Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jai Ho! Delicious Indian Cuisine in State College

*DISCLAIMER - If  are thinking about not reading this because it involves a type of food that you are unfamiliar with, I urge you to keep reading.*

Since I have not been able to drive around much lately, I figured I would write a bit about another hidden hot spot downtown. Located near The Cheese Shoppe (see last post), down a set of stairs on Calder Way, is an excellent Indian food restaurant. I know this makes some people say, "Ewww, Indian food", especially the people who have never given it a try. 

I tried Indian cuisine last year, while studying abroad in Ireland, and fell in love. Unfortunately, it can get expensive, and as a college student trying to be as thrifty as possible in a foreign country, I had to limit myself.

While abroad, I was also told that Chicken Tikka Masala is the national dish of England. Don't quote me, but London served it nearly everywhere. Most people would think the national dish is fish and chips. So, with that being said, take all stereotypes out of your head and give Indian food a try. People all over the world like it, afterall.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Being skeptical of trying a ethnic food in central PA, I decided to give in and try India Pavilion after many recommendations. Quickly seated and waited upon, I began to look over the menu. I had to get what I knew best - Chicken Tikka Masala, which India Pavilion descibes as "boneless tandoori chicken (white meat) cooked in a thick, creamy tomato sauce with herbs and spices". You can get it spiced mild, medium, or hot, and it is served with basmati rice, a long grain, non-sticky rice associated with the region of India. Also, a popular choice as a side is Naan bread, which is an unleavened bread coated in olive oil and baked. It is delicious, and India Pavilion's Naan did not disappoint.

Naan Bread
To further entice you to give Indian food a try, I have introduced many people, even picky eaters, to give Chicken Tikka Masala a taste. No one has not liked it, yet.

Back to India Pavilion, the staff is very friendly and tends to the customers needs. The prices are not as steep as I saw abroad. My dinner cost about $12.00. I hear there is an $8 lunch buffet, too, which would be a great inexpensive way to try different authentic dishes.

And if my blog hasn't convinced you to try this place yet - it is BYOB! So if nothing else, try some naan and beer.

Rating: 5/5 (A delicious and enjoyable experience)

Restaurant Info:
India Pavilion
222 East Calder Way
State College, PA 16801
(814) 237-3400

For their full menu and more details check out their website:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wake up and smell the... cheese?

Busy with the end of the semester and being home the past weekend, I have not been able to make it to too many new finds. Recently though, I have come to discover a great coffee shop. Although located downtown, I could not pass up writing about this refreshing spot.

The Cheese Shoppe, which is almost hidden in it's basement location on Caldar Way, is an excellent store for the coffee and tea lover alike. Lured by the scent of freshly ground coffee, you will find an array of coffee beans, loose tea, chocolate, and yes, some cheese, too. (You almost feel caffeinated just by walking down the steps from the robust smells.)

The staff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable. Willing to help as much as you want or stay away as much as you want, they seem to care very much about their customers wants and needs.

They also brew a few choice coffees. So even if you are just walking by and need a quick pick-me-up, this is the place to go. The atmosphere seems to be a coffee lovers dream, and there are even a few outside tables to catch up with friends in the newly sunny State College. It must be Spring!

Rating: 5/5!

Store Info:
234 East Calder Way
State College, PA 16801
(814) 234- 4244

You can even purchase coffee off the store's website:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Over the River and through the Woods... Seven Mountains Wine Cellars we go.

Who knew there were so many wineries around? Well, there are quite a few locally that are on the Susquehanna Heartland Wine Trail. To find out more click here.

Over the river and through the woods, though? Yep...

After a quick turn off US-322 E and a short, bumpy ride down a back road, you will find yourself at this hidden treasure. Upon entering the wooden cabin-like building, you are quickly greeted by the extremely friendly staff. An amiable staff member will explain all about Seven Mountains wines and history if you are willing to listen. They willingly let you taste the wines too (even giving you some chocolate with the appropriate wine pairing). I was even told about some ways to use the wine that I had never thought about prior to my visit like blueberry wine added to pancake batter to make blueberry pancakes? The staff had a few more neat ideas up their sleeves as well.

Seven Mountains Wine Cellars is a fairly new establishment, but you would never know it. The experienced staff will make you feel right at home...seriously. They often host events such as wine and chocolate pairings, where for a small fee you get a glass of their featured wine and a chocolate fountain/fruit buffet. I hear they have upcoming musicians and even campfire nights in the spring.

Inside their is a large deer antler chandelier, tables, couches, and a fireplace. The rustic ambiance gives Seven Mountains visitors a country feeling almost as if vacationing from everyday life. They also provide numerous gift ideas such as wine toppers, antler bottle racks, wine cases, and much more. They have merchandise from local eateries as well.

I had never been to a winery like this before (although I guess I haven't been to many at all), but Seven Mountains is more than just a business. It is an enjoyable experience.

Award Winners!
P.S. My favorite wines were the fruit wines, Strawberry especially. Yum - tastes like liquid strawberries!

Rating: 5/5 (So... have I convinced you to check it out yet?)

Store Info: 
Seven Mountains Wine Cellars
107 Mountain Springs Lane
Spring Mills, PA  16875
(814) 364-1000

Spring Hours:
(March 1 - April 30)
Wednesday - Friday: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturday: 11:00 am - 7:00 pm
Sunday: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tait Farm Foods: Buy Fresh, Buy Local

Tait Farm is a welcoming, local business that has been producing fresh fruits and veggies using sustainable and organic methods for the past 25 years. They manufacture food products in their barn and sell them year-round in the small, old-fashioned store called the "Harvest Shop". They also sell food from other local businesses such as Bonfatto's Wing Sauce in an effort to promote local economy.

The little shop is easily missed, so keep an eye out. Located off of US-322 East, Tait Farm is about three minutes past Boalsburg.

Outside, you will see a tree farm, as this place looks like a great choice for a cut-your-own Christmas Tree Farm in December. Currently, as spring approaches, there are many potted plants, bulbs, and vegetables for purchase. 

Inside, you will find an array of Tait Farm products such as: preserves, oils, cheeses, bread mixes, vinaigrettes, etc. Currently they offer many locally-made Easter chocolates as well as Easter decorations.

Tait Farm is definitely a great spot to check out if your are around the area to support this local business that has been thriving since the 1950s. It is quite the hometown, mom-and-pop shop, especially if you grew up in a suburban/urban area. Stop in to treat yourself to some of Central PA's best and freshest finest!

Rating: 4/5

Store Info:
Tait Farm Foods
179 Tait Road
Centre Hall, PA 16828
(814) 466-2386

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

¡Ay, caramba! Real Mexican in State College?

There are a few places downtown to find ethnic food like Cozy Thai and Kaarma, but you want Mexican tonight. What are your choices? Chipotle or Qdoba... fast food.

I recently caught wind of a newer Mexican restaurant, Rey Azteca. Across the street from Nittany Mall, it is about a 5-10 minute drive from campus, and totally worth it if you can get there!

Upon being seated you are brought a bowl of tortilla chips and salsa to hold you over while you look over the large menu. Enchiladas Suizas was my choice with homemade sangria that we brought because of the BYOB policy.

The service was quick, friendly, and should I say authentic? The inside of the restaurant has booths split up into seperate house-type sections with sombreros and colorful blankets adorning the walls. The food is traditional Mexican, much better than the fast food you will find downtown, and the portions are perfect. Inexpensive too -- three enchiladas with rice and beans = $7.50.

My dinner - yum!

So venture down Benner Pike and get your Mexicana on! ¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba!

Rating: 4/5

Restaurant Info:
Rey Azteca
485 Benner Pike
State College, PA 16801
(814) 238-8700

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Restaurants too crowded in State College?

Try Bonfatto's in Bellefonte.

About a 15 minute ride from campus down I-99, Bonfatto's has a meal to please everyone. With a very long menu serving everything from chicken parm and wings to seafood entrees, you can't go wrong.

It is a very casual restaurant and lounge as well, and bands play often in the side room. Having been to Bonfatto's twice, I know it is a great place to go to escape the two-hour waits many local venues have every night at prime dinner time. Not saying Bonfatto's is not popular, I have had to wait their as well, but ten minutes at most. It seems to be quite popular with the local folk of Bellefonte, too.

Some more about their food, Bonfatto's offers daily specials. For instance, Monday night is half price burgers, crab cakes are offered during dinner on Fridays (and I know they're delicious from first-hand experience), and Saturday is Steak Night. They have some drink and take-out specials as well. Also, the wing sauce has been voted "Best in Central Pa" for years and is bottled and available for take-home purchase. In addition to the food, service is pretty quick and very friendly!

It is great to venture somewhere outside of downtown State College once in a while... give 'em a try, you won't be upset! Open for lunch and dinner, check them out after a warm, sunny day at Tallyrand Park.

Rating: 4/5

Restaurant Info:
205 Park Place
Bellefonte, PA 16823

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tallyrand Park, Bellefonte

With Sunday's weather predicted to be 75 and sunny, I suggest taking advantage of it and getting outside (before it rains again!!). Where? Try Bellefonte's Tallyrand Park. 

Never having been to Bellefonte before, I imagined it as a small town with nothing to do, but I was mislead. While driving through one day in the warmer months, I could not help but stop in this gorgeous park.

Located next to a historical train station Tallyrand Park gleams in the sunlight. A gazebo, wrought iron bridge, fountains, and flowers are just a few perks of the park. Hundreds of trout swim beneath the bridge in hopes to be fed, while ducks quack and waddle around. Tallyrand Park is perfectly picturesque for prom photos, wedding photos, and the such. Its fairytale-like ambiance is quite relaxing on a warm, sunny day.

 Adjacent to the park is a train station with many out-of-use trains and tracks. Walking around is an interesting adventure here in Bellefonte. Being from the suburbs of New Jersey, this town simplifies life; no hustle and bustle. It is a humbling place that allows you to appreciate the little things. 
FYI - Denzel Washington's movie, Unstoppable, was filmed nearby!

Rating: 5/5 (Just go!)