The Food Guy, Steven Keith Eating his way through the state, plate by plate

Fancy a Good Ramp Dinner? This One’s Fancy!

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Fish Hawk Acres in Central West Virginia will host a “fancy” ramp dinner at 6 p.m. Saturday at Mountain View Event Center in Buckhannon.

And it sounds like it’s gonna be a good one, y’all.

Guests will be welcomed with a Pickled Ramp Martini (yes, please!) and a taste of Deviled Eggs with Bacon, Pickled Ramps and Micro Celery. Then at 6:30, all will gather for a Appalachia blessing and sit-down meal featuring dishes full of locally grown ingredients. On the menu …

  • Roasted Ramps and Celery Root Chowder
  • Caramelized Wild Leek, Thyme and Olive Oil Focaccia with Buttermilk, Bacon and Ramp Biscuits
  • Wilted Spinach Salad with Bacon and Wild Leek Vinaigrette, Pickled Red Onions, Farm Eggs and Mushrooms
  • Beef-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Caramelized Wild Leeks & Tomato Broth
  • Roasted Whole Hens Seasoned with Ramp Dust, Sea Salt and Olive Oil with Roasted Garlic Whipped Potatoes, Sugar Snap Peas and Carrots
  • Teresa’s Apple Dumplings with Homemade Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

The dinner costs $35 per person (or $250 for a table of eight) and reservations must be made and paid for in advance. Call 304-473-7741 for more details.

Mountain View Event Center is located off of Route 33 in Buckhannon, on the hill behind Jenkins Ford.

Charleston Restaurant Week = $500,000 Impact

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Did you hear the great (CHA-CHING!) news about Charleston Restaurant Week, which recently wrapped up its third year with a record 20 participating establishments?

Buzz Foods, the event’s brainchild and promoter, calculated that more than 10,000 meals were sold during this year’s Restaurant Week. Those meal costs – plus tax, gratuity, bar sales and parking – add up to an estimated economic impact of around $500,000 for those 6 days alone.

I believe it.

There wasn’t an empty seat in the house most places I visited, with several restaurant owners and chefs saying it was their best and busiest Restaurant Week yet. And that’s despite bad weather than hampered some travel (and closed at least one participating restaurant) at the start of the week.

Nice work, Buzz!

In the ‘Chain’ Gang, Longhorn is a Cut Above

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I’m all about raising awareness and support of solid, independent, locally owned restaurants, choosing to spend my dining out dollars at such places the vast majority of time. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t good quality “chain” restaurants out there.

lobster filetJust like most people, we occasionally find ourselves inside one of these national behemoths and I’m here to tell you: All chains are NOT created equally.

Most are cookie-cutter concepts offering average tasting, oversized portions served by unenthusiastic (yet tragically over-blinged) servers – dreading their next summons to sing “Happy, Happy Birthday” to a squirming toddler.

But some are good, really good, and I’ve always put Longhorn Steakhouse in that category. I recently stopped in to try out the restaurant’s new winter seasonal menu and was reminded just how top-notch this place is.

bacon cheese dipI know what you’re thinking, folks, but hear me out.

The creamy Vermont white cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon dip, flecked with green onions and served with crispy pita triangles, was dreamy. My broccoli Asiago cheddar soup was rich and flavorful, but not overly thick and heavy.

The Blue Ridge wedge salad was your typical combination – crisp hearts of romaine, plump tomatoes, bacon, crumbled blue cheese, red onions and blue cheese dressing – but all were very fresh.

My steak was spectacular.

The tender, juicy center-cut filet topped with lobster and tangy lobster hollandaise over fresh steamed asparagus was not only top-quality beef, but was also served at the perfect medium-rare temperature I requested. (A true rarity, which is why I rarely do the chain thing.)

cheese soupThe pecan praline sweet potato casserole with coconut topping served with it was decent – not at all overly sweet – and the Black Forest cherry lava cake I ended with was a fine finisher, although it was missing its promised molten center.

All items above are part of the restaurant’s special seasonal menu, which will change again within the next few weeks, but there are some shining stars on the regular menu as well.

I’m telling you, the food was strong from start to finish.

  • IF YOU GO: Longhorn Steakhouse at 91 RHL Blvd. (between Dudley Farms and Trace Fork shopping centers) is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. For more information, call 304-744-4112 or visit www.longhornsteakhouse.com.

A Sweet Time Judging Charity Dessert Competition

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Had a great time judging this week’s Sweet Charity Dessert Competition at the Columbia Gas Pipeline Auditorium in Kanawha City, but having a tough time convincing people how hard a job that is.

Really!

Strawberry Sugar Cookie TartI mean, do you start with the sinfully rich peanut-banana-chocolate cupcake or the strawberry cookie tart? The Kahlua crème cup or the apple pie cheesecake? The plate of colorful macaroons or the blackberry-filled key lime cupcakes.

It’s a tough job, people. (Wink-wink.) But dive in I did, along with fellow judges Maestro Grant Cooper and West Virginia Tourism Commissioner Amy Shuler Goodwin. With the maestro waving the baton for “Creativity,” the commissioner leading the charge for “Presentation” and moi heading up “Taste,” the three of us spent a good 45 minutes sampling and re-sampling 8 different entries to determine our favorites in each of those three categories.

MacaroonsSo who claimed sweet victory?

Best “Creativity” went to local chef (and fellow Gazette-Mail columnist) April Hamilton, whose homemade WV-themed apple pie featured fresh Mountain State fruit, local J.Q. Dickinson salt and Smooth Ambler ice cream made by Ellen’s.

Best “Presentation” went to Sugar Pie Bakery’s rustic-meets-elegant display of colorful French macaroons in a variety of delicious flavors.

And best “Taste” honors went to the guy who came in second place in all three categories last year. Talk about sweet revenge! Fennie’s Sweet Confections took top honors with a delicious sugar cookie tart topped with rich whipped cream and blanketed by fire-engine-red ripe strawberries drizzled in a sweet glaze.

WV Apple PieThe event was a benefit for Faith in Action of Kanawha Valley, a non-profit community volunteer group that provides helpful services to senior citizens who are striving to live as independently as possible. It’s a great group and a super-fun event.

And speaking of faith, I pray they ask me back to judge next year!

You can catch a glimpse of some of the tasty entries by looking up “Sweet Charity Dessert Competition” on Facebook.

 

Fetch Some Good Chili at Wagging Tails Cook-Off

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Come out and join me for a doggone good time (sorry, had to) as I help judge this Saturday’s Wagging Tails Chili Challenge” at Olde Main Plaza in St. Albans.

A benefit  for Dog Bless, a dog rescue group in the Kanawha Valley, the event is classified as a “homestyle” cook-off, meaning anything goes in terms of ingredients. Cooks can whip up a pot of red, white, green or vegetarian chili – loaded with beans or nary a one – for a chance to win the top prize of $300, a trophy and the opportunity to represent St. Albans in the 2016 ICS World Championship Homestyle Chili Cook-off.

Wagging Tails logoThe event, which runs from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, is sanctioned by the International Chili Society (ICS) and co-sponsored by St. Albans Riverfest in cooperation with the City of St. Albans. Chili sampling tickets are 50 cents each, and guests also can enjoy music, beer, retail booths and children’s activities.

The event takes place rain or shine.

And if you’re ready to steak (sorry, again, couldn’t resist) your claim on chili bragging rights, it’s not too late to enter. Organizers will accept contestants up until Friday who email waggingtailschili@gmail.com.

Dog Bless, a local 501(c)3 charitable organization.  Since its start in 2012, the group has saved more than 2,000 dogs from euthanasia and homelessness through the efforts of its volunteers, foster homes, rescue partners and community support. Dog Bless volunteers will be at the cook-off to share information about the group’s rescue efforts and how people can get involved. Learn more about the group and cook-off at www.facebook.com/waggingtailschilichallenge.

Let’s Carry Contest’s Lone WV Chef to Victory!

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WEST VIRGINIANS, UNITE!

It’s time to carry one of our own chefs to victory – and you could win yourself a cool $10,000 in the process!!

To celebrate its 135 years in business, Thomas English Muffins is sponsoring a “Hometown Breakfast Battle” where 135 chefs from across the country were invited to create their own tasty morning dish incorporating a Thomas muffin or bagel. Voters nationwide will chose the winner. That’s where you come in.

Chef Noah MillerOnly one West Virginia chef is in the competition – and it’s our own talented Noah Miller, chef and owner of Noah’s Eclectic Bistro in Charleston. Noah’s contest creation features a delicious combination of braised greens, fried-green tomatoes, country ham and corn on a whole-grain muffin.

“After making it and tasting it, I named my entry ‘Welcome to Appalachia English Muffin’ because I thought it really did speak to our culture,” he said. “Even the muffin is whole-grain to replicate a buckwheat or whole-grain Johnny cake. I’m really impressed how well it came together and how good it tastes.”

But as good as it is, he still needs your help to win.

Welcome to Appalachia English MuffinNoah’s lone West Virginia entry is competing against 134 from other states now through Sept. 27. At that point, only the top 16 vote-getters will advance to the next round, with follow-up voting narrowing the field to 8, 4 and then just 2 leading up through Oct. 25.

You can vote daily, plus share Noah’s entry through Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram to help him get even more votes. (And remember, every vote you cast gives you another entry in the contest’s $10,000 prize for the public. Daily voters may also win a supply of Thomas muffins, too.)

The contest slogan is … “135 years. 135 chefs. You decide who wins.” But there’s only one West Virginian, y’all.

Visit http://bit.ly/1UV8FgP to vote for Noah every day – and secure your chance to win a big bunch o’ cash, too.

Vote, share, repeat. VOTE. SHARE. REPEAT!

Appalachian Food Photos Could Win You a Getaway

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We ALL love looking at food porn. (C’mon, you can admit it. You’re not “reading it” for the recipes.)

There’s just something undeniably addictive about staring at gorgeous photos of delicious food – mouth gaping open and watering, eyes glazed over, tummy rumbling.

But how good are you at TAKING those scandalously scrumptious images? If you fancy yourself quite the food photographer, your skills could help you walk away with a mountain getaway!

“The Revivalist: Word from the Appalachian South” blog is sponsoring a food photo contest, Appalachian Appetite, that is looking for great images capturing anyone who loves growing, cooking and sharing food. The grand prize is a two-night getaway at the historic Mast Farm Inn. Nestled in the secluded Valley Crucis, the inn boasts an award-winning restaurant, nearby shops and all the outdoor activities you could ever want. Two runners-up win one-year subscriptions to regional magazine Smoky Mountain Living, which celebrates life throughout the Southern Appalachians. The magazine will also showcase the three top-voted photos in an upcoming issue.

What kind of photos are acceptable?

“Shots from your garden – yes. That beautiful pie you baked last Thanksgiving – yup. Great-aunt Edith dropping catsup down her blouse – absolutely,” says Mark Lynn Ferguson, who founded the contest and the blog. He said as long as it’s food-related, just about any photo is fair game.

Entries don’t even need to be shot in Appalachia. They just need to appeal to The Revivalist’s readers, who are also the photo contest’s judges. Votes on the photo contest page will determine winners, now through Sept. 13.

Got Produce? Tune in to Veggie Guru Bob Corey

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Summer is the best time to get your hands on a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables – and local produce guru Bob Corey can offer some great ideas on what to do with it.

The Produce Corner with Bob CoreyThe CEO of local produce supplier Corey Brothers has expanded the reach of his popular televised cooking segment by offering more than 20 years’ worth of the best episodes on a new website.

“The Produce Corner with Bob Corey” – which spanned 23 years as a local news segment on TV stations nationwide and three years on the Food Network – is now available on You Tube and online at www.producecornerwithbobcorey.com.

After taping more than 3,000 segments in his TV career, Corey selected nearly 300 of the most informative to showcase online. These videos guide viewers through and entire year of seasonal produce, offering nutritional information, cooking tips and more along the way. Hundreds of recipes can also be easily printed and forwarded from the site.

In addition to helping inspire home cooks to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into their diets, Corey hopes the new resource will be utilized by restaurants, grocery stores and other food-related businesses as well.

“The Produce Corner with Bob Corey website, its episodes and recipes are available to incorporate into produce personnel training” he said.

“My vision is for the site to be an interesting and entertaining training and education tool to complement existing produce training programs to further educate managers, staff and trainees – as well as chefs, apprentices and culinary students who may not have the knowledge to convey to their customers information about an item or how to prep, fix and prepare it for their enjoyment.”

As If You Need A Reason to Eat Grilled Cheese

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Did you know that people who love grilled cheese sandwiches have more sex, are more charitable and more adventurous than those who don’t?

To mark “National Grilled Cheese Day” on April 12, social dating app Skout surveyed more than 4,600 of its U.S. users to see what people’s grilled cheese sandwich preferences say about them. Among the highlights …

  • Print86% of adults surveyed say they “love” grilled cheese sandwiches. (Well, duh.)
  • Grilled cheese sandwich lovers get more action in the bedroom, with 73% of people who love grilled cheese sandwiches having sex at least once a month vs. 68% of those who don’t care for the sandwich. Further still, 32% of grilled cheese lovers have sex at least six times a month vs. 27% who pass on sandwich.
  • 81% of those who love grilled cheese sandwiches say they have donated their time, money or food to those in need, compared to only 66% who dislike grilled cheese.
  • While a grilled cheese sandwich may seem like a safe, all-American meal, 88% of its fans say they are “fairly/very” adventurous, vs. 75%. Further still, 84% of grilled cheese sandwich fans love to travel, compared to 78% who don’t dig the melty cheese.
  • The most popular grilled cheese in America is American (41%) followed by cheddar (33%), mozzarella (10%), Swiss (8%), provolone (6%) and brie (2%)
  • White bread is by far the most popular choice (51%) followed by wheat (29%), sourdough (13%), rye (4%) and a baguette (3%).
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If you find yourself near West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands this weekend – or just want to take a trip to one of the state’s most scenic spots – be sure to head to the Pocahontas County Opera House in Marlinton to feast on “Potluck,” a performance of stories, songs and poems all about food.

Potluck Poster
Colleen Anderson, Julie Adams and Karen Vuranch in “Potluck.”

West Virginia’s own Julie Adams, Colleen Anderson and Karen Vuranch serve up their favorite pieces about cookery and community (and the connections between them) in an hour-long live performance that promises to “satisfy your soul, lift your heart and tickle your funny bone.”

Known as “West Virginia’s First Lady of Storytelling,” Karen Vuranch tours throughout the world but is most known for her Appalachian and multi-cultural stories and living-history performances as writer Pearl S. Buck, labor organizer Mother Jones and humanitarian Clara Barton.

Julie Adams is a singer/songwriter on the internationally syndicated public radio show Mountain Stage who has performed with Kathy Mattea, Sarah McLachlan, Bruce Cockburn, Shawn Colvin and many others.

Colleen Anderson is a writer, designer and songwriter whose work has been published by Redbook and Arts & Letters, among others. Her songs also have been featured on Mountain Stage and The Folk Sampler.

The show begins at 7:30 pm. Tickets – which are $10 for adults and free for children 17 and under – can be ordered here.