A pretty perfect pie and the return of a big beer fest
My continued search for seasonal restaurant specials that make you say “WOW” took me to an unexpected stop this past weekend at Lola’s atop Bridge Road in South Hills.
It wasn’t unusual in that I didn’t expect it to be good – it always is – but I often get so fixated on my favorite pizzas and salads there that I forget they’re also known for a rotating selection of special pies, too.
There’s almost always a taco pizza on Tuesdays topped with seasoned ground beef, mozzarella and white cheddar cheeses, house-made pico, avocado, fresh cilantro and a chipotle drizzle, plus others off and on throughout the year.
On Saturday night, we devoured the current seasonal specialty pizza, an ingenious creation featuring a garlic oil base topped with maple syrup-roasted Brussels sprouts, crispy applewood smoked bacon, blistered cherry tomatoes, red onions and white cheddar cheese that will make your taste buds sing.
Everyone else around the table loved their own choices – the roasted beet salad topped with salmon for me, a steak and cheese pie for the youngest, a margherita pizza for my middle guy – but my wife won the Lola’s lottery with that lovely little sprout number.
The flavors reminded me of something you might see on a seasonal fall menu, but I’m glad Lola’s broke the mold in that regard.
I can’t wait until the leaves change to have this treat again!
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And what goes great with pizza? Beer!
Charleston’s popular Foam at the Dome returns to, well, the Big Dome later this month, when the sixth-annual craft beer takes place on Kanawha Boulevard in front of the West Virginia State Capitol from 3-7 p.m. on Saturday, April 30.
After missing 2020 due to the pandemic, then holding a smaller celebration at a different location last year, organizers say this year’s event will bring back the same festive vibe that flowed pre-COVID.
Hosted by Charleston Main Streets and presented by Old Colony Realtors, Foam at the Dome offers ticket holders the chance to sample some of more than 200 craft beers and ciders on tap, while also enjoying food offerings, entertainment and artisans. During the event’s first five years, it has raised more than $152,000 to support local urban development. It is believed to be West Virginia’s largest craft beer festival.
Tickets for the event are $50 for early admission, $40 for general admission and $20 for designated drivers, which does not include alcohol. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.foamcwv.com.
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I have two readers in desperate need of our help tracking down some of their favorite foods.
While the second request is a tricky one, I feel this first one will open the food floodgates.
“I am looking for the absolute best comfort food in West Virginia – baked steak, chicken ‘n’ dumplings, fried chicken, brown beans and cornbread, greens, ham, sausage gravy and biscuits, and so on,” a woman named Alesandra wrote.
“As a critical care registered nurse for the U.S. Department of Defense, I have been stationed everywhere one can imagine, but decided to retire to the United States and my hometown of Charleston. All I am seeing and finding are attempted remakes of the Appalachian cooking that sustained us for years. Is there ANYWHERE in West Virginia to once again finds these foods?”
Oh my, I told her, there are so many!
And while the greater Charleston area is surprising light when it comes to good hometown diners specializing in such fare (yes, I’m throwing down that gauntlet) there are some popular spots here and around the state dishing up Appalachian comfort goodness.
I told her I’d send along a few of my favorites, plus ask readers for theirs.
So here’s your chance, friends. Where in West Virginia do you go for the absolute BEST Appalachian comfort food?
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And now, for something completely different …
“I love your articles in the paper and used to live in Los Angeles, where they would make incredible tamales in season,” Ted Cheatham wrote. “I have not found any great ones around Charleston and am now somewhat hesitant to order them after these so-so tries. How about an article on the best tamales around?”
Cheatham said he usually ends up cooking items at home that he can’t find at local restaurants, but worries the homemade tamale – with its corn husks and specific technique – may be a little too far outside of his wheelhouse.
I’ll admit I’m drawing a blank here as well. I’ve had a few restaurant tamales around town, but nothing I would write home (or in the newspaper) about.
Has anyone had a killer tamale in West Virginia that is worth checking out?
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.