Monday, March 28, 2016

Terra Cafe's Chestnut Brew Works Beer Pairing Dinner

Photo by Sher Yip
Prix fixe dinners are becoming trendy in Morgantown now (though this culinary trend hit a level of popularity years ago elsewhere). A prix fixe dinner is a meal of several courses served at a fixed price. Many of these dinners have either wine or beer pairings.

Terra Cafe & Chestnut Brew Works Beer Pairing 6.24.2016
Photo by Sher Yip
Just a few days ago, I went to Terra Cafe's Chestnut Brew Works Beer Pairing Dinner. I typically shy away from many prix fixe dinners unless I know the chef is going to bring it -- because it's already going to be pricy, and sometimes my bank account can't take that gamble. But with Terra Cafe and Chestnut Brew Works, I knew this meal would be nothing short of awesome. And, with a $45 price tag, I couldn't pass it up.

Terra Cafe Chestnut Brew Works Beer PairingVicki, Steve, Lisa and I made reservations for the six-course meal. It sold out pretty quickly! When we arrived, we were seated at table 26 and, before long, we got started. Terra Cafe's Head Chef Lauren Hartman and Chestnut Brew Works' Owner and Head Brewer Bill Rittenour began the evening with a thanks, and Lauren talked a bit broadly about beer pairing dinners, noting that there are two ways to do it: Either coincide with the flavors within each beer or go the opposite way. Because each Chestnut Brew Works beer encompasses so many wonderful flavors, she took the former route. Then, the duo introduced each course and the beer paired with it.

Terra Cafe & Chestnut Brew Works Beer Pairing 6.24.2016
Photo by Sher Yip
First course:
Class II Wheatwater paired with Asparagus and goat cheese terrine w/ charred citrus.
I know Lauren loves a terrine, and they're always super beautiful. This was no exception. The goat cheese was delicious and mild (my favorite kind of goat cheese). The citrus just gave a slightly sweet flavor to the mixed greens - which pairs perfectly with the Class II Wheatwater that is a light beer brewed with orange peel.

Terra Cafe & Chestnut Brew Works Beer Pairing 6.24.2016
Photo by Sher Yip
Second course:
Nate's Nut Brown paired with Almond fried English peas with espresso balsamic reduction and shaved chocolate.
The coating on these pea pods were super tasty, but I struggled a bit with the pods being stringy. I resolved to push each pea out, grab a bite of the coating and a nibble of chocolate for a very tasty trifecta. Also to note: Nate's Nut Brown is possibly my favorite beer ever, so the chocolate pairing was delish.

Terra Cafe & Chestnut Brew Works Beer Pairing 6.24.2016
Photo by Sher Yip
Third course:
Halleck Pale Ale paired with Turkey lemongrass lollipops with spicy plum BBQ sauce.
I was really looking forward to these "lollipops," and the flavors were on point. The savory turkey and the spicy plum BBQ (and those tiny candies) paired together made for that perfect sweet/savory combo. I kind of wanted them warmer to help those flavors even more, but they were super tasty as is. The Halleck - probably the brewery's most popular beer - is hoppy but without being too bitter. It could probz go well with anything.

Terra Cafe Chestnut Brew Works Beer PairingFourth course:
South Park Porter paired with the 3 Way Beef Burger, of breaded brisket as the bun, local beef liver patty, and beef liver pate with gremolata sauce.
This is a whole lotta cow on one plate. That brisket was pretty damn tasty dipped into that gremolata sauce (which is a herb condiment of lemon zest, garlic and parsley). The beef patty had some great seasoning, and even the pate added a little something something. The South Park Porter is a heavier beer - fitting for the course.

Terra Cafe Chestnut Brew Works Beer PairingFifth course:
Entish Ale paired with Trout and Fiddlehead chips with tartar sauce of quail eggs and currants.
I think this may have been my favorite course. The fish was cooked beautifully. The fiddleheads had only a slight flavor, but they also acted as a vehicle for this amazing tartar sauce. Seriously. So good. And the currants! Probably my new favorite thing. The Entish Ale is a new English-style Old Ale beer brewed with authentic English malted barley and yeast.

Terra Cafe & Chestnut Brew Works Beer Pairing 6.24.2016
Photo by Sher Yip

Sixth course:
Your Best Hoption paired with Fruit and Coconut Sushi with creme anglaise, peanut coconut sauce, blueberry sauce, and cloudberry champagne sauce.
These sauces were so killer. I love the diversity. Don't love the peanut coconut sauce? Try the blueberry. Or the creme anglaise. I loved every one, and I thought it had this fantastical element with that cloudberry champagne sauce. Pair the super sweet with super hoppy, and it works.

Terra Cafe Chestnut Brew Works Beer PairingGreat flavors, great beers with some great people. Couldn't have asked for a better Thursday evening.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Morgantown Edition: Hill & Hollow

Hill & Hollow
Chef Ohlinger, the authority on farm-to-table dining in West Virginia, has opened his newest restaurant: Hill & Hollow in the Seneca Center. The previous chef/owner of both Richwood Grill and Solera is continuing the farm-to-fork dining theme with a focus on global cuisine using local ingredients at the new restaurant.

Hill & HollowThe space previously housed the Glasshouse Grille, which was a culinary pioneer in Morgantown. And the Seneca Center itself has a storied history in the town, as well. Perks: Lots of parking, right in town, a beautiful space and ... some delicious food. Cons: My bank account is going to be sad.

Hill & HollowThe Hill & Hollow space remains largely unchanged, save for light fixtures and some personal touches, due to the historical nature of the building. But, I want to stress the point that while Hill & Hollow serves incredibly good, artisan food, it's not so much "fine dining" to me because it's not stuffy. It's inventive, it's creative, it's unlike anything you can get in this town - or state - but it's not pretentious. If anything, it's the punk rock version of a fine dining restaurant, I think.

Hill & HollowThe menu, which changes often and in accordance to the season, began with some classics as Chef Ohlinger got into the groove and secured more local ingredients - meaning the menu available when I dined is unlikely to be the same one you'll get to try.

Hill & HollowThe menu was incredible, as always. Friends at the table got the Sonoran pumpkin soup with chorizo, the beef fillet medallions with smoked huitlacoche butter and others. I started my meal with an order of grilled yam and apple cakes with a lime molasses drizzle. While, yes, it probably appeals to the vegetarians in the group, I can tell you I enjoyed it - even as an omnivore. I especially liked the pieces with extra crispy edges that gave some nice texture variation. It was sweet and comforting - while still being a brand new flavor.

Hill & HollowEntrees available included a bison meatloaf with fresh ketchup and miso mashers, rainbow trout with wasabi remoulade, seared duck breast with cherry butter demi, prime Brazillian-cut loin steak with Yucatan spice rub and avocado butter, and free-range beef tenderloin with roasted onion-morel flan. For my dinner, I chose the fresh herb and spinach risotto with buttermilk ricotta for with seared Maine Diver scallops.

Hill & HollowThis is tough, because so many entrees sounded delicious. But it's hard for me to ever say no to scallops. The risotto was very fresh, very green. Scallops delicious. I snuck a taste of onion-morel flan and mmmmmm. I can't wait to go back and try all the other dishes, too.

Hill & HollowOh, and dessert. Chef Ohlinger stopped by and admitted dessert isn't so much his thing. He has folks for that. He, himself, prefers whiskey.

Hill & HollowWell, I prefer this incredible cheesecake served with these shards of sugar and looking like a scoop of ice cream. My god was this good.

This didn't even take into consideration the craft cocktails the bar is whipping up - which look pretty damn good. And, check out his Global Dinner Series (here's the latest I've written about). Those are always a fun time to try something a litter different.

Stay tuned for a full story about Chef Ohlinger and his new restaurant for Taste! WV Magazine.

Grade: A
Hill & Hollow Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Charles Town Edition: Final Cut Steakhouse

Final Cut SteakhouseGet ready, y'all. It's steakhouse time. I put on my nicest pair of black pants for this outing to Charles Town to dine at the Final Cut Steakhouse. This steakhouse, located at Hollywood Casino, is not totally unfamiliar to me. Their folks once shipped me some of their sauces in order for me to try them out and to get the word out (why do some of my old blog posts show photos rotated? ugh).

Final Cut SteakhouseI reached out to my friend Brandon, who lives in DC. Charles Town is just about 1.5 hours from him, so he graciously accepted my offer to meet up for dinner.

Final Cut Steakhouse
After parking (East Gate!) in the parking garage - which is free - we headed to the main floor in search of steak. What I didn't think about is how smoky the entire casino would be on the way to the actual restaurant. Blechhhh.

Final Cut SteakhouseThe steakhouse itself is lovely inside. It's dark, suave ... as classy as a casino steakhouse can be, I suppose.

Final Cut Steakhouse
For starters, we had a basket of bread that was fairly unremarkable. We chatted for a bit while making our final menu selections.

Final Cut SteakhouseThen, in a sort of perfectly timed dance that carried throughout the night, our entrees came out. I ordered an 8 oz. filet mignon with a side of steak sauce ($3). It comes a la carte, so we also ordered a side of truffle mac & cheese.

Final Cut SteakhouseThe steak is charred on the outside, and it was definitely overdone. The outside was well-done, and once I got to the middle, I was able to see just a tiny bit of pink. It was quite tender, and the flavor was decent, as well.

Final Cut SteakhouseThe side of mac & cheese was impressive. The noodles were these short tubes that were covered in a creamy cheese sauce, breadcrumbs and truffles. All in this adorable steel pot. This dish has a very earthy taste - which I love! But it is different.

Final Cut SteakhouseAnd, as a small sweet bite, we were served some dark chocolates. Not a fan. So, overall thoughts. Well, I liked my steak - even if it was overdone (at a steakhouse?!), and I liked the macaroni and cheese. Did I like it $62ish worth? Meh. I've had better steaks - that come with sides. So, the restaurant seemed a little extra money hungry considering all sides and sauces were extra. A lovely time with a good friend? Yes. A delicious meal? A good one, at least.

Grade: B
Final Cut Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, March 25, 2016

Charles Town Edition: Skipper's Downtown Dips & Deli

Skippers downtown dips & deliIt's rare that I let an ice ream parlor go unnoticed. So, as I was exploring Charles Town, Skipper's Downtown Dips & Deli made itself apparent. 

Skippers downtown dips & deliQuite a few deli items are available - sandwiches, soups, salads - but I'm all about that ice cream. Bout that ice cream. Bout that ice cream (no deli).

Skippers downtown dips & deliI ordered a waffle cone with a caramel fudge ice cream. And while the ice cream was nice and sweet and smooth, I wasn't loving the little dense bricks of fudge mixed in. Didn't love those a ton. But, you can't really go wrong with ice cream, as evidenced by 75 percent of my blog posts. A cute shop with lots of options for both lunch and dessert, so if you're taking a stroll downtown, be sure to pop in and check it out.

Grade: B
Skipper's Downtown Dips & Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Charles Town Edition: Alfredo's Mediterranean Cafe

Alfredo's MediterrNean Cafe

The Mediterranean Cafe in Charles Town is known amongst the locals for having good food. It boasts fresh, quality ingredients for dishes influenced by Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Lebanon and Morocco.

Alfredo's MediterrNean CafeWhen I visited this restaurant, it was pretty busy. They seated me in the back at a small one-person (two if you're stretching it) table. It was actually quite cozy, and I could take in some of the really unique wall art and decorations back in my secluded corner.

Alfredo's MediterrNean CafeBefore I even ordered, they brought out a nice little sampler platter with hummus, pita, feta, and shirazi salad. What a way to start a lunch! The hummus was quite tasty, and I loved have the bit of acid in the shirazi salad to balance everything out. Love, love, love this.

Alfredo's MediterrNean CafeThe lunch menu has lots of great items: lots of salads and kabobs. For my order, I went with the Kabob Chengeh, which is lamb. While some bits were a little chewy or fatty texture wise, for the most part, the lamb was very good - especially paired with the cucumber sauce and a nice sweet bite of onion and tomato. Yes, yes and more yes.

Alfredo's MediterrNean CafeGrade: A
The Mediterranean Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Inwood Edition: The Dining Room

The Dining Room at Inwood"The Dining Room" is such a ... comfortable name for a restaurant. It's a room in your home, so in essence, the restaurant is saying you are part of their family. Welcome to their home. Come eat at The Dining Room.

The Dining Room at InwoodWhen I walked inside the restaurant, I stood at the front for a moment. One of the servers said someone will be with me shortly. So, I shifted awkwardly alone while the open restaurant stared at me for what seemed like 15 hours. Another server came up to me and asked if she could help me. I said lunch, for one. And she goes "oh... well... sit anywhere..." OH OK. That would've been good to know three minutes prior.

The Dining Room at InwoodThen, since there was no bar seating, or even two-person seating, or even FOUR-person seating, I sat at a table for five people. Five people. That was super cool. But, let's talk food. Because food can solve most things in my life.

The Dining Room at InwoodI ordered their "Special Cheeseburger," which came with grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms and provolone cheese. I noticed immediately the patty was perfectly round and medium width. But, that being said, I thought it tasted decent. I like that the bun was toasted and the mushrooms plentiful. I wish the fries were just a tad crisper. I think this place has some hometown nostalgia, and if you're looking for pretty run of the mill standard country fare, this would do you good. But for something just a tad more exciting, I'd look to the surrounding cities.

Grade: C
The Dining Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Petersburg Edition: 3rd Base Sports Bar and Grille

3rd Base Bar & GrillI traveled to Petersburg solely to try 3rd Base Sports Bar and Grille, a restaurant on the 101 Most Unique Places to Dine in WV list. I called in an order so that I could just swing through, pick it up, and munch on the way home.

3rd Base Bar & GrillFirst up: Conqueso dip and chips. So, it was thick ... it was mostly underwhelming. Not a ton of flavor, but a little heat, at least. This is akin to a jarred Tostitos cheese dip. So.

3rd Base Bar & GrillI got an order of boneless butter garlic (golden dragon) wings. These, to me, were small little chicken nuggets with some minced garlic sprinkled on top. Maybe I missed the butter part? But, I mean, these aren't bad! They're chicken nuggets with ranch.

3rd Base Bar & GrillAnd finally, the hot honey bbq - or "sweat" heat? Should that be sweet heat? Idk. But, I'm glad I was finally getting some flavor here. I'm all about some sweet and tangy - and this iteration wasn't bad.

Overall, nothing here was bad. But nothing here was entirely exciting either. Decent wings with a beer is not easy to mess up. So, for a lax night for some easy, simple food - this place could be a decent bet.

Grade: C
3rd Base Sports Bar and Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato