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

Healthy Eating … From a Vending Machine?!

From the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” Department, I recently received one of those baffling press releases that left me scratching my head.

Entitled “Tips for Eating Healthfully From a Vending Machine,” the release warned against falling into the junk food trap when inevitably faced with a vending machine as your only option for a much-needed snack. This California-based company is hoping to change all of that with a new line of machines offering things like fresh fruit and vegetables, soy milk and yogurt.

But I’m guessing those won’t make it here anytime soon, so take a look at how they suggest you make better decisions at existing vending machines in the meantime …

  1. Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables first.
  2. To save calories on beverages, opt for flavored water, unsweetened iced tea, milk or soymilk.
  3. Try to limit your snack option to 100 calories, and pay attention to the number of servings.
  4. Opt for nutrient-dense foods that satisfy your hunger longer, such as fruits, vegetables, yogurt, natural granola bars and smoothies.
  5. Determine whether you are hungry or just thirsty. People often fill up on calories, when really they are simply dehydrated.

Really, that’s your ground-breaking advice?

Here’s mine: Don’t eat crap out of vending machines.

Check Out These Crazy Chips: Squid, Browned Eel?

If you think the flavored potato chip craze has gotten out of hand in the U.S. — what with all the chili-and-lime this and cracked-pepper that — you should take a look at the snacks you can find abroad.

In May’s new travel food issue, Budget Travel magazine offers a roundup of some of the more exotic flavors of potato chips you can find across the country and around the world. Among the selections …

  • Voodoo Gumbo Zapp’s in Louisiana, Crab Utz in the Mid-Atlantic and Heinz Ketchup Herr’s in Pennsylvania.
  • Squid or browned-eel flavored chips in Japan, and shrimp or spicy rice cake chips in Korea.
  • Garlic pea chips in Taiwan, falafel-flavored in Israel or mint chutney chips in India.
  • Sweet basil Lays in Thailand or ham-flavored Ruffles in Spain.

Those last two actually sound pretty good, along with my favorite find from England — Marmite Crisps that taste like “baked potato skins washed down with beer.”

Bring it on!

I’m all for healthy eating, but let’s not kid ourselves. Sneaking one decent ingredient into a recipe otherwise filled with crap is NOT doing anyone any favors.

Exhibit A …

I get a press release this week proclaiming: “Sneak a little healthy treat into Easter with (bleep) Brand Apples.”

OK, I’ll bite. Then I read the recipe for this exciting new Easter salad that boasts two healthy apples as an ingredient. Along with:

  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • Nearly a full cup of mayonnaise
  • 1 pint of heavy cream
  • 1 large package of mini marshmallows
  • 1 can of drained pineapple chunks

You’re kidding me, right? There is NOTHING healthy about that combination, not to mention it doesn’t even sound good.

I’m still on Cloud 9 after last night’s fantastic Bridge Brew Works Beer Dinner at Charleston’s Bridge Road Bistro.

I enjoyed chatting with BBW owners Nathan Herrold and Ken Linch (the entire company) about their stellar new brews from Fayetteville — and enjoyed sampling them even more when paired with BRB’s special tasting menu.

After a glass of the German-malted gold Long Point Lager, the moderately hoppy English amber Bridge Brew Ale was served with an outstanding Grilled Gingered Skate Wing over delicately flavored Asian Rice Noodles. Next came the deep copper, nicely bitter India Pale Ale paired with Foie Gras-Stuffed Free Range Chicken Breast with Mushroom and Pancetta Ragout.

Fantastic Braised Swift Level Short Ribs with Balsamic-Glazed Cippolini Onions over Parsnip Whipped Potatoes were accompanied by both the Belgian-Style Dubbel (dark and malty, balanced hops) and the crisp and fruity Tripel, packing a deceptive 8.97% alcohol content. As good as this course was, dessert managed to match it with a decadent Warm Chocolate “Black Lager” Walnut Cake served with Espresso Ice Cream and the same dark, semi-dry German Black Lager that went into the cake itself.

I’m telling you, every course — and beer — was oh, so good. One of my favorite restaurants teaming up with my new favorite West Virginia microbrewery? Yep, that’s a good night.

To learn more about upstart Bridge Brew Works, visit You can also find some of their beers at the Capitol Market Wine Shop and The Liquor Company at Patrick Street, plus on tap at Pies & Pints, Bar 101 and Bridge Road Bistro.

Enjoy a Good Meal AND Help Out a Good Cause

Reserve your spot now for Tuesday night’s 6th annual Hospice Care Benefit Dinner at Tidewater Grill. I’ve been in years past and it’s a fun night paired with a top-notch menu.

On tap this year:

  • Appetizer: Lobster cakes with red pepper coulis
  • Salad: Baby greens tossed with balsamic vinaigrette, bleu cheese crumbs, red onions and candied pecans
  • Main Course: Petite filet mignon with demi-glace and steamed vegetables, or shrimp and crabmeat-stuffed flounder with a buerre-blanc sauce
  • Dessert: Toffee caramel crunch cheesecake

The semi-formal event starts at 6 p.m. and the cost is $100 per person. Red and white wine selections (and other drinks) will also be available. All proceeds from the dinner benefit terminally ill patients and those receiving end-of-life care at Hospice of West Virginia. Over the past five years, this annual event has raised more than $70,000 for Hospice.

Seating is limited, so reservations are required in advance by calling 888-456-3463.

Some of the same ingredients you use in your cooking can help with cleaning, too. Items like vanilla, eggs and vinegar can remove tough dirt and dust or give off a warm, fresh scent. What’s more, using food items is an easy, chemical-free way to clean up around the house.

Nielsen-Massey Vanillas – makers of quality pure vanilla and flavor extracts (c’mon, you knew there had to be a corporate plug) – has a variety of spring-cleaning tips to freshen homes with flavorful ingredients straight from the kitchen. (Their words, not mine.)

A few tips include:

  • Saturate a cotton ball in vanilla and drop it in the vacuum or vacuum bag to release a sweet scent. A vanilla-drenched cotton ball can also deodorize the refrigerator or freezer.
  • To remove a coffee stain from fabric, dip a white cloth into a beaten egg yolk and rub the yolk into the stain. Then rinse with water.
  • After cleaning the refrigerator, add a dash of lemon extract to the rinse water for a fresh scent.
  • Place vanilla beans in drawers, under car seats and in laundry rooms to act as air fresheners.
  • Place a bowl of vinegar in an open room to absorb smoke odors.
  • Use club soda or seltzer water to clean chrome on faucets, utensils, etc.

If you happen to be down the Huntington way — or don’t mind a drive for some seriously awesome food — you should check out Chili Willi’s “Spring Fresh Seafood Weekend” menu.

The hotspoknown for hot (as in great, not necessarily spicy) Southwestern cuisine has also been offering some special dishes featuring seafood from right here in West Virginia or along the East Coast. This week’s fresh catch:

  • Wood-grilled West Virginia trout with smoked tomato-chiptole butter, served with garlic mashed potatoes and wood-grilled asparagus.
  • Pan-sauteed Boston flounder with an apricot-chipotle glaze, served with pepita rice and wood-grilled asparagus.

 Sounds good to me!

IF YOU GO: Chili Willi’s, 1315 Fourth Ave., Huntington — (304) 529-4857,