more) are prepared, often including whiting in lemon, clams or mussels in spaghetti, baccala (salted fish cod), fried smelts, calamari, anchovies, lobster, sardines, eels, squid, shrimp and more. 

Festival CucinaNorth Central has a large number of Italians due to immigrants coming to work in the coal mines in the area. And with these folks coming to the area, so comes the traditions, like the Feast of the Seven Fishes. A Fairmont writer, Robert Tinnell, authored a comic strip book about his family's tradition. And, a subsequent festival followed.

Festival CucinaFairmont's Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival is held annually on the second Saturday in December to celebrate the tradition with lots of local vendors selling goodies and wares. I went to the festival last year for the first time, but what I didn't participate in was the event the night beforehand: The Festival Cucina Cooking School.

Cooking schoolYou see, the evening before the celebration kicks off, there is a more intimate cooking school demonstration. The Festival Cucina Cooking School was held at the First Presbyterian Church and cost $25 per person to learn from chefs who prepare dishes that could be part of your seven fishes dinner. The event included a glass of wine, polk music, and watching local chef demonstrations while getting to enjoy bites of holiday dishes. You also get detailed instructions on how to recreate the dishes at home!

  • (Revamped) Pesca Crudo from Hill & Hollow Chef MK Ohlinger
  • Peasant Abruzzo Soup with Bottarga Butter Crostini from Shannon Tinnell
  • Seafood Salad from Robert Germano
  • Classic Marinara Pasta from Isabella Tinnell
  • Bucatini with Snow Crab Legs in Red Sauce from Vince Libonati
  • Grilled Shrimp with Crispy Polenta from Rising Creek Bakery Chef Joel Brown
  • Zuccotto from Kristy Tinnell Martin
Festival CucinaThis was so much fun! It was entertaining and relaxing and delicious. MK's new take on the pesca crudo (due to some miscommunication in product ordered) was still delicious and light and fresh.

Festival CucinaFestival CucinaThen, Shannon's soup with that salty, buttery crostini was delish.

Festival CucinaThe seafood salad was one of my favorites, and we even lucked into getting some extra!

Festival CucinaAnd something as simple as the marinara pasta was out of this world. The fresh cheese on it was incredible.

Festival CucinaThe snow crab with pasta - while messy - was so tasty!

Festival CucinaAnd, god, Joel's grilled shrimp and crispy polenta is not only one of the most beautifully plated dishes you'll ever see, it was amazingly delicious.

Festival CucinaAnd finally, the zuccotto was the perfect way to end the evening - with a nice sweet bite.

This was such a fun event - not only entertaining - but amazingly delicious in a really relaxing setting. We were already making plan to attend next year's event, if that's any indication of what a truly great little event this is. If your mouth is watering, be sure to get your ticket early next year, as it sells out!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Wheeling Edition: Wheeling Coffee & Spice Co

Wheeling Coffee & SpiceWheeling is growing to be one of my favorite towns in West Virginia. I continually say that I didn't get a chance to explore it much when I lived in the Northern Panhandle, so whenever I do get the chance, I like to come see what all it has to offer.

Wheeling Coffee & SpiceRecently, I stopped through Wheeling for a cup of coffee on my way to Wellsburg. I had already been to Wheeling Coffee Shoppe, which seems to be the premier coffee shop in town (and it was good!), so I wanted to try a new one. When searching, Wheeling Coffee & Spice Co. came up.

Wheeling Coffee & Spice
I went a little out of my way downtown, found a street parking spot right outside and walked into this beautiful, historic building. Inside, there is a small walkway, with high-top tables on either side all done up for the holidays. Poinsettia placemats, flowers centerpieces and large nutcrackers decorated the shop. In the next room over, there was a bit more of a laidback, lounge vibe with couches and bookshelves.
More than 100 years have passed, but many of the traditions are still alive at Wheeling Coffee & Spice Co. The wholesale and retail company remains in the original buildings, graced with four iron columns marked "Sweeneys Co. 1858 Wheeling, Va.," predating the state itself. The Burns coffee roasters manufactured by the Blaw-Knox Company in 1884 are still operational and are used for single batch roasting most of our gourmet coffees.

The beans are slow roasted, hand-raked and air-cooled producing a unique distinctive taste. Paramount Coffee may be purchased in one-pound paper bags designed and copyrighted in 1931, and more important, we still deliver the excellent cup of coffee which Wheeling Coffee has offered to the public for more than a century. 
Paramount Coffee's Gourmet House Blend is a rich blend of choice Central and South American coffee beans roasted to perfection. Wheeling Coffee offers many delicious gourmet and flavored coffees as well as gift baskets and gift boxes for every need. When in the Wheeling area, please drop by and allow our staff to show you some of the interesting aspects of our company's history while you enjoy a cup of our great tasting coffees.
Wheeling Coffee & SpiceSo, I walked up to the front, passing a few other patrons sitting at the tables and looked around. There was no one behind the counter. I figured they were in the back. Nope. After about 30 seconds, one of the women who was sitting at one of the tables talking to her friend got up and got behind the counter. She literally watched me walk past her, stand at the counter awkwardly while she continued to talk to her friend for a solid 30 seconds before she got up to address me.

Wheeling Coffee & SpiceThen, when I asked a few questions about the menu - like "What is a 'Milky Way'?" She seemed annoyed. I settled on a simple mocha. But, as she was making it, she stopped to address a person who came in after me to pick up a package. Then, she stopped again to talk to that same woman. This woman stood up and stood right beside me, and the two carried on a conversation while I stood there awkwardly just waiting for my single coffee. Finally, she handed it to me, I got a white chocolate chip macadamia nut biscotti and paid. I said thank you. The woman ignored me and kept talking to her friend.

Wheeling Coffee & SpiceWell, I was actually a little shocked at how poor this customer service was. Not only was my wait held up way longer than it should have been because she initially ignored me and then was tending to other people who came in after me ... but then even when I tried to say thank you for my coffee, she simply ignored me. The service here is some of the worst I've had in recent memory.

Wheeling Coffee & SpiceThe good thing is that I enjoyed my coffee. I think it was tasty; definitely had my taste of the espresso, but the remainder - essentially hot chocolate - was smooth and had the distinctive milk froth. The biscotti, from Pittsburgh, is always tasty.

If you go in expecting a not-so-warm welcome and knowing that you may feel as though you're interrupting a private conversation, you may be better prepared than what I was. That may be the price you pay for a decent cup of coffee in downtown Wheeling. Until I find a better one.

Grade: B
Wheeling Coffee & Spice Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato