This week in food news we have a new “board game café” opening at Trace Fork, three new must-try local dishes, an update on restaurants extending outdoor dining options through the winter and (are you sitting down?) I snagged that requested Lasagna Bolognese recipe from Paterno’s.
Yes, THAT recipe. So let’s dig in!
I’m not sure who I admire more, the small-business owners hustling so hard to keep their local restaurants afloat or the entrepreneurs taking a big leap of faith by opening new businesses amid so much COVID uncertainty.
Admirable, one and all, and here’s another to add to that list.
A new “board game café” serving craft beer and coffee will soon open its doors at Trace Fork, offering a variety of comic books, graphic novels, collectibles, sports cards and games that you can purchase or stay and play while enjoying a drink with friends.
The Board Room expects to open within the next two weeks beside Best Buy in the location that formerly housed The Mole Hole.
While it’s certainly not an ideal time to open a business encouraging folks to hang out and socialize, it’s a neat concept that I hope catches on once it’s safe to start being out and about with others in the (hopefully) near future.
For more information, check out The Board Room’s Facebook page.
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As the weather turns colder, some restaurants are working hard to make their outdoor seating areas as comfortable as possible for those who still aren’t comfortable dining inside due to COVID.
Lola’s in South Hills has enclosed its outdoor picnic tables with a large tent, Soho’s has brought in heaters and is considering tenting to warm its new outdoor beer garden at Capitol Market and the Olive Tree Café in South Charleston has gone so far as to build a new structure in an attempt to make its outdoor dining area more usable year-round.
Not only that, but the popular (and a Food Guy favorite) restaurant has impressive plans to heat and decorate the space to make it a real draw for al fresco dining – even during the wintertime.
During a tour at the Olive Tree this past Friday night, owner Michael Jarrouj shared his vision for the new space, which will not only have self-standing heaters like you see in other outdoor dining areas, but also heat reflectors lining the roof along its perimeter, natural gas heaters in the ceiling and firepits along the center of the space for added heat and ambiance.
If his previous successes are any indication, this is going to be one hot spot this winter. Pun intended.
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Speaking of Olive Tree, that was the location of one of my three greatest food experiences of the past week. When I stopped in for a tour of their new space to come, I sampled a bowl of amazing clam chowder topped with crumbled bacon and cheese.
Just a few days earlier, I popped into Noah’s Restaurant & Lounge for a deliciously fragrant and zesty bowl of chicken curry soup with tender chicken, coconut milk, carrots and all the right spices to make it sublime.
Finally, the BEST dish I’ve had in a long time came last Sunday during brunch at Barkadas in Fort Hill. After settling down at a table and righting myself with a good Bloody Mary, I scanned a menu with too many good choices.
But I’m so glad I bypassed some favorites to try something new in the Karne Norte.
What is a Karne Norte you say? I’m going to tell you. It’s a phenomenal bowl of Filipino-style corn beef hash topped with a glistening poached egg over a bowl of rice.
But let me be clear. The rice is inconsequential and totally unnecessary. Don’t waste your time on it. Save those calories for another Bloody.
The hash itself, however, is other-worldly. I have no idea what’s in it, or what makes it so addictive, but imagine an incredibly savory tomato-based sauce flecked with beef and spiced so right. Now take those flavors up a few notches and you have Barkadas’ Karne Norte.
I’m counting the hours – nay, minutes – until I can devour it again.
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You may remember a few weeks ago when reader Jacob Messer wrote in trying to get his hands on the original recipe for the signature Lasagna Bolognese he and his wife used to enjoy at Paterno’s at the Park in Charleston before it closed.
Could you possibly track it down, he asked? But, of course!
Niki Paterno Kurten immediately reached out and said she’d ask family matriarch Mary Jo Paterno to write out the recipe by hand and send it my way. And she did.
But I asked: Are you sure you’re OK with me publicly sharing the family’s prized recipe?
“Share away,” Kurten said, “we’re happy to share it with everyone! But it’s so time consuming, I doubt many will try it.”
Sure enough, this is not a quick-dinner type of situation. The recipe is long, but not complicated, so I will SO be adding this to my repertoire at home.
PATERNO FAMILY LASAGNA BOLOGNESE
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion
4 peeled carrots
4 slices of bacon or pancetta
5 cloves of garlic
¾ lb. lean ground pork
1 lb. ground beef
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups chicken stock
1 ½ cups crushed tomatoes (San Marzano preferred)
1 cup half-and-half
1 Tbsp. sugar (optional, if needed to cut bitterness)
1. Heat olive oil and butter in a large saucepan, preferably with a nice thick bottom, on medium-low heat. Chop the onion, carrot, bacon and garlic very finely or put them all in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
2. Add to hot oil and melted butter, then cook until they are soft and bacon is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Be sure to use a low heat as to not burn anything.
3. Add the pork and beef to the pan and cook until brown and no longer pink. Add the tomato paste and cook 1-2 minutes more.
4. Add the white wine and simmer until it is almost completely evaporated. (This could take a while.) Once the wine is almost completely evaporated, add the chicken stock and cook until it reduces by almost half.
5. Process tomatoes into a fine sauce, then add the tomatoes, half-and-half and salt. Simmer as low and slow as possible for at least 2 hours – the longer, the better. Make sure to stir occasionally to avoid any scorching on the bottom. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If your sauce tastes bitter from your tomatoes, add just a pinch of sugar, but taste before doing so because it isn’t always needed.
6 Tbsp. butter
6 Tbsp. flour
4 cups half-and-half
½ cup sweet sherry
salt and pepper to taste
1. Melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir until nice and smooth, about 5 minutes.
2. Add half-and-half and cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken. (It should coat the back of a wooden spoon and leave a finger mark when tested.)
3. Add the sherry and season with salt and pepper to taste.
1 lb. lasagna noodles boiled until al dente
1 lb. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bolognese sauce, from recipe above
Béchamel sauce, from recipe above
1. Begin with a thin layer of Bolognese sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Next, layer the noodles making sure the sauce is completely covered but the noodles aren’t overlapping too much.
2. Add a layer of Bolognese followed by the Béchamel. (I just add spoonfuls of the Béchamel and do not spread into a whole layer.) Sprinkle with Monterey Jack and Parmesan and continue for four layers.
3. Bake at 340 degrees for 50 minutes. Be sure to let the lasagna sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing into it to allow the layers to settle. Enjoy!
Recipe provided by Mary Jo Paterno
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Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at email@example.com.