Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bridgeport Edition: Mia Margherita

When Afton and I went to Bridgeport to stop at our closest Sephora, we stopped to get dinner at Mia Margherita. It was an odd experience.

Where I was seated, I was facing an open area where the staff were just kind of standing around in the dining area waiting on people as they came in. It was super awkward to just be facing these people as they're talking.

Mia margheritaAnd the service was a bit off. We started off with fried calamari, but I think our waitress tried to give it to the table next to us first. I'm not generally a huge fan of calamari, and this was really no different. There was a lemon cream dipping sauce that didn't do much for me, but underneath, there was this sweet and sour sauce I liked much better. But still, just kind of soggy, greasy chewy bits.

Mia margheritaFor our main entrees, we actually ordered two and split them. First, we had the gorgonzola mac and cheese, because how could you not? Creamy gorgonzola, pancetta, capicolla, garlic and herb breadcrumbs. For an entree portion, I guess I was expecting it to be much larger. The flavor was OK. Got a bit of that kick. The breadcrumbs were just kind of on top; they could've been baked in more so that when you breathe in, you don't inhale all of it. We each ate half, and my tummy was still rumbling.

Mia margheritaThe other dish we ordered was a small West Virginia via San Francisco pizza. It has pepperoni, sausage, mozzarella, ricotta and parmigiano reggiano. This pizza wasn't bad. The dollops of ricotta could've been more strategic so you actually get some in each bite. Otherwise, it's kind of a regular pizza with sausage. I did like the sauce, though, and the bites with ricotta were pretty good.

With just half the macaroni and cheese and half the smallest pizza, I was still pretty hungry. So I got dessert, too. I ordered the warm gallettes napoleon, which is a fresh-baked Italian cookie, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Mia margherita
First of all, there's no ice cream. It's more like a whipped cream. It was good, though. The dark chocolate part I wasn't crazy about, but the cookie itself was tasty. Chilled and a little hard, but a light sweetness I enjoyed.

So maybe it was because it was coming on the heels of a really great Italian dinner I had recently. Or maybe it was just because the service and atmosphere were a bit off, but I wasn't super impressed. It was pretty average to me. Plus I was still hungry when I left - despite having shelled out more than $20. Meh, I don't know. Maybe another time.

Grade: C
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Feast of Seven Fishes Festival

Feast of Seven Fishes Collage

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian celebration on Christmas Eve that features dishes made with fish and seafood. Seven dishes (sometimes more) are prepared using seafood. While I didn't see anything starting particular dishes are required, there are definitely some popular ones, like fried smelts, fish stew and more.

North Central West Virginia has a large Italian population, so it makes sense to have a festival honoring this tradition in Fairmont. I'm told the festival came to be because of a book, or graphic novel, that showcased a family cooking fish on Christmas Eve. The book spearheaded the launch of the festival and celebration of the Italian heritage.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes festival was held on Adams Street in downtown Fairmont this past Saturday (Dec. 13). There's no fee to get in, but the vendors all have wares and food for sale. Entertainment from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. included Benjamin DeFazio, Jenna Won't Sing and 5 Guys Named Moe.

They have a "cooking school" as part of the festival, which are demonstrations that feature eight classic Italian dishes prepared by local chefs. Tickets for those were $20 per person and included samples of dishes and a glass of wine.

A holiday artisan market was held indoors and had pottery, cutting boards, baking supplies, soaps and lotions, as well as coffee and cookies at the cafe area.

Feast of Seven FishesStreet vendors had everything from steak hoagies to kettle corn to cannolis to baked goods. This is where I was really searched for those seafood dishes. The most I found was crab soup, lobster ravioli, fried calamari and seafood chowder. Not quite seven.

Lisa did buy one dish - just to have a taste of the Seven Fishes - from Heston Farms Foxfire Restaurant. We got the lobster ravioli for $7. It was pretty tasty, though not quite impressive with the five or so raviolis. It was very good, though.

If you're willing to brave a very chilly mid-December Saturday to check out the festival, it is a nice little getaway. Plus it's a great chance to learn about new artisans in the area and get some very tasty grub!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fairmont Edition: All Things Herbal

All Things HerbalWhile in Fairmont, Lisa and I stumbled upon All Things Herbal.

All Things HerbalThis little market has local, organically grown meat, produce, eggs and dairy, as well as herbs, yoga and local artisan products. It's just a super cool little place, and if you get the chance, you should totally check it out.

All Things Herbal

Friday, December 12, 2014

Morgantown Edition: The Angry Beaver

Angry Beaver CollageBar food is a class all its own. It's fried, it's simple, and it's tasty - especially after a few beers.

My friend Sher mentioned The Angry Beaver a while back because he knows the owner. It is located in Westover, in the same lot as the Barside Grill. This used to be Weezies, I believe, and the spinoff pizza place Michael's Pizzeria. If you are familiar with the bar Weezies, you will understand why this place is named The Angry Beaver. Yes, it's what you're thinking.

Anyway, we went early enough for a quick dinner. I'll try just about anywhere once - you never know! They have the kind of typical fried appetizers - fries, cheese sticks - and sandwiches - Italian, Philly and cheese. Nothing too crazy.

Angry BeaverI ordered the buffalo chicken ranch, which comes with onion, bacon and pepper jack cheese. Just one woman was working, but she was nice and attentive. Before long, our plates came out.

My sandwich had these ginormous chunks of onion, so I ditched about half of them. But after that, it was actually pretty good. Bar food, yes, but it hits that buffalo chicken/ranch craving I've been having. Overall, average.

Grade: C
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Morgantown Edition: The Dancing Fig

Dancing FigThe Dancing Fig was located on High Street (formerly Wesbanco turned Lira turned The Dancing Fig turned The Bank at 344), and now it is on University Avenue (in former Zenclay Cafe location).

Dancing FigThey're billed as Italian fusion, and I went during their grand opening. Later in the night, they were having a prohibition-themed party. We went early on, though, to get a taste of the regular menu. Parking is free here, but a bit precarious. At least they have a lot - one right near the building and the other across University Avenue. It's not bad, though.

Dancing FigTheir hours are 7 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4:30-10 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 4:30-11 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch on Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday. So make sure you check the hours before you head out.

We were there early that evening and were seated at a high top. The space is fairly small, so I imagine it can get full pretty quickly. Because we were there early, it was mostly empty. As we went through the course of the meal, the restaurant did begin to fill up a bit.

The interior is lovely, laidback and cool - yet elegant. They have a focus on the drinks, as well, though I didn't indulge this night.

Our server was fantastic and super helpful. We put in two appetizers: the pork belly with roasted grapes, bleu cheese and arugula salad AND brie cheese purses with puff pasty, brie cheese and fig preserve.

Dancing FigThe pork belly was awesome. Nice sear and crisp on the outside and tender inside. One thousand times better than bacon. The sweetness of roasted grapes and crunch of arugula was perfect. Plus there was like this balsamic and pesto - some acid and sweet and an awesome combo of textures.

Dancing FigThe brie cheese purses seemed more of a puff pastry with caramel sauce and the preserves. I tasted little (if any) brie cheese. That's not to say these weren't good. They were very good, but they were like a dessert and sans the cheese flavor. Still, though, a tasty puff pastry with delicious caramel and preserves. Good.

Dancing FigWith my entree, I got a house salad, which had greens, tomato, red onion, bleu cheese and a basil balsamic dressing. I'm a big fan of their house salad because it packs some flavor. Love their house dressing and fresh ingredients.

I also just want to make note of the pace of the meal at this point. Each was brought out at perfect timing - some breathing room between plates, and really gave us a nice experience.

Dancing FigThey have some new menu items as well as the older ones. Okay, main entree was chicken marsala, at the recommendation of the server, which is Italian-breaded chicken, wild mushrooms, marsala wine and demi glace with zucchini and mashed potatoes. I don't typically order chicken at new places, but this has changed my world. It was a huge portion, first of all. And it was so well-thought out. Different components combined to make a truly well-rounded dish with a nice roasted veggie and smooth mashed potatoes with a nicely breaded chicken. Plus a delicious marsala sauce that I need on all my mushrooms for the rest of time.

Our whole meal was so delicious, so we went for dessert. Tiramisu took a little longer than I expected, but it was worth it. A huge portion just drowning in whipped cream and cocoa powder. So good.

Dancing Fig

The Dancing Fig nailed this meal. Like, I can't wait to go back. Like, is up there in my top restaurants right now because between the vibe I got from this place, combined with the awesome service, unique drinks and just delicious food, I'm not really sure what more you can ask for. Plus large portions for a more upscale place.

I feel as thought they've gotten more into their groove here, dishing out incredible food in an even better environment. I hope they're a mainstay for years to come.

Grade: A
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