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wine

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[State College, PA]-The American Alehouse

The American Alehouse is located outside of State College, Pennsylvania in village of Toftrees.

The Food

The Ale House offers a menu that is both broad and diverse.  There are a variety of salads, sandwiches, soups, burgers, appetizers, house steaks, and Ale House specialties.  To be up front, I lived in State College for two years as I finished my master’s degree there.  I found the Ale House to be the best restaurant, or at least my favorite one in State College.  I was a regular.  I make it a point every time I visit State College to have at least one outing to the Ale House.  My favorite Ale House item is their Cowboy Steak Sandwich served medium rare, gorgonzola, red peppers, spinach, caramelized onion, ailoi on sourdough.  It is perfection!  It is served with fries now, but used to be served with potato salad, which is a shame because the potato salad was one of the best one could get at a restaurant.  The dill was spot on.  If I am willing to step away from the Cowboy Steak, I recommend the traditional Colorado Prime Rib sandwich or the original Kobe Corned Beef with corned beef, colby jack, onion, shishito peppers, arugula, horseradish cream which presents a nice balance of sweet and savory.  Other recommendations are the grilled sirloin salad, Thai chicken salad, or the seared scallop salad.  All three are a delicious lunch time option.  Another unique feature of the Ale House is their Steam Bar which features all sorts of seafood options from steamed clams to gumbo to jumbalaya to a San Francisco based Italian seafood stew.  All are well prepared and delectable.  Both the wine and beer menus are extensive.  In the 20+ times I have been a patron at the American Alehouse, I have never once had food that was anything but delicious!

The Service

At each visit to the Ale House, the service has been as predictably proportional to how crowded the venue is at the time.  Do not go to the Ale House the weekend of a home Penn State football game.  The service is not bad, but it is crowded, and it can be overwhelming for the servers and patrons alike.  There is a subtle pressure for dinner goers to finish quickly so that the next party can be seated detracts from what is normally and typically a terrific dining experience.  The greeters, bartenders, servers, runners are always friendly and efficient.  At one visit at a slower time of day, it was a friend of mine’s birthday.  We bantered with the waitress, and without being prompted or asked, she brought a brownie with a candle in it, and told us it was on her.  It was an endearing moment.

The Ambiance

The American Ale House is set in a quiet, wooded area outside of State College.  It’s seclusion is part of its charm.  There are indoor and outdoor seating options.  When patrons enter the restaurant, to guests’ right is the bar area that features both the wet bar and the seafood bar.  The space is open with high ceilings and windows behind the bar along the entire front of the restaurant.  The space is bright and welcoming.  The artwork is tasteful and the acoustics make it easy to hear fellow seatmates.  One of the back dining rooms has tables circled around a grand piano providing a warm, intimate setting.  Often times there is live music ranging from a solo piano player to jazz groups to guitar/singer duos.

Overall

The American Ale House with its broad spectrum of dining spaces and its expansive menu, offers patrons the opportunity to enjoy an unique dining experience at each visit.  Not many places can do that, let alone with the expertise achieved by the Ale House.  I have eaten at restaurants across the United States and in Europe.  The American Ale House stands out as one of my favorites!  I clearly give this restaurant an overall rating and recommendation of:

“Absolutely Must Visit!”

Contact

821 Cricklewood Drive
State College, PA 16803
814.237.9701
Visit American Alehouse!

Pittsburgh Restaurants

Casellula

Casellula, specializing in cheese, is located on Pittsburgh’s North Side on North Avenue near Federal Street.

The Food

Casellula has a broad menu and specializes in cheeses and wines.  The cocktail menu offers nine unique options.  I tried their Decadent & Depraved with rye, sweet vermouth, orange, and luxardo and their Poe Died of Rabies made with aged Brandy, Applejack, White Port, Lemon, with an absinthe rinse.  Both were delicious!  There is also an extensive wine menu with options of buying by the glass or the bottle.  There are 15 options of wines by the glass and over 60 options of by the bottle.  The wine menu gives year and place of origin and boasts some impressive names..  Casellula offers an extensive variety of cheeses.  Patrons can choose from over 20 options of fresh, bloomy, washed, pressed and cooked, and/or blue.  Each cheese is served with a pairing whether sweet or savory that compliments the flavor such as butters, pesto, fruit spread and more.  After the cheese course, I had Casellula’s Greens which was a mix of spring vegetables, Grana Padano cheese, breadcrumbs with an anchovy vinaigrette.  It had a refreshing flavor, but was served with both too much breadcrumb and dressing.  I couldn’t finish it.  I was at Casellula with a party of three.  We each chose an item from the plate menu and all sampled each others entree.  I had the Pig’s Ass Sandwich, which essentially Casellula’s twist on a Cuban Sandwich.  It was so greasy that the flavor of the ham, pork, cheese, and even the pickles was lost.  If it did not have chipotle aioli on the side to spread on it, there would have been no flavor at all.  I could not finish it.  My one friend tried the Mac and Cheese baked with caramelized onion and a variety of cheeses.  We all tried it and agreed it was bland and too greasy, as there was about half a centimeter of oil at the bottom of the craft that it was served in.  My friend who ordered it could not finish.  Lastly, my third dinner mate ordered the salmon with Tahini, over bulgur,  with snap peas.  I tried it and wished that I had ordered that.  It was delicious.  For dessert, I had the cheesecake made with Italian Mascarpone cheese, with sour cherry, on a graham crust.  It was delicious as well.

           

The Service

Our server at Casellula was very knowledgeable of the vast cheese and wine menus.  She patiently guided our party through both lists answering our questions and making suggestions that articulated a wide depth of understanding.  The cheese course with its pairings took a little longer amount of time, but that was to be expected.  The drinks took a little longer amount of time as well, but again, they were specialized drinks.  Unfortunately, as the dinner progressed, my friend ordered a second drink and it took 20 minutes for it to be served.   The restaurant was not that crowded so it was a little perplexing.  Water was refilled and plates were cleared with efficiency by our server or one of the runners.  Here is the clincher of the evening.  I ordered a second drink from our server.  About 15 minutes later, it was brought by a runner who said to us, “I don’t know who ordered this” and placed the drink in the middle of the table, shrugged her shoulders, and walked away.  She actually shrugged her shoulders!

The Ambiance

Casellula is a gorgeous spacious venue that shares a space with Alphabet City and City of Asylum Books.  There is a great blend of natural and artificial light, with tasteful artwork.  Acoustically, it is easy to hear conversation of your fellow table mates.  The venue has a very Parisian feel to it and it is most welcoming.  There is open space between the restaurant portion of the venue and the bookstore with a small stage.  This is the perfect place to listen to a reading, or a small music ensemble, accompanied by great cheese and wine while being entertained.

Casellula

Overall

What Casellula is great at, they are great at.  What they are bad at, they are bad at.  The cheese, wines, specialty cocktails (although served very slowly), and desserts are all terrific and worth the visit.  The other dinner items we all had were at best pretty good and at worst, unable to be finished.  Normally, I make multiple visits to restaurants or other venues before I review them just in case there was an “off” night or some other circumstance that might have made a dining experience undesirable.  However, the Saturday night I visited, the venue was not crowded as there were tables available, but the drink service was consistently slow.  Casellula boasts on its menu and web page that they do not allow tipping because the restaurant staff is compensated well and provided with health benefits and retirement plans.  I am in complete support of any restaurant that treats its employees as the professionals that they are.  Normally a meal experience like this would garner a rating of “It’s worth a shot, but it could be a miss,” but so jarring was the cavalier, millennial-ish act of not asking who the second drink belonged to, but rather shrugging their shoulders and walking away that even though the cheese course was fantastic, I will not be going back again.  This is the first restaurant that I have reviewed to get the rating of:

“Avoid At All Costs!”

Contact

40 W. North Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(412) 226-9740
Visit Casellula