Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pittsburgh, PA Edition: Church Brew Works

Church Brew WorksI'm not quite sure if there's a better way to get my attention than creating a brewery in a church.

Church Brew WorksIt's kinda edgy and combines two things I enjoy: craft beer and theology. Kinda.

Tony and I were at a conference in Pittsburgh, so, of course, we used it as an opportunity to try a new restaurant.

Church Brew Works is located on Liberty Avenue (just down the road from my father's former workplace). The brewing is done, literally, in the alter of the restored Roman Catholic church.

Their menu is kind of all over the place, from pierogies and cheesesteak to steamed mussels and buffalo meatloaf. The last one was interesting because I haven't seen it anywhere else. Plus it looked to be one of their specials.

Church Brew WorksChurch Brew WorksChurch Brew Works

But first - an appetizer. They have "untraditional pierogies" as a daily special with different fillings. That day was chicken and black bean pierogi with a curry BBQ sauce.

Church Brew Works

It was good. It was different. The sauce was a little sweet, which was nice with the savory filling.

The meatloaf was also different, but I appreciated it. It came with rosemary redskin potato croquettes, braised greens, applewood smoked bacon, garlic chips and roasted tomato demi-glace.

Church Brew Works

The texture was a bit more ... can I say slimey? than maybe beef. But that wasn't necessarily bad. The flavor was OK. Nothing too special. Combined with some of the garlic chips, it was better. That flavor had to be derived from the additions - not within the meat itself. The fried potato pancake was great, and the greens were a bit bitter so combining a bite with all three flavors made for a decent meal.

We also had a beer sampler. Their main beers were a Celestial Gold (light later), Pipe Organ Pale Ale (English pale ale) and Pious Monk Dunkel (Munich-style dark lager) plus some rotating beers. Overall, I felt the beers were OK. Some pretty good, some interesting, some a little less pleasant. But definitely a good bit to choose from.

Church Brew Works

An interesting concept, I think, that's maybe not totally followed through with the menu. The beer was a highlight.

Grade: B
Church Brew Works on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fish Fry Fridays


I wasn't raised Catholic, but that hasn't stopped me from taking part in our culture's penchant for fish during the Lenten season.

"Historically, since about the second century of Christianity, Christians abstained from meat on Friday as a kind of sacrifice and reminder that acknowledged Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross which we commemorate on Good Friday. It’s also why we proclaim the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary on Friday. About a century or two later, Lent came into being, as a season of intense preparation for Easter, so the fasting and abstinence was extended to much of Lent (source)."

Catholics are to abstain from eating meat on Fridays during lent, so many restaurants have fish specials on Fridays, fast food places have sales on their fish sandwiches, and churches and fire departments (among others) have fish fries.

I love a good fish sandwich. I have memories of my dad and me going to Shop 'N Save (yes, Shop 'N Save) and getting huge fish sandwiches. A fried and battered piece of fish sandwiched on a hoagie bun with tartar sauce was a special Friday treat every once in a while. Nostalgia does weird things--I don't know.

My frenemy Robert Phipps told me about the fish fries at St. Francis de Sales. From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., they have fried or baked fish, a roll, drink and dessert with your choice of three sides: French fries, macaroni & cheese, green beans or cole slaw. It's $8 for adults and $4 for children 12 and under. Eat in or take out. But since there is only one more Friday during Lent, you only have Friday, April 11 to check it out.

Aside from being at the top of a hill in Morgantown and getting to see the area from a cool angle, the meal was really good. When we walked in, we walked up to the counter and paid. Cash or check. Then I was a little confused on where to go because lots of people were standing around for to-go orders, I assume. I made my way to the left and down the hall. I had wo huge fish portions that were quite tasty. The roll was fresh and warm - probably one of my favorite parts of the meal. The cole slaw was also great - finely chopped and thick. Macaroni and cheese and french fries were OK. And good lord they have a ton of different desserts brought in or homemade. A huge table full of different kinds.

If you go, the place does get packed - even when we went right at 5 p.m. There's room upstairs, FYI.

Any other places in town do fish fries? Or maybe just a place that has a REALLY good fish sandwich?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dunkin' Donuts vs. Tim Hortons


I've never really had Tim Hortons or Dunkin' Donuts. I could've in passing if someone brought donuts to work or something, but I never went to one of these shops and consciously purchased a donut. Since Ray's Pastries closed up shop - quite possibly due to both of these donut giants taking over - I wanted to see what all the hype was about.


The shops are literally on opposite ends of town. Tim Horton's out past the University Town Centre, and Dunkin' Donuts is in Sabraton. We ventured to both for a dozen donuts that we took to work. Tim Horton's was up first. Their selection seemed smaller, but more intimate as they were right in the case in front of you. Dunkin' Donuts had a larger variety - a whole wall filled with donuts - and more were coming out fresh waiting to be stocked. Tim Hortons was also a little bit more expensive for a dozen. Tim Hortons has a drive-thru. Dunkin' Donuts also has a drive-thru and is open 24 hours.


I had a jelly-filled powdered donut from Tim Hortons. That jelly turned out to be blueberry, which was good. Super messy, but still good.

Untitled The donut from Dunkin' Donuts that I had was an apple crumb one with brown sugar on top and an apple filling. And it was REAL good.

So, what's your favorite? Are you loyal to one or the other? Do you take coffee into consideration?

Tim Hortons on Urbanspoon
Dunkin' Donuts on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 7, 2014

Morgantown Edition: Bent Willey's

UntitledI don't even know why I'm writing this post. It's going to either completely demolish any shred of credibility I had as someone who genuinely cares about food culture in West Virginia. OR it's going to get me some college hits. Either way, I've somehow set out on this ridiculous quest to try, litereally, every restaurant in Morgantown. So, here it goes.

I went to Bent Willey's.

Well, I didn't GO into Bent Willey's.

I went to Bent Willey's for pizza only.

Does anybody in their right mind do this? I was actually out at Gibbie's this night and as soon as I had just the appropriate amount of alcohol in my system, I decided I was willing to brave the ... place and get a slice.

I'm totally lying - I had enough cranberry and vodkas to not care at all. I just wanted pizza.

Nick and I had actually been joking about this for some time. I mentioned it's on my list of places to go, and he has no shame in being a fan, so we decided this would happen at some point. It happened. Let me try to piece it together.

UntitledI have been to Vintage Room, like, more than a dozen times. But I had NO idea that little door right there to the right actually opened into Bent's pizza. So, we made our way in, and naturally, in an intoxicated state, I try to interview the guy working. It went something like this:

"How many pizzas do you have!"


"Just two?"

"We go through so many, we keep the variety to a minimum."

"How many!"

"Like 50 to 70 a night. And we're only open from 11 to 2."

My notes from the night read as follows: "11-2. 50-70." So, I'm working with some limited information.

I do remember they are cash only. A slice is $2. I got four slices - two for me and two for Nick. The inside isn't huge, as you can see, so we went outside and sat at a dark, empty Vintage bar and devoured the cheesey slices.

I'll spare you my waxing poetic about the culinary creations, but I was pleased. Glad to have something in my belly that was quick, hot out of the oven and cheap. It's really a good idea, actually, to make something like this available to college kids who need to sober up after a night of drinking. Plus, I mean, it's not a bad pizza, actually.

UntitledOHMYGOD YOU'RE GIVING BENT WILLEY'S A "C." Yes, yes I am. Drunk Candace appreciated it.

Grade: C
Bent Willey's on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 4, 2014

Pittsburgh, PA Edition: Tamarind Savoring India

Tamarind Savoring IndiaYou see, I have this friend. Let's just call her Afton. She's obsessed with Indian food. Like, really likes it. Like, has it for multiple meals, multiple times a week.

I've been to both of the Indian restaurants in Morgantown -- Mother India and Saffron -- already, so we searched for the best Indian restaurants near Pittsburgh, and Tamarind Savoring India in Greentree came up a few times. They have another location in Cranberry. As a side note, Afton knew we were getting Indian for dinner ... but she went ahead and had it for lunch. No joke when I say "obsessed."

Tamarind specializes in southern Indian food. South Indian food tends to be spicier and use more rice and more vegetables. North India food tends to be more mild and uses more dairy, breads, lentils and tomatoes. Of course that often gets thrown out the window with American tastebuds, but that's a basis for where to start.

Tamarind Savoring IndiaTamarind Savoring IndiaTamarind didn't have the buffet on Friday night (they only have that on weekends), but we pretty much knew what we wanted anyway. Once we finally found the place tucked into an unassuming plaza, I was a little surprised at it being somewhat run down. The photos online show a more white tablecloth feel. The first table we sat at was so tight, we asked to be moved to the next. That was received warmly, so we then took to our menus.

They have a good bit. Everything from chicken tikka masala and classic and contemporary meals, tandoori, seafood, meat and vegetarian offerings. There's even street food and original appetizers. We were first brought out this brittle bread - like papadam? - but it was almost like a cracker. With a herb chutney and this kind of thin, spicy BBQ sauce. I've never had this before - so someone educate me. But it was a nice little quick bite before our meal.

Tamarind Savoring India
We started with an order of samosas - crispy and flakey crust stuffed with potato and peas. These were really good. Super full of filling and moist, too. Sometimes these dry out really easily. Super good.

Tamarind Savoring India So I've never had a dosa before. We ordered the sada dosa, which is this giant (I mean giant - there's a regular-sized dinner plate under that thing) paper-thin pancake-like thing full of potato with a couple sauces - a yogurt sauce, masala sauce. I was on my third course at this point, so I tried to get a few good mouthfuls of the potato mixture and save some room for the main course. It was tasty - well seasoned, well spiced and I loved the masala sauce to go with it.

Tamarind Savoring IndiaTamarind Savoring IndiaChicken tikka masala, of course, was what I chose because I crave it in my dreams because I am terrible and will hopefully venture outside of this comfort dish soon enough. However, without a buffet, I wasn't sure what I would be crazy for, so I went with my go-to. And it was delicious. Maybe some of the best I've had.

Afton had ordered some garlic naan, which was just a puffy little piece of garlic heaven that went amazingly with the creamy, smokey sauce, complete with onions, tomatoes and peppers. Giant chunks of chicken. Just fantastic. I took turns piling a little bit of rice, then pouring a little bit of the dish. So good. And my mouth is watering thinking about it. Oh, Afton...

Grade: A
Tamarind Savoring India on Urbanspoon