A couple’s tasty food-themed getaway to Greater Parkersburg, West Virginia holds romance, fun discoveries and many culinary surprises for both.
By Tracy Antonioli
“I can’t believe you kept this secret from me for so many weeks!” I exclaimed as my husband, Josh, handed the car keys to the valet. “What else have you been hiding?”
“You’ll see,” Josh responded, taking my bag from my hand as we walked through the entrance of the Blennerhassett Hotel. The lobby was just as I’d remembered it from the brief peek I’d had the last time we came to town for the Taste of Parkersburg. I mentioned it would be amazing to stay here—and now, here we were, checking in for a romantic weekend getaway. It was our first trip together alone since the birth of our daughter, and my husband had arranged it all without my knowledge.
Our room was as beautiful as I’d hoped, with a large four-poster bed and a cozy seating area. I could spend a good amount of time here, but Josh was ready to explore.
Begin with a brewery
“Are you hungry?” Josh asked.
“What kind of question is that?” I responded. “I’m always hungry! Are we dining in the hotel’s restaurant tonight?”
“Not tonight,” Josh responded. “Remember, I’m not through surprising you yet. I think you’re going to like this next one.”
As we pulled up to the restaurant, I read the sign above the door. “North End Tavern & Brewery. This is the place that makes the beer I wanted to try at the festival,” I realized aloud.
“I thought you would like this,” Josh smiled.
We sat in the cozy tavern dining area eyeing the menu and I sipped a Roedy’s Red. Josh went with the WV Wheat. I decided to try the fried German bologna sandwich. I was pregnant on our last visit to Parkersburg, and both beer and bologna were on the forbidden list. Josh, always one for the house specialty, selected the NET Burger, which he ordered with the works. Everything was tasty and made even better washed down with the house-brewed craft beer. Our server told us the history of North End Tavern, the oldest continually operating pub and restaurant in the state of West Virginia. North End Tavern & Brewery is so committed to producing high-quality beer that they even grow their own hops on the property.
“You can’t get more local than that,” Josh noted, downing the last of his burger in one large, enthusiastic bite.
The moment I stepped through the door of Holl’s Swiss Chocolatier the smell of chocolate surrounded me, and I was like a kid in a candy shop. Which was apt, as I was in an actual candy shop—that also sold wine. I was in heaven.
“How brilliant—selling wine and chocolate together. The best combination,” I noted, inspecting a display of chocolate truffles.
After a lot of decision making and assistance from the shop owners, Dom and Michelle, we made our selections: a box of mixed chocolates, including a few of the hazelnut truffles of the month, several chocolate-covered caramels and two bottles of red wine.
“Do you think that’s enough?” Josh joked.
“This will do for the rest of the day at least,” I replied.
Dom and Michelle told us about a great little pasta shop over the Ohio River in Marietta, so we decided it would be our afternoon destination. Rossi Pasta had a quaint awning and a handwritten sign outside. Inside was the most diverse selection of freshly made pastas I’d ever seen. There were traditional long and short pastas, and a great selection of specialty linguini made with intriguing ingredients.
I pawed through the shelves. “Paprika and cayenne linguini, saffron linguini, linguini made with cabernet. Oh look—wild mushroom linguini.”
“You’re the cook in this couple,” Josh said. “I’ll leave it to you!”
I grabbed a butternut squash sauce and headed toward the register.
“So,” Josh started as we exited the shop, “are you hungry for dinner now?”
“Again, what kind of question is that?”
Josh didn’t tell me where we were headed, but I had a feeling as we strolled down the block together.
Learning something new together
“The Cook’s Shop?” I guessed, correctly, as Josh winked.
“Remember the cooking demonstration we saw at Taste of Parkersburg? Well, this evening we’re doing our own. I’ve signed us up for a cooking class.”
“But honey, like you just said: you can’t cook,” I said, laughing.
“That’s exactly why I need this class.”
The evening was a fun-filled blur of oil and sauté pans, but after we were through, Josh and I had created a rather elegant summer meal, with some help from the lovely instructors at The Cook’s Shop. It was both beautiful and delicious.
“Think you could do this again?” Josh asked, cleaning the last bit of sauce from his plate with a piece of crusty bread. “Because I could get used to eating like this.”
“Only if you helped, too,” I responded. “Or at the very least, did the dishes after.”
“Deal!” Josh proclaimed.
As it turned out, we were able to delay having to do dishes a bit longer—the following morning, Josh surprised me one last time with reservations for Sunday brunch at the Blennerhassett’s upscale restaurant, Spat’s. He reserved a table on the outside patio, overlooking the plaza where we’d first discovered Parkersburg months before. A soft jazz band was playing and he ordered us both a glass of champagne.
“Thank you for bringing me back here and for planning such a wonderful trip,” I whispered as the waiter filled my glass.
“To us,” he toasted.
“Cheers,” we chimed in unison.