Local dining serves up quality consistently
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - If you still haven't made it down to Noah's Eclectic Bistro, you're missing some culinary fireworks worthy of the country's biggest cities, but happening right here in our town down on McFarland Street.
Of course, I can't be too judgmental. I'm one of the restaurant's biggest fans, and even I don't go as often as I should.
It had been months since my last "experience" (it's much more than just a meal) so Friday night the wife and I met another couple there for an evening out. For us, it was another dinner to remember. But for the Noah-newbies with us, it was their first - and I suspect far from last - taste of some of the best food Charleston has to offer.
We agonized over the menu, a "Sophie's Choice" of ever-changing selections. You'll want to try them all, so I highly recommend inviting dinner partners who are willing to pass their plates. (Thanks, John and Allison!)
I started with an appetizer of seared jumbo sea scallops served with fantastic tri-colored roasted cauliflower, bacon and tangy lemon buerre blanc. I hope to see this back as an entrée sometime soon, hint hint.
Others at the table enjoyed a fresh lump crab salad with Granny Smith apple gelee, a grilled romaine salad (the topic of last week's column) and a bursting-with-flavors baby spinach salad with orange segments, pine nuts, goat cheese and sesame vinaigrette.
For a main course, I stayed in the seafood vein with my perfectly cooked pan-roasted yellowtail grouper served over creamy ginger carrot puree with fresh shrimp, braised bok choy and pickled red onion. We also dove into skillets of paella offering chicken, chorizo, lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, calamari, sweet peppers, peas and saffron bomba rice.
And at the end of the evening, after soundly swearing off dessert, we made quick work of decadent chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream and a white chocolate-golden raisin bread pudding with creme anglaise.
It had been a while since my last visit, but it won't be long until my next.
One of the big reasons most chain restaurants are popular is their consistency.
It doesn't matter if you walk into one of these chains on a Tuesday afternoon or a Saturday night - in this city or any another - you're going to have pretty consistent food.
I say this often means consistently over-processed, over-cooked, over-seasoned and most likely drowning in melted cheese, but they are consistent nonetheless. Give me a good local restaurant any day.
So how incredibly refreshing it was to walk into Morgantown's new Pies & Pints this past weekend to see the same great menu, decor, service and food that has turned this formerly one-location gem into a regional mini-chain in the making.
After keeping its hometown crowds happy for years in Fayetteville, the craft beer and pizza joint opened with a splash in Charleston a few years ago and has since expanded to locations in Morgantown as well as Worthington and Dayton, Ohio.
We took visiting family to the new Morgantown location (open just a few months) on Saturday night, and they also became instant fans.
We devoured spinach and Caesar salads, then a large Classic pie (pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, banana peppers) and multiple slices of their awesome grape-gorgonzola-rosemary and chicken-smoked Gouda pizzas.
All were fantastic, and we felt as if we were enjoying them right on Capitol Street in Charleston.
Consistency and quality? Now that's a chain I can get close to.
Contact writer Steven Keith at email@example.com or 304-348-4830. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at http://blogs.dailymail.com/foodguy/.