Monday, September 23, 2019

Weirton Edition: La Cucina Italian Grill

La CucinaLa Cucina Italian Grill is a restaurant in Weirton that focuses on authentic cuisine and traditional wine. I never turn down pasta, so I was excited to try this place for lunch.

La CucinaThe interior is welcoming, with warm tones and some exposed brick art dotting the walls.

La CucinaThe menu has soup, homemade meatballs, pastas and pizzas.

La CucinaFirst, I started with a house salad with French dressing - complete with giant hunks of fresh tomatoes.

La CucinaThen, there were house rolls topped with cheese and herbs.

La CucinaAnd for my entree - lobster ravioli with a rose sauce. This has me written all over it. Creamy, rich, flavorful. It hit all the right notes. Have you been?

Nashville, TN Edition: Rolf and Daughters

Rolph & DaughtersOne of my best friends lives in Nashville, so I'm fortunate to be able to visit now and then.

Rolph & DaughtersNot only do I love this town because it means I get to see one of my best friends, I love that there's life and energy and amazing food.

Rolph & DaughtersAt the top of my to-visit list was Rolf and Daughters, which is featured on Zagat. 

Rolph & Daughters
An absolute must“ for ”innovative“ New American cuisine, this upscale Germantown ”gem“ presents a ”heavenly“ array of shareable small plates, hearty entrees and ”incredible cocktails“ dispensed by a ”top-notch“ team; the ”industrial“ space in a restored factory building offers communal seating (as well as smaller tables) and a patio for ”people-watching“, but be sure to arrive ”really early" if you can’t snag a reservation.
Rolph & Daughters
We started with some sourdough and seaweed butter. SEAWEED BUTTER y'all - it kinda just tasted extra salty.

Rolph & DaughtersThen I had dry-aged beef tartare, lime leaf, peanut and mint. I'm not gonna lie - this looked like straight raw hamburger meat (which I used to steal from the pack when my mom was cooking) - but the peanut was crucial and gave it some crunch.

Rolph & DaughtersBri ordered the sweet potato with golden raisin, chili and anchovy.

Rolph & DaughtersThen I had "Cecamariti," which was a handmade pasta made from sourdough - how cool is that. It came with cultured butter and pepper.

Rolph & DaughtersThese were tapas-style, so not huge portions. That made me feel better about ordering dessert.

Rolph & DaughtersSo I went with the pear with buttermilk ice cream, katafi and spice honey. Wow, this is one of the tastiest things I've had in recent memory.

Rolph & DaughtersHave you been here?

Rolf and Daughters Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Get your fill of mountain green beans

Green Beans

Here is my latest column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail on green beans:

Green beans have a special place in Appalachia’s heart — no matter their form: half-runners or pole beans, leather britches or shuck beans, or even green bean casserole.

This versatile bean has been grown in Appalachia for more than 1,000 years, according to “Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste: Heirloom Seed Savers in Appalachia” by Bill Best.

And West Virginia has several unique native heritage varieties of pole beans (meaning they grow tall and need a pole for support) and half-runner beans (which are halfway between a bush bean and a pole bean, so they don’t grow quite as tall), according to “Heritage Beans as a Commercial Crop for West Virginia for West Virginia Farms” by Lewis W. Jett.

Growing beans

Heritage beans are popular in home gardens across Appalachia and connect generations through seed saving. That not only helps with biodiversity on farms, but it’s also important health-wise: Heritage beans tend to be high in fiber, low in fat and high in protein.

“West Virginia consumers who demand these beans cannot find them in local grocery markets or in most restaurants,” according to Jett.

So, these beans aren’t something you can find just anywhere — even if we Appalachians have a taste for them. And continuing to preserve these varieties for the future is important to preserving a piece of our history.

Stringing beans

Like many others, I have fond childhood memories of stringing beans. I vividly remember sitting with my neighbor, who set me up on a chair and taught me to break off the tip of the green bean, pull the string down the one side. Repeat on the other end, then snap them in half and place them in a big bucket.

I recently relived this memory at the Capitol Market with their 10th Annual Bean Stringin’ Event where people came to purchase local green beans, string them and donate them to Manna Meal, which are used all year round to feed those in need.

This pastime is near and dear to my heart — as well as many Appalachians who recall sitting on the porch with grandma, filling up a bucket.

Drying beans

While some beans may be cooked low and slow with some salted pork, many others (oftentimes greasy beans) are preserved in their pods.

Shuck beans or leather britches refers to stringing beans with a needle and thread, then hanging them out to dry before storing them in jars or bags. Months later, these beans can be rehydrated and cooked, which creates a silky, tender texture.

Legend dictates that the beans look like leather britches that had gotten wet and then dried out — hence the name. Shuck beans refers to the fact that they were dried in their shuck.

The bean’s legacy runs deep in Appalachia. Like many traditional foods, these beans were diverse, and Appalachians devised a way to make the summer bounty last throughout the winter. And through seed-savers, these heirloom beans are living on for future generations to enjoy as much as we do.

Morgantown Edition: BSB Wings

Big Shot Bobs

Big Shot Bob's House of Wings just opened a Morgantown location. They are based in Pittsburgh but have a few locations in West Virginia: Weirton and Wheeling. But this is the first I tried.

Big Shot BobsThis shop is cash only, so be sure to get some money out before you go. Or, they have an ATM on site. The interior is open with a decent amount of seating, including a bar area.

Big Shot BobsThe wing menu of flavors is crazy. There are literally just so many, and many of them build on top of one another. I ultimately went with "TALK OF BEAVER FALLS - Hot and Tangy. One of Our Bestsellers."

Big Shot BobsThey weren't joking when they said they have some kick. It has an almost vinegar-y flavor that perked me right up. Interesting flavor though. Do you have a favorite?

Meadowview, VA Edition: Harvest Table Restaurant

MeadowviewAs part of my book club I'm in, I recently read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver

MeadowviewAnd, yes, it's a food-related book club.

MeadowviewBut what I didn't know until my friend Jayne pointed it out was that there's a restaurant in Meadowview, Virginia, inspired by the book: Harvest Table Restaurant.

MeadowviewThere's an adjoining Farmers' Guild, which showcases products from more than 200 artisans.

We began as an extension of the bestselling book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, written by our Director Steven Hopp, his wife Barbara Kingsolver, and two daughters. The story about one family’s year-long experiment to eat in-season locally grown foods has become more than just their story. Thousands of folks have told us stories of reclaiming a healthier food culture--they found their local farmers’ market, raised chickens, and planted gardens. This book, and others, have inspired individuals, families, and communities to be involved in local food movements.The Harvest Table is more than just a restaurant. Over the last ten years, the Harvest Table family has grown to include our kitchen staff, servers, store clerks, farmers, small business owners, artisans and neighbors. Relationships have developed over the common desire to support local and celebrate our Appalachian heritage.  
MeadowviewThe menu is fairly small for lunch, but I went with the Pimento Cheese Sandwich - Kenny's farmhouse chipotle colby garlic pimento cheese.

MeadowviewAnd I asked for a side of pepper jelly to help give it that bit of sweetness.

MeadowviewWho can turn down pimento cheese, though?

MeadowviewTasty! Have you been to this restaurant?

MeadowviewOr, have you read the book? It's really fascinating!


Harvest Table Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Morgantown Edition: Big Red's Shanty Burgers & Dogs

Big Reds

Big Red's Shanty Burgers & Dogs has moved into a larger location on Fort Pierpont Road.

Big RedsThe restaurant focuses on burgers and hotdogs with a fun West Virginia flair - like the "Mothman Meatball Hoagie" and "Yeti Burger."

Big RedsI went with a Lil Appalachian hot dog with chili, slaw, mustard and onions. It came chock-full of toppings - including a slightly sweet sauce.

Big RedsAnd I went for a "Hillbilly Egg Roll" - which was a sweet and spicy slow-roasted pork.

Big RedsBoth super tasty. Have you ever been?

Abingdon, VA Edition: Zazzy'z Coffee House and Roastery

Zazzys & Balkan Bakery

Zazzy'z is the coffee shop connected to The Balkan Bakery in my last post.

Zazzys & Balkan BakeryHoused in a beautiful home, this coffee shop has a few cozy rooms full of books, art and snacks.

Zazzys & Balkan BakeryI made my way back to the cafe area to look over the menu.

Zazzys & Balkan BakeryThere were fresh-made muffins, quiche, cookies and more.

Zazzys & Balkan BakeryLooking over the case, I immediately knew what I wanted: crab quiche.

Zazzys & Balkan BakeryHave you ever had crab quiche? There was a literal entire layer of real crab. Just so delicious.

Zazzys & Balkan BakeryAnd a caramel frappuccino because there's nothing better than a caramel coffee milkshake.

Zazzys & Balkan BakeryHave you ever been?

Zazzys & Balkan BakeryZazzy'Z Coffee House and Roastery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato