This is a transition time for me and for my family. My husband and I are officially “empty nesters” with our son entering his senior year at Oberlin College and our daughter a freshman at Penn State. And since I started a new job this summer and the kids are “booked” as well, we moved to State College where we are setting up house. While I couldn’t even cook anything elaborate if I tried right now since we have yet to move some pots to our new place, I did buy some pasta and veggies and the other night I said to Geoff, “Should I make something? Asparagus and pasta?” And then I realized I forgot to pack the pots! How convenient!
The truth is I don’t have big plans to cook the way I used to when the kids were younger. I can cook some things really well (lasagna, pasta primavera, rice and veggies are some of my family’s most requested specialties) Even before I accepted my dream job at University Park, I was already imagining that in fall after I finished my time on campus each day I’d meet my husband at a new place for dinner. As Michelle Obama famously told The Washington Post in 2009 “Cooking isn’t one of my huge things.” It isn’t that I don’t like to cook, but night after night it starts to feel like a chore. Besides, going out to eat is one of our pleasures! We are foodies! So it has been a real pleasure for my husband Geoff and me this week to eat at some new (for us) State College restaurants. Here’s the rundown:
American Ale House & Grill in Totfrees is fabulous, and as the Web Site describes, “sexy and cozy.” As a three decade long vegetarian I was thrilled to see some inspired vegetarian dishes like the roasted asparagus sandwich (under the heading “enjoy every sandwich”) and the chopped salad (hold the bacon). Geoff loved the gazpacho soup and ratatouille (he’s a pescetarian) and the many beer selections. I’m not a beer drinker but the selection does look impressive (thus the name “ale house”). The service is great, the place comfortable and full of charm. There’s a gallery and in the winter, I bet the soaring fire is perfect. This may be our favorite spot so far. We’ll be going back. Highly recommended!
Next we tried The Green Bowl. On Beaver Avenue near Geoff’s favorite coffee shop, Saint’s is the somewhat no-frills, buffet style vegetarian paradise (though they do have meat). You fill up your bowl and the exuberant, accommodating young staff cooks it on the grill. I was grateful to see that for the meat-averse (ME) they use a wok to cook vegetables so they don’t touch the meat. I had a cold salad (with edamame!!) and then a hot dish of veggies with a lot of broccoli! It was really good and the sauces are delicious. While I usually avoid buffets, this one is a little different because it is as custom as a buffet can get. The price is right, too. During the week lunch is $8.99 and weekends it is $12.49. Highly recommend! We will be going back!
Next, being big Italian food lovers we tried Faccia Luna. (I just like saying it–try it ten times fast) I’ve been wanting to go there for years. My bruschetta appetizer was outstanding! VERY fresh tomatoes, but Geoff didn’t like his wine (so I drank it — I liked it), and the eggplant parmesan was good, but not epic. Mind you we are both of partial Italian descent and we’ve been spoiled a bit growing up around authentic Italian food. Doesn’t quite compare to Mama Nina’s or Amore in Bethlehem and our beloved Paese Mio in Allentown, but I want to go back, of course. The pizza looks ridiculously good, the service was great and sitting outside on a summer night? Forgettaboutit. I give it a hearty recommended, for sure!
The next night we tried Spats on College Avenue. At the New Orleans inspired restaurant we ordered several tapas and the array of vegetarian offerings is great. The vegetarian potato soup was outstanding and the roasted vegetables were delicious, but the portions were small and Geoff was hungry again by the time we drove near Wegman’s so he stopped and bought an ice cream pie and promptly polished off a huge slice. The food is delicious at Spats and the service was great, but the portions were a little small for us.
Finally, last night we went to Mario’s (I think it is no longer Mario *and* Luigi’s (old Italian food habits die hard) and it was good. We ordered salads and eggplant parm, and again it didn’t quite live up to our hard-core non-chain Italian restaurant dreams, but it was good, and the server was nice. We’d been there before and we’ll probably go back because the food is good and the prices are reasonable. For a quick Italian food fix it is fine.
We still want to visit Cozy Thai and we heard of an Italian restaurant in Bellefonte that’s good. We’ve also tried Mad Mex and we are regulars at The Corner Room and the Creamery.
Oh, and I found where the local Weight Watchers is and I’ve marked the meeting on my schedule, so I’ll have to make sure all this restaurant hopping isn’t working against my hard fought battle to be trim!
I know I’ll eventually get some pots in the kitchen here and I’ll whip up some good food but for now, it has been really fun restaurant hopping and, like our first lady, I’m not missing cooking!