Thursday, June 30, 2016

Nashville, TN Edition: Monell's


"Enter as strangers, leave as friends"

That's the slogan for Monell's in Nashville. The family-style dining restaurant has been "serving south to your mouth since 1995." It's a fixed price (about $15 for breakfast), and you get some of everything they put on the table. You just have to share it with everyone else.

MonellsI've never been to a family-style dining restaurant, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I've ordered appetizers that are family-style and you serve them to your whole table. But this was kicked up a notch. 

MonellsWhen we walked inside, I noticed a few large tables. One was full, and two were totally empty. We were seated at one of the empty ones, and just moments later, bowls of food started being delivered to our table. And they didn't stop:

Preserves and biscuits. Cinnamon rolls. Smoked sausage, bacon, gravy, country ham, breakfast potatoes, pancakes, scrambled eggs, hash browns, cheese grits, skillet fried chicken, fried apples, corn pudding ...

MonellsA centerpiece held carafes of water, tea and coffee, as well as the appropriate accoutrements.

MonellsAt any moment, I was waiting for others to walk through the front door and begin filing into seats at our table. But we hit at a perfect time. There was a rush right before us, so we got out own table, and then there was a dry spell after us. About 45 minutes after we arrived, another huge crowd came in, but they were seated at a separate table (our food would have been too cold for them at this point). So, we hit the sweet spot (at least for an introvert like me): A table to ourselves with ALL the food.

MonellsAnd that food was incredible. The fried chicken was perfectly moist, the sausage and bacon were delicious, and the corn pudding blew. my. mind. I don't even really know what corn pudding is, but it's like this mix between creamed corn (which I already love) and corn bread (which I also love). But what I know now is that it is creamy, sweet, salty and just perfect. So good, in fact, that Brittany ended up just taking a spoon to the bowl and finishing it off.

MonellsOur half of the table was just full of tasty, delicious platters of all southern breakfast food. It was overwhelming, in a good way. Everything from the eggs to the meats and the sweet apples to the soft biscuits was just delicious. Good, old-fashioned home cooking - with an extra dose of butter and sugar.

MonellsI know this probably isn't the typical experience, but it was still great. I think meeting some folks would have been pretty cool, too, though I did enjoy myself just fine.

MonellsHave you been? What did you think? Or, have you gone to any other family-style restaurants? Such a cool thing!


Grade: A
Monell's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Nashville, TN Edition: Goo Goo Shop

Goo goo clusterHave you ever eaten a Goo Goo Cluster? I'm not sure I had before traveling to Nashville. Sure, I've heard of them - maybe on the peripheral - but they seemed more like a candy from the past.

Goo goo clusterThe Goo Goo Cluster was created in 1912 in Nashville and contains marshmallow nougat, caramel, roasted peanuts and milk chocolate. There is a Supreme version (which replaces peanuts with pecans) and Peanut Butter (which replaces the marshmallow nougat and caramel).

I wanted to go to the mecca of the candy - a shop located in downtown Nashville. It has the three versions of the Goo Goo Clusters available for purchase, as well as other retro candies, merchandise and other fun goodies.

Goo goo clusterIt also has the Dessert Bar, which serves up pies, cheesecakes, sundaes and shakes and floats. Since I arrived a little late, I didn't get the chance to order from the dessert bar, though "The Salty Southerner Shake," with vanilla ice cream, house-made salted caramel, fresh whipped cream and more caramel sounded amazing!

Goo GooAnd, it is the only place to purchase Premium Goo Goos, which come in a variety of different flavors/ I purchased a "cookies and cream" one. It wasn't bad.

Overall, this shop is super cute, with some great goodies!

Grade: A
Goo Goo Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Nashville, TN Edition: Jackalope Brewing Company

JackalopeJackalope Brewing Company was founded by two women: Bailey Spaulding and Robyn Virball. That alone made me excited to check out this brewery. Badass women showing that the beer world isn't just for guys? Count me in. Plus, what a weird/cool name.

JackalopeThere is parking here, which was a huge plus. And, as soon as we walked in, we waited our turn at the bar before placing our order. I got a sampler with Thunder Ann, Bear Walker, The Great Horned Owl, and Leghorn, and then walked it over to the casual, comfy open area. It was clear this was a real community spot, with a room full of people hanging out with a delicious, creative craft beer having conversations and reading the paper.

JackalopeI liked the Thunder Ann, which was a bit hoppy, but it was also a tad citrusy. It is also named after Davy Crockett's fictional wife. Cool.

Bear Walker is a good, malty beer. Heavier for a hot day, but tasty. Leghorn was a bit too hoppy for my tastes, and The Great Horned Owl is a wheat that has a nice body.

I think this place has a super cool vibe with some tasty beer. If I had more time, I could see myself hanging out here and leisurely enjoying my beer. But, we have many, many more places to see.

Jackalope Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, June 27, 2016

Nashville, TN Edition: City House

City House

To cap off my first evening in Nashville, I wanted to grab drinks at one of the trendiest spots in town: City House. The Germantown restaurant and cocktail bar opened in 2007, and Chef Tandy Wilson has been named a James Beard nominee for Best Chef Southeast.

City HouseThe changing menu features fresh produce and house-cured meats. And, they're also known for their pizzas. We had a reservation and arrived about 10 minutes early, and she said she can accommodate us at our reserved time. K. So, we went outside and had a seat on these large wooden logs, which fashioned a makeshift fire-pit area, before returning inside.

City HouseThe inside is not super large, but there are metal accents meshed with wooden tables that made for this modern meets traditional vibe. Sound seems to reverberate off everything, so it gets quite noisy.

City HouseOnce we saw the menu, we changed course. The drinks looked amazing (really amazing), but there's no way I could NOT try something off this delicious food menu. Cavatelli, brisket, zucchini, tomato, black pepper and pecorino pizza? Sour corn cake, white beans, yellow squash, mint, red wine vinegar? And those pizzas - peaches, cottage cheese, mozzarella, vidalia, fennel and black pepper? Yes, please.

City HouseThe pizza was good. It wasn't great. Maybe I was expecting more of a flavor explosion, a la the grape & gorgonzola pizza from Pies & Pints. This was much more mild, and the peaches weren't fully sweet. And, that's fine. The flavors were just kind of muted. But, still not a bad pie.

City HouseIn fact, the couple next to us was asking us about our pizza, and we told them it was good. They were trying to figure out what to order, but weren't sure if they wanted to commit to an entire pizza. We actually had two pieces leftover (and with restaurant after restaurant on my wish list, no time for leftovers) that we insisted they have. What else were we going to do with it? They were super excited to get a taste without having to order an entire pie.

City HouseThe waiter at one point asked us where we were from and he said one of his friends, who is this homeless traveler, is moving to Charleston from Los Angeles. We questioned "West Virginia? Or South Carolina?" He assured us Charleston. We looked baffled and wondered why that would be the place he'd choose to be a vagabond, and the waiter replied that his friend was tired of being around intellectuals (so, apparently you go to the land void of intellectuals: West Virginia). Oh. Ok. Subtle dig there.

So ... the pizza was good - not the best I ever had. And the service could be a little less snobby, I think. I'm sure that's part of the draw. Next time, though, I definitely want to snag a drink ... as long as I can keep myself from ordering the entire menu.

Grade: B
City House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Maryland Line Farm

Maryland Line Farm is a new vendor at the Morgantown Farmers Market. Headed up by Sam Horrocks and Teresa Voster, the farm is located in Hazelton and has products like: arugula, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collards, cucumbers, green beans, kale, leeks, lettuce, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, salad greens, salad mix, spinach, squash, swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips and eggs.

Have you had anything tasty from Maryland Line Farm yet?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Vista View Farm

Vista View Farm is a vendor at the Morgantown Farmers Market that I've been wanting to visit for quite some time. I kept seeing them on the Farmers Market email list, but I just recently had the chance to check it out at the Westover market.

Vista View Farm, headed up by Chris Tatham in Kingwood, had lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini squash, yellow straight neck squash, hot hung peppers, sweet banana peppers, and Chinese cabbage. He also has some berries that will be coming up soon, hopefully!

What's your fav product from Vista View Farm?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Nashville, TN Edition: Hattie B's Hot Chicken

Hattie B's

Buckle up, folks. Let's get ready for a month's worth of Nashville.

I recently traveled to the city (8 hour drive from Morgantown) to see my friend, Brittany. While there, we embarked on a week's worth of gluttony, adventuring and boozing. The first stop, after the long drive: dinner at Hattie B's Hot Chicken.

Hattie B'sHot chicken is a regional specialty in Nashville, so I had no fewer than at least three places (maybe four) that served it on my wish list.

According to Wikipedia, hot chicken was discovered by accident:
It is generally accepted that the originator of hot chicken is the family of Andre Prince Jeffries, owner of Prince's Hot Chicken Shack. She has operated the restaurant since 1980; before that time, it was owned by her great-uncle, Thornton Prince III. Although impossible to verify, Jeffries says the development of hot chicken was an accident. Her great-uncle Thornton was purportedly a womanizer, and after a particularly late night out his girlfriend at the time cooked him a fried chicken breakfast with extra pepper as revenge. Instead, Thornton decided he liked it so much that, by the mid-1930s, he and his brothers had created their own recipe and opened the BBQ Chicken Shack café.
Hattie B's has a bit more of a polished look compared to some down-home chicken shacks and has found itself on all the must-try hot chicken lists for its welcoming environment and easy locations. The branding is on-point with the red accents carried throughout the decoration (and the chicken!).

When we arrived, we were greeted with a small line. No worries, it moved quickly. Once we got close enough to the counter, I was able to make out the menu and figure out what I want. Dark meat or white meat? White. Large or small? Small. I ended up with a small white meat plate, which came with a breast and wing (mild please) and two sides: I went with pimento mac & cheese and red skin potato salad.

Hattie B'sAfter placing our order, we found a table outside and awaited our food. My chicken arrived atop a piece of bread with pickles speared through the top. This plump, juicy chicken breast packed a little cayenne heat in that crisp deep-fried breading, but nothing too toxic - for that, I was thankful. It was flavorful and went along perfectly with my sweet lemonade. My favorite part was as the chicken settled into the bread, the bread soaked up all this flavor and spice and was just delicious.

Hattie B'sPimento mac & cheese was so good - how could it not be? And the cool potato salad added a welcome break from the hot temperatures otherwise.

This was tasty! And, with it being my first, real hot fried chicken, I was impressed and couldn't wait for more. Fortunately, I had options already lined up!

Grade: A
Hattie B's Hot Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pittsburgh, PA Edition: Tako

"Three gringos and an 8-legged culinary muse, who goes by the street name täkō, have brought the so-cal surf vibe to the Steel City with south of the border force and fierce margaritas."

TakoIt hit me that I didn't have reservations for dinner during my day in Pittsburgh, so I texted a friend really quickly about whether or not that would be a problem for the two restaurants in particular I had in mind: Tako and Butcher & the Rye. His response was basically, if you're not already in line waiting for Tako to open up, you're not gonna get a seat without reservations. Challenge accepted.

TakoAfter drinks at Hofbrauhaus, we rushed across town, found a nearby parking garage and got to Tako at 4:20 p.m. That's 40 minutes before the restaurant opens. We stood outside the door, and slowly a line started to form behind us. By 5 p.m., there were a solid 20 people standing behind us on a Friday night waiting to get into the coveted late-night taco stand.

TakoTako has a few slide-out bar stools on the street that face into the restaurant. Perfect, I thought. We're first in line, so we can easily get the best bar seats (good lighting). No can do. Some reporter of some sort and her crew took up those spots. But, as soon as the door opens, we went inside, and they told us the first available slot would be 6:30 p.m.; I then asked if we could just sit at the bar. Oh, yes, she said. So, we sat at the closest bar stools to the kitchen, giving me the best chance for any sort of lighting in there since everything is red. It's loud, and it's busy, and as soon as we were seated, there were people standing behind us waiting for our seats.

TakoThe menu has some killer options:

carmelized onions / roasted poblano / romesco / fried egg / queso fresco / arbol hot sauce / cilantro
wagyu short rib / peanuts / fermented cucumber / napa cabbage / cilantro
roasted maitake / garlic aioli / truffle huitlacoche salsa / brussel sprout salad
TAKO $18
grilled octopus / harissa aioli / preserved lemons / mizuna greens & herbs / pickled red onion
braised pork butt / guacamole / salsa verde / chicharrones / cilantro
grilled chicken / avocado / white onion / salsa verde / queso fresco / crema / serrano / cilantro
wagyu skirt steak / salsa roja / gem lettuce / queso fresco / fried shishito / cilantro
BAJA $12
tempura white fish / jalapeno lime aioli / white cabbage slaw / cilantro
grilled pork shoulder / roasted pineapple / white onion / avocado salsa / cilantro
hoisin / scallions / cucumbers / pickled peppers / mint / cilantro
TakoI ended up ordered a Korean taco (wagyu shirt rib, peanuts, fermented cucumber, napa cabbage and cilantro). Heather got the pollo asado (grilled chicken, avocado, white onion, salsa verde, queso fresco, crema, serrano and cilantro). Each comes with two tacos - homemade tortillas - overstuffed with ingredients.

TakoHeather called her tacos life-changing, and I have to say I had some envy. Meanwhile, my Korean tacos were very good. I loved the fresh, crunchy toppings and the sweet/spicy sauce enveloping the tender short rib. I love being able to see the chefs hand-making fresh tortillas, piling on incredible ingredients and delivering it to me just after the last garnish touches the top. My lips were on fire after scarfing down the first taco, but that didn't stop me from diving into the second.

I do think the environment is a little crazy. I felt rushed the whole time, and it's not easy to hear your dining companion. And my taco was tasty, but it wasn't a foodgasm. Heather, however, may disagree.

Grade: B
Täkō Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Vienna Edition: Tokyo

TokyoIf I had to pick some of my favorite foods in the world, they'd probably be sushi, caramel, ice cream, s'mores, Chinese food, macaroni and cheese, lasagna ... and more sushi. RL and I are always on the hunt for some good sushi, so while in Vienna, we stopped at Tokyo, which boasts thai, sushi and hibachi.

TokyoWe were there, literally, as soon as it opened, so it was empty. We were quickly served miso soup, which is always eh to me. Looking over the menu, I skipped straight to the specialty rolls section to see what kind of trouble we could get ourselves into.

TokyoSide note: I completely missed out on the special rolls written on the white board - lobster, godzilla both sounded good. But I didn't see them until it was too late.

TokyoWe ended up ordering a Tokyo Roll (fried shimp tempura, spicy tuna, avocado, spicy mayo and eel sauce) and a Yum-Yum Roll (fried crabstick, cream cheese, cucumber, avocado, topped with crabstick, crunchy, spicy mayo and eel sauce). We also got a side of hibachi noodles because yum.

Noodles were fine; they only gave us the "yum yum" sauce and not the other. But that's OK. I should've opted for some veggies in there so there was a textural difference. Still good.

TokyoThe sushi, which I didn't realize, was all fried. I was thinking there were just fried pieces inside. But, that's my bad. The Tokyo roll is quite large, making it a bit difficult to eat, but flavors are good. But I liked the Yum-Yum Roll better. The fried part wasn't overwhelming since there were a lot of other ingredients happening. The spicy mayo and eel sauce can make anything better, I think. Add some cream cheese and crab or shrimp - and you have a delicious combo. It may not even be considered sushi anymore, but it's pretty tasty.

Grade: B
Tokyo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato