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

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sweets for the Sweet

Sweets for the Swedt"Sweets for the Sweet" is a local restaurant dessert competition hosted by the Caritas House Inc., which assists people living in 25 counties of northern West Virginia who are living with HIV/AIDS. The Caritas (Latin for charity) House was created in 1994 and is one of three organizations in the state who assist these individuals.

The 18th annual event was held on Saturday at the WVU Alumni Center. It cost $20 and the proceeds benefited the Caritas House. The event featured the dessert tasting competition, the Fairmont State University Jazz Ensemble, door prizes and auctions. I luckily opted to be overdressed instead of under-dressed and went with a dress - I fit in just fine.

Sweets for the SwedtSweets for the Swedt

Sweets for the Swedt
My starter plate - slide, corndog and some chips/guac. Tasty.
As soon as Heather and I walked in, there was a small buffet to the side. It featured some vegetables, sliders, pepperoni rolls, corndogs, chips and dip and drinks. That was nice, considering I thought it would be all chocolate.

Then, it was just circling the room, chocolate tasting from a bunch of local restaurants:

Sweets for the SwedtAli Baba Restaurant
Atomic Grill
(Claudia Atkinson Catering - not present)
Cold Stone Creamery
The Cupcakerie
The Dancing Fig
Erickson Alumni Center
Jimmy's Diner
Lebanese Bistro
Morgantown Brewing Company
Noteworthy Sweets
Ramada - Heritage Grille
Rising Creek Bakery & Cafe
Table 9
Terra Cafe
Tutto Gelato Cafe

Sweets for the Swedt
Ali Baba's baklava - pretty good; buttery and flakey.

Sweets for the Swedt
Noteworthy Sweets - my first French macaroon! Super good, love the strawberry. Better than I expected.

Sweets for the SwedtSweets for the SwedtThe Cupc- akerie - raspberry champag- ne cupcake. Didn't taste too much like raspberry or champagne, but it was an OK cupcake overall. My favorite of the first three (Ali Baba's, the Cupcakerie and Noteworthy Sweets) would have to be the French macaroon. Maybe because it was my first, but it was also just delectable.

Sweets for the SwedtSweets for the SwedtNorthern Eagle Distributing had a few different dessert wines to choose from. I tried the chocolate red win - ChocoVine because YOLO. Eh, it's alright.

And yes, they gave these adorable mini stemless wine glasses (for the first time, I'm told) to drink the wine (and beer!) with. How thoughtful and fun. Plus you get a little souvenir to take home, in case you want tiny glasses of beer/wine in the future.

Sweets for the SwedtThe Heritage Grille at the Ramada Inn had little plates of three desserts. I really didn't need three separate desserts, so I just stole a strawberry off one plate. It was good - and it was a nice change of pace to have white chocolate.

I didn't know the Ramada had a restaurant. I need to add that to my list of places to try. Has anyone been there?

Sweets for the Swedt Okay, Atomic Grill really went all out. This is what they had: lemon curd, almond genoise, smoked chocolate ganache, blood orange reduction, crystallized ginger scented mascarpone, pistacchio brittle. I gotta say, it was definitely different and creative. And it was tasty - but not my absolute fav.

Terra Cafe had a huge - not sample sized - chocolate cake with coconut. Chocolate cake isn't my most favorite, but kudos to them for seriously making huge portions and giving everybody their own mini cake. Holla.

Sweets for the Swedt

Sweets for the Swedt
Sweets for the SwedtRising Creek Bakery & Cafe had my absolute favorite dessert. Joel Brown actually crafted these babies: french lemon cake with raspberry and meringue.

I voted for them to be the overall winner - and surprise - they were. Joel was super creative with the delivery - so not only was this fun to eat, the flavors were just divine. The cake part was moist and not overly sweet so that the other sweet flavors shined through. Just very creative and very, very tasty. 

Sweets for the SwedtSweets for the Swedt

So I know Coldstone is ice cream,  but by the time we got to their table, everything was melted. I'm not quite sure what they expected? It was too warm to keep ice cream in tact there. So, yeah, no.

Sweets for the Swedt
Sweets for the SwedtThe Brew Pub brought their A game, for sure. Not only did they have beer on top to complement their dessert, they infused it into the actual dessert. It is a strawberry Alpha Blonde ale swirled Old Morgantown Amber Ale malt chocolate brownie with a coffee porter cream cheese frosting paired with an 80 Shilling Scotch Ale marshmallow fluff and Kettle Bottom Brown Ale candied almonds.

Sweets for the Swedt
Sweets for the SwedtIt was definitely different and had some fierce flavor. But I love the creativity and thought that went into this. It was a little heavy and strong for me, but I still am happy with it.

Oh, and I got a beer. So, yeah. That was a smart move.

Sweets for the Swedt

Sweets for the SwedtLebanese Bistro had baklava, but I already had baklava. I asked for the filo dough/strawberry concoction. They said I'd have to go to the restaurant for that. But the owner quickly said I could have it. He said he was saving it for those really interested. So, I did, and it wasn't bad. It was a bit more creative, not super sweet, but overall not bad.

Sweets for the Swedt

Sweets for the Swedt
After Lebanese, it was Tutto Gelato. Who actually did the ice cream right - by storing it in a freezer and scooping it as people come by. It was salted caramel stracciatella with whipped cream.

Sweets for the Swedt
Table 9 - a citrus goat cheese cheesecake with strawberry rhubarb sauce and candied pecans. This was definitely my second runner up. I love love loved this.
Sweets for the Swedt
Erickson Alumni Center - creme brulee. By the time I got here, it wasn't brittle at the top - it was just soft. So, meh.
Sweets for the Swedt
Jimmy's Diner had this lemon cake that had cream and meringue, and it was tasty. And the owner was lovely.
Sweets for the Swedt