Thursday, February 23, 2017

Charleston Edition: Cafe Crema

Cafe Crema

I'm beginning to notice there are a lot of cafes named "Crema." This West Side coffee shop, Cafe Crema, in Charleston is my third.

Though, I do appreciate this one's story. It was opened by a mother-daughter duo, wherein the daughter struggled with the decision to stay or leave the state -- ultimately deciding to stay to help her father who isn't in the best of health.

Cafe CremaThe cafe serves espresso drinks, pour-over coffee, teas, fruit smoothies, shakes, as well as waffles, grits, oatmeal, sandwiches, soups, salads and some desserts.
Cafe Crema, named after the brownish foam on top of a well-made, freshly pulled espresso, features a high-tech Nuova Simonelli Italian espresso machine. But the cafe also offers low-tech, high-taste coffee options not found in many coffeeshops. 
These include “pour-over coffee,” which makes use of the Chemex coffeemaker invented in 1941 by Peter Schlumbohm. Made from borosilicate glass and fastened with a wood collar and tie, the hourglass shaped device — whose design elegance earned it a place in New York’s Corning Museum of Glass — brews coffee through a filter without imparting any flavors of its own but for the coffee. 
“It has a very smooth taste and texture,” said Abdalla, who serves pour-over coffee in two caffeinated versions, Ethiopian Jimma Agaro and Wayfarer Blend, and a Tired Goat decaf blend. “It’s used in a lot of the more independent coffee shops.” (Charleston Gazette-Mail)
Cafe CremaThe one drink that stood out to me the most was the frappuccino because most coffee shops stick to more traditional drinks - americano, latte, etc. Frappuccino is actually a trademarked Starbucks drink, but many have taken the coffee+milkshake concept and made it their own. It is essentially a coffee base, blended with ice, this one added salted caramel syrup and was topped with whipped cream.
Frappuccino is a trademarked brand of the Starbucks Corporation for a line of blended coffee beverages that are served cold. It consists of coffee or other base ingredient (e.g. strawberries, bananas, cream), blended with ice and other various ingredients, usually topped with whipped cream and sauces. Frappuccinos are also sold as bottled coffee beverages in stores and from vending machines.

Frappuccino is a portmanteau of "frappe", the New England name for a milkshake with ice cream, and cappuccino, an espresso coffee with frothed milk. The word was coined and trademarked in Boston, Massachusetts. In the Boston area, a "frappe" (pronounced "frap" and spelled without the accent) is a thick milkshake with ice cream,[2] derived from the French word frappé. 
The recipe is a fusion of various cold beverages, including the coffee frap (similar to iced coffee) and the frappe (blended ice cream, syrup, and milk), with the Italian cappuccino
In response to the success of the Frappuccino, several of Starbucks' competitors have developed similar drinks with similar-sounding names: Cinnabon's Mochalatta and Caramelatta (1998); Coffee Break; Gloria Jean's Chillers.
Cafe CremaSo, it's a pretty basic white girl drink, so of course I ordered it. The woman behind the counter seemed a bit overwhelmed with how busy the cafe was, but after a few minutes, she had my order ready. One - this is very tasty. Two - that's because it's very sweet. I wasn't expecting a coffee drink to be so sweet, or maybe I've gotten used to not drinking super sweet coffee -- but it's tasty! I think I could've eased up on some of the sugar and replaced with some espresso, but I'm sure this would be well-received by many non-coffee-drinkers.

Cafe CremaOverall, though, it's good. I didn't see anything on the breakfast menu that I was overly excited about, so I opted for just the coffee this time. Not bad, not bad.

Cafe Crema

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Charleston Edition: Rock City Cake Company

Rock City CakesThere's a new bakery rocking Charleston. Rock City Cake Company, located along Capitol Street, is putting out some of the tastiest cakes, cupcakes, cookies and other treats in town.

Rock City has a cool, alternative vibe going on, which I can appreciate. Think tattoos, black T-shirts and rock & roll posters. The bakery actually first started in Logan but because of its sluggish economy, they decided to move to Charleston to try their luck.

Rock City CakesThe space is pretty cool with brick interior, musical decorations and a few tables and chairs for customers to enjoy their tasty, tasty treats.

Large glass cases display gorgeous cupcakes, cake balls, "long john" donuts, fudge and more. The offerings change daily, so there is always something new. While there, a woman was placing an order for a custom cake - their specialty.

Rock City CakesSo, I browed the case, intending to get one item to sample and ended up getting five. FIVE. Ugh. The first: a lovely chocolate-covered peanut butter buckeye. The peanut butter - mixed with a ton of sugar I'm sure - is so much better than regular peanut butter. Delicious.

Rock City CakesAnd,  also got one of their "long johns," which is the Spring Hill Pastry version of a "hot dog" or Quality Bake Shoppe's version of a "Mad Dog." This is basically a long donut split down the middle with cream added to the center. The one available this day was a Bavarian cream. Tasty? Oh yes. But, wait, there's more.

Do you see that upside down ice cream cone? That is a giant cake pop with a cone filled with more cake pop. Good god, this was amazing, huge and overly indulgent. And I enjoyed every minute of eating it. Ridiculously good.

That caramel cookie had a marshmallow filling. It had sticky caramel all over it. Definitely on the messier side, but so sweet and perfectly salty, sweet chewiness. Delicious.

Rock City CakesThe fruity pebbly cupcake was also quite good. Though, I think my favorite was that cake pop ice cream. It was just so over the top and beautiful and sweet. Just good.

Rock City Cake Company is located at 241 Capitol St. It's open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

For more information, visit Rock City Cake Company on Facebook or Instagram.

Grade: A
Rock City Cake Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bad Shepherd Brewing

Bad ShepherdWest Virginia's newest brewery is up and running; Bad Shepherd Brewing in Charleston is churning out its own brews and, soon, its own branded growlers.

Bad Shepherd Brewing replaced what used to be Charleston Brewing Company. Charleston Brewing Company opened in 2013 as both a brewery and pub. A year later, the pub portion was bought out by Black Sheep Burritos, and then just a few months ago, Black Sheep's brewery, Bad Shepherd, took the place of the brewery portion.

Bad ShepherdSo, I made a trip back to check out the new brewery and new brews. The interior is still pretty standard; we went to the back to sit at the bar and look over the options.

I got a sampler of the Sheep's Bane, the Guard Llama, Bad Shepherd and EZ Tiger. Every single one of these was really good! The Guard Llama, their hefeweizen, was my favorite. But I could've guessed as much. But, I actually really liked the milk stout AND the IPA. These beers are done very well. Very good flavor, and very well balanced. Can't wait to see what else they churn out!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Morgantown Edition: Heather's Original Philly Cheesesteaks

Pop Up Cheese Steak Place - Heather's Original Philly Cheesesteaks
Photo by Sher Yip
My trip to Philadelphia gave me a newfound appreciation for the philly cheesesteak. Before, I was like... eh, it's a steak sandwich with cheese. So? But, there's a fine art to the sandwich. When all those high-quality ingredients are combined together, it creates a beautiful, tasty offering that takes on a life of its own. The thinly shaved meat, the slightly caramelized peppers and onions, and the cheese that coats it all - it's a thing of beauty.

Heather's Original Philly Cheesesteaks
So, when I saw that a local pop-up called "Heather's Original Philly Cheesesteaks" claimed to bring a little Philly to Morgantown, I kept close tabs. Heather hosts her pop-up tent outside Mundy's in First Ward from time to time, and I recently was finally able to catch her.

Olive Or TwistThere's a nice little parking lot right across from Mundy's, so it's super easy to swing right in. We got here a little late in the evening and just so happened to snag the last cheesesteaks. She sold out! More than 100 that evening! But, after I thankfully was told they had enough for me, I paid my $9 (they do take card!) and went inside Mundy's to wait for my order.

Heather's Original Philly CheesesteaksAfter a few minutes, one of the women brought my order to me - which includes my sandwich with onions and peppers, a side of chips and a pickle for $9. The only thing that would be nice is if there was an option to add a water. Though, I gather the idea is to go into Mundy's and get a beer.

But, these are actually pretty good! Stuffed full of meat, plenty of peppers and onions, I could always go for more cheese - but that's just me. I was impressed! These are the real deal. Good bread - not too much, like other places. Good proportions, which made for the perfect bite. Already excited to see when she's back.

Grade: A

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Quebec City, CANADA Edition: Côtes-à-Côtes Resto Grill

Cotes a CotesThis restaurant was an unplanned one - but our tummies were rumbling, and New Year's Day makes it a bit more difficult to find places open. Luckily, Côtes-à-Côtes Resto Grill came through for us.

Cotes a Cotes
They actually sent a hostess outside with menus to catch passers-by and let them know they are open. It was so cold, so I felt bad for her - but the strategy worked. We rushed in from out of the cold and were seated at the bar until a table opened up. Once it did, we transitioned.

Cotes a Cotes
The menu had some interesting options, but the one that caught my eye was bison carpaccio with parmesan chips and garlic aioli. Bison carpaccio is not something you see on the menu every day, so I was all about it.

Cotes a CotesLittle bites of olives and pretzel thins to start.

Cotes a CotesAnd, look how beautiful that display is? There was this nice salad on top, which was perfect for the garlic aioli and slivers of parmesan. There was a balsamic on top, and it all went together quite well. The nice leafy greens, the creamy sauces, fresh veggies and that thin bison was delish.

The only problem is that as I was chomping away, I crunched down on a piece of hard, black plastic. It looked like a piece of plastic cutlery broke off and made its way onto my meal somehow. Not too appetizing, considering I don't know what that came from. But, before that unsettling moment, I was pleased.

Grade: B
Côtes À Côtes Resto-grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Boston, MA: Logan International Airport - Wahlburgers

WahlburgersMy flight out of Boston back to Pittsburgh was really early in the morning, but that wasn't going to stop me from finding something delicious to eat. As I looked around to see what was in my terminal, I decided that Wahlburgers would be my best bet for something that wasn't a HUGE chain.

Paul Wahlberg still remembers the smell of his Dad’s BBQ grill
and the big pot he used to fry up their homemade French fries.
It’s the casual comfort food from his childhood that he still loves best.
In hopes of sharing some of these favorite recipes, Paul got together
with his family and partners to create a comfortable, friendly restaurant
that would appeal to every generation. Of course, one of his favorite foods
has always been burgers and there are plenty of them at Wahlburgers
along with a few creative spins on fun side dishes from his past.
Our chef-inspired menu offers delicious burgers
and so much more made with only fresh ground beef,
high-quality ingredients and lots of love.
WahlburgersSo, I found the bright green chairs and was seated for breakfast. I didn't get to try an actual burger, so I went for the next best thing: a breakfast sandwich with two eggs, government cheese, housemade tomato jam, with sausage. I also got a side of tater tots because, I dunno, why not?

So, this sandwich was just OK. My biggest problem is the bun is SO light and fluffy, it just gets completely soggy. The tomato jam became the remnants of some tomato-based sauce that just soaked up in the bun. So, definitely a lack of flavor and some texture issues. Tough to say if their burgers would be better - but if they are using this same bun, it can't be that great.

WahlburgersGrade: C

Friday, February 17, 2017

Winter Blues North Farmers Market

Winter Blues North Farmers MarketThe Winter Blues North Farmers Market was held on Feb. 9.

Winter Blues North Farmers MarketMore than 20 local farmers will gathered to showcase products from West Virginia and the surrounding areas available during cooler months: locally raised meats, eggs, cheeses, fresh produce, breads, jams, jellies, nuts, honey, fruits, woolen products and more.

Winter Blues North Farmers MarketIn addition to our usual folks we see at the market, Birch Root Farms had goats milk soap, lotions and lip balms. The Custard Stand was there with hot dog chili sauce and chili soup. Family Roots Farm had tons of maple products - like syrup, sugar, candy, granola, fudge, cotton candy and nuts. Glascocks Produce had lots of apples, cider, squash, onions, potatoes, and lettuce. Hearts of the Meadow Farm had lamb and mutton. Kreative Artz by Kimberly had soaps, scrubs, balms and lamps. Ridge Roasters brought locally roasted coffee and coffee beans. Rimfire Apiary had honey, and Spring Valley Farm and Orchard had a number of apples, greens, leeks, squash, carrots, cabbage, beets and potatoes.

Winter Blues North Farmers Market

Winter Blues North Farmers Market

Winter Blues North Farmers Market

Winter Blues North Farmers Market

"This is a great opportunity to highlight the amazing variety of products available in the winter months," said Bryan Cheslock, president of the Morgantown Farmers' Market Growers Association, which is hosting the event in coordination with WVU Extension Service Small Farm Center. "Our farmers are a major economic driver, and this event not only boosts local business but supports our community with fresh, delicious goods."

Winter Blues North Farmers Market
Local Food Dine Around

In addition the fresh produce and goods, this year's event featured the new Local Food Dine Around and the Cast Iron Cook-Off.

Winter Blues North Farmers Market
Local restaurants will served up specialty dishes that were available for purchase. Chefs from Hill & Hollow, Morgantown Brewing Company, and Garcia's Grill, among others, will prepare entrees with locally grown foods so diners can fill their bellies while browsing the market.

Cast Iron Cook-Off

The Cast Iron Cook-Off, which is a cooking competition that celebrates food, culinary heritage and sustaining the local farm-to-table movement, pit chef against chef in a competition to cook the best meal.

Winter Blues North Farmers Market
Inspired by Food Network's "Chopped," chefs had 20 minutes to pick their ingredients from the market and prepared their meal in 1 hour and 15 minutes. The five chefs were then judged on their dishes.

The Cast Iron Cook-Off competition, hosted by the Collaborative for the 21st Century Appalachia, recognized a Grand Champion and Best Overall Dish at the Awards Ceremony. A Junior Cast Iron Cook-Off competition was held simultaneously with up to eight teams of high school students and a mentor.

Winter Blues North Farmers MarketRomney, West Virginia-based bluegrass Buck Mountain String Band also performed.

This event, which was sponsored by City Neon, is open to the public. The entry donation of $2 was help benefit Empty Bowls Monongalia.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Boston, MA Edition: Sugarfina

SugarfinaI'm gonna make this one short and sweet because I didn't spend too much time here, but I did absolutely fall in love with the design and concept.


Sugarfina has this "candy bento" concept where you select one of the perfectly packaged square boxes of candies and put them in a container so you have a nice variety of candies to choose from. I super love this idea because of how beautifully packaged it is and how you can pick and choose.

SugarfinaThey have berry-flavored gummy lips, gummy ice cream cones, rose-infused gummy roses, olive-shaped white chocolate almonds, peach-flavored gummy hearts, berry-flavored jellybeans, champagne-flavored gummy bears, apple-flavored caramels and so much more.

SugarfinaSo, I tried one of the salted caramel chocolates and fell in love. Granted, this is like my favorite candy. But, it was really, really good.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Boston, MA Edition: Eataly

EatalyImagine a huge Italian marketplace full of restaurants, food/beverage counters, bakery, retail items and even a cooking school. That's Eataly.

EatalyEataly has a few locations: Chicago, New York City, LA and Boston. I was first introduced to this concept in Chicago, and then I stumbled upon the Boston location by chance.

EatalySo, I walked in and the first section I saw was coffee at Lavazza. When it's cold and rainy, I can think of no better solution than a hot beverage. I ordered a hot chocolate, which was delicious.

Boasting over 120 years of history, Lavazza was created by the tenacious and intuitive Luigi Lavazza, the first to create coffee blends from beans of different origins. In 1895, he acquired a small grocery store in the heart of Turin. The location is still open today, while the company has grown to be the symbol of Italian espresso worldwide. Lavazza shares Eataly’s passion for quality. Our caffè offers a wide menu of Lavazza’s traditional Italian espresso-based drinks, American coffee drinks, and housemade pastries for an authentic “colazione all’italiana,” or Italian breakfast. 
Then, venturing upstairs, there are tons of small counters and open shops that have all sorts of specialty goods: seafood, meat, cheese, breads, cooking utensils, produce, oils, just literally anything you can think of.

EatalyAnd this Boston store is huge! It's so beautiful, and if I lived locally, I would definitely be buying lots of delicious items here.

EatalyI wish there was a market like this nearby. I do love the farmers market, but this takes it up a few notches.

EatalyThey even have prepared foods in addition to ingredients so you can eat AND shop.

EatalyBest of both worlds.