Final Cut Steakhouse at Hollywood Casino, Charles Town

Posted by  | December 20, 2013  at 12:18 PM  

Saturday evening, en route to The Nutcracker, my date and I ventured out into what had become a Wild, Wonderful, winter wonderland, to drop by Final Cut Steakhouse for some festive holiday cocktails and overly indulgent appetizers.

Final Cut is located on the main floor of Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, WV; this steakhouse is heralded as one of the standout dining destinations in the tri-state area, and this accolade is reflected as the restaurant is set on somewhat of a pedestal within the casino. However, like 9 Dragons, once you're in the restaurant, the chaos of the casino disappears and allows you to enjoy an intimate dining experience prior to testing your relationship with Miss Lady Luck.

When the weather outside is frightful, I find martinis most delightful for warming oneself from the inside out. After perusing the cocktail menu (otherwise known as playing around on the iPad that's placed on every table), we selected and sipped the Peppermint Patty and the Pumpkin Manhattan. The Peppermint Patty consists of peppermint and white chocolate liquors, a generous dollop of whipped cream, and a drizzle of chocolate. After one sip, you most definitely "get the sensation" -- this drink is liquid candy served straight up. Traditional Manhattans can be a tad too manly for many; however, the Pumpkin Manhattan (spiced whiskey, liquor 43, pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon cream) mixes things up to give you a cocktail that's sippably sweet with just a nip of whiskey that will make you feel warm and fuzzy, as you go "mmmmmm that's tasty!"

The decadent nature of our drinks definitely left us with a "we ate dessert first" feeling (which is never a bad thing), but that really just prepped our palettes for some savory eats. The new Prime Steak & Egg appetizer was a must-try, and then our waiter recommend we try the Cobb Salad, as Final Cut's Cobb is a far cry from what you'd find at your corner deli! Both plates were not only mouth-watering, but the presentation alone was enough to have you drooling like an English bulldog. For the Steak & Egg appetizer, we ordered the steak medium rare. The steak was so tender you hardly needed your pearl-handled steak knife, and while the inner part of the meat melted in your mouth, the outside had a slightly salted crust to give you just the perfect amount of crunch. The potato & egg tower, which the boy referred to as a castle, was quite the royal treat, but the castle quickly came tumbling down when I poked the perfectly poached egg with a forkful of potato. After obliterating the kingdom of hash, it was time to tackle our Cobb "Salad" -- I put salad in quotes, as this Cobb was anything but a bowl of lackluster lettuce. What arrived at our table, looked almost like a prosciutto-wrapped yule log with bits of green popping out the ends. Stuffed with lettuce, blue cheese, red onion, and ham, our stick of salad was then topped with buttermilk garlic dressing, and accompanied by chopped tomatoes, more blue cheese, and a hard-boiled quail egg. This is definitely not a dieters delight, but the unique presentation, paired with high-end ingredients, make this "salad" something you'll want to order, even after that New Year's resolution to eat healthy ;)

Thanks to the generous people at Hollywood Casino, that night, as we settled our brains for a long winters nap, it was visions of steaks, not sugar plums, dancing in our heads.

If you're planning a visit to Final Cut, price points for dinner tend to fall into the "special occasion" category. However, if you're looking for all the fancy flavor on a post-holiday budget, just head to the bar! At the bar, you'll find plenty of tasty treats for under $20 and if you're there between 5PM and 7PM, cocktails are 1/2 priced!

750 Hollywood Drive
Charles Town, WV 25414

Save the Date for The 4th Annual Identity Crisis: Are You Red Carpet Ready?

Posted by  | July 16, 2013  at 3:11 PM  

Saturday, August 3, German Street in Shepherdstown, WV, is going to transform into Grammy-esque scene, with a touch of Oscar class and maybe a smidge of MTV Movie Award mayhem.  If you hadn't guessed, the theme for the 4th Annual Identity Crissis is Red Carpet. Whether you choose to channel Grace Kelly or one of the Kardashians is up to you, just so long as you're prepped and paparazzi-ready perfect.

For those not familiar with this a-mazing even, Identity Crisis is an annual fundraiser that floods downtown Shepherdstown with a sea of "strangers" scampering about town, cavorting for a cause. Last year's event raised over $2600 for Breast Cancer Awareness. Breast Cancer Awareness-Cumberland Valley will also be the designated charity for this year's event.

Participating venues throughout town will be offering drink deals (beaucoup de bubbly), dance tunes (bands, DJ, etc.), and of course you can expect to be walking quite a few actual red carpets. Did I mention there will be paparazzi too? Just like J.Lo and Angelina, you too will be posing for pictures. Specially designated "Press" will be scampered throughout town to capture all of your finest award-winning moments. Just hope your antics don't land you a headline on the latest gossip blog ;)

For more details on the 4th Annual Identity Crisis visit there new website:


4th Annual Identity Crisis

August 3, 2013

Shepherdstown, WV

Bring cash for suggested donations at the door!

Front Porch Live Music Series Debuts Friday Night with DELTAnine & Hubble Bash at Tap House Sports Bar

Posted by  | July 9, 2013  at 1:59 PM  

Friday, July 12, will mark the debut of Front Porch Live -- a new music series set to bring some pretty fab tunes to Tap House Sports Bar in Charles Town, WV! Shows will be held on Friday nights throughout the summer, and each evening will kick off with a happy hour starting at 6PM on the Tap House patio which will include both food and beverage specials.

For Friday's grand opening, guests can energize themselves with $1 frosty drafts and $.45 wings, prior to dancing their pants off to DELTAnine & Hubble Bash!!! This will be my first Hubble Bash experience; however, the interwebs are still buzzing their last night set at Blueberry Jam Fest back in June, so I'm quite intrigued to say the least. As for DELTAnine, not only do they put on a great show, but their new album Igenous Rock has been a constant on my playlist since the day the album dropped.

Tickets for this show are priced super friendly at only $5 before 9PM and $10 thereafter. You can also snag the special price by purchasing your tickets in advance via

As for the rest of this summer, you can check out the full lineup after the break, and I promise you, it most certainly doesn't disappoint!

Front Porch Live Grand Opening

July 12, 2013
6PM - Happy Hour
9PM - Tunes

Tap House Sports Bar
Keyes Ferry Road
Charles Town, WV  25414

$5 - Advance/Early
$10 - After 9PM, Day of Show

Shepherdstown Street Fest is this Saturday and it's FREE!

Posted by  | June 25, 2013  at 3:29 PM  
Saturday, June 29 is Shepherdstown, WV's annual, FREE Street Fest! This day-long celebration turns downtown Shepherdstown into a virtual playground for kids of all ages with 2 stages of music, vendors galore, a kids camp for the little kiddos, and a beer garden for the big kids. ;) 
This year's music line-up is not to be missed; featured acts include, The Woodshedders, On the Bus, Big Leg Emma, The Hillbilly Gypsies, Johnny Neel, and more! For the full music schedule, CLICK HERE.

For those looking to keep the party going Saturday evening, Sacred Groove will be taking the stage at Opera House Live Tabasco Bustelo will be playing downstairs at Tony's.

I've attended the past two Street Fests and every year has been a blast: this an extremely well-run event right down to the last detail. And did I mention it's FREE?!

For more information on Shepherdstown Street Fest visit

Shepherdstown Street Fest

Saturday, June 29, 2013
10AM to 8:30PM

Downtown Shepherdstown

(plus spenindg money)

Don't Let the Good Times Roll By--Buy Your Tickets Now for the 6th Annual SUFOM Tuxedo Junction!

Posted by  | May 13, 2013  at 11:21 AM  

Laissez les bon temps rouler this Friday, May 17, at the Shepherd University Friends of Music (SUFOM)  6th Annual Tuxedo Junction gala at the Bavarian Inn, in Shepherdstown, WV. The theme for this year's soirée is "The Big Easy"and you can bet your bowl of gumbo that there will be beaucoup de bon temps!

Guests will enjoy the sounds, sights, and flavors, that have made NOLA famous (or sometimes infamous) including high energy tunes as performed by the Shepherd University Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Kurtis Adams. There will also be a silent auction including:

*Two 3 Month Memberships to the Shepherd University Wellness Center
*Overnight Stay and Breakfast at the Clarion Hotel
*$50.00 Gift Certificate to Tuscany Grill
*Rounds of golf with cart at Cress Creek and Locust Hill
*Overnight stay at the Bavarian Inn in a River View Luxury Room with Breakfast
*Two times 2 Tickets for CATF shows
*Basket of goods at Sagittarius Salon

Tickets are $100 per person and can be purchased at For information on past Tuxedo Junctions, follow the links below:

2010 - Stomping at the Savoy
2011 - Give My Regards to Broadway
2012 - A Night in Old Havana

6th Annual Tuxedo Junction
"The Big Easy"
Friday, May 17, 2013
6:30PM to 11:00PM
The Bavarian Inn
164 Shepherd Grade Road
Shepherdstown, WV 25443


Pumps and Pearls 2013: LOVE to Bloom

Posted by  | May 10, 2013  at 9:37 AM  

Monday, April 29, marked the 5th year for the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival's® Pumps & Pearls Party!   This is an event that I have been fortunate enough to cover since that fabulous first year and continue to look forward to every spring. As this is one of my fave events, you can imagine my surprise (and excitement) when I was asked to serve as one of the judges for this year's parade of pumps!

Judging a shoe contest is WAY harder than I ever imagined, so belated kudos to all the judges of Pumps & Pearls past. For one thing, this is an event where everyone looks amazing. You could probably spend all evening elbowing your bestie over who is wearing what and trying to figure out where you can buy said dress, clutch, cuff, shoes--oh wait, those shoes are DIY'd?!

One of the toughest and yet best parts about being a judge was getting the full scoop on the effort that goes into each shoe. I heard all kinds of stories ranging from "so I had this hack saw" to "well my husband did the wiring" to "then my dog tried to eat them." When you hear about the blood, sweat, and tears in those stilettos it makes picking a handful of winners REALLY REALLY hard.

Since I spent most of my evening with fellow judge, Carrie Kern-Luebcke of Scarpa Alta, sweating over some seriously difficult decisions (and perhaps sipping a cocktail or two in the process), this post is a little sparse:sorry about that! To tide you over 'til next year, here's a video clip from TV3 Winchester news with lots of footwear footage and even a peek at your esteemed judges!
Hilary Shockey, Rebecca Miller, & Melissa Cooper

Brandy Leonard & Karen Trent

Irina Price, Jennifer Wohltman, & Massy Gibson

***These pics were snapped with my iphone, so don't judge too harshly ;)

TONIGHT--Domestic's "Official" Grand Opening

Posted by  | April 18, 2013  at 10:04 AM  

Tonight Domestic (Dish's sassy little sister) will be holding their "official" grand opening festivities from 5PM - 7PM. Stop by (perhaps en route to the Matt Costa show? ) and enjoy $2 drafts & wines as well as an assortment of complimentary appetizers.
Not familiar with Domestic?

The thought behind domestic was to provide the space, food, drinks, and service that reflect our views on what we think a creative American restaurant can be. The menu features those iconic dishes that we recall from our childhood, in addition to a rotating cast of items that will change weekly to better take advantage of local and seasonal items from the region’s farmers, ranchers, brewers, and others.

From my two visits, I'd say menu "musts" include the jalapeno poppers, fried chicken & sweet potato waffle sandwich, anything mac & cheese related, and of course a specialty cocktail or two ;)
Domestic Grand Opening
April 18, 2013
5PM - 7PM
 117 East German Street
Shepherdstown, WV 25443

Drymill Road Spring Concert Series at Barns of Rose Hill

Posted by  | March 21, 2013  at 5:03 PM  

Friday, March 22, Colebrook Rd. out of Harrisburg, PA, will kick off the first show in the Friends of Drymill Road Bluegrass Concert Series. Much like moonshine and Mason jars, Barns of Rose Hill and Drymill Road are a perfect pairing, so when the two team up, good luck keeping those toes from tapping. ;)

I find that nothing chases away the winter blues quite like some bluegrass (except maybe bourbon). These shows are sure to feature tunes that will have you bop bop boppin' more than a red, red robin. Plus, this is the perfect time to dust off your dancing shoes and start gearing up for festival season!

This series will also include performances by Banana Express on April 26, followed by Bud's Collective on May 17.  Just a heads-up: Drymill Road alone has quite reputation for drawing quite the crowd to Barns of Rose Hill, so you'll want to be sure to snag your tickets before they sell out!

Tickets for these events are available for $10 in advance or $15 at the door. For online ticket purchases, CLICK HERE.

Pumps & Pearls Pre-Sale Party Tomorrow at Kimberly's

Posted by  | March 13, 2013  at 11:50 AM  

As we countdown the weeks 'til the 2013 Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival®  -- "Love to Bloom" -- many ladies are already hard at work prepping their favorite peeptoes for the 5th Annual Kimberly's Pumps & Pearls Ladies Party!

Because this is such a hot-ticket event, there will be a special pre-sale party at Kimberly's on Thursday, March 14. The pre-sale event will run from 5:30PM 'til 7:00PM and include wine & cheese.  This will give all you super enthusiastic ladies a chance to snag your tickets in advance, all while doing a little sipping, socializing, and of course, shopping!

This year's actual Pumps & Pearls will be held on Monday, April 29, from 7:30PM to 10PM at the historic George Washington Hotel in downtown Winchester. For the fifth affair, party-goers can look forward to a photo booth, DJ & dance area, door prizes to-die-for, and the infamous Pump Parade!
Pumps & Pearls Pre-Sale Party
March 14, 2013
5:30PM to 7:00PM
135 North Braddock St.
Winchester, VA
Event is Free
Pre-sale Tickets for Pumps & Pearls are $100 

Not sure what to expect from Pumps & Pearls 2013?
Here's a look back at P&P 2009-2012!

P.S. Here's a peek at my shoes from Pumps & Pearls past ;)

Second Annual Snowball, Saturday, March 2, Presented by The Bluegrass Music Alliance

Posted by  | February 27, 2013  at 12:44 PM  

Saturday, March 2, the Bluegrass Music Alliance (BMA) will be holding their 2nd Annual Snowball at the Apollo Civic Theatre in Martinsburg, WV.
Featuring some of the areas most popular pickers like The Shuey Brothers, Carroll County Ramblers, and one of my personal picks (haha) The Back Creek Valley Boys!

It may still be cold outside, but you can bet your banjo the tunes on stage will be smokin' hot! Let's just hope this isn't a literal Snowball ;)

Tickets are available at the door or for purchase online, HERE. Standard theatre concessions will be available during the show.

2nd Annual Snowball

March 2, 2013
Doors: 5:30PM
Tunes: 6PM - 9PM

The Apollo Theatre
128 E. Martin St.
Martinsburg, WV  25401

Free: Kids 3 & Under
$4: Kids 4-12
$8: Students and BMA Members
$10: General Admission

Bavarian Inn's 6th Annual Wine Auction to Benefit The Shepherdstown Day Care

Posted by  | February 21, 2013  at 1:50 PM  

Saturday, March 2, The Bavarian Inn, in Shepherdstown, WV, will be holding their 6th Annual Wine Auction to benefit the Shepherdstown Daycare Center. 

Before the bidding begins, enjoy tasty treats paired with some samples of the sippable variety. This pre-auction wine tasting will give bidders a chance to sample some of the items up for auction tosee what pleases their palates, all while ensuring those purse strings are nice and loose. Besides, everyone knows budgets don't count when it's for a good cause, right?!

Beverages up for bid will vary from the fancy to the more affordable. The Bavarian will be pulling out some of their extra special selections including a Magnum of 2006 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (WA 94) and their 2008 Nicholas Catena Zapate Malbec (WA 98). There will also be plenty of, shall we say, "weeknight wines" -- don't judge, you know you've come home from a long day at work and wanted nothing more than pizza, trashy TV, and a big damn glass (bottle) of wine.

Attire for this affair is "cocktail casual" so it's a perfect excuse to snag a new ensemble from reFinements or Retrpolitan or perhaps just spruce up an old outfit with a new bauble from Plum ;)

6th Annual Wine Auction

March 2, 2013

The Bavarian Inn
164 Shepherd Grade Rd.
Shepherdstown, WV  25443

 (plus bidding money)

ACFF Eco Fashion Formal Challenge

Posted by  | February 8, 2013  at 10:17 AM  
February 14, the American Conservation Film Festival (ACFF) will be hosting a Valentine's Day Fashion Formal at the Shepherdstown Train Station in Shepherdstown, WV. While most fashion shows are an exercise in ogling, this event encourages attendees to call on their inner Karl Lagerfeld and compete in the EcoFashion Challenge!

So what does the EcoFashion Challenge entail? Well my pretty Project Runway-wannabees, you have several options to keep in mind when scouring your wardrobe for your ready-to-wear ensemble:

Dress with materials you already own

Mix, match, recreate your possessions

Added points for turning materials one would otherwise toss into formal wear/accessories

Some of Shepherdstown's most stylish ladies--Roselyn Sanders Mendez and Judith Platz--will be critiquing your fab EcoFashion ensembles. Prizes will be awarded for Best Dressed Individual and Best Dressed Couple as well as an Audience Choice pick. Each award recipient will be furnished with a $25 gift certificate to the Yellow Brick Bank.

Speaking of the Yellow Brick Bank, be sure to head there for some post-fashion show feasting! Ticket holders receive a "buy one entree get one half price" special valid through 2/16/12.  Pianist Sam Jannotta will be playing at YBB till 10pm, and kitchen service will be available till 9pm. Please note that reservations are recommended.

Tickets are available online (HERE) and in-person at reFINEments of Shepherdstown till Monday, February 11.  Advanced purchase rates are $20 each or two for $35.  Tickets will also be sold at the door for $25 each or two for $45. Your ticket price includes champagne, tasty treats, as well as entry in the Eco Fashion Challenge. All proceeds from this event will benefit the American Conservation Film Festival:

V-Day Fashion Formal

February 14, 2013
5PM to 8PM

Shepherdstown Train Station
100 Audrey Egle Drive
Shepherdstown, WV, 25443


Town Mountain Set to Headline a Special Wednesday Night Indie Adams Morgan Show!

Posted by  | February 7, 2013  at 4:03 PM  

Now this is a reason to battle the beltway!

Photo by Jason Beverly via

Town Mountain Plays Club Heaven & Hell w/ Big Chimney on Wed, Feb 13th

Town Mountain @ Club Heaven & Hell *w/ Big Chimney
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

$8 adv/ $12 dos; 21+
2327 18th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009

I’m not sure what the definition of bluegrass would be in words alone, but if that definition was set to music, it would probably sound something like Town Mountain’s new Pinecastle Records release, ‘Leave the Bottle’... I could go on. There are no duds, and no filler songs on this project, which was produced by Mike Bub. But you get the point. This, my friends, is how bluegrass is supposed to sound.” --David Morris, Bluegrass Today

Leave the Bottle‘s compositions are masterful, the interplay between the musicians is astounding, and Town Mountain supply it with an army of drive... An absolute triumph of a record.” --Steven Spoerl, Pop Matters    

Upcoming Nature Photography Events at the National Fish and Wildlife Conservation Center

Posted by  | January 25, 2013  at 2:08 PM  

The last time I tried my hand at "nature photography" I ended up on my backside sliding down a rather steep embankment straight into a creek, or in this case I'm pretty sure it was a crick. Don't worry though, I went down holding my camera above my head to keep it out of harms way. While my Nikon came out unscathed, I wish I could same the same for my dignity; I'm pretty sure I saw some squirrels pointing and laughing.

My antics aside, for those of you looking to brave the great outdoors for some wild, wonderful shots, the Potomac Valley Nature Photographers (PVNP) will be hosting some great events over the next couple months. The first event will be a presentation and the second a hands-on workshop. Information on both events is outlined below and there are more details on both after the break.

Remember: if (when) you fall to hold your camera high and if you thought squirrels were snarky, just keep in mind those rascally rabbits are totally ruthless ;)
Jim Clark Presentation
"Life through the Lens: Notes from the Field; Lessons from the Heart"
February 8, 2013
National Conservation Training Center
698 Conservation Way
Shepherdstown, WV 25443
Nature Photography Workshop
March 2, 2013
8AM to 4PM
(Pre-registration is required)
National Conservation Training Center
698 Conservation Way  25443
Shepherdstown, WV

Vote for Shepherdstown in Budget Travel's Search for America's Coolest Small Town!

Posted by  | January 18, 2013  at 8:35 AM  
Shepherdstown, WV, has made it to the final round of voting in Budget Travel's search to find America's Coolest Small Town!

If you're a frequent reader of this blog, you know I love Shepherdstown. From the food to the music to the people--Shepherdstown is more than cool, it's a bit of utopia disguised as small town in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

I could give you 100's of reasons why Shepherdstown deserves this title, but here are a few old posts that should do the trick.


Below is a peek of Shepherdstown's blurb on the Budget Travel Website, but you must visit the site to vote!

To vote for Shepherdstown visit Budget Travel's website:,14/

You can vote once a day, so vote EVERY DAY on every "smart" device you can find--you can even try some not-so-smart ones too ;)

Shepherdstown, WV

(Population: 1,734)You might say all roads lead to West Virginia's oldest town, which celebrated its 250th birthday in 2012: The Potomac River, the C&O Canal, and the Appalachian Trail all pass through this Revolutionary War-era town in the lower Shenandoah Valley. But look behind those preserved 18th-century brick facades for surprisingly cool signs of life—this place is by no means a living museum. Housed in a Confederate hospital, the Mecklenburg Inn is known for its live bluegrass music and was named one of the best bars in America by Esquire. And the sophisticated Bistro 112 is housed in an 1830s brick building that once served as the town's haberdasher. The Contemporary American Theater Festival at Shepherd University stages productions from renowned playwrights like Neil LaBute, David Mamet, and Sam Shepard.

Indie Adams Morgan: A Must See Music Series in the Admo

Posted by  | January 9, 2013  at 8:51 AM  
When I told some of my friends, I was going to "The Admo" to check out some bands, I was met with looks of shock and horror. The Adams Morgan (or Admo) bar scene is infamous for being kind of a drunk mess; it's the place you go for 21st birthdays, jumbo slices of pizza, and to pick up boys via chugging contests. I'm pretty sure the last time I went out in the Admo, someone fell down a flight of stairs, someone was slapped with a jumbo slice, then there was something about a paddy wagon--and those were just my friends! I swore off the Admo after that night and stuck to it for about 5 years. So, what on earth possessed me to venture back as an (almost) 30 year old? Music, my friends, music.

The Indie Adams Morgan music series first piqued my attention when I saw something about The Woodshedders headlining "Roots Night." As I did some scouring via the interwebs, I spotted a lot of familiar names on their lineup and was instantly intrigued! Indie Adams Morgan is a series of Thursday night shows held at "Club Heaven" in Adams Morgan. Different weeks have different themes such as Indie, World, Jam, and Roots, and feature up to three bands from that particular genre. This series is set to showcase local (DC) talent as well as some local (WV) acts as well! In addition to The Woodshedders on Roots Night (February 28), Camryn Wessner will be joining People's Blues of Richmond and Sol Roots on February 22 for Jam Night! Other bands I'm excited to see in this series include Funk ArkKings of Belmont, Covered with Jam, and Moogatu; and there are still more additions to come!

Thursday, January 3, was the launch of Indie Adams Morgan and featured local (DC) acts Heather Mae, TheRuinCity, and Vasudeva. I managed to convince a friend to come with me to check things out after quite a few "this isn't typical Adams Morgan, I swear" and the promise of a frosty brew or two. I took it as a very good omen for the evening when I found a parking spot right across the street from Heaven--a slight miracle since parking in the Admo is usually Hell.

While the music is what motivated my outing, the venue, is what really sold me on this series."Club Heaven" is nothing like any of the images in your head right now. The stage area is set up on the 2nd floor of the building, and is in close proximity to both the bar and bathrooms. There's a decent-sized dance floor, but then nested around the room you'll find cozy seating areas, should you just want to sit back and enjoy the show. There's also a balcony area, should you prefer more of a birds-eye view. It's a venue that manages the perfect mix of being both roomy and intimate at the same time.

If the Indie Adams Morgan launch was any indicator of what Thursday's are like in the Admo, sign me up! I can't wait for the next show, and I'm super excited to see this series take-off, so start spreading the word!

Tickets for most shows are under $15, with special discounts for Facebook and Twitter followers.

For more info on Indie Adams Morgan follow, like, and love.


9 Dragons at Hollywood Casino, Charles Town

Posted by  | January 3, 2013  at 5:02 PM  

Spider Roll, 9 Dragons Roll, and the Hot Mama Roll
Nestled in a sea of slot machines at Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, WV, you'll find 9 Dragons--an upscale taste of the Far East without the hassle of traveling any further east than the Eastern Panhandle.

When a guest and I were invited to test out this exotic dining destination at Hollywood Casino -- locally still referred to as "The Track" -- I really had no idea what to expect beyond sushi and sake bombs. While our multi-course meal did include both sushi and sake, that was only the beginning of our tour de taste buds.

Approaching 9 Dragons, you'll first notice the bar area where you'll find several high-top tables scattered between the beverage bar and sushi bar. This seating area allows for all the people watching you can handle as you take in the diverse culture of the crowded casino. Should you be looking for something a little more intimate, ask for a booth in the back; after a martini or two, you'll quickly forget you're right in the heart of so much hustle and bustle.

Speaking of martinis, let's talk cocktails! Initially, I had my heart (and my liver) set on a sake bomb; however, after perusing the drink menu, how could I possibly pass up a drink that included wasabi dust?! The Dragon Fire Martini is a mix of Absolut Citron, lemon lime, cucumber, and wasabi dust. As I ordered this fire-breathing beverage, our waitress inquired with raised eyebrows if I thought I could handle the spice. My dining companion chuckled as I told the waitress there's no such thing as too hot to handle, which set the tone for a spicy theme that prevailed throughout the evening. I found the Dragon Fire to be quite refreshing and not nearly as deadly as expected. Let's just say this gave me a false sense of security for what was to come.

As my fellow foodie and I sipped our beverages  (she wimped out and played it safe with wine), we settled into the somewhat daunting task of what to order. The menu at 9 Dragons is quite extensive with foods ranging from exotic delicacies like jellyfish salad and beef tendon, to more familiar looking Far Eastern fare such as fried rices.

It took quite a few passes over the menu before we made a decision on our main dishes, so in the interim, we started things off with some sushi. My friend opted for the Spider Roll (fried, soft shell crab), while I decided the Hot Mama Roll (tuna, cilantro, and jalapeno) was a must. Our waitresses took note of our order and told us we'd be missing out if we didn't try the 9 Dragons Roll (eel, shrimp, tuna, salmon, cucumber), so how could we resist? Not only was the 9 Dragons Roll the perfect combination of both flavors and textures, but when it came out it actually looked like a dragon! I'm not a fan of soft shell crab, but I was told the Spider Roll was tasty. And then there was the Hot Mama. Remember how I said I can handle the spice? I lied. My very first taste of sushi was a piece of the Hot Mama, so this was also my first sampling of 9 Dragons wasabi. Somehow I managed to get a bite that was nothing but wasabi and jalapeno. I don't know whose waterworks started first--mine from the overwhelming heat or my friend's tears from laughing so hard. My eyes haven't watered that much since I looked at my Neiman Marcus bill. All drama aside, I recommend the Hot Mama 110%. Just use caution when dabbling in the wasabi: it's not for wimps my friends.

Once we finished wiping away our tears, we were ready to place our entree orders. After MUCH deliberation, and a long chat with our waitress over Hong Kong-style foods versus Japanese or Chinese cuisine, I went with the Lobster Harbor Style (extra spicy obviously) and my companion went for the 9 Dragons Seafood. The 9 Dragons Seafood is a combination shrimp, squid, scallops, crab, and veggies mixed in a light sauce and served with a side of rice. This dish looked too tempting to not try, so I was a rather rude dining buddy and reached across the table for a taste or two. The seafood was excellent, fresh, plump, juicy, all that jazz, but what really stood out for me were the snap peas! The peas maintained a nice crunch without being chewy, and the light sauce brought out just enough of their sweetness to balance out the seafood flavors.

One of the things I learned while dining at 9 Dragons, is that lobster is prepared quite differently in Hong Kong. In American cuisine, lobster is served whole or split down the center, where as in Hong Kong, the lobster is cracked into multiple pieces. With the lobster "Harbor Style" your whole lobster comes out, cracked in pieces and then coated with a nice spicy layer of deliciousness. I love plain old steamed lobster, but let's just say Harbor Style does to lobster what Gangnam Style does to wedding receptions--it takes it to a whole new level.

I start to feel somewhat stuffed even as I type this post, but no matter what you do, be sure to save a little room for dessert--I'm not talking about just a fortune cookie either. My friend and I did our best to polish off a monster piece of cheesecake. Trimmed with fresh berries and dark chocolate, the cheesecake was cool, creamy, and impossible to resist. Like everything else that night, it far exceeded any expectations. It was an evening that left us virtually speechless beyond "wow."

On a return trip to 9 Dragons, I'd really love to try some of their soups; specifically, there was an asparagus and crab number that caught my eye. I'm also anxious to try the Hong Kong-style noodles: a dish similar to lo mein, but with the noodles pan-friend, so they're crunchy around the edges, yet soft in the middle. I'd also like to try a few sips of their sparkling sake--perhaps paired with a 9 Dragon Roll? Price points at 9 Dragons range from $6 sushi rolls to seafood entrees in the mid-$20's. You could definitely dine here on a budget, but if someone else is footing the bill, go for the lobster and do it Harbor Style.

9 Dragons
750 Hollywood Drive
Charles Town, WV 25414