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B’s Best Bites – February 2012

There have been a few pretty nice days since I posted my last January Best Bites. My people opened the windows for me to enjoy the air a few times. The weather has been un-February like but I can still hear the winter birds are out in the hedges and the spring ones have yet to come.

So what have my people been biting and bragging about most this month? Not too long before the day of red hearts, Millie started cooking up another huge pot of Bluff Bourguignion but this time used her spicy home-made Seitan’s Fire as the main wheat meat. It seemed strange that she would make it so soon after Frank’s birthday but I soon realized that it was to share with some of my favorite other people, Earl and Amy!

It is always a good time when they visit because, the home is filled with pets and purrs and Amy ALWAYS hold my dish for me while I eat, fluffing my crunchies into a nice pile to make it easy. They all shared sweet fizzing drinks called Coconut Ginger Floats and proclaimed (as they frequently do) that nothing ever tasted better. I think crunchies always taste best when Amy holds them so maybe they make every thing taste better.

Saying goodbye is always hard but I know they will come back. They all had Gobo food in the big city and my main people came back pretty quickly this time. Frank was very excited to bring back a lot of his favorite peanut butter called, The Heat is On.

One lunchtime, my people had some food at Luna 2 and they said one of the nicest things they hadn’t realized was that they have really great grilled asparagus all year round. I could tell it made them in a good mood so I encouraged them to talk about it more while petting my fur. They said the green sticks were grilled and seasoned just right and they were not skinny like pencils. I love biting pencils so I can imagine a plate of 4-5 big ones would be so much fun!

Millie hasn’t cooked as many new things this month because she has had to work on campus more often. They did drive to see Maga and Grandfather and eat some spicy tofus (see tomorrow’s Wordless Wednesday photo) and then made a trip to see their vegan friends in Harrisburg. They took a second batch of Carrot Cake Cupcakes to share and brought back some cooked greens and grains that a friend gave to them.

I was very curious about this meal but Millie refused to tell me who gave it to her even when I insisted I needed to know for her blog. She said that I was not allowed to mention his name so I will call him Voldemort. Frank and Millie loved Voldemort’s Greens and Grains and said it rounded out one of their meals of left overs just right with the chili oils and ginger flavoring.

My people also went out to their favorite places a few times and once ate so many of Elk Creek Cafe’s House Potato Chips they thought they might explode. I usually solve overeating in the cat way but Millie says I can’t share it because it’s a food blog and she loved every chip she ate. Silly people.

It didn’t keep her from going back to have more on her birthday brunch but what really made my fur twitch is that I wasn’t invited but someone else was! They used to sneak my into all sorts of places and I was a really good cat, staying all chill in my carrier under the table as they slipped me cheese. I admit that I don’t like traveling in the car as much as I did when I was a kitten but the real insult was that they took Pesky (a nickname based on “pescatarian”). That’s right she took a fish out for brunch!

She gushed on and on about how it made her birthday so special to be able to take the blue swimming thing with her. Well Hiss! It made me want to jump on her spleen at midnight and I licked my fur to calm myself. I then realized that they weren’t going anywhere else this month and was pleased. The rest of the time was spent watching them bake kale chips and broccoli and things so mundane that it gave them plenty of time to throw pink rings for me and get out my favorite laser toy called Earl. I forgave Pesky for usurping my role as travel companion and quit my plan for nudging his bowl off the shelf.

Pesky and Mimosas at Elk Creek Cafe

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2011 – Best Appetizer

4th Street Grille Nachos in Williamsport

Thinking about mainstream vegetarian appetizers in our area brings to mind a lot of heavy and fatty nibbles. Jalapeño Poppers, Nacho Chips smothered in beans and salsas, Spianch Artichoke Dip with little bread wedges are all regular chain restaurant foods and they feature prominently in a lot of locally owned places too. Lighter fare includes things like Moo Shu Wraps, Fresh Veggies with Hummus, and sometimes Fruit & Crackers along with a Cheese Plate.

Mad Mex's Pennsyltucky Tofu

Vegetarians can, and sometimes are forced to, make their entire meals out of a restaurant’s selection of appetizers and sides when dining out. This can be just fine if the dishes are not too heavy, prepared in a healthful way and the diner is not hoping for an entrée. One impressive exception to that is the second runner up for this award, Mad Mex’s Pennsyltucky Tofu. It comes out like a full sized potion of Genral Tso’s Tofu and is a big enough appetizer for at least 4 people to split.

Luna 2"s Tomato Bruschetta

This year I give my Pennsyltucky Veggie 2011- Best Appetizer award to Luna 2 Woodgrill in State College for their Tomato Bruschetta. The fresh and healthy portion of 5 bias-cut slices of crostini are covered in fresh basil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and tomato. Even in the middle of winter this appetizer is garden fresh and a bargain at $5.50 ($7.00 if you add mozzarella).

What, you might ask, makes it any better than the same priced appetizer at the related location Faccia Luna?

Faccia Luna's similar bruschetta

The price is identical, portion comparable, fresh toppings almost the same but the presentation and preparation of the crostini is better at Luna 2. The bread is merely toasted at Faccia Luna and becomes easily saturated and breaks in two upon handling. Luna 2’s crostini handle the toppings better and are more firm, we are assuming they may be wood fired, grilled or at least coated a bit with olive oil, and are a more resilient nosh.

I highly recommend all of Luna 2’s vegetarian appetizers and if eaten at the bar Monday – Thursday from 5-7 they are half off! That is some great food for rock bottom prices. The Artisan Mac & Cheese comes out quickly, piping hot and scrumptious. The Tuscan Hummus with Veggies & Grilled Flatbread serves a voluminous portion of creamy hummus with toothsome dippables.

Luna 2 Artisan Mac & Cheese, Bruschetta, Hummus Plate

Luna 2 is doing quite a few things right, this is their second Pennsyltucky Veggie Award for 2011, they also scored for Best Portobello in the region.

Congrats Luna 2 Woodgrill (restaurant review in full here) for being awarded Pennsyltucky Veggie 2011 Best Appetizer.
Do you know of a Pennsyltucky restaurant whose Appetizers can beat this one in 2012? If it’s in central PA (see map here) and is a regular vegetarian menu item, let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment!

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2011 – Best Portobello

Luna 2 Woodgrilleed Portobello Sandwich

A “go-to” veggie for many ominvorous restaurants is some form of a Portobello Mushroom. Many marinate the large cap and serve it up burger style as a sandwich, others have fancied it up with a stuffing of bread crumbs and other veggies.

This year I give my Pennsyltucky Veggie 2011- Best Portobello award to Luna 2 Woodgrill in State College. For $6.95 they serve a large marinated portobello cap that has been woodgrilled and covered with balsamic glazed onions and provolone cheese. Vegans, don’t hesitate to ask for no cheese and the pesto aioli is on the side. Also on the side are the abundant veggie toppings of roasted red peppers, red onion, crisp romaine lettuce and large slices of tomato. The large roll, although no longer made in house, is perfect. The kaiser is soft and flaky enough that you can eat your sandwich as it was intended, with your hands.

I am not considering the accompanying sides in the judging of the many portobellos, they are too various for it to be fair. What makes Luna 2’s Woodgrilled Portobello sandwich the winner is it’s overall flavor, freshness of ingredients, presentation and value for portion.

Luna 2 partner and Chef Jeremy takes his portobellos seriously, likening them to steak for vegetarians. It’s his marinade and woodgrilled flavor that has this sandwich beating out all other mushroom caps in central PA. Congrats Luna 2 Woodgrill (restaurant review in full here) for being awarded Pennsyltucky Veggie 2011 Best Portobello.

Do know of a Pennsyltucky restaurant’s Portobello that you think can beat this one in 2012? If it’s in central PA (see map here) and is a regular vegetarian menu item, let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment!

Luna 2 Updated Menu

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Since my review of Luna 2 Woodgrill and Bar, they have updated their menu and I am excited to try a few of the new dishes. I scanned the menu after having made notes on it so I apologize for the pen circles on the new vegetarian options. Read over the whole menu for things I may not have listed in my restaurant review like the Two for Tuesday and specials on the second page. I also found out that appetizers, if eaten at the bar, from 5:00 – 7:00 PM M-Th are 1/2 off!

They also added a couple of 2 seater high-tops to the bar area, enjoy!!

Luna 2 Woodgrill & Bar

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Luna 2 Woodgrill & Bar
2609 East College Avenue, State College, PA 16801
Phone: 814-234-9009
Mon – Sat: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm

In March 2010 the long closed Pizza Hut on East College Avenue in State College opened for business as Luna 2 Woodgrill & Bar. Sister restaurant to Facia Luna on South Atherton St. in State College bragged a slightly different woodgrill focused menu. Within the first couple of months of opening, many locals complained that the menus of the two restaurants were not the same. No deep-fried fare at all, some patrons didn’t like that the kids couldn’t order french fries. I was glad that Luna 2 stood on its own and feel that after a year and a couple of menu tweaks, they have settled into a groove.

Unless you are familiar with the area, you have to be looking carefully where to turn into what is a long offset row of stores and restaurants on West College Ave. It is on the north (non-Nittany Mountain) side of Rt. 26/ College Ave., just East of the McDonald’s by the Nittany Mall. Tucked between Long John Silvers/A&W and Carpet World, you may recognize the shape of a renovated Pizza Hut building but don’t let that put you off. Look at it at the ultimate way of recycling what was a crappy pizza chain into a sweet local restaurant with Italian inspired food. There is parking on either side of the building.

We have never had to wait to be seated but have been there at times when they have gotten backed up. Patrons can choose to sit or stand around the beautifully black marble-topped 10 seater bar as they wait. Those who opt not to order soft drinks or iced tea have plenty to choose from the full bar, 10 seasonal beers on tap (note the chalkboard on the wall for the list and descriptions) and many wines by the glass or bottle. Drink prices are all reasonable and, unlike some places that just have a limited pub menu, you can order from the full food menu if you choose to sit at the bar for your meal.

The interior is nice and dark, finished in wood with 12 wooden booths and 10 tables that can seat as few as 2 to as many as 8. There are 3 carefully placed televisions that most usually have ESPN broadcast. One of the tvs is at the bar at the other two are placed high enough that the interior doesn’t scream “sports bar” as you try to enjoy your meal. I cannot ever remember the volume being turned up on any except maybe once during the World Cup at the bar.

The very worst I can say about Luna 2 is that table service has not been the best and even some established wait staff can be unreliable. We have been left sitting unattended without even our drink order taken for over 5 minutes when the place was not busy. Other times we have gotten an attitude that our server is less than pleased to be working. Once she almost threw our food on the table and another time (a different waitress) answered our request to sit outside with a 20-something attitude of “if that’s what you really want”. I mostly attribute the untrained food service glitches to a pretty high turnover. That’s typical for this college town but I try to pass it on to management if it’s really bad (only the time we were ignored).

If your server is on top of his or her game you are almost certain to have a nice meal. I love to choose to sit in the outdoor seating area with the 5 foot high vanity fence. It blocks out enough noise and visual distraction from the road but the southern view allows gazing at Nittany Mountain.

Attire is casual but the location is nice enough for even a pre-theatre crowd since it doesn’t draw a lot of the college crowd. Children of younger ages seeem to be well accomodated but I hesitate to call it child friendly.


Vegetarian Options

Appetizers
The current menu is about to change but has quite a few options for lacto-ovo vegetarians. They are about the drop the Wood-grilled Piquillo Peppers which, at the time of this review, I had yet to try but are adding a Cheesy Bread Sticks option. I had the advantage of previewing this new menu item today. They are served much like a 10″ pizza cut into 2″ strips and a sliced down the middle to make it 10 different sized bread sticks. The crust was olive oil coated, baked with mozzarella and sprinkled with oregano, basil, course black pepper and a little garlic powder. They came out hot, were served just as their pizzas are, on the baking pie tin and put onto a rack to ensure the bottom didn’t cool or draw moisture. They are served with a very small cup or marinara sauce or ranch dip. The cold sauce was about enough for 5 of the smallest sticks and had a fresh taste to it. I found them to be very filling (took the 6 largest inside sticks home) and just a little oily.

I think our favorite is the Tomato Bruschetta that comes with or without mozzarella. Even in the winter, the tomatoes taste fresh as they are chopped and served with balsamic vinegar and fresh basil over 5 crostini slices. We have split this with the added mozzarella and it’s a light meal by itself.

Other vegetarian apps include the Artisan Mac & Cheese (we think it’s a tiny portion) and the Tuscan Hummus with Veggies & Crostini.

Beware of what sounds like a veggie option, the Sweet Pepper Medley has anchovies in it.

Sides
Although the sides have some options I cannot recommend them because they are over priced. Pencil thin Grilled Asparagus end up costing more than a a dollar apiece.

Salads
All of the salads have the base of a course romaine lettuce and all but the Cesar salad are vegetarian. Each of the House, Misto and Aegean salads can be ordered in starter or entrée sizes.

The House Salad has red onion, green pepper, mushrooms and cheese and features their tangy house Champagne Vinaigrette.

The Misto Salad has red onion, grape tomatoes, bleu cheese, pecans, dates, sundried cranberries and Champagne Vinaigrette.

The Aegean Salad has feta cheese, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, red onion and is served with a Greek Vinaigrette. All three salads are nice and the entrée size is sometimes served with a homemade roll.

Pizza
The wood grilled pizzas have quite a few mix and match options and can not be odered by the slice. The smallest pizza is a 10″. The style of Luna 2’s pizzas are no sauce but hunks of tomato, not my favorite style but they do it well. Of the many toppings a veggie person can choose from the only thing I will note is that the black olives are of the salty Greek style, the kind used on the Aegean Salad.

Sandwiches
Currently the best regular vegetarian sandwich choice is a very tasty Vegetable Curry Wrap. I won’t list the ingredients because I am told it will not be on their new menu. If their promised veggie sandwich replacement of the Portobella Burger does not thrill me I will highly encourage them to have the Curry Wrap on their daily specials board or bring it back onto the regular menu. Gosh, everyone has a Porto Burger, it’s sad the wrap wasn’t popular enough to stay. All sandwiches are served with a small bag of Middleswarth Potato Chips and a pickle.

Pasta
With the exception of the Linguine Marinara the rest of the pasta entrées offered on the current menu are not vegetarian. They have, however, always been great allowing us to request the house made Garlic & Chive Linguine with their wonderful Vodka Sauce since it had been offered on their first menu.

A vegetarian can be assured a good meal at Luna 2 Woodgrill & Bar. There are enough choices on the menu, the staff is open to answering question about menu items and the rare treat of Gazpacho on the daily specials make it worth returning to try something new or to just enjoy a snack and a drink at the bar. The things that I feel are lacking are a few better veggie sides or soup and consistent wait staff service. A real plus would be the ever important vegetarian/vegan notations on the menu. Even though the staff has been great about answering questions, it can make a vegetarian dining experience most enjoyable knowing that care has been taken to examine and label each menu item. Wi-Fi would be a great addition too.

Although they don’t update it nor their homepage as often as is promised on each, here is the Luna 2 on facebook

Winner Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2011Best Portobello & Best Appetizers.
Luna 2 Woodgrill & Bar on Urbanspoon

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