Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Huntington Edition: Backyard Pizza

Backyard PizzaWell, I have been waiting for years, literally, to try Backyard Pizza and Raw Bar. Backyard Pizza, the creative pizza joint, is essentially Huntington's version Pies & Pints

Backyard PizzaFor a long time, I had heard rave reviews of this pizza/oyster bar, but before I had a chance to make it down there, it tragically went up in flames. While they were rebuilding, I got a small taste of Backyard while at Rails & Ales, and I immediately fell in love.

Backyard PizzaI'll never forget it: It was the Woo-Tang, with hickory grilled chicken, bleu cheese crumbles, fresh shredded mozzarella, roasted red peppers, diced jalapenos, and red onion with cilantro, honey, Sriracha and lime schwing sauce.

Backyard PizzaSo, when they finally reopened, I started making plans to check it out -- the real deal this time. Walking inside, I was already tickled to see a giant West Virginia flag hanging on the wall. The space is large with some almost celestial or cosmic themes - astronauts on the wall with some orb lighting. Pair that with some brick and wooden accents.

Backyard PizzaWe were seated near the kitchen, so we could see all the pizzas coming out of the giant, wood-fired oven. I passed on the oysters this round and opted for the "Truffle Shuffle," which has baby portabello mushrooms tossed in white truffle oil and rosemary. Roasted garlic cream sauce, caramelized onion, sauteed spinach, smoked applewood bacon with mozzarella and parmesan.

Backyard Pizza
Ayyeee, this one is super good too. That flavor combo is right up my alley - so I love the rich, creamy based, the umami truffle, and the earthy mushrooms. It was pretty good. I have to say, I think the Woo-Tang is my favorite. But this one - very good, especially if you're in the mood for creamy, smoky, cheesy goodness.

Backyard PizzaGrade: A
Backyard Pizza & Raw Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, February 27, 2017

Boston, MA Edition: Toro

ToroOne of the best dining experiences of my life was at Toro in Boston. Not just because of the food, but because of a chance encounter. 

ToroToro is an award-winning Spanish tapas restaurant in Boston. It's rustic, it's chic and it's busy. And it feels like you've been transported to beautiful Barcelona.

Toro is a Barcelona-style tapas restaurant located in Boston’s South End. We serve traditional and modern Spanish-style small plates made with locally sourced and sustainable ingredients.
Hailed as Boston's best kept secret, Toro is a Spanish tapas restaurant and bar that has been serving the South End since 2005. Created by James Beard Award-winning Chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette, the menu features Barcelona-inspired hot and cold small plates, designed to be served and enjoyed tapas-style. The beverage program features classic-inspired cocktails and an eclectic, carefully curated wine list. Toro is open seven days a week for dinner, serves lunch on the weekdays and features a special brunch on Sunday. Due to our small size we are unable to accommodate dinner reservations and seat all parties on a first-come, first serve basis. We do accept lunch reservations of any size and take brunch reservations for parties of 6 or more.
ToroWe were seated on this awkward little corner at the end of the booth seating and beginning of window seating. We were right behind this one, elderly gentleman eating alone who seemed to come here often, as he knew the servers by name. This is Jack Truslow.

ToroKaitlynn and I were having a bit of a heart-to-heart, as it was our last day together for probably months. We talked about our respective futures and where we see things going, and we talked about changes ahead. I lamented how I feel such a strong connection to West Virginia, and how I don't want to be "one of the ones who leave." Even though I totally understand why people do. I told her how I love the bustling city and how full of life it is, but there are things about home that you just can't get elsewhere.

ToroIn the midst of this deep conversation, we put in some orders from the menu. Tapas necessitates ordering a few different bites and sharing them amongst the table. We ordered a handful and soon enough, fresh baked bread was delivered to our table. It was yeasty, porous and divine.

ToroKaitlynn's "Pan con Tomate" came out, which is toasted bread, tomato, garlic, Spanish olive oil, sea salt and anchovies. Next, my "Maíz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija" was grilled corn with aioli, lime, espelette pepper and aged cheese. I don't say this often - but this was life-changing. I didn't know that corn could taste this good. IT's hidden under this mound of cheesy creamy deliciousness. The corn is perfectly grilled, the little lime just enhances the flavors. Like, you must get this. Please get this so we can talk about it. There's nothing else like this. Amazing.

ToroOK, I also got the "Uni Bocadillo," which is a pressed uni (sea urchin) sandwich with miso butter and pickled mustard seeds. Also, quite good. Small, light, flavorful.

We took bites of everything, exclaiming how incredible each of these small plates were, while carrying on our conversation about real-world adult shit. It was then that Jack Truslow apologized and interrupted our conversation. He was from North Carolina, but fell in love with Boston. He loved the city and overheard it was my last day (and heard me saying city folk are not super nice), so he wanted to prove Boston is lovely. He ordered us one more small plate - "pimientos del Padron," which are spicy green peppers and sea salt.

ToroIt's a very simple, but beautiful dish full of vibrant flavors - like each of these plates. I was overwhelmed with his generosity. We continued to talk, and he knew of all the great places in town and asked how I was liking things. He caught my name and then mentioned Candice Bergen (who my mother got inspiration from in naming me), and he was delighted to hear that fact. Jack Truslow became the unintended, but very welcomed third party at our table.

ToroIf I felt before that Boston wasn't overly friendly, he completely changed my mind. That was exactly what he intended to do - to show Boston could be friendly. He carried on a long conversation with us about food once he found out I was a blogger, and we talked about the incredible meal we all had just had.

Toro really is an incredible place. Flavors I haven't had before - all prepared fresh and full of vibrancy. And the customers, well, they are pretty great, too.

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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Charleston Edition: Sarah's Bakery

Sarah's bakeryCharleston is beaming with exceptional bakeries -- a good problem to have. And, Sarah's Bakery, located on Bridge Road, is one that has made a name for itself.

Sarah's bakerySarah's Bakery specializes pies, quiches, cupcakes, brownies and other pastries. Classic items like eclairs, cream horns, cookies, muffins, scones and cinnamon rolls are also available. And, oddly enough, the chicken pot pie is the most popular item.

Sarah's bakery
Sarah's Bakery is a collaboration between Charleston's award-winning Chef Sarah Plumley and Food Network’s “Chopped" Champion and Brooklyn, NY native Chef Eric Levine.
Sarah's bakeryThat wasn't there when we stopped by early this morning, but plenty of other goodies were: chocolate caramel corn cake, beautiful blueberry muffins, croissants, a few types of quiche and so much more. There is such an incredible selection available, and it's constantly changing. Love that. You could go at different times of day for a week and try all sorts of different items.

Sarah's bakerySo, I went for a cannoli, since they only offer them on Saturdays, as well as a slice of quiche - the asparagus, ricotta and parmesan one.

Sarah's bakeryThe filling of the cannoli was very sweet. Instead of a more mild ricotta, it was more like an icing (maybe just more sugar?) and less fluffy, more thick. It definitely made it more indulgent. Still delicious.

Sarah's bakery

The quiche was good - very fluffy and silky. The crust was soft. The top had a nice little crisp layer -- pretty tasty overall.

Sarah's bakeryBoth of these items were good. I also love that this bakery has a focus on savory items as well, because it's common to see places dish out tons of cupcakes or cookies. But, I like that you can get the savory side here. Because I like both. And, there aren't a ton of places where you can get a savory pie.

Sarah's bakeryHave you been? What's your favorite thing?

Sarah's bakery

Sarah's bakeryGrade: A
Sarah's Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Charleston Edition: Drug Emporium & Healthy Life Market

Drug emporium & healthy life
You guys, during my whole time of living in Charleston, I had never made it to Drug Emporium. Big mistake, as I have found out because LOOK at this beer selection. They even have a growler fill station!

Drug emporium & healthy lifeThey have a great local and craft beer selection. AND, there is cheese and chocolate nearby. Plus lots of other stuff, but let's focus on the beer, shall we?

Drug emporium & healthy life
Hawk Knob, Greenbrier Valley, Mountain State Brewing Company... all in one spot! Love this.

Drug emporium & healthy lifeIn Morgantown, we have a few places that have small craft beer selections, but most are not as expansive as this.

Drug emporium & healthy lifeAlso, next door there is the Healthy Life Market, which has lots of "healthy" stuff. Think herbs, spices, organic, natural, etc., foods.

Drug emporium & healthy lifeAnd, I was an especially big fan of this pork lard or duck fat.

Drug emporium & healthy lifeAlso, I think there is value in some of this stuff, but others seem a bit much. Like, some of these granola bars are so full of sugar, they hardly constitute as "healthy." BUT, there is lots of other good stuff here.

Drug emporium & healthy lifeSo, have you been to either of these? Did you discover them much earlier in life than me?

Drug emporium & healthy life

Drug emporium & healthy life

Friday, February 24, 2017

Charleston Edition: Adventures Bar & Grill

AdventuresAs soon as I saw a ~new~ restaurant on Charleston's Restaurant Week list, I was like a moth to a flame. Adventures Bar & Grill just opened a few months ago and already committed to participating in the annual weeklong event. Stoked.

AdventuresThe biggest draw for Adventures Bar & Grill is that it's literally atop a mountain, so the views are amazing and you can see from one end of town to the other. It was dark, but I tried my best to help capture the views facing toward the Capitol.

AdventuresThe biggest drawback is that the restaurant is within a gated community, meaning you need to know the passcode to enter the gate. You can simply call the restaurant for this code, but my friend already had the inside scoop, so no worries there.

AdventuresThe gate opens back toward the car, which was odd, so make sure you don't pull up too close. And, then we began the ascent. You wind up this mountain before seeing the restaurant, which is set off by its giant windows and nice outdoor space. Too bad it was chilly this evening. When we entered, they were crazy busy. We had reservations but had to wait for a bit -- which, really, is a good problem to have for a new restaurant. Glad to see they're getting lots of business.

AdventuresTheir restaurant week menu offered some tasty options influenced by Greek and Mediterranean flavors; I went with deep-fried goat cheese, Maryland lump crab cakes with remoulade sauce, brussel sprouts and croquette potatoes, and pistachio stuffed baklava.

AdventuresOur server was a bit flustered, but I was pretty excited once the deep-fried goat cheese came out. This giant ball housed creamy, delicious goat cheese, and it was sprinkled with powdered sugar and honey. I loved the sweet and creamy. The pita chips were nice and crisp. This was a good appetizer, if not a bit heavy. Very tasty.

AdventuresMy entree of crab cakes was pretty good. Just a touch dry, but it had some good flavor. That sauce was crucial; a bit more could've helped with the dryness. I've never had brussel sprouts shredded in this way, and the potatoes were just fine. A little more seasoning would've made them perfect. Not bad, not bad.

AdventuresThe dessert was the least exciting part. Served on a small plastic plate, it was dry and just not very exciting. Drizzle that ish in honey or something.

Overall, not a bad addition to the Charleston food scene. I'd be curious to see what's on their regular menu and stop back at a time when maybe they aren't so busy. I gather that a lot of folks had a similar idea as I did. New restaurant? Restaurant Week? Perfect time to try it out at a decent price point. Either way, especially for being so new, they did a good job on a crazy busy evening.

Grade: B
Adventures Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato